Seeds of the Present

My husband and I took a walk in the Morris Arboretum on Saturday, August 12, a muggy, gray day. We didn’t spend a lot of time, about an hour; we wanted to walk around the wetlands area and see what things looked like.

We visited the arboretum about two weeks ago, and the wetlands section really caught our attention.

We circled this pond and then ventured out to the creek – a walk of about one and a half miles.

Two themes emerged: seeds/nuts, and insects. Let me start with the first category. I’m going to show what I saw. I don’t know the names of any of them, except for the walnuts and milkweed. I just liked looking at the seeds in their various incarnations. See what you think.

I think this tree may be called “button ball” but I am not sure. From our observations, the balls start off green, turn red-orange, explode into white, and then fade away in brown. Obviously they are attractive to bees.

I do not know what tree this is, but I have seen these brilliant red leaves on the ground later in the fall. Here are berries and one early-turning leaf.

Dangling seed pods. I LOVE the look of these.

These grasses were near the creek. I love the woven look of the seedheads.

I don’t know what these are. Are they related? I photographed two different trees and didn’t pay enough attention as I was doing it.

These look like they should come from a maple tree, but they don’t. Look at the leaf.

Walnuts! Walnuts! I love walnut season. I love kicking them with my toe as I go along the trails. Walnuts!

Now that I recognize milkweed, I see it everywhere in the wetlands. The broad leaves stand out almost horizontally; I liked how they captured the rain. And those seedpods…

What is this? I don’t know. I saw it next to the parking lot.

I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Now, how about a few insects I met along the way:

I would love to have shown some of the many dragonflies I saw, with their electric blue features, but they were too quick for me…

I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Tiny Travelogue

I don’t go far from home. I don’t travel much. I like being home. And lucky for me there is a seemingly endless supply of things to explore right under my (geographic) nose.

Today we decided to explore the Morris Arboretum. It was established on the grounds of Compton, the summer home owned by the wealthy Morris family starting in 1887, who collected plants and were interested in furthering horticultural education; it is now part of the University of Pennsylvania. Not located near the main campus, though – it is only about 15 minutes from my house.

We became members not too long ago – I thought it might be a good place for walking, especially for my husband, as he continues to gain strength after his knee injury. Believe it or not, in almost 40 years of living close by, I had never visited the site, though I had often thought of doing so in recent times, because I drive past it on my way to Chestnut Hill College (of poetry marathon fame!) all the time.

It is expensive for a single visit, but a membership could pay off for the two of us after three visits – and being members makes a quick stop just for a walk much more likely. I signed us up.  Today was a reconnaissance mission.

It was a stunning day – sunny, warm, and low humidity. We parked in the lower lot – other people had the same idea as us to visit the gardens on such a nice day – and walked up the hill to the main building. I noticed I could see the roofs of Chestnut Hill College across the way – it is next door.

We walked around the upper areas following paved paths past manicured lawns and many trees. I found some details interesting:

Small structures dotted the area as well as sculptures:

There were other attractions, such as a garden railway exhibit and a treehouse/walkway structure; fernery; rose garden. Today, these areas were crowded with families; even if they hadn’t been, they didn’t much appeal to me. If this had been all there was to the place, I would have been lukewarm on it. I will say, though, the level paths would make a nice circuit for an easy walk (or run, if you came on a non-crowded day).

We made our way back down the hill to the wetlands area. This section was deserted and quiet. Just birds, insects, trees…

Now I was interested. Look at this milkweed.

A bee was working very industriously at this flower head.

This dead tree’s stark appearance amid all the greenery made it a landmark.

Mowed paths guided us through this section. There was so much to look at.

My assessment of the arboretum: I thought the main area tame and uninteresting. The wetlands, fantastic. I could see visiting that section often just to see the changes in the landscape. I much prefer walking on grass to asphalt. Wilder to manicured. Full of detail to edited. I’ll come back and concentrate my attention on this area, I think.

It would be a great spot for a walk after a poetry marathon session or for my husband to visit during lunchtime. I’m glad we checked out the arboretum.

Garden and Garden Spirit

Our yard is large, long and narrow. Our house sits up at the front of it, very close to the street. The back yard is by far the bigger share of the acreage and it seems even larger because it backs up to a creek and a wooded slope beyond that. We have plenty of wildlife passing through, deer, foxes, groundhogs, and lots of birds.

