Carpe Diem


Although the calendar says, “January,” today’s temperature will top 60 degrees. Yesterday, it was nearly the same with warm winds whispering inspiration through limbs of bare.

Opening a door to the sunroom on the back of my house, scents of mixed seasons seeped through wire screens. Musty leaves floated across blades of wheat colored grass blanketing the ground. In contrast, a lone birch tree of peeling white stood tall and proud among trees bathed in cocoa bark.

Sweet sounds of morning songbirds greeted me as I sat to soak the rare gifts of a winter respite. Suddenly a crow dipped in black ink made his presence known. Caw…caw…caw, he cracked in the silent sky above. I’ve neglected nature’s gift of birds during the last few months. Their songs have been missed by the ear of my soul. Perhaps I was too busy to notice their feathered beauty? My ears and eyes, deaf and blinded by busyness….

Last fall, trees were planted off the patio in the back of my yard. Bradford pear, purple plum, birch and the dark jade of pine. A sweeping willow, long and weeping is waiting until spring. Feeders will dance from boughs and branches. Covered shelters, short and tall will soon house nesting families. 

Before retreating, treats of tweets beckoned me to scan stark limbs. There, a lone robin, his red breast splashing against a sky of gray, sang “Goodbye.”

I shall not miss nature’s beauty in this New Year. Being busy is no longer an excuse. The joy of living here and now is fleeting, with postcard pictures disappearing in seconds.

Seize today for tomorrow is never promised.

 

*photo of robin courtesy of Google Chrome

Sounds In Night


The skies were angry last night. Winds whistled through swaying trees. In the darkness, the sound of small quakes could be heard together with the padding of drums. Slow at first then faster beating in a rhythm that nearly shook my bed. Softer then louder. A rumble that reminded me of throw rugs my mother used to jar outside a long ago back door. Dust bunnies blowing away in the breeze…..

Listening, my eyes were closed to everything. I’m in a world full of black nothingness. Suddenly, a sense of hearing bloomed as if for the first time. An awakening in a world others would consider silent at that hour.

My husband’s back lay close beside. Even breaths. First in…then out. Soothing to me. The flat of my hand felt his warmth through the cool of fresh, crisp sheets.

An electric clock atop our nightstand. A snapshot within my mind. Glowing hands in fluorescent moved with every second. More sounds to my ears. Tick, tick-tock, tick-tock. Each second turning into minutes. turning into hours. turning into middle night foreverness.

Doodle dog slept near the end of our bed. I heard him roll over. A silver metal disk on his collar made a clinking sound against a matching buckle. He sighed, breathing out through the black of his nose with the pink spot on top. He slept. Even breaths from him with a touch of snoring. Yes, from Doodle dog!

Humming…the sound of a motor, followed by gusts of swirling fresh. An air-conditioner installed on our outside wall had kicked in. From the stark cement basement below, the sound of wafting breezes could be heard. Pushing up…blowing cooler air to our floor above. Maple stained in cinnamon color through bronze, grated vents directing the flow. Summer relief was felt.

A car drove by the front of our house. Not a truck or a motorcycle, but a car. It was small and drove by very slowly. The sound of it told me so. Smooth of four tires on a frame of metal. Small of crunch on a bleached, chip-sealed street. Not long before it was gone.

In the adjoining bathroom, sounds of a dripping faucet. How long has this been going on? I never heard or noticed it before.  Small drops barely plopping to the bottom of a speckled sink the color of toast. Droplets falling in slow motion with an echo heard upon landing. So long before the next one fell, it seemed. Soon, seconds were counted together with our friendly electric nightstand clock. Anxiety began to build.

In the woods out back, sounds of the wind picked up again. A whoosh together with a dog howling. Or was it a coyote? We have them here you know. Hiding in the woods. Suddenly, the skies became angrier than earlier. Thunder rumbled, flashing with lightning in the distance. My eyes opened at the crack of it. Rain pounded into the patio and beat into flower beds with all of Heaven’s vengeance. Once my vision adjusted to surrounding shadows, no other sounds were heard again.

Sleepiness finally came.

Stormy-Night

*photo courtesy of Google Chrome

Winter Wonderland


The beauty was not lost on me when I woke to Winter Wonderland yesterday. Trees were thick with frosted white, streets were blanketed with new comforters, while snowflakes fell ever so gently to tuck them in.

