Unexpected Beauty

Sometimes, beauty takes you by surprise and makes you gasp and smile. I took the first two pictures this morning: something unexpected but delightful.

The sun had come up and it illuminated this tree at a perfect angle because it looked as if the raindrops were dangling and glistening like tinsel. A magical sight from my favorite chair. I had to run and grab the camera before it was over. This oak tree is on my closest neighbor’s property. It keeps its dry leaves until the spring. What a lovely sight.
This is just the reflection of a drop of water that is on the outer side of the window glass. As I was going down the stairs, I noticed what I thought were shards of glass on the window. As I got closer and attempted to grab them, I realized it was just a reflection. I thought these were beautiful to look at, and I had never noticed them before. I went downstairs quickly and grabbed the camera once more. What a treat. I know, the window needs cleaning on the outside, but it is winter.
I took this picture the other day. The garden has gone to sleep, and we have had temperatures on and off in the 20s at night and even hit 6 degrees one time, but this plant refuses to go to sleep and keeps flowering. It is the only one in the garden that is still offering its colorful beauty, that is, besides the forsythia plant next door that always blooms in December. A lovely sight.
Every winter, I look forward to seeing this Forsythia bloom in December. So far, this plant seems to prefer winter blooms and not blooming in the spring. For the past four years, I have noticed her early blooms and enjoy it.

Hope you enjoy these pictures.

A New Outlook Must Follow Leaving Behind

Photo by M.A.D.

As a new year starts, a time for reflection continues, and new beginnings, new goals emerge. New plans are taken into consideration, and a new array of possibilities. For many of us the start of a new year represents a new slate, an exciting journey. We plan, we dream, we ponder, reconsider, and evaluate. We measure ourselves throughout the year left behind. Sometimes, we chastise our self, and other times, we are very pleased with our performance. It is also a time to reflect and leave behind that which does not fit us anymore – the old self that we have been carrying around for years for whatever reason, sometimes, even unaware of its presence. The shadow that once was but remains in our subconscious.

The old self manifests in old habits that don’t serve us anymore, dislikes that we force ourselves to like because we once did, old hobbies that we do not seem to enjoy anymore but think we do, objects that are meaningless to us but we keep, and even beliefs and frame of thought that does not serve us and that we have outgrown by time and experience but seem to have lingered in our lives and mind. Whatever it may be, material or unmaterial, it is better to leave it behind, and make room for new experiences. Sometimes Old Self is heavy and tiresome, even adding mental and emotional weight and clutter that we certainly do not need if we want to live a good life.

As I have pondered and evaluated over the past few weeks, I have found many things that are just not fit for me anymore, material and not, even just present in my life by habit through the years, but not serving the person I am today.

Your life, your space, your mind, should reflect the person you are, not the one you were or even the one you aspired to be once but are not. Life is ever changing, evolving, and sometimes, it turns out better than what we planned for that Old Self. Other times, we might feel that we have not measured up to our expectations, and regret might set in. When that happens, I am reminded and uplifted by this beautiful scripture. It is not critical, judgmental, or demanding. It is simple, sweet, and full of hope and possibilities.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Mathew 5:16

On Being Thankful

Thankful Squirrel – Photo by M.A.D.

As I sit here, I think about the upcoming Thanksgiving Day and what this holiday means. For some, it is an opportunity to share a big meal with family and friends. For other people, a “turkey day” of fun, while others look at it as the official start of the Holiday Season. For many, it is all of the above and a day for reflection, for counting and recounting all the blessings that the Lord has given and be grateful to Him for those. For other people, the day comes and goes just like another ordinary day, due to different circumstances.

There is so much to be thankful for, from the moment one opens the eyes to receive another day, another opportunity unique to each person to do better than the day before. No one is perfect, but to each one of us another day is given to do as we may, as we should, and ultimately as we want, with it the gift of free will, another precious gift to be grateful for.

