Local Color

Here, in the mountains and high valleys of Virginia, autumn colors have been intensifying over the last few days. Is there anything more spectacular than sunlight warming autumn’s red and golden leaves?

autumn woods

Autumn – thanksgiving for the rich gifts the earth has showered us with.


Fall’s tapestry of earth tones drape the landscape into a final warm embrace before winter knocks at the door.


And just like this leaf is suspended for a few fleeting moments in some dry grasses, the season displays itself in its expansive fullness – for a few deep breaths. Then, the cold winds and laws of change will move us to the next phase. Who’s afraid of change?


The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Local.

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Seasonal Bounty

As summer slips into the coolness of fall, nature gifts us with abundant treasures.

The mornings are filled with mobs of birds flitting from branch to branch in the wild cherry tree eating its tiny fruit. Then they drop down into the poke bushes and gorge themselves on the shiny black berries. The invasive autumn olive shrubs are heavily laden with ripe red berries soon to be stripped by deer and bears. I’ll take my share as well. Autumn olive berries make a delicious jelly and juice, full of good nutrition, too.

I’ve been harvesting and processing food from the garden and the wild landscape around us for weeks now:

summer harvest



Baskets of red, orange, and yellow tomatoes







Many handfuls of green, yellow and purple beans;


then came sweet potatoes, butternut squashes, a few pumpkins, carrots, broccoli, peas and okra, green and purple bell peppers.

garden bounty

I love wandering around and finding stands of mint to cut and dry for tea – apple mint, Tibetan tea mint, pepper- mint. These herbs have spread and made themselves at home in the various places I tucked them in a few years ago.
It’s time to cut thyme and oregano and feverfew for spice and medicine.  And to pickle nasturtium buds.


I made peach jam and spicy apple sauce, canned dilly beans and stew tomatoes. One of the tomato jars cracked open in the canning kettle and the remaining jars had to stew in the mess for 50 minutes.  I was not going to start all over again!

Canning always takes longer than you think. There are so many preparatory steps that need to be timed just right – prepping the fruit or veggies, cooking them while sterilizing the canning jars in the dishwasher and the lids and rings in a pot of very hot water on the stove. Then the water in the large canning kettle has to be brought to boiling, preferably just at the exact time when I am done filling and capping the jars.

It’s magical when it all works out smoothly, a bit stressful when it doesn’t.

I feel a great satisfaction from storing up summer’s bounty for winter.  It’s my own food grown without any chemicals, with love, pride, and lots of sweat and body aches from spring through summer into fall. The way my mother used to do it, and the way my grandmothers did.  I feel connected to a long line of ancestral women who knew how to grow and preserve food and feed their families throughout the seasons.  Yes, I can buy organic produce from supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and local farms.

But I would be missing something essential.  My garden connects me to the seasons in an intimate, visceral way.  Each year, it teaches me ever deeper lessons of trusting the soil, the critters, and the plants themselves.  The garden provides exercise, nourishment, medicine, and often delightful and curious encounters with its many inhabitants.  It’s my part of the world where I truly feel like a co-creator of health, goodness, and abundance.


Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week:  Seasonal.

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Canada Geese

Omnipresent, adaptable to city and country life – Canada Geese.

Here, a group lines up along the shore of a large pond.


Long, graceful necks, ever-watchful beady black eyes. White stripe fashionably painted across the cheek.


Another large congregation in the grass nearby.


Nervously chattering, they watch this human intrude into their peaceful world.


I move slowly to avoid spooking them, to no avail.

First the chorus line along the water takes off, protesting noisily.


After initial chaos, they organize themselves into a long fluttering line that rises above the trees, against the mountain,


and, soon, silhouettes against the sky:


As their harsh cries fade into the distant evening air, the second group begins to chatter and squawk. They start to run, wings flapping and flashing blue tips


before taking off across the water:


It takes a while before they fall into their famous V-formation. It looks effortless now, the awkwardness of gravity and chaos of liftoff forgotten and forgiven.


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Tree Magic (2): Ivan Was Here

This distinctive tree trunk caught my attention while wandering through the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Notice the inscription at the bottom of the picture. Ivan was here and wanted you to know.

yellow and green bark

A sturdy tree trunk mirrors our own spine, the structure that keeps our human body erect. We can still sway and bend with the wind. But a strong spine, a solid backbone, is essential for weathering the storms of life. The ability to stand grounded and resolute; the inner strength to brace the force of the windstorms life sends our way.

Someone scratched the name “Ivan” into this tree. What moves us to leave our name behind on trees, rocks, walls or bridges? If my name is written on a tree, does it mean that I am real, that I have affirmed my right to exist? Instead of 5 minutes of fame on TV, my name will possibly survive for decades and provide living proof of my existence when etched into the bark of a tree.

Or might this have been Ivan’s attempt to connect with the tree, forge a relationship by leaving his imprint, a small part of himself and his experience there in Albuquerque, with the tree?
Now I will always wonder who this Ivan was and why he felt the urge to share his name, using the tree as a lingering platform to propel himself into the future.

The DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Mirror.

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Tree Magic

If you have ever been drawn to a particular tree, you know that trees have personality.

While sitting under a large oak tree 15 years ago, I knew that the property we were wandering across would become our land. The tree in its quiet groundedness wrapped me in its green shade and whispered: “This is your place.” Trees can do that to you.

One of my photo exhibits this year was held at an arboretum and focused on trees (of course!). This is one of the images from the tree exhibit – tree bark, as unique as a finger print, and even more riveting.

tree trunk 150

More tree images: Cee’s Black & White Challenge.

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