Virginia to Texas through Hail and High Water

by lightning striking darkness
followed by thunder,
Gulf Coast toad shivers
drips falling on the threshold
of an unknown door.

When wild winds blow
and rain falls sideways,
normal vanishes
and new directions appear.   ~ms

Considering everything that I have been through in the past few months, when  I opened the door the other night during a thunderstorm and saw a wet toad sitting on the threshold, trying to avoid the pouring rain—I immediately saw myself in its tired eyes.

My journey from Virginia to Texas began on the morning of March 16. I had never driven such a long distance by myself before, but I thought I could do it—IF I stopped every hour, got out of the car, and walked around for a few minutes. However, there were challenges on the way that I didn’t foresee.

Only 20 minutes after I left home, my windshield got hit hard by a rock that was kicked up by a passing truck. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even out of the state of Virginia, and suddenly there was a annoying ding on the right side of my windshield. I didn’t have time to get this fixed and I didn’t want the crack in the glass to spread any farther, so I simply smashed some gum over the area. Seemed like the thing to do at the time…made me feel better anyway.

With a sticky wad of gum firmly affixed to my  windshield, I made it through Virginia and crossed over the state line into North Carolina—my first milestone!
I walked around for a few minutes enjoying the beautiful scenery, before I continued on to South Carolina.
I began to notice, as I drove farther south, that winter was magically morphing into spring right before my eyes. By the time I entered the state of Georgia later in the afternoon, the trees there were already blooming with warm and vibrant spring colors.
The landscaping at the Georgia Welcome Center was soothing, so I wandered around for a little while enjoying the face of spring. In just one day, somehow I had left the cold Virginia wintry weather far behind.

After about 8 hours of driving and numerous breaks, I was too tired to keep going. So I decided to stop and stay the night at the Comfort Suites in Commerce, Georgia (about an hour away from Atlanta). The quality of the hotel was impressive and the price was very reasonable. If anyone is planning to pass through that area, it’s a great place to stay.

The next morning, I awoke to find that life was about to push me in an unexpected direction. The front desk receptionist said the route I had planned to take was no longer viable, because I-10 had been closed between Louisiana and Texas due to bad weather and severe flooding. The possibility of encountering hail and high water along the way was something that I had not taken into consideration.

After looking at a map though, I felt I had found the perfect solution. I could get through Alabama, Mississippi, cross into Texas, and avoid the flooding on I-10 by taking I-20 instead (which would take me a little farther north). I thought it was a great alternate plan. So I got back into my car, and it wasn’t too long before I entered the state of Alabama.
I totally agree with Alabama’s motto  “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” That is something we all should be doing!
As I stood there in Alabama, admiring the blue skies, green grass, and flowering trees, the flooding that I had heard about in Louisiana and Texas almost seemed like an impossibility.

I was making great time. Didn’t take me too long before I was crossing into the state of Mississippi. Although the spelling of ‘Mississippi’ gave me problems in elementary school, I love the way all of the S’s curl around on this welcome sign.
As I was passing through Mississippi, the weather started to subtly shift. Random clouds were gathering together in small groups, as if contemplating rain. However, when I crossed into the state of Louisiana, most of the sky was still crystal clear.

The first thing that I noticed about Louisiana was that all of the land was incredibly flat. There was not a hill or valley as far as the eye could see.
I didn’t get that far into Louisiana before the weather dramatically changed. The sky that had been so crystal clear began to fill with thick dark clouds. Thunder rumbled in the distance and occasional flashes of lightning danced on the horizon. Oh no! It was apparent that the sunny, happy ride I had been on was about to take an ominous turn.

I have no photos of the thunderstorms that I went through after that, because I was too busy trying to drive. There were periods when the rain was so intense, I could barely see. In many areas, the road was level with fast-moving water from creeks and rivers that were quickly rising. There was no safe place on the side of the road to pull off and rest, so everyone kept driving in spite of the lack of visibility. Water everywhere! The truck in front of me was only driving about 5 miles per hour and its hazard lights were flashing. Afraid to stop, I did my best to follow those flashing red tail lights that kept appearing and disappearing through the pouring rain. Gripping the steering wheel and shaking with fear, somehow I made it into the next city before the water got too deep on the road.

