One of my favorite locations along the Burlington Waterfront is the new city green space – Waterworks Park. What used to be a run-down parking lot along the lake has been transformed into a beautiful little park that sits behind the Burlington Water Works building. It was dedicated in 2019 and, in the summer, the garden beds are planted with native perennial flowers and grasses. There’s also access to the fishing pier from the adjacent small parking lot. With a 15-minute time limit enforced for parking, it’s best to access the area on foot or bicycle.
It’s a very short walk to the tiny park from the ECHO museum area along the bike path. Since this gem is hidden from view by the Burlington Water Works, it remains somewhat undiscovered and is a nice quiet place to enjoy the water!
I reach a point during this pandemic when I just need a change of scenery or else I think I might explode! With clear blue skies shining brightly at home this morning, my husband and I decided a road trip to the Burlington Waterfront was just what the doctor ordered!
As we drove along Route 89 heading northwest from Montpelier, I almost made the decision to turn around. There were ominous clouds hanging over the mountains as the Interstate wound its way toward Burlington and I was concerned that the city would be gray, windy and bone-chillingly cold. We persevered, however, and were rewarded with partly sunny skies over the lake and calm water!
It never fails to amaze me that I always discover something new along the waterfront. We decided to park in the ECHO Science Center lot since the museum was closed today and the lot practically empty. We pulled into a space facing the lake and, right in front of us, I noticed this sculpture garden that I had never seen before. It occupies the former site of the U.S. Naval Reserve on Lake Champlain and is a memorial to all those who served. If you are interested in more information, check out these sites about the Lone Sailor statue in Burlington and the History of the Lone Sailor in general.
I walk by this old roadside maple tree everyday trying to imagine how I might capture it in a photograph. I decided to focus on the large branch stretching out from the tree trunk. Framing the branch in an empty sky with a hint of the landscape beyond worked well to emphasize its regal presence!
“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”― Kahlil Gibran
A couple of weeks ago I was visiting my son and daughter-in-law in New Hampshire and looking for some reading material while sipping my morning coffee. My daughter-in-law thought I would be interested in reading some articles from a neuroscience journal she receives. While much of the research writing was way over my head, I was immediately struck by an article that examined the elements of wisdom as it applies to aging and loneliness. It was timely considering the isolation we have all been experiencing since the beginning of the pandemic.
As I read the article, absorbing its content, I began to think about wisdom in a broader sense. It occurred to me that perhaps what has been most absent in our country is our understanding and cultivation of wisdom. I would go even further as to propose that this lack of true wisdom in much of our citizenship has contributed to many of our deep-seated divisions and wide-spread intolerance. As I watched the inauguration of our 46th president this past week, I heard the word “wisdom” mentioned over and over.
It’s time for all of us to consciously recognize and nurture our path towards wisdom. Reviewing the aspects of wisdom put forth in this article, I’ve made a commitment to examine my own performance on the “wisdom” scale, identify my strengths and weaknesses with respect to each element and strive to improve each day – even just a little bit. I believe it is what we all must do as a nation and a world.
Wisdom has been defined in many ways for centuries. All of the following aspects can be found in various discussions on wisdom: the ability to express empathy and compassion, the use of emotional intelligence strategies in everyday life, the engagement of self-reflection, a willingness to be attentive and listen to other points of view, the capacity to give and receive advice, the ability to be decisive and the concern for and embrace of spirituality. We may never completely attain wisdom but I believe the importance is in the honest individual effort to try.
Part of my routine for nourishing my spiritual health includes my daily walks and photographic meditations along the way. Over the next few weeks, my challenge is to compose photos with an eye towards processing them in black and white.
On our snowshoe yesterday we hiked part of the snowmobile trail and then veered off onto our neighbors lands so as to make a loop back to the house. I love trekking through these high-elevation farm fields. The open meadows afford a view that is amazing in all directions.
