Tag Archives: spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

“You Can’t be Suspicious of a Tree, or Accuse a Bird or a Squirrel of Subversion…”


Some lovely thoughts and images on this fine spring day~
“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”  ~Henry David Thoreau
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kind.”  William Shakespeare
“I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees.  The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets.
It has given me blessed release from care and worry and the troubled thinking of our modern day.  It has been a return to the primitive and the peaceful.  Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and benumbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me – I am happy.”  ~Hamlin GarlandMcClure’s, February 1899

“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.”

~Hal BorlandSundial of the Seasons, 1964

“Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,
I keep it staying at Home –
With a bobolink for a Chorister,
And an Orchard, for a Dome.”
~Emily Dickinson

“Joy all creatures drink
At nature’s bosoms…”
~Friedrich von Schiller, “Ode to Joy,” 1785, translated from German

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.
Aristotle –

“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.”  ~Jane Austen

“I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods.  Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.”  ~Wendell Berry

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.”
~George Gordon, Lord ByronChilde Harold’s Pilgrimage

“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.  This is not done by jostling in the street.”  ~William Blake

“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”  ~Helen Keller

“To one who has been long in city pent,
‘Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, – to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.”
~John Keats, Sonnet XIV

“Fieldes have eies and woods have eares.”  ~John Heywood, 1565

“You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness – perhaps ignorance, credulity – helps your enjoyment of these things…”  ~Walt WhitmanSpecimen Days, “Birds – And a Caution”  (Thanks, Corinne)

“Butterflies are self propelled flowers.”  ~R.H. Heinlein

“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”  ~Author Unknown

*Images of the green-gold trees, the baby goose and kitten, the Shenandoah Valley in early spring and the nesting duck are by my mom.  The black swallowtail butterfly is by daughter Elise.  Dark Hollow Falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a royalty free pic.

***For gardeners, nature lovers, anyone who thinks fondly of country life, or is just plain human…you might enjoy my nonfiction book out in kindle now, in nookbook by April, and soon out in print with beautiful pics, a 2012 EPIC eBOOK FINALIST, Shenandoah Watercolors.

Make Way For Ducklings


When the world was new and I was young, I ordered a dozen Rouen ducklings (resemble large mallards) from a game farm and began my love affair with ducks, blessed by its moments of joy and cursed with inevitable tragedy.  The box of downy babies was delivered directly to my door much earlier in the day than our mail normally comes as the mailman had wearied of their incessant peeping.  I took the new arrivals from the grateful carrier and transferred them to a corner of the family room under a warm light bulb.  My two oldest children, in grade school then, were delighted with their new playmates, but soon joined me in the discovery that these tiny creatures were incredibly messy.

The ducklings reveled in their food, spewing a mixture of feed and water on themselves, the box, and the walls.  This led to their speedy removal to an unoccupied rabbit hutch in an outbuilding.  Here they grew in sheltered bliss until we deemed them ready for life on the pond, unaware that our charges needed parental guidance.  The unchaperoned youngsters soon slipped under the fence and lost themselves in the neighbor’s grassy meadow.  We tracked their frantic quacks and carried them home, only to have them forget and stray again and again.

Sadly, unwary ducklings do not know to be on guard against snapping turtles, something their mama would have taught them.  By summer’s end, just two grown ducks remained and were fondly named Daphne and Darlene.  They were inseparable and divided their day between the cows and geese in the barnyard and forays to the pond.

The next spring Daphne and Darlene built a mutual nest inside a clump of gold-button tansy at the edge of the garden and patiently sat on the eggs that would never hatch.  It was time to find them a suitable spouse.  One fall evening “Don” arrived in my hubby’s pickup truck.

The girls took an instant liking to the handsome drake, and he to them, though he showed a slight preference for Darlene.  As spring neared again, we noticed a wild mallard drake observing our little band.  He would dash forward for a bite of grain at feeding time, only to be driven away by Don.  We pitied Dwayne, as he soon became known, and tossed a handful far to the side for him.  Besides the free lunch, it seemed that Dwayne was attracted to our Daphne, much to Don’s strong disapproval.

The small male was undeterred and eventually won acceptance, amusing us by his attempts to mate with Daphne, twice his size.  Persistence won out though.  That year the girls had separate nests, Darlene at the base of a bittersweet vine, while Daphne went back to the tansy.  Don and Dwayne bonded, swapping stories as they awaited imminent fatherhood.

The ducklings hatched in late spring and grew quickly.  All survived with excellent care from their mothers.  By fall we could see Dwayne’s influence on the flock.  His offspring were considerably smaller. It was a golden, happy time. Late afternoons we quacked loudly, calling our ducks for feeding.  Heads popped up from the seeding grass and they answered back then waddled single file behind Don, their noble leader.  If we were late with dinner, they gathered to complain about the lack of service and were not averse to heading up to the house to fetch us if necessary.

Autumn in all its’ splendor passed into a winter that was our most severe in years.  We tromped faithfully through the deep snow every day to scatter feed on the frozen pond.  Then one morning after fresh snowfall we could not find a single duck.  Our anxious calls came back to us empty on the wind…searching revealed spatters of blood and dog tracks in the snow, the silent witness to their grim fate.   Still, we hoped that some birds had escaped the attack and combed the neighborhood, finally locating a pair of Dwayne’s offspring.  Only the smaller ducks could fly well.  We had unwittingly fed the others up to be “sitting ducks,” an expression I understand too well now.  A week later Dwayne returned on his own, but it was a bleak time.  How empty the pond seemed without the gang.

That May, Betty, our lone remaining female, hatched a fuzzy brood.  Familiar quacks again filled the air and gladdened our spirits.  It just isn’t spring without ducklings.  ~

All of this took place eons ago, but we still have ducks on our pond and an ample flock fussy barnyard geese who make daily visits down to the water.  The small town of Dayton, Virginia, not far from us, has a lovely body of water called Silver Lake (the size of a large pond) and a stream that attracts so many ducks the town has installed a duck crossing sign.

*Pics of our farm and ducks, also my mom and dad’s ducks…it’s a family thing this love of ducks. But the top pic of Rouen ducks are not ours

*This story about ducklings is the one that really got me started in writing. It was ‘almost’ published in Southern Living Magazine and that editor gave me much encouragement about my writing, then she referred me to an editor at Progressive Farmer who accepted it and several more nonfiction pieces about rural life, but their free lance column got axed before publication.

One Fine Day


These pics are a photographic collage my daughter Elise took (and some by my husband) of her and my jaunt around the garden, across the meadow, past the pond, and up through the fields to the woods above our farm.~

Such an exquisitely beautiful spring day.  Pristine perfection.  Many colored tulips glow like jewels.  Virginia bluebells cover the ground in the dappled shade of the enormous maple tree.  The original plants were a gift from my late grandmother.

Lilacs and flowering crab apples scent the warm air.  Some of the lilacs have been here for half a century.  The jonquils smell wonderful.  Even the earthy fragrance of cows and hay appeals to me, an essential  part of my being.  Find your center place and you will discover what both grounds and inspires you.  For me, it’s the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains…our farm…the garden, the land.  Cherish the earth and it will richly reward you…restore your spirit.

The green meadow spreads, rippling, in the sun.  Elusive meadowlarks trill from the tall grass.  We try, but cannot find the secretive birds.  Their sweet trill beckons from here and then there, always further ahead, or then again from behind.  We are determined to find the singer but finally give up.

I once spied a meadowlark perched on a fence post, though not when I was looking for it.  That’s about as high as they fly.  The yellow on its breast was unmistakable.  What a thrill.  They are my favorite song birds.

I love the water birds too.  A type of sandpiper darts around the pond in the low muddy spots and then flies, sounding its funny cry.  There are  a number of them, and the purple martins are back.  Iridescent in the sun.  The swifts and swallows are yet to come, but the pond is glorious.   A frog plops in and we see a string of eggs in the grass at the edge.  Ducks and geese bob over the water glinting in the clear light.

Our farm is the headwaters of an unassuming little creek that flows on through other farms and past the neighboring town, and on, we suppose to the river.   It’s not a grand waterway, but how many of you can claim to live near the headwaters of anything?   So I mention it with some pride. 🙂

On we wander, back behind our farm, to the remains of an old homestead.  The house burned down years ago but a derelict outbuilding remains with a gnarled fruit tree, wild cherry I think, growing alongside it.  And an ancient barn.  There’s a grassy sort of clearing where the house and yard used to be set in amid lofty, seemingly random, trees.   A large red squirrel lives there now and a startled rabbit.  Lord only knows what else.  I suspect it’s eerie at night.  Maybe even haunted…though during the day everything appears utterly charming.

Then Elise spots the hawk we’ve been on the lookout for.  We are fortunate to photograph the majestic red-tailed bird soaring high overhead, and think he lives in the wooded hills up above the fields.  While he’s on his scouting expedition, the other creatures grow silent.  The wise ones, anyway.  I heard some foolish chatter.

The rose flush of new leaves co-mingle with the many shades of green in the trees.  So many birds call from their branches.   We seek the songsters, sometimes with luck, sometimes not, but rarely in time to snap their picture.  Red wing black birds call continuously and almost seem to accompany us from place to place.  I’ve never seen so many of them at once.  Must be a sort of bird festival.  They are quite special to me.   Song sparrows sing, a chatty mockingbird, cardinal, possibly horned larks…

Everywhere we gaze, the world is reborn.  Magical.  This is the time to savor the spirit-lifting sights, scents, and sounds.   And remember.

“I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful
than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of our Lord by it.”
~ Gerald Manley Hopkins

“When bright flowers bloom
Parchment crumbles, my words fade
The pen has dropped …” ~Morpheus

“It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”
~William Carlos Williams

“In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d
palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich
green,
with many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I
love,
With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.”
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1865

The Renewal of Life


“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.”  ~Ruth Stout

When I was 6 yrs old, our family had recently returned from Taiwan where my parents taught English for 3 yrs. One of my earliest Easter memories is of finding wonderful colored eggs hidden in a yard filled with crocus and daffodils.  Magical.

Is there anything at Easter quite like your first egg hunt or  basket full of brightly dyed eggs? I love the abundant new life in spring and the message of hope that is Easter.

No matter how long winter lasts, eventually spring will come and there’s no where more lovely to greet it than in the Shenandoah Valley.  This Easter weekend the weather is glorious, which means I’m spending much of it in the garden with my daughter, Elise,  and whoever else happens by.  We planted potatoes, a tradition on Good Friday.   All at once it seems everything needs to be done in the garden, weeding, mulching, planting…each year I swear I’m gonna pace myself, and each year I wear myself out. zzzzzz…

“Yes, in the poor man’s garden grow

Far more than herbs and flowers—

Kind thoughts, contentment, peace of mind,

And joy for weary hours.” ~ Mary Howitt

Years ago, my dear grandmother gave me a start of these Virginia Bluebells and they’ve spread happily in the shade of evergreens and an old maple tree. “Some flowers are lovely only to the eye, others are lovely to the heart.”

“The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances.”  ~Robert Flatt

“Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life. ” ~Douglas Horton

“On Easter Day the veil between time and eternity thins to gossamer.”  ~Douglas Horton

“For I remember it is Easter morn, And life and love and peace are all new born. “~Alice Freeman Palmer

Spring Is Bursting Out All Over


Not long ago at all we were adrift in seemingly endless snow.  Only last week evidence of the white stuff still hung on in shaded places.   And then, as if by magic, spring is here.  I realize there are still chilly days yet to come and we could have some late season snow, but new life is all around us.   I heard a meadowlark trill today, my favorite song bird, and that makes it official.

Even the wooded hills above the meadow are flushed with the barest hint of rose as tender leaves bud out.   In my yard and garden the early bulbs are in bloom and tulips, daffodils, hyacinths…are up and growing so fast each day makes a difference, almost like time lapse photography.  I’m always a little wary of too much growth too soon for fear a heavy frost will zap those plants lured out before their time.   Despite that inner caution, on days like this, I can only rejoice in the glorious warmth and wonder that is spring in the lovely Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Eons ago, another life time really, when my oldest daughter, now a young mother herself, was quite small, she chose snowdrops as her thing to plant.  Only a dozen bulbs or so came in that order from the bulb company, but we set them out faithfully and wow, how they’ve spread over the years and what delight they bring in the late winter.  Snowdrops and snow crocus are the absolute earliest bulbs to bloom for us and so reliable.   Yes, even in the snow.  But that’s not a requirement.  They will bloom without it.  The dwarf purple iris that we’ve also had forever are hard on their heels.  And if there’s any flower more cheery than violas, I can’t imagine what it is.  I love the little pansies best of all.  ‘Heartease’ they used to be called and I can see why.  They gladden the heart, and they were used in love potions.

“Every spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment.”  ~Ellis Peters

“The seasons are what a symphony ought to be:  four perfect movements in harmony with each other.”  ~Arthur Rubenstein

“It’s spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ” ~Mark Twain

“Awake, thou wintry earth –
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!”
~Thomas Blackburn, An Easter Hymn

“The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven –
All’s right with the world!”
~Robert Browning

“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”  ~Virgil A. Kraft

“And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant”


“The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze.”
~Julian Grenfell

“I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring.  Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?”  ~Edward Giobbi

“Spring has returned.  The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

“If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.”  ~Terri Guillemets

“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.”  ~Bern Williams

“Yesterday the twig was brown and bare; To-day the glint of green is there; Tomorrow will be leaflets spare;
I know no thing so wondrous fair, No miracle so strangely rare. I wonder what will next be there!”
~L.H. Bailey

“First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus –
Crocus.”
~Lilja Rogers

In springtime, love is carried on the breeze.  Watch out for flying passion or kisses whizzing by your head.  ~Terri Guillemets

*Pics taken in my yard today, except for the daffodils which is one of last years.