I parked the car as soon as I could—at a McDonald’s in a town called Monroe, Louisiana. I desperately needed a break! I asked the lady behind the counter if she had seen the fast-moving water rippling over the sides of the road right outside of the city of Monroe. She said (rather nonchalantly), “Oh yeah. That area was closed for a few days because the road was completely flooded. It was just opened again this morning. Where are you from?”
“I came from Virginia and I’m trying to make it to Texas.”
“By yourself?! You’re driving this far by yourself?”
“Oh you poor thing. Have you ever seen high water like this before? Probably not! Here—have a cup of coffee and sit down for a while.”

I certainly appreciated her kindness and understanding. She was absolutely right. I had never actually seen flooding like this before, except on the news. I was definitely scared. My hair must have been standing on end!

I stayed there for a while, until the sky started to brighten up a little. Then I got back in my car, even though I really didn’t want to, and continued on my journey. Originally, I had wanted to keep driving all day until I crossed the border into Texas.  But, a few hours later, I decided to stay in Louisiana for the night. I don’t even remember where I was when I decided to stop, I just stopped. Too much stress! Give me a pillow and blanket, and let me go to sleep and escape this frightening flooded reality for a few hours.

So many people around this area lost everything they had. This website shows how a compassionate group called “Samaritan’s Purse” stepped in to help the people in Louisiana and Texas recover from  extensive water damage caused by all of the storms. It is very sad that the media and the TV news broadcasts don’t put more focus on wonderful people like this who care and put their helping hands to good use.

The next day when I looked out of the hotel window, I saw that the weather was still quite stormy. Sigh. I had to get where I was going by a specific date though—so I reluctantly got back in my car again, and endured several more thunderstorms in order to make it across the Texas state line.
When I arrived, it was obvious that another storm had recently passed through the Texas Welcome Center parking lot.  I decided to put my raincoat on, because the temperature had dropped and random drops of rain were still drizzling out of the sky.

The sign on the door kindly said, “Welcome to Texas.” In spite of everything, I made it!  I knew then that I was definitely going to get to my destination on time. However, Mother Nature wasn’t done with me. About 15 minutes after I entered the state of Texas, I was welcomed by the biggest thunderstorm of all—complete with hail and more high water.

I’ve been in Texas now for 3 months and I have been  hailed on three more times  (in addition to other things—but that’s another story).
Anyway, just wanted you to know, I am still standing (even though this is the first time I have written anything since February). May God continue to bless us all as we travel through this unpredictable adventure called life!

Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, Poetry, Storms | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Disco Disaster

Back in 1989, a friend took me to a night club called Studebaker’s, where there was loud music, swirling disco lights, and wandering eyes searching for the perfect date. I didn’t like it there.

Two years later, in an English class, I wrote a story about that experience.  I thought I had lost what I had written, but I just found it in an old box. Here it is (take it with a grain of salt)!
Disco Disaster

Sweaty bodies jumped, wiggled, and hopped in excited frenzy on the crowded dance floor at Studebaker’s disco. Like oily sardines trying to escape from a tin can, they writhed in rhythm to the pounding beat. This peculiar dancing was either a new form of erotic aerobics or a procedure for the ritualistic bonding of desperate middle-aged singles. I wasn’t sure.

Hundreds of eyes searched hungrily around the room for the right victim; the atmosphere was charged with perverse anticipation. My heart sank when I realized that the overweight man at the adjacent table was staring at me, cigarette dangling precariously from his lips. His thinning black hair was plastered to his head; his mustache neatly trimmed. A few curling hairs were strategically pulled out of his open shirt, a testimonial to his hidden masculinity. He winked; I frowned.

Encouraged by my negative response, he decided to take further action. He stood up. The length and width of his entire body loomed before me, inviting inspection. It was worse than I imagined. Like an overblown basketball his stomach hung, concealing his belt and the upper portion of his voluminous black and white striped jeans.

“I’m sitting all alone,” he whined in a high-pitched complaining voice. He coughed several times, adjusted the ostentatious gold bracelet on his left wrist, and continued—
“My name is Eugene. I’m an Aquarius. That’s a water sign. I am fun-loving, creative, and spontaneous.”

The size and condition of his body verified the truth of his last statement. I imagined him waddling into his kitchen late at night, spontaneously consuming the creative contents of his well-stocked refrigerator.

Suddenly, someone bumped into him from behind. He lurched forward. I cringed in horror as Eugene’s shoulders touched mine. His white wine splashed onto my dress, trickling into my purse.

Eugene hadn’t planned on this, but he was prepared to use the incident to his advantage, creative as he was. “I am so sorry, ” he apologized. “I think it would be a good idea if we went up to my house. It isn’t far from here. You could throw your dress into the wash, and we could relax in my kidney-shaped spa for a while. It won’t be so loud there. We could talk.”

He raised one eyebrow and gestured towards the door with a sweep of his hand.
Oh No! The last page of my story is missing! I know that (in my original story) she told him to go away as kindly as she could, but I can’t remember the exact words that I used.

Oh well. This could be one of those stories with several alternate endings. I’ll have to think about it!


Posted in Creative Writing, Hawaii, Honolulu, Humor, Relationships | Tagged , , , | 54 Comments

Valentine’s Day Wrapped in Memories

Oh please, don’t be sad!
I was thinking about you and I was going to call, but I accidentally spent the entire day wrapped in memories.

You see—I was going through boxes of  ‘paper clutter’ and throwing things out, because I am about to move. But then, I came across a box that was filled with old letters and cards from the past.  Nostalgia!

I couldn’t help myself—I had to stop and read every wonderful letter and card one more time. Hours went by and I didn’t even know it. I promise I didn’t forget about love while I was reading through all of the kind words and thoughtfully written sentences.

Listen! Do you hear your phone ringing now?

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!


Posted in cats, Memories, Pets, photography | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Winter’s Shroud Descending

Birds quickly flew away
through barren earthbound trees,
in hopes of escaping
the coming winter storm.
One crow remained behind
like a cold grim reaper
staring down from above
at foolish souls below.
And then the snow appeared
carried on howling winds,
winter’s shroud descending
on everything in sight.   ~ms
Today I only took one picture of the snow, because the wind was screaming cold, the snow was blowing sideways, and I couldn’t find the point where the sidewalk ends and the road begins. After about 5 minutes of braving the weather, I decided the best thing to do was to come back inside where it is still warm. Although the sparkling white snow is beautiful, I would much rather live in perpetual summer again (Hawaii).

My 2 children spent their younger years living on the island of Oahu. They never experienced the changing of the seasons on the East Coast of the United States, until one year when we decided to come to Maryland and visit relatives during the month of February.

Of course, since I already knew what winter looked like, I was not concerned about the miles of leafless trees that we passed while driving from the airport to our destination.  However, my 7 year-old daughter, who had never seen winter before, was completely unnerved by the dreary sight. “Mom! Why did we have to come here? I hate this place! Look! Everything is dead! The grass is dead, the trees are dead, and it’s cold.”

“Oh, it’s just winter. Nothing is dead! Don’t worry,” I said. “3 months from now, in the spring, the leaves will grow back on all of the trees, the grass will turn green, and beautiful flowers will pop up out of the ground. It will be beautiful.”

She shook her head, stared at me like I was delusional, and said, “Oh yeah. Right. Sure mom.”

She did not believe me. How could miles and miles of dead trees suddenly come back to life? And flower, birds, and green grass too? No way! Dead is dead. Obviously, this story about ‘spring’ was just another fairy tale, right up there with the Tooth Fairy.