I’m a tree person. I love trees. This old ash stands guard in the abandoned farm field across the road from us. It is so majestic. I’ve photographed it often. Yesterday traipsing through the fields, the landscape was so colorless that I thought the white of the snow and the dark silhouettes of the tree trunks and branches would make a decent black and white photograph. This was my best effort!
Since Christmas, I’ve enjoyed a short hiatus from photographing and writing. Sometimes it pays to break from a routine for a while so that you can come back refreshed and energized.
Yesterday, and into this morning, we had a snow storm that blanketed the landscape with a heavy, wet snow. It’s the kind of snow that sticks to tree limbs and often results in power outages. We had a few flickers during the day but luckily never lost power. Of course, with our back-up generator system in place, it’s no big deal now if we lose power but I still feel for those who do not have that option.
The winter wonderland scene is motivating us to get out today and snowshoe part of the V.A.S.T. snowmobile trail that crosses the road about a 1/4 mile from our house. So far this winter, we have had minimal snow coverage and the snowmobilers are not out in force yet. A perfect time to snowshoe the trail without being interrupted by the buzz of the snow machine engines and the smell of gasoline fumes! I do not begrudge the snowmobilers their love of the sport, it is just not my thing. I am thankful for the ability to use the trail network that runs near my home for skiing and snowshoeing!
As I contemplate the current state of our nation and the upcoming inauguration of our new president and vice-president, I am hopeful. Hopeful for – unity, not division – respect, not disdain – empathy, not malice – acceptance, not intolerance – truth, not lies. I wish for peace in the week ahead and enthusiastically welcome Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the new leaders of the country.
On this eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’ll share one of his quotes that really resonates with me.
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
As a child, Christmas was a magical time of the year for me. It never seemed to matter that we did not have much money. Raised by a single mom, we really literally lived paycheck to paycheck. But, somehow, there were always plenty of presents under the Christmas tree each year – and we always celebrated the holiday with good food and good cheer.
My mom was a firm believer in the “lay-away plan” – a purchasing method whereby you made a deposit on items in a store and the store would “lay it away” while further payments were made. When paid in full, the items could be picked up. I’m not sure if this type of arrangement still exists today but I know it was how we were able to enjoy the excitement of a “gift-filled” Christmas morning!
Traditions are part of every holiday and we had our share of customs that we engaged in each Christmas season.
When my siblings and I were in elementary school (and before we were old enough to earn money), we were given a small amount of cash to purchase gifts for our relatives. It was such fun to shop and choose small, inexpensive but purposeful presents for our close family – perhaps a tie for my Uncle Roland, or socks – always socks – for someone!
Christmas was not Christmas without a trip to Longwood Gardens to drive through “Christmas Tree Lane” and view the trees all decorated with lights. That is a tradition that continued with my own kids for many, many years while I lived in Pennsylvania. I still visit Longwood to see their extensive light display if I’m in the area over the holidays. It has grown to be a very elaborate affair complete with colorful water fountain displays. I highly recommend it to anyone who has not enjoyed this holiday extravaganza.
When I was in high school, I joined the Presbyterian church down the street from our apartment. Two of my high school friends were members of the congregation and I participated in the church choir with them. For a couple of years, I sang with the choir in the candlelight midnight service on Christmas Eve. It is a memory that still brings tears to my eyes when I think about that candlelit atmosphere and the feeling of peace it evoked.
We would almost always wait until Christmas Eve to purchase our tree. My mother always bought our tree at the Christmas tree stand operated by the local boy scout troop. I also know that by Christmas Eve they were marking down the price of the trees, hence why we waited! I loved decorating the tree. Mom would always be the one to place the strings of lights on the tree, and then, we could decorate. Back then, we always started with “tinsel.” Mom was very particular about how we placed the tinsel on the tree – and surveyed our work closely! 🙂 We had to carefully place each strand as opposed to taking a clump and “tossing” it onto the tree – which is what we were tempted to do so that we could move on to the fun of placing the ornaments!
