Frantically searching for yet one more mild-weathered day for cycling-as I typically do this time of year- only two days were left as possible options. Of course when left with just two days to cycle before winter shuts it all down, you make sure you find just the right place to finish out the season…and hopefully the right person to join you as well!
I was fortunate that one of my dearest friends, a newly-retired teacher of 32 years, was more than eager to go! After narrowing down the options of places, the clear winner was historic Oxford….Oxford Maryland that is. Now, historic to we Americans is laughable I know compared to Oxfords I can think of elsewhere, but 1683, the date of our Oxford’s official founding, is pretty impressive to us yanks.
The first place my friend and I stopped was the Robert Morris Inn.
Originally built as a shipping house in 1710, it began operations in 1800 as a full-time inn…the oldest full-service inn in America. Robert Morris, Sr., was an agent for a Liverpool shipping firm and greatly influenced the town’s growth. His son, Robert Morris, Jr., was known as “the financier of the Revolution.”
Walking on the historic, wide-planked floors, and gazing at the oversized wooden mantels over the well-worn brick fireplaces, we fell into a reverent awe as we imagined the conversations held in these very rooms. According to the brochure of the Inn…
Four of our 310 year old rooms were indeed slept in by Founding Father Robert Morris, George Washington and many other dignitaries of the day and since. Red brick fireplaces around which heated discussion on the arguments for independence from Britain took place and negotiations for sugar cane, tobacco and French wine worked out. Wood paneling, red brick fireplaces and oak timbers are all as they were 310 years ago, hand built by ships carpenters from locally acquired materials and the red bricks from England, used as ships ballast. One cannot get any more historic than this.
Other notable persons of the history of Oxford include: Jeremiah Banning, sea captain, war hero, and statesman; The Reverend Thomas Bacon, Anglican clergyman who wrote the first compilation of the laws of Maryland; Matthew Tilghman, known as the “patriarch of Maryland” and “father of statehood” and Colonel Tench Tilghman, assistant to George Washington and the man who carried the message of Cornwallis’ surrender to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
Until the American Revolution, Oxford enjoyed prominence as an international shipping center. With the loss of British ships and their variety of imported goods and tobacco replaced by wheat as a cash crop, businesses went bankrupt, and the population of a once thriving Oxford dwindled. It would be 100 years till the sleepy town awakened to prosperity again, this time due to the completion of the railroad in 1871 and improved methods of canning and packing, which made marketing the oysters from the bountiful Chesapeake Bay near tiny Oxford possible.
Yet again, business was booming and houses were going up everywhere until the early part of the 20th century when the oyster beds were depleted, and the packing houses shut down. Businesses went bankrupt, and the railway and steamships eventually disappeared. Oxford became a sleepy little town once again, inhabited mainly by watermen who still worked the waters of the Tred Avon.
Oxford remains a waterman’s town today, but is enjoying a new resurgence based on tourism and leisure and as a well-know cycling destination of the mid-atlantic. The suggested cycling route usually includes a trip across the Tred Avon River aboard the Oxford Bellevue Ferry, believed to be the nation’s oldest privately-operated ferry service.
Knowing this was a popular cycling destination, I assumed there must be trails going around the town. It was with great pleasure that my friend and I discovered the town itself was the cycling trail. As we cycled through this quaint little town surrounded by historic, flag-bearing houses…upon narrow, cobble-stone streets…lined by trees ablaze with autumn leaves…on the banks of a river…
there was no doubt we had picked the the perfect grand finale of our cycling season!
“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on
the feelings, as now in October.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
On the last day of October my youngest son, myself, and a beautiful family girlfriend headed to our local pumpkin patch and then to a nearby state park to immerse ourselves in the ever-fantastic beauty of fall.
I have been navigating this maze since my youngest was a baby; the fun never gets old…
Our beautiful model showcasing a white pumpkin…
On to the park for a picnic on the banks of the tranquil pond…
I nick-named the little cypress below the “Charlie Brown Cypress”
Saturday was a beautiful, perfect-cycling-weather kind of day. I was mindlessly pedaling along, smiling peacefully, taking in all the natural serenity surrounding me on one of the first gorgeous days of fall.
