Walk in Wonder

It’s late autumn in the far southern part of the United States. I’m enjoying late afternoon walks near my house and here are ten things I’ve noticed while walking:

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia
  1. The warmth of the late afternoon. No matter how cold the mornings are starting, by the late afternoon, I don’t need a coat to walk outside. The same temperature in the spring feels much cooler, I think because the earth is retaining cold. But at this time of the year, the earth is retaining warmth.

  2. The trees have such variety! Some are golden yellow (no red ones on my walk), others have no leaves, some have barely started to change. But overall, the branches are more bare and it is a definite look of autumn. Interestingly enough, our crepe myrtle is nearly bare and our neighbor’s tree, which borders our yard, is still green and lush with leaves. I wonder if they watered it more when it was so hot in the summer.

  3. The clacking of the leaves as they fall or bang against each other. I always know when summer is ending because while the leaves are still green and on the trees, they’ve dried out and make noise when they hit against each other. That accelerates in late fall though – dried leaves on the pavement and sidewalks has a distinctive sound. It’s melancholy – winter isn’t far behind – and a signal that it’s time to put summer to bed and get ready for winter.

  4. The crunching of the leaves under my feet as I walk. My grandsons (and their mother before them) love to drag their feet and hear the leaves crunch. Even my beagle enjoyed it! If there was a big pile of leaves somewhere, he had to walk through it both to sniff what was there and I really think he enjoyed hearing it too.

  5. The street can be slippery with all the leaves, especially when it’s wet. I have to be careful to not walk on top of a bunch of leaves on the pavement. I can feel them slipping under my feet on some days; I walk in the middle where there’s less leaves and my footing is more sure.

  6. Our neighbors are burning leaves and a tree that they’ve taken down. It’s more smoke than I’d like when I’m near it, but when I’m at the other side of the neighborhood, it smells good. Burning leaves has always been a sign of autumn and goodbye to summer.

  7. With the leaves down, there’s so much more sunlight on my face as I walk. I have to make sure I bring a hat, although even with more sunlight, it’s not always warm. Somedays I still need a coat, especially when I’m in the shade.

  8. I love the light at this time of the year! No matter when I take my camera out, it’s always a warm yellow, from morning to late afternoon. I don’t take my camera to walk around the neighborhood, but I still observe the gorgeous light that the autumn brings, from the trees to the house windows to the overall scenery.

  9. A neighbor is using their outside grill. I can smell the meat cooking and the charcoal. It’s making me hungry! It also reminds me to buy a pork shoulder to smoke on my Big Green Egg this weekend. I love using the Egg in the cooler weather. I’m not fighting the bugs or mosquitoes and it’s very primal to play with fire when it’s cold outside.

  10. It’s so much easier to breathe at this time of the year. The humidity is down, but it’s not so cold yet that my bronchial tubes hurt. As a result, I can go farther and the hills aren’t so hard to walk up.

What are your favorite observations when you go for a walk at this time of the year? Please. . . add to my list!

The Muse Has Left The Building

My chair and it's comfy pads along with a pile of books and my notebook.
My chair and it’s comfy pads along with a pile of books and my notebook.

Remember on the old Frazier show, how it would always end with “Frazier has left the building“, a riff of course on the phrase, “Elvis has left the building“. Well, in response to weekly photo challenge for this week on muse, I find it hard to show what’s calling to me because nothing is.

The muse has left the building.

Continue reading “The Muse Has Left The Building”

A Walk in October (2014)

I went to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens last weekend.  I wanted a walk, I wanted some fresh air, and I wanted to see what was new for picture taking.

What a change from just three weeks earlier!  Many of the flowers that had been in bloom were no longer there.  The top row of the gallery above is what I saw in October; the bottom row is from September.  There were still things to see, but only the rose was brightly colored.

My first clue as to how much the garden had changed was as soon as I walked out the doors of the visitors center.  The lush greenery and flowers around the fountain were gone and in its place, some rather sparse potted plants.

A few more feet out and the next fountain was actually shut off (the only picture I could find of the fountain working is from April 2012; the fountain is to the far left of the photo).

The greenhouse fared no better.  All those lovely red flowers and yellow bromeliads from the photo on the left were gone.  Violas, a winter hardy pansy, were waiting in pots to be planted.

The gardens on the side path leading to the greenhouse were also gone (left photo).  The dahlias, lantanas, and orange gerbera daisies were all gone, replaced by more violas.

I saw only one – ONE – bee the entire time.  There were no butterflies, no dragonflies, no wasps, and few birds.  Of course, with how few flowers there were, I wasn’t overly surprised.  But still, it was warm enough I would have expected to see at least a few bees getting a last load of pollen before winter.

I did see Christmas lights and they were lit up too!  You have to look closely due to how bright it was outside, but those yellow dots on the shrub and the white dots on the ground cover next to it are Christmas lights.

