One of Earth’s Stories

When Amy announced that this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge is “Earth Story” I began selecting some favorite photos of landscapes from different corners of our earth that I have visited. It was fun looking through my files but I didn’t experience the earth’s excitement in my collection and was having trouble telling the earth’s story with them. A couple of weeks ago I took our visiting-from-Michigan friend, Carolyn, to the botanical garden and several times she talked about getting ready for planting when she returned to Michigan. I realized that my brain is wired to experience the excitement of spring in the northern half of the northern hemisphere, when what appears to be a dead earth comes to life with green sprouts. It is the time when home gardeners are looking at catalogs, referring back to last year’s notes, planting seeds in hot boxes, and thinking about how many plants they are going to purchase at the garden center.

The produce growing season in southern Florida is winter and early spring so I have had the fun of going to local farmers’ markets to purchase fresh produce. They also have produce growing at several places in the Naples Botanical Garden that is used in the kitchen of the Fogg Cafe and given to local food banks. They aren’t big gardens but they are beautiful to view. Did you notice that they are cultivating dandelions? I missed the bloom but the tag says it is pink.

I feel your excitement, northern growers, and look forward to going north to find the wildflowers of spring for a future post. The earth’s story includes growth and regrowth – and providing nourishment for it’s animal and insect population. We need to take good care of her so she can continue to do her work.

A Focus on Beauty: Gentle Color for Aging

The constant news coverage of the bad and the ugly and the corrupt can lead me over the cliff of believing the whole world is evil. My antidote for this is to turn the TV off and focus on what is beautiful and good. The photo above was taken at the botanical garden and we are going this morning to let nature feed our spirit and the café feed our tummy.

This past week-end I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of our neighbors who is 98 years old. Dorothy is my role model for aging. She is sharp, knows what is going on, is fiercely independent (trying to get her to do something she doesn’t want to do always ends in her doing what she wants to do), she is well groomed with a little makeup and attractive clothes, her smile is radiant and her eyes sparkle like the brightest star. And she is still a snow bird, spending a few months here in southern Florida, a few months with her daughter in Maryland, and a few months in her Michigan community at the tip of the lower peninsula. Did I tell you that she is 98 years old. She gave up driving two or three years ago, has severe hearing loss, and walks slowly with a cane. I am so lucky to have her in my circle of friends.

On the topic of aging, when I was in my 60’s I thought I would like to live until 70 or maybe 75. When I reached 70 I upped it to 80. Now I am pushing 80 and think I would like to live until 90. If I can age like Dorothy, I would find it exciting to live to 100. I have come to the conclusion that aging gracefully and with joy requires acknowledging losses, going through the pain and nastiness of grieving, and then working to find ways to get our needs met in ways that nurture us and keeps us engaged. I don’t want to live beyond losing my ability to smile from my heart. Having beautiful things around me make me smile from my heart.

I have so many beautiful people in my life that make my heart sing and bring a smile to my face. My mother and grandmother frequently told me that “beauty is only skin deep.” I knew what they meant but what I understand now requires different words. Real beauty doesn’t have much to do with what is visible – what we carry on the outside. Some of the most beautiful people I know have wrinkles, pot bellies, blotchy skin, sagging everything. My husband, Jim, is so beautiful that I smile every time I look at him.

Our minister did a three-part sermon series on growing old – appropriate as we have a large older population. For the past three Sundays there was lots of laughter and nodding of heads as he shared information from three books that he has found useful (see list below). One concept that resonated with us was that as we age and loose various abilities we have to be open to accepting help from others. I have had fibromyalgia for about 15 years and there were some tense times as Jim tried to help me and I tried to do everything I had previously done. I think I became a little more gracious in accepting his help as the years went on – it was a gradual journey. Last summer he was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis that weakens his voluntary muscles and causes double vision. Medication has helped slurring, difficulties with swallowing, and a droopy eye-lid. We have an appointment with his specialist at UofM when we get back to Michigan to get the double vision corrected.

We need each other’s help now. We are finding ways of making our life simpler (read: less cleaning and maintenance), and housework is frequently a tag-team event. Our energy levels are similar so we plan activities carefully so we don’t become too exhausted to enjoy the next day. We are thinking about, and sometimes talking about, what we may have to give up, things that we really treasure and enjoy but may not be able to do any more. We’ll figure it out, and shed a few tears maybe, but our current strategy is to find joy and laughter in each day. And if life seems to sour a little, we take a nap.

Flower of the Day: Pink Quill

I first saw this flower growing in the Orchid Garden of the Naples Botanical Garden but it wasn’t labelled. I took some photos but didn’t post them because I wanted to do a little research to find it’s name. What luck that there were several of these plants hanging on the border wall of the entrance boardwalk when they decorated for the orchid show and it had a pretty little sign telling me what it is. I find it absolutely delightful and hope it brings joy to your life today.

Linked to Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Lens-Artists Challenge: Curves

My many strolls around the Botanical Garden with camera in hand have given me many files to peruse for curves. The hard part was deciding which ones to showcase. To make the decision I evaluated the quality of the photograph, whether there was inherent beauty or interest, and the bottom-line-truth is that these are the ones I like best of all. They trigger fond memories and personal thoughts, some of which I will also share. Here are my gifts of curves and words.

The colors of this orchid drew me in, but I really enjoy how curvy they are and how the curves create ruffles.
This fond caught my eye because it was the only curved one within a cluster of straight spined fonds. It made me wonder what makes some parts of plants grow in unexpected ways. I shouldn’t project human attributes to plants, but it sure seems like it is leaning down to hear the whispered thoughts of the plant growing beneath. Maybe I need to do more leaning in to listen to what nature is telling me.
I fell in love the moment I saw this ornamental cabbage, I felt the excitement of finding a treasure while photographing it, and experienced the satisfaction of creation as I did some editing to make it look like what I remembered. What’s not to love about the ruffly curves, the freshness of rain drops, the purple veins. The only thing that could make this more beautiful is a little more photographer practice.
We are moving ever closer to the time when we will be moving back to Michigan so… Where the mind goes so does my search of files. I love how the soft fall/early winter light hits the gentle curves of grasses going to seed.
We were camping along Lake Superior last summer when a storm came through, creating big waves. Waves are just water that is curving over itself so I searched my files for a good crop of a wave in action.
The waves grabbed my full attention and it was only after I felt I had more than enough photographs of the waves that I turned around and saw the beautiful curve of the grasses in the stiff wind. Gee whiz, how lucky that I found a reason to take even more photographs.
We stayed just outside Munising and there are a lot of water falls in the region. I took this photo of the Au Train water fall, through the trees as I was walking down the steep dirt road towards the small power plant. Those are some pretty curves in the rock layers. This was in the fall; I bet it would be really pretty in the spring when the snow melt and rains swells the river.
We will be visiting our daughter in Winston-Salem on our way home and this reminded me of the curvy roads of the Blue Ridge Mountain Trail. This is a two-fer – a curved road and a curved bridge. Lovely.
Two days ago was the first day of Spring so I felt it only appropriate to include some curves of spring flowers – taken at Hidden Lake Garden (MSU) in southern Michigan.

There have been a lot of interesting photographic representations of curves posted for this challenge. You can check them out here and learn how to join in the fun.

Favorite Flower of Today: Zennia

This was a flower growing in the Botanical Garden in January and I admired the colors for few weeks – and then they were gone. The people of the Naples Garden Club had pulled them and planted a new batch of seedlings. Now I have to wait until they bloom to see what colors the new ones are.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of the flowers blooming in the garden that aren’t water lilies and orchids over the next few weeks, linked with Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge (FOTD).