Monday, November 10, 2014

Engagement Photo shoot

 A couple of months ago, our son proposed to his girlfriend, and we are thrilled to be able to look forward to another wedding in the family! I think I blogged a couple of years ago when our daughter got engaged, and I was able to take their photos.  So I was excited to be able to find another gorgeous autumn day to take Jordan and Cindy out to do engagement photos.
We divided our time between a lake near their house, which is where he proposed to her, and the Arboretum.  Here's the lake at sunset.
 Since it was a weekend in October, it was hard to find a spot at the Arboretum where there weren't crowds of people everywhere.  Fortunately, we found this lovely, leaf-strewn path.
 Their wedding is next October, and I think it will be really fun to be the mother of the groom this time around!

So much excitement!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Four Days of Solitude

I just returned from four days in a hermitage, far away from contact with the outside world.  How was it?  Good, peaceful, challenging, freeing, surprising.

It wasn't my first "silent" retreat.  I've been to a retreat center where there were lots of other people in dormitory style rooms, eating in the same dining hall, and sharing the grounds.  Some of them were silent, others weren't.  That presented a different kind of challenge to be silent, but you were never far from the sound of people talking and laughing.

Last week, I went away to Christ in the Wilderness, 80 acres of forest, meadow and prairie with 3 hermitages and a main house.  The only sounds were the birds and wildlife. No cell service, tv, radio, or wifi.  I brought in all my groceries with me (and way overestimated how hungry I would be), and prepared my meals in the small kitchen.  After climbing a hill from the grassy parking area, I had 50 steps up to my hermitage:

Thankfully, Sister Julia has an ATV that she used to shuttle me and all my stuff up the hill!
Another climb up from my hermitage, and there was this perfect place to read, pray and enjoy my morning coffee each day.  The sun-warmed, morning peace was such a gift.  
 Tucked in around the grounds were the most wonderful little spots just to sit and be alone with God and enjoy the blessings of nature.
 My favorite place was at the top of a hill, where I was delighted to find this lovely swing.  I spent several hours there -- eating lunch, reading, praying and journaling.
My final evening, I stayed up there to watch the sun set.  It was a glorious sight, and the only reason I was able to tear myself away was the fact that I had a rather dark wooded area to walk through in order to get back "home".   There was nothing in the woods that would harm me, but this "city girl" didn't want to hear anything that went bump in the night, because my imagination would have taken off!
In the safety of my hermitage deck, I loved reveling in the night sky, and seeing things we never get to observe in the city.  This was taken a day after the "super moon".  The previous night it had been overcast, but it was still a glorious sight a day later.
And the STARS!  It's unbelievable how many there are up there!  This photo doesn't begin to capture the majesty of the night sky, but it sure is a lot more than I've seen in a very long time.  And I even saw several shooting stars!
There was a very busy bird feeder in my yard.  What a joy to sit out in front of my hermitage -- reading a book or working on a art project, and look up to see the little creatures flitting about to their heart's content.  It's the first time I ever saw a rufous sided towhee: 
and a tufted titmouse!
I learned to recognize many of the birds by sight as well as the sound of their call.  That's a gift of solitude.

I also learned what wild turkeys sound like as they amble through the underbrush.  You could hear their comical little clucking noises from all directions.  And sometimes they came and visited me, but always left as soon as they saw me, no matter how still I sat.  
Each day there were new delights to discover:

 The biggest gift of the solitude was listening for God's voice.  I have no doubt that God is speaking to me all the time, I'm usually just too busy to listen.  Four days gives a lot of opportunity to take in some pretty amazing stuff.  I filled many, many journal pages, and will be able to glean from the wisdom I received for a long time to come.  And hopefully I brought a bit of the peace and solitude I found there back with me to my busy, but blessed life.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Rite of Spring

One of my favorite things to do in early spring is buy plants.  The Growing Place is a riot of spring color, texture and gardening inspiration, and today was the perfect day to go.  Here are a few images from my annual trip.I can't remember what these fiery ones are, but the burst of color makes me smile.
 Look at how the delicate purple color makes the yellow pop on this primrose.
Another dainty blossom enjoying the sunny day.
This iris is getting ready to pop.
 Wouldn't this be fun to have in a backyard garden?
 This miniature garden looks like fairies might actually come and visit at night!

 This tiny pollinator was enjoying himself.
 I had to laugh at this gentleman.  While his wife shopped, he found a cozy spot to read his paper.

 Here's another spot to relax, and these moms and kids are taking advantage.
 Finally, the front of our house BEFORE.  It looks green, but don't look too closely at all the weeds and overgrown bushes.  Hopefully I will post an "after" photo soon!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Bits and Pieces

Spring is a hard animal to tame.  After being cooped up all winter, every time the sun is out and there's warm weather, I want to to outside and soak it all in.  Instead of cleaning the house, I will probably head over to the Arboretum in the next half hour.  But in the meantime, I went outside this morning and took some pics of my neighbor's tulips.
The above one is a normal photo, which I like.  I decided to play with the bottom one in Photoshop, and came up with this painterly look, which I also really like.  
 I am also taking a couple of online classes.  One by Alisa Burke is called "Sketch into Spring".  Here's a practice page with a technique where you paint wet-on-wet with watercolor in the basic shapes of spring flowers.  Later you add some expressive lines to make the flowers stand out more.  On this one, I haven't added any lines.  The one below I did yesterday and already added the lines.  Some of the flowers I like, some I don't.  It's going to take some practice to create organic looking lines.

 And I'm also taking another class.  This isn't necessarily an art class, but it incorporates art journaling.  It's with Brene Brown, called The Gifts of Imperfection.  This week, we were supposed to identify our "Superpower" and the "Kryptonite" that keeps us from exercising our superpower.  At first I was a little confused about what she was looking for with the term "Superpower".  But I think I figured out that it's an inner gift that I have and incorporate into any meaningful work that I do.  I chose Enthusiastic Vision.  Once I get a vision in my head for a new project, I tend to jump in with both feet, and try to pull everyone in with me.  (And without realizing it, I demonstrated this by spending ALL DAY working on this cut paper image that I wanted to use on this page.)
 Given my superpower, I have illustrated my Kryptonite below.  Depending on the scope of the project, who is around to get involved with me, and my current energy level, I can easily become frustrated, disillusioned and burnt out.  Fortunately, I didn't experience any of those in doing these pages, and I'm quite pleased with the way they turned out.

 That's a bit of what has been going on with me with week.  And if you'll excuse me, I have a house to clean date at the Arboretum.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

It's hard to believe a week ago I was scraping snow from my car!  Going to the Arboretum today was the perfect way to celebrate Earth Day.  And I wasn't disappointed with the glorious sights!
The Lenten Roses were in full bloom.
 I love all the perfect little layers of this bud.
Even last year's hydrangea blossoms had a magical look to them.
 The crab apple blossoms were stunning.

 The robins are finally able to find food consistently, now that the final dregs of winter are past.
 The Trillium are one of my spring favorites.
 This little bee surprised me by flying out from the flower just as I took the picture.
 New life was everywhere.
 I was leaving the Arboretum and decided to take the long way out.  I was fortunate to spot this guy having lunch.  A good Earth Day for him -- not so much for the snake.
 He dropped the snake from the tree branch while I was watching.  I quietly sat down, hoping he would be more interested in his lunch than in letting my presence scare him off.
 He started flying away, and I snapped this photo, not really knowing if I was aimed in the right direction, in focus or not.  I was thrilled to get home and see what I had captured!
Happy Earth Day to you.  I hope you are enjoying spring wherever you live!