Why Is Your Structure Such?


You fascinate me.

I don’t know you. Don’t know much about you, actually. I know the monarchs; so regal, vibrant. The little yellow ones—fleeting, quick. But I’ve never seen you.

As I chored about the yard, I caught glimpses of you. And I thought, you’re different. What unusual beauty. Such graceful movements.

But…

So dark. Dark as a moonless night. Dark as a storm front. Dark as deep ocean.

But such a comforting dark. There’s a softness about you. Why is your structure such?

When your lovely flight pattern stopped, I moved closer. You didn’t fly away. It looked as if you waited, and actually posed for me. Your dark was then so beautiful. The rust tinge. The white. The astonishing scallops. And then that lovely shade of blueness. Black and blue. Oh, why is your structure such!

Why did God make a black and blue butterfly??

I’m not exactly sure but I thank Him. For because of beautiful creatures like you, I see the blackest of my days and the blueness in my soul are still tinged with color, and pure white, even if there’s a touch of rust around the edges. Like a lot of things in my life.

If I would just be still; and take notice.

You dawned my day with your dark.

And perhaps that is why your structure is such.

Oh, I know you won’t be around for long. Your life is sadly very brief.

And I may never see you again. But I’m glad we’ve met. 

And I’m glad of the structure that is you.


This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with the themes “Structure” and “Waiting.” We don’t typically see black swallowtails around here but this year we’ve seen several. These were some of the thoughts that came to me as I observed and enjoyed them. I hope you enjoy as well. 🙂

Peace,
Alexandria

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Still Friends After All These Years

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“To get the full value of joy you must find someone to divide it with.” ~ Mark Twain

Young Friends

“Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).

The Sea, One of our Favorite Spots

The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, What? You too? I thought I was the only one!

Together

… It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that friendship is born.

And instantly they stand together …

Two Solitudes

in an immense solitude.” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves”

Missing You

“You are still my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

~ Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Soul Friends
“How we need another soul to cling to.” ~ Sylvia Plath


This is my entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge.  The theme is “friend”. I chose to interpret it in a metaphoric manner. To encapsulate that word in one photo would be impossible for me. Where do I begin??

So this post is in honor of my own wonderful world of life-long friends; who’ve clung to my soul, despite all my quirks and failures, good times and trying times. Thank you. I love you. You are life’s greatest gifts.
Peace,
Alexandria


Credit to Stephanie Goddard for the first photo. Capturing these four friends mid-air with such clarity is a photographer’s dream. And Stephanie does it so well. How well I remember jumping off these very cliffs in my own life with friends such as these. For more of Stephanie’s fine work visit White Horse Photography  You will not be disappointed.

Fragile, Handle With Care | Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

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“Words and hearts should be handled with care, for words misspoken and hearts when broken are the hardest things to repair.” ~ Unknown

Ever do this? Say something then feel the immediate twinge of regret? You wish, how you wish, you could somehow take them back. But they stick like glue. Sometimes they are just casual, oh so casual, “I didn’t really mean it.”

We utter them right off the top of our head, just because we need to talk–oh, how we need to talk,  to say something—oh, how we always need to be saying something.

Sometimes they are tinged with hints of sarcasm—just enough hint to hurt.

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Sometimes we lash out in anger. And that’s the worst kind—so far from kind.

And then there’s the so unkind kind that cuts … deep, sometimes scarring to permanence—like a car that’s been wrecked and declared totaled.  Total damage.

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If we would but look into the eyes, we would see the heart of each.

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But no, we shrug away, whispering, “So what.”

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Our culture actually takes pride in telling someone off. We hang on to the brash words of reality television and celebrate the celebrity spewing trash-talk. Bullying is a problem among our children. It’s like we celebrate hate.

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What have we become?

Yes, conflict is part and parcel of life. But my mother used to say “Fight nice.” The word hate was so repulsed it was never allowed in our home, under any circumstances. Not even an “I hate brocolli!” was permitted.

Words can build or destroy. Choose them wisely—choose to soothe, heal, protect, build.

Happy

Why not declare to say, today, words tinged with, dare I say, … love?

And if you have nothing to say, it’s perfectly okay to just say nothing.

“Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent.” ~Proverbs 17:28a

Spent, or Well-Spent?

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~Plato


This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme “Broken”. I chose to use the theme in the context of “words”, which can break and shatter as powerfully as they build and heal.

Our modern world is filled with an abundance of them. Sometimes even one sentence can wreak a force as destructive as a volcanic eruption. (Think Twitter with its mere 160 characters. It packs a powerful punch, doesn’t it?)

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Our WordPress community continues to be a safe haven for words, a place where thoughtful expression is wrapped in respect for everyone. I’ve found it to be thus far, and I hope it continues.

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“Let your speech be always with grace.” ~Colossians 4:6a

Peace,
Alexandria


For other interpretations of the Broken Challenge, I hope you’ll take some time and visit here. You’ll enjoy the endless creativity of WordPress photographers, both amateur and professional. Enjoy! 🙂

Reward’s of Winter

It’s no secret that I suffer through January and February.

dsc_0164Bleak skies, sleet, snow. Daily news intakes of major regions buried in snow and ice. Makes me thankful that it’s a rarity here.

