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Teton Magic—First you see them, then you don’t.

“Sometimes all the planning in the world doesn’t mean your day or week will turn out the way you expected.”

I have always been captivated by the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. The mountains seem to rise out of nowhere and demand your attention. I am awestruck and humbled by their presence. If I let my imagination go, I can hear them speak of the majesty of creation. The Tetons place sixth among the most photographed mountains in the world.

We all know 2020 was hard. And like many travel deprived Americans, I felt eager to fly somewhere this summer. For weeks Herb, Jenny, and I watched videos, studied maps, and planned our activities. We had a tight schedule with four days to spend in the park. That seems like enough time, right? But this trip to Grand Teton National Park came with two unexpected trials.

One week prior to leaving, I strained my back lifting a box of books. I felt good when we left on Saturday, but the pain returned after the long flight and the drive from Salt Lake City to Jackson.

When we finally arrived at the park on Sunday, I was saddened to see smoke covering the mountains. The smoke originated from fires in Oregon. Since we couldn’t see much, my traveling companions insisted I visit an urgent care for help with my back pain.

“But we only have four days! How can I waste time waiting to see a doctor?” I asked. Eventually they convinced me if I didn’t get help, I would never be able to hike. I relented and off we went to the nearest clinic.

After a lengthy wait, I saw a doctor who called in a prescription to a pharmacy across the street. When I arrived to pick up my medication, ten people stood in line ahead of me. My back muscles tensed as I noticed the pharmacy closed early on Sunday. Thirty minutes later I reached the pharmacy window, only to be told the prescription wasn’t ready and I should come back in twenty minutes.

I joined Herb and Jenny at an outdoor table for a quick snack and hobbled back to the pharmacy. Now eleven people waited in line. (Someone told me the pharmacy closes on time whether people are waiting or not.) Desperate to receive my medication, I cut through the line to get to the pick up window. I simply couldn’t stand on my feet any longer, and the thought of being turned away was more than I could bear.

The pharmacist served me, much to the chagrin of those waiting in line, who complained about my behavior. At this point it was three minutes to five and I don’t blame them for being angry. I received my meds and left the store before emotions got out of control. I confess I felt ashamed of myself.

The remainder of Sunday I spent in bed at our Airbnb in Teton Village. Monday morning I encouraged Jenny and Herb to return to the park without me as I felt no improvement in my health. I stayed in bed and felt sorry myself. I didn’t have much time left to tour the park. I wondered if all I would see is the four walls around me? Would this be my punishment for cutting the line?

By Tuesday morning I felt ready to hike. I used my trekking poles to traverse the most beautiful trail to Taggart Lake. The smoke lifted that day and we got some great pictures of the mountains. I felt good to be alive and see such beauty. After the hike we drove to visit some of the historic buildings in the park.

Taggert Lake

Wednesday we hiked to Inspiration Point, located on the opposite side of Jenny Lake. Both hikes were listed as moderate with a significant elevation gain. I felt surprised when a fellow hiker told me I was his inspiration. (Probably due to my age, I guess.)

Inspiration Point with Herb and Jenny

By Thursday my pain returned and a thick blanket of smoke covered the mountains again. We checked out and began our return trip to Orlando.

Now a week later, I am still recovering. What did I learn from this experience?

Trips take people, people don’t take trips. All the planning in the world doesn’t mean your day or week will turn out the way you expected or wanted. I had expected too much from this trip. Blessed are those who are happy with little. I am thankful for those two days when the smoke lifted and I was well enough to experience the mountains.

Somewhere in the middle, between the good times and the bad, I sensed God’s love for me. I remembered the sick woman who pressed through the crowd to reach Jesus. (Matt. 9:20-22) She received her healing. Did she cut through a line?

I am thankful Jesus is able to recycle our mistakes into something good by his transforming grace. When I depend on experiences for my happiness, I want to remember the smoke and pain of this trip.

I want to remember lasting joy is only found in God’s redeeming love.

Reflection Pond

Like tourists,

we park the car at the side of the road

and hop out for a quick photo.

Before us,

A palisade of pines frame the pond,

and like an impressionist painting,

blurry images shimmer across the water’s surface.

Behind the blades

scattered amid wide green lilly-pads,

pink buds wait for the morning sun to wake them,

commencing the grand opening

when they share their glory

with a wandering soul.