Did I have fun?  Of course!  There’s always something to take a picture of and as I said at the beginning, the opportunity for a walk and some fresh air is important too.  So here’s a few more things that I saw last weekend.

Remember to keep looking for beauty everywhere.  Enjoy the seasons, such as they are.  And take a walk to get some fresh air, everyday if possible.

Go outside.  Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone.
Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road
like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads
day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. 
We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking
and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. 
Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. 
Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. 
And that’s the point.  Just walk, see, sit down if you like. 
And be.  Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have,
and realise that that is enough to be happy.
~ Charlotte Eriksson

To wrap up – did this nurture my creativity?  Actually, it was a difficult post for me.  I had to scan two sets of photographs, looking for commonalities and differences and keep a storyline straight.  It would have been so much easier to just post what I saw on my walk in October, but that didn’t accomplish what I wanted to set out.  So yes, trying something different did nurture my creativity and give me ideas for future ideas with showing my photography.

To see what others are did for their Walks in October, click here.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.




Observations On Autumn


Used Topaz Labs Impression filters to create a painting
Used Topaz Labs Impression filters to create a painting; this is Witch Hole Pond,  Acadia National Park in Maine

Use what you have, use what the world gives you.
Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness;
harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire.
Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled
with the smells of nostalgia: apples bubbling into sauce,
roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself.
The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die
are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see
is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before
the black and white silence of winter.
― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

I love that phrase above – that the turning of the leaves is the world’s oldest performance art.

The color change hasn’t quite come to central Virginia yet.  The trees have a yellow tinge – some do at least – others remain stubbornly green, and some are slowly going from green straight to brown.  A few, very few, have started to show red on their tips.

The shadows are lengthening as the sun stays lower in the horizon.  Even at noon there is a long shadow on the ground and the light remains golden all day long.

The seagulls have come back to the James River.  They head somewhere, presumably north, in the spring.  Their return is a sure sign of fall.

It was the opposite when I lived in the Midwest.  The redwing blackbirds would return in the spring.  I’d drive by a field and see them clinging to a cattail, swaying in the wind.  Then one day in August – I never could pinpoint the exact day it happened – but one day, they’d be gone.  Just like that!  And I knew fall was coming soon.

Of course, the food changes in the fall too.  The apples at the farmer’s market?  Wonderful.  They are so much better than store bought apples with their crisp texture and equally crisp, sweet taste.  The peaches and corn are long gone, the tomatoes nearly so.  But the apples and pumpkins are everywhere.  With the cooler nights, I can roast turkeys in the oven again, driving myself and the dogs wild with those wonderful smells.

Used Topaz Labs Clarity filter to brighten up the colors and deepen the shadows
Used Topaz Labs Clarity filter to brighten up the colors and deepen the shadows in the photograph of Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Maine

Today I nurtured my creativity during my lunch walk by making it a point to simply observe what was around me.  The study of biological phenomena has a name – phenology – which I discussed several years  in my posts here and here.  I have, with practice, improved my observations of nature and what it means.  It’s much more relaxing to walk and notice what’s around me in that moment than to dwell on the latest problem sitting on my desk or plan what needs to be said in a phone conference later on.

Happiness, not in another place but this place…
not for another hour, but this hour.
― Walt Whitman

 I also nurtured my creativity by processing this picture, then using some plug-ins to enhance it more.  The photograph one (directly above) turned out superb, but I rather like the painting one better (at the top).  Although I started with a preset in Topaz to create the painting effect, I adjusted it so that the colors were still distinguishable and it wasn’t just a big splash of bright colors.

Just so you can see what I did, here’s the original photograph before any processing.  Remember that I shoot in raw, so anything will need some further processing before it’s usable.  Were I to shoot in jpg, the camera makes those decisions for me.  It doesn’t start out in a bad place, but it needs some help.

Unadjusted original
Unadjusted original photograph of Witch Hole Pond, Acadia National Park in Maine

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


Summer Colors

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The summer doldrums came early this year.  Last year, I didn’t complain about it until nearly the end of August.  This year, I’ve been languishing in it for the last several weeks.

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It didn’t stop me from going to the botanical gardens several weeks ago to see if possibly – MAYBE – I could find something to take pictures of.

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Maybe I could.

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Or maybe not :)

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Or maybe you have to look very closely at the center of this rather mediocre picture to see that oh wow!  Nancy got a hummingbird in her picture!  And she did it with a fisheye wide angle lens that was full out opened up, because she didn’t have time to do anything except swing the camera up, snap two pictures and this was the best one to show everyone!

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Because if you want to know what a picture looks like when a fisheye wide angle lens does when it’s all the way open, this is what you get (and that bridge is actually straight):

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Elsewhere in the garden, the roses were still in bloom, although you didn’t want to look too closely at most of them.  Still, you can see how green everything is.  We’ve had rain and rain and rain and . . . well, you get the picture.  Hopefully there are no hurricanes anytime soon.  The ground is so saturated, we could lose a lot of trees if the winds got too bad.