But we still get our share of these elements to halt traffic, down power lines, and interfere with even the most mundane aspects of life, like walking the dog or getting the mail.

dsc_0103A little slip can put you quickly out of commission, not including the countless minutes of time-after-time of swaddling in coats, boots, and gloves to scurry our furry friends out for their repeated rituals!

Winter Commute img_1493Since I commute nearly an hour to work, added preparation is a must and I keep an overnight bag ready for everything. Rainboots, snowboots, thermals, down coat, raincoat, snacks, water! Brrrr…..Grrrr!!!

How Long?Like I said, I suffer.

dsc_0099But lest I lead you astray with the title of this write and leave you wondering how I could find any reward of winter, interspersed in all this dreariness are glimpses so dreadfully beautiful I could cry.

dsc_0084Nature is alive. Alive with anomalies to abate my suffering soul.

dsc_0094To thaw my freezing whine of heart and melt it into a wine of gladness.

Nature is complete and utterly at peace with itself during this chilling time,

dsc_0160And makes beauty in ways unimaginable, unexpected, and unexplainable.

dsc_0166I think of our nation a century ago and all the strenuous winter preparations that were commonplace day in and day out. They were absolute necessities as our ancestors faced these elements head on. My mere preparations pale in comparison.

My Achy Breaky WalkHere I sit and gaze out my window, blanketed in the modern conveniences of heat, indoor plumbing, hot water at every tap, an insulated home with insulated windows, even a back-up generator … just in case.

1-IMG_1420And I think I’m suffering.

dsc_0207How trite. How miniscule.

dsc_0011Thank you, O Creator, for showing me otherwise.

img_1448Oh yes, and lest I leave out one more reward of winter, here he is! Grandson number two. Born right in the middle of cold February. It didn’t snow or ice during his birth. But if it had, well there’s the four-wheel-drive.

Like I said, I really suffer! 😉
Peace, Alexandria

November, Gold at its Finest

DSC_1036-001 November.

image That golden month.
Shimmery, glittery,

1-image29-e1417103368582Dripping Gold.

imageGold waves flutter against azure sky.

imageSun shatters, splits, scatters light.

imageBlinding good.
Hmmm. And people think real treasure is found in golden coins.

imageThink again!

imageGold—Strong. Malleable. Resilient. Unchanging.
Constant.
Coins and jewelry buried for years, centuries, remain intact. Truth be told, we don’t know how much gold the earth has.

imageIt used to be the standard of finance. No more as we print a non-existent value. Fool’s gold. But November still governs by the gold standard.
Of that, there is no doubt.

Heavenly WalkIt’s said in Heaven we walk on it. November gold holds but a glimpse.

imageOh, and another thing. If you’re into those golden years, smile.

imageNovember wears gold quite well.
So should you! 🙂

imageAnd one last thing. On cloudy days I notice the gold is more brilliant against the stark, grey sky. It seems I’m surrounded by gold, gold, and more gold.

imageGold everywhere!

So on the cloudy days of life, take heart. Like fire refines to gain pure gold, so you can stand more brilliant against those hovering clouds.
Just like November.

imageSeems I take more pictures in November more than any other time. I’m up runnin’ out early to catch the rays. And with holidays in full swing, how fitting The Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “yellow”. They did that on purpose to contrast the reds and greens of Christmas. For me it’s perfectly fitting as I wasn’t ready to let go of my November gold quite yet!

If you’re all snuggled in from the cold temperatures, how about I bring the “gold” from around “these thar hills” to you!

1-DSC_1042And so I present to you, November gold. The year’s finest achievement. Worthy of honor and distinction. Most valuable of all.

EnJoy!
Alexandria


All photos by yours truly, except the third. I introduce to you, Joshua Burgard, of Shadow Rest Ministries, who took this stunning shot of unexpected snow in early November. For more of Josh’s lovely shots, check out the Shadow Rest Facebook Page.


Other “yellow” posts I liked:
JPicks
Variety of Light
Love in the Spaces, Yellow Light
Still Life with Rubber Gloves

Two Celebrations (featuring Guest Author, Steve)

Today there were two expectant parents awaiting the arrival of their son.
They both longed to see him. They have three other children and this will be the last. It will complete the family. What a blessing! Their love for him began at conception and for too long they had waited.  He had to mature, it had to be his time, and finally the day had arrived.

dMy father died today.

In the blink of an eye he walked into the gates of heaven into the loving arms of his parents, his siblings, a host of aunts and uncles, and even a granddaughter all waiting to see him. He was literally born again. I’m sure my grandparents couldn’t wait to see him. I expect the anticipation is a lot like the day of his earthly birth.

Was Blind But Now I SeeOur perspective changes based upon our vantage point.
In sports, two people in different parts of an arena can see the same play and come to a different conclusion. To one, with their viewpoint and biases the player clearly scored. To another spectator with their own biases and a different vantage point, the goal was stopped. Both would swear to the correctness of their report.

Only one is correct.

CSo I suspect it is with death.

