Don’t pass it by

Jeff mowing our back yard on November 3, 2006, York County, Virginia

Jeff mowing our back yard on November 3, 2006, York County, Virginia

“There it is round you. Don’t pass it by—the immediate, the real, the only, the yours.”
Henry James

Until this year, this would be a typical sight for a Saturday in November; Jeff mowing the grass for perhaps the last time until spring.  I took this photo seven years ago, but even if I had taken it more recently, I could not have known at the time how much I would miss this seemingly ordinary sight, and how glad I am that I captured it in at least one photo.

I continue to hope, pray and believe that next year Jeff will be mowing that grass again (until cancer forced him to stop yard work, he had steadfastly refused to hire a lawn service, and he hopes to return to mowing one day).  Till then, I am looking around me with new appreciation for the daily gifts and treasures that sometimes hide beneath the mantle of their familiarity.

Right now, today, these gifts are all around you, too.  The everyday will one day be exceptional.  Don’t pass it by!


  1. That is a truly beautiful sight. You gave me a copy of the Oscar-winning score of “Life is Beautiful”, by Nicola Piovani. I treasure it, for many of the same reasons as your admonition today.

    • Eric, it’s funny you should mention “Life is Beautiful;” I was just thinking of that film on Thursday, remembering it and thinking I should watch it again. When it first came out, Matt had just gotten out of the hospital and it was Drew’s birthday. He and I went to see it while Jeff stayed home with Matt. A few days later I put a sign on Drew’s door “No Visigoths or spiders allowed.” 🙂 It’s a rare movie that can be so profoundly moving and humorous at the same time. I think that’s what made it magical.

  2. John M.

    I used to think life could only be fulfilling if it were full of new experiences, destinations, conquests, adventures. Alistair Begg, in his teaching series on the book of Ruth, refers to Him as the “God of the ordinary”, finding ways to bless us in the trials and tests that life has in store. As I’m growing older, I find most of my great joys in the smallest of activities, routines and rituals. Sharpening a chainsaw blade, going for a walk on the farm or preparing a meal holds mysteries equal to a stroll in some exotic city in a land faraway.

    I love your writings and your visitors, feel like I’ve gotten to know you all despite never having posted. Thanks for reminding me that something need not be new to be new.

    • Dear John M. – “never posted”? Do you find, in most relationships, you are quiet? As you can tell, Julia and I share a common bane. Too bad I can’t take some “Imodium” for my mouth/pen/keyboard 😉

      • I’ll refrain from further comment on our “common bane” except to say that one relative advantage of online discussion is the ability for each person to “speak” without interruption! John M., my husband and sons are all quiet men, too. I’ve come to value that trait! Thanks again for your comment!

    • Thanks so much, John. I am happy to know you are enjoying the blog. I love our visitors too! “Diversity” is a much-overworked word in today’s media, but I think we have quite a diverse group here and I gain some of the most interesting insights from the comments that are left here, as well as quite a few pleasant strolls down memory lane. I think all of us can come to know each other through what we write as well as, or better than, we might if we met at a gathering where there was mostly superficial chit-chat. The closing words of your comment remind me of the beautiful verse that tells us God’s mercies are “new every morning.” Every day is truly unique. I appreciate your visits, and your taking the time to comment here!

  3. Beth

    The good old days are now!

    • Amen to that. I love Ashleigh’s quote that I featured in this post.

  4. Sheila

    Julia, I experience others appreciation of “life and mobility” so often. I carry their stories in my heart. Just this week a prosthetic patient (friend) shared his excitement as he plans for his 60th birthday in November. He was 19 years old when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and the grim prognosis. Yes, he is an amputee but he’s so much more. He is a successful attorney, active lifestyle (loves scuba diving), father of 2, and to be admired. We took a moment to thank God for the wonderful life he lives! Bless his heart! Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

    • Sheila, I love hearing stories about people who have overcome difficulties that might have stalled a less determined person. I imagine you and Bill meet quite a few extraordinary people in your daily work. Few things are more powerful than the example of a life well-lived. As always, I appreciate your being here, sharing and being part of our online community. I look forward to hearing from you each day! Hope you and Bill have a great weekend.

