If ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart...

If ye give place, 
that a seed may be planted
in your heart...

If it be a true seed, 
or a good seed...
 If ye do not cast it out by your unbelief... 

It will begin to swell within your breast.

And when you feel these swelling motions, 
Ye will begin to say within yourself,
"It must needs be that this is a good seed...
For it beginneth to enlarge my soul; 
Yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding,
Yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me."

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♪♫ ... and a chicken in a peach tree ♪♫

Isn't that how the song goes? No? Well, it would if it was a summer song instead of a Christmas song.

Today marks one week since the mysterious feral chicken fell out of the blue into our front garden... quite literally. [Click here if you want to read about it]

I still don't know where she came from. But apparently, despite her disdain for humans and cats, she has decided to hang around. I think the neighbor's cat has finally given up trying to "get the chicken". And the once-feral garden kitty that lives in our garden is smaller than the chicken and avoids her at every opportunity. In fact, the chicken will run from me but not the cat. Go figure.

We've dubbed the chicken "Ginger" or "The Big Ging" (Doctor Who fans should know the reference). She's been cleaning up on bugs, seeds, grass, strawberry leaves, leftover watermelon and chicken scratch (a mix of corn, wheat, millet and oats) so her feathers are in much better condition than only a week ago. She appears to have put on some weight too--which is good because she was so scrawny. So the "Big Ging" is getting bigger, thank goodness. I've also caught peeks of her when she doesn't know I'm looking and seen fluffy down in large tufts coming in around her legs. I think this is a good sign.

Speaking of catching peeks... can you see her peering at me with one eye from behind the peach tree leaves in the photo below?

I was wondering where she was spending her nights until yesterday when I stayed out in my chaise lounge until dusk. She meandered around pecking at things on the flagstones under the plum tree until she decided it was time to go to bed. She looked both ways a few times as if to see if anyone was looking, then crouched down low and sprang up in the most graceful chicken move I've ever seen. Flying up to the top of the wooden fence that divides our property from our neighbors' yard, she landed on the dog-ear-cut edge of the fence boards in a clearing between a rosebush and a liquid amber tree. She looked around a few more times, then carefully walked along the ridge of the boards and stealthily ducked under the branches of the liquid amber. I saw some rustling as she made her way through the branches and hopped up into the branches of the neighbor's peach tree that is right up against the fence with its boughs hanging over into our garden. When the rustling finally settled, I ventured around for a better vantage point without startling her and found she had roosted in a crook left in the branches from the neighbor's latest pruning.

This evening, I was again sitting outside at dusk (one of my favorite pastimes) when she fluttered up to the fence again to go to bed. Hubby joined midway through and got to watch the last half of her roosting ritual.

After she appeared to be settled, I ducked inside to get my camera and telephoto lens. I captured a few shots of her from the other side of the pond. When I came inside, I discovered the above photo with her little eye peering at me from between the peach tree leaves.

She's very suspicious of everything--particularly me and my camera.

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Vignettes from an afternoon at the bird fountain

If I sit quietly in my chaise under the shade of the oleander with my camera and telephoto lens at the ready, I sometimes get the choice privilege of witnessing the dance around the bird fountain. The finches are visitors at this time of year. And one particular finch family is frequenting the fountain today.

First, Papa Finch comes down to get a drink and also to check out the current safety of the fountain to see if it's okay for the rest of the family to come down too.

Then Mama Finch swoops in gracefully, looking much like a ski jumper in flight.

Mama Finch is then joined by the young fledgling. Mama is teaching her juvenile how to drink but still has to help out sometimes by giving the fledging water directly. It will learn to do this on its own with Mama and Papa's great coaching.

The fledgling looks puzzled when Mama or Papa flies away. It is a tactic to try to get the young one to discover drinking directly from the fountain on its own.

The finches don't own exclusive rights to the water fountain, so they have to know when to share. When a female Anna's hummingbird approaches, the finch gets one last drink and then acquiesces to let the hummingbird take a turn.

This female Anna's is a little more cautious in approaching the fountain than other hummingbirds. She may be young or she may simply be out of her territory (hummingbirds are highly territorial and will chase off interlopers as soon as they are discovered).

She flits and darts as if she's trying to view the gurgling water from every possible angle before imbibing. She is probably feeling little droplets of water as they splash off the fountain. You can see some in the photo below.

The hummingbird is sure she wants to get a drink now and sticks out her long little tongue in anticipation of sipping from the burbling water.

She darts in and back out over and over with her tongue out catching little sips every time she goes close to the water.

After a few drinks, the hummingbird decides she has time to take a bath too.

