Sunset Stories in Silhouettes

When day meets night
on the edge of time,
sunset stories speak
in dark silhouettes.
Fisherrman's-Story
Standing in shadows cast by the fading sun, the man with his hand suspended in air appeared to be telling the age-old story of the big fish that got away. Perhaps he was saying:

“Yep. I’m not kidding…that fish was at least 6 or 7 feet long and fought like the devil! Why, it weighed so much, it broke my best fishing pole in half. It was a great experience, even though I lost the fish in the end.  I wish you had been there to see it for yourself!”Sunset-Silhouettes
As shades of orange light continued to spread across the sky and shadows deepened, human words suddenly came to the end of their meaning. In silence, people gathered together to witness the sun’s warm colors melting into and embracing the coming darkness.

Nature reminds us that everything in this world has a beginning and an end. Life is short. How wonderful it is to find others who want to share their stories and experiences with us along the way!
End-of-Summer
Thank you so much for visiting!  ~ ms

**Photos taken at Chincoteaque Island, Virginia

 

Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Singing Darkness into Light

After watching the depressing nightly news, I could not sleep at all last night. To pass the time, I decided to search for a piano recording of Gounod’s ‘Ave Maria’ that my friend Lani made for me (27 years ago).  Since I have always wanted to make a recording with her accompaniment, I thought this sleepless night might be the perfect opportunity to raise my spirits with a song. As I love to sing, I did promise several people that I would eventually post an audio file.  However, I have about 300 old practice cassette tapes and only a few of them are marked, so I was worried that it was going to take forever and a day to find this particular tape.
musical-disorganizationThankfully, in the middle of a dark night, luck was with me. As I listened through the 4th cassette—I actually found the recording that I wanted. I was so glad that it wasn’t forever lost, because it is the only one of its kind. We were living in Hawaii at the time and, since her living room windows were open, we could hear the birds singing in the palm trees while she was playing. The tape picked up the bird songs along with the piano accompaniment, so the music has a unique and peaceful sound. I told Lani that I was going to find a way to sing with this tape and make a recording of the combined sound. But time went by and things changed. We moved away to distant states, and the tape got buried and covered with dust.

It is almost unbelievable how much technology has changed since the late 1980s.  There was no internet access back then, and there certainly was no way to convert a cassette tape into a computer .mp3  file or a CD.  Now it is relatively easy.  At 3 a.m., I took that old cassette tape and ran the sound through an ION TAPE2PC Conversion System, which allowed me to upload the piano recording to my computer.  Then, I saved the audio file onto a CD and sang over it onto a second CD. At one point, while I was singing, I turned to ask Lani if she could pick up the tempo a little.  I had completely forgotten that the pianist was not there and the music was not live — such an interesting experience!  

Now I have a piano recording made in Hawaii in 1987, combined with singing that I did last night in a Virginia basement. Yes! I watched space, time, and distance vanish right before my eyes as I was singing darkness into light. Thank you for being there and now virtually here, Lani!
Bird-and-Pond

Posted in Hawaii, Music, photography, Singing, Technology | Tagged , , | 62 Comments

Dueling Storm Clouds

Loud thunder rumbles
within dark storm clouds
dueling over the last piece
of summer blue sky.    ~ms
Dueling-Clouds
When I looked out of my kitchen window and saw two dark clouds arguing with each other, I immediately grabbed my camera and went out onto the back porch.  I didn’t stop to think that going outside at this point might not be a good idea, even though I could hear thunder and see lightning striking on the horizon.

Such a fascinating sky! Both clouds had very distinct faces and neither one of them were happy. As they continued to push, shove, yell, and call each other names, their eyes floated together and became mysteriously connected.
Dueling-Clouds_2
Uh-oh!
I watched nervously as the dueling storm clouds began to merge into one extremely irritated demon. The wind understood exactly what was happening and picked up speed in anticipation.
Oh no!
Dueling-Clouds-Unite
The next clap of thunder was so loud, I ran back into my house as quickly as I could. However, before I was able to completely shut the back door, Mother Nature decided to take my picture with a brilliant flash of lightning.  I’m not sure, but I think my mouth was open.

