Our Spring

I have been walking more when weather permits and trying to shake off the anxiety of the pandemic. Not ALWAYS successful, but the effort continues.

This magnolia type caught my attention recently. Blue sky, flowers popping and petals covering the ground. In the autumn Bob and I discuss how the maple trees all decked out in the changing colors of red, yellow, orange seem to drop their gowns or dresses. This spring I am noticing the flowering trees especially as they drops their “ruffles” of petals.

Have you noted things lately that remind you that Spring is bursting out, pandemic or no pandemic? God is not taken by surprise, upset and focused on only the negative with this disease. Can you allow yourself a few minutes to turn off the case count and death totals on television and radio. Even a few minutes of gratitude can do much to mitigate the soul crushing fear circling the earth right now.

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

2 Timothy 1:7 HCSB

A spirit of power, love and a sound mind or sound judgement. It has been a struggle for me to hold on to these. And then I am reminded from some quote, I read from someone, that is it not my grip upon God that counts, but His grip on me.

 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV 2011)

Lyrics by Rich Mullins – Video below

Well sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith seems so small

So hold me Jesus cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It's so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don't come natural to me
I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I've beat my head against so many walls
Now I'm falling down I'm falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin


I'm singing hold me Jesus cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Prince of Peace, hold us in Your nail-scarred hands, reign in and through us, I pray. Amen.

Trout Lilies!

When the realtor showed us this house in 2006 my husband thought it was out of our price range. It was a speculator’s house that was brand new and had stood empty for a year. I began going to visit the house when Bob was at work. On the back hill I found wild flowers of a sort I had not noticed before. Turns out they are called Trout Lilies because the leaves resemble the scales on a trout.

Well, Bob was going past the house on his way home from work. Neither of us told the other. Just could not get this house out of my brain. Finally I asked if we could have the realtor take us back to see it once more. That is when we both mentioned we had visited more than once since the initial showing! We made an offer and started packing as soon as the deal went through. I have always believed the Lord was saving this house for us.

We had never lived in a brand new house! Over the years Bob has taken the herculean task of digging out and chopping back honeysuckle shrubs and vines. Knowing my love of King Alfred daffodils, he began getting the large bag of bulbs in the fall and planting them all over the hill. Now spring is a burst of color and fragrance and joy. I have added Grape hyacinth bulbs and a few Dutch Hyacinths, too.

This year we had a huge surprise from the Trout Lilies! [Erythronium albidum Lily family (Liliaceae)] Whether it is due to maturation of the plants we already had (they do not bloom the first 6 or 7 years of life), extra rains or mild winter we are delighted to see these!

Thousand upon thousands of flowering trout lilies! Oh my goodness. When we first moved in there were a few.

What a blessing! I have never tried to collect these and take them inside. As soon as it stops raining I will go try just that! To me, there is something soothing and special about flowers inside. The kitchen counter often makes me rejoice when I see a bouquet.

Keep smiling!

Smoky Mountain Trek

As Bob wrote in his travel journal regarding Days 27, 28, 29 and 30 (of our miles long adventure). “We left Nashville and headed towards Townsend where we had rented a small cabin in the woods – a final stop in a familiar and loved area.We had not been here in 3 years. The ride was easy and the start of the Appalachian Range was welcomed. Far different than the Rockies, but the lush forests and green valleys were delightful. The redbuds were beginning to bloom and the dogwoods were in full flower.”

Some ask us why we go back so often? For us, wildflower hunting is similar to seeking shells on an Atlantic Ocean beach. The trillium are fairly obvious. Southern Appalachian are very large. Wake Robin is similar to Sweet Betsy trillium to me. Yellow is know as Yellow Wake Robin! I just know it is erect and easy to see in a passing car! But the Jack in the Pulpit, not so much. I find myself as we hike looking for the leaves or the curve of the neck on the Jack. The violets in purple, white, lilac and yellow show themselves. The Dutchman’s Britches are not so obvious as they look like the Squirrel Corn. One has to look closely to see the ginger pots under the Ginger leaves. And the Little Brown Jugs must be discerned, too. Yellow Bellwort grows high on Rich Mountain Road. Spiderwort is the rock clinging one I believe.