Not far up ahead a group was pulled off to the side, looking up into a tree-top. Oh, wow, was I ever glad I made a vow to never cycle without my camera again! I pulled over to join them, and as quietly and quickly as I could, pulled the camera out with record speed. I was so concerned he was going to fly before I could focus, and equally concerned I would send him flying with my movements.
My concerns were unfounded as he was happily enjoying a feast fit for an eagle…no movement of mine or any other new-comers were apt to disturb him from finishing his lunch.
I did get pictures of him eating, but I’ve spared you those, just sharing his post-lunch poses.
We were able to enjoy him for at least five minutes. After he cleaned his beak and looked down at us a few times as if to ask, “Haven’t you guys ever seen an eagle eating before?” he took to the skies, leaving us all with a profound sense of awe and gratitude for the incredible display of nature we had just shared.
Until next time, look up occasionally, you never know what spectacle may be perched above your head!
Well, Thanksgiving is behind us, and though it is not officially the end of fall, winter doesn’t seem too far off. I love living in a place where I can enjoy each of the four seasons, and quiet mornings, sipping coffee, seem a wonderful way to savor them.
Once again, I have gathered those pictures from my morning photo shoots to relive the moments. With fall being very hectic I missed October’s post so am combining the two months…I hope you enjoy.
Woodpeckers like these are the reason I ask my husband to leave the smaller dead trees on our property standing.
The net was put on the pond in October, and the frogs put on quite the show as they bounced on it like a trampoline. There is a large opening allowing them access into and out of the pond, and one was actually observed bouncing, then doing a backflip into this exposed area…Nadia Comăneci would have been impressed.
Taking a break from gymnastics….
The squirrels enjoyed raiding the peanuts and sunflower seeds from the bird-feeders…
Downy woodpecker is a frequent visitor to the bird feeder area, especially enjoying the suet…
Another favorite at the feeder is the tufted titmouse, such a friendly little guy…he flys off to nearby branches to bang open the sunflower seeds.
Sparrows and chickadees were also in abundance, however, the chickadee was not very photogenic;) Though I think the below sparrow is a white-throated one, I am not confident of that-feel free to educate me!
Of all the birds I enjoyed watching in the last two months, I was more than thrilled when the typically seen cardinal reappeared after more than a months absence. His presence one morning in the tree below made my day!
I tried to convince myself the cardinals were not around the feeders because of the abundance of fall seeds, but after seeing red feathers on the ground, and the character below on at least three occasions near the feeders, I was beginning to worry.
I’ll be the first to admit, though I admire nature more than most, I am not at all a fan of hawks!!! If I saw them flying with a snake dangling from their mouth I may feel differently, however, I have only ever seen them zooming by with poor, helpless songbirds in their clutches.
Lastly on my trip down photo memory-lane… I was able to photograph the raccoon below as he neared the creek at low tide, then nimbly walked across a newly-fallen tree to the peninsula on the other side. I wish I could have gotten his front, but he is still a beaut from behind.
It was an adventurous two months of coffee-time scenery, and I enjoyed many other nature moments and firsts not captured on film. Though it’s hard, sometimes I resist the dash for the camera and force myself to simply sit still and treasure the moment.
Until next time, may you have many memorable nature moments as well.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
Well, today is that glorious day we set aside here in the states to give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us from our gracious Heavenly Father.
It’s usually a day spent with family, enjoying one another’s company, grateful for each one gathered, while recounting another year of the many things to be thankful for. Our family is fortunate this year that we will all be present and accounted for…with a family of five siblings, that is no small feat!
Usually, I would be scurrying around preparing the corn pudding, baking pumpkin pies and the usual things I contribute to the feast. Today I will be doing those things and a few more at a leisurely pace, as our family will gather tomorrow so that all can be present.
