focus

Husky-mix rescue dog Lily’s new injury has once again caused us to slow down. Our routine has changed. Not frustrating, rather a good thing. We notice things otherwise overlooked

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Even Lulu has helped me see things, a butterfly visiting

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Walking Lily in the yard I noticed a plant I’d bought a few years ago, planted and forgotten. Since I never saw it grow the logical conclusion was it had been dead when I planted it, not dormant. But it wasn’t

IMG_0031.JPGChinese Lantern

The past few mornings have been almost comfortable, at least 10 decrees cooler than normal so I’ve taken advantage of the welcome change and begun pruning some of the overgrowth. I was greeted by this little one

IMG_0030.JPGPraying Mantis

Early evening I realized I’d almost missed this surprise bloom. Several buds had dropped from the plant but not this one

IMG_0033.JPGPinot Noir Hibiscus

The humidity and showers from a tropical wave offshore have brought these guys out, but mostly heard, seldom seen

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An evening stroll with Lily around the backyard last night we found this little surprise

IMG_0044.JPGOncidium orchid

So In focusing not on the forest so many individual things of beauty, joys forever.

 

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a compendium

Since rescue dog Lily’s surgery in early January progress has seemed very slow. She was not permitted to use her leg for about 6 weeks after, then very limited. She was not allowed to go for her beloved car rides so life became uncomplicated, and rather boring.

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This week we have ventured out more. The azaleas are just coming into bloom which is really good because the famous Azalea Festival is this weekend, complete with the Azalea queen and her court of azalea belles (I’m not kidding), hoop skirts, Citadel cadet escorts and all. The parade was this morning and though we were completely awash with rain yesterday it held off today, just cloudy and very humid.IMG_0928.JPG

The fanatic dog was out in full force, with intrepid rescue dog Lulu eager to meet his challenges. Fortunately he did not get over his fence this time, either.

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All the rain has left many swampy puddles and try as I might I can’t keep Lily and Lulu out of them, nor can I convince them it isn’t real drinking water.

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The crazed wisteria vine must cover about half an acre and it is in full bloom. The fragrance is heady.

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Wild blueberries are in bloom! I miss them every year, the birds are way faster than I. Maybe I will get a sample this year.

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For years I have heard that the new growth on pine trees begins a few weeks before the Sunday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. As it gets closer they begin to resemble crosses just before. Here is a small native loblolly pine which I will try to watch and see.

Anyway, a relatively uneventful week, but progress.

Onward and upward.

 

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spring fervor

Normally it’s fever. This year somehow the garden centers suddenly have exploded with all manner of shrubs, trees, bedding plants, vines and border plants. The stars (perennials and annuals) have not made their appearance yet, maybe not until May. But the colors! Bright reds and magenta, pinks, blue, lavender and vibrant green in every shade imaginable.

And the pollens!

Everything is coated in a dusty yellow pine pollen film. We had a good, hard soaking rain a few nights ago and most of the pollen dust washed away but it’s never ending until after April. Sneezes going off everywhere. Anonymous “Bless you”s quickly follow.

This morning on our walk Lily, Lulu and I went rogue off our neighborhood property onto the adjacent electric company’s property. We followed the rutted road as it curved around a retention pond, and amongst the bramble and blackberry tangle found an unkempt wild wisteria vine

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I brought a cutting home to see whether it would root. This is a maniac of a vine and will easily take over an arbor in a summer or two in this climate but if tended properly is very pretty with pendulous, grape-like, heavily scented flower clusters.

I was given some pittosporum seeds a year ago which I started in small pots. It’s a pretty shrub with a lovely creamy white flower that has a light fragrance. So far I have a few that have rooted but are not yet ready for the unpredictability of the outdoors

IMG_0901.JPGMaybe next year, if I can keep them alive through another winter inside they can be planted.

I have scattered more wildflower seed since nothing came up last year, I have tomatoes, some herbs, coleus and other plants for flower pots. But we are warned of yet a few more nights of maybe frost or close enough, so I’ll wait another week or so.

