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!

Favorite Moments of 2021

This year showed us–no matter how much chaos is around us–life continues. The year was brutal. Countless losses, “too many funerals,” constant change, and far too much heartache. But, as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, there’s also been good. As we close out 2021, I’m reflecting as I did last year, on some of my favorite moments of the year–in no particular order.

clinton-row-couple

Clinton Row Color Walk

Street Art. Roaming with my guys anywhere is always a good moment, but when we roamed through downtown Huntsville and found the Clinton Row Art Walk, I was pleased as punch. I shared some of the photos here, but eventually, I’ll share others.

College Language Association (CLA) Annual Conference. This was the first fully virtual academic conference I’d attended. By the time it rolled around [in April], I was oh-so-tired of Zoom, but the conference provided such a rewarding, interactive experience that it didn’t feel virtual at all. I laughed, lauded, and learned.

Joe Wheeler State Park. This work retreat, thankfully, was more retreat than work. I wrote a little about it in Between Water and Trees. I rode the high of all that outdoors for quite some time.

Summer Road Trips! After sheltering-in-place for 16 months, the guys and I hit the road to visit our folks. We went to New Orleans to visit my parents and to Millers Creek, North Carolina to visit Hubby’s parents. Both trips were too short, but it was oh so good to lay eyes on our parents [and siblings] and make sure they’re okay.

English Garden. My in-laws have an amazing English-style garden. When we visited, I stole away often to spend time in the garden. The butterflies loved the garden too, and I have the photos to prove it. 😉

“A Garden Visitor.”

Thanksgiving Road Trip! By November, the benefits of the summer escapes had worn off and we were itching to get out of the bubble of Northern Alabama for just a moment. We took another short road trip to Atlanta to visit my sister and niece for Thanksgiving. Bonus! We also spent a little time with a bunch of nieces and nephews and one of my sisters-in-law! We won’t make mention of the macaroni and cheese that I was compelled to make with the “wrong kind” of pasta and cheese! :-/ [Everyone else thought it was good, but it was not my signature mac and cheese!].

Working with Lilith. I had the privilege of editing a book for one of the most pleasant individuals I’ve ever worked with. She has an incredible story. We were acquainted before, but through this endeavor, our friendship has been developing. Although we indeed completed the work, our meetings to review the edits were more like tea with a friend than work.

Dean. Among last year’s “favorite moments,” I listed that I had accepted the role of department chair. Who knew that less than a year later, I’d drop the chair to accept another role—Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences? I seriously resisted at first until I realized I had no logical explanations for not accepting the role. Of course, I am having a blast!

Tell It Slant. The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Tell It Slant Poetry Festival was everything my writing soul needed and more. I went to seminars, workshops, readings, and Q&A’s. I became acquainted with new poets, acquired new art and books, and most importantly, experimented with new writing techniques. I am certainly looking forward to next year’s event!

Tree Love for 30-Day Creative Gathering

30-Days Creative Gathering. Sheila Delgado’s Creative Challenge was the mental and creative break I needed daily throughout the month of September! This gift to myself offered so much joy!

World Watercolor Month:  Thankfully, my friend Sheila introduced me to this month-long art party. It was fun finding ways to transform my photography into “watercolor” art. If you’re interested, you can find the three #worldwatercolormonth posts by clicking the link.

Time with My Bestie. My bestie came into town to drop off her youngest daughter for college. After the very last minute, her daughter–bound for a university in California–switched course and chose our alma mater (where I now work). So in these “Corona Times” I got to see my bestie! She even bought a sparkling [non-alcoholic] beverage to toast my new role.

Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff’s “Write Together” sessions were among my favorite moments this year and last year. I don’t always get a chance to participate, but the “time out” for gathering, contemplating, and writing is always well-spent.

Birthday Fun. Despite getting horribly sick halfway through my birthday, that was actually one of the best days of the year. As part of my birthday festivities, the guys and I headed to Scott’s Orchard. Of course, anytime outdoors with my camera and my guys, surrounded by trees, is a perfect day!

A Moment with Dr. Garland. It’s always wonderful when the virtual world collides with the “real world,” so when my blogging friend K.E. Garland showed up as a presenter at the Mellon conference, I was thrilled. We run in similar academic circles, so our encounter “in real life” was just a matter of time. I invited her to present at my university, and we had a moment to connect after her awesome workshop which offered many wonderful tips for surviving the pandemic as an academician. I love her candor and her energy.

Tea Time!

Prayer Circle. Just before the academic year began, my colleague Kayla invited a very small group of women to her home for brunch and prayer over the year. After conversation and a good meal, we talked about our intentions and each prayed over the various facets of the university and the academic year. I recalled the good energy of our Prayer Circle when we hit rough spots in the semester.