She sits her tiny little body right in the middle of the action and drenches herself. Over the next minute or more, she is often completely enveloped in the water. Clearly, she loves baths. She's happy, content, and, eventually, very clean.


Not too far away from the bird fountain amidst the tall-ish grasses growing at the edges of the flagstone and gravels paths that meander through the garden, the visiting feral chicken (who showed up last week) is playing "jungle fowl" and hiding from me as she usually does. But my telephoto lens catches a glimpse of her anyway from across the pond that stands between the two of us. She's not a fan of humans or cameras. So I feel extremely lucky to have gotten another shot of her.

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Lavender, Japanese water iris, and one little worker bee

At the base of the deck stairs there are two large terra cotta pots--one on each side. In each pot is a single massive globe of lavender. The pots sit on the ground so each of the lavender bushes have most assuredly sent tap roots down through their respective drainage holes by now and firmly rooted themselves where they sit. Winter frosts are not severe enough to kill their foliage, so they are growing year round. Sometimes in the winter they are the only thing blooming in the garden.

If I sit at the base of the stairs (which I often do), I can sit and watch a plethora of activity in either of the lavender plants. Bees, butterflies, flies, wasps and even hummingbirds come to sip the nectar from the tiny lavender blossoms.

The other morning, I was sitting on the lowest stair with my camera. On schedule, the tall grasses that I've let grow tall (probably too tall) have changed from a spring green to a pale golden blonde color. That means it's summer. The color of the lavender blooms against the grass in the background looked so magical to me in the clear sunshine. I wanted to see if I could capture that magic.

Every once in a while I'd see if I could catch a bee on one of the blossoms, but they darted from one blossom to the other so fast I couldn't focus quickly enough. So I gave up. I was content capturing the lavender.

Before I went inside I walked across the path to take a couple of shots of the new Japanese water iris bloom that had emerged deep dark and regal in its purple majesty.

It wasn't until today when I sat down to post-process my shots that I discovered that I had captured a perfectly in focus shot of bee completely by accident. Just one shot. That's all. It only takes just one. I had no idea that I had gotten that shot when I took it. It was what I call "photographic serendipity"--a fleeting magical moment that I just happened to capture with my camera.

As I look at the three shots in this post, I am struck by some observations...

The Japanese water iris is a showy flower that grabs attention before anything else. It stands in a proud pose as if it wants to be photographed. I could see it from the other side of the garden. I was drawn in by it. Most flower photographers would immediately gravitate toward it with their cameras and shoot away.

Then there's the delicate, humble and understated lavender. Although one stalk is lovely, the real beauty happens when the stalks are all together. En masse the purple stalks create a lovely show against the straw background.

But, to me, the most engaging photograph of the three is the one with the solitary bee flying away from the camera. One little bee. She's not fancy or showy. She's just a little worker bee. But her presence in the composition makes it magical.

In this world there people who are Japanese water irises. They are people that draw your attention immediately because of their sheer beauty. They are few and far between.

In this world there are many more people who are lavender. They are humble and understated. The trials of life are all around them but winter's trials don't take them down. They just keep going. Alone they may not have a great impact--at first glance. But when these wonderful individuals come together they can create amazing beauty--wonderful beautiful acts of kindness, charity, and compassion that can move mountains.

And, also in this world, there are people who are the plain worker bees. They are small. They go about their work with determination and often without accolades or recognition. But... one little worker bee can make a difference. One little worker can change the overall picture without even knowing it. One little worker bee can create magic.

This is dedicated to all the "lavender people" and "little worker bee people" right now in Oklahoma.

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Is someone missing their contraband chicken?

I was sitting in the living room late yesterday afternoon talking to my sister-in-law on the phone, when I saw a large dark object fly past the front window in a cackling blur. At first, I thought another wild turkey had shown up and had crash landed in the front garden.

With phone in hand, I went outside to investigate. I heard clucking from under the rosemary hedge where it is too small to fit a turkey. Then it dawned on me that the clucking was not a turkey... it was a chicken!

That was a surprise! It is against county zoning ordinance laws to keep chickens where we live (we've talked directly with the county about it hoping we could have our own backyard chicken. No dice.). So we've never seen a stray chicken wandering around before.

The chicken hung around until dusk--wandering between the back and front gardens clucking along the side yard that connects both. The living room windows that overlook the side yard were open so we could enjoy the cool May night air. We could hear her clucking as she repeatedly passed underneath. The cats were quite entertained. The clucking finally stopped right before sundown, so I figured she had wandered home to wherever she came from to roost.

I was wrong...