Before diving into scattered papers upon my desk, blinds were raised, allowing additional light to shine within my office space. What a sight there was for me to see! Boughs of a tall evergreen in Blue Spruce nearly touched tiny wires of my turret window screen. Colors of emerald blue contrasted beautifully against virgin white. The tree reminded me of a perfectly painted miniature, part of a proud display entered in a gingerbread competition I had seen around Thanksgiving. http://wp.me/p41md8-2Au

The morning was a surprise of sorts. Winds howled the night before, temperatures dropped and rain began to fall. Still, no one expected another six inches of snow! After all, didn’t the groundhog see his shadow? I opened a French door to let Doodle dog out. Tentatively, he held out a single shaggy paw to the cold elements. “Wait,” he seemed to say. “I can hold it a bit longer.” He backed his bottom end into the kitchen, holding his duties off for another hour or two. Later, after providing him with a little shove, I snuggled him in a fuzzy blanket, cuddling him with warmth near the fire. He’s nearly twelve, after all.

I worked nearly the whole day through and much of the night. Still, during every break I sat on the hearth or took walks past windows while opening doors to breathe fresh crisp air, and gaze at sights of new fallen grace.

I’m aware it won’t last. Today the trees are once again naked. Driveways and streets are clear with the blankets of snow slowly shrinking to weathered sheets. Still, I have memories together with my photographs. Blessings of brief beauty. The unexpected gift of Winter Wonderland soon nearing the hope of spring.

 

God’s Messages


Earlier this week, I took a break between different passages of my work.  Bundling up to venture into the cold of what remained of winter, I walked for blocks not far from home.  My mittened hands were pocketed while breathing in piercing cold air of wonder.  Walking through woods of barren trees and trickled frozen streams, I prayed to God for guidance.  New forks in the road presented themselves.  That’s what life is all about…

There in the crunchy snow were sets of deer tracks, two by two, side by side.  I followed them.  Curious, I wasn’t sure where they would lead.  Would I catch a glimpse of awe ahead of me?  A doe with her young nestled closely by her side for warmth, or a buck guarding his family amidst the confines of his openness?  The deer tracks made me think of life, I guess.  Oddly, they came to no end, yet somewhere God’s creatures were hidden within.

Upon returning home, I stretched upon my bed with a tablet upon my lap.  There, I was able to view our little forest land from a large bay window while tapping keys and moving a mouse.  It’s important to see the outdoors to energize me.  The sun shined through window blinds, leaving patterned shadows of cabbage roses against the walls.

After a moment or two, I looked up from my laptop to glance outdoors.  Snowflakes fell full and fast down from the sunlit sky of blue.  Such a beautiful sight!  It was as if God was sifting powdered sugar over one of my grandmother’s sweetened cakes from long ago.  At that second, I couldn’t believe it, but it was true!  Not one, or two nor three or four, but even more.  A whole herd in fact gently bounded past my view.  A tall, strong buck seemed to lead the way, five points or more.  Together, they danced and pranced proudly, maneuvering through the path of woods until they were beyond my sight, past the window panes.

It’s about twenty degrees today, but I dare not complain.  The sun lights a Delft blue sky, leaving snow, the color of marshmallow cream upon the ground.  Deer tracks can be seen near my patio.  Messages from God to be thankful.  Hints of the future, of what may come to be for me.

 

*edited and reposted from 2/11/14/pictures courtesy of Google Chrome

 

When All Goes Wrong….


Christmas carols turned melancholy soon after boughs of holly were hauled to the curb. A downpour of steady rain fell from a foggy sky. First steady drops in sizes of silver heads atop pins of straight, then pocketed pennies plopped from nimbus clouds under shadows of heaven’s dribbling gates.

For several days, I watched a curling ribbon of water trickle down the hill of my little forest land. Soon it widened, forming a rather large pond near a sewer drain. Loose twigs, bark of dark and soggy leaves washed down a gushing waterfall until they stopped to build a dam of sorts. In the end, local rivers and streams filled to capacity and beyond. Flooding of historic proportions became a constant topic on our local television stations, even making the international news.

The Meramec River is one of the longest free-flowing waterways in Missouri, draining nearly 4,000 feet while meandering over 200 miles until it empties into the mighty Mississippi at a point very close to my home.  I often visit parks near the Meramec River and have shared pictures with you that are close to my heart.

The last of 2015 ended with the New Year beginning in a rage. It seemed the Meramec River was out of control through no fault of its own. While the pond in the back of my yard continued to spread on all sides, big and wide, waters of my lovely river were rising. Higher and higher they inched, quickly covering banks of grass and walls of concrete until it was more than ever before. Streets and highways were underwater, buildings too, while some homes floated away until they slammed into bridges made of steel, crushing them like tin cans of soup. The river flooded into a fast and flowing current of murky madness.