Books & Tea. The Women’s Ministries Coordinators at my church organized a series of book talks on Chrystal Evans Hurst’s She’s Still There. The weekly virtual talks were soul-stirring, affirming, inspirational, and fun. The talks culminated with a three-day Women’s Empowerment Weekend and an in-person event featuring Hurst. For that event, we dressed in our best and headed to the church, the first in-person event held at our church since the pandemic began. Of course, we had to present negative COVID-19 test results, wear masks, and practice social distancing.

“Max Your Talent” Mini Women’s Retreat. This regional event, held a couple of weeks ago, was just what I needed as I headed into the Christmas holiday. It reinforced my understanding of my purpose, my humanity, and my identity in Christ.

Sunflower Encounters.  One of my friends recently marveled that “the sunflowers always seem to find [me].” I think she might be right. I typically have sunflower encounters in unexpected places and moments–like the mini sunflower field my guys found at the beginning of the school year. I shared some of the blooms in “The Gift of Sunflowers.”

Sunflowers from Hubby, Beginning to Wilt

Sneaky Sunflowers. I was in the middle of a meeting when my hubby attempted to sneak into my office with a glorious bouquet of sunflowers. He even purchased a vase and filled it with water. The blooms brought so much light and joy to the office and we won’t mention the hundreds of photos I shot as I attempted to recreate some of my favorite Van Gogh pieces with a camera.

Sunflower gifts. My family and friends enjoy surprising me with sunflower gifts, and this year was no different. You’ve seen the sunflower art and the sunflower gift basket from Kelli, but there were other gifts. My [former] student Raven sent a personalized acrylic nameplate for my desk with my new title. Of course, it was embellished with sunflower art. My son gave me a beautiful hand-designed sunflower keepsake box–my new fav! And there were so many more!

Van Gogh Immersive Experience. This! Oh, so much joy! I will talk about it in another post when I have time to manage my photo selection—and when I can avoid “spoiling” the experience for those who have not been yet. I’ll just say this: I waited and waited and waited for the Van Gogh Experience to reach my area. When it finally did, I purchased tickets right away. It did not disappoint!

There were many, many more moments of this year, and these “few” moments show that if we’re paying attention, in spite of a pandemic, we can still find so much good. I hope you this carry with you into 2022.

Happy 2022!

#ThursdayTreeLove | A Trip to Tuscany

I missed #ThursdayTreeLove last week. :-/ Thankfully, December gave us five Thursdays this year, because I could not miss celebrating Parul Thakur’s 100th #ThursdayTreeLove post! I started participating with #TTL 45–2.5 years and approximately 55 #ThursdayTreeLoves ago–but Parul’s been rocking tree love consistently for four years!

Number 100 deserves something special, so I am taking you on a brief trip to Tuscany with photographs by Steven Rothfeld from a 2007 engagement calendar, Under the Tuscan Sun.

While attempting a major declutter of my home office, I ran across the calendar, which features excerpts and recipes from Frances Mayes’s booksUnder the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, In Tuscany, and Bringing Tuscany Home. Instead of tossing it as I probably should have, I decided to use some of the images in journals and letters. All of the images are beautiful, but I was really mesmerized by photos that included the Mediterranean Cypress.

Please enjoy a bit of eye-candy from Tuscany with Pablo Neruda’s poem, “Keeping Quiet.” The poem has nothing to do with trees or Tuscany, but it does offer a bit contemplation for entering the new year.

Photo by Stephen Rothfeld

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

Photo by Stephen Rothfeld

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Photo by Stephen Rothfeld

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

Photo by Stephen Rothfeld

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

I was torn between this poem and another by Neruda, so I’ll share the other poem tomorrow. Until then, though the blast of fireworks and the countdown to midnight vie for your attention, be sure to tune inward and take a moment for quiet reflection.


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.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Robin Hood’s Tree

So passed the seasons then, so they pass now, and so they will pass in time to come, while we come and go like leaves of the tree that fall and are soon forgotten. –Howard Pyle, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Thanks to sheer exhaustion, I missed #ThursdayTreeLove last week, but I’m making up for it today by taking you on a brief trip to Sherwood Forest to get a glimpse of the magnificent  Major Oak.

I went to Sherwood Forest many, many moons ago and fell in love with the famed tree which the legendary outlaw Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men used as a hideout. I probably don’t need to tell you that this English professor loves visiting the actual places made famous [in my mind] by literature, so this was definitely a treat!

The [800 to] 1000-year-old tree is the largest tree in England. It is supported by stilts and has been so since the Victorian Age.

The original images [below] were shot with a film camera–a Canon Photura–in the days before digital cameras, but I had the roll digitized. It seems the digitized images lost their integrity over the years, so I edited them [above] for the post. [Click below to see larger images of the originals]

You can see better images and find out more information about the Major Oak of Sherwood Forest by clicking this link.


I am [usually] joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. [This is the third Thursday. Forgive me].  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.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Solitude and Lime

“Solitude and Lime Tree.” Photo by Eileen V.

