A Resilient and Creative New Year!

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Originally posted on The Beauty Along the Road:
I found my theme for the New Year:   Resilience and Creativity. Hurricane Matthew, on its path up the Atlantic coast back in October, must have swept this large tree branch onto this…

More Galleries | 7 Comments

What I saw today….

We spent our pandemic Thanksgiving doing what we enjoy:  going for a drive through the mountains, no masks needed, no social distancing necessary – just me and my husband coasting along the empty, narrow, and winding country roads.

We can always count on seeing some beautiful pastoral scenes so typical of the Allegheny Highlands of Virginia and West Virginia.

Cows graze in a field still green (a bit unusual for this time of year; global warming definitely a factor):

pastoral scene with grazing cowsLight and shadow variations as the sun played hide-and-seek with clouds:

light and shadows on hills

A herd of goats slowly advances up a hill searching for juicy grasses:

goats on a hill

Then we come across some quirky scenes reflecting the rural nature of the place, expressions of creativity and a certain make-do mindset.

What do you think about this piggy mailbox?  It comes with an opening at the pig’s rear-end….

piggy mailbox

Someone’s living quarters from a long time ago, now storage for useless trash:

old bus

The name of the lane leading into the property with the deserted bus:  Slim Pickings Boulevard:

The entry fence was a sculpture created from engine parts (cam shaft, crank shaft, gears – as identified by my husband):

fence from machine parts

And a creepy little gate guardian:

gate guardian

But the creepiest – and most sinister – find today was a large tree with dead animal carcasses hanging from it.  Someone must hate coyotes very much.

tree with dead coyotes hanging from it

It seems like we have to take the beauty with the weird and the ugly, side by side.

Life these days…

Life like it’s always been…

We came home to a crock pot steaming with chicken and sweet potatoes.

A simple day in the country.

Posted in Appalachia, Artistic Inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Hummingbird’s Gifts

What the hummingbird brings:

  • Delight when you first appear in late April.  You bring the promise of spring and lively movement and sounds on my porch.

Hummingbird resting

  • Oh, the sounds: chattering and chittering, when you announce your presence; hissing, whistling and screeching when you attack a competitor.
  • Oh, and the semi-circular dance you perform accompanied by a sound that has no name, when you try to impress Miss Hummingbird.
  • You move so fast, cutting through the air like a missile. Sometimes you hover around my head. Are you as curious about me as I am about you? Very, very rarely, I see you perched somewhere, for a few short moments.

Two females belly-bumping

  • When you attack the others with your dagger beak, sometimes stabbing them in their belly, I want to tell you that there’s enough for everyone.
  • I clean and refill the feeder for you and grow the flowers you like so much:  orange jewelweed, pink delphinium, lavender hosta, magenta phlox, and the red flag of canna lily.


  • I watch you extract the nectar, probing the deep throats of jewelweed and canna, never spending much time on any single bloom. How does it taste, the flowers’ offering of sweetness and nourishment, this nectar of life?

Hummingbird feeding on jewelweed

  • Your nests are tiny, the size of a walnut, I read. I keep looking for them, just to admire your nest-weaving skills.  Bird nests can tell you a lot about their maker’s sense of aesthetics, their diligence and perseverance.  Have you ever seen the dangling globe nest woven by an oriole vs. the coarse, thrown-together, almost-anything-will-do nest of a robin?  Or the mere suggestion of a nest, the little indentation in the ground a killdeer mama makes as a receptacle for her speckled eggs?   I adore intricacy and workmanship but I also respect practicality and minimalism.
  • You hummers come in such tiny packages and, yet, when the light hits the male just right, his throat feathers shimmer in the most astounding glowing red, then turn black with the mere turn of his head.
  • Such a small package and so much power – don’t you fly for DAYS across the Caribbean Sea without food, without rest? – and so much grace, elegance, and beauty.
  • You are majesty in that small package, no less a defining presence than the mighty bald eagle that lives around here as well.
  • You bring joy and hope when you arrive every year… and delight.