We have a small garden about halfway back, fenced in so that the deer don’t eat up whatever we put in there. The idea was to grow vegetables, but that fell by the wayside a couple of years ago. Then we planted flowers, mostly sunflowers and zinnias.

garden 1 9-15 small

With my health issues over the past three years I have lost the habit of gardening – I don’t even mow the grass anymore but pay someone to do it. I’ve lost interest in this garden, too. My husband planted it this year. I don’t go in it anymore because with all the flowers there are many bees, and a wasp colony has taken up residence near by (I know because I was stung earlier this summer and my hand swelled up in a frightening way for a week).

Next year this will change. I’m mulling over ways to enjoy the garden – maybe move it so I can see it from the house, away from the wasps. Because I do love the flowers – and I like the idea of how good it all is for the birds and insects and for a happy feeling for us all. It will be a good winter project, I think, the planning and the anticipating.

Anyway, I took some pictures the other day of the glorious tangle of flowers and vines. Thank you to my husband for doing this for me.

garden 3 9-15 small

I noticed in this picture that my shadow seems to be doing a sun salutation or maybe I’m imitating the sun by forming a circle with my arms? No, I have raised the camera so as to see over the fence – but my shadow doesn’t know that, does it?

Happy garden.

Claudia's shadow in flowers 9-15 small

Figurine and Books

A couple of days ago I was at Lorimer Park and noticed that there is now a Little Free Library set along the Pennypack Trail. What a nice surprise. It’s right off the parking lot and next to the chief ranger’s house.

I happened to see the chief ranger a little bit later on and he told me that the LFL was a Mother’s Day gift for his wife.

I have talked to this lady as she worked in the beautiful flower gardens she has created along the beginning of the trail. They are a marvel to look at and over the few years the trail has been open they have grown to stretch a good distance – it takes a couple of minutes to walk past them. This time of year they are full of irises and I see a few foxgloves blooming as well.

So the LFL is a tribute to her and her love of flowers and books. I think it’s great.

I left a figurine there today. My husband and I were there for a walk and I wanted to say thank you for the LFL and the gardens. I also set a couple of books in the LFL, because I am sure I will be taking some from this location as time goes on.

A Clean Start

Do you remember the Sunshine Project, Day 56? Of course not, and I’m not surprising you with a quiz. The reason I bring it up is that my husband and I visited the same site yesterday for a different purpose.

First of all, the location is that of a local florist. I’ve gotten flowers from here as gifts and I have bought them for others, too. Our family also has purchased flowers to plant in our yard from this shop for many years. It’s a local landmark and I love to see what displays they have set up for the current season.

But the reason I came here was to visit the Little Free Library located on the side of the building. I left a sunshine here on Day 56 – it’s gone now, as I expected. That’s great.

Little Free Library, Penny's Florist.

Little Free Library, Penny’s Florist.

This time I brought some books to add to the library. I’ve been doing some cleaning out. Many things in my life have changed and I have realized that my home and mental spaces both needed some clutter reduction. It’s been a good experience for me. And I hope that these books will go on to find new readers.

I have put a bag of books in my car. I plan to leave them at this location and at another one in Mondauk Park over the next couple of weeks, as I pass by.

And doing so will give me a reason to take the time to enjoy the flowers and the colorful, cheerful atmosphere of this place.

Flowers! Outside!

Flowers! Outside!

Happy Spring!

Sunshine Project – Day 83, Labyrinth, Philadelphia, PA

I’ve been wanting to visit this site for some time, but the weather has not permitted it. Now that the snow covering the ground has melted, I was able to take a sunshine to the labyrinth on the campus of Chestnut Hill College, about fifteen minutes from my house.

Banner CHC 3-13-15

Chestnut Hill College is a small Catholic college founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Originally it admitted only women; now it’s coed. Many nuns who taught in the Philadelphia Catholic schools were educated there and today it’s a popular place for teachers in public and private school systems to get their education degrees, BA or MA.

I was interested in this labyrinth because I’ve walked several of them in different places, and I find the experience to be calming and meditative. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has a clear path to the center. The repetitive movement and the slower pace help turn the walker’s mind toward reflection. Some sources I’ve read have compared it to a symbolic pilgrimage.

