Plato in the Peonies

The Beauty of a Spent Peony

Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his own hemlock. A man toting a sack of blood manure across his lawn is kin to Atlas letting the world spin easy on his shoulder.

― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Gardening IS a handy excuse for being a philosopher. It teaches life lessons in so many ways.

There are successes and failures. Many, many failures sometimes. So many that sometimes we wonder whether or not to even continue.

A gardener has to experiment, research, and keep notes.

Patience is paramount. Seeds and plants take time to grow, soil takes time and effort to amend, and constant pruning is a necessity.

Things can go wrong beyond your control, from weather to bugs to dogs digging in the dirt. And they’re not always even your dogs!

Some challenges can be overcome, others cannot or are not worth the price to pay.

But a gardener grows, learns, and moves on – the same as in life. To not do so invites stagnation, misery for you and worse, misery for everyone around you. We have to accommodate change, whether we want to or not.

So gardening, like many other things in life, makes us all into philosophers. The lessons learned become lessons for the rest of our life.

The question is – are we paying attention to it?

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This picture was post processed using:

  • Finger Painting in Topaz Studio
  • Splendid Spring as the background from Daily Texture
  • Festival Lights and a Brayer Mask from 2 Lil’ Owls Textures
  • Sloppy Border 19 from onOne

Life’s Daily Harvest

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little stardust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched. . .

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Every time I see these plants in my photo inventory, they make me smile. They’re nothing special – easy to grow, prolific, and common. But they’re pretty. They wave in the breeze, follow the sun with their big faces, and brighten up the garden.

Even if common, we all need some beauty and color. Life is hard in so many ways. We’re all busy, tired and stressed. Having something that is pretty for the sake of pretty is refreshing.

This photo of caladium plants was taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Here’s the original photo:

Caladium plant, straight from the camera

After my usual adjustments in Lightroom (cropping, color adjustment, etc), I post processed this in Topaz Studios, using BuzSim and Chalk Smudge Light CS. I added three textures to it from 2 Lil Owls. The textures helped bring up the colors and darken the edges. I then finished off in onOne for a vignette and border.

My post processing steps are below. Remember that Photoshop layers start from the bottom and work up. As a result, my watermark at the top is the last step in the process.

What small thing has made you smile lately? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Time For A New Story

Isn't he just handsome? Even if he is a bit impatient with me taking his picture.
Isn’t my husband just handsome? Even if he is a bit impatient with me taking his picture.

As May drew to a close, it became apparent to me that I needed to tell myself a new story. I need a story that doesn’t involve the workplace, doing taxes, being a CPA, or any of the other ways that I’ve defined myself for these many, many years.

I’m proud of my career accomplishments and the hard work I’ve put into being the best I can, becoming an authority in my field, and being a recognized name “out there”. I’ve dedicated myself to learning all I could about corporate state income taxes, showing up when I was needed, being a diligent employee and mentoring those around me.

But that time has come to an end. For the rest of this year, I am on sabbatical and planning what I want to do with my writing and photography as well as seeing that new grandson of mine.

Yes, that is a cannonball in the bricks
Yes, that is a cannonball in the bricks in Yorktown, Virginia

Continue reading “Time For A New Story”

The Joy of Common Work

Visitors Center at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Visitors Center at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

. . . Do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
– Robert Lewis Stevenson

It’s easy for me to get caught up in wanting everything fancy, just like I think everyone else has it.

But of course, very few have everything fancy. For most of us, we have to cook and wash dishes, do laundry, clean, and take care of our children and / or pets.

There’s a joy in it – in the routine of scrubbing pots, folding clothes or sweeping floors. There’s a joy in the pleasure of a dog when you’ve bent over next to them to put on your shoes and they can look up at you and wag their tail.

Joy is everywhere, but we have to remind ourselves to seek it and be aware of it in the little things in our lives. To not let daily living overwhelm the sweet little things of our everyday actions.

For your amusement, below is the original and some experiments. I like the one that includes the “worn brick” texture and really found it hard to choose between it and the one I finally used. Both look good, but for different reasons.

2014 Word – Remember




Who are you looking at?  I'll rip you apart!  Don't you look at my Momma!!  I'll make you sorry!  She's mine and I'll defend her!  I'm a 7 pound fighting machine!
Who are you looking at? I’ll rip you apart! Don’t you look at my Momma!! I’ll make you sorry! She’s mine and I’ll defend her! I’m a lean, mean 7-pound fighting machine even if I have very few teeth left!  The miniature pinscher photo was processed using Topaz Impressions – Cezanne 2.