To those of us left behind, we call it death. It is a terrible separation that rips our loved one from us. We are left with that tremendous empty sensation that has no earthly solution. In contrast, to those in heaven it is a day of rejoicing as their loved one finally “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God” (January 28, 1986 | President Ronald Reagan). The interpretation of the event is again controlled by ones perspective and vantage point.

Ultimately, the biggest perspective difference is our understanding of what happens to us after death.

It changes everything.

To those who believe that life ends here, death must hold a level of emptiness and pain that I cannot comprehend. For those like me who live in the hope of life eternal, death and its associated separation has less pain. This hope comes with the promise of reunion. Yes, we must endure separation, but ultimately there will be reunion.

SIn 2 Samuel 12:23, King David comments on the death of his son. He says: “But now he has died. Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” King David lived in the promise of life eternal as I do.

Although my father will not return to me, I will go to him and I look forward to our reunion. I suspect for my parents, my earthly death will look like birth from their new vantage point. So when you think about birth and death, unless you precede them in the latter, your parents celebrate both.

Ponder that a bit. It is truly wondrous.

Thoughtfully,
Steve

I Corinthians 15:19 “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”


Recommended reading:
I Corinthians 15  The Holy Bible, Paul the Apostle
Everyone’s Back Home Once Again, bywordsthatlastforever
The Best Christmas Gifts, by Just Behind the Door
Anticipation: The Art of Mourning, by Pilgrim Out of the Water

Summer’s Last Stand

Glistening October So it’s October.

GlistenCrisp temperature’s, rust-tinged leaves.

Green BackgroundTime to finally bid summer goodbye.

SpindlyThe flowers, spindly and spent, yawn into a stretch,

1-DSC_0190“Can we finally stop? Isn’t is time for bed???”

Stretch“Sure, summer. Autumn’s arrived. Yep, I think it’s time to call it a day (season).
Goodnight, dear summer. Sleep tight.”

Yet, I was wrong as wrong could be,
As another stretched high her neck, towering above all.

I'm Still HereAnd, what next???

BlinkAnother blinked open her eyes!

GreetingsThen another … and another … and another!
Hmm … you remind me of someone I once knew, way back in time, known as “spring”.
But isn’t it autumn? You’re not supposed to do that!”

Of course, I said it with a wink and a grin. 🙂

1-DSC_0100“But what is all of this! Why all this!” I still wondered.

Tossing their woolly heads, they mocked, “Why, why, why all these questions!”
With a wink and a grin, of course. 🙂

So I, expecting more-of-the-same dearest autumn–my usual neat, tidy, predictable rows of life–I let go of more-of-the-same, and blink my eyes open to the unexpected.

Staring right back at me.

dsc_0107I feel outsmarted, laid bare in my ignorance. I thought I knew the next chapter–autumn. After all, it’s October!  The calendar says it is autumn, well past September twenty-first it is!

It is autumn!

But it’s never the same, is it? Something is always different.

Rust-TingeNothing ever stays the same, but nothing ever arrives the same either. Every season has the final say and knows exactly when to shut their door and lie down in sleep.

Who am I to order, predict, and explain?

As visitors hearken my harvest-laden porch,

imagethey cannot miss it.

dsc_0046And I hope they can appreciate that as much I tried to make autumn happen,

dsc_0057some things are just completely out of my control.

dsc_0119As is much of life.

But sometimes the unexpected is when joy shows its loveliest face.

Peace,
Alexandria

Happy Birthday, USA. It’s Time to Shine!

1-10259236_10153515755787925_696162760111206077_o“Fireworks had for her a direct and magical appeal.  Their attraction was more complex than that of any other form of art.

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They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger;

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above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty and makes it touch some spring in the heart which more enduring excellences cannot reach.” ― Jan StrutherMrs. Miniver

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Yep, that quote would be me. Next to Christmas, the Fourth of July is my absolute favorite holiday. First of all, I love fireworks. Period. But I also love the way it draws my nation together. We have a complex history and a lot of problems, yes. But there is and there never has been a country like ours. Most of us learn and grow from our nation’s mistakes. Though very diverse, there is one thing of which we are in solid agreement: America is great.

If you’ve never visited you won’t understand. And if you live and grew up here, it’s so easy to take for granted. Think about it. In the history of nations, never has a country had freedom and prosperity like ours. Never has a country cared for the world like ours. Never has there been an economy like ours.

I don’t blame anyone for leaving their country of origin to come here. Many go through great peril and cost to do that. As a citizen, I just ask a few things. Please follow our laws and do whatever is necessary to become a citizen. Be honest. Work hard. And learn our history. Take a Civics class to learn how our government works. Be educated on our current events.

Don’t believe everything you read in the media. Investigate the facts. In other words, become a well-informed citizen and think for yourself. Don’t let anyone “spoon-feed” you. America will offer you and your children the best life they could ever have. And don’t ever take that for granted. I don’t know any American that does not welcome you if you do this.

Now, onto the fireworks! I cannot close without drawing attention to these photographs posted on Dan Pope’s Facebook page.  He is a real top-notch photographer and friend of our family and I’ve featured him before. His link is on my sidebar. Dan is a fireworks nut like me. He captured these Friday night. And of all things, he caught this last one with a train rolling through. Nicely done, Dan!