  5. Raynard

    Good Morning.Asking for forgiveness in my rudeness. Why? I never ask you how you and your family are doing. I miss mowing lawns and growing my roses, now that I live in a apartment and “don”t have the time and lack the motivation to grow “box plants on the patio. I enjoy “color” is one reason why I go to the Annual Philadelphia Flower show. I live close to Longwood Gardens built and started by”One of the Duponts”.. Your advise needed. What do you think about a video Christmas card( email greeting or Skype /Google hangout holiday greeting.Have a few people on my heart from the upper room that can use the encouragement( you included lol) Why do they “call them “flapjacks” when nothing flaps? I digress. Thank you for being a great sharer of encouragement. be blessed and have a great day…

    • Hi Raynard, I have never ever thought of you as rude. Just as we do over at Upper Room, each of us shares here what’s on our minds and hearts; in that sharing, we know without express words or inquiries that the concern is there. I think Jeff would miss caring for the lawn too; that’s one reason why we decided to keep our York home when he was transferred to DC. Maybe we will go to Longwood Gardens one day whenever we get back to Philadelphia for a visit. I think a Skype greeting would be great. I have not yet learned to use video Skype but I keep telling myself I’m going to do that so we can visit with our grandson that way. If you know how to set up a video chat I think it would be great. I have heard of Google hangout etc. but don’t really know how it works. Do you see several faces at once like on the beginning of the Brady Bunch? (I knew you would connect with a Boomer TV show reference :-)) I would dearly love to see the face of all these folks I have come to know online but have never seen in person. Your humor has lightened many a somber day at Upper Room where so many people are struggling with longstanding heartaches and disappointments.

      • Raynard

        thank you for your kind word.( if i didnt know any better I say you were reading of a “hallmark card” lol and yes I buy card from the dollar store and flowers from the gas station. Google hangouts and Skype easy to use.( find a youtube video or”ask a kid lol) . All you really need is a webcam ( on your phone, tablet , laptop or desktop. ) Then have the other person’s contact info ie email address.( Skype is owned by Microsoft you know hotmail. and Google hangouts is owned by”Google IE gmail people. it’s like doing video conferencing and yes you can do it with more than one person. we did it with a few of our relatives in NC , Friends there also and even friends overseas.My mother had a love for sending cards for all occassions. She taught me if you cant send someone a gift, send them a card and let them know you were thinking about them.I already email 3 people from Upper Room. Going to send some ecards first. BYT, Google Hangouts is more family friendly than Facebook in my humble opinion.If you find 30 minutes of”me time” a day you can learn how to video chat.( cheaper than a plane ticket and you don’t have to worry about those bunny slippers you wear.( i heard that you saying”how did he know?PS, I just got my “broken crystal ball out of the shop lol)

        • Bunny slippers is not far off – we quit wearing shoes in the house back during the years we lived in Hawaii, where we picked up that local custom. It keeps the floors much cleaner! But I have been known to catch myself walking out the door in my raggedy house shoes! 🙂

          • Raynard

            Almost had a Freudian slip and said Raggedy Ann . Is this the part I start singing to clean it up Animal Crackers in my soup, monkeys and rabbits loop d loop lol Better yet you remember the TV show Kung Fu with David Carridine he was barefoot going around saying I seek water and did he ever snatch the pebble from the masters hand…Hummm

            • I don’t remember the part about him seeking water, but I do know he didn’t get to leave the monastery until he was able to get that pebble. They showed it at the starting of every show, but you can see it at 30:40 near the end of this clip. That was one of my all time favorite TV shows!

  6. Emily Laveder

    Such a sweet reminder. Here’s to the backyard and Uncle Jeff mowing again soon!

    • Thank you, Emily!

  7. Ellis Anderson

    The size of the tree compared to Jeff’s form in the photograph settles my soul somehow, reminding me about the continuity of life. Perfect picture, my friend.

    • Thank you, Ellis! That tree is massive indeed. I have often wondered about the early inhabitants of this area who might have seen it in its very early years!

  8. kjyaccino

    I appreciate your reminder that every day is a gift and every task worthy of thanks. Love you.

    • Love you too Kathy. Can’t wait until we can get together again for a good old face-to-face visit!

  9. I sincerely pray along with you – that next year Jeff will be mowing that grass again. That picture has something charming about it.
    I can imagine what such seemingly irrelevant chores mean. Now we three (my sisters) miss Papa a lot. Looking at all his works it is hard to believe he is not there any more to describe how each piece was created and how to take care of them. He will not be there with his wits and the narrations. Did we pay enough attention to such things when he was there? Not much. And we resort to uttering ‘should haves’ and ‘must haves.’