Wind chimes

  • You try to teach me about leave-takings and endings when you fly away in just a few short weeks, or even just a few days. Yet, I still feel sadness and melancholy and a sense of abandonment when you leave, the early dread of winter creeping in.


  • I wish you a safe journey South. Indulge all winter in the abundance of the rain forest. Travel for the many of us who would like to follow but have to abide by the restrictive and isolating rules of a pandemic.


  • And do remember you have a home here, next spring.

Posted in Animals and Critters, Appalachia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Out of Life’s Quagmires

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Originally posted on The Beauty Along the Road:
Lotus pond This 4th-of-July weekend (Independence Day in the US), I managed to combine learning more about the traumatic impact of cults and the (almost) unbearable beauty of lotus flowers. A perfect…

More Galleries | 2 Comments

Transformation in the Woods

I saw the standing deadwood from a distance. It was a giant tree trunk jutting high into the air. Something was dangling from it, swaying lightly in the breeze. Too soft and fabric-like to be peeling bark, I decided.

Walking closer now, my breath caught and I stood frozen in awe the moment I recognized the largest snake skin I had ever seen. Transfixed, I looked up at the thin membrane dangling like an exotic scarf from a height of about 10 feet. My next thought turned to the owner of the skin, probably a black snake that must be living somewhere around the tree roots. I looked around cautiously, not wanting to accidentally step on a monster snake.

At the same time, my mind kept chanting one word over and over: “Transformation, transformation.”

My heart beat a little faster. I knew this was the snake’s message to me. Spring and summer had been full of snake energy – from the rattlesnake vibrating the air alive on our covered porch to the black snake I found entangled in a roll of bird netting in the garden shed. I was able to cut it loose marveling at the strength of the muscular flesh contracting under my hands. And here was the grandfather of all snakes leaving behind his mark, a mark I could no longer ignore and bury in the busy-ness of my life.
Because I was leading a forest bathing group when I came across the skin, I turned my attention back to my group, listened to their tree experiences and led them back out of the woods. A big storm prevented me from heading back there for a few days. When I finally looked for the tree again, the skin was gone!          I circled the tree trunk wading through brambly bushes and finally spotted the skin. I pulled it out as gently as I could to prevent the brambles from shredding it. Then I hung it up over a nearby smaller tree so I could photograph it. While suffering from a bit of wear and tear, it was still magnificent!

I remembered that snake symbolizes rebirth, initiation, and wisdom. In Native American mythology, snake is a symbol of transformation and healing. In Eastern lore, a coiled snake at the base of the spine represents kundalini energy which, once activated, opens up new levels of awareness and creativity.
But – what did THIS snake skin mean to me? What kind of transformation was imminent in MY life?

As I sat and contemplated, the snake skin released its short message to me: “Go deep,” I heard, “Go deep – here.”
I had been spreading myself in too many directions, going “wide and far.” I knew intuitively what “going deep” meant: to gather my energies inward and invest them into my life here, on my property in the mountains of Virginia. This is where I can go deep – with native plants, plant medicine, my own re-connection to Earth after decades in the urban rat race, and stewarding the land and the woods.

“Go deep” the snake whispered through its cast-off skin.

In the coming months, I began to shed small and large fragments of my old skin: the majority of political activities that had been depleting my creative and emotional energies; traveling abroad (a yearly luxury) which immediately eliminated my largest carbon footprint source; and de-cluttering spaces in my house selling, giving away, or recycling unneeded items.
Now it was time to travel again, right here in my own backyard and backwoods. I started a small plant sanctuary for endangered wood- land medicinals. I re-committed to book research that would encourage gardeners to plant natives in our area. I am designing workshops and retreats that will help others re-connect to their outer and inner nature.

I feel more anchored and grounded in my new skin and am listening more intently to that inner calling.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments