All about us

This hibiscus was one of many lovely plants on Mama and Daddy's back porch, September 2014.

One of many lovely plants on Mama and Daddy’s back porch, September 2014.

“It seems to me that people are forever traveling great distances, and journeying to strange countries, to see things that, if they only knew it, exist beside their own doorstep…Whether one goes to nature for truth, or for beauty, for knowledge or for relaxation, these things can be found in a yard in the city as well as in a tropical jungle, for they exist in the common, simple, everyday things all about us, as well as in the rare and exotic.” Leonard Dubkin

It’s easy to assume that older people enjoy nature because they have nothing more urgent to do, and perhaps that is true to some extent.  Having known my parents for nearly 60 years, though, I can’t remember a time when they were too busy to appreciate the commonplace joys of life.  Hearing Mama regularly exclaim over the beauty of various plants that grew in our yard and neighborhood taught me the names of many of them.  Watching Daddy work faithfully for years at a career he obviously and genuinely loved gave me a powerful example that it’s possible to maintain deep appreciation of what could easily become too familiar to see clearly.

I count myself fortunate to have grown up hearing frequent praises for extraordinary, ordinary things.  Whether it was the taste of food fresh from a garden, the sound of a particularly spirited or touching piece of music on an oft-played record album, or the joyful antics of birds, squirrels and other wildlife, I learned early to pay attention to the abundance that surrounds us.  It’s a lesson that has paid rich dividends.

What are the ordinary gifts in your everyday world, that would be worth traveling great distances to experience?  If you and I could swap places for just one day, what would you want me to be sure not to miss?  Since we can’t swap places, you can tell me about it here and I can enjoy it through your words…and you can appreciate it anew by revisiting the joy or excitement or contentment you feel just by thinking of it.


  1. Good morning, Julia! Coincidentally, when I saw today’s photo, I thought – haven’t I seen a very similar photo, that was taken in Tanzania?
    Point taken!
    Each work day morning for the past year, I’ve had the blessing of being able to cross the pretty Merrimack River in Nashua, New Hampshire. I’ve had the priceless privilege of seeing it’s beauty in every season! The prettiest view is from the east-bound right lane of the north bridge (101), where you can see the remaining supports from an older bridge, now topped with the bushy growth of volunteer flora so thick that they look like two giant planters spaced across the middle of the river!

    • WOW, that sounds fabulous. What a nice drive to work. I wonder if they planned for the old supports to become a sort of lattice for plants? Nature’s own landscaping service. The flower in the photo a hibiscus, I think, which is a tropical flower (we had them in Hawaii). So it may well be similar to one in Tanzania. Of course, they are not native to Georgia, but that’s the great thing about gardening nowadays; we have access to such variety!

  2. raynard

    Julia , my bucklist use to include The great wall of China and several National Parks. For now I have to stick to our Cannonball Runs Hope all is well. We picked up my wife’s aunt last week from Rehab. Still have loose ends to tie up concerning her house in NJ and dealing with x in laws ” who tried to pull a fast one/ the wool over someone’s eyes’. Bottom line, people” want what someone else worked worked for and ” think that’s God’s will for them. ( If you get my drift) be blessed

    • Raynard, I too want to see the Great Wall, and Jeff and I both have a list of National Parks we hope to see. I am praying for the situation with your wife’s aunt and the transition you will all be facing as you get adjusted to new circumstances. It’s hard enough without people trying to take advantage of the situation (and yes, I do get your drift! At least I think I do). Hope you are able to grab some rest and enjoy a nice, peaceful or at least happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Carolyn

    Julia, you could enjoy my back porch and all the fall color leaves that are on the ground. You would need a blanket right now,36, hot tea to keep you warm. Terry will be outside soon to give the grass a last cut for the year. Take care and give your boys a hug and tell them to give you one back. Enjoy where ever you are today.

    • Hi Carolyn, it was a bit warmer out today, so I actually enjoyed my walk. I would love to be there to see your leaves and drink some hot tea with you. Jeff ran the mower to mulch our leaves in the yard at our York home this past weekend — it was wonderful that he felt able to do it; I could not remember the last time he used the lawn mower, but it has been months. Maybe he will finally give in and let me give him a riding mower for retirement. It’s funny how much we take for granted. I never knew how happy it would make me to see him mowing. Hugs to you and Terry too! Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Sheila

    Julia, these are beautiful words and thoughts that you have given us today. I’ve always known you were a reflection of your wonderful parents. 😊 I’ve given you much detail about this little sliver of sandy soil that I call home, Garden City, South Carolina. For sure, I’d want you to walk on the beach or even step out back and gaze across the marsh grasses that border the little channels of Murrells Inlet, our little fishing village. Twenty nine years later, I still love crossing the causeway bridge and knowing I’m almost home. I live here! Ya’ll come see us! 😍

    • Sheila, I really do hope we can come to see you before too long. Jeff keeps saying he wants to go to South Carolina. We haven’t been back there since our honeymoon. When he first got out of dental school the Army offered him a residency slot in Columbia (or somewhere around there, I think) and we were so tempted to take it, but we really did prefer the Air Force and are happy with that choice. But SC was a very hard place to turn down! YES I would want to enjoy the ocean side and the inlet side and everything in between. 😀 And of course, I would want to see Jack and Walter!! ❤ Thanks so much for your kind words and warm thoughts. It warms the chilly weather to hear from friendly people!

      • Sheila

        Julia, Jeff, and Matt, that is a sincere invitation that we hope you will visit and we will do our “ever lovin’ best” to show you the best, including Jack and Walter! 👏😊📷

        • Thanks Sheila – and of course you know you are welcome here anytime (lots to see at either home). ❤ 👏😊📷 Here I go, copying your pics again!

  5. Julia…good morning and Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂
    Beautiful Flower…is it a Rose of Sharon? I enjoy beautiful flowers and plants.

    • Merry, it’s some kind of hibiscus. It has to be brought indoors for the winter. We have a Rose of Sharon in our wooded lot behind our yard at our York home. It has lovely purple flowers and has grown quite tall, despite not getting as much sun as it should (those trees block almost everything). Apparently the Rose of Sharon is quite a hardy plant. Not much that we plant back there survives for very long. Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

  6. Julia,
    When I lived in southern Ct. we had our home renovated from top to bottom. Old windows were replaced with those of greater dimensions. It was as though I was seeing our property for the first time. As though we had moved instead of renovated.
    The quote by Dubkin above, reminds me of Dorothy’s closing line in “The Wizard Of Oz;” “There’s no place like home.”

    • Alan, I love that movie and that quote. Your windows sound gorgeous. Our townhome has so few windows compared to a house; that’s one of the things I prefer about our York home. There is no light that can compare to sunlight! And the views of the outside are so beautiful. I never tire of walking into the kitchen and seeing the seasonal beauty always on display through our windows.

  7. Personally, I find great value in cuddling up under an afghan in my favorite recliner with my laptop, looking at beautiful images, reading inspiring quotes and lovely reflections like I find here. 🙂

    • Tony, that does sound cozy and perfect! If it’s a long cold winter, I hope we all have time to enjoy lots of reading. Thanks for being here with us!

  8. hi amiga! yesterday i visited a lone ‘ancient’ tree on a hill on a mountain that overlooks lago san pablo near otavalo ecuador. the indians worked nearby in the blue-flowered fields of ‘cho-cho’ that had burgundy-colored spikes of volunteer quinoa poking here and there. later at lake level, a lovely double rainbow gave a comforting ‘farewell’ smile as my friend and i returned to otavalo.

    i have equally-lovely moments at home on the river, but it’s nice to admire the polar-opposite andean vistas as well.