How interesting! It was so easy for me to believe that the dead of winter was temporary, because I had seen it transform into spring many times before. I didn’t even question it. How difficult it must be to believe that ‘death’ can lead to life, when you have never seen the spring!

Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, Snow, Storms, Winter | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

WordPress Worldwide Family

Clock 2016
At midnight, 2015 faded away as a freshly pressed new year chimed in and took its place. Hard to believe it’s 2016!

Unfortunately, during 2015, we all saw a sharp rise in terrorism, violence, and fear in our world. Although there are many good people living on this earth, there are some who appear to prefer violence instead of peace, and hate instead of love. A sad situation which is difficult to understand.

Also in 2015, I was confronted by a personal terror known as cancer. In late January, I had major surgery and one lobe was removed from my right lung. Luckily, after I woke up, the doctor said: “It was a home run. We hit it out of the ballpark!” The cancer that was removed had not spread.

Three months after the surgery, I was offered the opportunity to sing ‘God Bless America’ with the Rappahannock Choral Society (RCS) chorus. With all the turmoil in my life and in the world, I wanted to accept this chance to ask for blessings—for everyone.

Because I knew that I was going to have the wonderful support of the 70 voice RCS chorus singing along with me, I did decide to sing—knowing that the strength of their sound would give me the courage to stand strong.

**I sincerely thank Linda Monner, the RCS Conductor and Artistic Director, for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to sing this:

We must not let the  ‘mainstream media’ (with all the constant negative news) give us the impression that there is no good left anywhere. In countries around the world, there are people uniting in impassioned requests for peace, as is exemplified in this post from Turkey (written by a virtual friend known as ‘Uncle Spike’):

I pray that 2016 will be a good year for everyone.
And I hope that, regardless of the ongoing turmoil in the world,  my WordPress worldwide (virtual) family will continue to share their experiences with me throughout the coming years. I love reading all of the unique stories from various countries and looking through the wonderful photos. Thank you so much for sharing!

Happy New Year!

Posted in Music, New Year, Singing | Tagged , , , , , | 51 Comments

Car Creativity Unleashed

Rather difficult to explain
parked on the edge of extreme…
car creativity unleashed!
In the summer of 2013, I saw this unique vehicle parked in a rest area on I-95 (south of Fredericksburg and north of Richmond, Virginia). I don’t know that much about cars, but this one definitely captured my attention.
As I stood there staring in disbelief, I wondered why would anyone put so much miscellaneous, extraneous ‘stuff’ on a car? Is there a reason for all of this or no reason at all?
Each time I look at these photos, I see something else. For example: Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW car emblems are located in different places on the roof, along with a few popular hood ornaments.  There is one metal high-heel shoe on the running board beneath the driver’s door (I can’t help but wonder where the other one is). I also see what appears to be a child’s ‘action figure/superhero’ standing behind the middle wheel well.

I know there are many other interesting items on this car that I have not noticed (or figured out) yet!

There is a strong possibility that the true reason for this creative car is in the words that stand proudly above the windshield, underneath the metallic bird face.
Because, whoever built this car was absolutely correct—“Thank you Lord for humor!”  Everyone who stopped by to take a closer look began to smile, laugh, and talk to others.  Complete strangers suddenly became friends. All things considered, creativity and humor are obviously great gifts to those traveling through this troubled world.  Creative-Car_4a



Posted in Creativity, Humor, Imagination, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged | 35 Comments

My Furry Writer’s Block

Oh no!
My ability to type
and string words together
is currently squished beneath
a furry writer’s block.
I don’t see any letters
and numbers are hidden too,
but my little writer’s block
is purring warm and happy,
I don’t know what to do!
I do realize that
I can move my blocking cat
without much trouble
to a more convenient place.
But I didn’t want to see
an unhappy, grumpy face.
One blue cat eye speaks volumes!
Truth is—
It might be easier
to accept my fate
and permanently donate
this warm computer laptop
to my heat-seeking friend!   ~ms
Honestly though, I must admit, this sweet cat is not in the way of  writing at all.  I am the source of my writer’s block. Staring out of winter cold windows, I keep thinking about those who have recently died due to random acts of terrorism. None of this makes any sense to me. I am beyond sad, and there are no words to adequately convey my sadness. God Bless us all…..