Posted in clouds, Nature, photography, Poetry, Summer, Thunderstorms | Tagged , | 38 Comments

The Dragonfly Rests

Two pairs of transparent wings
sparkling in the sun
like stained glass windows
reflecting the morning light—
the dragonfly rests.     ~ms
Dragonfly_2a

Standing on water’s edge, I thought I could easily take photos of a few dragonflies. Wrong answer! An extremely elusive insect with incredible wing power, a dragonfly is like a biplane, helicopter, and high-speed jet combined. It can change its direction and velocity in the blink of an eye. Even when it stops to rest, it might only stay still for a few seconds before it chooses to fly away again. I didn’t know how to anticipate the next move!

After about an hour of trying (and failing), I was finally able to get one relatively clear photo of a blue dragonfly standing on a blade of grass. Good enough! I spent the remainder of this beautiful summer morning sitting by the lake, relaxing under the trees.
Lake-and-Table
*Update — July 25*
Today, down by the Rappahannock River,  I came across a dragonfly who actually seemed to be interested in posing for pictures. I’m not sure why, but I certainly appreciated it!
striped-dragonfly_7
Striped_dragonfly_3

Striped_dragonfly_5

Posted in photography, Poetry, Summer | Tagged | 66 Comments

Where Earth and Shadows Play

Hostas-after-Rain

Varigated-Hostas
A cool respite
beneath tall trees
where earth and shadows play,
leaves refreshed by raindrops light
on soft breezes sway.    ~ms
Tree-Shadows
Tree-Roots-in-Shadows
*** In the last photo–do you see the wooden tree creature that appears to be carrying something  into the center of the tree? (Click on the photo to make it larger). Interesting figure!

Posted in Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, Summer, Trees | Tagged | 44 Comments

Railroad Switchman Struck by Lightning (1937)

An old 1937 newspaper clipping and some faded photographs are definitive proof that Carl E. Spaid, a 45-year-old railroad switchman, was struck by lightning while working on the Burlington Route. As far as I know, a direct hit from a bolt of lightning is usually deadly, but the incredible (and almost unbelievable) part of this story is the fact that he survived. As the years of his life continued on, Carl eventually became my husband’s grandfather.
Blasted out of Shoes_1
I am told that Carl never said much, if anything, about his close encounter with the lightning. Considering the fact that he was in a coma for a while after the strike, it is possible that he had little to no memory of what happened.
Lightning Article
Looking at the old photos that we have, it appears that the lightning snapped a metal band around his hat, blew a hole into the side of it, shredded his clothes while passing downwards, and then violently exited out through his shoes.
lightning-strikes-his-hat
Lightning-ripped-pants
Personally, I don’t understand how he could have survived such a powerful electrical jolt from the universe, but he did. There must be a plausible explanation—I just don’t know what it is! Could be that miracles do happen.
Carl-Spaid_Combined
Train-CBandQ
Carl must have been a very strong man, both physically and mentally, because he returned to his job as a Burlington railroad switchman after he recovered. I don’t know if I could have done that. After being struck by lightning and almost dying,  I think I would have worried every time dark clouds brewed on the horizon again!

Regardless of any inherent dangers, he must have loved his job because he stayed with it for 37 years–until he retired.
Brotherhood-Trainmen-Card
37-year-pin
Carl’s pocket watch ( a 1936 992E “Elinvar” Railroad Pocket Watch made by the Hamilton Watch Company) still works…amazing! My husband says his grandfather also had a smaller pocket watch which he carried sometimes, so we will always wonder which one he had in his pocket on the day the lightning struck. Guess we will never know for sure.
Train Watch_2

Family photo:
Grandfather Carl Edward Spaid with grandson Thomas Carl Spaid—
Time passes and life in this world eventually ends, but memories and stories live on.      ~ms
Grandfather-and-Grandson

 

Posted in History, Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Science, Trains | Tagged , , | 61 Comments

The Boy Who Talks to Rocks

Why do some rocks walk miles
over hot desert sands,
and meteoric rocks travel
from deep space to dry land?

Perhaps, just perhaps,
they are trying to find
the boy who talks to rocks.
Listening
They’ve heard that this boy
can hold rocks in his hands,
hear their vibrating voices
and then understand.
Importance-of-Rocks
Today, the boy heard
a small rock whispering
this stern warning:

Tell me…
Where would man be

if  rocks weren’t around?
Where will man be
when no rocks can be found?
Without asking, humans pull rocks
thoughtlessly out of the ground.
Tell them that, one day soon,
they will look down and see
a frightening sight:
No earth beneath their feet!