Together with Doodle dog, my husband and I were pretty much stuck. Most roads leading in and out of our subdivision were under water. Basically, we were living on an island! Still, we were blessed with everything needed within the confines of our home. Most importantly, we didn’t have any personal flooding. Others were not so lucky.

By the third day we were able to drive to the point of no return, a main intersection used each and every day, Highway 44 and 141. Stepping out of our car felt like another world. Water rippled just a few feet in front of my shoes. Debris floated under the tips of stop lights while signs of fast food restaurants surely would be slow to invite the next guest inside anytime soon.

Thirty six hours later the Meramec River receded to less than flood stage. All roads are now open, albeit muddy from the sludge. Cleanup has begun in earnest and although pools and puddles of water remain almost everywhere, soon no one driving on highway 44 will ever know.

This morning when I woke the skies were no longer overcast or gray. Sun was shining, splashing across the cheeks of my face. When I opened the door to my paver patio the pond was no longer in the far back of my yard. Perhaps it had dried from new rays of sparkling sun or soaked into wisps of brown winter grass?

Down near the sewer drain, on what was left of the pile of twigs, leaves and dark bark, was a winter bird I had not yet seen this season. He was perched at the very highest point of the dam. There he sang a lovely melody. Perhaps he was calling to his mate in the nearby woods? So beautiful he was under the brilliant sun, black and white with a bright red breast.

When all goes wrong in the world, God makes everything right.

Steamed Heat


Steamed Heat arrived in St. Louis recently, lasting day and night.  Never a break it seemed to me.  An odd season of weather this year.  June was a bath of rain from heaven above while July might have baked bread of rye.  I wondered why?  The heat stifled me a bit.  My body, mind and spirit seemed to shut down.  Although rested from cooling temperatures and the beauty of a trip north, the slap of 100+ heat index took a toll on me.

Silence in the back of my yard.  No forest friends to welcome me.  It was too hot for them to venture out from beneath their tent of trees.  Truth be told, I only peered from the inside of window panes above cool air blowing up from the basement below.  There, I hoped to see legs and tails.  Wings and beaks.  Fur and feathers together with animals playing hide and seek.  Not to be.  Sweltering you see.

When outside, my city felt like the inside of a sauna.   During the day, mist covered the glass of homes, dulling sunlight that desperately tried to part invisible curtains.  Itty-bitty bubbles, small and slight clung to sides of clear until they evaporated late in the day or perhaps not until the next.  Steamed heat moved into neighborhoods, hiding any sign of window screens while air conditioning ran 24/7.

Yet last night a break in the weather!  Cooler temperatures slid down into the 90’s with lower humidity and a breeze that floated under the skin of my nose.  Tiptoeing outside to water fried flowers, I stopped to sit without burning the bare of my feet.  As I often do, I gazed upward toward the top of the hill where crown vetch grows thick and tall this time of year.

There was movement to my left.  Slight, but I was right.  Except for eyes, I did not stir.  Darting this way and that, the two of blue searched for what my heart had been seeking. Suddenly, four pointed ears, copper in color, peeked above the tall of green.  Twin fawns, spotted in white munched on an endless dinner.  Surely their mother would not be far away   Seconds later, she stepped regally out of the woods in order to protect her young.

At the very same time, a blueish-grey turkey’s head meandered down the hill, gobbling all the way.  Still I didn’t move, afraid I’d spook the beautiful bird of feathered brown.  To my surprise, bobbing behind her were little rounds of balding blue.  1-2-3-4-5!  Five babies or poults as they are officially called.  I know this because I wrote a previous post that included them entitled What Nature Teaches You, http://wp.me/p41md8-1HQ.  Still, it’s the first time I’d ever seen a hen leading five poults down the steep of the hill.  Gobbling every few seconds, they moved their necks backward and forward, pecking a path towards their home among the darkened trees.

Just above my head hanging on a shady tree limb was a hummingbird feeder.  Call me lucky, but while all of this was going on two different birds, one dressed in lime green feathers and the other black and white trimmed in red stopped to feed.  They darted, flapping unseen wings while pointing long beaks into pink plastic flowers.  Inside, the sweet of red colored sugar-water waited patiently.