I wanted to leave a sunshine there and to take the path. So I went over to the school and parked. A very nice security guard assured me that I had found the visitors’ lot and would not get towed – the first step toward a leisurely visit! I walked across campus. to the labyrinth, which is located at the edge of the campus behind the sisters’ motherhouse building.

Holding the sunshine in my hand, I walked the path to the center and set the sunshine in the middle area.

After I finished, I looked around the area a bit. I noticed a small tree with a dedication at its base and a whole crowd of buds in the branches just waiting for the right moment to leaf out.

And I looked up at this ornate clock tower above the labyrinth – what a beauty.

clock CHC

I decided to take a stroll through the campus on the way back to the car. I had not been inside the buildings at this school, so I thought I’d see about going inside. I was able to walk all through the main buildings on campus. They are somewhat severe on the outside but the insides were dignified, comfortable, spacious, and full of detail.

My last stop was the cemetery where many of the sisters are buried. It’s at the edge of campus behind the area of the library, very quiet and peaceful. Each sister’s headstone contains only her religious name and date of death, and the phrase “Rest in Peace”. Very different from public cemeteries with their elaborate monuments.

As I walked into the parking lot I noticed the girls’ softball team was getting ready for practice. As I watched they started off on some laps around the field. Once again, a sign of spring.

Softball CHC

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, March 13, 2015.

Sunshine, March 13, 2015.

More about the Sunshine Project here, or look in the category “Sunshine Project”.

Sunshine Project – Day 73, Park, Erdenheim, PA

Continuing my thoughts about the upcoming change of seasons, I remembered this park about 10 minutes from my house. I’ve been there many times and it occurred to me that it might be a good spot for plein air painting when warmer weather comes. So I stopped by Cisco Park and took a sunshine with me.

Cisco Park sign

This park could be the template for a community park. It has everything you could want – trees, ball field, walking path, fishing pond (frozen over right now), plenty of benches, picnic tables, a tot lot, gazebo, and two bridges. In the summer it’s shady and pleasant here.

Even now there are people using the park. I saw this man walking his dog.

Man walking his dog.

Man walking his dog.

I set the sunshine on a raised garden bed.

I know that in the summer this bed is full of flowers and leafy bushes, but right now, we are still waiting for winter to loosen its grip on the earth. Nothing showing yet as far as anything growing.

I noticed that the Boy Scouts have done some projects in the park – tree nametags and installing bird boxes.

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, March 3, 2015.

Sunshine, March 3, 2015.

There is more about the Sunshine Project right here, or you can search the category “Sunshine Project”.

Sunshine Project – Day 65, Church, Hatboro, PA

My visit to the Borough Hall in this town brought to mind another location for a sunshine. Today I went to the Church of the Advent to set the sunshine in their peace garden.

I am familiar with this church. It’s one of the few in our area that has an open door all day long – the chapel is open from seven in the morning to seven at night and a sign on the lawn is what originally caught my attention last year when I first visited. I am not a churchgoer now, but I have always felt that churches are places for rest and contemplation, and I appreciated the generosity of this one’s congregation in sharing their space to anyone who seeks it out.

sign Church of the Advent

First I set the sunshine in the peace garden. Right now it’s snow-covered but in better weather it is planted and colorful. I put the sunshine on the little stone wall along with some offerings by other people. I noticed the rhododendron bushes with their curled-up leaves and the bare branches of the trees – these will all be changed very soon when warm weather comes, and for now they are beautiful in their winter forms.

I came to this church quite a few times last year when I was ill, just to sit in the quiet building. I’ve never encountered anyone else there and it always gave me a space to collect my thoughts and rest. The building is small but solidly built of stone, with beautiful colorful windows. On a gusty day like today, the wind’s roar is muted and there is a sense of safety in this place.

I signed my name in the visitors’ book and I looked back to last year’s pages to find it there, just as I wrote it then. Quite a few names have been added in the intervening time. I lit a candle and waited for it to get a good flame going – it joined one other. I revisited the images on the windows and I also looked up at the roof – the solid beams and the open structure somehow seem very reassuring to me. They are beautiful and strong.

I am glad to visit this place a year later and see that it has not changed much but that things have progressed for me.