Respect the world around you,
and handle nature with care.
This will help assure that
it will always be there!         ~ms
Caring-for-Rocks

Posted in Children's poetry, Children's stories, Imagination, Nature, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

Virginia—Civil War Reenactment

Admittedly, even though I have lived in Virginia for the past 20 years, this weekend was the first time that I ever attended a Civil War reenactment. It was sponsored by Spotsylvania County and the Mason-Dixon Alliance (MDA), in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War Battles of the Wilderness and Spotyslvania Courthouse.
Civil-War-Reenactment_2
The original battles were actually held in these fields 150 years ago, during the month of May—so this reenactment was hauntingly real.  I felt as if I had suddenly walked into the past and become a living part of American history.
Civil-War-Reenactment_15
Civil-War-Reenactment_32
Civil-War-Reenactment_22
The ground was muddy and soaking wet, the grass was high, and the cannon fire was so loud (completely authentic) that the horses on the field jumped a little each time the cannons were fired.
Civil-War-Reenactment_49
Civil-War-Reenactment
Civil-War-Reenactment_17
Civil-War-Reenactment_16
Civil-War-Reenactment_29
Civil-War-Reenactment_23
The time and effort that all of these soldiers (reenactors) put into this event was impressive. From the oldest to the youngest, their dedication and commitment was a great honor to the soldiers of the past.
Civil-War-Reenactment_35
Civil-War-Reenactment_10
Civil-War-Reenactment_4
Civil-War-Reenactment_48
Most of my photos are of the Confederate soldiers, because I could not get around to the other side of the field where the Union soldiers were positioned. The area was already taped off by the time I arrived, and I didn’t have a “Press Pass.”  As a result, I only have  a few photos of the Union soldiers gathered together in the distance.
Civil-War-Reenactment_27
Civil-War-Reenactment_38
After the battle ended and the smoke cleared, both sides returned to their separate camps.
As soon as they settled in, I noticed that several of the soldiers began making coffee over open fires—no Starbucks here!
Civil-War-Reenactment_25
Civil-War-Reenactment_5
Civil-War-Reenactment_9
Civil-War-Reenactment_20
The weather is supposed to be clear and cool, so I am sure that they will all get a good night’s sleep—before they have to get up tomorrow and face one more battle.
Civil-War-Reenactment_6
And me?
I returned to the present day with a better appreciation and understanding of what the soldiers endured during the American Civil War, so many years ago.

Civil-War-Reenactment_32b

Posted in History, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , | 64 Comments

Rappahannock River Rising

Because of 3 days of torrential spring rain in Fredericksburg, Virginia and surrounding areas, the Rappahannock River began to rise and spill over its banks. Undoubtedly, those who own houses and businesses nearest to the river were watching anxiously as the water crept higher and higher.
Rappahannock-River_18
Rappahannock-Flood_3
When I went down to see the river on May 1st, it had risen 22 feet above normal. Even though it was early morning, a few people were already there taking pictures of the flood.
Rappahannock-River_3
Almost unbelievable! Back in January, 2013—I posted some photos of the Fredericksburg City Dock in my story “Snow Cold Feet,” but today I didn’t recognize the area at all. I know that somewhere in this general vicinity beneath the muddy water, there is still a road, a parking lot, and a dock. Where all these things are located now—I am not sure. The landscape looks totally different.

A policeman (standing guard over the area) said that several “adventurous” people had come with intentions of canoeing on the fast-moving river. In no uncertain terms, they were told to go home. It would be incredibly foolish to take a canoe out on a muddy, raging river with floating hazards such as trees, logs, branches, and who knows what else unseen below.
Rappahannock-River_4
Many of us dream of owning waterfront property, but we all know that houses built close to water are subject to flooding.  Mother Nature can reclaim whatever she wants, whenever she wants; but people take the chance, build, and hope for the best anyway.  It is wonderful to be able to look out of a window and see a beautiful day reflected in water. So relaxing!