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In closing, I’m posting this link to a  video of the Katy Perry song “Firework”, still an all-time favorite of mine on our Fourth of July. I think the words capture the human spirit quite well.

Shine everyday because–baby, you’re a firework!

Perspectives in Paradise | It’s Snow Fun Without You

Wish You Were Here

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

“Travel is treacherous. Do not drive unless absolutely necessary.” The words blared from the weather alarm that morning. The pelting snow and ice swooping down in the night continued, unrelenting through the day, swaddling nature tight in a blanket of ice-covered snow. Suddenly, we found ourselves trapped at home. Our narrow, dipping country road gets little help in weather like this. A few brave souls make an attempt, but the few soon dwindle to none. No way in. No way out.

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The next day, the sun burst forth but nothing could melt in the frigid air. Snowed in and unable to travel, I did the next best thing. I went outside to play. I took my four-wheeler out to ever-so-slightly disturb the pristine white and take in the sight. I had two-hundred grand, glorious acres all to myself.

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With my sled strapped on, the ice-covered snow made for a fantastic slick ride down a nice hill. The climb back up tested endurance but the thrill of the ride was so worth it.

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My husband worked away in his shop that borders the property, keeping a watchful eye lest cardiac arrest should befall me. 🙂

After sledding I rode the land and savored every moment. The great snow-covered expanse was breathtaking.

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As I crunched through icy fields the golden hour of sunset seeped in and the snow suddenly appeared as a great sea. With the layer of ice, the light glistened in spectacular array. I snapped photos, trying my best to capture the sparkly dance.

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It all sent chills through me—this magical moment where snow becomes sea and sunlight glints wildly. As I hopped back on the four-wheeler I finally turned around and another sight stopped me dead in my tracks. Literally.

Moonrise at Sunset

Before me was a gorgeous full moon lit up by the remaining rays of sun. My jaw dropped in disbelief. To my right was the sunset. To my left was the moonrise. I must admit it appeared they might be in competition as to who could astound me the most. {Can you imagine how it feels to be pulled in a tug-of-war between the sun and the moon!}

The sun was generous and cast just enough light to capture the moon in brilliant detail. Hmmm … this is not competition. Looks more like a perfect choreographed dance. To make a moment. A moment, perhaps, for me?

Moonrise at Sunset

After a few more photos I sat in total awe, inhaling both scenes before me. Perched between the sun and the moon, the greater and lesser lights of the world shined bright, so it seemed, for me. For me alone. But I couldn’t hoard this all to myself so I hoped someone else on this great big earth was beholding the same sight. My pictures give but a glimpse but I hope you can see.

Sunset on the Moon

With my senses in heightened exhilaration I slowly began to experience one of those rare moments where this sort of wondrous squeeze happens in the heart. You know what I’m talking about. Your eyes begin to well up with tears and there is a tightness in your throat. Your mind is empty of words because there is none to describe.

My faith tells me it’s a touch of heaven—from my Maker. I imagine this is what the Bible means when it speaks of God’s still, small voice. Here, in this moment of wordless void, I think I can finally hear. It is but a whisper. One word.

Moonrise

Comfort. Comfort—that soothing solace tucked within, that there is Someone so great and so amazing who’s brushed the world with a wild beauty that strokes and soothes a weary heart.

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And as the earth spins longer and my earthly days grow shorter I find the greatest treasures are moments like these, when the divine splits my world and reminds me God is surely in this place.

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And if He is in this moment of magnificence, then isn’t He with me in the moment of heartache?

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” ~ Psalm 19:1
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with a theme of “Perspective” As you can see, there are several photos that give various perspectives of the landscape, sun, and moon. I’ve done the best I could to share this moment with you. I hope you enjoy and feel a touch from heaven as I did.
Peace, Alexandria

Me, My Selfie, and Someone Else

Me

When I first heard “selfie” was the Oxford Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” for 2013, it struck me as odd. I remember first hearing the word from my tween grand-niece. I grinned and shook my head. Young, beautiful, fit, self-absorbed. Yep, no surprise there. Typical tween.

But the word for the Weekly Photo Challenge? Really? Isn’t selfie reserved for the above? The last thing I want is my façade out there for the world to see! Family and friends is one thing. But the great big internet world? No way!

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You see, I am a grandmother. And has it escaped anyone’s notice the whole-hearted near-absence of grandmother selfies? Think about it. Can you really imagine a group of grandmothers taking selfies and plastering them all over the Internet?

I think it’s partly because we’re a bit more private. But let’s face it. Since most of us do not fit the above adjectives, we remain nearly absent on this self-portraiture that has taken the world by storm. (For heaven’s sake, even world leaders take selfies!)

But, the reality is the young are photogenic and few of us are. At least on the outside we are not. But please understand, we are totally okay with that. Though absent in the selfie realm, trust me—we are not absent.

We are most present. And extremely so.

And Someone Else

Perhaps, more so.

