Introducing my Emerald Mountain Sanctuary blog

Hello to all my Beauty Along the Road readers!

I would like to introduce you to a second blog which I started on my business website, Emerald Mountain Sanctuary.

My husband and I recently completed the construction of a small retreat and conference center in the mountains of Virginia, USA, and hosted our first event, the annual planning meeting of an internationally active organization. The group felt nourished by daily walks in the woods and across the fields, which infused fresh creative energies into their indoor work.

My latest blog post there was inspired by an ancient elm tree I befriended while I spent a week at the Kripalu Institute in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts this fall.

Take a look and let me know what you think. Better yet, if you are in the area, come and visit!

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Posted in Appalachia, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Serene Sunday

A perfect day – cool, blue sky, no deadlines… only spaciousness, timelessness, and serenity.

So we embarked on a Sunday drive to nearby Pocahontas County (West Virginia), down to the Greenbrier River. Today, the river water reflected bridge pillars and a pale blue band from the top of the bridge – a play of textures and colors punctuated by dried up grasses.

It didn’t take long before we noticed the water fowl that gather in the area, mostly mallard ducks.

The male mallard has an iridescent green head, a brown chest and mostly grey wings and belly while the female has mainly brown-speckled plumage.

On the other side of the bridge, in deep shade, a large flock of mallards and a lone Canada goose were peacefully paddling around, perhaps quieting down for day’s end.

The days are getting very short now and the lengthening darkness invites quiet reflection and inward focus. May this coming winter be one of serenity and peacefulness.

Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene.

Posted in Animals and Critters, Appalachia, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Autumn Festivals in the Black Forest – Sasbachwalden

Harvest festivals mark the transition from summer into autumn by showcasing the bounties of the region. When I visited the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in Southwestern Germany last October – the area where I was born and lived for the first 20 years of my life – I had to choose between an over-abundance of events.

My favorite festival was the Erntedank- und Weinfest (Wine and Harvest Thanksgiving Festival) in Sasbachwalden, one of the most beautiful villages in the Black Forest. The main event was a parade consisting of music bands, floats, harvest and crafts demos with an emphasis on traditional ways.

Huge haybale characters and a traditional hay wagon marked the beginning of the parade route.

Hundreds of people were gathering along the side of the road leading into the village

I marveled at all the dirndls and lederhosen outfits many of the spectators wore with a sense of style and pride

Floats were elaborately decorated with flowers and often displayed specialties of the region (bread, ham, wine, beer)

A very popular theme, of course, was grapes, grape harvest, and the fine wines of the region. This man carries a wooden container on his back which was traditionally used for harvesting grapes. The second man pretends to fill a ceramic pitcher, traditionally used for serving the fizzy new wine.

Monasteries were famous for their wines and other spirited beverages as well as abundant vegetable and flower gardens.

And here is Bacchus himself, the Roman god of agriculture, wine and fertility. His oversized glass was filled with real wine and his reddened face betrayed his liberal indulgence along the parade route.

Wine and schnapps were freely passed around (no cheap candies here) to anyone who asked:

Many Germans join music bands (Musikverein) as children which often becomes a lifelong hobby and social connection. Each band wears distinctive clothing reflecting the traditional costumes of their town or region.

All ages participated and enjoyed being part of the parade.

There was a joyous spirit of celebration, fellowship with relatives and townspeople, and a sense of proud contentment.

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Sunflower Fields Forever

Saturday was my get-away day. I didn’t mind getting up at sunrise to drive over the mountains so I would arrive at Hope Field before the crowds hit and the sunlight became too harsh. Hope Field is a vast field planted with sunflowers, just outside the city of Harrisonburg, Virginia. It was open to the public for the weekend, donations accepted as a fundraiser for a local hospital’s fund for uninsured patients.

Already, people were spreading out into the field searching for their very own perfect bundle of sunflowers.

Me – I was happy to meander through the undulating sunflower fields to the far end hunting for perfect pictures. I decided early on that I would not pick any flowers since my arms were full with camera and camera bag and I had forgotten to bring a bucket for picked flowers. This way, I could concentrate on both the beauty of the flowers and the humans who came to admire them. By the time I left, there must have been a few hundred people in the field – young and old, men and women, entire families, college friends, people from all walks of life.

Here, at the corner of Sunflower Avenue and Sun Salutation Boulevard, nature and humans intersect – for purpose and pleasure. Sunflowers provide so much: prolific pollen to honey bees and other insects, seeds, seed oil, winter fodder for animals (silage), biofuel, sunny bouquets, and sheer beauty.

Children were fun to watch – almost swallowed up by the tall sunflowers, some of them played hide-and-seek, others stroked leaves or petals and eagerly helped their parents to pick out their very own flowers.

And the bouquets people gathered! A bounty of gold and green, summer colors harvested as a large, heavy bundle.

And here are the stars of Hope Field in their full glory:

For the second time this week, I had witnessed how nature brought people together sharing awe and admiration: the solar eclipse and this immense field of sunflowers. I left with a big smile and a sense of peacefulness in my heart.

The DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Corner.

Posted in Flora, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 57 Comments

Summer Porch Textures

From my summer porch, I observe much of what’s going on around me without necessarily being seen. Since we can’t see our human neighbors through the trees, animals and plants become the subjects of my voyeuristic tendencies. When I saw this little hummingbird resting on the porch railing, I had time to go inside and fetch my camera. From its pudgy body shape and its slow movements, it appeared to be an adolescent that had recently left its nest to learn the ways of the world. Adults have much sleeker bodies and move so fast that it is difficult to get decent pictures.

This little fellow seemed to have no fear and allowed me to come quite close. Eventually, it flew from the flaky railing to a lemon-colored day lily and nestled against its smooth, cool petals.

I love the contrast between the soft and somewhat tussled feathers and the sleek flower petals. I can feel those textures on my fingertips.

When I saw one of our cats coming close to investigate, I waved my arms at the birdie and it flew across the yard to feed on phlox flowers there.

Even though the colors look different from the first few pictures, you can recognize the fellow from the strange little white feathers sticking up from its back. Here it is looking much more like its adult version.

It finally came to rest on the spiky flower head of echinacea. To me it feels more like sitting on a pin cushion! From there, the bird chirped as if calling out to its parent: “Feed me, feed me – I am tired of doing it all on my own. This is not as much fun as I thought it would be.” While a few adult hummers flew by, none of them stopped to respond to the little one. What a vulnerable time for this youngster who doesn’t know yet that cats are not your friends.

Eventually, it disappeared and has not returned – unless it metamorphosed into an adult so quickly that I can no longer differentiate it from the others that land on our hummingbird feeder. The picture below was taken when one of them hovered near the feeder and cast its shadows against the soffit board.

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Textures.

Posted in Animals and Critters, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments