A Late Winter Walk

Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.
– Henry David Thoreau

A few days before the official start of spring, I took a walk at one of my favorite places, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. The shadows were lovely, even though the trees are still bare. The crocus were in bloom – just barely – so spring is definitely on its way.

Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The last time I shared pictures from the botanical gardens, it was still early fall (click here to see) and there was an abundance of colors all over. The day I took these photos did not have such. I still enjoyed being there, but had kept my expectations low as to what I would see.

The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

When the leaves are down, I see things that are otherwise covered up. I made that observation years ago and it’s still true today.

Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Here’s another view of the greenhouse. I don’t normally stand this far back, but I loved the composition of the center of the greenhouse against the empty trees.

Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I also don’t normally photograph the bridge from the gazebo (my gazebo shots are usually taken from the bridge though!), but once again, I liked how the light played with the shapes. Plus it was pretty empty, so I didn’t have to wait so long to get pictures without people in them.

Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I’ve noticed when I walk the dogs around the neighborhood that the leaves are sounding like fall when they skitter across the blacktopped road. We have a lot of old oak trees around the homes here and they don’t drop their leaves until they’re nearly ready to start putting out new green ones. So everyday there’s more leaves on the grass, the cars, and skittering around in the wind.

Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I was cold. I didn’t wear a winter coat, but I was wearing a heavier hat and my fingerless gloves.


The greenhouse was its usual oasis of warmth and bright colors. I love going in there when it’s cold out! Years ago, a fellow blogger (Patti at A New Day Dawns) left me a comment that the greenhouse was like dessert after a cold day in the garden. I laughed then and I still laugh now at that, because that’s exactly what it reminds me each time I go in there when the garden has so little color. In fact, some of the pictures that I took in January 2012 had more color and foliage than I found in mid-March of 2015.

That statue had a little brown spider (most likely a wolf spider, nothing more) on its head. I didn’t realize it until I was nearly done shooting the picture and the spider moved! And yep, every one of my carefully composed pictures had that little spider on it. I did clone out of the final photo above. Still, wish I’d known it was there. I would have come back later to take the pictures.

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I enjoyed the beauty of the day. No, it’s not the over-the-top cacophony of colors that I see from April to October. But it was pretty, the fresh air was great, and I enjoyed finding new photos that I wouldn’t have probably taken when the trees were in full leaf. It was a good day.

The Beauty of Shadows

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings — always darker, emptier and simpler.

― Friedrich Nietzsche

All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

This week’s photo challenge is “shadowed“, in which we are told:

Experimenting with shadows can be a fun and rewarding way to push yourself to try something new with your camera, your subject, and your surroundings. Shadows can also add depth and drama to an otherwise ordinary image.


Self-Portrait Using the Topaz Adjust "Pop" Filter
Self-Portrait Using the Topaz Adjust “Pop” Filter

I love shadows.  I love sunlight too, but shadows bring other things.  Mystery, for one, and on a hot day, respite.

They can also bring beauty to a picture, giving it depth and variety.  I simply like the interplay of the dark and light, the patterns it makes, and the challenge of capturing what I see so that I can show it to everyone else later.

What I liked about the picture above was the beauty of the sunlight from the windows, the shadow of the window cross hatch on the wall, and the light reflecting up and down the wall behind me.  Although some of the other effects were interesting, none caught that light flare as well as a simple processing did.  While it’s not black and white, it did turn out nearly monochromatic, which brings its own beauty and highlights the sun on the wall.

Other photos that used shadows are:

Working a Day Job – Part 1

Naming My Emotions

Time for Tea


Dragons & Monsters

This week’s Fun Foto Challenge over at Cee’s Photography are the colors green and red.  It can be one or the other or both.

I went Friday night to see the lights at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.  I’m still editing down the photos, but thought I’d start your week by sharing some green and red photos from that night.

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This is, of course, the main path into the gardens.  I’d come shortly before sunset.  The day was warmish and I was able to wear my lighter coat.  Once the sun set though, brrrrrr.  I went back out to the car to get my sweatshirt, heavier coat and tripod for the night photography.  I carry winter hat and gloves in the car and took those with also.  The hat is not very glamorous (read – downright ugly) but it’s warm and I was glad to have it as the evening went on.

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Thankfully it wasn’t overly crowded and I could set up my tripod without someone walking into it or me.  Even as I carried it, people were careful to not bump me, which I very much appreciated.  When I say it wasn’t overly crowded, there was room to walk and stop to take pictures.  However, it was a great many more people than I’m used to seeing there. For some photos (like the one above), I had to really wait to get a photo without people in it.

The decorations were great!  I got all kinds of shots, from the conservatory being lit up to the Christmas trees to the gazebos decorated with gold and silver lights.  The temperature dropped though from the daytime high of 57 degrees to 37 degrees by the time I left.  I was really cold by then, but satisfied to have seen the lights this year.

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I love the reflections in the water!

