Let’s Take a Trip to Canyonlands National Park

Decisions! Decisions! Where will the road lead next? Should we stay a while longer in Utah? Or should we move along?

The postcard I received just days ago urges us to visit the Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah, so we’ll remain in Utah a little longer.

Canyonlands National Park preserves 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah’s high desert. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, sculpting layers of rock into the rugged landscape you see today.

Canyonlands preserves the natural beauty and human history throughout its four districts, which are divided by the Green and Colorado rivers. While the districts share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character and offers different opportunities for exploration and adventure. –from National Park Service

The districts are Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves.

Canyonlands

Sky District, Canyonland National Parks, Utah Photograph by George H.H. Huey. Designed and distributed by Impact Photo Graphics.

The postcard came from Kelly C, another Wildlfowers friend, who has been traveling all over the country this year. Sadly, a super-busy season of work impeded our meeting up when she was in my “neck of the woods” earlier this year.

From the postcard back:

An afternoon thunderstorm creates a vibrant rainbow above Monument Basin and the surrounding canyons at the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.

Despite the postal tattoos, this view is gorgeous! As you just read, the postcard features the Island of the Sky district:

The Island in the Sky sits atop a massive 1500 foot mesa, quite literally an Island in the Sky. Twenty miles (32.2 km) of paved roads lead to many of the most spectacular views in Canyon Country. From these lofty viewpoints visitors can often see over 100 miles (161 km) in any given direction, resulting in panoramic views that encompass thousands of square miles of canyon country. –from Discover Moab

Read more about the park by visiting the Canyonlands Natural History Association site. For more breathtaking views of the park, click here >>> Canyonlands National Park Flickr.

Are you ready for another trip? Or should we stay put for a while?

Let’s Take a Trip to Bryce Canyon National Park

This week has left me a bit dispirited and in need of a good road trip, so we’re leaving Virginia and traveling straight across the country to Utah.

Why Utah? Bryce Canyon National Park. Ohhhh, you thought the Grand Canyon was the only canyon worth seeing in the US of A? Well, the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon will make your jaw drop! 

What are hoodoos? Simply put, a type of rock formation, but since I am sure that answer does not suffice:

Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins and “broken” lands. Hoodoos are most commonly found in the High Plateaus region of the Colorado Plateau and in the Badlands regions of the Northern Great Plains. Hoodoos, which may range from 1.5 to 45 metres (4.9 to 147.6 ft), typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements. They generally form within sedimentary rock and volcanic rock formations.  –from Hoodoo: What is a Hoodoo? Read more about how hoodoos are formed by clicking the link.

Bryce Canyon

Right-click to view larger

My Wildflowers friend, Phyllis R, sent the postcard to brighten my day, and she certainly did! As you can see, the multi-view postcard features four different images from Bryce Canyon National Park: the Amphitheater, Thors Hammer (über cool!), Agua Canyon, and Natural Bridge, shot by photographers Chet Waggener, Russ Finley, Josh P. George, and John Wagner. 

From the postcard back:

Bryce Canyon, famous for its unique geology consists of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in Southern Utah. The weathering force of frost-wedging and dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone rock of the Claron Formation into bizarre shapes including canyons, windows, fins, and spires called “hoodoos.” 

Here’s a fun fact. Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon. As mentioned above, it is, rather, “a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls carved into the Paunsaugunt Plateau that extend 20 miles (30 km) north-to-south.” Read more here: The World’s Highest Concentration of Hoodoos.

For a more comprehensive explanation of the formations at the park, see: “The Geology of Bryce Canon.”  Or, if you just want to see spectacular pics, click the link >>> Bryce Canyon on Flickr.

Hmm…I wonder where we will go next?

Let’s Take a Trip to Shenandoah National Park

I recently returned from a not-for-pleasure-but-super-fun trip; it was my first trip away from my usual haunts since the pandemic began. Now, I have the travel bug, but preparation for the new school year (only two weeks away), my son’s involvement in a summer bridge program as an ambassador, and hubby’s impending surgery have ruled out traveling in the immediate future. 

Fortunately, my pen friends keep my wanderlust satiated by sharing postcards from their travels, so this week we’re going to use their tourist postcards to take a few short trips to interesting places in the USA. Maybe, I’ll even find time (read: motivation and energy) to select a few photos, collect my thoughts, and share a bit about my recent trip.

Today, we go to Shenandoah National Park.

Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, just 75 miles west of our nation’s capital. The scenic roadway Skyline Drive takes you through the 105 mile long park, providing more than 75 overlooks with spectacular vistas.

Five hundred miles of trails, consisting of 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, lead visitors to waterfalls, panoramic views, protected wilderness, and preserved human history in the Shenandoah valley. — from Escape to the Blue Ridge, Shenandoah National Park. 

Shenandoah

Photo by Bill Lea. Designed and distributed by Impact Photo Graphics.

The postcard came from my pen friend, Arielle W. It features an American black bear cub [ursus americanus]. From the back of the postcard:

As you walk a trail or drive along Skyline Drive, you might meet a black bear, possibly a mother with her cub or cubs. A bear cub when born in late winter, weighs only about 8 ounnces. It is hard to believe that this cub will grow to 300-500lbs.

