Quote of the Week #83

Have you ever been somewhere and seen someone with a FREE HUG sign? Did you take them up on their offer? Did the hug feel nice, or awkward? Did you enjoy it? If you didn’t hug the person, did you think about it afterward and wonder why you didn’t?

One day in late December my husband and I were both feeling depressed and in a state of despair even though it was that time of year when people are supposed to feel festive and happy. We decided to cheer ourselves up we would take our dog, Schroeder, and go into town with the sole purpose of making people smile and giving out free hugs. We made three signs, put them on and set out on the streets of Asheville.

Our first time giving out free hugs

Our first time giving out free hugs

Some people looked at us strangely. Some people moved away from us. Some people laughed when they saw Schroeder, moving closer–happily– to accept some puppy love. Oh, they laughed when Schroeder wagged his tail wildly and tried to lick their faces. We quickly learned several things:

1 That Schroeder does not give hugs–he gives kisses and licks

2. That if we did not take initiative, many people just walked on by

3. At the end of the day, after hugging many, many strangers and sharing many smiles and laughs, WE felt better. In giving out hugs we had managed to cheer ourselves up!

Since then we made giving out hugs a monthly event. We are better at it now–better at warmly inviting strangers to hug us, better at not taking it personally when they walk past, better at letting the hugs go on as long as people need. And Schroeder’s sign now says “Free kisses and licks.”

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And so that brings me to the quote of the week, two of them actually, because, as you know, I can never decide:

The first, by Maya Angelou, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”

and the second, a fact that was apparent to us almost immediately– it is very easy to make someone smile.

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YOU can be reason someone smiles. YOU can make a difference in someone’s day. All it takes is the desire and a tiny bit of effort.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #155

Last week’s puzzler was a shrub seen in the eastern United States called, appropriately, eastern sweetshrub; other common names include Carolina sllspice, strawberry shrub,, sweet-scented shrub, bubby blossom, sweet bubby, sweet bettie, and spicebush. (A note here, as one of my subscribers, Barb, wrote this in her comment and I thought she might be talking about another eastern shrub called spicebush. When I searched for common names for the eastern sweetbush, spicebush was listed on one of the sites I visited.  So your answer was indeed correct! Thanks for the lesson!)

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The Latin name of this plant is Calycanthus floridus. If you’ve ever stood close to one, you may have noticed the sweet fragrance–said to smell like strawberry, melon and pineapple– the shrub gives off. Its leaves, twigs and flowers are very fragrant, especially as the plant matures.

Endemic to North America, this pretty shrub grows 6-9 feet tall. The flowers may last over a month! In the fall the shrub will be full of seed pods that hang down and will eventually release seeds, which need to go through stratification (a period of cold and moisture in order to germinate)before they can grow a new plant.

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Here is some more information if you are interested, from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)

And, just as a reminder in case you missed my last post, I will be traveling for a while, putting some of my regular columns, including the puzzler, on hold. See you again in a few weeks!

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Photo Challenge

Hello and Happy Thursday. Yes, I normally publish this post on Wednesday, but because of the 4th of July holiday, my whole week has been thrown off. I hope you enjoyed your holiday!

Last week’s photo theme was from this poem below–I chose a line from the poem –The Peace of Wild Things.

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Then when I went to find images for this post, it occurred to me that just about every image I have ever made fits this theme, as when I am out doing photography–something I love more than just about anything else–I am almost always at peace.

I love the peace of wild things, whatever those wild things are. The theme is so WIDE open! So completely open to interpretation. Who is to say what brings one person peace? Wild things can mean so much, from plants, flowers, trees, rocks, beaches,waterfalls, to all kind of animals from the tiniest snail to a giant caribou. Are you like me, finding peace easily when you are outside in nature?

Here is the collection of images then for the week:

Feather in the Sky, by ArdenFawn with Mother in WNY, by Chris MWater Lily, WNY, by Chris MGrand Canyon, by ArdenDuck with many ducklings at Reinstein Woods, NY, by Chris MSwan, by ArdenPeacock, by ArdenMama and baby in WNY, by Chris MDove on her nest, by ArdenBy ArdenAlligator sunning, by ArdenLibrary in the woods! by Chris MCoot nest, by ArdenRoseate Spoonbill Spotlight on a deer In Florida, by ArdenPerfection of flying My Zen Spot, by ArdenDupont State Forest, by ArdenBy ArdenOsprey nest in Florida, by ArdenDragonfly Not a Crack in the Sidewalk! by ArdenGreat Blue Heron, by ArdenFlorida by ArdenCaribou in Denali Bear in the backyard! By ArdenSiesta Key, Florida, by ArdenNC waterfallsSeagull on the coast in MaineLiquid MirrorAlaska and the very special Denali Roan Mountain Wild things Egret feeding Wild things! Preening SnailIn the Adirondacks Along the John Muir Trail Perfect great blue heronWood duckStillness Preening egret Morning reflectionThe perfect camping spot! Vermont mountains A Perfect sunset White pelicans make art in the skyIn Alaska Beauty in NYOn the John Muir Trail Reddish egret landingWood storks White Ibis feedingFlying southSparkles on the waterWatching the wild things

This is the last post from me you will see for a while (except to answer the puzzler on Saturday) as I am on the brink of an exciting road trip adventure that will take me away from my desk for a few weeks. You may see a few random posts during that time, but some of the regular features, including the photo challenge and puzzler, will be on hold.

Have a good month! Thanks, as always, for reading!

I will leave you with this poem, one I first published last Wednesday, but one I love so much I wanted to read it again–and let you read it again too. Do you like it?

