Strong but Fragile…

imageIt happened again. I broke down and cried. And once again, it took me by surprise. As I stood in line waiting my turn, I saw masses of people-all kinds of folks- from this country and from foreign lands waiting their turn too. Like the tangled historic roots among cobblestones, bricks, asphalt and concrete-their faces were solemn even anxious as they quietly waited, I’m sure mine was too. I read again the history of it. The difficulties, the immense courage of men in another day and time, the decision made knowing what it would cost them.image

I saw so many other landmarks, so much more history, walked in the old cobbled paths read about for a lifetime. I didn’t break down at Betsy’s House or in Ben’s Business, I didn’t even break down as the tour guide pointed out- place after place where history was being made so many years ago. I didn’t break down at Christ’s Church, though I was deeply moved.

Dare I say it? I love this country. I love the red, blue and white star spangled flag and even though it is off-key I do love to sing the national anthem. I still put my hand over my heart when I pledge the flag. Every. Single. Time. I get exasperated with my country, the kind of exasperation I feel when I find a new wrinkle or another gray hair. Not the kind of exasperation that would ever make me want to give up on her, my roots are among those cobblestones, bricks and concrete too.image

This country is Strong and Freedom has always been Fragile. What started as a Dream, a Pursuit and a Bill of a Dozen Right Ideals were formed in the Fiery Furnace, a Foundry filled with the lives and fortunes of a few good men. On a heavy wooden beam their hopes were mounted and hoisted up with the strong belief that there was a better way to form a more perfect union. No one noticed it was imperfect, that a hairline crack had formed. After loudly proclaiming freedom-there was always the possibility that it could break, the ringing could be silenced and the whole idea would become a shining part of world history. image

A dozen years ago, I saw it. I broke down and cried. It took me by surprise then and it took me by surprise again last week. I saw masses of people yearning to be near her, I saw my own family pause by the Liberty Bell- The Liberty Bell spoke to me gently in passing and then I cried.  She stands silent, she stands in full view of Constitution Hall- a Strong Fragile Lady aging gracefully, unruffled and calm.. Even her tiresome quarreling children became quiet and reverent, desperately trying to be more perfect, more united in her presence. Beneath the hem of her garment, created equal with certain inalienable rights-Liberty’s children share her Love of Freedom.  This Southern Belle knows a true Lady when she sees one. Lady Liberty, I salute you, Darlin’.

May God’s generous Grace, His unmatched Mercy and His abiding Love continue to shine His Glorious Light upon you.image

Our Holiday Vacation was an inspiring trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The City of Brotherly Love and the Birthplace of Freedom-where the Lovely Ladies are Strong, the Goodlookin’ Men are Brave and the Children of Liberty strive to be Far Above Average.*

Love y’all, Camellia

*quote- is a play on Garrison Keiller’s statement about the fictional Lake Woebegone – ‘Where the women are strong, the men are goodlooking and the children are all above average.’

All photographs are mine- from Old City, Betsy Ross House, Benjamin Franklin’s Print Shop, Elsfeth Alley, Constitution Hall and of course- Liberty Bell Center

Statuary…

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This is Eleanor. She has graced a secluded place beneath a clump of dogwood trees in our garden for over ten years. The angel was given to us during a dark season of grief. I never called my husband’s mother by her given name- Eleanor. From the moment the statuary angel was put in place, she has been Eleanor to me. I look at her everyday from my kitchen window- from the street she is unseen- if you go to the side yard, down a long curved path, there is a round circle of purple irises with a large urn in the center- beyond a pair of fruit trees, your eye is drawn to Eleanor. My mother in law died in early spring right before the dogwoods begin to bloom. Tiny daffodils bloom at her feet. Statuary in the home or garden should have meaning, Eleanor does; she is a sweet reminder of my gentle mother in law every day. She was an angel.

The great cities of the world have iconic statuary. New York-

Santa Fe’s Canyon Road has incredible sculpture and statuary-

Great statuary, no matter where it is, should have significance, purpose and a sense of place.  What would the Statue of Liberty look like surrounded by gnomes, pigs, baskets, urns and rabbits?  IMG_0899 (Edited)

There is a place for whimsy in our world, yet even whimsical statuary should have significance, purpose and a sense of place. The statuary planter on the back porch is an example of whimsy. Whenever I have acquired statuary, the piece has found me, not the other way around. If you are shopping, don’t overlook local plant nurseries or shops, they will often have a good selection at reasonable prices.