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“To get the full value of joy you must find someone to divide it with.” ~ Mark Twain


Related article:

The Christian Pundit: What a Christian Woman Knows About Beauty

 

Fleeting Objects of Affection

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Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting. ~ Unknown

Canon EOS 5D Mark iii Focal length 24 F number  2.8 Exposure time 1/6,400

 If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older. ~Tom Stoppard

 Did you know that childhood is the only time in our lives when insanity is not only permitted to us, but expected?  ~Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Canon EOS5D Mark iii Focal length 31 F number 5.6 Exposure time 1/200

Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.  ~John Betjeman, Summoned by Bells

For this set of photos I invited my dear “like-a-daughter”, Emily Morgan, to share some photos of her children. I’ve known Emily since she was a baby. Her mother is one of my closest friends since college and we spent a good portion of life raising kids together.

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Emily blossomed into a loving mother of four adorable children (ages 6 and under!). She is also a talented photographer. She and husband, Andrew, have settled in Los Angeles, where Emily frequents the Pacific beach with these sweet little ones.

The beautiful photos above, captured in silhouette, drew my attention because they capture those fleeting moments of childhood. I’ll let Emily explain it in her own words.

“Hearing waves crash and children laugh are two of the best sounds in the world. The moment when your 6 year-old and the sunset collide and you happen to have your camera handy and are able to capture that fleeting moment to hold onto forever is truly special. The way I feel behind the lens of camera brings me to life, but the better gift is being able to hold onto that moment forever in a photograph.” ~ Emily Morgan

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I am convinced that God gave childhood, not as moments forgotten or pined for, but to recapture it in our adult years, much as a photograph captures. So we would not forget to live each day with childhood eyes and wonder, to view every moment with passion and exuberance.

But what happened as we grew out of those wonder years? As adulthood seeped in, it gradually pushed out that wonder and we became grown-ups. Pushed by life and all it’s demands, the wonder nudged back and for some it fell off into the throes of deadly cynicism.

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We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it. ~George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860
Maybe we can’t banter about as children every living moment of the day but can we not view each day with a semblance of wonder? And spend at least some moments of the day smiling, laughing, running, playing, even dancing?

Canon EOS 5D Mark iii Focal length 70 F number 2.8 Exposure time 1/8,000
With what eyes do you see the ocean above? Are they hardened by life’s demands, unable to drink its beauty … old? Can you not see this vast ocean is but one landscape to keep you young and filled with wonder? To heal you of the cynicism, which robs you of life itself.

Let the waters spray you with healing. Climb those rocks and perch up there. Listen to the words of Emily and let yourself collide with the sunset. After all, it hasn’t moved.

But perhaps you have.

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Experience the healing wonder of childhood … everyday.

Peace, Alexandria
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
After a hiatus of bearing these four little ones, Emily is resuming her photography. I invite you to view her  portfolio at www.emilymorgan.la
This is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge with the Theme “Object”. The ocean is the landscape and the silhouettes of children are the objects. True objects of affection. 🙂


Family | The Forever Constant

Standing Firm

“Like branches on a tree, our lives may grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.”

1-DSC_0096“In different hours, a man represents each of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man’s skin,—seven or eight ancestors at least, and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Family quarrels have a total bitterness unmatched by others.  Yet it sometimes happens that they also have a kind of tang, a pleasantness beneath the unpleasantness, based on the tacit understanding that this is not for keeps;

1-DSC_0095 that any limb you climb out on will still be there later for you to climb back.”  ~ Mignon McLaughlin

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“The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste,

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coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, 

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and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”  ~ Erma Bombeck

As I contemplated the Weekly Photo Challenge theme “Family” I could’ve shared oodles of family photos and memories. However, my fascination for the constant lessons of nature prompted me to use this tree I drive by nearly every day. It’s one of those anomalies of nature you just can’t miss.

Sometimes I take pictures, but other times I just stop, get under it, gaze at its never-ending branches, and admire its breathtaking beauty. But more than that, I admire it’s sheer strength. And if you notice, it’s even a bit lopsided. Its shape is not perfect and to tell you the truth, I’m relieved. It makes me feel more at home. But the tree is massive, solid, stately, so proud–you just have to see it to believe it.

It’s main “branches” are not the usual bending, thinner limbs of a tree. They are the size of trunks, which could be trees in and of themselves. Note the photo in full summer leaf above–it easily shades the entire width of the road and more. But notice the photo of it in barren winter (below). That’s when you really see the way it’s limbs anchor the whole.

I’ve tried to capture it with a camera as best as I can and if you look at its new white fence nearby, perhaps you can get a bit of perspective. It’s probably been there since the Revolutionary War.

I wonder how many generations have passed this tree in its lifetime.

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“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever. The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” ~ Ecclesiastes 1: 4,5

I’ve driven past it in sun, storm, snow, and treacherous winds. Sometimes I’ve wondered if it would survive some of the worst storms. But it’s always there. It possesses a strength unfathomable and survives untouched and unscathed through it all.

I wish I could say the same about myself. 

I try to remind myself that I’m but one of the smaller branches near the ends, still being tested and tried. And that massive, huge trunk at the base is holding on to me.