Most elusive are the Lady’s Slipper. As I wrote earlier, we found pink that had not opened yet. One clump of lovely yellow were sweet. Sadly, people dig them up (stealing from the National Park) thinking they can take them home to grow the. These lovelies have very particular growing needs. So we tell almost NO ONE where we have seen them. A Ranger at Sugarlands Park Office told us that about 3 miles up Sugarland trail they burst out in abundance after the fires a few years ago. Sadly, that is too much hiking for me.

Fire pinks, crested dwarf iris, showy orchid, wild geranium, fringed phacelia, squaw root, and the list goes on! Such Fun.

Bob wrote about the Good Friday drive along Tremont Road following the Middle Prong of the Little River , “So much rain had fallen that it was more full and rapid than we had ever witnessed. It was violent, frenzied, untamed, wild, and raging. It reminded me of the Niagara rapids below the falls. Water careened along its banks and exploded over the rocks. Waterfalls disappeared except for the ones coming down the sides of the mountain that were barely contained. And it was LOUD! Everything in the area was a soft green and dripping. Giant Trillium sat and listened to Jack preach to them and the rocks above. It was glorious. Who said rainy days are not fun? And we only put 60 miles on the car.”

The next day was only 46 degrees but the rain had stopped so we were up for another hike. Bob’s journal continues “Easter Saturday – the day between the grief and the glory – we drove to Tremont and the Middle Prong Trail. We love this trail as it closely follows the Middle Prong of the river and builds to a crescendo with a cascading waterfall. The joy for me is walking a small path that leads to the crest of the falls. Water rushes towards it and explodes over the top of the boulders below.”

On Day 31 we drove home to Ohio. 7,000 miles, a month on the road sitting side by side in the Toyota Camry Hybrid. We were still friends and still smiling. I imagine you might be tired about reading reports of this adventure. We have not tired of telling it though. There are likely more details in my blog and his travel journal than we could recite to you today, in person, without notes!

Our next adventure was a seven day flight to and around New England to pick up some of the places we missed on a previous adventure there. It is nice to be approaching 49 years of marriage completed and still enjoy one another’s company. May all of your journeys be joyous!

Photo by Robert M Dutina

After Bluebonnets Onward Ho! to Tennessee

Have you driven across Texas? There was not time on our Spring 2019 adventure to explore the southern cities of Texas or Gulf Coast. Basically when we finished with the Bluebonnets we were ready to travel to our annual or semi-annual adventure of hunting wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains.

Did I mention DYC?

We saw these yellow flowers in the distance in Texas. Did I tell you this already? Well, it bears telling again for a chuckle. We asked a guy who looked like he might be a local farmer what that crop was we were seeing this distance in this photo. He said, “Oh that is DYC.” We asked what is DYC. He explained, “Damn yellow cross-pollinators.”

We found Texas basically a boring drive, though we did spot much more of the DYC on our journey. We hurried across the state traveling about as many miles as we could manage in a day, heading for Tennessee.

Saddened recently to hear about the shootings in Midland and Odessa where we had traveled. Five people were killed and 21 others injured, including three law enforcement officers. The violence in this country is sad and startling. I will never get accustomed to it.

We delighted to reach Smoky Mountain National Park. We had rented a cabin for several days to collect our wits after so many weeks on the road. Decided on the first day to attempt our longest hike, uncertain if we could make it to the Lady Slipper area after Bob’s illness and my continued deterioration from arthritis. We made it! We only saw one clump of Yellow Lady Slippers. Photo by Robert Dutina

Robert M Dutina

Did you notice the tendrils down the sides of the Lady’s Slipper?

Robert M Dutina

We also went to the area for pink Sippers. Unfortunately we were too early to see them open.