On Thanksgiving Day, here in the USA, people will be eating and celebrating with family and friends, knowing or unknowingly aware of the deeper meaning and significance of this day. As many seconds the day has, each second is a reason to be thankful, but knowing that the seconds before then counted as well, and hoping that the seconds after will be unnumbered and plenty, because these can never be unlimited. Each second of life, a second of gratitude. Tomorrow comes and goes, and what remains are memories of that day, and when the memories fade over time, a grateful heart lives on forever.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all who celebrate the day, and many blessings to all of you.

Maria Antonia Diaz

An Unusual Partnership

2021- Falcon hanging out with Crow friends Photo by M.A.D.

Last year, I shared this picture of a falcon that seemed to be friends with the crows. On occasion, I saw the bird hanging around with the crows, and none of them seemed to be afraid. This year, a falcon has been hanging around with the crows. I don’t think it is the same one; the colors of its plumage seem a bit different. I looked it up and it seems to be a Common Kestrel, a type of falcon, but I am not sure. This seems to be an unusual and unexpected partnership, and none of the crows seem to be afraid of the falcon. Here are the photos I took the other day.

Photo by M.A.D.

Birds of a feather flock together?

Farmhouse Project Update – That Old Tree

As usual, there are plenty of things to do around here. Yesterday, my husband finished clearing up the mess from a previous storm, tons of branches that have been around for a while. Then, he decided to tackle the old tree that fell during the same time. We had estimates done, but he decided to do it himself, especially during this economy. He tackled the job in a couple of weekends. We will save the money for the trees that are too large and require professional handling. In the meantime, we will stop all projects until next year, because you never know. As for the veggie garden, it is done for the season. I picked the last of the tomatoes yesterday. The garden is starting to prepare for a deep sleep during winter. All the work from now on will be clean ups, mostly, not new projects.

The old tree and brush from a previous storm.

The old tree when it fell.
Debris and branches left from a storm.

The wood from the large tree is good wood that we gave to someone. It will be picked up sometime this week to be used as heat for the winter. Especially now that a cord of wood has gone up in price, I think in the range of $300, and many people are installing wood stoves because electricity will go up more, most likely, hence it will probably go up more with demand. We are happy that the tree will be used in a good way. Eventually, we will install a small wood stove in the kitchen.

Plenty of wood for heat.

Many critters that used to perch on that fallen tree will certainly miss it, and I will miss looking at them.

Nature recycles itself; maybe we should learn from it.

Assessing Your Strength and Building a Stronghold

Photo by M.A.D.

I wrote this blogpost as a second part to the previous post.

After a devastating life event, how do you come back to living?

A devastating event will be different for every person, as well as its lasting effects, physically, emotionally and psychologically, as well as materially. When your life has been uprooted and turned upside down and around, how do you recover? During a life storm, everything is taken out of place, including your center, your sense of self and well-being, especially, your sense of self in relation to your Creator.

The recovery and healing process and timeline, assuming that you want it, will be different for everyone, but there are key steps that you can take to start and continue on your way up.