    • Hi Z, WOW thanks for that mini-vacation via your lovely descriptions and my vivid imagination!! One of these days we hope to get to Central and South America. Our son’s wife has been to Ecuador at least twice and I know she loved it there. I didn’t realize quinoa was burgundy-colored while growing. I looked up some images on Google when I read your comment, and WOW are they gorgeous! I only see it in packages on supermarket shelves; I had no idea it was such a beautiful crop. Those double rainbows are a thrill, aren’t they? I know the internet meme about double rainbows was poking fun at those of us who get excited about such things, but I have only seen them a few times in my life (mostly in Hawaii) and I always get super excited. Whenever I see one, I first think I’m imagining the second (usually fainter) one, or that my eyes are playing tricks on me. So I’m always relieved when other people see them. 😀 Maybe one day I will get lucky enough to see the Northern Lights. Thanks for being here!

      • yes, we get so caught up in seeing the strong image that we first overlook- often overlook the other…

        i hope that you experience the northern lights.. we saw them long ago one cold winter night in mississippi! they must have been really stunning higher up the latitude!

        • I didn’t even realize they could be seen from Mississippi! I need to do some research and figure out where I’d be most likely to catch them. One of our blog readers who lives in Alaska sent me a gorgeous DVD of the northern lights; I guess that will be the closest I get for now.

  9. Oh geez, I’ve actually given this some thought because I anticipate Alys visiting sometimes in the not to distant future. First there’s you! Then maybe I’ll give Alys (a mom with a business) a break and zip to San Jose and then host her here. Maybe by then, I’ll be organized. Fingers crossed (that always works, she says sarcastically, LOL).

    I see above, you’d enjoy the Northern Lights. Your best chance of seeing them is winter. So if you ever want to brave it, consider a stay with me. We’d have to drive out to the country though, too many lights in the city. Also I guess, we’d have to hope for lots of solar action on the sun.

    If you were coming to Edmonton (I’d be so excited), summer is best. There’s a lot of fun festivals. The Fringe is live theatre from around the world on stages all through an historical district. Street Performers Festival, buskers from around the world doing everything imaginable. The Folk Festival, wonderful folk music, outside, city lights as the backdrop (I blogged). Then there’s all kinds of attractions, The Muttart is 4 distinct indoor gardens (walking distance from home). The AGA, The Art Gallery of Alberta is a stunning building. The Windspear houses the Edmonton Symphony, Fort Edmonton, many historical buildings all moved to one location spanning several decades of Edmonton History. It’s very expansive and takes all day. There’s an old steam train that runs from the main gate out to the fort. Each vignette of historical buildings have character actors in appropriate garb. Lots of fun and lot’s of history of Edmonton. Then there’s a drive to the Rockies to see the bears, LOL……so much to do, it’d be hard to decide. xoxoK

    • All of that sounds great to me. I have seen a good bit of Canada here and there, and I have never seen any part of it that I did not totally enjoy. Everywhere there are fabulous gardens. I can’t remember ever being there in winter, though. But it would be fun as long as the flights to and from weren’t affected and there was no pressing schedule in case the weather was really formidable. I’d love to see Edmonton. That whole stretch of the continent, from Edmonton down to the northern USA, is about the only part of North America I’ve never seen. Montana, Idaho and the Dakotas are the only states except for Connecticut that I’ve never visited, although I’ve seen very little of Michigan and Utah. Almost everywhere I go, I find myself wishing I had more time to explore. Then I tell myself I’ll come back someday, however unlikely that may be.

  10. LB

    Ordinary … shadows, silhouettes, wheelbarrow handles … it’s amazing how such simple things can be so beautiful, and we need to keep our eyes open and searching for the simple things.
    Thanks for making me ponder this, Julia

    • LB, thanks for reminding me of the beauty of shadows and silhouettes and wheelbarrow handles. As soon as I read your comment I thought of this well-known poem by William Carlos Williams…so many lovely and important things hiding in plain sight! Can’t wait til we talk again…

  11. Michael

    I did not get the picture above? Yesterday I moved our little fig tree-“Ficus Carrica” out onto the back porch for a ilttle protection from the elements. And here the elements are howling, wind, rain and repeat have stripped out lovely sumac tree down to its skeleton.
    What kind of humor does not go over well in Seattle? Dry.

    • Michael, I hope your weather has toned down somewhat and your ficus survives the storms. Seattle might appreciate a little dry humor now and then, unless they have so little “exposure” to it that they don’t get it. I hope you are having a great Thanksgiving!

  12. Michael

    Just got the pict. Hibiscus right?

    • Yes, it’s a hibiscus. I saw this same plant yesterday in Mama and Daddy’s garage, where it has taken up residence until springtime. Most hibiscus cannot survive even a southern winter. I plan to get one for us and just move it into the sunroom in the off season. I love the Hibiscus flowers and really missed the ones that surrounded (as in hedge) our tiny yard in Hawaii. There, they bloomed all year long, vivid red flowers against gorgeous thick green foliage.

  13. Michael

    Again in Seattle I have to mention-Kubota Gardens,one of the seven wonders of Seattle, We also have Volunteer park conservatory based on Kew gardens plans-also University of Washington Japanese garden. Also Ballard locks to see the fish ladder and migration of Chinook salmon. Snoqualamie falls is also worth seeing. You have to see Mt.St. Helen’s reserves where you can see after effects of an actual volcano and earth quake that occurred in my life time- 1980. Here you can see miles of giant firs that look like a field of pick up sticks blasted to the ground level by the explosion. I actually saw this from Portland -25 miles south where a giant plume of ash rose to 50,000 feet covering most of mid-eastern Washington. Also the Dead Horse canyon stair walk only a mile from our house. Also Alki beach park with views of the city and Salty’s fish house.These are a few of my favorite things.

    • Michael, clearly Jeff and I need to get back to Seattle; apparently we barely scratched the surface in our previous trip(s) there. I have never been to any of the places you mention. Plus I have always wanted to see Kew Gardens, and it might be easier to get to Seattle than to London. I grew up with a very magical imagination about that city, based partly on hearing my father talk about it, and also on the Bobby Sherman song. Thanks for giving us a mini-tour — and Happy Thanksgiving!

  14. Michael

    Let me know if you need a tour guide. There is also the EMP music museum built by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame- a huge Hendrix fan-the ugliest (most unique) museum in Washington state. You can also visit the Hendrix tomb not far from our abode. The museum is supposed to look like a busted guitar on the ground- go figure. Contractors hated building it as there is not one straight surface in the whole.
    And if you like glass sculpture Chihully has a new glass museum at Pacific Science center.
    Blake Island native American tour is also nice.

    • I really like Chihully so I’d probably go for that exhibit first, then the Blake Island tour. I looked up the photos of the EMP museum and I must admit I’d never have recognized it as a smashed guitar, though it is interesting. I’ve never been a Hendrix fan, but other aspects of the museum (including the Sci-Fi area) would be fun to see. Does the Hendrix grave require a full time guard as Jim Morrison’s does in Paris? Fans were continually trying to take pieces of it away or otherwise damage the plot, apparently.

  15. Michael

    Also we have a brand new Chinese garden in south Seattle that is not well known and pretty amazing, awesome and intriguing. This is where I took my horticulture classes two years ago when I had green fever. The site that was chosen by a group of visiting Chinese garden specialist from Northern China has serious Feng Shei- strongest in Seattle. Not sure why.

    • I would love to see that Chinese garden. I love their use of gates, and the architecture in general. I’m not sure how anyone arrives at a conclusion about Feng Shui – how does one “see” energy fields? But I use the term in jest to describe any place that appeals to me in a way I can’t describe or explain.

  16. Michael

    Today 56. Tomorrow 35 for a high with 2 inches of snow predicted.
    37 In Atlanta I recall.

    • WOW, we have a similar dynamic here in Alexandria today (Dec 1). 66 high today, and tomorrow’s high is predicted to be 37, with maybe some sleet. I guess we’d better enjoy today and bundle up for tomorrow.

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