Photo by Molly
Photo by Molly

Since I could not enjoy full blooms on Lady Slippers, I did delight to say Hi there! to this little guy all covered in dew.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

John G. Whittier

Basically our visits to the Smoky mountains have this effect upon me!

My Blogger Friend Mike

Mike Powell publishes a wonderful journey of his photographic life at the address below. Check him out with the link below for one example.

American Lady

Recently I heard this music on our classical station and I immediately thought of his blog. He gets amazing photos of dragonflies, birds and other nature subjects that remind me to stop and look around me. Without knowing the title it reminded me of some of the chases Mike has likely had through the swampish park where he captures many of his photos. Turn up your volume as the first few moments begin very softly. Only 4 minutes but fun!

If you go to his WordPress blog you can scroll through his entries and I think you will see what I mean! I can no longer see a dragonfly and not think of Michael Q. Powell! Whether he is chasing another species of dragonfly, an Osprey, Great Blue Heron or an Eagle he depicts a world that few of us appreciate being as suburban bound as we usually are.

Start looking around you and enjoy!

NEWS FLASH!!

August 17, 2018 I wrote about treasures in Not Quite Plain Sight. I compared the Florida sea cow, the Manatee, and the microscopic Tardigrades, also known as water bears. To me they look alike and I find that amazing.

Manatee 882 pound – 1,210 pounds

Well, the news flash came up on Wired.com. Spivack was a scientist on the project. One reason he included tardigrades in this project: “Tardigrades are known to enter dormant states in which all metabolic processes stop and the water in their cells is replaced by a protein that effectively turns the cells into glass. Scientists have revived tardigrades that have spent up to 10 years in this dehydrated state, although in some cases they may be able to survive much longer without water.”

Here is the website in case you want the full scoop https://www.wired.com/story/a-crashed-israeli-lunar-lander-spilled-tardigrades-on-the-moon/amp

The Israeli Lunar lander that crashed was called the Beresheet. And when I listened to the Israeli broadcast on line the word sounds like Beara Sheet! I found that humorous: water bear and bear a sheet! “But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?”

Microscopic Water Bear

The short answer is yes. The big question is will they survive? Certainly these were dehydrated tardigrades, however, “Scientists are just beginning to understand how tardigrades manage to survive in so many unforgiving environments. It’s conceivable that as we learn more about tardigrades, we’ll discover ways to rehydrate them after much longer periods of dormancy.”

“Medically accurate image of a water bear”

And then perhaps the news gets better? “As for whether any of the …. tardigrades are still intact, that’s anyone’s guess, but Spivack says there’s no reason to worry about water bears taking over the moon. Any lunar tardigrades found by future humans will have to be brought back to Earth or somewhere with an atmosphere in order to rehydrate them. Whether this will be enough to bring them back to life, however, remains to be seen.”

Tardigrade probably stained for colors
Another Manatee

Evidently what they did is not illegal because it has been determined that the moon has “few of the necessary conditions for life and isn’t at risk of contamination.” But personally, I still find it weird.

Wood Thrush

One of my favorite birds is the Wood Thrush. Not much to look at and easily confused at a glance with other brown birds, but boy oh boy can this one sing!! Here is a tiny clip. There are times I think it sounds like corillion bells.

Recently after the torrential spring rains, we saw one rolling on the sidewalk a bit aways from our front porch. My husband asked, “What in the world is that bird doing?” I looked and said, “Likely he is rolling in dust to clean his feathers. With all the rain it is probably hard to find dust in the woods!” Thrush must have sensed us watching him because he soon took off for the woods. In fact, we rarely see this fellow. Secretive, but a lovely minstrel!

Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.

American Naturalist Henry David Thoreau writing about the Wood Thrush

Often in the brutal heat of this summer weather on my way to the garbage can or getting out of the car I will hear this bird and then I SO agree with Thoreau. It has been way too hot and too many allergy triggers out there to have the windows open. Maybe it will cool off soon so I can hear it from inside, too!