Inconceivable antiquity

These crape myrtle trees brighten my summer walks every year.  August 2013

These crape myrtle trees brighten my summer walks every year. August 2013

“How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew!”Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ah, but Ralph, you say “inconceivable antiquity” like it’s a bad thing!  Some of us would like to think that nature is all the more appealing because of her longevity.  Perhaps the flowers are not meant to be a cunning disguise of age, but rather a joyful, ever-changing celebration of the predictability of the seasons.  After all, many a flowering tree or shrub only grows more lush and productive as the years pass.  And the blooms disappear just long enough to keep things interesting.

A good example would be the lovely crape myrtles that fill our neighborhood and much of the South.  Gorgeous green leaves in the springtime, vibrant blossoms through the hottest months of the summer, and depending on the variety, fall foliage that ranges from bright yellow to flaming red.  They drop their leaves in the winter, but even their skeletal outlines have a stark beauty.  And then, just when we are fed up with cold weather and bare branches, the cycle begins again.

Maybe we are meant to take a cue from nature’s perennial flowering.  Underneath the showy cycles of grandeur lies an antiquity that hints of eternity.  And the repetitive displays offer a freshness and youthful vigor reminding us that beauty, though changing, never really grows old.


  1. Inconceivable! The grandkids and I just watched “Princess Bride” (again). If the writers were aware of Emerson’s use of that word, they probably would have lost the comedic repetition of it as a one-word interjection? And, of course, we could not have enjoyed Inego’s line: “I don’t think that means what he thinks it means.”

    • And don’t forget George Carlin’s suggestion that makers of the birth control pill should use that as a trade name. Probably with an exclamation point, as you used it.

  2. Sheila

    Good beautiful Monday morning, Julia, Jeff, and Matt. The crape myrtles that you enjoy are so beautiful to share with us and start our day. I’ve already been outside, opened the umbrellas on our front deck as the sun is already climbing above the ocean. I’ll carry your words with me today! Off to work OR should I say to have some fun? It’s only WORK if you’d rather be doing something else! Haha!

    • Sheila, that’s a great attitude toward work! I am going to try to re-frame my entire day on that thought. Even the stuff I have to do today that I’d rather NOT be doing (such as government paperwork) represents all kinds of blessings for which I should be thankful. So I’ll carry your words with me today, too! 🙂

  3. The landscaping in your neighbourhood makes my jaw drop. Stunning Julia ! Those tree’s are just gorgeous. You get to wander by these just any ol’ day? WOW. I think they look like exquisite jewelry on what might otherwise be just another lane. Your photo is a terrific accoutrement to RWE’s quote. One of my favourites of Mr Emerson’s is, ‘Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience’.

    • Yes, I love that quote too. I’m gradually learning patience, and I guess “gradual” is appropriate since I have to be patient about how long it takes! Thanks for your kind words about our neighborhood. It does have lovely landscaping. That photo was taken along the main road, which runs for about a mile. No sidewalks, so I walk in the bike lanes and move over when a bike approaches! In early spring I posted another photo that was taken near the opposite end of that same road. There are so many talented gardeners in our neighborhood that the individual lawns and gardens are as pretty as the streets. All in all it makes walking a much easier “task” each day! Soon the fall decorations will appear and they are gorgeous too. I’ll be posting some here, I’m sure.

      • Looks like a dream, I’m completely envious 😀

        • Well maybe you will just have to visit sometime!

          • 😀 Now you’ve gone and done it xoxo

            • Try airport codes PHF, ORF, RIC, DCA, IAD and even BWI – the fares fluctuate wildly, so it pays to start shopping early! 😉

  4. Carolyn

    I have a deep red crape myrtle in my front flower bed and it is beautiful. I love the crapes, Terry isn’t a fan but it’s okay to have a few. I had my eye appointment last week. My Graves is back and the muscles behind my right eye are swelling.The chemo did a number on my immune system and now that it’s okay and Graves is an auto immune disease it went looking and found my eye muscles. Doctor will check again in November and it will take some time for this to stop. When all is done she thinks I can have surgery on that eye andit will be fixed. I hope you can make sense out of this. I find it hard to explain things. I hope that Jeff is feeling better. Boy that chemo is tough. Keep your blogs coming. Love to all.

    • Carolyn, I think you make perfect sense, especially in the context of all Jeff has been through. Yesterday I told him “what you have to do is survive longer than the cancer. If they kill the tumors before they kill you, you win.” But in reality, as your situation demonstrates, the effects will be lingering. They have already told Jeff he will eventually be needing hernia surgery because of the first course of chemo and the resulting poor healing of the liver resection. But as the surgeon told him “That’s OK, we can deal with that later, that is not going to kill you. The important thing is to get the cancer, and we are doing that.” So as long as the tests are coming back with good news, it’s a bit more bearable for Jeff. The bad news about the new tumor on the left lobe was a big blow, but as I keep reminding him, “it’s small, and it’s only ONE.” I know it must be SO MUCH HARDER to stay positive when you are the one dealing with the physical suffering. Kudos to you for your wonderful attitude – it’s been a shining light for us, just as you were for us all those years ago. Good thing none of us knew what lay ahead! 🙂

      • Julia (and hoping Carolyn also reads this) – we cannot praise “wounded warriors” in mankind’s battle with cancer enough! It is Terry, Eric, and Julia who are the ones “not knowing what lies ahead”. Carolyn and Jeff have “seen the elephant”.