And believe me, I’m hanging onto it for dear life.

image“Do not remove the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up.” ~ The Bible Proverbs 22:28

Family–the forever constant, stamped indelible. May we branch out high and wear it proud. But when we hit those storms that threaten to snap us away, may we return to the open, loving limbs of home–the place of constants—love, acceptance, shelter, safety, sanity (or a bit of a necessary dose of insanity!).

d

“Some family trees have beautiful leaves, and some have just a bunch of nuts. Remember, it is the nuts that make the tree worth shaking.” ~Author Unknown

Family–the forever constant.
The place where you breathe in the comfort and exhale a long sigh,

“Ahhh … there’s no place like home.”

image

“The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.” ~Dodie Smith

Welcome is My Word|Beginnings

Welcome“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

“One Word That Will Change Your Life”
The book title sparked my curiosity. One word? Really? The book’s been around awhile and I have to say, I like this idea. Instead of lofty New Year’s resolutions, it holds to a one-word theme for the year. Smaller actions center around that word. The smaller acts compound throughout the year, where the meaning of the word takes root and becomes the impetus for real, long-lasting change.

One word. So simple. And I love anything simple. The author recommends using the entire month of December to choose a word. Mine surfaced immediately.

Welcome.

It was certainly different from some of the other suggested words like joy, health, and patience. But I really liked it. I knew it was mine. And as I thought about it, I realized it was a pretty hefty word. In fact, I started to visualize other words like spokes on a wheel hub. Words like hospitality, cooking, decorating, and gardening. Such fun! I’m liking this! I envisioned thumbing through magazines filled with luscious gardens and yummy recipes. But other ideas surfaced, too. And that’s where it got hard.

Words like housework, unexpected dinner or overnight guests, digging in hard clay dirt, keeping the kitchen and great room cleared of surface clutter, keeping bathrooms presentable. Then there’s my love-hate relationship with the screened-in porch. Ugh! Those cobwebs and outdoor dust cling with a vengeance. And how can I forget the spare bedroom—that extra “space” meant to be space for overnight guests? Sometimes instead of a spare bedroom it turns into a spare-parts room, filled with assorted what-nots that have no particular space yet.

Not that I am a clean-freak, (am I?) But I do find myself filled with excuses for a lack of invitation to anyone outside my grown children and grandchildren because of one simple word–ready. I am not ready, or at least I think I’m not. Well, in my mind it’s more like not ready enough.

But another excuse really gnaws at me–invitation. I do not  invite in an intentional way like I used to. Oh, I’ll throw out a “just drop in whenever”. But “whenever” turns into “never”, which never becomes “when”. Yes, the kids drop by on a continuum, but that even lends to another excuse. “My cup is full and there is no more room.”

Welcome Closer

But there is room. If I make room. You see, welcome is not just for others. It’s for me. And it’s good for me. It’s good for me to reach outside myself and into the world of someone else. To provide a comfy room for weary travelers. Have the neighbors over for dinner. Extend a listening ear. I can get so self-centered and forget that the blessing of my home was not meant just for me and my family. It was meant for others, for the world. I may not change the world, but my welcome may touch a life that will. “Welcome” speaks love and love is not love til it’s given away. May I live generous.

I am ready!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”~ Maya Angelou
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This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme “Beginnings”.  Also, I’m wondering if you noticed the ferns at Christmas? It just happened to be a warm stretch so they got to come outside. Why not? 🙂
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My favorite “manuals” to stay welcome-ready. Time to pick them up again!
Once-A-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg
Dwelling: Making the Most of the Space You Call Home by Mary Beth Lagerborg

The Lesser Light|One Favorite Subject

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“And the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night. If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet, you are absolutely correct.” ~ Hafez

The theme of the Weekly Photo Challenge is “One”, in which we are to focus on one subject. I chose one of my favorites, the ever elusive moon. In photography light is everything and for outdoor photography the light source is usually the sun. We look for certain times of day, angles, cloud cover, or clear. And the sun takes it from there. In fact, when you combine the best of these factors the sun really does all the work for you. Think sunsets and sunrise, the Golden Hour. An endless array of colors provide astounding results. No skills needed.

Vague Thoughts nearfar2

“The moon is friend for the lonesome to talk to.” ~ Carl Sandburg

But the moon is a different challenge altogether. For a great moon shot you have to really work at it. Photographers go through great lengths to capture the immediate presence and stunning glow the moon provides. Even then it is hard to capture the emotion of moment. You just have to “be there” and experience it for yourself.

FullMoon

“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.” ~ Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

In the Bible the moon is called the “lesser light” (Genesis 1:16). It is too dim for cameras to mimic exactness, but for the human eye it holds not just brilliant beauty but deep, deep emotion. For some unexplainable reason the moon feels like a faithful friend. It provokes us to stop, quiet our busy minds, take a few deeps breaths and just relax. I don’t know of anyone that can gaze at a brilliant moonlit night and not feel a simultaneous sense of glory and comfort.

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Tell me what you feel in your room when the full moon is shining in upon you and your lamp is dying out, and I will tell you how old you are, and I shall know if you are happy. ~ Henri Frederic Amiel

Perhaps it is the lesser light because of this very thing. We need a constant, unchanging reminder that we are not alone, that there is greatness and majesty tucked in our universe. A reminder of the presence of God through every dark night. And that is this lesser light.

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The lesser light may take second place to the other grand luminary. But perhaps it is this very notion that makes it so human. And in this sense we see that our great God, by giving less, actually gave more.