In those moments of minutes I realized that life is all about timing.  If Steamed Heat hadn’t lifted, I would have stayed in the house.  If I hadn’t ventured onto my patio to water flowers, kick off my shoes or take a seat in those very seconds all would have been different.  The animals I love may have still been foraging for food near fallen pine needles within the coolness of the forest.  I know I have God to thank for timing as well as Steamed Heat!

For a brief moment I was disappointed a camera was not at my side to capture the glory of last evening.  At the same time, I believe any slight movement of body or chair, a tilt of my head or a click of the camera would have startled all of God’s creatures.  Although unable to share them, I’m fortunate to have the wonder of their pictures forever painted on the canvas of my mind.

Steamed Heat Children

 

Relax….


It was time for a break. Time to relax.

Last week, I traveled with my husband along the shores of Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. He worked and I guess I did too. For me, it felt different in some way. Quieter, more refreshing and relaxing, I’d say.

Early last week I tapped tips of fingers upon new keys of a plastic laptop while sitting across a wide lake of painted blues. Swirls of foam slowly leapt over twinkling beige sand. Gray and white seagulls wearing orange beaks flew high above before diving deep for fresh fish. Yes, I was writing. But, no way, no how, did my mind or fingers feel like they were working. Instead, it was inspiration time! My body was planted in a wooden chair of slats across the beauty of sun soaked aqua. It hadn’t felt so free in a long, long time.

Our hotel room looked at a vast lake of water-color blues under a sky of the same with clouds of cotton floating every which way. We were fortunate to have a balcony with a view of children playing in the sand. Toys on land. Plastic pails dipped in red, dump trucks painted yellow and shovels in blue, too.

A quick change of clothes for the two of us before strolling along the beach. Time to touch the water of clear, feel the cool and hang our feet over the edge of the dock. Gazing at our good fortune, we saw sparkling sand on the bottom while seaweed of emerald-green drifted upward toward the sun. Rocks of all shapes sat plopped in piles here and there, reminding me of a child’s building blocks. Nearby, colored fins in baby sizes swam through oval openings of hidden hallways under welcoming waves.

Along our way home, we passed a beautiful stream feeding into the lake. It’s where I often stopped to read a book or write words away. That particular afternoon we observed a local artist nearby who painted in a Plein Air technique. Brush-paint-swish-dab-stroke. Repeat. He taught art at the local high school and so enjoyed working with his students. His smile was serene, so happy he was to live his life. Yes, he was truly relaxed.

Very early the next morning, when all of nature’s creatures and most of the earth was still asleep, a great storm raged across the lake. Flags blew atop tall metal poles at winds of nearly 50 miles per hour.

My husband opened the screen door of our balcony to view sheets of rain running like miniature mice across the street. Lake waters could not be distinguished from the sky. The color of water appeared to be dove-gray, meeting the horizon where the two seemingly became one and the same.

During the next hour, my husband and I lay under down linens, cold from the open air above, yet warm underneath. Sounds of the storm danced soothingly in our ears. Cool and fresh, slight sprays of mist blew between miniature squares of rusted screen. Deep thunder growled low in the back of God’s throat, while lighting flashed above an angel’s halo of gold.

Our senses were exposed to newness in the ink of that early morn. Hearing, Smell, Sight and Touch. Before, and into the dawn of day, relaxation set in.

Inspiration needs fuel in order to ignite the best of our imaginations. Give yourself the gift of taking a break. Your body, mind and spirit will be better for it.

Relax……

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Gifts of a Magical Picture Show


It seems I’ve spoken too soon.  Yes, the month of July did appropriately open with a bang of warm weather, but the last couple of days it’s been cool and raining again.  Can you believe it?  Yet, God must be on my side because just as my fingers tapped words upon my keyboard, sun blazed through long, turret windows of my office space.  Shining signs of what may be.

The weather has turned, taking on a new pattern.  No longer are cold, wet drops pounding from the sky in buckets.  Instead, gentle showers are falling in a steady mist all the day through.  Breathing deep, the scent of fresh air is like no other.  Crisp, clean and clear.  

Sitting on the stoop of my patio, I search for new life among the gardens.  Sunflowers are now blooming.  Upon them are bumble bees of yellow with stripes of black upon their backs.  Buzzing, they fly from one to the next.  My once drenched flowers are starting to rise again in painted pots.   Soon they’ll grow tall to reach towards heaven.  Birds stop at feeders, shake their tail feathers, or fly away to peck for worms from a lawn the color of Ireland.