Above the drone of hidden arthropods.

a bob-white announces, “I’m here.”

During the next several minutes,

each flower changes from pink to white

and I rejoice

to be here, too.

Author Notes

We visited Reflection Pond on a camping trip at Ochlockonee River State Park located near Sopchoppy, Florida. A quick photo stop turned into a half-hour visit as Herb and I a watched a water lily open. Reflection pond is aptly named. Time seemed to stand still as we pondered the beauty of the scene. I felt like we had witnessed something special.

More about water lilies:

  • The blooms open in the morning and close in the afternoon. Each plant blooms for three to four days.
  • The flowers grow from underground stems. These stems can stretch which helps the lily adjust to rising water levels.
  • Water lilies are beneficial to ponds because they help control algae and stabilize the water temperature.
  • If your birthday is in July, the water lily is your flower!

Thank you for reading my post. An earlier post entitled Being expresses a similar theme of living in the moment in the Florida Keys. Nature has much to offer if we slow down and take notice of our surroundings. May your summer be blessed with special moments outdoors.

A Decorating Dilemma

Whew! We’ve all been there. Moving from one place to another is pure chaos. Even though a moving company handled the packing and transporting, the process stressed me out.

I apologize for my long absence from cyberspace. In my last post I mentioned our upcoming plans to move to a retirement community. For the past month, I’ve been consumed with trying to create harmony between myself and my new living space.

Our new apartment is small. (1500 square feet) We no longer have a garage, which was quite useful for stashing items we didn’t use everyday. Now, every inch of storage space matters. Although we tried to downsize, our closets are full. The movers stacked our framed art against a wall in the guest room. Every time I walked in there I thought, “What are we going to do with all of these pictures?” We live in an open floor plan with less wall space, and more windows.

If you think God doesn’t care about the little things we deal with, think again. This is one dilemma I prayed about, and His answer increased my faith.

I felt a need to keep the art I still liked—colorful landscapes and nature scenes from trips we’ve taken. So, I carried each picture from room to room to envision how it might look on the wall. Still, I couldn’t see how this eclectic mix could possibly fit together. Most of all, I didn’t want to make unnecessary holes in any of the walls. Once the pictures were hung, that’s where I wanted them to stay.

Two years ago I repurposed these frames with photographs I took at Lue Gardens. The colors brightened up the dining room and complemented our chairs, so I decided to keep them.

Then I found a collection of small canvases Jenny, our daughter, had painted. For years they decorated a bedroom. When I carried them into the dining room, I realized they matched the chairs as well. Jenny and I found some rustic looking frames at Joann Fabrics, which my husband prepared for hanging. Originally I thought I would line them up horizontally on another wall.

Enter Shaun,O’Dwyer, a floral designer with an eye for hanging pictures. Shaun came up with a new idea. Create harmony by bringing these different elements together vertically. Then hang them high. The result is amazing. I always thought pictures had to be at eye level. Shaun opened my eyes to new possibilities.

If you are wondering what to do with something old, instead of throwing it out or giving it away, think about changing it. Enlist the help of someone who might see things differently and create a new look.

“Redecorating has the power to make us feel like we have created new energy, a new vibe, a new life” —Dr. Sherrie Campbell

I am so thankful God cares about the little details in our lives. When it comes to creativity, I want to remember to look to the master creator. Behold, He makes all things new! (Rev.21:5 KJV)

Thank you for reading my blog. Leave a comment. I’d love to hear how you solved a decorating dilemma.

How to Age Gracefully

A positive outlook about your age can help you live longer.

This week I received a phone call from a high school classmate inviting me to our fiftieth class reunion. The call hit me by surprise. What? Fifty years have passed since I graduated? After the shock wore off, I did the mental math. I graduated from high school in 1971. Just another reminder that time doesn’t stop. Sometimes I feel like my body is a driverless car on the road to an unknown destination.

The cosmetic industry has made billions from products which help hide or slow down the effects of aging, but nothing stops the process. For twenty-five years I colored my hair to hide my age. When the 2020 shut down closed the beauty shops, I let my hair return to its natural state. After awhile I began to like my salt and pepper look. Now a year later, I’ve accepted myself for who I am. After all, isn’t gray hair considered the “splendor of the old?”

Most women don’t want anyone to know how old they are. After age eighty, all of a sudden their attitude changes. They wear their age like a badge of honor to represent their personal victory over the struggles of life. I am thankful for the advancements in health care which make it possible for us to live longer.

