A Garden in the Woods

doubledecksJuneWPAs a child, my favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder book was “Little House in the Big Woods“. When we began to look for a larger property to garden fifteen years ago, it was no surprise that I fell in love with a house tucked into the middle of an acre of woods. I wanted to be surrounded by trees in a home that was an integral part of the landscape and I got my wish. Every level of the house has a door to the outside, sometimes three or four, and two levels of decks make walking out into the landscape an every day joy. ~Lynn Emberg Purse, A Garden in the Woods (Pittsburgh Botanic Garden tour book)

toursignWPOn the last Sunday in June, I opened my garden for the annual Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Town and Country Tour – an all day event where visitors explore selected local gardens. A few days later, I was told that 500 tickets were sold; I think everyone of those people came through my garden! I had worked for months to prepare the garden for close scrutiny, still prepping until ten minutes before the garden gates opened. I was especially pleased that many visitors made a point of telling me that they chose to come here first because of the description I wrote of the garden, beginning with the paragraph above.

circlesvertWPMy generous husband serenaded everyone by playing guitar on the deck for many hours of the tour. I loved greeting visitors, answering their questions, and discussing approaches to gardening. One of the comments that I heard over and over again was “this is a sanctuary!” and I would agree with a smile.  Here is what those on tour saw as they explored the garden, with the text taken from the garden tour description. You can listen to Bill’s guitar wizardry on Woman In the Meadow (composed by Mark Lucas, recorded on the Tribute CD by Bill Purse) while you enjoy the photos (all images ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved).

 Visitors arrive outside of the fence where many plants have been tested for deer resistance. Native plants rub shoulders with polite foreigners, each adding to the beauty of the garden while supporting a variety of wildlife. Flowers, grasses, herbs, shrubs and groundcovers thrive in relaxed casual planting beds that connect to the surrounding woodland.

Inside the fence, the open areas embraced by a tall backdrop of woods contain a formal structure of circular gravel paths and beds filled with striking color.

Hundreds of roses, lilies, daylilies, clematis, Hydrangea, perennials, and hosta make up the romantic plantings that thrive protected from deer and rabbits.

Rugged stone steps lead from the gardens up to the deck where visitors can get a “bird’s eye” view of the planting beds.

Although this is a “one woman” garden, I want to extend a special thanks to my niece Carly, my friend Doug, and my husband Bill who helped me prepare the garden and grounds, and my sister-in-law Susie and all of the volunteers from the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden who helped the tour day run so smoothly.

Home is the nicest word there is. ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

This post is linked back to Jude’s monthly theme of August: Open Gardens. You can explore some fabulous gardens there!

A New Season

maple leafAutumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~Camus


Somehow, summer slipped by without me and now that I’ve returned to the garden, I find myself in a new season, deep in autumn’s glory. The oak and maple leaves are at their height of color, still clinging to their branches and rustling in the wind that brought November with it this morning. What a rich season filled with a touch of nostalgia for the flower-filled summer that was and a touch of sadness for the stark and cold winter to come.

I missed my garden this summer. Most of my attention was on a major renovation in the kitchen, followed by a nasty flood in the basement brought on by a series of torrential rains. Instead of a quiet summer tending the garden, I lived in a noisy dusty house answering dozens of questions a day from hard-working men who were there to make it beautiful and functional again. We are still putting the last few displaced items away but how wonderful it feels to return to the rake and the clippers and reclaim the last lovely days of the garden season.

In spite of months of construction chaos in the house, I stole a moment here and there to enjoy the garden and those memories inspire me as I weed and prune and prepare the garden for its long winter’s nap. The owls have been hooting in the early morning hours and the bluejays leave me a feather now and then as if to remind me that life goes on in all seasons.

My talented husband Bill Purse has graciously allowed me to include a track from his upcoming album Tribute, a piece called “New Seasons” that was composed by our friend Colter Harper (The CD will be released in December). Enjoy listening while you browse the garden photos that range from July to October! (All photos ©2015 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved).

The Wave Goodbye

So close your eyes for that’s a lovely way to be
Aware of things your heart alone was meant to see ~Antonio Carlos Jobim

Bill and Jim at the Backstage Bar  Photo by Doug Harper ©2012

Bill and Jim at the Backstage Bar, one of their last gigs together. Photo by Doug Harper ©2012

Last Saturday, amidst a dozen other things claiming our attention, we attended the wake of a good friend and fellow musician. I must admit that I wasn’t looking forward to it, as he died the night before his 53rd birthday, much too young. But what I had feared as a sad evening mourning his death was instead a joyful celebration of his life, overflowing with laughter and stories.  His girlfriend Marsha had filled a table with photos of Jimmy, many of them including my husband Bill, as they often performed together, two musicians in love with the guitar.  Bill had put together a slide show of photos and videos of Jimmy teaching and performing – it was a joy to hear his voice and his guitar. The place was filled with musicians (many of them on their way to a gig) as well as various artists, radio personalities, friends, and family. I came home thoughtful and smiling.