I happen to love statuary in great cities, in shopping areas, in public gardens, in cemeteries, on battlegrounds or playgrounds- in public buildings, homes and in cathedrals…

Let me show you how we have used some statuary in Camellia’s Cottage

Each piece follows the design principles I believe in…significance, beauty, whimsy, mystery, scale, focal point, texture, purpose, emotion and a sense of place. To find a few small birds beneath a big basket of homegrown hydrangeas, to have a muse looking over my shoulder as I read a book, to perch a facepot on a pedestal as a whimsical reminder to save for a rainy day, to discover a bird in hand or a tiny bird poised in flight beneath a map of our home county, to bring the outside in with a heavy urn and a wise old man- those things have a place of significance without saying one word. The statuary, large or small, are gentle memories and peaceful inspiration for our sweet home in Alabama.

Love y’all, Camellia

*This post is written in loving memory of my mother in law, Eleanor McKinney Wyatt.IMG_0666

 

 

 

Doors of New Mexico…

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Whenever we visit historic places, I always come away with a sense of wonder and curiosity. I find myself asking- what is it that motivated the folk in those times to explore new territories, stake claims- then to stay, settle and build. Build, not just humble homes, places of business, government buildings but also to build cathedrals with intricate attention to detail. The cynic in me says it was for power, wealth and influence. The optimist says these folks were natural builders of society, who could somehow see far into the future- a bright shining city on a hill. I’ve come to believe, for whatever reason- noble or not- these folks had HOPE, not a crystal ball. For a city like Santa Fe to endure for close to 400 years that hope had to be undergirded with faith- and repeated time and again. Hope is a powerful motivator, hope breeds endurance and perseverance, hope starts a new business, builds a home, a library, schools and sparks faith which maintains humble homes and great cathedrals.  Enter the doors and peek in the windows of New Mexico and see if you agree…

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Wherever you look, grand or humble… look close and you will see hope….

I have to include a few from the last post they were so charming…

And I particularly loved the rustic ones…

And what about this one?  A cool oasis…image

We were amazed among so much Adobe to find these…

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How precious are those rustic wooden angels on the wreath of a tiny shop?

The hotels in Santa Fe Plaza area are historic also…the one on the right- where we stayed La Posada, is a virtual adobe village on six acres but the main building was run by a woman named Julia Staubb who opened her home to visitors- imagine! Still welcoming visitors today with guests making S’mores in the fireplace one evening! image

And over on Canyon Road, where statuary is completely amazing…the studios beckon you in… Yes, I do believe that hope for a new way of life, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for making a way to fling open doors and windows, hope to breathe fresh air endowed with healing powers- surely it was hope that convinced many to explore and to settle in this place- New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment! image

And with my favorite of all the doors, I’ll close…Love y’all, Camellia

 

Flowers of the Southwest…

 

If I were to compile a list of things I love about Santa Fe New Mexico, the list would be very long and surely incomplete. It is called ‘The City Different’ and that is true; but it is also an ancient city with light so stunningly perfect, artists who are now famous, settled there to capture and re-create things of amazing beauty- one is Georgia O’Keefe.

Her paintings of flowers are iconic. I share her love for the Flowers of the Southwest…they are not so different from my favorite flowers at home. The photographs include some from my list of favorites:

  • Morning Glories- my grandfather greeted me with ‘Moan-in’ Glow-ree!’ every time I spent the night at his house- I can still smell the coffee brewing and bacon frying  as my grandmother fixed breakfast-and hear his lilting happy greeting whenever I see morning glories.
  • Hollyhocks- which are a staple in Santa Fe and Taos- are loved in the South as well. I once grew some, my husband fertilized them- maybe over-fertilized them because they grew over 10 feet tall!
  • Roses- I can never grow enough roses! The light of New Mexico does something magical to Roses.
  • Trumpet Vine – is a flower we consider to be invasive, yet it’s charming blooms climbing up a tree here or over an adobe building there never fail to amuse.
  • Lavender- is not grown reliably in the South’s humidity- I plant and re-plant it- the fragrance reminds me of my grandmother’s Yardley Lavender Soap which she would put in muslin bags among her linens and lingerie drawers. Of course we loved to take a bath with it too!