Unfortunately, when a waterfront home suddenly becomes a water-inside home, it is the opposite of relaxing.  In fact, looking at the photos below, I would say that it is the epitome of stress!
Rappahannock-River
Rappahannock-River_2
Luckily—there is no more rain predicted for today, and the weekend is supposed to be sunny and clear. Soon the Rappahannock river will begin to recede, so houses and trees that do not belong in the water will, once again, be able to stand on solid ground.
Flood-birds
Rappahannock-River_13
On a lighter note, when I was walking back to my car around lunchtime, I noticed that a restaurant owner had placed a sign out on the sidewalk with a very creative and appropriate message. Gotta love the human spirit with a great sense of humor! The words immediately made me smile. The sign said:
Flood-humor

Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, photography, River | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Plight of the Kites

An unsuspecting kite
on wings of wind dancing
in the bright sunlight.

Focused on blue sky,
it paid little attention
to dark shadows nearby.  Kite-captured-by-trees
Watch out—NO—too late!
Zing! Bounce! Thwack!
Its freedom faded quickly,
hung on limbs of fate.

The kite felt rather dumb
wrapped around the tree,
until it saw the other one
struggling to break free.
Kite-stuck-in-tree
Luckily—
a large pterodactyl
noticed the sad plight
of the two entangled kites,
and it screamed:

“Ooooh! This is not right!
I’ll break those thoughtless branches
with a well-placed bite.”
pterodactyl-kite
Hopefully wishing
that valiant pterodactyl
set those trapped kites free!   ~ms

***These photos were taken in the open field surrounding the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.   It’s a great place to fly a kite IF you don’t let it wander out towards the surrounding kite-eating cherry trees.

Posted in Humor, Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, Spring | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

Cherry Trees Announcing Spring

A gift from Japan—
cherry trees announcing spring
blooms pink in D.C.      ~ msCherry-Trees
Cherry-blossoms_2
In 1912, the cherry trees that are now growing around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., were given to the United States as a gift of friendship  from Japan.   As time went by, the beauty of these trees in the spring began to attract visitors  from all around the world.Cherry-Blossom-WalkI took these photos on a rather chilly Sunday morning (April 6), and I wasn’t surprised to find that the trees were not in full blossom yet.  Although the Cherry Blossom Festival is being held from March 29 through April 12 this year, the trees are blooming later because of the cold, harsh winter that extended into late March.

As I walked along, I heard some people say how happy they were because it was not as crowded due to the cooler weather. It was easy to find an open bench! What a joy to be able to relax, look out over the water, and listen to the gentle breeze blowing through the trees.
Cherry-blossoms_6
The truth is, even though the trees were not in full bloom, there were actually quite a few cherry blossoms to see—it just took a little time to find them.
Cherry-blossom_7
Cherry-blossoms_1
Cherry-blossoms_5
Cherry-blossoms_9
Cherry-blossoms_3

Posted in Haiku, Japan, Nature, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , , | 38 Comments

Lost Without Language

I went to Tijuana, Mexico a few times when I lived in California. Reading signs and communicating with other people was not a problem for me there, because I had a good understanding of the Spanish language.

It was quite a different experience for me in Japan a few weeks ago. I couldn’t read the Japanese characters, I didn’t understand what others around me were saying, and I couldn’t communicate with anyone (unless they spoke English). When people had conversations in Japanese, all that I heard were melodic sounds with no specific meaning. Linguistically challenged, I felt lost without language!
Statue-of-Travelers2
Needless to say, that is why I smiled when I saw this statue of two travelers. I immediately felt an affinity for the little one on the left. Walking with eyes filled with wonder and amazement, mouth open and about to accidentally bump into a tree—this stone image personified my state of mind perfectly. So many wonderful things to see and impossible to take it all in!

Notice that there are words written on a wooden sign hanging next to the statue above. It could be an explanation of the two images or a road sign. I know I was in Kyoto, but I don’t remember the name of the bridge or the river in the background. (I’d be a terrible tour guide, I know).

Anyway, I soon realized that there is another aspect of daily life where language is extremely important: FOOD.  At the marketplace in Kyoto, there were many vegetables, fruits, fish, and desserts that I did not recognize. Unable to read things like names, labels, or expiration dates—how would I know what to buy, or how to cook or keep the food stored?  My Japanese friends can speak English, but I didn’t want to be like a preschooler driving them crazy with CONSTANT questions. As soon as they could have answered one question, I would have had a gazillion more!