I appreciate Arielle’s choice of this “elusive” black bear. He is adorable, and I can look at his sweet face all day. 

She and her older son took a trip to the park, a brief respite from the “overwhelming and uncertain,” a time for them to “find joy together.” I love how nature invites us to connect and breathe and exist in ways our workaday lives does not often allow.

To escape the usual, you can find lots of beautiful pics from Shenandoah National Park by clicking the link: Shenandoah Pics on Flickr. 

Enjoy!

NPM | 52Frames | Reflection

52Frames Week 9 Reflection

These landscapes of water and reflection have become an obsession.  –Claude Monet, August 11, 1908

For this week’s National Photography Month (NPM) posts, I am sharing a few photos from my growing 52Frames collection. I joined the community in January and, surprisingly, I have somehow managed to attain an 18-week streak so far.

52Frames offers a guided weekly photography challenge, designed to help [photographers] improve skills. Every week, we send […] new assignment. [Photographers] have 7 days to take [their] shot and share it with the community. Together, we give feedback and guidance to help [photographers] grow. Oh, and it’s totally free.

What I like most about 52Frames is that the challenges encourage me to take time for photography and creativity every week, so even if I have only a few minutes to spare before deadline, I take the shot.

The photograph above was my submission for “Week 9: Reflection.” I staged several types of reflection photos, but finally settled on this photo from Green Mountain. This was my first outing with the guys after my father passed. I needed the water, sky, trees, and moments of reflection. This scene took care of all those needs. It was shot on the same day as the photo featured in Two Poems for Your Monday.

I’ve shared a few other 52Frames challenge photos on the blog (see links below), but am looking forward to a 52-week streak, so I can share all 52 photos with you. Fingers crossed. 😉


Other 52Frames Photos: 

Oh Deer! [Knowing When to Take a Break]

Deer Art

I had the perfect blog theme for the week, but ugh, after work and people and pandemic issues all day long, my energy was too low for even the things I enjoy. I whined (sometimes inwardly) all week about needing time to just cut paper and glue something. I dreamed of quiet evenings for just that, but after hardly seeing people for 17-18 months, my being around people and talking all day long was draining in all caps. My evenings were spent resting (read: sleeping) and completing very few of the daily tasks of home life.

Of course, I took “micro-breaks” when absolutely necessary: I cut pretty artwork out of a book wrapper on its way to the trash bin while speaking with a colleague. I captured trees and flowers with my phone camera while I walked to meetings or lunch. I doodled sunflowers during in-person meetings, phone calls, and work sessions. I worked on photo edits during Zoom meetings.

The micro-breaks were [are] lifesaving, but the reality is my body and soul need more. So, when my friend and colleague Lisa asked me yesterday “What are you doing to take care of yourself?,” I immediately felt the guilt of not practicing what I preach regarding self-care during these Corona times.  

I had convinced myself that “if I can just get through this week,” I’ll be able to get to a place where I can take a “time out” daily. I’ve been saying that for three or four weeks now. I haven’t taken a photo or nature walk in a good while. Even worse, I haven’t picked up my actual camera to take a shot since the end of last month! That’s almost three weeks! Let’s not talk about the unwritten poetry, prose, letters, and postcard designs dancing in my head, or the great books waiting to be read and the movement my body needs!

I mindlessly opened Instagram early this morning and Beth Moore’s words grabbed my attention. The post drove the point of Lisa’s question home for me. 

Know when to take a break, y’all. This world’s a heartbreaking, baffling, demoralizing ball of fire right now. We’re not God. We can pray and give and speak and act. But we can’t carry all of this 24/7. It’s too heavy for us. It’s not going to give us a time out. We have to take it!

This world is “a lot,” and all that negative energy mingling with all the good stuff can create a chaotic stew inside our minds and bodies. Those breaks Moore encourages help shift and purge the energy. So my silly photo edit with the deer poking its tongue at me? That’s me—knowing when to take a break and poking my tongue at all the things that will have to wait. 

Have a safe and happy weekend…

#ThursdayTreeLove | Look Up!

Inside the Magnolia

Study nature. Love nature. Stay close to nature. It will never fail you. –Frank Lloyd Wright

The Southern Magnolias and I have had quite a bit of quality time this week. I have had to take frequent breaks from my freezing cold office and from sitting. Since our year+ in front of a computer screen, I find it difficult to sit for more than five minutes. I have a “standup” desk waiting to be positioned and I’m looking into alternative seating that puts less stress on my back and hips. Until then, I stand as much as possible and take frequent, short walks in the area closest to my building.

Based on previous tree love posts, you probably know there are many, many trees near my office. I typically obsess over a particular tree or stand of trees for some time before moving on to others. This week, the magnolias have been commanding my attention and I have been filling my phone with shots of them. I stood underneath the magnolia above while working with a parent to get her daughter enrolled. I looked up and beheld this glorious sight.

This first week back in classes and in person (for me and my kiddo) hasn’t been too difficult, but it has had its mini challenges all week. My many three-minute breaks with the trees have helped shift the load and reduce the stress; they have also reminded me that it pays to look up!