And that’s just my short list of flowers! The photographs have not been re-touched- they have been edited just to showcase the flowers- I think you’ll agree they are amazing Southwest beauties! And because this was a ‘mystery vacation’ – I have included two photographs of flowers which are made by artists and are not real- see if you can find them! Enjoy…

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Everywhere I turned, it seemed there was a picture perfect moment. All but the last photograph were taken in Santa Fe and Taos, the last one in the historic district of Albuquerque, New Mexico. See if you can find the morning glories! I’m still trying to identify all of the different species I saw, help me out! I forgot to mention how much I loved honeysuckle when I was a child- pulling the ‘string out’ and tasting the sweet nectar!So, naturally I had to take a picture of that!

How would it be possible to make a list of the things I love about this part of the United States of America? How would it be possible not to be thankful to our Creator, for using broad brush strokes of beauty all across this land? No wonder great artists are still inspired to come to this region.   Our ‘mystery vacation’ holds more…

Love y’all, Camellia

Mystery Vacation  – go take a look!

oops I goofed! here is the other pot of flowers that is not real- can you believe these are made from very thin wood? again, not retouched in color..

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The Mystery Vacation…

I have been writing personal ‘travelogues’ for over 15 years, hardly anyone has ever read them- so why would I openly blog about a vacation? Most travel pieces are either boring or overhyped. I am not an expert traveler, I will not advise you to ‘vacate your life’. I don’t like the phrase- ‘to go on vacation is to vacate your life’… Vacate sounds like an eviction notice‘you must vacate the premises for 5 days and 4 nights.’ Awful and empty, really. The answer to why I write travelogues or any other writing is because my left hand has loved to form letters and words since I was 4 years old and my right handed 6 year old sister taught me to write; I love to tell a good story and my travelogues help me remember the wonderful, aggravating and goofy things that made life larger not vacated.

This one started out as a ‘mystery vacation’ for our family of 5 adults. We have been taking two family vacations a year for over 10 years. For a good many vacations we would designate the family member to choose, because it was ‘their turn’.Some of the excitement seemed to have gone out of the planning phase. I had narrowed it down to several cities- the replies were- ‘It doesn’t matter, you decide’, ‘whatever you decide will be fine with me’, ‘we have a good time wherever we go’. Answers as breezy and nice as organdy curtains, but with no substance. So… I decided. I booked. Two months in advance-flights, hotel and rental car. Then, rather than tell them where we were going- I began sending out ‘hints’.

  • We will be flying southwest.
  • Our first stop will be Orlando.

No one was guessing, I’m guessing they weren’t that interested.

  • A rental car has been reserved.

First response- ‘I am not sitting on the hump.’ from an adult.

  • Designated Driver has been selected.
  • Board, ski and luggage rack has been declined.
  • We will be staying at a resort and spa.

Second response- ‘Oh good, maybe Dad will give us time to get a massage.’ Did I detect a negative? About 10 more hints, barely a response. I sent this one out-

  • Think ‘Game of Thrones’.

‘Well, I thought I had it figured out until you threw that in’. I was having  a ball, they were yawning…probably thinking …’whatever’. Until. that. clue. Plaintively came the cry? ‘When will we find out what to pack?’

  • Your Dad will be wearing his ‘summer travel outfit’.

They all know what that is- Golf Shirt, with white undershirt, ‘short pants’, tennis shoes and tube socks pulled up to his knees. We did go to Orlando- even had to spend the night, because our flight was seriously delayed and we were going to miss the connecting flight. We decided at the Birmingham Airport that we were not going to allow one day of our vacation to be ruined because of something out of our control. We did make it to the southwest the next day, to a city where the author of ‘Game of Thrones’ lives. No one had to sit on the hump. The offer of massages was declined. Dad wore his summer travel outfit every day.image

A good time was had by all…stay tuned.  Love y’all, Camellia

Find ‘Game of Thrones’ on  Amazon.com

 

Live Oaks…

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The Live Oaks of Alabama’s Coastal South are hauntingly beautiful…image

With long gray beards of Spanish Moss…image

These ancient ones stand guard and watch carefully over the bountiful goodness…image

Embracing, with wide open arms those who seek shelter and shade..imageFrom Magnolia Springs, Point Clear, Fairhope, Daphne to the other side of Mobile Bay- Alabama’s Live Oaks are our special treasures. How blessed we are! A special thank you to my talented friend who shared her photographs of the Live Oaks near Magnolia Springs right on Mobile Bay. One of the most beautiful places on Earth.  Enjoy!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs may not be used without permission

Alabama the Beautiful…

“Just look at those clouds. Sometimes Alabama just breaks my heart – it’s so pretty, it just breaks my heart into little pieces.”    Honora DeChavannes from Michael Lee West’s book- ‘Mermaids in the Basement’….  “Just look at those clouds… it’s so pretty…it breaks my heart into little pieces…” No truer words were spoken- Enjoy…

 

It bears repeating:  “Just look at those clouds. Sometimes Alabama just breaks my heart- it’s so pretty, it just breaks my heart into little pieces.”