In a steady mist of rain, nature pauses to change.  To my delight, animals once hidden within the forest suddenly appear.  Cabin fever?  Sneaking to a damp chair, I take quiet respite, hoping to soak newness like cocoa twigs floating in backyard streams.

A red fox strolls through the back of my yard!  Damp and wet from the elements, he is beautiful.  Sensing me, he stops briefly to glance my way before trotting toward the line of various trees.  

To the left of our property, a large, furry rabbit sits upright nearly unseen behind tall reeds.  There, he seems to pull long stems from roots like squash colored carrots, munching away.  So big he is!  At first sight, I think he might be a woodchuck.  Soon, however, his fluffy white tail peeks from behind to give him away.

At last, what I’ve been waiting for!  Deer with new babies!  Does and Bucks with fawns by their sides.  Tentatively, they stroll into my yard, coming closer…closer.  A few nibbles here and there.  I don’t care.

So much fun to watch coated babies with spots leap and bound in carefree play from one end of my property to the other.  The young fawns are very fast, chasing each other like children in a game of tag.  “Catch me if you can,” they seem to say, as they bounce around emerald pines and hide among thick thatch.  I’m barely able to snap any pictures as they race from one end of a meadow to the farthest of the next.  All the while, their mothers watch protectively under the mist of a gently falling rain.

Gifts of a magical picture show.  

 

Contrast


A Solitary Sunday.  With my spouse under the weather, the house is as quiet as a mouse.  Yes, it’s true.  I hear nothing.  Not even the scampering of soft fuzzy gray.  No grown children visiting today.  No toddlers to chase or grand-babies to rock.  The sound of silence is all around me.  Life is full of contrasts in this way.

The past week has been an unusual one.  Nearly every day the sun shined bright in the sky only to contrast at some point with the threat of foreboding storms.  Often when I looked up, charcoal gray skies floated above while blustery winds blew by.  Eventually, sheets of rain screamed sideways, this way and that.  Afterwards, silence befell before various sounds were heard.  Cracks of lightening followed by SNAPS.  Brushes of tree limbs fell to wet blades of emerald grass.  Swishes of leaves swept the air before landing in a loud crash.  Finally, rushing water flowed toward a cement street drain.  Gurgles of liquid dropped down..down…down.

The last several days have been full of contrast.  Clear blue skies altered with islands of darkness.  Eventually, clouds parted, allowing sparkling sun to peek from behind sounds of brief silence.  Minutes afterward, favorite feathered friends of mine began to sing sweet, familiar songs while flying to patio feeders.  Red cardinals, canary yellow finches, florescent blue buntings, cinnamon sparrows and red-breasted robins.

Life is full of contrast.  Eventually the glory of light brightens darkness while sweet sounds begin to snuff silence.

Contrast….

 

Concessions


Stepping onto the patio this morning reminded me of movie scene.  The genre with intriguing posters, enough to draw me in.  The sky was eerily colorless, with mist and fog surrounding everything my eyes could see.  When taking a breath of air, my lungs felt heavy and full.  Puddles remained on patterned bricks, while new bird feeders were tossed to the ground.  The evening before, it had rained the whole night through.  Deep thunder shook my home with walls rumbling from outside to in.

My son warned me about this week on Sunday.  He expected to work a lot of overtime at the Weather Service.  “How many days,” I remember asking him?  “Most of the week,” he answered, without missing a beat.  “Beginning on Tuesday.”

Within minutes the ceiling of the endless sky opened wide, showering the green grass while bending new flowers in half.  Raindrops fell hard and fast, turning to hail the size of marbles.  Regretfully, patio bricks were pummeled, chipping red pavers here and there. Nearly everywhere.

Suddenly a screeching sound was heard, startling Doodle dog and even myself.  There on my phone, an automatic alert.  Checking the text it read,  “Warning, Flash Floods Within Your Area.  Not Safe for Driving.”

With the coming of spring, I must accept the weather that accompanies it which often includes running to the basement without electricity.  Provisions are stashed in case of an emergency.  Flashlights, water, food and medication together with blankets and even a change of clothes.  Hopefully, they will never be needed.

Here in the mid-west we are all in for several new months of thunderstorms and lightening.  Hail, high winds, and even tornadoes are here or may be coming our way.  We accept many concessions with God’s gifts of the season.  Still, to feel warm sunshine falling on the naked of my face while passing the beauty of flowering trees during a walk with my dog.  That, together with watching the blooming of my mother’s yellow roses all seem like a very small price to pay.  At least on this day.

Concessions…..

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