So, instead of buying anything, I decided to take photos of all that I had never seen before (which was clearly marked with large signs that I couldn’t read). The vegetables, whatever they were, looked so fresh and healthy!
Vegetables
In addition to fresh vegetables, there was colorful food wrapped in tight packages that seemed to be attracting a lot of attention. Must be good!  People were smiling, talking, and joyfully buying all kinds of edible delights, as I watched with great interest.
Japanese-Food-Market
Japan-wrapped-food
Japan-Food_1
In case you haven’t noticed by the tone of my writing, I was quite frustrated with my inability to comprehend the Japanese language. So, it was comforting to occasionally look up and see a store name written in English!
Tofu-Doughnuts
Yes! I was always happy to see something that I was capable of reading, but “Tofu Doughnuts” is a rather disconcerting thought. American doughnuts are deep-fat fried balls of flour dough and tofu is known as a health food, so trying to combine the two words in my mind was difficult. A healthy doughnut? I didn’t buy one that day, but now I wish that I had. I don’t know exactly how a tofu doughnut is made or what is in it, but it would have been interesting to see how it tasted.

By the end of my short stay in Japan, I had come to the conclusion that language is more important than any other academic field of study. The inability to read and/or communicate adequately with others is a huge barrier to any other endeavor.

Truthfully, I have been thinking about the Rosetta Stone language CD courses for quite a while. Has anyone ever studied a language using Rosetta Stone?

 

 

Posted in food, Photo Essay, photography, Travel | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Monk with Begging Bowl

Monk-with-Begging-Bowl
Zen Buddhism
Begging bowl in hand,
practicing non-attachment—
the humble monk stands.     ~ms

Posted in Buddhism, Haiku, Philosophy, photography | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Carp and Stone

Rock-CarpThe Carp Stone (rigyoseki) at Kinkaku-ji appears to be swimming upstream against a pounding waterfall. I am told that this stone image symbolizes strength, courage, and the will to persevere even when struggling against adverse conditions.

Creating circular ripples in the pond surrounding the Golden Pavilion Temple,  I also saw a colorful carp (Nishikigoi) raise its head out of the water. Emulating the power of the stone, it stopped for only a few seconds and then continued on its way.
CARP
Golden-Pavilion-Temple
So it is with life—
time stops for no one
in this in-between world.
Keep your head up, breathe deeply
and travel on!     ~ms

In-between

Colorful-Carp

Posted in LIfe, Nature, Philosophy, photography | Tagged , , , , | 36 Comments

Tired of Winter

Roads quickly vanished
and all cars went nowhere
on this stormy day.
snowed-in
Searching for solace
underneath an umbrella,
four chairs leaned forward
trying to escape blowing
snow and freezing ice—
Tired of winter!
Cold-Chairs
We were scheduled to fly out of the Richmond, Virginia airport on February 13—on our way to Texas.  But alas!  The Atlanta, Georgia airport had already shut down due to a bad winter storm that was blowing in from the south.  Many people had their flights canceled, including us. We rescheduled our flight for the next day and stayed an extra night at the hotel. Some travelers were upset because their plans had been disrupted. However, I would rather have my flight canceled than fly out into a sky that looks like this!
Snowy-Sky

Snowy-Hotel
This week I am supposed to fly to Japan and I have never been there before. In fact, this will be the first time that I have ever gone outside of the U.S.   Luckily, the weather here has been great for the past few days (in comparison to what it looked like a week and a half ago). It almost went up to 70 degrees today! Hopefully, by the end of February, winter will finally begin to melt into spring.

Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, Snow, Spring | 47 Comments

Cold Cat Winter

6, 8, 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) at night,
with freezing snow and ice—
how will I survive?
I gave away my blankets,
my pillows and my bed,
when blue eyes came begging
without a word and said:
It’s a cold cat winter!
Cat-on-a-blanket
It is impossible to ignore our male cat when he wants something, because Keona knows how to use the cat equivalent of the Star Trek “Vulcan Mind Meld.”  Yesterday, sitting on my bed and staring straight into my soul, his unwavering eyes silently chanted that irresistible mantra: “My mind to your mind; your thoughts to my thoughts….”