Today, I came downstairs to hear more clucking and ba-gawking out in the back garden. I didn't get a chance to get a photo of her yesterday, so I went and got my camera and headed out the back door to see if I could get a shot or two of her.

Well, just as I stepped out onto the deck and started to round the corner of the house, I witnessed one of the neighborhood cats lunging at the chicken at the base of the deck stairs. Said chicken promptly took flight and headed straight for my head! Luckily, she veered at the last minute and landed a few feet in front of me on the deck railing next to the hot tub.

Always striving to be the consummate photographer, I remained unruffled and started squeezing off shots of the chicken while I had the chance. She was in perfect view with great light. How could I not?

She continued to cluck and ba-gawk at me. It wasn't happy ba-gawking either. She was royally ticked off at the audacity of that cat (who is barely bigger than the chicken) and the nerve of this woman to take pictures of her with her feathers ruffled.

You know the old adage, "Madder than a wet hen"? Well, I think I caught the look that goes along with that saying...

Talk about giving someone the "skunk eye". Boy, if looks could kill!

Fortunately, our garden is a backyard wildlife habitat full of plenty of water and bugs for her to eat while she hangs around. Now if she could only poop in the dirt and fertilize it instead of pooping on the flagstones that don't need fertilizer. Beggars can't be choosers I suppose.

Because of the county ordinances prohibiting the keeping of chickens, I can't really go up and down the the street with leaflets saying "FOUND: One lost chicken who's extremely ticked off right now"-- although I'm really tempted. Oh, you have no idea how tempted I am.

The chicken is still here. It wandered down the street for a while yesterday, but it came back again *sigh*. It disappears at a little before sundown somewhere in the bushes. I don't know how it's surviving every night since we have many predators here (raccoons, skunks, opossums and grey foxes). 

I decided to try and figure out what kind of chicken it is. I found only one breed on www.BackYardChickens.com that evenly remotely looks like it--the Euskal Oiloa: Marraduna Basque. Apparently, this breed loves free ranging (ya' think?). It is considered a rare Spanish breed. Of course something like this would show up here instead of a regular run-of-the-mill chicken. If anyone knows more about this breed, please tell me if I'm off base in concluding this is what it is. I don't have any new photos of the chicken because it's camera shy. It does look more healthy just since these photos were taken. It must be finding some really good eats here.
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Early blooming rudbeckia... why couldn't I have been like you?

A patch of rudbeckia blooms early this year--probably because it overwintered quite well and didn't have to play catch up.

How I wish I didn't always feel like I was always playing catch up.

I listen to podcasts of accomplished creative twenty-somethings. I often find myself thinking, "Why couldn't I have been that together at that age? Why couldn't I see what I really wanted... no, needed to be?"

Old enough to be a mother to many of them, I feel like I'm only beginning to emerge...

A reluctant late-bloomer, I feel so behind.

Self-talk riddled with "should have's" clogs my thoughts. Hubby says I'm "should-ing" all over myself. He's right. I know it. Yet I can only make the "should-ing" go away for short periods of time before it's back jamming up my creative senses to the point where I can't hear anything but their clamor.

It is then that I retreat to photography...

Eight years ago, it was photography that pulled me from the dark abyss I had entered when I abandoned all creative and artistic pursuits and swore I wouldn't try again. After 10 years of trying to "make it", I had been rejected by so many gatekeepers and curators of the world of creative professionals that I couldn't do it anymore. I had determined I was not talented enough or educated enough to rub shoulders with those that called themselves "professional artists". I figured I had missed the boat by not getting my act together in my early twenties. I concluded it was my own stupid fault and, despite the ache inside, I had to accept this self-imposed sentence. I was bruised and my dreams had been crushed so many times, I decided to quash them altogether.

But eight years ago, walking along a beach on the north shore of Oahu with a little Sony Cybershot digital camera in my hand, I let my photographic passion come out to play. The place (one I consider to be a personal safe haven), the moment and nature combined forces and reached out to the part of me locked deep inside--so deep I thought it wasn't there anymore. There was enough of a spark to start a small flame, and as I allowed myself to fan the flame it grew progressively brighter as the months passed.

In the years since then, I've often thought that photography was just the entry point to get me back on the creative track.

But maybe I'm wrong...  maybe photography is my destination and not a stop along the journey.

Maybe that is why when the "should-ing" in my head becomes overwhelming, I retreat to photography and not drawing or painting.

When I look at it that way, then I don't feel so far behind. I don't feel like such a late bloomer. I don't feel out of step or weighed down with thoughts of, "You should have done something long before now..."

Why? I don't know. It just is. And photography takes me there.

