Seeing Blue

 

 

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Over the past few months one bird has appeared very prominent in our backyard…the rascally bluejay.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with the peanuts I put out to lure him in or the sunflower seeds placed strategically about. Whatever the reason, I’m glad he and his many cohorts are decorating the scenery with their beauty and are affording me many pictures of their antics.

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 I decided the blue beauty was worthy of his own post and looked through the many    pictures I have of him to pair up with the following poem by Emily Dickinson. I hope you enjoy!

The Blue Jay – Poem by Emily Dickinson

No brigadier throughout the year
So civic as the jay.
A neighbor and a warrior too,
With shrill felicity

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Pursuing winds that censure us
A February day,
The brother of the universe
Was never blown away.

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The snow and he are intimate;
I’ve often seen them play
When heaven looked upon us all
With such severity,

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I felt apology were due
To an insulted sky,
Whose pompous frown was nutriment
To their temerity.

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The pillow of this daring head
Is pungent evergreens;
His larder — terse and militant —
Unknown, refreshing things;

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His character a tonic,
His future a dispute;
Unfair an immortality
That leaves this neighbor out.

– Emily Dickinson

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Until next time, if a jay’s in your corner of the world, buy some peanuts to welcome in this fun neighbor!
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 ∼Jen

“Gladiator Gabby” and Sub-zero Temps.

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“Mom, Gabby has escaped.”

Those were the words that awakened me from my sound, cozy, oblivious to the -1 degree temperatures outside at 2 a.m., sleep. “What? Are you sure?”  Yes, he was sure…and, he was, unfortunately, right.

A little back-story on Gabby…

She showed up one hot, summer day at our old home about 6 years ago, emaciated and timid, lurking in a row of trees behind our above-ground pool.  My older son was the first to spot her so he named her Gabby.  Now, I know the rule about not feeding strays, but I just can’t look at an innocent animal, half-starved, and not offer them a bite to eat.  Not sure of her temperament, we put the food down and stayed at a bit of a distance, though we soon found out, that was how she was going to keep us anyhow.

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We continued putting food out for Gabby, and she continued to keep her distance.  I noticed she would follow me, however, whenever I would go into a certain area of the yard and soon found out why.  I was taking care of our pet chickens one afternoon when I felt eyes on me.  Amazing how we can sense that, anyhow, I looked up and saw two pairs of the most adorable blue eyes staring back at me through the bushes to my left.  Gabby was a mom!

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And, what a devoted mom she was! I was ever so glad I ignored the well-intentioned advice to not feed a stray, and she immediately gained my “mom” respect for taking such good care of her kittens even in her half-starved state.  As time went on, I continued to feed Gabby, and her kittens, now weaned, would come out to eat as well.  Only one of the three would allow me to pet her, and she quickly became my favorite.  She was so pretty we named her “Pretty Kitty” and her sister, the shy, feisty one, we named “Bittie.”

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Bittie in her glory days

Fast forward many months… my precious “Pretty” sadly died and my sweet dog, Princess, was now an accomplice to murder. Gabby was just allowing me to barely touch her, and Bittie, a.k.a. “Miss Pris” or “Fussikins” was slowly warming up.  I tried to find homes for the remaining two, as I am more accustomed to dogs, but quickly found out that cats are very hard to find homes for.  I got them both neutered, up on their shots, and added them to our menagerie of two dogs, seven chickens, and one rabbit, oh my.

Bittie soon showed she had no street smarts, literally, so was held captive inside for her own good.

 She has adjusted quite well…

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Gabby would have none of it, so has remained an outside cat to this day.

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She earned the nickname “Gladiator Gabby” after we moved into our present home.  We have a circular stone area below our back porch, and Gabby soon took to bringing her found objects of prey into the “ring” where she commenced to perform her gladiator show.  I and my sons have rescued what we could by a quick knock on the window, and I have to admit, I have secretly cheered as well when a battered mouse or mole escaped her clutches.