        • But Terry’s brother Gary has also seen it, and lived to tell the story! In fact he made several trips to Bethesda himself, and he was coming from a much greater distance than Jeff! Whatever else can be said of us, we run in good company. BTW Eric you too are a cancer survivor!

      • Carolyn

        I don’t know if I told you are but I also have a hernia from my surgery. Told me that if I start having problems they would do surgery. So far ,so good. Wonder what will be next. Tell Jeff to hang in there , we will beat this terrible disease. Prayers are with Jeff and you. Yes it is hard on us but also on people that love us. My patiences are not good right now, having to add another dr. to my list. Hugs to all.

        • Yes, I can imagine you don’t need another doctor’s name on your list. Matt has hardly ever complained at all for 28 years, but a couple of years back, at yet another “routine” cardiac check that turned into an all-day affair when flutter was discovered AGAIN, Matt and I sat waiting in between sessions with various groups of people (Medtronic techs, electrophysiologists, adult congenital cardiologists, etc.) and in a quiet moment when they had all left the room, Matt looked sad and said “I am so tired of all these doctors.” I know you must feel the same way!!! We will pray this latest challenge (with the Graves Disease) will be taken care of soon, and maybe you won’t have to have the hernia surgery; Jeff has so far managed to dodge the skin graft surgery they said he would need, though his chest wound still has not healed. You two are at the top of my hero list for sure! Thanks for keeping in touch with us here!

  5. Carlyle

    Speaking of antiquity, Julia , do you recall the Lavender shrub which grows just outside our rear gate? Your mother and I “courted” beneath that very bush more than 64 years ago,
    The old shrub does not flourish as it did then, but like our marriage it hangs on.

    • Wow, I had no idea about that shrub, although I have a dim memory of Mama saying something about a shrub brought from Cherry Hill – is that the one? As I keep reminding Jeff, sometimes just hanging on is good enough!

      • Julia, the shrub I think he is speaking of is from the garden area of the house on Madison Street. I remind you that it was built by a Confederate veteran, and that Nellie was born there in the nineteenth century; and Carlyle was born there in the first third of the 20th century. I was born in the same little town, but a half-mile away at a 12 -room “hospital”. Even in my memory, there were iris lined limestone walkways and old arbors. 

        • Thanks for that info, Eric. I always thought it was so amazing to think of my father and grandmother being born in the same house. I didn’t realize the “hospital” where you were born was so small, but I guess it makes sense. I can remember some of the places Granny was hospitalized being very small, too. One thing I remember most about the Madison street house is the wall where Daddy embedded marbles as a boy, and how some of them, though broken, were still there.

  6. MaryAnn

    Just like I wrote in your Sunday page, your descriptions takes us on a journey. This one is great advice to enjoy, to the hilt, all that surrounds us! With our hearts open to God’s Beauty & Goodness, let us press forward!

    • Thanks Mary Ann, you are a kindred spirit!

  7. Mike Bertoglio

    Crape Myrtle is also a favorite tree on my list and I saw a beautiful specimen in Central Park
    this summer. My son has two in his front yard in Atlanta and unfortunately he committed “Crape Murder” on the- cutting them in half. Their bark is also beautiful in the winter months. These are rare in the Northwest climes.

    • I didn’t realize they would even grow someplace as far north as Central Park. Those trees in the photo appear to me to be “Crape Murdered” almost every year, but I guess the landscapers know what they are doing, because they come back beautifully. We planted one back in the sunniest spot of our wooded area, but apparently it’s still not sunny enough, because that tree is freakishly tall – I’d say at least 30 feet by now – but still very “skinny,” with leaves and blooms only on the tallest 1/3 that actually gets some sun. We can’t decide what to do about it, so for now we just leave it “as is” and plan to see how tall it will get. There’s one in our neighborhood that appears gigantic to me; as tall as a two-story house and very full and beautiful.

  8. Excellent post. Most invited one.

    • Thank you! I am so happy you like it. Hope you are doing well.

  9. Heba

    I actually came across this blog when I was searching for the real meaning of this quote. I agree with your point of view and I love the way you try seeing good in every aspect of life.
    Very OPTIMISTIC and INSPIRING!!! Keep it up and continue infusing others with joy 🙂

    • Thanks so much Heba, I’m so happy you found our blog! I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment here.


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