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, February 23, 2015.

Sunshine, February 23, 2015.

You can find out more about the Sunshine Project here or you can search the category “Sunshine Project”.

Sunshine Project – Day 64, Office Building, Abington, PA

It snowed a few inches last night and then the temperature went up for a one-day reprieve from the bitter cold we’ve been having. It turned sunny and bright and the snow began a speed-melt. One of those winter days when spring peeks in just a bit; it reminded me of gardens and flowers, and I thought of a place I’ve been meaning to set a sunshine. The time just hasn’t seemed right, until today.

I am referring to the medical office building I visited over the past two years for my hand infection. It’s not my favorite place on earth at all, but I have wanted to go back there in good health and let go of the experiences associated with it. I haven’t liked even to drive past it. But the burst of sunshine and warmth today gave me the push to make peace with the memory.

So my husband and I drove to the building. On Sunday, it’s deserted. The garage was dank and melting snow was
dripping everywhere. We went out to the gardens surrounding the building – they run all along the back. In the past I always found them calming and soothing – there were lots of bright flowers and grasses soaking up the sun. Today of course it is all bare, but it still looked peaceful. I set the sunshine on one of the walls near a bench. I remember seeing people sitting out here in the good weather.

After looking around a little, we went back to the garage to leave. I noticed the frost on the window of the elevator vestibule – what delicate patterns here in this miserable setting!

As I took the pictures, an enormous roar kicked up from above – a man was driving a little slow-plow around the upstairs level, which is open to the sky. What a racket. At the same time, we noticed that the automatic door to the vestibule seemed to have gone haywire – it kept opening and shutting, opening and shutting…It may still be doing it for all I know. I found this very amusing to think about.

Anyway, the visit was worth it. I did not have to be at this building – I chose to go there for my own reasons. And I could leave any time I wanted and I didn’t have to come back. A very nice change from the past.

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, February 22, 2015.

Sunshine, February 22, 2015.

Look right here for more about the Sunshine Project or search under “Sunshine Project” in the categories.

Sunshine Project – Day 61, Park, Roslyn, PA

Today is very cold, eighteen degrees this morning, and with a brisk wind that is stirring the tree limbs. The snow we had the other day was very light and fluffy because it was so cold, and it’s blowing and drifting all over.

Today is a milestone for me – one year ago today I had my second hand surgery for the antibiotic-resistant infection I had been fighting for the previous year. Things went downhill after that surgery and I had a lot of complications. But one year later, my hand has, against the odds, healed. I can use it and I am in good health overall. So I was thinking about all the things I need my hands for, including my artwork. And that train of thought brought me to the idea of sculpture. I don’t know why, as I am not a sculptor! But I thought it would be nice to take the sunshine to some kind of statue.

What came to mind was this structure in a local park. It’s not exactly sculpture, but it just seemed to be what I was looking for. So I took the sunshine and we went to Roslyn Park, about ten minutes from home.

Roslyn Park sign

The area I was looking for is next to the main road, but I had to park in the adjoining neighborhood and walk through the park. I crossed a little bridge and there I was.

bridge Roslyn Park

The “bird pole” is a little section devoted to plantings and habitat for birds and was set up in 2006. I had remembered the birdhouses attached to the pole as being wooden structures, and I see from the plaque that they were. I also learned the bird at the top is named Rosie!

But the houses attached to the pole now are different. They looked like cake mold pans, painted, and attached to a wood backing. I am thinking that the original houses deteriorated and that maybe kids from the nearby school made these new ones. Doesn’t matter. There were all kinds of birds around, cheerfully chattering, and all of it happening just a few feet from a busy road.

Bird house.

Bird house.

I set the sunshine on one of the big rocks. I took a little time to listen to the birds and enjoy the sunshine. It was quite warm near the big rock – I think it radiated a little of the sun’s heat back out into the day.

Sunshine in place on the big rock to the left.

Sunshine in place on the big rock to the left.

Walking back, I noticed the way the wind had sculpted the snow into patterns and ridges.

In the summer the ballfields will be busy and the stands full of people. Right now, it was a peaceful spot just for me to enjoy.

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, February 19, 2015.

Sunshine, February 19, 2015.

You can learn more about the Sunshine Project here or you can look up “Sunshine Project” in the category listing.

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