Circles of Light

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness. ~Anne Frank

The early mornings are dark now, the light is late to arrive. It is the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere, the solstice that marks the turn to longer days of light. (The word “solstice” comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “sun stands still”) Humans have long celebrated that moment as we turn from dark to light by lighting candles, burning logs, bringing evergreens into our homes, reminding ourselves that the days will grow longer. solsticesunset8

A few years ago, I took a class in creating mandalas, a circle that encloses the expression of our inner selves. The circle is an ancient symbol – the circle of life, the circle of a wedding ring, the circle of councils and celebrations. Some of the mandalas we created in that class were ephemeral, fashioned from found objects in nature. This one of ferns and moss reminds me of a Christmas wreath. intothemoss

At some point during the course, as I set the point of the drafting compass to paper, I suddenly realized that I had created my lower garden as a mandala without realizing it. I had found the center point of the garden plot and pounded a stake into it, tied a rope to it and let it guide me as I walked in concentric circles around it, creating planting beds and paths by dragging a hoe on the ground through the loose dirt.

mid-April

Circle Garden in mid-April

Walking these circular paths in the garden in any season is like tracing the steps of a labyrinth and always puts me in harmony with the natural world. cherryaftersnow

My favorite drawing on paper, however, expresses my love for the earth and my hope for peace and light for the world. Ironically, I discovered that when drawing the wings, the light was made more powerful by drawing shadows for contrast and depth. And so life goes, shadow and light, circles and seasons, sorrows and joys, through the great round of life. On this day and in this season, my wish for each of you  is that the light grows brighter both in your world and in your heart, from the inside to the outside and back again.

wings_tree_mandala copy

In winter, the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity. ~ John Burroughs

All text and images ©2018 Lynn Emberg Purse except where noted.

Here’s a musical view of the winter solstice.

Gratitude among contradictions

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ~A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly

Even as we celebrated the American holiday of Thanksgiving this week, I am mindful that gratitude is seasonless and ever appropriate regardless of temporal circumstances. I have taken a long hiatus from this blog as I dove deep underground for reflection and renewal these past few months. Surfacing into a heavy teaching schedule this fall only complicated matters, yet each day brings something for which I am grateful.

herbcircle2

 “I have been finding treasures in places I did not want to search. I have been hearing wisdom from tongues I did not want to listen. I have been finding beauty where I did not want to look. And I have learned so much from journeys I did not want to take.” ~Suzy Kassem

There were many moments of beauty in the garden during those months. Flowers bloomed, butterflies graced the garden, and the rain came often to soak the ground and encourage growth and flowering. (click on any photo in the mosaic to see a full size image)

Two weeks ago, the autumnal light slanted through the woods while the mild fall weather had barely turned the leaves into shades of red and gold.

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf. ~Albert Schweitzer

Chestnut Oak leaf with acornsLast week, a freezing rain followed by snow turned the woods into a fairy land but bent to the ground many trees that had not yet dropped their leaves.

brokenpineboughsGrateful that our electric power stayed on,  several friends were not so lucky and dealt with many cold days and dark nights. Alas, our white pines suffered damage from the heavy load and lost several branches, crushing a chair beneath them. Fortunately the Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa) and Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) trees sprung back up after being bowed to the ground. Resilience in nature is not to be underestimated!

Today’s frigid temperatures revealed roses frozen in mid-bloom and a bounty of rose hips from previous blooms that will feed birds throughout the winter. frozenrose

Even as people in many parts of our country and our world are in distress, I am aware of my blessings as I write this from the warmth of my home, my sweet Angel curled next to me, my husband serenading us on his guitar. How fortunate I am to have a home, a loving family, a beautiful garden, and meaningful work.  Marcel Proust reminds us “let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” swallowtailechinacea

May your soul blossom now and through the coming days and please, send a word of thanks to those who have given so much, regardless of circumstances. Heroes walk among us, every day people who give their time, their hearts and sometimes their lives.

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light. ~Albert Schweitzer

All text and images ©2018 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved, except where noted.

Tipping Point

Tipping point – the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place ~Merriam-Webster 

For the past few weeks, spring bulbs have been blooming at my feet, adding shots of welcome color to a skeletal world of bare branches and empty earth. Each day brought something new into flower.