  • First, acknowledge the situation, what has happened, how it happened, but don’t linger on the why looking for blame. Just acknowledge it for what it is at the moment. Know that stagnation or the present condition are not forever unless you decide so.
  • Decide that you want your life back. You want to own your life again, and not be a victim of the circumstances.
  • Acknowledge that you need help, and that help doesn’t equal weakness or handouts. Help can come in many forms: as faith in a higher power, help from above, from a friend or family, from community resources or private resources …
  • Assess your strength. What is good right now? What do you have that is an asset to your healing and recovery? Whether it is in character, spirituality, people, or material resources, make a list of each blessing and look at it. You are not alone. You will feel better.
  • Start visualizing your stronghold, your safe place; it is unique to you. See it in your mind, but also in your heart, no matter how impossible or far away it may seem right now.
  • Start building your stronghold one brick at a time.
    • Brick 1 – Faith, in God and yourself. You need to strengthen it because this block will be the foundation to build over it.
    • Brick 2 – Velocity. Take it one step at a time. Learn to manage the little things first. When you are hurt and vulnerable, anything seems like a huge crisis, unsurmountable, and sometimes it is; however, when in pain, smaller issues are magnified.
    • Brick 3 – Strive for balance. When the weight is out of place, it is easy to feel off balance. Know that a sense of balance will come back as you start managing smaller issues and details one by one. It will strengthen you to keep on going and feel equilibrium. During this time, talk to God; He listens.
    • Brick 4 – Live with intention. By now, you feel a new sense of purpose and desire, even if that is only to come back to the living. Make your days count for you and your loved ones. Live intentionally each day. After all, each brand-new day is a gift the second you open your eyes. Do the best you can with what you have.
    • Brick 5 – Use any resources available to you wisely and carefully. Plan the application of these resources in your life. Don’t waste or overuse these. Develop a sense of responsibility in their inception.
    • Brick 6 – Become selective. Choose carefully the things and people you will give your full attention. This might seem common sense, however, how many times have we placed our attention on things and issues that will not benefit us, whether it relates to time management, frivolous pursuits, unfruitful projects, toxic people, toxic behavior or habits, unhealthy thoughts … Actively choose what enters your space, your sanctuary, your new stronghold. But also, what you will go after from now on, your pursuits.
    • Brick 7 – Build your financial security. This starts with an honest appreciation of your everyday blessings, whether material or immaterial. Be grateful for what you have now and learn to manage it well. Not until that will you be able to define financial health (or any other type of security) for you. However, during that time, you should be working on a few simple skills.
      • Keeping your expenses as low as you can so you can do as much as you can with what you have.
      • Managing your money/resources better. Budgeting.
      • Being intentional with every purchase and on/or below budget.
      • Eliminating your debt one step at a time. It will take time. Stay away from new debt.
      • Building savings slowly. Set an amount, even if low, to start. Savings never stop.
      • Defining your standard of living according to the needs of the stronghold you set out to build. That is why your definition of financial health is important. It will help you discard anything that does not fit in your safe stronghold, whether expensive habits, behavior, or unnecessary purchases. You cannot build a new stronghold while living in an old one that crumbled.
    • Brick 8 – Don’t focus on other people’s strongholds, mind your own. Their blessing is their blessing, yours is yours. It is easy to become distracted by other people’s wants and achievements. It is good to celebrate those and admire, even having someone successful as a mentor. However, when you take your eyes off your stronghold for too long, you will end up neglecting it and even devaluating it. Focus on continuing to build your safe place. Admire others, dream, but don’t neglect your own. This ties back to gratitude.
    • Brick 9 – Realize that stuff and money do not make you rich or more valuable, and it certainly does not make you secure. You do and are with the help of God. When you realize where your true sense of security comes from, that is when you will have built your stronghold. You might have started building it from the outside, in the material, little by little, one small step at a time, one small achievement at a time, however, you will continue to build and improve it on the inside, inside of you, and that is a lifetime’s endeavor.

You are your stronghold and in it reside God’s strength, love, and blessings, because you placed Brick 1 as the foundation.

Disclaimer: I know because I’ve been there.

Monstrosities

October is finally here, and with it, a few cooler days. We will have our first frost by Sunday, according to the local meteorologist. Those little birds were right once more. Nature knows best. If we would listen to it, we would know best too. I will be collecting what’s left on the veggie garden before Sunday, green or not. The Halloween vibes are louder this year in the stores. There are a few monstrosities on the shelves as well as on the food isles, pricing continues to go up. This weekend we will be cleaning up tons of leaves and branches left by the remnants of Ian. Thank God that is the only thing we have to clean up, because my heart truly goes out after the victims of its devastation in Florida.

Once October arrives, one tends to think of frightful things and pumpkins; it has been engrained in our culture for long. One of my favorite movies, if not my favorite, is Silver Bullet (Stephen King). When we bought this farmhouse, I found an old wooden baseball bat amongst the tall weeds. I cleaned it up and kept it, but I immediately thought of “the peacemaker” in that movie and named it so.

Inspired by Silver Bullet. Photo by M.A.D.

We got another dose of October fright when we went to pick up the pellet fuel. The increase in pricing will translate to $100 more per month ($2 more per bag) on a ton (50 bags/2,000 lbs.). We use about a ton per month. Is this type of heating worth it anymore at that increase? The electric companies are saying that the average customer will see the electric bill go up by $40-$60 a month, depending on who you listen to in the news. Will pellet stove fans revert to electric heating as a primary source? I think a wood stove or fireplace is the best choice, that is, if you chop your own wood. A cord of wood used to be around $250 on the cheap side of things, not anymore.