Posted in Animals, cats, Computers, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , | 36 Comments

Autumn Leaves Shapeshifting

While I was looking down
into water filled with leaves,
an old tree with hallowed eyes
opened wide its wooden mouth
and whispered gently
Why are you so sad?
In cyclic transformations
nothing ever

See the autumn leaves
shapeshifting into new life
rising from the ground.New-Life Admittedly, every year when shorter days and cooler weather combine with falling leaves, I always feel a measure of sadness as time slips through my fingers. Gone is the comforting warmth of long summer days!

Dog-in-LeavesI know that the chill in autumn air is a harbinger of winter’s frozen breath—Brrrr! My old bones creak and groan at the thought of snow and ice. Give me a pillow and blanket, and kindly wake me up when it’s spring.  🙂

Posted in Fall Colors, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

Chicken Selfies

If chickens had cell phones with cameras
they could take chicken selfies.
Wouldn’t that be fun?
They could even choose
to spend their free time
chicken photobombing
on the run!
But alas!
What if some chickens think
that others who take selfies
are annoying and quite rude?
Those birds would soon get cranky
and develop ‘attitude.’
Then those selfie haters
might fight to have their say,
as they poop, snoop,
and loop their way
around the chicken coop
each and every day.
(instead of laying eggs).
Oh no!
Simple chicken lives
could become stressful
and extremely complicated.
All things considered
(as a precautionary measure),
new coop rules should be
immediately instated:Chicken-Coup-Selfies_1

Posted in birds, Children's stories, Nature, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , | 63 Comments

Seasons at Celebrate Virginia – Beautiful Apartments

Years ago, it was hard to find an apartment with a washer and dryer, much less a dishwasher. Constantly collecting quarters and wasting hours at the laundromat was no fun. Thank goodness thing have changed! Now the newer apartments include all of the appliances that would normally be found in a house, plus additional ‘amenities’—such as swimming pools, exercise equipment, computer/business centers, meeting rooms, etc.

Here in Fredericksburg, Virginia, even though there are many relatively new apartments, I was told that people seem to prefer the Seasons at Celebrate Virginia. Why? What is it about the Seasons apartment complex that makes it stand out from the others? To satisfy my curious mind on a quiet summer morning, I decided to wander over there and take a look for myself.
When I arrived, the first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful landscaping. After a hard day at work and/or sitting for hours in traffic, this is undoubtedly a welcome sight for tired eyes—the grass is cut and edged, the trees and bushes are trimmed to perfection, flowers are blooming, and the buildings are painted in colors that soothe the soul. Since all of the hard work of maintenance is already done, the residents here can simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the view. Nice!
Seasons-at-Celebrate -Virginia-2

In addition to the impeccable landscaping, there are two salt water pools. Awesome! For people who are sensitive to the chemicals in a standard chlorine pool, this is a major plus. No more irritated red eyes, bleached out (green) hair, or quickly fading bathing suits.

Look closely! Can you see it? The privacy provided by the natural ‘green screen’ around this salt water pool is perfect. Have you ever been to a hotel where the pool is totally exposed to a busy road and people passing by? Who wants to be on display? Not me. Truthfully, the first time I walked by this area, I didn’t realize there was a pool hidden behind the ornamental grasses until I saw the tops of the orange umbrellas.
A few minutes later, when I walked inside the pool area and saw the low-rise chairs sitting in the shallow end next to little waterfalls— I immediately wished I could sit down, close my eyes, and stay there. This would be a great way to cool down on a hot summer day.

