I feel myself beginning to relax as life returns to its familiar routine. Another Christmas has come and gone, and as the sun sets on 2005 I wonder what the new year will bring. The dawning of a new year always fills me with expectations and plans. I don't know why I can't seem to conjure up the same feelings of renewal at any other time during the year. I seem to be locked into the cyclical nature of a new year - a new beginning in January to the end in December.
Soon I'll get the urge to purge the house of unneeded items and then spring will bring sleepless nights as I dream about changes for the garden. I'll look forward to vacation and cook-outs in summer, and then as fall brings shorter days and cooler temperatures, I'll enjoy the warmth and coziness of my home. The new year will bring familiar favorites, unexpected surprises, joy, sadness and new memories that will be permanently etched in the pages of my life.
Today is the winter solstice or the first day of winter. And while winter is not one of my favorite seasons, I do like the idea of acknowledging and welcoming the onset of a new season. Since you never hear much mentioned about the official days when the seasons change, and even less about the winter solstice I decided to do a little reading up on it. The meaning of the word solstice is "sun stands still." I found some fascinating tidbits at the Candle Grove website. For instance, Newgrange, a megalithic stone structure in Ireland was built in an exact position to receive a shaft of sunlight deep into its central chamber at dawn on the winter solstice. This structure is estimated to be over 5,000 years old. Can you imagine how they ever figured this out? Hundreds of buildings and churches in Europe were oriented to the solstices and equinoxes. I wonder if there are any structures built today for this purpose. Our ancestors were definitely more adapt at living in tandem with the cycles and rhythms of nature. Many ancient cultures observed and celebrated the winter solstice with traditional rituals. According to this website it seems as though modern man has transplanted Christmas onto winter solstice. And now the meaning of the celebration of Christmas is changing to the tune of our modern material world! Happy Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year! It is after all a turning point in the seasons. The day which officially marks the return of the sun!
I'm so glad you stopped by to take a stroll through my garden. We'll start in the front yard. As we step off the front porch, there's a private little area tucked off to the right. From the street this bench is disguised by the Pygmy Date palm tree in front of it. I like the fact that it's not visible from the street. It's a surprise as you walk up to the front door.
My front yard comes alive in spring with Azalea blooms. It originally was more of a shade garden until the hurricanes in 2004 toppled two trees. But the azaleas continue to do well. The azaleas are accompanied by the blossoms of the Magnolia tree, Indian Hawthorne and African Iris. In summer, we enjoy the red blossoms of Glorybower Clerodendron, Knock-out roses, Ixora, crinum lilies, caladiums and bromeliads.
Around the sideyard is one of my prize possessions...this Angel Trumpet in soft shades of apricot. This plant is the offspring of a plant my mother grew when I was a child. It has special meaning to me, and I've planted one in every yard I've had. It usually sustains some freeze damage each winter, but returns in spring to scent the garden with its delicious fragrance. Planted around it are white azaleas, milkweed, Indian Hawthorne, Hibiscus; all edged out with Giant Evergreen Liriope and Variegated Aztec grass.
Our backyard slopes down to a lake that once was an old (about 100 years ago) phosphate pit. Nature has done a great job of reclaiming what once was a huge hole in the ground. It is unusual to have a yard in Florida that is not flat. The previous owner of our home planted a groundcover (name unknown) that has done a good job of preventing erosion and looks lush and nice. We are fortunate to have many Live Oak trees from which to hang our Staghorn ferns from.
Here's a view from a little further back. It is a very peaceful backyard where we enjoy watching many varieties of birds, herons, anhingas, turtles, possums, armadillos, alligators (in the lake only), and an occassional black racer or rat snake.
Here's my favorite perennial bed. Even though it receives filtered sunlight, I enjoy growing Agapanthus, antique roses, daylilies, bromeliads, impatiens, azaleas, Blackberry lily, and Amaryllis.
Here's a partial view of it from a different angle. From inside the house we can watch the birds on the feeder or birdbath. The birds attracted to our feeder include blue jays, cardinals, titmouse, wrens, sparrows, and goldfinches in winter.
As we turn the corner there's a brick walkway (thanks to my husband), where there once was a muddy path. This area is where I grow the majority of the bromeliads I have. It's a large round bed that I share with a neighbor. On the neighbor's side is Lady palms and Ti Plants. My side includes Bromeliads, Peacock Ginger Begonias, Crotons, Impatiens, Aloe and Cast Iron plants.
One end of the walkway is flanked with Peace Lilies and crotons. I love the crotons for their colorful foliage. Luckily, this area has done well during cold spells in winter...I think the trees are responsible for this.
At the other end you'll find my neighbor's Ti Plants and Lady Palms. And, some of my orchids on the right side.
Here's my favorite chair in the corner of the deck. Reason being...the chartreuse color. It compliments every flower color imaginable. This chair is slowly rotting away, so I must always warn guests not to sit in it...otherwise, they'll end up flat on their backs.
Right next to our backyard porch is the perfect location for our orchids...about 50 of them. They thrive in this partly shaded and breezy area. Plus, we can enjoy their blooms from inside the house. Anyone who grows orchids knows how addictive they can be.
Here's a great view of my neighbor's portion of the flowerbed (the hot pink Ti plants). To the right side of the photo are two large Snow on the Bush plants. These plants provide some pink and white color under the shade of the oaks, and they do a great job of hiding my compost bin.
