Simplifying the Not-So-Simple Life

I shared this post today in a Facebook discussion, then realized that I have many new readers who have come on board in the last 4 years since I wrote this post. It is still as relevant today as ever.

The Beauty Along the Road

When my husband and I decided to leave congested Washington, DC behind and pursue the “simple life” in the country, we really didn’t know what we were getting into.

fields in summer

Our property consisted of fields and woods – no road, no water, no electricity, no house. But – no problem – we had a road built, a well drilled, underground electric cables and telephone lines installed. We built our house while we were living in a 30-foot travel trailer. Living in a trailer is conducive to the simple life: there is so little space that you can’t add anything beyond the essentials. You make do with a small kitchen space and a small shower stall.

many uses for a tractor

Developing a property and building a house is anything but simple. And in the process, you acquire things, lots of things. For starters, you need a tractor and all its necessary attachments. Then you need a…

View original post 1,043 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Beauty – Where Have You Been?

If you ignore beauty,
you will soon find
yourself without it…

But if you invest in beauty,
it will remain with you
all the days of your life.

(Frank Lloyd Wright)

The US election in 2016 and its ongoing aftermath stole my peace of mind and my commitment to Beauty in all her manifestations.

“These times are riven with anxiety and uncertainty given the current global crisis….Our trust in the future has lost its innocence” (John O’Donohue, Beauty, pp. 2-3).

Why would we invoke Beauty in such uncertain times?  “Because there is nowhere else to turn and we are desperate, furthermore, it is because we have so disastrously neglected the Beautiful that we now find ourselves in such terrible crisis” (O’Donohue, Beauty, p. 3)

Thankfully, Beauty came knocking on my door again and I invited her in, like the old friend she is.  Paradoxically, though, Beauty entered through a focus on imperfection.

It all started during a week-long beach vacation in December, off the coast of South Carolina.  It was unusually cold and you needed a coat and hat for a beach walk.  On top of that, I had a nasty cough that didn’t want to leave me.  One day, as I left the house to head for the beach, I overheard an argument between a young couple. She wanted to drive but he accused her of being a lousy driver and insisted on driving himself.  “What a way to start your vacation, an imperfect vacation,” I thought.  Then the beach was covered with foam.  What kind of pollution was that?

That’s when I decided to focus on all the imperfect and non-beautiful things along the way and what they could teach me.

I looked for all the broken pieces of shell, fragments and debris the tide had brought in.  To my surprise, even these imperfect objects had their own unique beauty.

Why are we so drawn to perfect things, even idolize perfection?  And why are “perfect” and “beautiful” pretty much synonymous?

Things we consider beautiful are often whole, symmetrical and perfect.  Our eye is magically drawn to perfection – whether in a flower, tree, structure, human face, sunset, or a saying that lays open an important truth.  Stunning beauty is perfection and we adore that quality.

When we glimpse Beauty and behold her, we also often experience awe, gratitude, and appreciation. Sometimes, though, greed and lust come along with Beauty. We want to own her, hold her, surround ourselves with her qualities, protect her against the rest of the world, shut her away so no one else can have it. But how can we really “own” beauty? I propose that we cannot own Beauty; the same way we cannot own the wind, the light, the air, the ground – we only think we own something when we have paid enough money to exclude others from what we think we own. We can harness the power of water and wind and sun, but we can never own them, generate them, or control them for any length of time.

What is Beauty and how does she weave herself through endless manifestations?

Does beauty remind us of our own inner core that we so seldom “see” but have no difficulty acknowledging in an external object?

Does beauty jostle our genetic memories of a more perfect world, the Paradise we lost somewhere along the timeline traveled by humanity?

Maybe Beauty is the unexpected gift of being touched by something pure and truthful, that pierces our usual defenses and armoring, our daily routines, and things we typically say to ourselves and others.  Beauty strips us down to a full breath of air, allowing us to exhale after holding our breath unconsciously.  She makes us pay full attention to that which reveals its perfection to us.  She magnetizes our focus shutting out the non-essential.