I am reminded this year, as in many past Thanksgivings, of the importance of counting our blessings and truly being grateful for what we have, even in the hard, and sometimes lonely times which we all go through in life.
In doing so, I usually look back to a trip I took with members of my church to Haiti as a young adult. I vividly remember my first sight of the poverty-stricken country… I wanted to run back to the airport and catch the first flight back. I had never seen such conditions up close and personal, and it left an impact on me I will never forget.
What impacted me more, though, was the absolute joy and gratitude, and what could only be described as graciousness, from the Christian people we had the opportunity to meet with while there. I recall going to a church out in the country-dirt floor, rough lumber for pews, no electricity-and the absolute spirit of thanks these people had as they showed off their prize possession. We were also invited into their homes, where they shared enthusiastically from their very meager supplies, meals served with the greatest of hospitality.
After experiencing such phenomenal gratefulness in the face of such abject poverty, I remember getting back to the states where hearing complaints for the smallest of things felt like being slapped in the face with an ice-cold cloth. And, after determining I would never grumble or complain again, sadly, I too, soon fell into my old ways of not always being thankful for even the littlest of blessings in life.
Oh,there are many times I thank God just for hot running water, as there we experienced just a trickle in the shower, while some of the locals were bathing in mud puddles in the street. And when I take my first sip of steaming coffee in the morning, I am usually very grateful.
But, there are those times, when I simply forget and grumble about the smallest of things when I have so, so much to be thankful for….a loving family, friends, a warm home, food, clean water, books to read and the ability to read them, the love and care of my Heavenly Father… the list could go on all day.
My prayer continues to be that I will always be grateful for even the smallest of blessings and be mindful of those less fortunate than myself.
Wherever you are, whether celebrating Thanksgiving here in the States or elsewhere in this big, wonderful world, may you celebrate all the things to be thankful for in your life, this day and each day forward.
Until next time
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:1
…The thread of our life would be dark, Heaven knows If it were not with friendship and love intertwined; And I care not how soon I may sink to repose, When these blessing shall cease to be dear to my mind.
by Thomas Moore
Of all the holidays and gatherings, I think Thanksgiving has to be my favorite. It is a time set aside to remember all we have been blessed with, giving thanks to God for all the bountiful gifts and blessings He bestows on us in so many different ways. It is simple, unpretentious, not bogged down in commercialism…just a beautiful season of gratitude, because, in each season of life, we always have things to be thankful for.
A few year ago I decided I would like to have a “Friends Thanksgiving” to celebrate the wonderful friendships in my life. I am so grateful to be surrounded by family, and we have our day of celebration on the actual holiday, but during this season I am also reminded of the absolute blessing that real friends bring to our lives.
Over the weekend we had a gathering of our closest and dearest friends along with their kids who are now treasured friends of our kids…double blessing! It was a night filled with much laughter, good food, and just plain fun. Among my dearest friends is one I have known since first grade. We could spend hours laughing till we cry reminiscing over past memories. She is my fellow nature lover, photographer, and incredible artist who hasn’t met an artistic medium she can’t conquer. She is a teacher any parent would love to have for their child because of her caring heart and common-sense approach. Long ago school days, ice-skating on frozen ponds, hiking through woods, cycling nature trails and kayaking all while solving the world’s problems then laughing hysterically are all cherished memories with this incredible friend. Knowing my love for plants, she brought me the beautiful rosemary plant pictured below, which Kitty has adopted.
Another treasured friendship is from my single, college days. This is my very practical friend, also a nature/animal lover and the one who taught me all a dog owner ever needed to know about cats. We call her the cat whisperer as she is the one who first dared hold the wild cats that showed up in our yard that we have since adopted and love…yes the one above was “wild.” I have so many fun memories of silly things single girls do and then the memories continued as we both went on to get married and have kids within the same few years. As our kids grew up together we shared play-dates in the park, baseball games, basketball games as the crazy moms on the top bleacher, family cycling days, campfires, beach days, and more recently, hikes through West Virginia. She gave us all a scare this year with a cancer, but thankfully she is well, and it was another reason to set aside a day and give thanks for her friendship.