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Though she is now trusting of us and sweet, her love of hunting and the feeling of freedom has kept her from wanting to ever be confined to a house.  Last night, however, I gave her no choice. With temperatures predicted to dip to below zero, I lured her in, untrusting that even her heat lamp could keep her warm in that cold.

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I have to wonder if those in the mid-west, or north-west states laugh at our reactions to these temperatures and snow.  It reminds me of a Texan friend I had while attending college in Missouri, where it snowed in November and the ground remained white until April.  On our first snowfall as freshman, we, that is those of us not accustomed to such snow amounts, were sure that all college classes would be cancelled. Not so. Leaving the dorm, my Texas friend fussed and fumed as we carefully picked our steps down the sidewalk to our classes.  This was not until after she had called her mother, reporting the un-Godly conditions, that she, her daughter, was forced to face. I’m not sure if she thought her mother could call the college and convince them to cancel classes or if she was just so overwrought she needed to vent…either way, we were soon on our way to face the elements. Now please don’t be offended if you’re from Texas. I love the grit and spunk of Texans, but my dear friend just happened to have a strong sense of fashion, and heels, not snow-shoes (though she didn’t own a pair, thus the dilemma) were more her style.

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But, back to Gabby and her 2 a.m. escape.  She was put into a large, portable fenced area with a cozy blanket, food, water, litter-box, and a cloth covering to surely keep her from thoughts of escaping to wander the house.  She has, in the past, “claimed” a piece of furniture in a way that neither I nor the furniture appreciated, thus the enclosure.  Unfortunately, the fence was no obstacle for Gabby, and in the wee hours of the morning she was off to find another couch.

After coaxing her back into her enclosure, my son and I were quite the early-morning team of “walking” the fence to the nearest bathroom, with Gabby following along inside.  Despite her howls of protests, and a few more escapes, she, and I, eventually fell back into sleep.  I, dreaming of warmer days, and she, I’m sure, of future outdoor adventures.

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Today I woke to -4 degree windchill, but it warmed up to a big °15 by 2:00. School is cancelled for a third day tomorrow, and I’m off to get a much needed 2nd cup of coffee. Gabby got her way and made it out today to play in the snow and has refused all invitations to come back inside, sigh. She is a gladiator afterall.

Until next time,

∼ Jen

Morning Time – December

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Christmas decorations have been put away and the New Year has cheerfully been rung in around the world…now to mentally adjust to the new date of 2018.  I can still remember back in high school when we had an assignment on what we thought the year 2000 would be like….back then, that was like trying to imagine living in outer space. Eighteen years into this millennium and it still sometimes feels surreal to me.

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We had our first snowstorm of the season in early December which gave me some beautiful pictures to look back on.  As I sit writing this, we are in the midst of our first blizzard, dubbed a “bomb cyclone.”  Thankfully, we have not lost power, and I have been baking off and on for two days.  Something about snowstorms puts me in the baking mood, which my family always appreciates.

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I was out early the day after the December snowfall taking pictures before I even had my morning coffee….for me that’s saying a lot.  I wanted to get some pics before Princess and the neighbor’s dogs started leaving their tracks.

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Something about the morning after a freshly fallen snow is just magical.

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snow covered beauty berry

The snow was the kind that clung to the branches, and the snow-laden limbs overhanging the creek were indeed picturesque.

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I had plenty of bird food, with one area in particular resembling a southern smorgasbord, minus the grits, of course. Between the sunflower seed, peanuts, a variety of suet cakes and mealworms I was a shoo-in for birder of the neighborhood.

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downy woodpecker

Unfortunately, it has also become a natural hunting ground for the neighbor’s cats and at least one hawk. I try to keep everything in as safe an area as possible for them, which can be a challenge… a place with no hiding spots for the furry intruders but with a covered brush area for the ground feeders, to hopefully hide from dastardly Mr. Hawk.