We had a cardboard Christmas Village set that we placed under the tree. There were little holes in the back of each house so that you could insert a light. The doors and windows were made of thick colored cellophane and the light created a nice, warm glowing effect. It is the set that I have today and is placed on my fireplace mantel.
These vintage cardboard Christmas Village sets have their origin in Germany. They are referred to as Putz houses. After World War II in the 1950’s, Japan started manufacturing these little houses and they were often sold in “five and dime” stores such as Woolworth’s. I’m fortunate to have these treasures in my Christmas collection!
I also have a few vintage ornaments from my grandmother’s household. This year, we chose to “fabricate” a small tree and I used only these old ornaments as decoration. They are so beautiful and colorful!
During these difficult times, it’s been hard for me to muster up much Christmas cheer this year. So, instead, I’m focusing on treasuring the memories of past holidays with family and friends and contemplating how we might reimagine Christmas next year.
Our first snow of the season was really little more than a dusting. It was heavy and clung to the tree branches – as evident in the photograph above.
Our second snowstorm was much more promising! It was bitter cold and so created a nice, fluffy layering of snow. It was significant enough in depth – about 10″ – to guarantee that it would qualify as a “snowshoe” snow. It’s always exciting to pull out the snowshoes for the first time each winter and head into the woods.
I’m very fortunate that our 10-acre property is surrounded by neighbors who have larger tracts of forested land. For over 20 years, I’ve had permission to snowshoe through their woods. It’s so rewarding to be able to just head out my back door adorned with snowshoes and walk for hours. I have to be patient and wait for hunting season to end, but once mid-December arrives, I’m good to go with no fear of disturbing anyone.
For many years, my faithful border-collie/black lab dog, Lucy, accompanied me on these snowy treks through the woods. I had developed a fairly consistent route that I would reestablish at the start of each season. I used existing logging roads or 4-wheeler hunting trails developed by the landowners, with occasional connecting paths made by me between the properties or established trails. These “connector” trails were identified by me each year through landmarks in the woods – an ancient, gnarly maple tree marked one turn while a giant, multi-trunked pine growing next to an opening in a stonewall guided me on to the next landmark – and so it went. At times, I would have trouble picking up my path from the previous year during the initial trail-setting. There were always changes in the forest from the previous year – either naturally-occurring or man-made – that would alter how I remembered a particular spot.
This is where Lucy came to the rescue. She had an uncanny ability to “pick up” our route from year to year. I remember at times standing in the snow, scanning the landscape around me, desperately trying to find the correct direction to the next landmark. All I had to do was say “Lucy – which way?” and off she would go in front of me – guiding me almost precisely through a thicket or pine stand in exactly the same place as the previous year! She loved to run ahead of me following scents and sounds, but she never failed to circle back and check on me – making sure I was okay.
Yesterday, we started snowshoeing with the temperature hovering around 14 degrees. The air was still and the skies were bright and blue. Perfect conditions!! 🙂 I always start my trek by heading back past our sugarhouse and up into our woods. Once I cross over the stone wall that marks our boundary, I bushwhack my way up through a scotch pine stand and pick up my neighbors logging trail. From there, I weave my way through the acres and acres of woodland – zig-zagging between both my neighbors properties. The quiet is almost deafening! 🙂 It was a glorious day on the trail!
I was focused on reading the annual Holiday email letter from a fellow Vermonter and blogger this morning – all while enjoying my morning coffee in “my favorite recliner.” When I finished reading the letter and admiring the photos that were included, I glanced up and was just in time to witness this absolutely incredible sunrise.
I had just enough time to grab my camera, slide on my slippers and head out to the front porch for a shot. Unbelievable colors!
My husband and I took a hike back in the woods this morning in search of a potential Christmas tree. We did not really find one suitable enough – not surprising really – but we gave it a good try! Our first snowstorm of the season dumped little more than an inch on the ground. Disappointing….the effect was nice though and the snow was clinging to the tree branches creating a “winter wonderland” look.