Saturday, December 29, 2007

gifts

Gifts sometimes show up in the most unexpected places. And come in the most surprising packages.

I have many, many gifts this season – gifts of love, of friendship, of understanding. Gifts of kindness. Gifts I’ve gotten from friends, from strangers, from family. Gifts of hugs, of talk, of compassion. Of sharing, and of companionship, and of kindness.

I have other gifts, too; gifts that I’m giving myself this year.

The gift of self-awareness. The gift of being able to look deep inside, instead of looking outward to blame. The gift of being willing to work on myself instead of looking for someone else to fix me. The gift of knowing that I need time: time to grieve, time to heal, time to get my feet back under me.

The gift of knowing that denial isn’t a way out, or a way around. It’s only a way to suppress the problems and emotions, and I have the gift of knowing that if I do that, they only reemerge later.

I have the gift of knowing that the way out is the way through.

And, I have the gifts of hope, and faith, and trust.

Sometimes you can go home again. You can go home, and you can heal.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

a thought

"One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one."

Agatha Christie

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Room (and land) with a View, part 2


It's hard to get a good photo through my office window (maybe you saw my previous attempt, here) but this gives a hint of what I'm seeing as I look up from my laptop. The trees began turning late, perhaps because of the long, warm fall, but what they lacked in timing they're making up for in color. The variety of trees in the woods creates an incredible palette, all shades of orange, red, yellow, brown, and gold. I don't recall seeing so much variation in one area -- I'm used to forests in which a few species predominate -- so it's been the proverbial feast for my eyes.

The migrating birds have been fun to watch, too. After nearly a two-month absence, I was surprised and delighted recently one morning to hear red-winged blackbirds. They're still coming through in waves. I've been treated to yellow-belllied sapsuckers, golden-crowned kinglets, various warblers, white-crowned and white-throated sparrows, red-breasted nuthatches, all in addition to the normal 15-20 species of birds I see at the feeders and around the yard.

As I sat writing this I realized our cool, gray weather could turn to cool, rainy weather, and with enough wind, the leaves would start to drop. Besides, it's just too beautiful to stay indoors. So I took a walk and got a few photos from the area right around the house and across the road. As Elizabeth Lawrence said, "Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn."

Enjoy!





Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.
William Cullen Bryant



Autumn is a second spring when every leaf's a flower.

Albert Camus



Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
seeking the successive autumns.

George Eliot




Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Great Geauga County Fair, 2007

Confession time: I'm a fair geek. A deep, true fair geek.

(Aside. How do you know if you're a fair geek? You have to know two things to qualify: One, you know that fair food is totally bad for you, and totally part of the experience, and sometimes it's even tasty. Fried candy bars aren't mandatory but you do have to indulge in something. Two, you know that the Prime Rule of Fairgoing is finding and obtaining a free yardstick.)

My first exposure was as a city girl (Chicago) visiting my country cousins. Not only was scraping the manure out of the barn great fun, but they got to go to the county fair. Animals! Rides! Games! Peep shows! (Yes, back then they had girlie shows. We were scandalized and interested and careful not to get too close).

Later, when my dad was an Indiana State Fair Director, he got all kinds of perks, including a free hotel for the 10 days of the fair, passes to all the shows (Beach Boys. Heart. Johnny Cash.), and jobs for his kids. Every summer in high school I worked at the state fair, usually something simple and mindless, like standing behind a counter in the University Building and stopping the general public from going through a door behind me. One year I wrote captions for all the publicity photos that went out of the fair publicity office. A picture of a kid with their prize-winning whatever. "Susie Hoftenstein of Chewtown in Lauralee County won Grand Champion with her prize-winning llama." Stuff like that. Of course I knew the fairgrounds backwards and forwards, ate lots of grilled cheeses from the Dairymen's Association Bar (great milkshakes there, too), met lots of other people, and generally had a grand time. Went to more shows than I can remember. Went through the Arts and Family Living Building countless times to check out the quilts and photography. It was fun and an easy way to earn some money right before school started.

So, when I heard about the Great Geauga County Fair, I had to go. Had to.

It was, indeed, a great fair. Not the biggest or best I've ever seen, but definitely qualified as a definitive fair. It had:

Food. Junk food, and lots of it. If it's fried, it's at a fair. If it doesn't have fried food, it's not a fair.


Animals. Cute ones.


Funny ones.


And funny, cute ones.


Food that looked like animals. Or people, or something.


Competitions: rabbit judging.


Competitions: riding


Rides.


More food.


Needlework (with more needlework photos here).


Tractors. (This one's for you, dad).


Still more food. (And even more food here)

Games.


Gabora the Gorilla Girl.


And her friend, Myrna the Mermaid.

A Segway. I have to admit, a Segway at the fair was new to me. Looks just as silly here as anywhere else I've seen them (I think the woman in the blue shirt and Capris agreed with me).


Flowers.


Strolling singers.


The hay judging, completed.



And last but not least, a sure sign that you're at a real county fair:


In case you're wondering, I ate a corndog (one of the best I've ever had. Hand dipped, right in front of me. Terrific corn batter full of corn taste, a spicy, meaty dog, and the whole thing crispy fried but not greasy.)

And, yes, I did get that yardstick. As I said, I'm a true fair geek.

And proud of it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Early Fall Walk

I took advantage of the great weather to go for a walk. I enjoyed the colors and soft cool breeze, and took some photos.













Friday, September 7, 2007

A Room with a View


I love my little office. I'm still getting settled in but I found a nice old oak library table for a desk; it butts up against a window with a lovely vista. A large elm tree (Ulmus x 'Accolade') fills most of the scene, but there's a opening in the branches just large enough to give me a zen view into the area garden. Right now feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'), goldenrod, and rudbeckia are highlights of the garden. Later in autumn, trees in the background will pop with color, and in winter the bare branches of the elm allow a wider view of the snow-covered grounds. On a rainy day I'm just inches from the sound of dripping water and on cool days a breeze touches my hands as I type. Sometimes I see a rabbit nibbling at the grass; less often, a deer wanders into sight. On a late summer night I'm treated to the sounds of coyotes and owls and the soft wash of moonlight in the branches.

It's a small thing, to have a room with a view, but it's also a great blessing.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I'll give you a ticket

Call me a nerd, call me silly, roll your eyes.... but git yer grammer right! :)
Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz


If you don't pass this test with at least an 80%, go back to school!

PS. I'm also a bona fide member of the Word Police. I have tickets and I know how to use them....

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Chardon Arts Festival 2007

Chardon, Ohio, is one of those small Midwest towns that is holding fast to some of the elements that make such towns charming: an historic courthouse, a real downtown square lined with locally-owned shops, and events that mark it as a fun destination. There's a maple sugar festival each spring, and for the last 27 years there's been an arts festival in the summer.

I've been to a number of arts festivals and they vary a lot -- with anything from crafts and a flea-market feel to high quality, professional art (with prices to match). I wasn't sure where the Chardon Arts Festival would fall on that line; it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. There were a wide variety of art forms represented with very good to excellent quality, and prices that the more casual collector could afford, although those who wanted to spend a lot certainly could. And it was fun, and full of home-town atmosphere.

I liked a number of the vendors present but especially appreciated the work of Diane Castle Babcock. She does linoleum block prints, something you don't see often any more, and she does them well. I spent some time looking at her work before making the rounds of the rest of the festival, then backtracked to visit her booth again. This is the result:


She has a number of prints that I liked, but this one was in my budget (well, actually, being unemployed, *nothing* is in my budget, but this one was at the lower end of the price range of her work and I splurged). She makes beautiful block prints, primarily nature scenes, using the reduction method of printing. More about her work and the process she uses can be found here. Quite by coincidence, the print I chose is featured on her home page. She does lovely work and I plan to purchase more of her prints in the future. If you like block prints, give her website a visit. I like to support art and her work is well worth it.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Gourds!


I started gardening with my dad when I was 3 -- we would carefully sow a row each of marigolds, sweet alyssum, zinnas, and snapdragons. I followed my mom around and "helped" her plant dianthus and pansies each fall so they could bloom in the spring (which dates me -- now they grow pansies as annuals but when I was young they were grown as biennials. Anyone remember that? Then you're as old as I am!).

Since then, I've had countless gardens and grown countless plants. But not that many gourds. I've grown the cute little fall ornamental gourds but that's it. This year, although I have almost no ground in which to garden, I decided to grow birdhouse gourds. Big, wandering plants with big gourds. Why did I pick a large, aggressive plant when I have so little space? Initially, I was going to plant them on trellises erected to give privacy from the road that runs right by the patio, but after little reading I realized that the plants would most likely be too heavy for the trellises. So much for that idea. Instead, they were planted along a stone and wood fence. Truthfully, I was all for giving them away since I weren't going to use them as planned, but decided to give them a chance anyway.

They've turned out to be an unexpected delight. The vines are gorgeous, lush and vigorous. The tendrils are adorable. And even the flowers are cool!

When I was reading I learned that sometimes they need hand pollination, so I anxiously awaited the opening of the first female flowers (the male flowers begin blooming first).

  • male flower -- if you look close, you can see the pollen around the anthers and on the throat of the flower
Finally, females! the first few female flowers found me outside in the morning, before the flowers closed, hand pollinating.

  • female flower with stigmas waiting for pollen

  • female flower showing ovary behind the flower -- shaped like a tiny gourd. An unopened male flower is in the background; note that it lacks the gourd-shaped ovary.
I carefully tied a bright piece of yarn around each pollinated flower so I could watch its progress. Hand pollination is a good project if you like almost-instant gratification -- within 24 hours I could see that the pollen had found its way down into the ovary and the fruit was growing. And they grow and grow and grow -- it's great fun to watch them and see the changes. And of course, it wasn't long before we realized that hand pollination wasn't needed: the insects were doing their work and pollinating plenty of flowers. I am the proud parent of gourds! Lots of 'em!

The vines are growing along the top of a stone wall, weaving in and out of the wood fence that's on top of the stone. Right now they're about 30 feet long and still growing and trying to climb anything they can get their tendrils around (I've been in a gentle battle to keep them off the garden hose).


They're gorgeous, they're fun, and I can't wait to see how many gourds I get and how they turn out!





Tuesday, July 17, 2007

just call me "Lavy"

too funny -- but if you know me, you know it's very appropriate!


Your Hippie Chick Name Is:

Lavender
Hippie Chick Name Generator


Peace and love, everyone :)




Monday, February 26, 2007

Stebbin's Gulch

I took a hike to Stebbin's Gulch Saturday. Strapped on snowshoes, hiked across a field, then down a ravine into the gulch.

It was spectacular.

Stebbin's Gulch is part of Holden Arboretum in northeast Ohio. It's a national Natural History Landmark and is protected. There are some unique native plants -- can't wait to visit in the spring and summer to get a better look at the plant communities.

Because the stream was only partly frozen over there are places where I had to slog through ice. Literally through ice. Since I took my snowshoes off when I got to rugged terrain, my foot often plunged through the ice into the running water. But my Extreme Squall boots are as advertised -- waterproof -- and they kept my feet toasty and dry. And anyway, no amount of icy water would be a deterrent. I love to hike, I love to be outdoors, I love to explore new-to-me areas, I love nature. And this place is unique.

Just as a point of reference, the icicles are a good twelve feet high and in some places were up to 20 feet long...