Cuba: A Quiet Place in Havana

20161029-dsc_0848We were touring Havana and our guide took us to the Plaza de San Francisco, a plaza close to Havana Harbor and rich in history dating back to 1575 when the land was first drained. This has always been an important square, servicing merchant ships with markets and where goods entered, including slaves.

We had toured the opera house, waited under a roof during a heavy down poor, and then walked to this plaza. I watched children chasing pigeons and took lots of photos of the beautiful buildings.

I find the hustle and bustle of city life exhausting and was feeling the need to retreat. I was exhausted and my body was beginning to hurt all over. I was feeling the desire for a three-year-old-type meltdown when Lester, our guide, approached me and asked if I wanted to see a quiet little garden. None was in site but I followed as he walked around the corner of the basilica where shade trees seemed to hide a lovely small garden dedicated to Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

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I took a deep breath and felt the tension drain from my body. The morning rain had cleansed everything, including the air. I enjoyed the tropical plants and watching a young family eat lunch. There were small plaques honoring different artists who have enriched the culture. And there were several architectural features that where fun to photograph.

Here in the city was the quiet I needed to renew my body and enrich my spirit.

I wonder what images images come to mind when you think of “quiet.” You can share by following this link to Ailsa’s post of Travel Theme: Quiet.

You can read about how we found the wonderful travel company we used and the design of this custom tour at my post Cuba: Traveling on the Edge. You can find information about the travel agency we used with this link: Positive Things and Destinations. I receive no compensation for referrals, I provide the link because we trust the owners and had such a good experience.

Happy May Day

I can’t get enough daffodils, which is perfect. Within a week all the flowering shrubs and trees will be coming and the daffodils will no longer be the only show in town. Because spring has been so slow in coming I think there will be an explosion of spring for a couple of weeks and then we will have summer. My camera is on constant standby so I don’t miss any of spring’s glory.

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This morning I went to my friend Pat’s house to photograph her daffodils  She is still grieving the loss of her husband who planted them just before he died. I think the beauty of the flowers remind Pat of the beauty of their relationship. I hope their symbolism of new life  that springs from the frozen ground will also symbolize the potential for a new life for Pat. These images are for you, my friend, on this glorious first day of May.

You can click on any of the photos to see them in a slide show. May you experience all the blessings of Spring.

My Winter Garden, Hope & Another Year

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Leaves preparing for next summer’s daisies.

I like looking at my winter flower garden even though not much changes in Michigan in the winter. My winter flower garden is basically soil covered with mulch and dead leaves with a few bare twigs sticking up in the air, but I look at it for signs of hope. Planting spring bulbs in the fall has always felt like an act of hope because winter is coming and everyone can see that everything dies in the winter – at least it looks dead. I went out with my camera the other day, looking for signs of hope in the garden that has pretty much died back.

These mums bloomed not too long ago.

These mums bloomed not too long ago.

I look for hope in the new shoots from my perennials that come up early in the winter. And so many plants sprout buds in early winter, maybe trying to get a head start on spring that is so many months away. Spring is a sign of new birth, of seeing things come to life. After the long dead winter we look forward to new life. But I remember the year my mother died of cancer in March and that spring I didn’t want to see the green shoots and the leaves coming out in the underbrush. I didn’t want to see the daffodils and other early bulbs. I needed to feel the pain of death a little longer before I was ready to embrace new life.

Twigs of the Flowering Almond.

Twigs of the Flowering Almond.

My winter garden and the promise of new growth next spring got me thinking about hope. Maybe I’ve been thinking about it because of the pain I’m feeling for all the people who lost someone in Connecticut on December 14, and everyone who is experiencing loss because of wars and political unrest and because of violence in neighborhoods and homes. I’ve been in a reflective mood, however, for some time. Maybe it has to do with reaching a certain age.

We search for and hang on to hope at many times of our lives. I remember when I was just entering adulthood, I hoped for a good life with the man I loved and was going to marry. Then I hoped that I would be a good parent and that I would be able to give my babies what they needed. I wanted to believe that I would be good at the work I was doing so I could gain respect and better jobs. And I hoped that I could compete and be successful when I went back to school in my thirties.