One resident told me that each time she sits on her screened-in porch overlooking the pool, she gets the distinct impression that she is on vacation. It is easy to see why!
The upkeep of these apartments and the landscaping is impressive!  It is readily apparent that a portion of the money residents pay each month is being invested into making this a great place to live.
And so, after our house was sold,  we decided to move into one of the 3 bedroom apartments here.  Now I can say that I completely understand why people are comparing this to living in a resort area. It’s great! 
If you are looking for a place to stay in Fredericksburg, Virginia–I highly recommend the Seasons at Celebrate Virginia. Come check it out for yourself! It is definitely not your average, run-of-the mill apartment complex.

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

Early Morning Virginia Beach

Sunrise awakens
early morning
on Virginia Beach.
A beautiful sight!
Diamonds of early sunlight
drip onto blue water
dancing a summer delight.
a busy summer day—
trucks begin raking sand.
After the raking, a solitary man walks along the shoreline hunting for buried treasure
(with seagull supervision—of course).
Later in the day, a friend kindly took my photo on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, next to the statue of King Neptune and a giant octopus.  Thanks Judith! As I am usually hiding behind a camera, I seldom have a good photograph of myself to share. This is a warm memory that I will cherish for a long time (especially during the cold winter months).
The ocean was my first love, so I am happy that I was able to visit before summer’s end. I can’t imagine going an entire year without walking barefoot in a place where rolling ocean waves sigh into the sand.  A necessity of life!
Take good care of the ocean for me, King Neptune.
I will be back again one day!

Posted in ocean, photography, Summer | Tagged , , , , | 40 Comments

Thought Dreams Nature

Thought dreams nature
into beautiful images
of its reflection.
With mindful meditation
on nature through art
Nature-Artist_Paintmy spirit recalls
the mystical beginning
and ending of all.    ~ms



Posted in Art, Nature, photography, Poetry, spirituality | Tagged , , | 27 Comments

Dishpan and Buckets

Underneath a tree
little Buddha me
sitting in a dishpan
filled with water.
Joy floats easily
into an open mind.
Buddha BabyI laughed when the words “joy floats easily” fell out of my fingers and splashed onto the computer keyboard. Strangely appropriate! In the 1950s, Joy was my mom’s favorite dishwashing detergent. I think she believed it could do anything, because we washed the car, the floor, pots and pans, dishes, silverware, and even our hair in Joy. I have no clue what was in it, but that was back in the days when people didn’t worry about reading labels, drinking water from old garden hoses, riding bikes behind mosquito spraying trucks, or playing with little balls of mercury that bounced out of broken thermometers.

Years later, while talking to one of my younger sisters, I found out that mom had eventually taken a photo of her sitting in a bucket. What? Did the dishpan go out of style? My sister thinks that the switch over to buckets was probably a matter of convenience, since her photo was taken on a family camping trip. (To put it all into perspective–I have 3 brothers and 5 sisters and, at times, my parents seemed rather overwhelmed by us all).  Baby BucketWhy 4 buckets in this photo?
Let me guess!
#1—for prewash
#2—for wash
#3—for rinse
#4—to dry?

Necessity gives birth to creativity and innovation!
The best memories are often built on experiences that are just a little bit different.

Posted in Family, Memories, Photo Essay | Tagged , , , , | 47 Comments

Real and Ethereal

The real and ethereal
merge into one thought
when winter acquiesces
to the warmth of spring
and sunlight slowly melts
into dark shadows.   ~ms
I have not written anything since December (I sincerely hope that I was missed). The winter was extremely harsh, in more ways than one. In January, I spent a few days in a hospital bed after surgery. All of the pain medication that I was given left me with the impression that everything was unreal. So I was there and not there; hurting and not hurting at the same time.
When I returned home, I had to spend a week in bed. I found it difficult to get up and down, or even retrieve something that had dropped to the floor. I certainly was not used to feeling so helpless! My sympathetic cats kindly decided to spend most of their time in bed next to me, pretending that they also felt the pain. Their empathetic poses did make smile.
Unfortunately, it seems that my desire to write decided to spend most of this abnormally cold winter curled up under warm blankets too, just like my cats.