Last, but not least, is a more recent friend made when our kids were older elementary-aged. She is also practical, but fun-loving and a loyal, trusted friend. We, too, have shared cycling trips, field trips with our kids, coffee time on our porches, pool days, Easter egg hunts and tears and laughter as we tried to figure out the crazy teen years together! She is an incredible mom, as are my other dear friends, and I have been blessed with her wisdom and understanding as I navigate through the stages of motherhood.
As I look at the fading beauty of the mums on my porch, I am reminded that the beauty of true friendships never fade. As I tell my sons, if you have even just one true friend in life, you are blessed- someone you can laugh with, cry with, be yourself with and be loved through the good times and bad…in essence, “family.”
May you treasure the beautiful friendships in your life!
October – and the skies are cool and gray O’er stubbles emptied of their latest sheaf, Bare meadow, and the slowly falling leaf. The dignity of woods in rich decay Accords full well with this majestic grief That clothes our solemn purple hills to-day, Whose afternoon is hush’d, and wintry brief Only a robin sings from any spray.
And night sends up her pale cold moon, and spills White mist around the hollows of the hills, Phantoms of firth or lake; the peasant sees His cot and stockyard, with the homestead trees, Islanded; but no foolish terror thrills His perfect harvesting; he sleeps at ease.
I have enjoyed reading many Autumn poems this season, and it would be interesting to know, of the four seasons, just which one has inspired more poets.
While each season holds its own special enchantment, fall definitely has a magic of its own…the cool, misty mornings; later sunrises, earlier sunsets; trees bedecked in jeweled tones; leaves dancing on the breeze before floating gently to the ground, scents of smokey fireplaces drifting in the night air; outings to pumpkin patches and wandering through corn mazes, while pumpkins, gourds and mums decorate the landscape.
For this post, I simply wanted to share some of my favorite fall pictures, past and present. I hope you enjoy!
The above picture of the snail posed perfectly on the pumpkin greeted me as I stepped outside one crisp, fall morning.
Mature trees lining the streets make fall an especially favorite time for walks….
A pair of geese enjoyed a few hours on a fallen log one autumn afternoon…
and my buddy “Harold” remained longer than expected as we kayaked into view another fall day…
Fall colors through the window of a favorite reading spot…
Green makes way for fiery oranges, yellows and reds …
Geese honk their arrival in the evenings as they rest for the night on the peninsula, and at a favorite park during the day they glide over then land with a splash…
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus
How does a landscape go from beautiful to spectacularly beautiful…..it gets clothed in the magnificent colors of that breathtaking season we call fall.
In the summer, my son and I were able to enjoy some of the natural beauty the picturesque state of West Virginia has to offer… I shared a post with some of our highlights here. I was once again able to enjoy its beauty, but this time in its fall glory, on my yearly, girl’s-weekend getaway with a few treasured friends. In this post I’ve gathered some pictures from that trip and also a few from our past fall trips; I hope you enjoy!
Trails were marked with a kaleidoscope of colors and leaves decorated fern, moss and rocks like nature’s confetti.
They softened the path as we walked and the ones that didn’t make it to the ground graced the evergreens like natural Christmas ornaments.
The countryside was decked out in all its splendor…
while fields of gold nourished the lingering butterflies.
Dolly Sods was a mosaic of colors resembling nature’s quilt on one side…
while showing off its grandeur, tinged in autumnal hues, on the mountainside.
The many waterfalls and creeks in this state are only that much more scenic when fall is in the air…
Mountains, valleys, creeks and rolling pastures, Autumn in West Virginia is simply spectacular!
A special thanks to our husbands for, once again, manning the “home front” while your wives hiked the trails!
As in the last post, pictures of West Virginia wouldn’t seem complete without its most famous song…enjoy!!