    • Yes, it’s so easy to take people for granted, and no one more so than our parents. There is something poignant about the tangible things they leave behind, visible symbols of the love and dedication they put into living, as well as reminders of their words and descriptions with which they taught us about the world. I suppose no one reaches adulthood without a large cache of “should haves” and “must haves” — but at least we can be grateful for the blessing of having parents whose presence will always remain with us, even if only in memory. Thanks for the prayers! I honestly believe they are being answered and will continue to be so. I really appreciate and enjoy your visits here!

  10. MaryAnn

    WOW! Your words are uplifting & encouraging to me! Reminding us to open our eyes & hearts to what is round us!
    Such a gorgeous yard, trees & colored leaves to highlight your gorgeous husband!

    • Thank you Mary Ann. Maybe sometime you can come to see us out here. We still miss California, but we have come to love the seasons here in Virginia despite not being fond of the cold weather. Fortunately the winters here are relatively mild. Autumn is the best season here, but spring is also glorious, with all the azaleas.

  11. I think your post today is so important, in two ways really. I don’t take enough photo’s of day to day life, thanks for this reminder Julia. I sure wish I had pictures of my grandma just cooking or just picking Saskatoon’s or petting a cat. As you say, “they hid beneath the mantel of their familiarity”. I just love those words. I guess, back in the day, only the most special events were photographed. When in fact, everyday with a loved one is a gift and can be special in simple ways. I think of those things now when I wish I could watch dad making me breakfast and pouring me the first of many coffee’s. I don’t know if there are ever enough days for anyone, but I know they all should be treasured more than they are at the moment. Maybe that’s human nature, or a reluctance to muddle the joy of everyday life with thoughts of the inevitable. I’m sure sorry to know that Jeff isn’t able to do these annual fall rituals this year. I imagine he never dream’t he’d be missing it either. My heart aches for you both. Sending love your way. xK

    • Thanks so much, Boomdee! When I first got addicted to taking pictures (sometime in childhood) it was quite expensive to buy and develop film. In fact, if my Daddy and Eric had not known how to develop and print film (by turning our ONLY bathroom into a darkroom sometimes) I would never have been able to take any pictures. Before I had a “real” (cheap plastic) camera, my sister, younger brother and I used to play “camera.” We would make a camera out of a piece of folded tablet paper and inside we would put rectangles of paper we had cut out. Then we would offer to make pictures of everyday things for each other and would “go into the darkroom to develop the pictures” — which meant whoever “took” the pictures would then go into a room draw each “photo” on one of the blank rectangles — and then we would bring them out – “voila! your pictures are ready!” Not that they bore much resemblance to what we were supposedly taking photos of, but it was fun. All that to say, it’s so easy and cheap now with digital, we really should take photos of the everyday things. It takes a bit of time and effort, but I have never regretted it, although I get a lot of friendly teasing for always having my camera attached to the end of my arm.

      • What a cute bunch you all were 😀 Love the creativity of your camera game. I think that might be a fun project in grade school for a teacher to do. Maybe kids would find it redundant now that even the youngest one’s have their OWN phone with a camera. Boy oh boy, kids are sure techie now. I hope they get a chance to use their imaginations in some fun way.

        • Yes, although it makes me sound like the “old lady” I am, I remain grateful that we had relatively little pre-manufactured amusement in childhood. It’s hard to say whether we would have been better off with more “enrichment activities” as they are now called, but I like these quirky memories better all the time!

  12. That tree is huge!

    • Yes, and as Jeff is reminding me when I feel sad about losing it, it produces lots of pollen…but also lovely shade and a home for birds and squirrels.

      • I know, hard isn’t it? You take the good with the bad, but most trees give more than they take. I guess you grieve the loss and celebrate what’s to come in its place. I hope you break ground soon. best of luck.

        • Thanks Alys! I’ll keep you posted. The people we chose to remove the tree are booked until early July, so that gives us a bit more time.

          • Wow! That is a long wait. I’m glad you can enjoy it for a few more months. I hope it doesn’t hinder progress on our building plans.

            • It doesn’t appear to be holding anything up. We’re in the process of getting zoning and HOA approvals, etc.

              • Things are moving apace then? Good for you, Julia!

                • Hope by this time next year we will be able to have a great place for guests to stay…hint! hint! 😉

                  • Hint taken!!! You don’t have to ask me twice. Another road trip sounds grand. Thank you, Julia. xox

                    • 😀 I’ll start planning now. The two years during which we planned your recent visit passed so quickly!

                    • They did!


  1. The joyful simplicities | Defeat Despair

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