For the previous #ThursdayTreeLove we traveled to Italy. Today, we’ll hop over to Germany with a photograph shot by my pen friend Eileen V. She kindly gave me permission to share here [Thank you, Eileen!].

The photo features a very old lime tree with Schloss Solitude [Solitude Palace] in the background. I am drawn to the composition of the photo—the way the tree in the foreground provides a frame for the palace in the background. Plus, the thick trunk and beautiful exposed roots remind me of the gorgeous live oaks of New Orleans.

Though there’s only one tree in the photo, Eileen says there are actually three old lime trees next to each other.

Unfortunately, I don’t know more about the tree’s history, but you can click the link to find out more about Schloss Solitude.

Update: Eileen provided more information about the trees and Schloss Solitude:

The castle was built 1763-69 in the reign of Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg. I believe these three lime trees were also planted at that time. Extensive gardens were also planned as it served as a pleasure spot for hunting and social events.

Lime trees were often planted in village centres near the church as a place to gather.

Until next time…


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.

Lanai Views | #WordlessWednesday

Lanai

“In the Mountains,” Li Bai (Chinese Poet, 701-762)

You ask me what my idea is, staying in the green mountains?
I smile but have no reply, my heart at peace in itself.

As the peach blossom on the flowing water goes into the unknown,
there is another heaven and earth, not among people.

Trans. William P. Coleman


About the images: Photos from a trip to Maui, Hawaii many moons ago. The photos were shot from a yacht early one evening.

Postcard from Raven: Boston’s Historic Freedom Trail

My [now former] student Raven sent me a postcard! I can’t tell how much it brightened my day!

Recently liberated from college (Bachelor of Arts in English, of course), this sweet, quiet soul has stepped out and is making her way in the world. First stop, Boston.

“The Freedom Trail in Historical Boston.” Photos by Jonathan Klein and Alan Klein.

Raven mused about how coincidental it was for her to write to me on a postcard referencing freedom:

Here I am in Boston, independent, in my own skin, making my own decisions, in my own time. His time. [Christ’s] sacrifice freed me to be who I am. And where I am has much to do, also, with who I met. You.

Isn’t she sweet?

Thanks, Raven. You made a really challenging day tolerable. Hugs, Ladybug!

Note: The postcard features: Old South Meeting House, Old State House, King’s Chapel, State Capitol, Old North Church, and Paul Revere Statue (top); Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s House (center); Old Corner Bookstore, U.S.S. Constitution, Old Granary Burying Ground, Park Street Church, and Bunker Hill Monument (bottom).

Happy Weekend, Y’all!

Enjoy Your Trip to Porto!

Let’s take a trip to Porto!

My blogging friend, Louise, recently vacationed in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. She kindly thought of me and sent two cheerful pieces from her travels–a brightly colored postcard and a bookmark that left me with a strong urge to take a trip to Porto!

Vintage Tram Car

The postcard features the Batalha 22 tram, one of the three “heritage” routes of the transportation collective in Porto,  Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto (STCP).

The bookmark (probably) features the Ribeira neighborhood, a neighborhood filled with cafes, restaurants, homes, and a walkway along the Douro River.

The colorful buildings are so inviting!

These images offer a tiny glimpse of Porto. Louise’s photos tell a more comprehensive story, so be sure to check out her Porto blog posts, especially the one about the bookshop:

Enjoy the trip!

Postcard: Cotentin and a Bit of Art Therapy

We’re in a new month and Cy is back from Madrid, so there’s no “Snapshots from Madrid” today. Instead, we take a brief trip to France.

My globetrotting photographer-blogger friend Louise of Drops of Everything has been doing a lot of travel this summer–she’s in Italy at the moment–and just last week I received a gorgeous postcard from Normandy. I was pleasantly surprised and tickled because I sent her a postcard from New Orleans two days after this one began its journey to me.

En Normandie, Cherbourg. Photo by Franck Godard.

Louise shares stunning images from her travels via her Facebook page, Louise Mamet Photography. She has a thing for water vehicles. The first image she sent to me is entitled “Shipyard of Camaret.”

Based on descriptions I’ve read, Cotentin sounds divine, like the perfect escape from reality:

The Cotentin peninsula in Normandy is a land of wilderness, lulled by the wind and the sea, a land of hidden treasures : La Hague, Val de Saire, UNESCO heritage sites, and lands of art and history.  –from LaManche Tourism

Normandy is the birthplace of Impressionism, one of my favorite art movements, and the description perfectly relates what attracted artists to the area. I’m sure scenes such as this one (minus the buildings) inspired many impressionist masterpieces, so I “reimagined” the image as one.

Cotentin, reimagined as an Impressionist painting. Edited with Impresso App.

The photograph was expertly captured by Franck Godard. You can see more of his Normandy work by visiting his page.

After a week of long meetings, art is the prescription I need, so this weekend, I’m pulling out my art books to feed my soul and my paint to have a little creative fun.

What are you up to this weekend? Be sure to do something that feeds your soul!