Now, let's take a break, sit for a spell on our deck, and enjoy some tea and cake as we continue chatting about plants. But, remember, don't sit in the adirondak chair. :-)
Thank you again for dropping by to take a stroll with me through my garden. I have enjoyed it immensely, and I hope you have, too. And, now, as I promised, here are some parting gifts to you for your garden. In the South, it's not appropriate to say "thank you" for passalong plants...in fact, it's downright bad luck. Instead, you should smile and say, "I know these plants will do very well in my garden."
It is dawn as I sit on the back porch, blanketed by the silence - complete silence - of a new day. It is the squirrel who first disturbs the stillness as he navigates the maze of interconnecting tree branches. To the left of me a lizard, in search of breakfast, darts after an unsuspecting bug.
Again, there is silence until a large water bird announces his arrival at the top of a tree with a loud squawk. The air, pleasantly cool, is completely still with the exception of some frayed palm leaves softly swaying in the gentlest of breezes. It is so quiet that you can hear the sound of dew dropping out of the trees and landing on the ground with a soft thud.
Then one by one, very quietly, I can hear the sound of birds as they begin to welcome the new day. A low hum of chatter is slowing growing louder as the day grows brighter. All of the neighborhood inhabitants are waking up and assuming their daily routine. The air is filled with the sound of busyness once again.
As I sat by the lake watching the ducks quite enjoying their daily bath, I found my attention being drawn to a large flock of black birds. The flock would soar high in to the air in unison, as though someone had given the "go" signal. They seemed to have an established flight pattern. Each bird having a designated position as they harmoniously shifted gears, and moved in a different direction as though their minds were one. They made several appointed runs as though they were rehearsing for an upcoming theatrical performace.
Eventually they broke from their pattern and began to fly willy-nilly before scattering off in different directions. I always wonder how they keep from flying into each other. It's an art form of nature that defies all understanding!
At the end of a week when your body is dragging and your soul feels depleted, you can find a well of sustenance at SoulfulLiving.com. No matter what your spiritual or religious belief is, there is something there for everyone.
They have a vast library of uplifting articles on every topic imaginable. It is a great online place to visit (one of my favorites) to recharge your batteries and get you on your way again.
During fall and winter, I love to sit outside on a breezy day and listen as the wind roars through the trees. The tree branches are tossed to and fro in the wind - completely at its mercy. The trees ability to be flexible, yet strongly rooted in its foundation allows it to withstand the turbulent winds when they arrive. The wind, in and of itself, is silent and yet it finds its voice when it encounters an obstacle in its way. I've always thought of the sound of wind as the voice of God, and I find it comforting to feel and hear His presence.
As the wind falls silent for a few moments, I can hear the steady beat of a woodpecker's beak in the distance. The rhythmic and ceremonial drumming is soothing, and I close my eyes and drift away to the sounds of unseen things.
Is the pursuit of simplicity a dubious dream in this fast-paced world?
Ask any number of people what a "simple life" means to them, and your bound to get a different answer each time. For me it means spending time with family and a few close friends, treading lightly on this earth by consuming fewer resources, creating comfort and beauty in my home and garden in an environmentally-friendly way, owning fewer possessions, enjoying meaningful work, indulging my love for books, savoring nature, and making the most of my life as it unfolds each and every day.
When I think about simplifying, life gets complicated. To tread lightly means (for me) that I need to be more aware of the products I purchase, and buy only what I truly need. I need to recycle as many items as possible, which means I may have to make numerous trips to different locations to dispose of my recyclable items. I have to make tough choices on which of my stuff to keep, and which to eliminate. Are you beginning to see my dilemma? Living a simple life is not as simple as it may seem!
Nature has a way of keeping us on our toes. For the most part she seems predictable, but then when you least expect it, the unexpected can happen. We experienced this on Monday when Hurricane Wilma and a cold front from the North arrived hand-in-hand. A first for us!
I popped outside early on the morning Wilma arrived, hoping to rescue my gazing ball before the wind whisked it away to unknown parts. I was expecting to be blanketed by the heavy humid air that accompanies such storms, but to my surprise the wind felt like a blast of Arctic air (a little exaggeration, but in Florida fifty degrees feels like Arctic air to us).
It served as a reminder to me that the unexpected can be a pleasant surprise. The mix of volatile tropical weather with cold air from the North combined to create a unique fall storm for us - a much needed watering and the arrival of Fall. Hurray!
I am from the humid and still heat of the South, from Noxzema and home-cooked German meals.
I am from a simple place, a dirt road, the saving grace of books, and endless summer days.
I am from orange blossoms and palm trees, saturating the air and swaying in the breeze.
I am from memorable holiday celebrations, from sensible German heritage-hearty stock, frugal and stubborn.
I am from an inner world where thoughts and feelings are closely guarded.
From the endless affirmation that a good work ethic is a virtue.
I am from the traditional realm of Martin Luther, idealism, the voice of intuition, fairy tales & happy endings.
I am from the land of Spanish moss and oak trees, from the old world of castles & knights, orangesicles & sauerkraut.
From an optimist and a homebody, from grandparents I barely knew but inherited a love for the soil.
I am from a world neatly saved and cherished, the earthy smell of steamy rainshowers, family walks after dinner, unending thoughts & questions.
This poem about where I'm from originated from a poem written by George Ella Lyons. I used the Where I'm From template provided on the Fragments From Floyd blog to create my own. It was a lot of fun and it brought back memories that I hadn't thought about in years. In visiting the past, I realized the profound impact those years have had on who I am today.
Do yourself a favor and create your own Where I'm From poem!