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 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!
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

Two Entangled 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 angry kite cried:
“Why do things like this
happen just to me?”
But then, it saw another
struggling to break free.
a nearby pterodactyl
saw the sorry sight
of the two entangled kites
and loudly screamed:

“Ooooh! This is not right!
I’ll break those thoughtless branches
with a well-placed bite.”
Hopefully wishing
that valiant pterodactyl
set the 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, photography, Poetry, Spring | Tagged , , , , | 29 Comments

Cherry Trees Announcing Spring

A gift from Japan—
cherry trees announcing spring
blooms pink in D.C.      ~ msCherry-Trees
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.
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.

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!
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!
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.
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!
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 , , | 26 Comments

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 , , , , | 11 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.
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



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

Tired of Winter

Roads quickly vanished
and all cars went nowhere
on this stormy day.
Searching for solace
underneath an umbrella,
four chairs leaned forward
trying to escape blowing
snow and freezing ice—
Tired of winter!
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!

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!”
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

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


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