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

pe--5

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Weekly Puzzler #155: Red Flower and Fruity Scent

I came across this scrub recently on a rainy day walk at the North Carolina Arboretum. It was full of these lovely red flowers in the center of each bunch of lovely green leaves. Have you seen it? Do you know what it is? Do you know why I say it has a fruity scent? Have you smelled it–do you know what it smells like?

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If you want to guess, use the comment box below. You could win the next prize–to be given away on the first day of fall. All correct responses will be entered in the drawing. This quarter our winner, Arden, won a sampler pack of greeting cards from my Beauty is Everywhere collection.

…Have a wonderful weekend!! See you again soon.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #154

Hello and Happy Saturday! Happy July! Also happy 4th of July weekend! I hope you are having a great weekend filled with lots of memorable events. Were you one of the ones who recognized the fern in last week’s puzzler as MAIDENHAIR fern? Have you seen this in a forest near you?

Maidenhair ferns can be found in forests along the east coast. With their distinctive black stems and delicate, fan-shaped fronds, they are hard to miss. These ferns spread by rhizomes and spores, which they produce in spring and summer. Worldwide there are more than 20,000 species of ferns!

Also something I learned when doing research for this post is that there is a southern and a northern maidenhair fern. Here are some photos of each. Can you see the differences?

Southern maidenhair fern

Southern maidenhair fern

 

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Northern maidenhair fern

Northern maidenhair fern

Interestingly, just because you find a maidenhair fern in the south doesn’t mean it’s a southern maidenhair fern! Southern maidenhair ferns can grow in the northern states and northern maidenhair ferns can be found in the south! Go figure. Talk about confusing!

So here is our next puzzler–another one about an interesting plant.

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Photo Challenge #11

Happy Wednesday! Are you having a great day yet?

I spent my morning out in one of my favorite meadows and it was absolutely glorious! The field is filled with yarrow, milkweed, New York Ironweed, butterfly weed, daisies, and more. In most places the grasses are as tall as my shoulders and I walk along, slowly, immersing myself in the NOW and viewing the world through my “photographer’s eye,” constantly on the lookout for insects and other interesting things. I frequently find deer beds of flattened grasses–it makes me smile, thinking of the deer curled up in a ball and sleeping peacefully for the night.

gmead-5200Today the swallows were making rounds over the field, swooping low above the wet grasses in search of insects, calling to each other as they danced in the sky. There was a flock of crows calling in an adjacent field. Butterflies, dragonflies and honeybees flitted around the pink milkweed blossoms that are so heavenly fragrant right now–if only I could capture the smell and waft it into your space as you read this post! As I sat in the field, hidden from the world, I thought of a poem by Wendell Berry that I read yesterday, sent to me by my friend, Bea.(Thanks Bea!)  For those of us intimately familiar with the natural world, this poem will make you nod your head in agreement:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Anyway, I just wanted to share it with you on this Wednesday, in hopes that you can make some time to get outside and “come into the peace of wild things.”

Last week’s photo theme was FOG. Here is the weekly slide show

Ward Pound Ridge ReservationBackpacking in Denali National Park, AlaskaDelaware National Water Gap on The ATDogwoodNC Mountains, by ArdenDrama in the skyEagle on the Mississippi, by JockFoggy church Davenport by JockFoggy day on the ATSecret Garden, Roan MountainWestern North CarolinaFog at Nahant Marsh Iowa by JockIn Great Smoky Mountains National ParkFog by ArdenFoggy forest by JockFog over the mountainsIn Etowah Fog in the valleyIn GSMNPLooking back on the AT in MaineFog in AlaskaMy backyardIn Denali National ParkJones Gap, SCDawn's Early LightLight at the end of the tunnelFogFog in the pine forest at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, NYIn Cade's CoveTree by Whitewater Falls, NCDancing FogDenali National Park, Alaska

And in honor of my surprise-filled trips to the unmoved plots of land everywhere, let’s do THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS as our theme for this week. Have you been to a glorious meadow near you and felt the peace of wild things? Or been to a forest, a spot at the top of a mountain, or beside a pond or river? Do you have a special spot where you can feel the peace of wild things? Have you inched along the grasses in a meadow to find secret treasures? How can you create a compelling image depicting the peace of wild things? Do you think this will be an easy theme?

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I hope to hear from you, and especially, hope you will join us in next week’s slide show. Just email me a few images to sharenaturemore@gmail.com and I will happily add them to the Wednesday blog post…. see you again soon!

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1 Minute Meditation: River Time

Some of you may know that I took a backpacking trip with some friends recently to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see a special kind of firefly called the synchronous firefly. The trail we hiked hugged a most beautiful river the entire way, making it very challenging for me to keep moving. Every few steps I would see another something interesting that I felt compelled to stop and photograph. I realized very early on that I must return alone so I can spend all the time I want without pressure that I am not making enough (or any!) forward progress, AND, I will bring my tripod…. Special thanks to my trail companions who were super patient with me and never once complained about always having to wait.

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…so the scene is set. It is late spring. Imagine that you are walking beside a rock-filled river, the constant sound of water accompanying your every step. When you stop and look closely, you notice how many of the rocks in the river are covered with thick, green moss. There are lovely reflections in the still pools of water close to the edge and the morning lighting makes the trees and rhododendron lining the river paint the water a glorious golden-green color. When you close your eyes, the music soothes you, chasing away any thoughts but the here and now.

What do you think? Was it easy to imagine you were there? Do you think it is somewhere you’d like to visit?

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