A month’s worth of pellet fuel. (Photo by M.A.D.)

There are lovely monstrosities as well. A week or so ago, I found the biggest mushroom I have ever seen. It was bigger than my hand, so I had to take a picture and send it to my sister.

Monster Mushroom that resembles a loaf of bread.

All this accelerated increase on the cost of living, a monstrosity, has me thinking and evaluating the way we do things around here, and looking for better alternatives. It looks like the whole nation is about to wake up and reevaluate its path, its core values, and at the home level, the paths we have taken so far, and the need to ponder and redirect our lifestyle.

Spatial Disorientation

Photo by M.A.D.

We hope for fairness and constancy in life, but many times during our journey, we find ourselves on the opposite side of it, and most likely, not knowing up from down, and feeling that life has handed us the worst card, feeling sort of a spatial disorientation that numbs our senses and leaves us without a sense of direction, and many other feelings and emotions we rather not experience.

“It is not fair,” accompanies the anger and disillusion. During that time, how can we look up when we don’t even know where up is? Our compass, our radar, is not working properly. Everything might seem out of place in life, foggy, distant … It is hard to make sense of it all or make intelligent decisions. However, there is always a constant, one thing that remains the same when we don’t know our up from down, and that is the knowledge that help comes from above, wherever that might be. In an upside-down situation, help is a prayer away, and we don’t need to know our orientation because it is a matter of faith, and faith has no limits, no boundaries; spatial rules don’t apply here. When you feel that you have been handed your worst card in life, start by looking up, no matter if you don’t know your up from your down. All you need is a little bit of faith as your compass, and let God, the pilot, take you out of the storm and bring you to a safe place.

I will turn the darkness into light before them.

Isaiah 42:16

Autumn Vibes

At the time of this writing, it is nine days until the first day of Autumn. I am already welcoming the season and enjoying many of its sights. Soon I will enjoy its colors. We had our first temperature change in the upper 50s last night, and today there is a crisp in the air. The only thing I am not looking forward is the soon to arrive in waves, clouds of ladybug-look-alike Asian beetles that will cover the area. It is one thing that I truly dislike about living here. The process should take about 1-2 weeks depending on the weather. In the meantime, I will enjoy the weather transition and all the blessings that a new season brings – the ongoing song of excited crows, oranges, reds, yellows, all kinds of crimson … unexpected critters, autumn candy, hearty meals, darker nights, and the magic of another season.

Brick by Brick

The work around this farmhouse continues; there is something to add to the list always. Not too long ago, we removed bricks that were in the front garden. When we got rid of the kitchen chimney, we reused those bricks. When we were able to work on that garden area again, we took them out and set them aside to be used elsewhere. We used a few of them in the faerie garden and the new garden next to it. The bricks replaced old bent wood that was serving as a border. The old wood was used as border on the trails my husband is slowly developing in the back area. My husband decided to make a chimenea with the rest of the bricks. It will be great for the sitting area during chilly days. It also serves as a cooking option if power goes down for long. The important thing is that these lovely old bricks that date to 1910 at least, if not older, were not wasted.

Chimenea, and brick border in the background garden.

One of my easy projects was to have Morning Glory grow by the side entrance and wrap itself around the handrail. I love the look of Morning Glory in pictures and paintings of cottages, so I wanted to recreate the look somehow.

I planted the seeds in pots. Hopefully, the plant will keep blooming and extending. In the evening the flowers look like candy when closed.
It was a heavy-fog morning today, and these were all over the ground. It looks web-lace-tissue like. I don’t know what they are, certainly not spider webs. These disappear once the sun comes out and heats the surface.
A bunch of these tiny yellow birds were around a few weeks ago. I have seen all-yellow tiny ones before but not these with the black markings.

It looks like the garden is starting to prepare for a new season, and so am I; soon, everything will go to rest for a while.