Now it is April and suddenly the warmth of spring is turning gray into green. Flowers are popping up everywhere. Aha! I have fully recovered. Creativity lives!

This morning, while rummaging through some boxes, I found another paper that I had written in an English class back in 1993, reminding me that I definitely need to rise up and take pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) once again.
Reading through my writing, I search for the feeling within the words. I listen carefully for the voice. Sometimes entire sentences jump out at me, rebelliously, demanding to be discarded. Frustration! But then, suddenly, unexpected coalitions arise between disconnected words, creating new meanings. Revelations! When words come to life and begin to rewrite my thinking, I get excited.
Writing is addictive. Even when I am frustrated, I have difficulty walking away from it. Once I begin creating and reshaping, I have a hard time stopping. I am never satisfied with anything I have written, until I have mercilessly edited, reread, rewritten and edited some more. And then, just when I think I am finished, I see something else that could have been better if, and maybe I should….
.As long as there are thought to think, and dreams to dream, a true writer will never have the last word!

Posted in Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 53 Comments

Voice—The Sound of a Soul

Things have gone horribly wrong. I suppose this happens to everyone at some point in life (and sometimes more than once or twice), but knowing that doesn’t make these bad times any easier. Blindsided by a layoff with no advance warning, my husband and I are  overwhelmed by sadness and tension on this last week before Christmas. What’s going to happen to us now? Are we going to be OK?  What if…What if….
I am extremely worried.

And I am still dealing with the question of the “suspicious” lung nodule that doctors continue to warn me about. Is it cancer or not? I’m not coughing and I have never smoked. If I agree to an invasive medical procedure just to find out what it is, I’m not sure what will happen. I have read that there is a risk of permanent hoarseness and/or loss of voice.

I don’t know. Is it worth the risk?  My voice was freely given to me at birth. It’s so much of who I am. I think each voice is unique—the sound of a soul. This is why, with all the uncertainty going on around me, I have decided the very best gift to give this Christmas is a song.

I chose “Do You Hear What I Hear,” because it always makes me smile and I hope it will bring a smile to others too. ***Thank you Marilla—for playing the piano so I could sing along and raise my spirits. I greatly appreciate it! ***

Many years ago, my 5-year-old daughter sang this song at a school Christmas concert. So cute!  Now she is a beautiful young lady with a husband and  3 wonderful children of her own. Where did the years go?  Time slipped away behind my back, right in front of my eyes.

Thanks for being who you were then and who you are now, Jen.  Full of fire and determination!  I have always been so proud of you. Listen! You can hear it in my voice.

Posted in Cancer, Christmas, Music | Tagged , , , , , | 74 Comments

Leaf Litter Lament

A decaying leaf,
image of mortality
faded and riddled with holes,
hanging in a tree
with mouth wide open
singing a bitter chant–
The Leaf Litter Lament:
Ungrateful humans!
Why do you complain
as you rake, blow, and mow,
mulch, bag, and drag us
off to the dump?
A mountain of leaf litter,
that’s what you called us—
how dare you treat us this way!
Is this the thanks we get
after we gave you the best
days of our short lives?

You should be ashamed
of your thoughtlessness
and lack of compassion.
When we were vibrant,
young, supple, and new,
you said you loved us.
But now that we are older,
when you look into our eyes
you see strange haunted visions
that predict your own demise.
You are frightened!
It’s harsh—we know.
You don’t like our dying faces,
so you don’t want us around.
That’s why you blow and rake
‘til there’s no leaves on the ground.
Here’s something to consider:
A world without leaves
is something to be feared
and maybe…just maybe…
if you keep complaining
we won’t come back next year.       ~ms
I have a lot of trees in my rather large front yard, and our homeowner’s association (HOA) doesn’t like leaf litter.  So, during the fall, I spend a lot of time outside raking leaves. Now I could use a leaf blower like many other people do, but I like the “swishing sound” of the rake as it moves through the leaves. It was in that sound that I first began to hear the Leaf Litter Lament.