I felt bad for the little kids though.  A number of them had meltdowns, I think from how late it was to the fact they couldn’t just run around.  The children’s area had a number of activities going on, so there were things specific for them to do.  It was hard to not be sad for the families whose children weren’t coming home from school ever again.  I’d so looked forward to going to the lights all week and wanted to enjoy my evening of photography, but the days events kept intruding into my thoughts.

One of the things I’ve been doing at the gardens is asking people if they’d like me to take their pictures.  Sometimes people are reluctant, but I point out that they’re having a lovely time and wouldn’t it be nice to have a picture to remember their visit?  I did several photos that evening, but one couple surprised me when they turned around and asked if I didn’t want a picture of myself.  I was surprised!  After an initial hesitation, I thought it was a great idea.

Yeah, the shirt clashed with the tree.  I didn't plan that too well!
Yeah, the shirt clashed with the tree. I didn’t plan that too well!

It’s going to be a busy week between a few last preparations for Christmas, deadlines at work before year end close begins in January, and keeping up with my diet, exercise, and sleep.  I’m really looking forward to being off between Christmas and New Years – yippee!

Have a good week yourselves.

I started posting again in A Daily Life, my other blog for bloggers, writers and diarists.  The latest post is a warning about spam when another blog lists link upon link, one of which happens to be yours.  Read more here.  As a reminder, the intent of A Daily Life is to share writing prompts, book reviews, ideas for writing, and encouragement on creativity.  It also contains various technical things that a blogger might be interested in such as adding widgets to your sidebar (a perennial favorite).  If you’re interested in its various topics, be sure to subscribe.

Real Women Have Scars

When I visited my daughter last month, she showed me her ankles and complained about all the bug bites that have turned into scars.  She unfortunately has quite a few on her ankles, but when I looked at them, all I could think was –

I’d rather you do things and risk scars than do nothing and look perfect

I’ve felt that way my whole life.  My mother despaired of my sister ever wearing skirts because of all the scars on her knees from falling in the gravel when she was running.  I’d look at the latest set of cuts and think, “at least you were doing something”.

My sister and I holding some kittens. I’m on the left.

Women complain about how how their bodies scar and sag after having babies.  Well ya’ know, I think that’s pretty darn normal.  It’s a sign of beauty, not something to obsess about because of Hollywood’s unrealistic expectations of how a woman should look just weeks after giving birth.

My daughter has scars on her ankles because she’s out in the yard every morning and evening taking care of her dogs.  The flies, mosquitoes, chiggers, and fire ants have all chomped her at some point.  She’s in the yard because she’s a successful and well-regarded breeder of Italian mastiffs, a business she started from scratch.  She grew it on her own, learning along the way.  It wasn’t something her Dad or I showed her how to do.  She works all day with computers and all night taking care of her big babies.

Big Red snuggling with his Momma.

When she isn’t working with the dogs, she’s taking care of the old farmhouse that she owns.  She repairs and maintains it, sometimes with her Dad’s help.  She loves puttering around her yard, putting in trees and shrubs, planting a garden, and picking apples, pears and blackberries in her own back yard.  She’s not yet needed stitches for hurting herself, thankfully, but she’s had the usual aches and bruises that comes with being active.

Taken in her from yard last month. So pretty!

I have my own scars from being a real woman.  Some have faded with time, like the scar from my C-section and the severe burn I got from oven a few years back.  The two on my face are still noticeable  (from splitting my head open as a child and from a skin infection I contracted after travelling).

I don’t have the scars she does, mostly because I haven’t done the things she has.  I’ve had a good life, but I envy that she’s had more of a life than I did.  At her age, I was establishing my career and struggling to be a full-time employee with a small child.  My scars weren’t from doing things, it was from wondering if life would always be so stressful (yes), that I’d never have time to myself (somewhat improved), and how to raise this child when I was so busy and tired all the time.  My favorite boy toy was still in the workplace and found his life as limiting as I found mine.

Of course, when I walk around looking like this, no one is going to think I’m very particular about my appearance! I’m heading into the botanical gardens and am dressed very comfortably.

The purpose of this post isn’t to talk about the scars inside of us.  It’s to remind myself and everyone else that the scars we see – the imperfections that result from living our lives – like the Velveteen Rabbit, are part of what makes us real.  Real lives, real scars.

In a world that is so fast to judge on superficial appearances, it’s no surprise that I go against the flow and find it to be much more genuine when real women have real bodies, complete with scars.  It would be nice if we could all look flawless, but that’s just not how it works, as my self-portrait above shows :)

Daybook Entry – February 11

FOR TODAY – Saturday, 2/11/12

Outside my window. . . dawn is breaking and I hear the birds singing. It’s a rainy, gray, dreary day, but the birds are out! I’d have loved to watch more of the light breaking, but there were dogs to let out, a mess to clean up (which is why they’re locked in the kitchen at night) and of course, the morning ritual of the giving of the treats. That ritual has made a big difference in getting a beagle to come in willingly when I’m trying to get out of the house in the morning.

I am thinking. . . about all the things I need and want to do. Before starting this, I opened up a new page in Evernote and listed out everything I could think of to help clear my mind. I have some things to follow up on at work, ideas for both my blogs, things I need to order this weekend, and some photography equipment to learn.