As I worked on a post to discuss my “word” for 2015, I wanted to revisit and bring closure to last year’s word.  The purpose of the “word” is to bring focus and clarity to my goals for the year.

2014 Word – Remember

Last year’s word was remember – and what I wanted to remember was TO SMILE.  To remember to be joyful, to laugh, and enjoy my life.  Last January, I wrote out definitions for it that included, “to not forget, to mind; keep in mind” and synonyms  such as, “remind, recall, recollect; fix in the mind; call up.”

My quotes were these two proverbs:

A cheerful heart is good medicine.

– Proverbs 17:22

The cheerful heart has a continual feast.
– Proverbs 15:15

A cheerful heart is good and it’s not something I do very well with.  That is why my blog is about beauty and laughter.  It’s everywhere – I just don’t do a very good job of seeking it out or enjoying it.  My blog helps me to notice and memorialize it.

I also chose that word because I was concerned that the year would become a dark hole with nothing memorable to it.  That 2014 wouldn’t be anything special or worth remembering.

To help me, I took Ali Edwards class again “One Little Word“.  The class was very good but I thought I never really incorporated it into my life except in February, although my recent wrap-up showed otherwise.

Continue reading “2014 Word – Remember”

New Year, New Routines

The beagle, Vizsla and miniature pinscher.  Do you have a treat?
The beagle, Vizsla and miniature pinscher. Do you have a treat?

This week’s photo challenge is new – something new for me in 2015 (to see how other photographers interpret it, click here).

What better for this than a picture taken New Year’s Day?  One of the first of the year.  I didn’t have much time for it – just seconds later, they were running over to see if I had a treat to share with them, like this:

Oh the joys of photographing pets!

As I settle into unemployment and looking for a new job, I’m developing new routines.  I haven’t written about routines for a while (see my last post here).  What I like about routines is the structure it gives to a day and how the many small decisions that are needed don’t have to take up much  mental space.  At the same time, routines need adjustment to keep them useful.  So along with job searching, what else is new in my routine?

Continue reading “New Year, New Routines”

Common Enchantment

Vizsla sleeping on the couch, where he is NOT supposed to be.
Vizsla sleeping on the couch, where he is NOT supposed to be.

We wait, starving for moments of high magic to inspire us, but life is full of common enchantment waiting for our alchemist’s eye to notice.
– Jacob Nordby / Author, Speaker, Coach

We had a wonderful time visiting the kids in Atlanta.  My daughter is doing well, sprouting along in her 7th month of pregnancy.  My son-in-law is also doing well and like good husband’s everywhere, has learned to let it slide when his wife’s hormones kick in and she snaps at him.  Her father also got snapped at and he too just backed away.

As for me, she complained about how uncomfortable she is, how bad her heartburn is, and how junior won’t stop kicking her, especially at night.  As nicely as I could, I turned around, put a pleasant look on my face and said, “payback’s a bitch”.  She was not amused.

I started some steps towards a job search before I left and spent today doing a great deal more.  I’m still not settled into a routine nor have I been nurturing my creativity.  But late last night I wanted a simple project, so I processed up a sleeping dog.  The Vizsla is getting so gray!  He turned ten years old this month, so there is a reason for all the gray.

I was looking for a quote to match the picture, when I found the one above.  One thing my blog is full of are ordinary moments in a day.  Dog pictures, the backyard, walking at the local botanical garden are all part of my portfolio.  I have some spectacular pictures too – Acadia National Park, Harper’s Ferry (West Virginia), Charleston (South Carolina).  But my life is limited by my job and my time.  If I don’t find enchantment right here where I’m at, my life will be small and miserable.  I love the high magic as much as anyone, but it’s not realistic nor is it something to be seeking.

I need to notice the enchantment that is around me right where I’m at.  I need to enjoy and appreciate my life, whether buying groceries with my husband or talking to a recruiter about possible job opportunities here in town.  What better way to enjoy the little things than to pet a sleeping dog, stroke those soft ears, and maybe even get a little grunt of contentment from him?

Life is good.

To see other photos of the Vizsla, click here.


Smiles From Strangers

Brown's Island from the bridge over to the island, taken two years ago today.  Located in Richmond, Virginia.  The photo is processed using Topaz labs Impressions.
Brown’s Island in Richmond, Virginia. The photo is processed with a colored pencil effect using Topaz Labs Impressions.