The past few days, after warm and rainy weather, the world looks if an artist had spilled an entire palette of colors into the landscape. The skeletons of bark and branch are suddenly clothed in spring finery and the once bare earth is filled with plants rising up to meet the new canopy overhead.

The kousa dogwood reveals its delicate young leaves against the woods around it. dogwoodleaves

Vibrant new oak leaves are festooned with tassels of Victorian flowers whose pollen sifts to the ground, layering everything with a fine gold dust. oakflowers

The shrubs are fully flushed out with lush green foliage and some, like this Viburnum plicatum ‘Summer Snowflake’ are beginning to flower. woodlandedgeWP

 

A lady bug emerges into the cool morning air from the rough leaf of a Chinese viburnum, where she sheltered during the night.ladybugleaf

Each morning when I step outside, my eyes are dazzled by the richness of the garden, herbbedsMay

the light sifting through leaf northwalkWP

and flower. bellacoolaWP

Scenes that were flat and dull are now filled with shadow and light, herbcornerWP

shape and color. bleedingheartWP

I am too restless to stay indoors; I trace my path through the garden again and again to greet each new face, marvel at each new sign of life.  cherrytreearchWP

As the light fades in the evening, I stand on the deck for one last drink of color.  glMay

Early spring has tipped deliriously into May and each new day promises more change, more surprise, more beauty. Wherever you find yourself, may your days be spent in the beauty of nature awakening.  lowergrdnMayWP

Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire. ~Virgil

 

Fits and starts

“fits and starts” – with irregular movement; with much stopping and starting” ~ The Free Dictionary

Spring is dancing with one step forward and two steps back, a tango of fits and starts. T-shirt and sandals one week, winter coat and boots the next.  The week before our spring break from school, the days were mild and I hoped to spend the break in the garden.

It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before…
There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare, ~William Wordsworth

 

Alas, my week in the garden was short circuited by cold rainy days and a few snowstorms, yet the flowers bloomed on.

 

Once school restarted, the weather warmed up again but only on the week days! Soon another winter storm came roaring through and left 6” of snow over the garden, captured in the video below.

While I was dismayed by the weather, Angel and our guest poodle Charlie Brown had a grand time playing in the snow, making me laugh at their antics.

 

The snow has not yet left the earth, but spring is already asking to enter your heart.  ~Chekhov

On this last day of March, the sun is shining and the air is warming; it is a good day to work in the garden. The snow has finally melted away into the ground, fixing nitrogen into the soil and promising a wonderful garden season to come. Each day, something new blooms or shows promise of growth. The Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry) is a mass of tiny yellow blossoms and small yellow daffodils are coming into flower.

 

As we move into April, I look forward to seeing the garden come alive. Wherever you are, I hope you treasure and enjoy the beginning of spring as the earth comes to life.

In March, winter is holding back and spring is pulling forward. Something holds and something pulls inside of us too. ~Jean Hersey

All photos and text (except where noted) ©2018 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved.

Gold in Its Pocket

Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons. ~Jim Bishop

goldoakleaves

Cold nights finally arrived this week and transformed the trees and shrubs around the garden and through the woods. Green is giving way to gold and bronze and red, filtering the already golden light through a stained glass canopy of warm colors. It is one thing to view the fiery colors from open ground and another entirely different experience to walk beneath them. I feel as if I am in a new world seen through a new lens.

oakleaves

Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonize. ~George Eliot

herbtreesfallEverywhere I turn, most of the green beneath my feet and above my head has been changed out to a new color scheme. The morning has been a constant shift between hesitant sunshine and spats of rain and every surface is saturated and rich with color.

“And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days…”
~ Dylan Thomas

(click on any photo in the mosaics to enlarge)

A few flowers continue to bloom, offering rich color and the last bits of food to pollinators.

Some of the garden faces are still smiling.

Angel and I make the rounds several times a day – not only are the colors beautiful but the autumn earth is rich with scents. “At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth.” (Rilke)

The leaves are beginning to fall as the rain begins again; it won’t be long before the trees are bare and this glorious color is a memory. “Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.” (Chad Sugg)
autumngate

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

All photos and text ©2017 Lynn Emberg Purse except where noted; All Rights Reserved.