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It’s been much more fun to come home from work, sit on the deck for a while, eat supper, read, play with a few photos and then go to bed, then to do just about anything else.  I’d say sorry about that, but I’m not.  I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

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Did you like the roses in the very first picture?  Did you notice there were two bees in the right one?  They weren’t fighting either.  In that photo, the wide angle lens made the roses really pop out while the ones behind receded very nicely.  Kind of the opposite of the bokeh effect that I usually do (where the background is blurred).

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And now I’ve used up the rest of the pictures that I uploaded.  Time to go.  Bye!

Anatomy of Spring

Spring arrived this week in central Virginia, bringing a different gift each day.  Seeing robins shivering in snow is a sign of spring, but it isn’t really spring yet until the trees have leaves on them!  Change has finally come, which is also this week’s photo challenge.

Monday – I came in to work, to find that the Bradford pears across from my desk were in full bloom.  They didn’t seem quite as lush as last year, but pretty nonetheless.

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From last year; I didn’t bring my camera fast enough to get this year’s blooms.

Tuesday – My car had a fine layer of yellow pollen on it.  The windshield needed a wash before I pulled out of the driveway in the morning.  The cherry trees on Brown’s Island were in bloom.

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Brown’s Island from the canal side.

Wednesday – My car is streaked with yellow pollen.  On the way in to work at 8 am, I happily noticed that the ends of the tree branches were swollen with green.  Anytime now, I thought, anytime and we will have leaves.  When I went out at noon to run an errand, the trees had leafed out!  Of course, 90 degree temperatures helped accelerate that considerately, but there was green everywhere.

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The rose garden at the botanical gardens.

Thursday – The cherry blossoms are already past peak and the Bradford pears are leafed out, their white blossoms gone for another year.

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Friday – It rained, the temperature went down, the cherry blossoms came down quicker yet, and everything looked greener.

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Saturday – The trees are continuing to leaf out, my car continues to be loaded with pollen in the mornings, and a moderate 75 degrees made for a nice afternoon reading on the deck after taking a walk at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.  Best yet, the mosquitoes are not out yet, although the turtles certainly are.

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It’s definitely not a snapping turtle. This year, the turtles are huge,
much bigger than they were several years ago.

And the beagle doesn’t know it, but the new package of squeak toys has one of his beloved soccer balls.  We haven’t given it to him yet, but his Daddy will probably do some throwing tomorrow so the beagle can have his play time.

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Someone was in the kitchen wondering if he was going to get a treat!

The unlabeled photos were taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

A Walk In November (Autumn Sounds)

This week’s Six Word Friday uses the word “sound”, something I was thinking about after my walk last weekend at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens:

Autumn has more sounds than expected.

I don’t know why, but I was expecting a quiet, contemplative walk around the gardens, enjoying silence and beauty.  The beauty was there, but it was not very silent!

The birds were chirping and twittering like crazy.  There was ambient insect noises too, although I only saw one fly, one bee and a few wasps.  I have no idea what was making insect noise.  There was, of course, the rustling of leaves under foot, but since we were still coming into peak colors, it wasn’t as noisy as it could have been.

Add to that, the gardens were busy for a cool Saturday morning.  There were a lot of families there, with little kids running and laughing (and the inevitable crying).  The hill between the greenhouse and rose gardens had all kinds of little legs running up and down it and adults as well, chasing after and trying to retrieve those fast movers.  There should have been some good naps that afternoon!

Instead of quiet and solitude, the gardens had energy and motion to them.  Once I realized that the mood was not as I expected, I smiled, relaxed into it and just enjoyed it for what it was.

If you double click on any of the pictures below, it will open in a slide show so that you can see them larger.  Also, each time you close and open my page, the catalog will rearrange itself.

Enjoy your weekend!

Other walks are posted for January, March, April, and October.

Thoughts On Fall Colors

It happens this way every year – I see all the photos from family, blogs, and on the Internet of bright fall foliage.  It’s gorgeous and colorful and I am oh-so-jealous.  Fall comes later to central Virginia and in early November, I finally decide we’ve missed it.  The colors are nice, but nothing spectacular.

And then the magic happens and peak color happens.  Starting Monday this week, the color change went from pretty to brilliant.  The reds are bright, the orange shimmer, and the yellows look like gold in the sunlight.

I have to pay attention when I’m driving because I want to gawk at the lovely trees lining the expressway.  During lunch today, I was fascinated with the bright red trees lining the apartments behind the restaurant.  I didn’t read, I looked out the windows the entire time I ate my sandwich.  The trees were backlit by a bright sun, shining right the leaves which made it even prettier.  I couldn’t take a picture with my cell phone – the back lighting is hard to get right – but I could enjoy just watching it.

So here’s to enjoying the moment and appreciating beauty in nature, whether the leaves are still up or not (or for other parts of the world, green and leafy).  Remember to look around and simply enjoy what is there right now.

This picture from last weekend has my favorite combination of colors – yellow, maroon & orange, with a hint of green and brown!