I’m always surprised when strangers smile at me, even more so when they say niceties such as “how are you today?”.

It happened again the other day.  I wasn’t feeling too good and I had a tough morning working on a sticky problem.  I went for my walk during lunch, really wrapped up in my head.  I mean, really wrapped up.  I wasn’t paying attention to who was around me, what the James River looked like, or even how nice it was to just be outside.

People kept giving me big smiles!  They wanted me to see them, acknowledge them, and smile back!  I’m usually the one giving out smiles to strangers, so it was a bit weird for me to be receiving unsolicited smiles.

It was so nice.  So very, very nice.  I straightened up my shoulders, tilted my head up from watching the ground, and got rid of the scowl on my face.  If people wanted to be nice to me, I was going to play my part and be nice back!

I came back from my walk in a much better mood and not just from the exercise.  People going out of their way to simply smile at me as they walked by made a big difference and I was grateful they smiled whether I was really receiving it or not.

It makes me glad for all the time I spend smiling at others and making chit chat with strangers.  It really does improve one’s day!

The photos in today’s post were taken three years ago today from the original bridge going over to Brown’s Island.  I’m looking to the west.  The townhouses in the upper right is an area of Richmond called Oregon Hill, where the laborers used to live.  It was so far from downtown, “you may as well have lived in Oregon”.  The cluster of buildings around the smokestack is where Tredegar Iron Works was during the Civil War.  The National Park Service is in the far building and a Civil War Museum is in the closer building.  Many events are held on Brown’s Island every year, from the Richmond Marathon last weekend to the Folk Festival, skateboarding events, and many types of concerts.

To see an earlier post for a walk around Brown’s Island, click here.  The bridge in today’s photos is fairly new.  To see the pictures from the day it was lifted into place, click here.

Brown's Island from the bridge over to the island, taken two years ago today.  Located in Richmond, Virginia.
Brown’s Island in Richmond, Virginia.  This photo was processed with a simple pop effect in Topaz Labs Adjust..

Practicing Stillness

Be Still. . . Preferably, With Some Tea; Photo Stylized With Topaz Impressions

This week’s photo challenge is minimalist, explained as:

An artfully executed minimalist photograph is anything but mundane. It illustrates a moment in time, or an artistic perspective, with simplicity and grace.


Minimalist photography is characterized by a large portion of negative space, a fairly monochromatic color palette with good contrast, and an interesting subject that is able to stand on its own to capture the interest of the viewer. At first thought, it may seem like it would be easy to shoot an engaging minimalist photograph, when indeed it can often be the opposite. A minimalist photo can also effectively tell a story, in spite of its relative simplicity, and it is anything but “plain”.

After I edited my picture, I added the minimalist phrase, “Be Still”.  It comes of course, from one of my favorite Bible verses:

Be still and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10

Simple.  Minimal.  And so very hard to actually execute.

It also comes from my creativity class with the ever-so-creative-herself, Kim Klassen.  In the very first week of “Be Still – Fifty Two”, she encouraged us to practice stillness, even if just for a minute a day.  To paraphrase, she said:

Take a breath ~ pause ~ move forward ~ one day at a time ~ center ~ peace ~ trust.

Also simple and minimal.  Also hard to actually do.

The reasons it’s hard to execute are not a surprise.  Too busy, too many demands, too tired, etc etc etc.  I could put a checklist out here and y’all would check them and add more to it.

That doesn’t make it any easier though to slow down, be still, and just be.

Be quiet.

Be simple.

Be present in the moment.

Be content with here and now.

Be grateful.

Be open to trusting God.

Which is why I chose a tea picture.  Making tea takes time.  There’s a whole ritual to it, starting with pouring out the old water and filling up the tea pot.  Get out a filter (or basket) and measure out tea.  Cut up a lemon, wash the cutting board and my hands, and wait more on the water to get hot enough.  And of course, the time waiting for the tea to steep, then cool enough to drink it.

There are days I don’t make tea for myself.  I don’t want to wait.  So I have a glass of plain water instead.  Which is still good for me, but it’s a shame that I don’t wait on my tea when I enjoy it so much.

If I slow down too much, even less will get done.  But I miss not sitting and just thinking as well.  I need it and function better when I do it.  I think like with anything, this needs practice and for me to make it more important.

So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.
― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking


We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
― Ray Bradbury