Practically hypnotized by the intensity of his eyes, I had no choice but to acquiesce. I immediately gave him everything that he wanted for himself and his best friend.Cats-in-bed

Sleeping-Cats
Truthfully—there is always enough room on the bed and enough blankets left for me. And, in such bone chilling weather, it’s rather nice being surrounded by fur that purrs.

Since I cannot fall to sleep as quickly and easily as the cats, I decided to watch them for a little while last night. It appears that their secret to falling into a deep and restful sleep, is to do a little calming meditation first. Aha!  Ohmmm……Brrrrr…….Aummm. Winter-Cat-meditation

Cat-Nap

Posted in Animals, cats, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , , | 46 Comments

Life is a Dramatic Opera

It would be nice if life could always be comfortable and predictable—without arguments, misunderstandings, trials, or tribulations.
But it’s not.
Life is like a dramatic opera, filled with ups and downs, and love which sometimes goes awry. There are times when I would prefer to simply stay in bed, underneath warm blankets with a pillow over my head.
But no—life always requires me to get up once more.
Scene change!  Think fast!
Mary_Opera-Otello
When I was in the Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT) production of the opera “Otello” in 1990, I found this story of jealousy and suspicious love both familiar and unnerving. Fiction closely mirrors fact. In Act IV, Otello strangles/smothers his wife because he firmly believes that she loves someone else. Unfortunately, right after he kills her, he finds out that he is totally wrong. She had never been unfaithful to him. In a vain attempt to rectify the situation, he stabs himself and then gives his wife one last kiss before he dies. Of course, she doesn’t notice his last kiss because she is already dead.

The story is not too far-fetched.

I was in a shelter for abused women during this same time period, and all of the women there were telling similar tales about insecure, jealous husbands who were verbally and/or physically abusive.
—Where have you been, ***? Who did you see this time? It doesn’t take that long to go grocery shopping.
—You’re just like the rest of them. Women are only good for one thing.
—You say there is no one else, but you are lying. You always lie ***
­— If it wasn’t for me, you would be nothing. No one wants you. People are laughing behind your back.
—You’re a joke, You *** don’t deserve to live.

***In the sentences above, I deliberately left out the derogatory 4 letter words. Use your imagination and you will probably be correct.

When two people “love” each other, it makes no sense to destroy that love with constant accusations, physical threats, and abusive language.  Watching this type of abusive scenario in an opera is educational, but it is hell on earth when played out in an actual relationship.

For me, the moral of the story is this: If you want to have a relatively happy life, do your best to avoid getting too involved with insecure, controlling people!

A month after Otello, I was in the HOT production of the opera “The Bartered Bride.”
Mary_Bartered-Bride
Although the Bartered Bride also has some negative twists and turns, it does resolve into a sweet ending. I enjoyed this opera immensely. With dancing, singing, and a happily ever after at the end, it was just what I needed. I loved it.

I have heard some people say that opera singing is “controlled screaming.” I don’t know if that is the best description, but singing with full diaphragmatic power does release a tremendous amount of emotional energy. I can honestly say that, during the stressful time that I was homeless in Hawaii, having the opportunity to sing opera helped save my life.  The vibration raised my soul up every time.

Over the years, I have never forgotten my wonderful ʻohana at the Hawaii Opera Theatre.  Thanks for being there for me. Mahalo and aloha nui loa!

Posted in Art, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

South Vietnam House—Phở Gà

When  the cold winds of  January blew in,
I caught a nasty cold or maybe it was flu?
My head hurt, my throat was sore, and I could not stop coughing.
I even lost my voice!
Couldn’t think, couldn’t write—I felt like I was dying.
And then, I remembered the curative power of Phở Gà
(Vietnamese chicken noodle soup).
Bowl-of-Pho-Ga
Just a few miles from my house there is a wonderful restaurant called South Vietnam House. In the past few years, I have seen many people order Phở Gà to take  home to an ailing family member—knowing that this tasty chicken noodle soup has the power to make colds shiver and retreat.
Pho-Ga
So, this time—
It was I who sent my kind husband out on a mission to bring home a bowl of healing Phở Gà.  And now, thank goodness, I am feeling much better!