Peace, Alexandria

N “But even when the moon looks like it’s waning…it’s actually never changing shape. Don’t ever forget that.” ~ Ai Yazawa

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Related Articles:
Wenjie Zhang of LightSlant on how to photograph the moon
Weekly Photo Challenge: The Power of One, Travels and Trifles by Tina Schell
Clicky Chick Creates, Christmas Favorites

Dreams of Grandeur

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Surely there is grandeur in knowing that in the realm of thought, at least, you are without a chain;  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthat you have the right to explore all heights and depth;

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthat there are no walls nor fences,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnor prohibited places,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnor sacred corners

olympus-digital-cameraoriginalin all the vast expanse of thought.”
~ Robert Green Ingersoll

avataralex-original“There is one spectacle grander than the sea. And that is the sky. There is one spectacle grander than the sky. And that is the interior of the soul.” ~ Victor Hugo

There is a vast landscape inside each of us. It is the place of hopes and dreams. It is the place of wonder and dignity.
It is a grandness that is known as you.
Peace, Alexandria
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

Photo locations: Acadia National Park, Maine
Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina

Welcome the Light

I“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

Here we go again! Another Christmas. What better way to start off than with a challenge about light. Whether one is a believer in the Christ-child or not, we all must agree—it’s the time of year we lay aside our differences and go all out.

IEveryone’s just a bit more kind as we take in all the wonder. There’s an abundance of generosity in the air. The young can’t contain exuberance. Those older contemplate years gone by, watching children with joy, and become child-like again. The return of Christmas reminds us of how fragile, fleeting, and precious every person and moment is.

As a devout Christian I have said Christmas makes us all believers. Something strange, almost mystical, no–miraculous–occurs.

I“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

We all celebrate. Does heaven gasp as the world wraps itself in Christmas—a spinning ornament studded with lights, glitter, and tinsel—another majesty of sorts—glistening from the most tasteful decor to the gaudy, even overdone? Or simple Charley Brown’s, from rich to poor, overdoing everything from lights to food to drink to family to travel to lavish spending?

IIt’s the celebration of the world—the glimmering earth spins in space, dripping in lavish everything. Is God upon His throne inhaling the wonder as His creation celebrates the greatest event in all of human history—Emmanuel—God with us?

IThat miraculous moment when the divine intersected humanity.

Skeptics and unbelievers try with all their might to squelch Him, to destroy Him, to snuff Him out. But try as they might, the world, believers and unbelievers, celebrate the mystery.
He cannot be silenced.

I“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ” ~ Roy L. Smith

Just gaze at the stars and sun above and you will see—night after night, day after day. Christmas is always there for you and for me.
You just can’t miss it.

“And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”” ~ Genesis 1:3

d“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” ~ John 1:1-4
“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” ~ John 1:14

DSC_1352-001“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” ~ John 8:12

This is why I believe. If you find your faith waning this Christmas, why not rekindle it with the Light?

I“God is here. This truth should fill our lives, and every Christmas should be for us a new and special meeting with God, when we allow his light and grace to enter deep into our soul.”  ~ Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing by
Peace and joy this Christmas,
Alexandria
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light

Novembrance | Autumn’s Unexpected Gift

DSC_1228“It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life. The rich colours of grass and earth were intensified by the mellow light of a sun almost warm enough for spring.” ~P.D. James

DSC_1118“I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tones mellower, its colors richer, 

DSC_1102and it is tinged a little with sorrow. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer,

DSC_1057but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitation’s of life and is content.” ~Lin Yutang

DSC_1095“The human soul is slow to discover the real excellence of things given to us by a bountiful Creator, and not until the shadows of death begin to gather around the object that we love, do we see its worth and beauty. 

DSC_1069Autumn is the dim shadow that clusters about the sweet, precious things that God has created in the realm of nature.While it robs them of life, it tears away the veil and reveals the golden gem of beauty and sweetness.

DSC_1103Beauty lurks in all the dim old aisles of nature, and we discover it at last.” ~ Northern Advocate

DSC_1154“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” ~ John Burroughs
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Another autumn nears its end. These very brief, fleeting days find me outside more than any other time of the year. The colors are just breathtaking and I constantly fight this irresistible urge to try to capture the breadth, length, and height of it. As we know, it’s an impossibility. I know autumn means to contemplate, absorb, and enjoy the richness of  its beauty. It’s also a time of remembrance as the year draws to a close and we look back.

Autumn is such a paradox. Brilliant, glimmering. But it is truly a descent into decay and ultimately … death. It is, in essence, a progression into loss. Just like autumn, we’ve all experienced loss in some fashion this year. Perhaps God fashioned autumn so brilliant just so we could see some sort of beauty in loss. But the journey of loss always holds gain as God brings something new to replace what we lost. We won’t know what it is until we look to Him in faith and ask.

As the leaves fall, shrivel, and die some things in our lives must do the same. I’ve endured a couple of deep, unexpected losses this year. As I grieve I look to God and the glorious creation He surrounds me with and try to grasp the new blessings in my life. Just as the inclination is strong to hold and capture every photo of autumn, I cling tight to what is no more. And I have to ask God for even the faith to believe there is something better. There always is. The truth stamped in autumn tells me so. Tells me there is spring.