I have heard so many people complaining about the amount of time, work, and energy it takes to pick up all of the leaves in the fall. So, as I was raking, I began to think about how the lack of appreciation would annoy me.  I mean, if I was a leaf, I would get upset listening to all the complaints about how inconvenient I had become. After providing everyone with shade all summer long, I would hope that I could at least get a kind word, a kiss, or wave goodbye. Sigh. If I was dying and crumbling apart on the ground, all of the negative comments would definitely break my leafy heart.

The one thing that actually did bother me this year, was the amount of spiders that got into my car while I was carrying bags of leaves to the dump. Trying to drive a car while simultaneously watching a huge spider crawl across the dashboard towards the steering wheel—is rather dangerous. I had to stop the car several times because of close encounters with various spiders, large and small. One time, I even found a little spider hanging from my hair.

Truth be known, we do our best to keep some of the fallen leaves in spots where they are considered “acceptable.” I know that deer need a soft place to sleep, spiders and crawly things need a place stay, and trees love to have warm feet in the winter.
We can’t keep too many leaves though, because when the leaf level gets too high, they don’t stay put and blow everywhere–including the neighbors’ yards. So we must continue to take a few bags of leaves to the dump every year, with a fond farewell, thank you, and goodbye.  🙂

Posted in Autumn, Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, Trees | Tagged , | 33 Comments

Sunset Stories in Silhouettes

When day meets night
on the edge of time,
sunset stories speak
in dark silhouettes.
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!
Thank you so much for visiting!  ~ ms

**Photos taken at Chincoteaque Island, Virginia


Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , | 52 Comments

Singing Darkness into Light

Between watching the depressing nightly news and worrying about the “suspicious nodule” that I apparently have on my right lung, 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 would 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 concerned 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!

Posted in Hawaii, Music, photography, Singing, Technology | Tagged , , | 72 Comments

Dueling Storm Clouds

Loud thunder rumbles
within dark storm clouds
dueling over the last piece
of summer blue sky.    ~ms
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.
I watched nervously as the angry 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!
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 , | 41 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

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 many hours 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 day sitting by the lake, relaxing under the trees.
*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!


Posted in photography, Poetry, Summer | Tagged | 76 Comments

Where Earth and Shadows Play


A cool respite
beneath tall trees
where earth and shadows play,
leaves refreshed by raindrops light
on soft breezes sway.    ~ms
*** 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 quite 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.
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 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.
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


Posted in History, Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Science, Trains | Tagged , , | 63 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.
They’ve heard that this boy
can hold rocks in his hands,
hear their vibrating voices
and then understand.
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 permission,
humans often yank and pull
rocks out of the ground,
and cast them aside.

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

Posted in Children's poetry, Children's stories, Imagination, Nature, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , | 30 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 Spotsylvania Courthouse and the Wilderness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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_56
The cost of freedom is often life itself.Civil War Reenactment_53

Posted in History, Photo Essay, photography | Tagged , , , | 68 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.
When I went down to see the river on May 1st, it had crested at 22 feet (the flood stage at Fredericksburg City Dock is 13 feet). Even though it was early morning, a few people were already there taking pictures of the flood.
Almost unbelievable! Back in January, 2013—I posted some photos of the City Dock in my story “Snow Cold Feet,” but today I did not 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’m 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 raging river with floating hazards such as trees, logs, branches, and who knows what else unseen below.
It’s true. Many of us dream of owning waterfront property, even though houses built close to water are subject to flooding.  We know that Mother Nature can reclaim whatever she wants, whenever she wants; but we still take the chance, build, and optimistically hope for the best. Why? Because it is so relaxing to look out of a window and see another beautiful day reflected on water.

Think twice! Odds are, next to an unpredictable river, a quiet waterfront home will eventually become a muddy water-inside home.  Looking at the photos below, I would say that this is the epitome of stress!
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 be able to stand on solid ground once again.
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:

Posted in Nature, Photo Essay, photography, River | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments