Category Archives: For My Soul

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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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.

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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!

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?

Photo Challenge #10

Hey, it’s the first day of summer! Happy day! How is your Wednesday going? Are you having a great day yet?

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I was pleasantly surprised to get a bunch of entries for the photo theme YELLOW. It is a common color in nature and it was great to see so many beautiful images featuring this theme! Special thanks to all of those subscribers who sent in some photos. Here is the collection, brought to you on the first day of summer!

Yellow water by Lead DogKeukenhof Gardens, Netherlands, by ArdenYellow sunset over cornfield by Jock Keukenhof Gardens, Netherlands, by ArdenForsythia with snow by JockCaterpillar by Lead Dogby ArdenYellow mushrooms by Lead DogYellow flower by JockKeukenhof Gardens, Netherlands, by ArdenTiger swallowtail on milkweedLovely reflection by Lead DogIowa state bird, by JockReflection by Lead DogBulbed flower floats Haarlem, Netherlands, by Ardenby Ardenby ArdenLovely flower! Fall color by Lead DogYellow flowers along Oklahoma Greenway by JockInside a lilyBathed in yellow by Lead Dogby Arden Maroon Bells reflection River Reflection Bulbed flower floats Haarlem, Netherlands, by ArdenFall tree by Lead DogMaple leaves, by Lead DogBulbed flower floats Haarlem, Netherlands, by ArdenAspens and blue skyLily by ArdenNetherlands, by ArdenHiker surrounded by yellow, by Lead DogColored waterBy Ardenby ArdenLighting bug on yellow petalsQuiet River by Lead DogFixing her webDrops of water on lilyBulbed flower floats Haarlem, Netherlands, by ArdenYellow crab spider waiting for lunchSoftness of a roseby ArdenNetherlands, by ArdenBiltmore Commons, by ArdenKeukenhof Gardens, Netherlands, by ArdenSpiderby ArdenAt Biltmore Estateby Ardenby ArdenA field of black eyed susansBeetle on goldenrodTiger swallowtail on butterfly weedSand Dunes National Monument, COGoldfinchDancing flowersYellow petalsCrab spider

What are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite from the show?

A few weeks ago I asked for some future theme suggestions–if YOU ever have an idea feel free to send me an email or use the comment box below. I would like to involve my readers as much as possible so I always enjoy hearing from you.

As for the next theme–let’s do FOG. I can’t wait to see what you come up with! Send me your images please, to sharenaturemore@gmail.com.

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1 Minute Meditation: Pond Time

During the month of May I traveled to Buffalo to visit my Mom for Mother’s Day. Each morning the two of us went walking to a nearby park to enjoy the sights and sounds together.

Put yourself in our shoes… imagine it is early morning–the air is cool, no other people are in sight. The leaves on most trees are brand new–that fresh green color unique to spring. The woods is filled with the melody of bird songs. You sit on a bench overlooking a pond surrounded by trees. The sunlight feels good on your face. The still water creates a perfect mirror. Two canada geese are tooling around in the golden light. You have no where to be and nothing to do… You can sit and JUST BE:

Was it easy to imagine being there? Did you enjoy it? Do you have a place like this near you that you can go and do nothing but look, listen, and enjoy nature?

May the rest of your day be just as peaceful! See you again soon.

Photo Challenge #9

Hello and Happy Wednesday to you. I hope you are having a fabulous day! Have you made time lately to get OUTSIDE and spend some time in nature? Did you see anything that would fit our last photo challenge of things that are ROUND?
round--2If you look closely in nature you will find lots of things that are round, including the insides of flowers, water drops, rocks, the sun, some kinds of fungus, etc. Judging from the people who joined in this challenge (one!) I would say maybe it was a difficult one to portray.

By JockEye spots on a Buckeye wingAt Jump off Rock, by JockMoon over New MexicoLots of round drops! Water artSunset over the Blue Ridge ParkwayInsect eggsFake eye spots on a click beetle Cat's eyes are round! What round eyes you have! Tree frog eyeGood night moonAn insect laying round eggsSpotted salamander eggsRocks in New ZealandRound center of spider webWater on sheet webWater on lamb's earWater drops on silkSilkMarblesTemporary necklaceWater dropsSpider webWater in the grassWater on Aspen leavesMoon rising in Algonquin, CanadaA round spider's webDandelion in front of azaleaIslands in the streamStar fungus has a round centerLadybugSpider webRound eye!

Let’s do a photo challenge that might be a littler easier– The next photo challenge theme is: YELLOW.

Will you get outside this week and look for ways to portray this theme? What image of yellow can you capture? There is a lot of yellow in nature! Can you find it and capture it with your camera?

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Check back next Wednesday to see what people came up with–I hope to hear from you! Please send me an email with your images if you want to take part in this challenge: sharenaturemore@gmail.com