Meanwhile, Lily has let me know it is time for walkies.

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So planning and plotting where I will plant things, place flower pots and trellis tomatoes will have to wait.

For now.

 

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impressions

This was one of those weeks that can only be described as a gift. The little coastal town I live near doesn’t get anything most people can call winter, but it gets cold enough. Even some snow and ice some years, just not this year. Not yet, anyway.

But apparently winter gave a reprieve to some areas this past week, here too. Days were 60s-70s and nights did not get much below 45. So electric bills will be lower. Abundant sun, expansive blue skies, wispy playful contrails and clouds decorating the air.

IMG_0870.JPGCape Fear, upriver

Mindful of Emily Dickinson’s lovely poem, “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” (…Winter afternoons–…)

IMG_0866.JPGRed oak clinging to what is left of autumn

IMG_0867.JPGa closer look at leaf veins with the sun behind the tree trunk

So according to askabiologist.com* the leaves turn when temperatures get colder and the tree starts “breaking down the chlorophyll into smaller particles”, leaving more room for other colors (carotenoids) to make the orange, reds and yellows. Other trees (maples) have anthocyanins that create red, pink and purple colors.

The theory I grew up believing was that leaf colors changed when the days got shorter and there was less sunlight to make green. So that always seemed plausible but days get shorter all over the world and leaves don’t change color in warmer climates. So the cold theory makes more sense now.

I just never thought about it.

It’s interesting when we accept ideas unquestioning. Especially when they are about non-personal things, like nature. Facts are applicable to everything but so much seems subjective. So my ideas about why leaves change color, that I have believed for years (evidently I didn’t pay close attention in botany class) has been corrected.

It makes me wonder how many ideas, theories, concepts I am still holding true without really having it right.

0.jpgPileated woodpecker, base of far left tree hunting insects

Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu always get things right. And they are generous in their opinions, whenever I am at a loss.

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https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/why-do-leaves-change-color

resilience

It’s strange. It’s like the trauma of the storm has regenerated spring. I first noticed some petunia seeds I sprinkled on a hanging basket from last March which were profusely blooming all summer long. I brought them in during the storm because they are fragile and they promptly dropped all their blooms and disappeared.  Nothing but black potting soil. Ever the optimist I rehung the basket and watered it a couple of weeks ago just after the storm. Now this

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Then, watering in the front yard several days later I looked up to see the Bradford pear (which isn’t actually fruit bearing at all but an ornamental tree). Most of these trees broke apart in the storm or were irreparably damaged in some way because they are disease- and insect infestation-prone, but mine survived.  This

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in full bloom with new leaves sprouting. One of my favorite small nurseries and plant supply stores explained it this way: the trauma these plants endured made them regenerate with something of a vengeance and those that bloom are doing so for survival, to set seed. My river birch (the tree my elderly neighbor has a personal vendetta against) also is putting out new leaves

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So I have no idea what this means for the fall season. We don’t really get much fall color here because we’re sub-tropic and it doesn’t get that fall cold edge really. But I’ve not seen this before.

Then we have the “normal” fall flowers, goldenrod

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But resilience. We bounce back. We may have a set back but we get our bearings, dig into our resources, get creative, work hard and regain whatever ground may have been lost.

Nature’s way, human nature’s way, too.

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“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  –Joshua 1:9

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.”   –2 Timothy 1:7

 

star parties

Perseus it turns out, being a son of Zeus, had a lot of power but evidently did not know it since he went to great lengths with powers borrowed from other gods: winged sandals from Hermes and the shield of Athena, to avenge his mother’s captor, marrying Andromeda along his odyssey way.

They were immortalized as stars. Well, constellations.

I once had a star named for my son. It’s a thing you can do. Of course, they don’t really name the star but you get this official-looking certificate showing the sector of sky and coordinates of the star that makes you think so.

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The Perseids meteor shower began on July 26 this year and will go through the month of August. The peak of the shower is this weekend, a double bonus because there is a new moon so no celestial light “pollution”. Even in cities where there is a lot of light these can be seen.