Flamenco Gold by Sibthorp, used by permission GFDL via Wikimedia Common

A few nights later, I had a powerful dream.  I was asked to sing a bossa nova song for a stage show, one that I recognized but had never sung, and I was being coached by three Brazilians, two women and a man. The women showed me how to move and dance to the music as I was singing – they considered this an essential element to performing the song properly. As I struggled to get everything just right, I saw a procession move forward from the back of the stage, solemnly moving as if in a slow dance step. Instead of two by two, it was a block of Brazilian men and women dressed in simple black clothes, nine across, nine deep.  In the center of the procession was Jimmy, tall and blond, with a serious expression on his face broken by a small smile. As they proceeded to the front of the stage, I realized that I had been coached to sing this song as a farewell to my friend, as a tribute to him for using his musical gifts well.  This was his ceremony to pass from one world to another, with an honor guard all around him. I awoke with the melody of the song ringing in my head;  I realized that it was Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Have you ever had a dream that was not about you, not about processing your own psyche, but something bigger, higher, truer than your personal issues, more real than waking life? This was that kind of dream. And I can’t get the melody of Wave out of my head, I’ve been singing and humming it for days now. My friend Kenia, Brazilian vocalist extraordinaire, has offered to coach me on this song, making part of this dream come true.

Here is a concert rendition of Wave beautifully sung in Portuguese by Esther Badia. (

Here are the English lyrics to Wave written by Jobim.  Here is an English translation of the original Portuguese lyrics to Wave (the English song lyrics were also written by Jobim.)

Here is a recording of Jimmy playing another bossa nova, My Little Boat

Jimmy, may you dance and strum your way into the next life with a smile on your face and escorted by music. Peace.

The Four Elements: Light

What is to give light must endure burning. ~ Victor Frankl

Light in CloudsAt last, I have finally completed the music and video of “Light,” the second piece of The Four Elements. As I did with “Breath” I am offering a free mp3 download of “Light” for the first week of release, which you can find on my Facebook Music Page or at CD Baby.  (After midnight EST, Sunday, August 26, it will revert back to a $.99 download.)

Since I’ve previously written about the creation of this piece in Fire and Light: When the Idea is Too Big and At the Speed of Light, today I simply present the video, the lyrics, and a few acknowledgements. Enjoy!

A special thanks goes as always to my creative partner and husband, Bill Purse, who not only engineered and produced the audio recording, but also played bass and sang. Another thanks to two of my former students, Mike Elliott and Rob Balotsky, who played electronic percussion for the piece, no mean feat considering the odd time signatures and shifting rhythms. A final thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope Program and NASA video sources for such inspiring images of our world and our universe.

Lyrics to “Light”   ©2011 Lynn Emberg Purse

Light, Light
Solar plexus, solar flare
Fire burning through the air becomes
Light through the leaves, Light through the clouds

The edge of dawn, the hem of night
chasing shadows in the race to light.
Light, Light.

Gathered on the waters, reflected by the moon.
Even once removed, its power streams into the night, light.
Light, Light.

Lux aeterna, Lux aeterna, Lux, Lux

Calling All Guitarists!

Bill and science camp kids in front of the big guitar

If you play guitar, like guitar music, or just want a different kind of museum experience, visit the traveling National Guitar Museum exhibit “Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World.” Their subtitle for the show is “The history, the science, and cultural impact of the most popular instrument. Ever.” They are not exaggerating.

The Carnegie Science Centerin Pittsburgh is hosting the exhibit until the end of September and it is spectacular. This past week, my husband Bill played guitar for the kids at science camp at the museum, directly in front of the largest playable guitar in the world. After the concert, we had a chance to explore the exhibit, Bill got to play the “big guitar” and I caught a few of the highlights on camera.

The Interactive Guitar Gallery

Everything is unique; road cases house guitars and support amps that are equipped with video displays of historical performances. All styles are represented, and our friend and guitar luthier Bob Benedetto shipped a copy of his luthier workshop to join the exhibit. Bill took the opportunity to climb into the exhibit and don Bob’s work apron, much to the amusement of Bob and his wife Cindy. You can see a few of the shots on their Benedetto Guitars website.

The exciting thing about the exhibit is its marriage of science, history and culture into interactive displays – this is a hands on experience and a treat for all the senses.  Here is a little video I made of our day at the museum, to a soundtrack of “Counting By Eight”, one of Bill’s pieces from his CD Sonic Art – enjoy!

All photos and video ©2012 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

Want to hear the sound of the big guitar?