Posted in food, Nutrition, photography | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Thoughts on Time

I thought about the new year
while sitting in a tree.
I did the same thing last year,
time matters not to me.ThinkingTell me, honestly—
Did you see the day pass by
the last second in-between,
when time inside someone’s eyes
became 2014?
New-Years-Lemur
Covered in dust, I’m drifting
into tomorrow’s dream
as thought continues shifting
shapes into the things I see…..Elephant-blowing-smoke

2014-elephant-walk
While time’s illusion wanders on
more or less unseen,
I appreciate you walking
through reflective words with me.
The-Wanderer

Ribbons-and-Bows

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Happy New Year!
Wishing you warm blessings
today, tomorrow, and through
all the moments of your life.   ~ms
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Posted in Animals, Nature, Philosophy, photography, Poetry, wildlife | Tagged , , , | 40 Comments

Super Hero Reindeer Man

To my great surprise,
he suddenly appeared
right before my eyes—
Super Hero Reindeer Man
with his Santa smile.
Super-Hero-Reindeer-Man
What was I supposed to do?
Wearing deer antlers
and a star upon his head,
his mischievous eyes
twinkled through goggles red
and made me to smile too!     ~ms

Posted in Photo Essay, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , | 36 Comments

Deer with Hungry Eyes

Ice and snow falling,
covering the cold hard ground.
Deer with hungry eyes
come close to my house searching
for something to eat.
Deer-Cold
Many of these deer
will not make it through winter.
It is sad to see
there are no acorns this year.
In desperation,
deer are eating plants and trees
that they usually do not.
Deer-eating-tree

Mom-and-baby
And I watched as the little one
turned its head up towards mother
as if to ask–
“Momma…are we going to be OK?”
looking-up
Because we live in the Civil War Chancellorsville battlefield area, a lot of deer pass through our yard every day. It is easy to see that their fear of hunger is now much greater than their fear of humans. Acorns are about 75 percent of the white-tailed deer’s winter diet, and no acorns fell from the oak trees here this year. I know that there is no way that all of these deer are going to find enough food to survive.  Nature is beautiful, but sometimes it is so harsh!    ~ms
baby-face

Posted in Animals, Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 44 Comments

Worried Birds and Winter Weather

Worried-Blue-Jay
A worried blue jay
came to see me yesterday
and loudly proclaimed:
“I am here to issue
a winter weather warning,
so please listen carefully
to everything I say.
Don’t be fooled by this warm sun,
for tomorrow all will change—
snow and ice are on their way.”
Cardinal-speaking
“It’s true what he is saying,”
a nearby cardinal said.
“Birds know when cold is coming
and we are filled with dread.
Birds
So can you give us
more sunflower seeds
and maybe some day-old bread?
You see, we are sad.
That thoughtless sparrow
with the striped head
ate the last good food we had!”
Sparrow
Oh! Guilty sparrow
caught with a tasty mouthful,
unable to speak!     ~ ms

Posted in Animals, birds, Nature, photography, Poetry, wildlife, Winter | Tagged , , , | 30 Comments

Thankful for Life

Traditional-Thanksgiving
Standing here thinking
how lucky I am
to be alive at this time,
enjoying a cold
autumn afternoon!
Inquisitive-bird

Feather-and-Food
Don’t need many things
or stuff all around me—
No matter what possessions
I have or don’t have,
I’m thankful for life
and the life that surrounds me.
handmade-dolls

Simple-Things

squirrel_2
Sending out best wishes
to all who pass by….
with special thanks to
those who have bravely
followed my wandering path
built on strings of words.       ~ms
Thanksgiving-Blessings

