Holiday Lights (And Orchids!) in the Garden – 2015 Edition

After 18 straight evenings of rain, the forecast called for a dry night on December 27th, and I made my annual trek to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden to see the holiday lights.

Usually I pick the coldest night in December to do my wandering in the garden. But this December temperatures were in the mid-70’s, and the evening was balmy. The garden’s flowering crabapple trees and ornamental cherry trees and witch hazel were all in bloom. Lenten roses decided to be advent roses. A cold craft-brewed beer was more welcome than hot chocolate.

I beat the lines of evening crowds by arriving about 5 p.m., and then waited for sunset in the orchid house. This year the orchids stole the show from the light displays. I’ve never seen so many in bloom at one time. These were my favorites:

The light displays are more beautiful every year.  I hope you enjoy this year’s slide show of Holiday Lights in the Garden.

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For a look at previous years’ holiday lights, check out this post.

I wish you all a most magical and joyful New Year!

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Holiday Lights In The Garden – 2014 Edition

After Christmas I made my annual trip to see the holiday lights at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. This year the Garden really stepped up their holiday offerings. There were outdoor fires where you could make s’mores and enjoy adult beverages, carriage rides, live music, and model trains large and small. The  variety of orchids in bloom in the conservatory was amazing. But the lights were still the best part of the Garden. Come take a look!

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If you would like to see how the Garden lights have changed over the years, check out my Holiday Lights posts from 2011, 2012, and 2013.

A Walk Through Luxembourg Garden

I awoke to another bright, blue-sky day in Paris, a perfect morning for visiting le Jardin du Luxembourg. I am finally getting the hang of Paris buses. I found the right bus stop and the right bus without getting lost and having to accost a stranger with my butchered French to get directions (of which all I can usually understand is “left” and “right”.)

Luxembourg Garden is an immense green space that provides respite for weary Parisians and tourists alike. As I walked through the column of plane trees, I inhaled the aroma of flowers and newly mown grass instead of gasoline and diesel fumes, and listened to birdsong and children on the playground instead of horns and sirens. C’est magnifique! Come see the garden with me. . . . .

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Walking Through Monet’s Garden

I was exposed to lots of music as a child thanks to my dad’s collection of phonograph records, and singing in school and choir. But I did not have much exposure to art and artists until college, when an art appreciation course my freshman year introduced me to the Impressionists and Claude Monet.
That year was pretty rough for me, and I often didn’t know why I should bother to keep one foot moving in front of the other. Then I saw a slide of Monet’s painting of his Japanese bridge. I knew that being in a world that contained such beauty was reason enough to keep going. I’ve wanted to go to Giverny to see the Japanese bridge and the water lily pond ever since seeing that projected image of Monet’s painting.
And today, I made it there!
The lily pond:

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Flowers:

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Monet’s house:

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Behind the scenes:

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Turning Towards Light

Ruth Ann died five months ago. Meanwhile, the earth completed another quarter of its journey around the sun. Spring’s pastels of iris and dogwood are replaced by bold watermelon pink and purple crape myrtles, scarlet gladiolas, and orange day lilies that defy soaring heat and lack of rain. The last of the magnolia blossoms still perfume heavy summer air. The hours of light grow imperceptibly shorter each day, while the hours of night lengthen towards the darkness of winter.

I live in a precarious balance between light and darkness. Daylight hours of walking, music, knitting, and being encircled in the kindness of friends brings laughter, peace, and grounding among the living. Quiet nights bring reflection and sadness. In daylight, when I remember to breathe slowly and appreciate the fragility of all that I love, grace and gratitude can guide my way. Darker nights assail me with futility, with knowing all will be lost in the end, and leave me relieved to see the sunrise.

Someone had just passed away when I arrived at the Hospice unit last Tuesday. Family had not made it to the bedside before the patient’s final breath. I had unpacked my harp and was playing in the hallway outside this hospital room when the family arrived in a rush of heartbreak and weeping.  Once inside the room a young girl began keening,”No, no, no….I don’t want her to be dead.”

I kept playing. I kept fingers moving on the harp strings while her sobs crescendoed into wailing that echoed down the hallways with desperate cries of “No, no, no….come back, come back.” I hoped that Music could in some way comfort her fear and ease her pain, could in some way say to this family, “The world has felt this grief, and created these tunes to stand beside you on this hard journey.”

I’ve thought about this young girl all week. Thought about how she was able to scream her pain and give voice to the same words I mouthed so quietly to myself when I found out Ruth Ann was dead: No, no, no. . . . Come back, come back. . . . I don’t want you to be dead. And I see how these are everybody’s words, everybody’s desperate desire. The price of love is that we will tumble down in seemingly endless eddies of grief and fear when the ones we love leave us behind on this suddenly empty and lonely earth.

When I was twenty-something, I thought the Buddhist concept of non-attachment meant that we were not supposed to love, not supposed to care. That we were supposed to walk blasély through the world, indifferent to who and what it offered to us. Life and love and loss teach a different translation: that we must care about, and love, all that the world offers with all our heart, but with open hands. Open hands that do not clutch and grab at what is passing from them. Open hands that allow the heartbreak of endings. And open hands that once empty, are willing receptacles for approaching, as-yet-unknown joys.

In the heat and glare of a July day, darkness grows, and winter approaches. But today I remember that it is in the darkness of December, and the cold depths of winter, that the earth again turns towards light.

 

To Everything There Is A Season

The season of tulips is over:

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The season of irises begins:

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March’s wood hyacinths are fading away:

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While the Dianthus burst forth into the heat of May:

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The airy clouds of dogwood blossoms brown and fade:

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Becoming litter on the ground:

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While maple leaves unfurl into summer, creating welcome shade:

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The gifts of each season pass, but are unerringly replaced by the gifts of the next season. Every morning walk tells me this is so. Every morning walk should assure me that the passing of the season of Ruth Ann in my life will be followed by gifts of the next season, gifts as yet unimagined and unknown.

But the shape and weight of the emptiness left by her death continue to confound me. My meager tendrils of faith in the turning world struggle to take root and grow. Trusting that a new season will quietly tiptoe into my life and astound me with its beauty requires moment-by-moment suspension of disbelief.

My favorite television show is Call the Midwife. Last Sunday’s episode closed with these words:

Invisible wounds are the hardest to heal, for their closure depends upon the love of others, and patience, understanding and the tender gift of time.

I am blessed with the love of others. My own patience and understanding for my hurting heart are in short supply. But the tender gift of time arrives of its own accord, without requirements of belief, faith or consent.  And so, I act “as if” the passing of grief and the return of joy are inevitable, even while faith and trust remain out of reach. And every morning I step out the door, and keep walking.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreshadow

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It’s the height of summer. Yet amidst the heat and humidity, the turning wheel approaches autumn.

Already shadows are longer. Already the quality of morning and evening light is softer and more golden. Already a scrub maple beside the market parking lot is crimson. Already the day lily foliage yellows, and chipmunks search for first acorns.

While we humans celebrate summer’s glory, those closer to the earth and the seasons prepare.