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Just Being.

Colleen Persimmon

Sometimes just being needs space to relax. It needs time to pause from the pressure of living up to the duties and expectations of a rigid framework, or rest from showing up in full armor every day to protect a tender internal truth.

Colleen Blueberries-2

Or sometimes just being needs to cry and feel into coarse emotions for a while.

Colleen Blackberries-2

Whatever it takes for all the layers of what has built up inside begin to unwrap the gift you truly are, deep within, just being. —Susan Frybort


About the Images: The photographs in this post were all shot a few days ago in a moment of “just being.” The ripening persimmon, blueberries, and blackberries are just a few of the treats growing in Colleen’s garden–recently renamed [by me] “Colleen’s Private Farm and Botanical Garden.” Her father spends time in this garden planting and cultivating and just being–a reminder of the beauty that can be produced when we create space to just be.

#ThursdayTreeLove (But It’s Friday) | Between Water and Trees

Joe Wheeler State Park-1

For I [fully] satisfy the weary soul, and I replenish every languishing and sorrowful person. —Jeremiah 31:25

I spent four days this week working, resting, and resetting in a tiny bit of heaven—between water and trees—at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, Alabama.

I resisted this work “retreat” because it was…well…more work, and I already had a long list of tasks that wouldn’t get done if I spent time there. My internal tantrums were driving me nuts, so I took a moment to whisper a prayer and ask God to help me change my attitude.

By the last morning, I had to apologize to God for my earlier grumbling. The mornings were work-intensive, but fun and interactive, which is my preferred method of collaborating. I am not a fan of long, long meetings, but I don’t mind getting down to business and doing the work.

Thanks to careful planning, this was the first time (for me) a “work retreat” actually felt like a retreat. I enjoyed the morning meditations, spiritual gems dropped throughout the sessions, the time spent in work groups, and getting to know my brilliant colleagues in a different way.

Most of our afternoons were spent in leisure and recreation, so I was even able to work some of the “long list” referenced earlier.

It rained most of our time there–offering a soothing, steadying rhythm, perfect for the contemplative soul. However, the weather did not hinder encounters with nature. I was able to participate in a two-mile nature hike, deer watch (deer post coming soon), and enjoy the sweet tweets of baby birds as I walked the breezeway from my room to meeting spaces.

Joe Wheeler State Park-3

I had time to sit, write, and think on a balcony with a gorgeous view of Wheeler Lake and time to spend with Sylvia G, one of my dearest friends who has known me since I was a child!

I did not realize the full impact of limited movement for 15 consecutive months on my mental and emotional state until I was able to spend significant time away from my home and campus. My being positioned between all that luscious nature offered the respite I needed to clear some of the cobwebs and move some thoughts forward.

If you know just a little about me, you know I find in trees my most experienced counselors. You also may know that something stirs excitedly inside this NOLA girl–who grew up down the street from the Mississippi River–whenever I am near any body of water.

Joe Wheeler State Park-2b

I’ve been languishing [see previous post]. Of course, the retreat was not planned for me, but God knew I needed a strong dose of therapy, that I needed to be situated between water and trees to truly rest, reset, and hear His voice clearly.

He always delivers, even when I’m standing in my own way.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Berries.

I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them reason enough and–I wish to live. –Lorraine Hansberry, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black

At the Right Time…

I recently received Morgan Harper Nichols’s beautiful book, All Along You Were Blooming, as a gift. This book is filled with such beautiful soul-filling poetry that I can’t simply pick it up, select a poem, and move on. I have to wait for a moment when I can savor her words and let them sink deep into and soak my soul from the bottom up (if souls have bottoms).

I read the poem that follows this afternoon, and it feels like it was written for me in this moment. I’ve been operating in a fog and from a place of brokenness for far too long. I felt myself beginning to fall beneath the weight of it all, the pandemic, and being in crisis mode all.the.time. A few days ago–Sunday–I simply asked God to help me release the weight. I asked for clarity and direction. I don’t normally put in major [for my job] work hours during the weekend, but Sunday I work-worked for hours nonstop. Something in me felt compelled to clear several things off that particular plate.

By the next morning, I realized that there was a major shift inside. The Divine One had taken the whole load and kept me too busy to fuss and fret. The challenges are still here–obviously–but the weight is not mine to bear. I found myself really breathing again for the first time in a long time.

At the right time,
every broken thing
will come together for good.
You are more than your
failures,
successes,
more than your fears.
And far beyond the surface
of your desires,
there is a truer season
why you are still here.
If you find yourself struggling
to see past your imperfections
because you cannot figure out how
what’s torn apart can come together,
may you know in your soul
that the answer is not found in thinking,
feeling,
doing,
but in trusting what is Greater than you.

–Morgan Nichols, All Along You Were Blooming


About the Images: When I received the butterfly postcard [second photo] from my Love Notes friend Christine B, I was über excited because I knew somewhere in my 2016 photo library there was a twin butterfly feasting on yellow flowers [top photo]. Ha! I was wrong. The butterflies, though slightly similar in underside color, are different. My photo features a common buckeye; Christine’s a Melissa Blue.  Maybe, they’re cousins. 😉