Today people can expect to spend a quarter of their adult lives in retirement mode. These can be the best years of our lives if we approach them with the right attitude. That’s right, attitude means everything. Did you know a positive outlook about your age can help you live longer? In this post I’d like to share some tips for nurturing a healthy attitude.

Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself

Are you someone who regularly complains about how bad they feel? Accept the reality that you are aging and do what you can to alleviate your aches and pains. Focus on the opportunities of today instead of regretting the mistakes of the past. People lose their “aliveness” when they weigh themselves down with negativity.

Exercise Your Mind

When we learn new skills our brain function increases. Routines create ruts and limit our growth. Our brains love stimulation. Try puzzles, read, learn new vocabulary, dance, listen to music. For more ideas go to this link for brain Exercises.

Stay Connected Socially and Spiritually

Keep in touch with old friends. Deepen your relationship with God by reading the Bible and praying. Connect with people who share a similar interests. Volunteer in your community.

Express Gratitude

Every day think of three things you are thankful for. Keep a journal of blessings. Express your thankfulness to and for others. Be thankful for your age. God has given you these years and it is indeed a wonderful life.

Soon my husband and I will be moving into a retirement community. We are excited about the opportunities ahead and treasure these years together.

“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”

—Frank Lloyd Wright

Timing is Everything

Why would a turtle crawl onto the same bank as an alligator? Excuse me, but something doesn’t seem right about this photo. After all, alligators eat turtles. Their massive jaws have an extreme biting force that can easily break the shell of a turtle.

Strange but true, alligators and turtles sometimes become friends. In fact, some alligators let turtles ride on their backs. A gator might provide a nice way for the turtle to sun itself in a wide expanse of water.

Alligators only eat when they feel hungry. But how would a turtle know the gator’s stomach was full?

Herb and I saw this interesting scene on our latest camping trip to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Although Herb zoomed in for a close up, the gator was only about twenty feet away from us. Since we had Buddy (our beagle) with us, we didn’t wait around to see what might happen next.

The phrase “timing is everything” applies to many situations in life. The success of something is often related to when it happens. Our intuition guides us to the appropriate time to act. Animals rely heavily on their sense of intuition to process what is going on in their environment. In contrast, humans rely on their cognitive processes and tend to ignore their intuition.

Perhaps the turtles had a “gut feeling” about the alligator and the contents of his “gut.”

On that note…. until next time, watch your back.

Leave a comment if you have had any interesting animal encounters.

Think About Why You Started, and Keep Going

Everyone has dreams. How many of your dreams have become reality?

Five years ago I started writing this blog. Initially, I wanted to encourage people to pursue their creativity. I started as the Poet on Blueberry Street on April 1, 2016. My first post was very short. I really didn’t know what I was doing or where this blog would take me.

So it goes with creativity. One step leads to another and before you know it five years have passed. I have published one hundred sixty-two entries since 2016. Some of you may have followed me since the beginning. We have shared the ups and downs of camping in Florida, adventures in gardening, and of course who could forget the pandemic?

Throughout it all I’ve weaved my love for poetry, reading, and writing. Today I looked back at some of my favorite poetry posts. In case you missed them, or would like to revisit, click on these links.

If Trees Could Talk and Other Poems (2017)

Poetry a Message in a Bottle (2018)

Fallen Leaves (2019)

Ode to the Spotted Bananas (2020)

I realize I am not a blogger who keeps a specific schedule. I tend to hit the keys when I feel inspired. Creativity cannot be forced, but it can be furthered by allowing ourselves to “be in the zone.” I am thankful for this opportunity to express myself without an editor looking over my shoulder.

In the process of writing this post I discovered a website called DayZero. I was surprised to learn the world’s most popular goals include writing a blog, losing weight, and writing a book. Interesting. How blessed I am to accomplish two of those goals. (Remember, I like to eat bread.)

Whatever your goals, I leave you with this quote from Darren Hardy.

“Starting is not most people’s problem. Staying, continuing, and finishing is.”

In the words of Buddy the Beagle…. never give up.

At home, reading Return to Blueberry Street to my favorite beagle.

Are We There Yet?

“Some threads of our social fabric have changed forever.”

