New beginnings

Celebrate endings—for they precede new beginnings. ~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

This week, and the last few months, have been about endings and beginnings. I am nearing the end of the mixing and mastering of my Watershed CD , a three year effort. We hope to send it for duplication in a week, thanks to the engineering wizardry of my husband/sound engineer Bill. We spent the last half of the spring semester teaching from home because of COVID restrictions and realized how much we liked being home all of the time. I spent hours at the piano, sketching new ideas while looking into the green woods.

piano

Angel was delighted to have us home 24/7; we snuggle a lot on the sofa.

The garden got some extra attention too – early summer was beautiful, in spite of  the late hard frosts.

Heat and drought were hard on the garden in June and July; although some plants bloomed, the flowers were short lived. It rained last night, with loud thunderstorms and heavy downpours – this morning the trees and plants are green and glowing and the garden looks lush again. gardenafterrain

We liked being at home so much these past several months that when the chance came to retire earlier than expected, we both took it.  Bill and I are now officially retired from our teaching jobs of 30+ years. We have been celebrating with cake, cake

with wine,

pianowine

and with mornings on the deck complete with guitar music. billgtr copy

All the things I love the most are here – the sound of the wind in the trees, the dance of a hummingbird at the flowers, the ebb and flow of the seasons, my piano, a house full of books and of course my husband and Angel. I am leaving a large part of my life behind with no regrets – it was a good ending – and now I am ready to begin the third act. I am still a composer, a gardener, a writer, a photographer – but now I have time to reflect, to explore, and to be more present on this page.

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. ~ Steve Jobs

whiteoak

I hope that you are all well in these most difficult times and that you are able to stay safe, full of hope and surrounded by love.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Serenity in the garden

We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. ~Sri S. Satchidananda

The garden is waking up and I am a frequent visitor. When I cannot bear another word or warning of the world’s calamities, I step outside. A month ago, the world was white with snow. FebSnowgate

Then the March winds came and turned the sky blue. marchskies

The robins and a pair of mourning doves are regular visitors to the birdbath and their songs ring out in a quiet world that has begun to bloom. The snowdrops appeared first, tiny clusters of white that nodded in the early spring sun and shrugged off the snow. The Tommy crocus (Crocus tommisinianus) appeared soon after, to the delight of a few early insects.

Now the hellebores are stealing the show. Some are named varieties with strong colors and sometimes doubled in form. (click any photo in the mosaic to see a full size image)

Others are chance seedlings of a few plants gifted to me by a friend many years ago. They seem to have crossed with the fancy ones and made some pretty color combinations.  A few even lift their faces up to the spring sun.

Forsythia and Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry) are bearing their cheery yellow flowers while a few daffodils come into bloom.

I leave behind worry each time I step into the garden and embrace the serenity that I find there. May you find inspiration in the beauty around you and dream beautiful dreams.

My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful. ~Abram L. Urban

All photos and text ©2020 Lynn Emberg Purse, except where noted

Painted leaves

October is the month for painted leaves . . . ~Thoreau

While the garden is quietly collapsing back into the earth, the trees are a riot of color. Cold crisp nights dipping towards the freezing point have triggered the shift from soft green leaves to a paintbox of crisp autumn colors. Most of my time outside has been spent looking upwards, that’s where the drama is. (click on any photo to see a full size image)

 

October proved a riot a riot to the senses and climaxed those giddy last weeks before Halloween. ~Keith Donohue

A few tender plants linger – a coral Million Bells tucked under the spiral staircase, Gloriosa daisies in a planter on the deck, a mound of coral red ‘Sedona’ coleus in a protected corner of the house.

 

The herb circle in the front of the house remains lush, with tall grasses and creamy seedhead clouds of our native white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum)octoberherbcircle

along with a mound of tall blue ageratums self-sown from last year. ageratum

A few days ago, a flock of robins gathered for their flight south and indicated to me that they wanted their favorite watering bowl at the foot of the oaks cleaned and refilled. I obliged and they drank long and deep before taking to the skies. oakmaple

The leaves of the kousa dogwoods have turned a deep russet red kousaleaveswhile the wild grapevine leaves remain green even as their stems turn scarlet. wildgrapevineleaf

As I step outside each morning, a rich sweet smell arises from the earth, the scent of fallen fruit, decomposing leaves and rain soaked earth, the smell of true autumn. hardyplumbagoleaves

At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth . . .  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

 

 

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.