Azalea buds.

Azalea buds.

We went through some tough times in our marriage, a few years into it, after the honeymoon phase wore off. There was a time when we didn’t know if we loved each other anymore but we had three small children and we had made a commitment to each other. That was a scary time – really scary. I remember lying in bed one night talking about what we were going to do and one of us said s/he was really scared. One of us reached out and took the other’s hand and one of us suggested we pray. I don’t remember who did what but it doesn’t matter because we were floundering together. Problem was, we were so scared we didn’t know how or what to pray. We just lay there, holding hands, moaning, with tears running into our ears. We were clinging desperately to the hope that we would be able to work it out. We did.

Another difficult time was when I became sick with a chronic illness. I have written about how I felt my life was falling apart and I was losing my sense of self. My husband was also really scared that he was losing his life, the life he shared with me. I’m not going to say more about that because I wrote about it here and here. I kept going because I hoped that I would be able to regain the life I had lost – and then I started to believe that I could regain a new kind of life. A life that is different but fulfilling. I wrote about that here.

Hens & Chicks that thrive in all conditions.

Hens & Chicks that thrive in all conditions.

I think I am searching for, watching for, signs of life in my garden right now because I realize I have a limited amount of life left. No, I haven’t been diagnosed with a terminal illness or am sucidal, but I do know that I might only, at best, have 20 years of life left. It sounds strange when I think that it is only 20 more birthdays, 20 more springs, 20 more holidays like Christmas and Easter. And both my husband and I talk about the fact that the other may die – and neither one of us wants to lose the other.

This type of thinking is a whole lot different than when I was 20 and believed that I had forever ahead of me and thought 30 was ancient. Or being 30 and realizing that I was just starting my real adult life. Or being 40 and realizing that I still had over half of my adult life left. It is funny, but at about age 40 we begin to think about years left instead of how many years we have lived. And then I turned 50 and realized that this was my prime – I had really hit my stride, I was confident. I didn’t like turning 60 but soon realized that there are some benefits to being over 60 – like discounts and more freedom to say and do as I want. I’ve even learned to love being retired.

This sedum looks new and fresh with its winter color.

This sedum looks new and fresh with its winter color.

As I look toward another year, a new year, I am realizing that turning 70 isn’t too far away. I have a lot of questions about what lies ahead. Will I be able to adjust to the new, inevitable challenges that lie ahead? Sometimes I think about the energy I use to have when I was young, but it seems okay that I now have less energy because I actually enjoy taking life slower and have found ways to do what I want to do with the energy I have. Will I reach a point where I will be unhappy because I don’t have enough energy to live life? Research indicates that successful aging is most related to quality relationships and reasonably good health. I don’t worry about relationships because I have lots of good friends and know how to make new ones. I am also an introvert so I can be happy with solitude. I worry about health because I don’t feel I have a lot of control over that, even though I am trying to live a healthy lifestyle. But then there are a lot of things that happen to us that we don’t have control over.

A lone maple tree with its buds of spring.

A lone maple tree with its buds of spring.

You know what? I think I will continue to look for signs of new growth in my winter garden. I may be entering the winter of my life but I don’t believe I have stopped growing. I have been resilient all my life and have had a strong drive for physical and emotional health. I have always been strong and determined and a fighter. I also have a strong faith in God that guides me and sustains me. Maybe there are some things in life that don’t change. I have Hope.

Photo Challenge: Green – Hostas

Hosta! What a joy in the northern garden because they give a boost of texture and light and color (as long as you want green) in the shaded part of the garden. Here are some of my hosta that I took late summer. This was a good year because the dryness meant I didn’t have much slug damage and for whatever reason the deer left them alone.

The foliage of hosta plants overshadow the flowers that stand on tall stems. When isolated, however, they are very elegant.

To see more posts or to join the fun, go to:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/weekly-photo-challenge-green/