I am thankful. . . for my husband. He’s still upstairs sleeping, so I have this time to concentrate on my writing. We’ve been going out for breakfast each day before work and I love having quality time with him before the day becomes chaotic. Love is not about flowers on Valentine’s Day. It’s about him making me supper each night, helping clean the house, and encouraging me to write even though there’s a gazillion other things that should be more urgent.

In the kitchen. . . two dirty dogs have gone back to bed in their fragrant dog beds. The beds are too big to run through our washer. We haven’t decided yet if we want to take them to a laundromat or just replace them. Otherwise, the kitchen is clean from last night’s supper and waiting for today’s meals to happen.

I am wearing. . . ratty pajamas. I’ve had them since my daughter was in high school nearly a decade ago. I love them though because they’re warm when the house is cold. I turned up the heat, but it’s still cold here by the windows.

I am creating. . . photographs using special effects filters. One of my blogging friends suggested it. I don’t do it very often. I take pictures to record my life and am not sufficiently interested in spending hours tweaking them. My favorite boy toy does that and he creates truly stunning fine art photography. If I spent several days working on a single picture, I’d never have a record of my life.

I am going. . . to have a few days off next weekend. Monday is a company holiday (President’s Day) and I’m taking off an extra day as well. I’m not sure yet what, if anything, I’ll do. I have a nice stack of books from the library so I might just lay around and read for an entire day. Of course, I might do that this afternoon too!.

I am wondering. . . what else I can remove from my schedule to have time to do the things I want to do. I’ve removed much already, but I still have too little time. We haven’t decided whether to jettison the garden or convert it to something less frustrating than vegetables, such as my herbs. Nothing has grown well or tasted very good, we’ve yet to get consistently good tomatoes from it, and to be honest, it would be less time and money to go to the Farmer’s Market than keep struggling with this.

I am reading. . . The Secret Staircase by Melanie Jackson (A Wendover House Mystery). I can’t remember if this came up on Amazon’s Daily Deal or if it was a recommendation based on my reading. I’m enjoying it quite a bit. It’s written in first person, but Louisa, the main character, does not live in her head – i.e., the word “I” does not figure overly much in the narration. Louisa observes her environment and the people around her as she solves the mystery of her grandmother’s childhood and genealogy.

I am hoping. . . that tax season goes well this year, everyone stays healthy, and we get our work done without a lot of drama or stress.

I am looking forward to. . . doing some exploring as the weather gets nicer. I really enjoyed all the pictures last year from our field trips.

I am learning. . . some new Photoshop skills. The Topaz Labs filters are really cool, but way more powerful than I currently am able to do. I’m also not sure I’m observant enough to see when a filter looks good vs when it looks faked. On the other hand, some of the stuff that comes straight out of my camera looks fake when the colors are so bright and the sharpness so defined. So maybe it doesn’t matter as long as I like it.

Around the house. . . the dog gates from last night are still up, keeping the dogs in the kitchen. The miniature pinscher is still in his crate. On cold days like this, he thinks the term “hibernate” was meant for him. Of course, if the beagle starts barking at our neighbor, just watch that sign on his crate whip from “Leave Me Alone” to “Let Me Out NOW”.

I am pondering. . . whether I want to go out for breakfast by myself. My boy toy is still upstairs sleeping and I’m getting hungry. I could fix some yogurt and granola, but what’s the fun of that?

© 2012 dogear6 llc

A favorite quote for today. . . I just found this one! I’m not sure what book or diary it’s from, but I really liked it:

You must live in the present,
launch yourself on every wave,
find your eternity in each moment.
Henry David Thoreau

One of my favorite things. . . is reading. I could read all the time. I realized years ago that part of our budget for money was shopping at the bookstore each week to see what was new and that my time budget also had to allow for trips to the library.

A few plans for the rest of the week. . . we have reservations for Valentine’s Day at Maggiano’s. In past years, we stayed home and cooked a nice meal rather than go out. The last few years, I made a note of it to get reservations right after New Year’s Day and it’s been nice. Maggiano’s uses their regular menu, so we know we can have a moderately priced meal.

A peek into my workday. . . I usually am up shortly before my alarm. I shower, get dressed, let the dogs out and in (plus the giving of the treats). My favorite boy toy and I leave in separate cars for Cracker Barrel, where we have a nice breakfast together. I go to work and he heads back to his home office. At work, it’s meetings, phone calls, time spent training employees, and administrative things to be done.

The legislatures are back in session around the country, so I’m tracking new tax bills and coordinating with various industry groups to promote or defeat legislation. I enjoy that part of my job, but it takes time away from other things that need to be done. I work out during lunch on most days; if I wait until I get home, I’m usually too tired.

And that’s my day so far on this Saturday, February 11, 2012 (finished after breakfast out with  my favorite boy toy).

Over at A Daily Life is a book review on the history of the Oxford Dictionary, as well as some help manging comments and pingbacks.

My self-portrait was adjusted using different filters in Topaz, including the toy camera and a tint.  The photo below is not adjusted.  It’s my favorite oak tree in the backyard.