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Snip and snails and... dragonfly tails. That's what little boys are made of (and some girls too)

I was sitting on my brother's couch when my 11-year-old nephew sidled up beside me. Calmly he said, "I found something really cool floating in the swimming pool... but you may not think it's cool..." his voice trailed off a bit.

"Really?" I asked with all sincerity. He had my full attention. Rarely does he deem anything as "cool" let alone "really cool", and I know if he does, it almost always involves some sort of wildlife (a boy after my own heart).

"What is it?" I asked inquisitively.

"I found a dragonfly floating in the deep end of the pool. It's this big," he indicated with his fingers a large find.

"Is it still alive?" I asked.

"Maybe... I don't know... probably not..." he replied.

"What color is it?" I was thoroughly intrigued both in the dragonfly he had found and the fact that this normally unassuming, quiet, and cerebral boy had initiated the conversation with me instead of the other way around.

"He's kinda brown," his eyes twinkled with the delight of a boy who has found someone who loves bugs as much as he does.

"Where is it? Your dragonfly is going to be the first thing I photography with something new I got!" I was already headed to my tote bag in the hall and talking over my shoulder.

It was he who was intrigued now. He followed me to my bag as I extracted my latest fun acquisition still in the unopened package. I had thrown it in "just in case" and, at this moment, I was so glad I did.

I showed him as I unpackaged it (dropping my iPhone in the process--good thing it was in a case) and explained, "This is an Olloclip. It clips onto my iPhone so I can take close-up macro photos of things that are small. I want to try it out on the dragonfly you found!"

I clipped the lens onto the corner of my iPhone over the top of the built-in lens, and he led me to the dragonfly that had been carefully and lovingly laid out on a paper towel by his mom (my sister) in a shoebox to make a safe journey home with them later in the day.

He stood and watched as I gingerly dragged the paper towel to get the perfect indirect light from the kitchen window and began shooting. I was amazed at the details I was catching--details my eyes couldn't see. We both ooo'ed and aah'ed with each capture. Pretty soon we had an audience as other family members wanted to know what all the excitement by the kitchen sink was about.

After I felt like I'd captured every angle, the dragonfly was placed reverently back into its shoebox. Neither he nor I were happy about the dragonfly's demise. We never said it, but we both knew the other was thinking it. Also unspoken, was the sentiment that somehow by appreciating the beauty of this fascinating creature and honoring it through careful study, it's untimely death wouldn't have been in vain.

We stood afterwards and carefully reviewed on the iPhone what the macro lens had seen that we could not--the tiny perfect serration on each wing-edge and the luminescent panes of gossamer film. It is moments like this that remind me to strive to always see the world the way a child sees it.

I am not affiliated with the company that produces the Olloclip or Apple that produces the iPhone. 
I was not compensated for anything written in this post in products, services or monetary funds.
I simply wrote about them because they are cool.

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Reflections on being brave

"Don't take the big camera out with you," I silently say to myself, "Just take the iPhone. Only the iPhone."

The clear light is so beautiful... and so fleeting.

My photographer's heart tries to argue with my head, "You could miss something really special and not have the good lens with you. You've got to go back and get the real camera... not this toy."

By this time, I'm out the back door and already seeing the first photographic opportunity as the sun shines hot and bright through the glimmering petals of newly bloomed snapdragon volunteers growing in a pot from last year's seed.  

The garden kitty greets me and meows for me to stay. Good thing. Otherwise, I'd be back inside in a flash to pick up the "big gun". I sit down on the deck stairs behind an overflowing pot of lavender alive with the movement of bees and the intermittent May breeze. Again, the light is perfect. I can't really see what I'm shooting. I can barely make out the display from the glare.

"How do these iPhonographers do this?" my heart says as my head says, "Just persevere. You can see it all later out of the sun."

Oddly, the roles of head and heart are reversed (again) with my head the creative brave part of me and my heart the cowardly lion. My head tells me I must push myself to explore new creative horizons and places I haven't experienced yet. My heart wants to go back to the comfy cozy place where it feels all warm and fuzzy--the creative terrain I've tread for some time now. This seems to be a theme for me for the past few years. I think of it as trying to "be brave". It's a strange thing for me to face.

When I was a kid I was used to change, new horizons to explore, and facing the unknown. After graduating high school, I had a perpetual case of wanderlust that lasted all through my twenties and into the early part of my marriage in my early thirties. Hubby and I got so good at traveling we had our carry-ons permanently packed with the essentials. All we had to do was throw in clothes for the trip and go. Change was exciting. Change was romantic. Change was a constant (if that makes sense).