Do you ever wonder what life might be like if Covid 19 had never happened? Unfortunately, we will never know. One year has been wiped out of our lives. As difficult as the year has been, we have established new habits. We’ve become accustomed to a stilted way of life. One which is less social, less free, and less risky.

Why have we chosen comfort and safety above everything else? What happened to the bold Americans who explored unknown territory? Why do we still hesitate to venture into public without our masks and wash our hands countless times a day?

One year ago I wrote a post entitled Lessons from a National Emergency. Last March the entire country was under a stay at home order to “slow the spread.” Over the past year Florida eased many restrictions regarding social distancing. Public schools opened, as did restaurants and hair salons. However, many churches, and community organizations continue to meet virtually. Museums, if open, insist upon scheduling appointments to accommodate visitors. Businesses maintain mask policies, and many employees still work from home.

I believe some threads of our social fabric have changed forever. Virtual communication is here to stay. We are different now. It is so much easier to meet with someone on a screen. Driving somewhere to interact with people involves too much effort. We feel uncomfortable without our masks, and wonder… “what if the vaccines we receive do not protect us from a deadly variant?”

When our children were young, we rented a small trailer and took a road trip from Columbus, Ohio to Yellowstone. Prior to the trip, we prepared a child friendly map of the U.S. for each of them. We drew our route on the map and highlighted all of our stops. When we were on the trip the children placed a star sticker on each stop we made. We hoped it might help them to see how far we still needed to go before we were “there.”

In a similar way, most Americans can’t wait for the day when the pandemic ends. We all want to be “there.” Back to a time when we could enjoy a play in a crowded theatre or attend an indoor concert. (without a mask) The slow car ride to normality drags on. We feel disappointed when we hear our government say, “Put another sticker on the map, kids. Busy yourself by looking out the window.” Like you, I am bored with the view from the back seat and continue to ask, “Are we there yet?”

Be Like A Tree

The truth is I’m a tree hugger. Whether I’m admiring the knobby knees of a bald cypress, or the limbs of a towering live oak, trees are my thing. I’ve shared scores of photographs on this blog and written many poems about trees.

During my four years of camping and tromping through the state parks of Florida, I’ve seen many species of trees. Most of the parks in northern and central Florida include forests of longleaf pine.

Young long leaf pines flourish in a field of grass at Goldhead Branch.

How can a pine tree have leaves?

The longleaf pine is really an evergreen conifer. Its name originated from the needlelike “leaves” which develop in bundles of three. These needles grow up to 18 inches long. Unlike the bald cypress tree, the longleaf pine does not lose its needles in winter, and is not classified as deciduous.

The longleaf pine has a single trunk which is covered in thick scaly bark.

How can fire be an agent for growth?

Like many pine trees, the cones contain seeds which are dispersed by the wind. However, the seeds of the longleaf pine will never germinate unless they come in contact with soil. When the ground around each pine is thick with leaf litter and undergrowth, the seeds fail to produce new trees.

Longleaf pines need fire to keep producing more trees. If other windblown seeds from hardwood trees take root and grow, the longleaf pines are eventually choked out.

The restoration of longleaf pine forests have become a major conservation policy of the state parks. Unless a lighting strike produces a fire naturally, the park staff use controlled burns to remove the undergrowth. Fire does not damage the longleaf pine, which is also resilient to pests, windstorms, and drought.

When I heard this information from a guide at Highlands Hammock, I was surprised. I never thought fire could be so helpful. Forest fires illustrate how trials are necessary for new growth. Nature often reminds me of scripture.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood has test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 NIV

Forests like this covered seventy percent of Florida when the early settlers arrived.

Intelligent trees?

After the seed germinates, the longleaf pine focuses on growing strong roots. When its taproot reaches a length of twelve feet, the longleaf pine concentrates on growing taller. Longleaf pines reach a height of one hundred feet and can live for three hundred years. Doesn’t all growth rely upon a firm foundation? A forest like the one above provides a home for thirty endangered animal species including the red-cockaded woodpecker.

As you can see by reading this post, I have always been a teacher at heart. I hope I have inspired you to spend time outdoors. Nature has much to teach us.

Be like a tree…. stay grounded and keep growing.

Enjoying a walk with Buddy in the Pine Flatwoods of Highlands Hammock.

Small Beginnings

Arise my barren cypress

Lift your branches high

winter days of darkness

Are now in short supply.

You endured the many trials

Which robbed you of your cheer

Stripped of all your beauty,

you’ve aged another year.