Beauty – A moment of deep experiencing where nothing else in the world matters; a moment of grace where our mind chatter calms for once, and internal judgment stops in the transformative encounter with Beauty’s nakedness.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


Posted in Artistic Inspiration, Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Chestnut Harvest

My Chinese Chestnut tree is finally beginning to bear a good amount of nuts. After a few frosty nights, about half of the nuts have fallen to the ground; the other half is still clinging to the tree. I collected the ones that had fallen on the ground.
With a thick pair of leather gloves, I set out to open the spiny shells (technical term is cupule or burr) that are protecting the nuts. You really don’t want to touch them with unprotected hands.

Removing the hostile covering was a tedious process as few of the nuts were fully opened. Some of them needed to be pried open with a pair of scissors; others fell open with a little bit of pressure applied. As I was working with them, I became intrigued with the sensuous nature of chestnuts in their shell.

Doesn’t this one look like a baby crowning in the birth canal?

birth of a chestnut

birth of a chestnut

I quickly learned not to bother with the smaller, lighter burrs because they mostly held tiny, undeveloped chestnut babies, like these:

The larger, weightier ones held at least one, sometimes two, large chestnuts inside:

twin chestnuts

twin chestnuts

The luscious, lustrous brown nuts looked like pieces of chocolate to me:

chestnut "chocolates"

chestnut “chocolates”

or like large precious seeds lining up to be strung into a necklace:

line of chestnuts

line of chestnuts

Some of the emptied shells appeared like cocoons that had recently released their new life into the world:

empty chestnut shell

empty chestnut shell

A close-up of the hair-lined inner chamber in stark contrast to the sharp spines on the outside:

The chestnut mother tree knows exactly how to cradle her precious seed babies in a soft womb environment and how to protect them with fierceness against any intruders. Not much different from how we human mamas hold and protect and defend our babies.

Posted in Artistic Inspiration, Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Spring Foraging

Some of the delights of spring are the many flowers, fresh greens, and herbs that Nature offers us for free. Over the last few days, I have moved into foraging mode and harvested black locust blossoms, red clover and lyre-leaf sage. You can read about it on my Emerald Mountain Sanctuary blog.

Emerald Mountain Sanctuary

Now, at the end of May, the air is fragrant with the delicate floral aroma of black locust blossoms.

Black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) are well known for the durability of their wood; not everyone knows that their creamy white blossoms are edible. Eaten fresh, they have an unmistakable pea-like taste. I have made fritters with them in the past, and baked them into cakes or breads.

If you are lucky to come across some low-hanging blossoms, you can quickly harvest a substantial amount. Don’t they look playful and even a bit romantic?

Locust blossoms Locust blossoms

I make a hot tea by simmering the blossoms in hot water, then straining the blossoms out and adding honey or sugar. A soothing tea on cool, rainy evenings. The tea can also be chilled and enjoyed as a refreshing lemonade.

Locust blossom tea Locust blossom tea

Two other wild foods that required a bit more effort to…

View original post 223 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Snow: Co-Creating the Story

I was planning to spend today very differently, but it just kept snowing and snowing. By mid-afternoon, about 10 inches had completely transformed the landscape. Surrendering to the new shape of my day, I took my camera for a walk to capture the “story of snow” and how it defines lines and spaces, foregrounds and backgrounds.

This is what I found….think of how differently any of these scenes might have looked without the snow as a defining contributor and co-creator.

A patio table not quite ready for company:

Snow-covered table

The railing pickets shaped the snow on the edge of the deck:

snow against railing

snow against railing

Fence posts with white hats:

Here, the hat begins to slip a little:

Grasses catching handfuls of snow:

Smooth white defining an oval of wilderness:

The white background helps these Japanese Maple twigs flaunt their beautiful color:

The blue garden creature meditates under a snowy blanket:

And that is my snow story!

Posted in Appalachia, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments