Category Archives: Photography

Winter Trees

You probably know Beatrix Potter from her children’s books that feature animals such as The Tales of Peter Rabbit. But, Potter had many other interests and talents including gardening. I was thoroughly entranced by Linda Lear‘s biography of Potter. While obviously having affection for this extraordinary woman, Lear wasn’t above describing her occasional rudeness or imperiousness. She also deftly connects the three periods of Potter’s life: her work in natural science, her work as a writer, and, finally, her work as a farmer and conservationist. Throughout it all, she found Potter found inspiration and personal peace in the country, amongst the animals and their keepers. Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature is a wonderful tribute to this amazing woman.

I followed up with Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell. The first half of the book provides biographical detail related to Potter’s purchase of Hill Top Farm and other properties in the Lake District along with her preservation work. The second half moves into the garden and the life of its caretaker as we move through the circle of seasons. I was reading the book in October when I had just finished covering my mop head hydrangeas in hopes of blooms next year and felt an instant connection to Potter, a kindred spirit who loved nothing better than gardening and reading and wasn’t concerned about a solitary life in the country.

Even in the winter, Potter found beauty and satisfaction in the natural world around her. She encourages a young protegee to take time to look at the trees in the winter when we are able to see their underlying structure, how the trunk and branches interact to shape the tree. She writes:

We can tell every tree in winter without reference to foliage by its mode of growth. So study them in some spare moments…they will repay–they are in the right place as beautiful as rocks. They have a nobility of growth which is usually entirely overlooked (p. 154).

Beatrix potter’s gardening life

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Since some of the trees in my front yard keep their leaves, it can, as Potter suggests, be easy to overlook those who spend the season with bare branches stretching skyward, casting shadows in the winter sunset.

Thank You

I hate to end the year on a negative note with my little rant. Plus, I realized I did not post my holiday greeting. This one features a picture taken at Smith Mountain Lake State Park where my husband and I escaped for a few days earlier this month. I took a solitary, early morning hike along their popular Turtle Island Trail.

We both found a bit of peace away from the frenzy of the season, along with some really good pie.

See you in the New Year!

Fall on the Farm

Three blog posts in a row for the new month, and I am ready for a break from stringing words together. Instead, how about a few photos? I walk Major the blind diabetic beagle* around our 18 acres every morning, and while it can be a challenge to take pictures as he strains at the leash or digs for moles, I have been trying to capture at least one picture each day. Lately, the light has been wonderful, and today the sun touched the dew on the spider webs. Enjoy a glimpse into my little corner of the world.

*Don’t feel too sorry for him. He was born 11 years ago on the farm and we’ve had him since he was 7 weeks old. He has a well-established map of the house and farm and seems to be doing fine on insulin.

Endings/Beginnings: Living in Liminal Spaces

The Lebanon Valley rail trail near Cornwall, Pennsylvania

Summer is on its way out with a few last hot, humid days. Metereological fall arrived September 1, and the Equinox is tomorrow. Autumn is my favorite season. I love watching as it slides into our lives every year, chilly mornings and foggy fields reminding us, as Robert Frost once did, that nothing gold can stay.

With summer gone, I find myself nesting, decluttering and organizing my studio, making lists of fall projects, and taking some time to explore bullet journaling and planners. It seems as though everyone has a planner to sell. As I explored the options, it occurred to me that I could just make my own planner/journal, the goal being to use it for both planning and reflection. I have always been intrigued by the Daily Examen, a spiritual practice based on Ignatius Loyola. Loyola’s practice was based in Christian imagery, of course, but I think it is possible to take it as a more general approach to ending the day with intention. Actually, my Apple watch even suggests a bit of mindfulness as a way to wind down at the end of the day so the practice has certainly entered the secular world.

Even as I work on my organizer, I continue to drift along a bit. There have been endings: my retirement, the loss of Spot, the last of the vegetables from the garden. And there is the usual beginning as I head into the fall semester. But, for now, while there are a few glimmers of new opportunities, there is no clearly marked path. Astrologer Chani Nicholas mentioned the concept of liminal space in past two weekly readings, and the concept resonates with my current state. As I understand them, liminal spaces, from the Latin limen or threshold, are the spaces in between the endings and beginnings of practices and lives, its roots in anthropology and rites of passage. It is considered an uncomfortable place, and there are days when I wonder if I am living it right.

Joseph Goldstein, in the Ten Percent Happier app’s Common Questions course, commenting on what might happen at the beginning of your practice, says with a chuckle, ” The beginning can be the first twenty years.” I have only been exploring my own new beginning for a couple months so maybe I don’t need to worry too much and just allow myself to experience liminality for a little while longer. I created the image at the beginning of the post, using my own photo of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail.