Cares seem small

Summer splendor near Concord, Massachusetts, June 2012

Summer splendor near Concord, Massachusetts, June 2012

…what though we suffer? Sun and skies
And green trees’ beauty make our cares seem small;
Boon that no Esau sells, or Crœsus buys,
The golden summer-time, is over all.
— Percy Reeve

It has been a tough summer already, but not without happiness.  There’s a joy in the season that can’t be totally quenched even when the afternoon is dreary with rain.

One thing I so love about Jeff, something we have always shared, is his ability to take great delight in nature.  We’ve had less time to enjoy the outdoors together than I had hoped we would have this year.  But what little time we’ve had has been sweet, looking out the glass doors early in the day, watching the mourning dove hopping around our back porch, watering the flowering shrubs, and enjoying the cardinals who lately seem determined to take over the longtime dominance of robins in our back yard.

The days are at their longest this week. Already we are starting the slow slide into autumn. Why not take an early morning stroll or twilight walk?  Take along a camera, or save memories simply by looking a bit longer than usual at whatever seasonal sight most captures your imagination.

I hope you will find time to savor every moment of sunlight, basking in the vibrant green trees and blue skies that make our cares seem suddenly lighter.


  1. Beautiful writings!
    May each day bring you and Jeff blessings!

    • Thank you Michael! What a joy to see you here — thanks for stopping by. I have missed visiting my favorite blogs, including yours, which is like a virtual vacation every time I’m able to stop by. I hope you and your loved ones are doing well.

  2. Hi Julia!!
    Looong time! How goes life?
    Here it is summer vacation and this time we are spending it here in Saudi Arabia. The last line of your post makes me sad – how I long for a glimpse of greenery or the blue skies! The desert days are dull, long (5.00 am to 7.15 pm) and too bright with nothing to do all day within the four walls of our ‘viewless’ apartment. But such ‘green’ posts are a great relief.

    • Bindu! It makes my day to hear from you. How are you doing? If only you could go to Kerala for the summer, but hopefully at least you will have some time to relax from the usual school tasks. How I wish I could fly you out here to enjoy the green! Meanwhile, let’s take this virtual walk again. I have started a PhD program, and one of my classmates is from near Mumbai (though her family recently moved to Sint Maarten). When I told her I had a blogging friend from Kerala, she broke into a joyful smile and said “That is God’s Own Country!” Of course thanks to you, I knew what she meant! 😀

  3. That is a lush looking area. Just the view of it is uplifting. We have rain today, finally. The last of it for the summer and the last of the cool days. Being in nature brings our hearts back into a normal rhythm. I hope you are both doing well. Thinking of you daily.

    • Thank you Marlene. We feel a bit better today than we did two days ago, if only because we have made it through this week (almost). I am gazing out our patio doors to the lush green behind our townhome, feeling glad we do not have a tall privacy fence as so many of the neighbors do. I couldn’t bear to shut away the view. It feels cooler just looking at the green. We’ve had lost of rain lately. I’m glad you are having a few showers; I hope your summer is not too hot. We can hope, anyway. Thinking of you, too! 😀 ❤

  4. Carol Hoyos

    Good morning Julia from the PNW where we are at present having a shower/sprinkle of rain. Being an east coast and southern CA girl I can’t express the joy in living in a place where our usual heat wave is high 70’s-low 80’s. I was wondering where you are experiencing your weather these days. Have you sold your home and moved yet? We downsized 2 years ago (should have done it 5-7 years ago) and we’re still working at getting settled but it’s been a labor of love. Yesterday we had stone applied to the foundation of the house changing the look of our 1925 Craftsman bungalow into an even better looking home. Soon the window flower boxes will be the icing on the cake. I hope you and Jeff find more joy than frustration in your move. 🙏🏼 xo

    • Hi Carol! 70-80’s is my kind of heat wave!! We are having weather that’s a bit cooler than earlier in the week, when it was in the 90’s. We still divide our time between the DC area and York County. We just don’t have much incentive to sell the Alexandria place as long as Jeff is still taking treatments at Walter Reed. Plus Matt’s wonderful cardiology team is here (though we know he had a good one in Norfolk, too). But for now we have too much going on to think of moving yet. However, we do look forward to having more time to spend in York County.

      Wow, a 1925 Craftsman bungalow sounds lovely. Window boxes will add the perfect touch. Isn’t it nice staying busy with our homes? Even downsized, I imagine there is always plenty to do. Thanks for checking in with us – have a wonderful weekend!

  5. Amy

    I have been meaning to tell you for a week now that my hydrangea is finally blooming. I need to add something to the soil as the color is not very bright this year but after 5 years there are finally blooms all over the place. Do you remember when we bought it. The butterfly bush also has blooms but it is still not doing well. The terrible soil has not been kind to it but we baby it along so I hold out hope it will continue to survive. Daily I think of you when I see those plants.

    • Actually I had forgotten about that poor hydrangea. I guess I gave it up for dead a long time ago. I believe acidic feeding will give you blue flowers, and alkaline will give you pink. Assuming you can keep it alive. 😀 I wonder whether you get enough sun even for those supposedly shade-loving plants? Our hydrangeas in the very shady areas do not bloom anymore now that they get hardly any sun, but the one we planted in the afternoon exposure looks like it’s getting way too much of a good thing.I hope the butterfly bush will eventually take off. Have you tried Mexican heather? I planted one in a shady spot in back of our Alexandria place, and it’s doing pretty well.

      • Amy

        OH I won’t give up on it. I will try your ideas for feeding. I really think this has both pink and blue though the color is so light it may all be blue. I’ll let you know. The first year we planted it the ground was so awful to dig and bugs were everywhere. Then the heat nearly got it and Stephen kept our table umbrella over it and watered it everyday. That fall we moved it closer to the house so it would have more shade but we think the move was too hard on it and it just couldn’t recover in the summer to bloom. Then I cut it all off in the fall not realizing that it needs the dead stuff to grow on in the spring. It grew in but not blooms and the deer worked it over pretty good. This year we had high hopes for it. It came out nice and green and we treated it with stinky stuff before the deer could make a salad. Then we got an awful cold night and it turned black. I was scared but it started coming back lovely and green and as I said it is covered in blooms. Hope yours will survive the heat and make some beautiful blooms for you. Praying all is going OK. I love you. A

        • Amy, your hydrangea has been through almost as much as Jeff has! It sounds as if you have been caring for it very well. I loved the mental image of Stephen watering it with the umbrella placed over it. I had no idea that shrub would be so high maintenance! Once it is well established you can safely ignore it for the most part– at least that’s what we do with ours, and right now one of them has a big, bright purple cluster of blooms on it. The newest one requires almost constant watering because it’s in a sunnier spot, but on the plus side it does have lots of blooms coming out on it already. We tried cayenne pepper on our plants to try to make them deer proof. You might want to see if that works if you need any more deterrent. I made the same mistake you did, cutting all the dead-looking twigs off not realizing I was sabotaging my blooms for the next year. I did this for years with my daffodils too. By the time I am 90, if I live that long, I may know all about gardening. 🙂 We are doing OK, and we pray that Matt is having a blast at camp. Keep those prayers coming. Love you.

      • I love hydrangeas but have concluded that they are very particular plants. We had one thrive in a pot for a few years, but now it looks stunted. It’s half the size it should be by now and not a bloom in sight. We have three more that are covered in blooms and one more that died. It think it’s simply too hot and too dry for them to really enjoy a California garden…or at least my garden.

        • Alys, they do seem to have a very narrow range conducive to optimal growth. Too much shade and they don’t bloom. Too little shade and the leaves get burned on the edges, and they gradually die. I don’t know how they kept them looking so great on Lombard Street all those years, but I guess the SFO climate is pretty well ideal for all kinds of flowers. It’s like the central coast climate where we used to live. The fog would burn off by afternoon, when it would be sunny, but it never got too hot and then cooled down quickly at sundown. It was pretty much the same all year round and the plants loved it. I was tricked into thinking I had a green thumb – HA! I found out differently as soon as we moved. At both our homes, we have neighbors who have huge (5-6 ft. tall and twice as wide), gloriously blooming hydrangeas. I can’t tell whether they have any secrets for growing them, or just lucked out with an ideal spot. At least I get to enjoy their success!

          • Julia, I think you’re right about San Francisco having the perfect climate. It’s exactly as you describe and it seems to keep the plants happy. All my hydrangeas are struggling. One is small and stunted, another barely came back this year with no blooms and a much smaller shape and another has burnt leaves. It’s sad but I’ve come to terms with it.

            Your comment about thinking you had a green thumb made me smile. Honestly, so much of it is out of our hands. It’s all about providing the perfect conditions for the plant, or conversely finding the perfect plant for the conditions. That’s why I’m convinced that self-seeded plants do so well. They’ve found the conditions optimal so up they grow. It’s a joy to behold. I’ve come to think of myself as a caretaker. I keep the weeds at bay, make sure water shows up at the roots of the plant and keep the plants groomed. Companion planting helps keep the nasty bugs at bay, and if you’re lucky, the drought lets up and you have a lovely spring.

            • Alys, some great thoughts here. I had noticed that the self-seeded plants do seem to be hardiest, and seem almost to “choose” the locations in which they spring up. But even the ones I transplant– always after waiting until they are large enough to withstand the shock– do generally better than much of what I buy. Until you mentioned it here, I had never thought about that tendency being in keeping with how nature works all around, and how we are wise to take our cues from what we see happening without our intervention. Also, as I read your comment, I couldn’t help but reflect how like being a parent it is, to be a gardener. “Honestly, so much of it is out of our hands.” SO TRUE! Faith, hope and love are the most necessary ingredients for so many things– gardening among many other ventures! Companion planting is something I need to explore. I love marigolds, and I keep reading they are great for discouraging bugs, but somehow never seem to get around to planting them. I used to grow them from seed while we lived on the central coast and had that morning fog to fool me into thinking I was good at growing things. 🙂

  6. I just did, with you, Julia, and Jeff. Thank you for so eloquently taking me along.

    • Alan, we are happy to have your company!

  7. Thank you for this little glimpse of you and Jeff taking what delight you can in the season. My thoughts remain with you daily. xo

    • Thank you Pauline! I think of you daily too, especially when the light catcher throws rainbows all over our kitchen and dining room! 🙂 ❤

  8. Ann

    I just took a virtual walk with you and Bindu, we had such a nice time. 😀😀

    It’s already 80 degrees at 7:00 a.m. here so I will be indoors in air conditioning most of the day. We should have a national holiday in honor of whoever invented air conditioning 😀😀😀

    Thanks for today’s respite from the news and the heat.

    • Ann, I’m so glad you were with us on that virtual walk! It was fun, wasn’t it? We are getting lots of rain and cooler temperatures (“cooler” meaning “in the 80’s) so that’s a bit of a relief. Hope you are having a great week.

  9. I’m glad that you and Jeff are still finding moments in nature to enjoy. That’s a gift unto itself. There is nothing quite so restful for the eyes than a view of trees, flowers, mountains, the ocean, a lake, birds…anything that nature presents. I’ve been driving my youngest son to Walden West all week where he is volunteering as a camp counselor. The first two thirds of the commute are ugly freeway, but then it gives way to a winding road through Saratoga, then a mile up a narrow hill into the woods. It’s wonderful.

    Sending hugs your way, Julia, and longing for a good catch up.

    • I had never heard of Walden West, but I looked it up– it looks wonderful! Saratoga is so beautiful. I miss the days when Matt would go to summer camp at Stevens Creek Park; we would have a similar drive there — yukky east bay traffic followed by cool, shady woodland roads. There are some gorgeous campgrounds in NorCal. Sending hugs right back and YES we must catch up soon. I will be in touch as often as I can meanwhile. We got the beautiful postcard from Victoria – thank you!

      • Hi Julia, I’m glad the postcard arrived. I hope it brightened your day, too.

        Walden West seemed like a well kept secret. We heard about it through friends and have been involved for over a decade now. When M was enrolling in camps, you had to park yourself at the computer at 7:30 and let your fingers fly across the keyboard. The slots fill up in twenty minutes. It’s crazy. It’s nice to be on the other end of that now. He gets to spend time up there, we don’t pay for camp attendance and we get to avoid that craziness of hoping to get a spot.

        Does Matt enjoy the outdoors?

        • Alys, Matt like certain outdoor activities, most of which he does at camp– horseback riding, boating, etc. — but is not much for sports or games, primarily because his motor skills are so poor that he can’t hope to compete. He and Jeff used to shoot baskets a lot and he got pretty good at it, but that was during the years when we had a basketball court right near home; that sort of fell by the wayside when we moved to where there wasn’t one close by. Because of his heart condition, we have always been told by the docs to allow him to self-limit his activity level, and not push anything physical. He gets his exercise on his treadmill (indoors) which he loves to do, with iPod at hand and favorite music playing.

          I so identify with your statement “It’s nice to be on the other end of that now.” You are coming into a golden time when the separation anxiety of having kids grow increasingly independent, and worrying about how they will fare without you, is balanced by the incredible lightness that comes from having the unrelenting burden of continual mini-stress tasks becoming gradually unnecessary. With Matt, of course, I will never be completely free of that particular sort of duty, but it does change in his adulthood as various professionals recognize that their assistance is now required, so I’m not alone in my labors. For better or worse, our kids are no longer kids, and we can rest knowing we did our best to give them a good start. Being a parent is the toughest job we will ever love. I really believe that.

  10. I sure can’t live a decent life without my walks–for my physical health but also my soul’s well being as you also note here. So glad you find nature’s filling and soothing.Taking photographs is a daily event for me as I mosey about. I have felt low today and somehow thought of you–as I know you and your family are dealing with rough challenges, as well. Well–have to get out while there is still good light and walk and notice the beauty 🙂 (Also, you may be interested in reading the poem i wrote about nature’s tremendous importance to me. It can be read at: Just posted yesterday.) Blessings on you and yours.

    • Cynthia, thanks for the link – I couldn’t make it work. Just got a generic blue WordPress message. I tried doing a search but still no luck. If you have a chance, could you re-post the link? I’d love to read the poem. I have not been able to walk much lately and I can REALLY feel the difference. I’m more sluggish, more depressed and less alert, not to mention having gained 5-6 pounds. Of course some of that is exhaustion from all that’s been going on. But I really need to get started again. I too love taking photos but the only thing I’ve photographed in recent days was a sad sight. Some neighbors of ours, who live five houses down with a large GORGEOUS home, lost it to fire on Saturday. They were cooking out and a propane tank exploded. The man who was cooking had just stepped inside to get something from the kitchen when it happened. The good news is no one was hurt, but it is sobering to see the home and to realize that even with the fire department called in immediately from only a mile away, fire can consume so much in a matter of minutes. The entire roof is pretty much gone and I imagine all the contents are ruined. I don’t have the heart to ask them about it as I’m sure they are getting lots of questions that they are tired of answering. Wow, I really digressed on that one, but it is on my mind. Hope you are having a good week. Thanks for being here.

        Sorry Julia, I am clearly at the lower level of skills re: WordPress! Hope this works. The blog is called Poetry for the Living (it is linked on Tales for Life) if it doesn’t and you want to bother looking it up, anyway.
        I’m so sorry top hear about your neighbors’ fire! That is devastating for them. Yes, anything can happen to any of us…Im sorry to hear oyu are dealing with depression and know it is likely part of what you must cope with daily. If I could do anything to support you better, let me know. I am a stranger only because we have not met face to face. God watch over you and yours.

        • Cynthia, this link worked! Thanks for trying again; I loved the poem and found much in it that felt familiar. The last line was a perfect finish. I so appreciate your encouragement and understanding. As Marge Piercy wrote so beautifully, “strong is what we make each other.” Thank you for being here with us.

  11. Sheila

    Good Saturday morning, Julia. Your moments shared with Jeff are so beautifully described. To delight in nature is such a gift, and somehow even better when shared. I have missed the delightful greetings and various “Walter calling” sounds while I’m boarding him during this remodeling process. With the paint fumes and sanding, and then flooring glues that are so offensive, I knew boarding him was best! I’m sure he’s had an adoring audience at the pet center. They have a little sign on his cage, “NOT FOR SALE~BOARDING”! I can’t help but wonder if he’ll POUT when he comes home. 🐥 Have a good weekend, my friend. 💛

    • Sheila, I’m glad Walter is safely away from the fumes and dust. I have heard that birds are VERY sensitive to such things. Some have even told me they can’t use nonstick cookware…which makes me wonder if that means it’s also unsafe for people. Hope you are able to duck out to the Verandah to get some fresh air! Remodeling is SO, SO stressful, but hopefully when it’s all over you’ll be happy and relieved to have it behind you. Hope you are having a good week. We are doing OK, just taking one day at a time. ❤

  12. LB

    I can almost picture you and Jeff, and those moments of watching, and listening, to the natural world. So glad you have those peaceful moments

    • Thank you, LB – I know from your photos that you too enjoy nature. Isn’t it wonderful to relax out on the deck in the evenings? Hope you are having a good week.

  13. Good morning, Julia! I snapped a few quick photos of this very green season with my phone last night, when on a walk in a different neighborhood, not far from home:
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Susan, these are beautiful! I love the way Mr. Rabbit posed for you. Or was that Ms. Rabbit? Something about the face looked male to me, but I supposed that’s a natural bias from being surrounded by males for my entire life. Wish I could have been on that walk with you…thanks for inviting me to join you via the wonders of digital media!

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