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Glass Door Relationships

Searching for acorns,
a squirrel suddenly saw
the man of her dreams sitting
behind a glass door.
She stopped what she was doing
and ran with great excitement
to take a closer look.
Squirrel-loves-cats
She tenderly touched
his soft dark brown and beige fur
within her squirrely thoughts,
for her little arms
could not reach beyond
that miserable glass door!  Squirrel-and-Cats
For the longest time—
she gazed into his eyes
blue as ocean water,
while her heart melted into
quivering delight.
He was the biggest squirrel
that she had ever seen!
His size was so impressive,
she did not notice
the jealous girlfriend sitting
tensely by his side,
waiting for the perfect chance
to pounce on the intruder
outside the glass door.
~~~~~
Sometimes it is better when
dreams remain dreams,
and glass door relationships
stay beyond a wanting grasp.
Because, it’s clear to see,
the squirrel of her dreams
was in fact—a cat.
And what a foolish nightmare
that would have been!    ~ms
autumn-grass

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Incredible Edible Art

In the summer of 2011, when I first ordered sushi and sashimi at Umi restaurant, I couldn’t believe my eyes—incredible edible art! I knew I was still home in Virginia, but I felt like I had suddenly returned to the Hawaiian Islands. Was I dreaming?  All of the food was created with such care and presented so beautifully, I just wanted to sit there and look at it. How could I justify eating fine art?
Shriimp-Sushi-and-Sashimi
Even though I had never taken photos of food before, I decided to solve my culinary dilemma by pulling out my camera before my husband Tom or I took a bite.
Scallop
It’s been 2 years since our first visit to Umi, and we have come back almost every week since then. Each time, the food and the service has been consistently great, so I continue to say, “Wait a minute—don’t touch anything! Let me get my camera.”
Jasper-Tuna-Sashimi

Umi_Romantic
Regardless of how hungry we are, it has now become mandatory to take a photo first (Luckily, Tom is a very patient man). The food is simply too beautiful. On my December birthday last year, even though it was cold outside, I was served the freshest flowers made of fish. It was wonderful.
Birthday-Flower-Sushi
On another occasion, I had the chance to taste an avocado octopus. Actually, that’s not what it was literally—that’s just what I decided to name it. The octopus was reaching out towards me with its seven legs (must have lost one in a sea battle), begging to be eaten.
Avocado-Sea-Fish
I was especially fascinated by the next dish below, because it reminds me of the movie “Life of Pi.” In the back, on the right, I see 3 little boats heading towards an island topped with parsley trees. On the left, I see three animals—the octopus in the back, the tiger in the middle, and the hyena in the front. Where is Pi? My guess is that he is probably hiding under one of the jalapeño peppers. After I told this story to Tom, he said— “That’s nice. Now can we eat it? ”   (Doesn’t he know? Good things come to those who wait!)
Life-of-Pi
Everyone who works at Umi seems to enjoy being there. This makes the entire dining experience even more enjoyable. I think people come for both the great food and for the great company. It’s always nice to be greeted with a warm smile.
Sony_Sushi
Sony Gao (co-owner) moved from China to Japan when he was only 14 years old.
At that point, he began to learn how to make sushi and sashimi by working side-by-side with an experienced master sushi chef in Tokyo. It is quite obvious that Sony was an excellent student. His attention to even the smallest artistic detail is quite amazing.
Attention-to-detail
Notice how he even turned the Aji Mackerel tail and a cherry stem in the same direction.
Aji-Mackerel

Tears-of-an-Angel

Food-on-Fire
The food at Umi is figuratively, and sometimes literally, on fire.
Jonathan
Together, even in these difficult economic times, Jonathan Chen (co-owner) and Sony have managed to make Umi one of the most popular and successful restaurants in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In fact, it is so popular that they have now opened a second location in Stafford.

Jasper Lin, Sony’s protegé, is also an extremely talented sushi chef. Always full of energy and spirit, people love talking to Jasper and watching him make interesting new dishes (he usually explains what he is doing to the people sitting at the sushi bar). Below are just a few examples of his artistic creations:
Jasper-boat

Sushi-spoons

Umi-Art_5

Jasper-tuna

Umi-White-Tuna

Jasper-Baby-Octopus

Umi-Fish
Paul, the newest sushi chef, does a great job helping the others keep up with the ever-growing demand for more sushi!
Paul-at-Umi
The wonderful ladies of Umi—Grace, Rachel, Melody, and Lynn—keep the restaurant running smoothly, and always take the time to assure that everyone feels welcomed and at home. Ladies-of-UMI

Lynn-at-Umi

BeautifulI have taken so many photos in the past 2 years, I could probably put together an entire picture book about Umi. Every time I walk inside, I find an incredible island of fresh fish and healthy food. If you ever pass through this area, make sure to stop by (evenings, on the weekends, make a reservation. It gets extremely busy). I’ll tell the shrimp to keep an eye out for you!   http://www.umisushiva.com/
Shrimp-heads***If you live too far away to visit, just look at the photos and imagine the taste—that works too!  ~ms
Mochi

Posted in food, Nutrition, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , | 66 Comments