The shower is actually caused by the comet Swift-Tuttle. Its orbit goes through our atmosphere this time of year and the debris, seeming to come from the Perseus constellation, causes the shower. This one is famous for its large meteors and earth-grazers, fireballs that move slowly through the atmosphere leaving a golden trail.

I am not a night owl and the best time to watch for these is between midnight to just before dawn. For the U.S. they begin to appear above the northeast horizon and around 3 a.m. will occupy the radiant of the entire night sky. They are very dramatic. Like the Leonids in winter. Winter because there is low to no humidity and the atmosphere is much clearer.

My family and I are enjoying our yearly week at the beach beginning today. I fully intend to plant myself out on the sky-dark beach late tomorrow night in a nice beach chair with maybe a beach towel if it gets cool (unlikely) and watch. Even though meteors can be seen pretty much any given night during the year these are most visible. There are between 60-80 meteors per hour at the peak time.

So I hope the sand crabs decide I am just too big an object to drag home for a midnight snack.

“He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.”  –Psalm 147:4-5

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disconnect

So last March I made plans to visit my favorite place in the mountains and returned home earlier today from a 4-day weekend.

It rained.

No, strike that, it poured.

Interstate driving for me is pretty relaxing. For the most part. But this trip? First I made a stop in Charlotte, NC. In a year they have made it nearly impossible to get in or out. There is construction on the east side for a new toll road. Leaving from the north there are mammoth overpasses being built at the conjunction of two interstates and the highway itself is being widened from 6 to what looks like 10 lanes. I lived in Miami and the interstates weren’t that wide. They were parking lots all the time.

Seven hours of driving in a downpour is trouble enough but in mountains it’s a real challenge. People had stopped at underpasses, on the emergency shoulders. Flashing hazard lights everywhere. So I stopped for gas and waited a few minutes till it let up, then set out to go over the mountain.

The Cove in Asheville, a retreat and training center, is itself built on a mountain. Two guest inns, a chapel, cottages for conference leaders, the training center lodge and hiking trails all over the mountain.

My conference– “How to be right without being insufferable”, dealt a good bit with truth. Not agenda-driven truths, Bible truth. The truth so many either have forgotten, chosen to ignore or just don’t believe it applies to them. He was pretty circumspect about everything, assuming most of us were at least open to the Bible being the basis of what is true, and God being a loving but just God, merciful when we ask Him to forgive us, help us, or just listen to us. So after roughly 6 hours of sessions and a few Bible references I got the gist, I think: when we speak to others who may disagree, be loving. See their point of view. Understand where they are coming from. But don’t ever compromise the truth.

Well, that’s a whole other ball of wax. He did not begin to get into psychology, just tried to help us understand never to dodge a question on the truth. Never be afraid to speak up for what is true. And always convey what we speak in love.

So I disconnected one afternoon when (finally!) the sun shone. No sessions were scheduled. After a bite of lunch I raced down the mountain to my room for a change of clothes and sneakers and went up the mountain. IMG_0234.JPG

I forgot how steep it was. Or how high. Gulping in huge breaths of air I stopped now and then at a switchback to steady my heart rate. And looked at the untouched beauty. There are bears, and at this time of year their young are about 7 or 8 months old. Very small, cute and very protected so whenever I heard a crashing sound I moved a little faster. Our black bears are very shy and will scare off if you yell, sing or clap your hands at them but I’d not like to see how that works.

It is beautiful at the mountaintop. As I said to others I met on my way down it is worth the effort. I assured them they were well past the steep parts of the climb (if they were), and told those  who were not that they could make it. At one point on my way up I heard *crunch*crunch*crunch*crunch* behind me and turned to see a young man who is in the military actually running, as if he were going down, not up! I’d never have survived basic training had I enlisted.

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This was the first year I have enjoyed a conference here. Most years I go for a personal retreat, which it is and it is wonderful. But I met so many good people, there were about 300 from 25 states, I am glad I was brave.

And no amount of walking is helping my sore leg muscles!

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