Time will soon restore

the lushness of your leaves

to dance above the riverbank

with every summer breeze.

Arise my barren cypress

Your future is not grim

For countless tiny buds

slumber on each limb.

Dear Readers, A quiet walk in nature often brings encouragement and inspiration to my heart. I have taken many photos of cypress trees, but I did not see the beauty of a barren tree until today. I was reminded that faith is being certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Are You a Creature of Comfort?

“The secret to a great campfire is in the wood.”

Winter camping brings challenges, as we discovered on our recent trip to Mike Roess Goldhead Branch in northern Florida.

The weather forecasted fifty-degree day time highs for our campout. Herb and I looked forward to this trip, but the thought of spending whole days in the trailer did not appeal to either of us. I am definitely a creature of comfort!

I checked my local Publix for firewood, since the wood they sell always burns well. Unfortunately, the store had none in stock, and an employee could not tell me when a delivery might arrive. (Another supply chain affected by Covid, of course.) Herb checked at Ace Hardware, and also came home empty handed.

I googled “firewood near me” and found a place located twenty miles away. Always the dutiful husband, Herb ventured out to see what the man had to offer. About an hour later he returned with at least thirty logs in the back of the jeep.

I helped Herb move the wood from the car into the trailer. “Great! This is enough wood to keep us warm until the cold snap ends. By the way, how much did it cost?”

“The man didn’t take a credit card.” Herb replied. “I told him all I had in cash was $18.00. He said that’s fine and took it.”

“What a deal!” I stored some of the wood in the shower of the trailer, while Herb stuffed as many logs as he could under the bed.

When we got to the campground, I cooked dinner while Herb positioned a few of the logs in the fire ring. There are two ways to build a fire. You can make the log cabin or the tee-pee. He built the tee-pee.

After dinner, we got ready for the grand lighting. Although Herb used a fire starter, the logs would not ignite. Instead they produced enough smoke to activate the smoke detector in the trailer. Eventually, we gave up trying to get the wood to burn and turned in for the night.

Ugh! This wood is bad.

The next morning we drove to the park entrance to buy more wood.

The park ranger was happy to oblige us. “Sure, we have just what you need.”

“Yes, but will it burn?”

“Our wood is kiln dried, guaranteed to burn.”

“Ok, I’ll take two bags.” Herb handed him $12.00.

After our hike we returned to the campsite to test the new wood. This time Herb built the tee-pee using the kiln dried wood. It burned right away. Success!

Then Herb started introducing the bad wood to the good wood. It too, started to burn. Yay!

The rest of the afternoon we continued to burn baby burn. What else were we to do with all of the bad wood? We were at the height of glory until…

Night fell along with rain. We took cover in our trailer. After a bit there was a knock on the door. I opened it to a park employee who informed me there was a boil water alert for the entire park. Apparently a water main broke and the campground drinking water became contaminated.

Although we’d brought some bottled water with us, I knew we didn’t have enough for the rest of our stay. So I set to work boiling water.

After the rain stopped, the wolf moon arrived along with bitter cold. But we were warm in our trailer as long as we used the propane heater.

After a hot breakfast of bacon and eggs, we decided to tour the park by car and pick up another bundle of wood to get through the day. The ranger was out, but the wood bin was unlocked. Herb dropped $6.00 in the mailbox with a note.

Back at the campsite, we spent the afternoon reading, warmed by the fire and the abundant sunshine.

By sunset we burned every stick of wood we had.

Our last night the temperature dropped to the mid-thirties. Before we we went to bed, Herb turned the thermostat to 65. We were low on propane because of all the water I boiled. I had a hard time sleeping because it was so cold in the trailer.

Some camping trips are remembered for beautiful scenery, others for people we’ve met, but this one deserves dual awards for the most expensive and the least comfortable.

I would be negligent to not mention the scenic features of this park. The property was donated by Mike Roess and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. Gold Head Branch ravine, formed by seepage springs, divides the park and has been designated a State Natural Feature Site. The shady, moist, ravine is 65 feet deep and 1.5 miles long. We carried Buddy down the eighty-five steps to the stream. The boardwalk was perfect for a Buddy size hike.

Herb and Buddy strolling the boardwalk along the Gold Head Seep.

I leave you with this…Mike Roess Goldhead Branch sells excellent firewood!