And it’s not too far from now.

Peace, Alexandria

You might also enjoy:
Autumn Boat (aditixpictures.wordpress.com)
Autumn asks (defeatdespair.wordpress.com)
Autumn Thoughts (princesstheodora.net)
A November Garden Bimble (ramblingratz.wordpress.com)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected
KellyJGrace

Leaf Layer

DSC_1246“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” ~ Emily Bronte

DSC_1170“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

DSC_1169“Autumn is the second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus

DSC_1240“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

DSC_1275“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

November Surprise

Be Thou the Rainbow

I saw the lovely arch
Of rainbow span the sky,
The gold sun burning
As the rain swept by.
~ Elizabeth Coatsworth

"Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life." Lord Byron

Ah, November is now upon us. I tried to find some really sweet November quotes on the web, thinking I would find a lot of poetry and quotes depicting the glory of this great month. How shocked and depressing to find literature filled with so much melancholy and gloom.

I suppose in many parts of the world the climate lends itself to melancholy in November. Around here, as October slips quietly into the sunset, November carries on the work of autumn slow and magnificent. And for me personally, November is neatly sandwiched in-between the end of Indian Summer and the bustling holidays. When you think about it, don’t the holidays serve as a huge distraction as the bleakness of winter rolls in? We wake up in January and it’s like, “Wow, it’s winter!”

The other side of the rainbow

But back to November. While I sat perusing the poetry, how fitting a chilling rain should suddenly befall the midst of all the gloom and doom. Great! Dear November, you just confirmed what I’m reading! Stop the madness!

But suddenly, a voice shattered the madness. My husband was off in the back field calling to get my camera and come running. And to my great surprise, what I saw proved those writers and poets dead-wrong. What began my November was this glorious arch spreading over the sky. Yes— a RAINBOW!  Far, far from melancholy. Oh, how I wish you could have been there! Just amazing.

Forever Chasing Rainbows

Rainbows usually conjure images of spring freshness and oh, how writers praise, praise, praise the endless wonder, relieved to the nth degree that all the bleak and blah of winter is finally gone. But just to prove those highbrow writers wrong, nature decided to blast forth this November with a rainbow. No room for gloom this time!

So what do you think about November? Rather than leave it up to famed writers and poets, perhaps it’s now up to the world of everyday bloggers like you and me to change that reputation. Even if your climate is cold, bleak, and cloudy, is there not some glimmer of magnificence? You may not get a rainbow like I did but November holds plenty of surprise. It’s there, to be sure.

I Hope

You might have to do some searching to capture the beauty in the bleak. But even in the worst of times, there is always a place, a space of sanity and glory, that silver lining of hope—possibly even a rainbow. With November ushering winter at our doorstep, together let’s find that surprise. I’m ready. How about you?

November Thoughts | One Last Bling

DSC_1266“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.” ~ Jim Bishop

DSC_1018November is the month of my birthday. Which means it’s the time of year I purchase some special things I’ve wished for throughout the year. I usually add a few pieces to my wardrobe, buy a few kitchen gadgets, sometimes add a new piece of jewelry. Overall, it’s my month to do (or not do :-)) and get something special.

DSC_1193I know this sounds crazy but this year I purchased some very sturdy scaffolding. We are do-it-yourselfers and those extension ladders make me dizzy. 

DSC_1036-001Plus, I needed some peace of mind. I am tired of holding my breath and nearly passing out when my husband or son-in-law climb to clean or paint the upper level of our home.

DSC_1192I know. A strange purchase. It was expensive and kind of blew my birthday budget but it’s truly what I wanted.  

DSC_1179However, I still managed to secure some bling—but not the jewelry kind.

November BlingAs autumn progresses in my part of the world, November emerges as the month of gold. It’s the bling I wish and wait for all year-long. It’s as if the trees wish me a big, happy birthday. The celebration goes on as they glitter and glimmer the whole month. It’s a nice, warm welcome to another year of life.

imageSo I’d like to say thank you to my lovely tree friends for all the abundant bling. I feel dressed to the nines another year and now I’m ready to face winter.

DSC_1204November is truly a great month for a birthday.
😉
Alexandria

P.S. I would be remiss if I did not recognize two other “friends” who said good-bye this month. The last hydrangea and yellow rose. Thank you so much for lending your beauty one last time. See you next year!

“In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus
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I enjoyed the November Bling at these places, too. Thought I’d share.
http://streetsofasheville.com/2013/11/30/novembers-last-days/
http://letsgolescophotos.com/2013/12/01/wrapping-up-30-days-of-so-much-thanks/
http://haikugesundheit.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/haiku-93-end-of-november-nablopomo-30/
http://johntharding.me/2013/11/26/photo-of-the-day-autumn-dazzler/
http://digger666.com/2013/11/22/leaves-of-summer-past/
http://digger666.com/2013/11/19/hidden-in-autumn-leaves-by-takk-b/
http://thesirenstale.com/2013/11/17/the-years-last-loveliest-smile/
http://kittnoir.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/sunset-on-autumn-gold/
Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light

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