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tufted titmouse

Whenever I see the little dark-eyed junco around the feeders, I know a snow is in the near future-he certainly lives up to his nick-name “snowbird.”

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dark-eyed junco

He was caught below doing his happy little “snow victory dance.”

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This is a good article about how to welcome the little guy and other wintering birds that may come to your area.

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blue-jay
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male northern cardinal
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The snow only lasted a few days before the weather warmed up, only to  plunge us into a bitter cold streak a week later. The birds kept me entertained as the cold brought them to the feeders early each day.

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The secret to keeping blue jays happy and continually coming back is found in the power of the peanut!

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Though the male cardinal is known for his beauty, I find the female equally beautiful…

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northern female cardinal

The little group of finches gathered together at the feeder one morning reminded me of little old men meeting up at a country store to gab over breakfast…

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house finch

The wood thrush is a rarely seen visitor, but he makes his presence known by his hopping about and flinging through the leaves so violently with its beak it’s a wonder he doesn’t give himself whiplash.

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wood thrush

Besides birds, the squirrels are always good for a show, and I really don’t mind them raiding the bird feeders or grabbing the jay’s peanuts.

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He was not the only wild mammal to visit our yard…before I had barely opened my eyes one morning I spied a fox trotting off with something in its mouth.  I was relieved to see it wasn’t my cat but a little sad to think one of my squirrels had just become his breakfast.

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The geese didn’t seem to mind the frigid water temperatures and they delight me each morning as they honk their goodbyes when leaving the peninsula.  They don’t wander  into our section of the creek often, so I enjoy it when they do.

I end with a morning view from our anniversary getaway. The deck was obviously too cold to enjoy, but the scenery was well worth waking up to.

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I hope my dear blogging friends going through the blizzard with me are staying warm and cozy and enjoying the beauty of the snow and the wildlife it highlights.

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

The Last Two…

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“Hmm, what’s this? Looks like the little lady put out some peanuts for our morning snack”

 

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“Whoa, wait a minute there blue, those nuts are spoken for.”

 

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“That’s right, off you go, I saw these first.”

 

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“What, you again….didn’t we already have this discussion?”

 

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“Back away, back away I tell you!”

 

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“Uh, oh, this is not looking good…”

 

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“One, one little nut to get me through this coming snow, the world’s gone mad I tell you…”

 

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So, who got the last nut? Your guess is as good as mine! Snow is in our forecast, so, I’m off to fight the crowds of milk and bread buyers….I’ll be putting peanuts in my cart;)

Until next time, go buy some peanuts, you’ll be glad you did!

∼Jen

 

 

Morning Time…October-November

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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.

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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.

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Red-bellied woodpecker

Woodpeckers like these are the reason I ask my husband to leave the smaller dead trees on our property standing.

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The pileated woodpecker, below, is quite the character, and also quite loud, competing only with “Harold” in volume.

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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.

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Taking a break from gymnastics….

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The squirrels enjoyed raiding the peanuts and sunflower seeds from the bird-feeders…

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Downy woodpecker is a frequent visitor to the bird feeder area, especially enjoying the suet…

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Downy Woodpecker 

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.

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Tufted Titmouse

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Morning sunlight on the creek

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.

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Until next time, may you have many memorable nature moments as well.

∼Jen

A Grateful Heart

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

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Mourning Doves in the fall

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.

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A fall walk

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!

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Toad trying not to be seen

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.

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Purple Finch

 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.

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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.

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A quiet bench in the fall

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.

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Glen Ellen Farms, upper Maryland

 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.

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Geese at Assateague Island, VA

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.

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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.

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Squirrel on island of moss

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.

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Wild turkeys encountered on a cycling trip

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.

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Until next time

∼ Jen

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:1

 

Simply Fall…

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Late Autumn by William Allingham

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.

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Geese grace the autumn sky at a local state park

  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!

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The above picture of the snail posed perfectly on the pumpkin greeted me as I stepped outside one crisp, fall morning.