Then we moved here. I settled into our home. After living here four years, I officially set a new life milestone for how many years I lived consecutively in the same house. Four years turned into eight. And eight years suddenly were twelve. Roots grow pretty deep in twelve years--in gardens and in people.

So is this why I am often facing the challenge to "be brave"?  Is this why it's so ridiculously difficult to take photos with my iPhone instead of my DSLR? It feels like it is, but maybe not.

Then I realize that by having roots that run so deep I am treading new territory--more unknown than any other horizon I've ever walked toward. Allowing myself to feel this sense of place... being like the oak tree instead of the dandelion... this could be the most brave I've ever been. And it's my heart that's leading me with this one.

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Cherry parfait roses and Instagram

Hubby is even more of a techie geek than I am (yes, that is possible), so he's often an early adopter of new technology in the world of social media. When Twitter entered the scene, Hubby was there signing on with an early account. When Google+ was there to challenge Facebook's share of the market, Hubby was signing up for an account. So, it stands to reason, when Instagram first made it's debut, Hubby was there with an early account. After he "played" with each one to see if it had value, he would encourage me to sign up for my own account on each.  I have often ended up being a "semi-early" adopter through his influence. In the case of Instagram, I was excited about it until Facebook bought the company. That soured me on the idea and I removed the app from my iPhone...

...until a couple of weeks ago.

I was at the wedding of two good friends who are great amateur photographers and Instagram users. At regular intervals throughout the reception, Hubby was taking photos with his iPhone and then post-processing them on the spot. Periodically, he'd show me his creations. Then he'd quickly post them to Instagram. I was intrigued. So I started playing with taking some photos at the reception. I had to load the Instagram app back on my iPhone so I could play with post-processing photos I was taking. Before I knew it, I found myself deeply immersed in the creatively inspirational world of Instagram.

This isn't the first time this has happened.

Several years ago, I had a similar phenomenon happen when I was corresponding with a fellow photographer blogger, Jen at Muddy Boot Dreams, whose work I greatly admire. She offhandedly mentioned how much of an inspiration the Flickr community was for her creativity. I took her advice and joined the world of Flickr. She was right. I found myself feeling like I was in a master's class of photography on a global scale. It was wonderfully inspiring for me and pushed me in my work and my creative eye. I ended up adopting new techniques of post-processing which led to me finding a completely new way of digitally painting my photos. It opened up a whole creative world for me. All because I acted on the advice of a fellow blogger.

I am finding that Instagram is doing the same for me. I am pushing my photographic eye and my creativity at just the right time when I feeling like I needed to be more creatively challenged.

There are some Instagrammers (IG'ers) who are iPhone only contributors that are really pushing themselves creatively. I have to admit, I'm not quite that brave... yet. My Instragram gallery is a mixture of shots from my DSLR cameras and iPhone. Maybe someday I'll take the brave leap into iPhone only.

For now, I'm thrilled to be discovering the work of some really brilliant IG'ers. Some are also bloggers, so I've gotten the bonus of discovering some beautiful blogs along this journey!

If you'd like to join me on Instagram click here


The roses featured in this post are "Cherry Parfait" all from the same bush. This is the most spectacular display it's put on since I planted it probably about 4 or so years ago.

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A May day "basket" of flowers for everyone

"Disneyland" rose in forefront with "Blue Ribbon" peeking its pale purple self from behind
Then going clockwise up and around the bird fountain:
"Our Lady of Guadalupe" rose
"Ronald Reagan"
"Honey Bouquet"
"My Fifi"

I've been in the middle of transitioning to a new computer all day so my intention of posting photos of lots of blooms to wish everyone a happy first of May kind of fell by the wayside until late in the evening. Oh well. Better late than never, right?

When I was young, my mom told me about the old tradition of filling a basket of flowers for the first day of May and giving them to someone special. I have so many people who are special to me (all of you) I can't fill up real baskets for everyone and deliver them in person. But I can share these images instead and we can pretend, okay?

"Blue Ribbon" with a backdrop of fennel, "Disneyland" and our living room windows

The past week, I've been posting a bloom a day in order to share the explosion of color happening in the garden right now (the front garden being the most colorful). Today, I'm sharing some wider shots to illustrate that I'm not exaggerating when I say it is "exploding with color".

Same roses as mentioned above except for the "Abraham Darby" top left and "Parade" to its right

I love when the garden puts on this show. Although most of the roses continue to bloom throughout the summer and fall, there isn't ever quite the same abundance of blooms as there are at this time of the year.  Every time I look out the living room windows, I smile.

"Janice Kellogg" in forefront
"Our Lady of Guadalupe", "Ronald Reagan", and "Honey Bouquet" in background

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