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Mature trees lining the streets make fall an especially favorite time for walks….

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A  pair of geese enjoyed a few hours on a fallen log one autumn afternoon…

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and my buddy “Harold” remained longer than expected as we kayaked into view another fall day…

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Fall colors through the window of a favorite reading spot…

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Green makes way for fiery oranges, yellows and reds …

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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…

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I hope this season finds you joyful and well!

Until next time!

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∼ Jen

“Almost Heaven” in the Fall

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
–  Albert Camus
 

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How does a landscape go from beautiful to spectacularly beautiful…..it gets clothed in the magnificent colors of that breathtaking season we call fall.

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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!

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Trails were marked with a kaleidoscope of colors and leaves decorated fern, moss and rocks like nature’s confetti.DSC_0087

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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.

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The countryside was decked out in all its splendor…

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while fields of gold nourished the lingering butterflies.

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Dolly Sods was a mosaic of colors resembling nature’s quilt on one side…

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while showing off its grandeur, tinged in autumnal hues, on the mountainside.

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The many waterfalls and creeks in this state are only that much more scenic when fall is in the air…

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Douglas Falls, Thomas WV

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Blackwater Falls, Davis WV

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Mountains, valleys, creeks and rolling pastures, Autumn in West Virginia is simply spectacular!

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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!!

 

∼ Jen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Time – September

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joys­
This is September.

Hilaire Belloc

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Third or fourth generation Monarch butterfly

Ah, beautiful September…how did you pass so quickly?

October is my favorite fall month, but September begins the beauty of it all.  Now that it is behind us I feel like I somehow missed it…like I blinked and it was over. I have spent many hours inside with my nose buried in math and Spanish curriculum, but on the bright side, I’m sure it’s a wonderful Alzheimer’s preventative.

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Frog basking in morning sun

I have given myself permission to take the day off from curriculum and enjoyed a walk with my dog Princess earlier this morning.  I have missed writing so much I decided I would also take the time to enjoy doing just that when I returned from the walk.  Already six days into October, it was past time to pull up my September morning-time pictures.

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Praying Mantis I discovered one morning because of kitty’s growls:)
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Another morning frog, I believe the Southern Leopard frog
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Argiope aurantia beside porch

Thinking about writing a new blog post I asked myself, like probably many bloggers do….why on earth do I think people really want to see pictures of my flowers, birds, dog, Harold….or read the ramblings and memories of a mom going through beginning empty- nest stages?

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Mother cardinal bringing sunflower seed to young
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Juvenile female cardinal
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…obviously the awkward looking stage

And yet, I continue to write, because like other bloggers I enjoy the creativity it allows and the connections formed with other bloggers along the way.  The latter was something I was told would happen by a friend of mine, whose blog I have admired for years, but I really had no idea what she meant until I started blogging myself.

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Ferns getting their fall color
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Gabby, a visual reminder to cut back ferns for sake of the birds….

I find myself thinking of the people whose writing I have connected with….the elderly widow who writes of her granddaughter and grown sons and her transition to a smaller home, leaving the place where memories were made as she raised them; the writer who has written her first book and has found a purpose to enjoy in her newfound retirement as she plans another book; the man who so artfully writes of the beauty of childhood memories and an almost forgotten time of past societal innocence; the teacher who brings nature into the lives of his young students, reminding me of my own former joy of teaching little ones; the many gifted artists in photography and drawing, who bring beauty to my world and others by sharing their talents…all these people and many more have enriched me in many ways.

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Autumn Sedum

 

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I call this my “hello-goodbye” plant…blooming when I got it and not again till September, its final show

Though I will most likely never meet any of them, I am grateful for their presence…

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My morning buddy, Harold

They have enlightened me, inspired me, entertained me, and like the nature I am surrounded by, have added beauty to my life in many different ways.

For that, I am grateful.

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Until next time,

∼ Jen