‘Mermaids in the Basement’ by Michael Lee West, set in the Gulf Coast area of Alabama- is a delightful book, a great beach read!

 Alabama is heartbreakingly beautiful! She has earned the title – ‘Alabama the Beautiful’ . If you’re dreaming of a beach vacation- well, I guess you know where my heart is…

Love y’all, Camellia

Jeremy Miniard* took these photographs just last week of the Gulf Coast and Mobile Bay.

‘Mermaids in the Basement’ is available on Amazon.com

 ‘Alabama the Beautiful’ books- Amazon.com

*all rights reserved on Jeremy Miniard photographs

Springtime in New York City…

 

In Alabama, it’s late Spring, just a few weeks ago, New York City was in full bloom!

There were chocolates from Jacques Torres, fresh produce and bread from Eli Zabar, cappuccino and wine bottles filled with lavender at Eataly!

A real ‘feast’ for the eyes, everywhere we looked! I’m so thankful for the Divine Promise…’As long as the earth remains there will always be Springtime…’

Love y’all, Camellia

Jacques Torres ChocolatesJacques Torres – these fine chocolates can also be purchased from Amazon/Groceries! http://amzn.to/1sRCrMP

Eli Zabar’s breadsEli Zabar – all about Eli Zabar including recipes from Amazon! http://amzn.to/1sRCAQk

Mario Batali’s Eataly Eataly – find all things Eataly on Amazon! http://amzn.to/1P0ngKL

Walls can talk!

imageYou’ve heard the old saying- ‘If walls could talk…’ . In New York City, walls really can talk! Look at this one we found in NoHo! Really good advice, don’t you think? And what about Times Square? All of those buildings sport advertising, the revenue from these ‘talking walls’ is so good, the offices they cover are almost empty!

 

And what about this brick wall, found beside a sports bar near Rockefeller Center?imageWho knew? So, this week…slow down a bit…Stop, Look and Listen. You might start seeing that walls really can talk!imageHave a great week! Love y’all, Camellia

Psst! Couldn’t resist one more… If these walls could talk- they would tell you they house the homeless at night for inside shelter, but this building started out its life as an orphans home, and became the site of a very famous movie- ‘ Miracle on 34th Street’ with the equally famous child star- Natalie Wood !image

Do You Believe the Subway Exists?

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This photo of the historic Trinity Episcopal Church Burial Ground was taken recently, for several reasons- the large statue of John Watts, Jr., the burial ground of the first U.S. Treasurer, Alexander Hamilton and the pretty subway station reminded me of another trip to New York when ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’ based on John 11- was almost finished. The question: Do You Believe the Subway Exists?’ almost became the title of chapter 38. For your Sunday Inspiration, here is an excerpt:

‘On a recent trip to New York we rode the subway. We had been to New York several times, but had never used this mode of transportation. We knew it was there but had never seen for ourselves how it worked. We believed there was something going on underground, out of sight- that hundreds of people on hundreds of miles of track were moving beneath us – yet above ground we had nothing to prove it. We had the word of others that the subway was real. We saw the entrances to the underground trains; at times we could feel the rumble beneath the grates on the sidewalks. We saw masses entering and coming up from the darkened pathways under this great city. We believed in something that was unseen, unknown, and untraveled in the subway system of New York. We never questioned the existence of the subway or how it worked. We simply believed that it was there with the evidence that existed above ground, the signs- the words of others, even visiting Grand Central Station. We completely believed in the subway system. This trip, we rode the subway, and let me tell you- for someone who has spent most of her life in a small town; it was not easy to navigate! Yet I believed those trains could take us to other parts of the vast city.  When we got on the train – I knew we were moving! When we got off, and came up above ground – we were undeniably in a different part of the city. Throughout the trip to New York, after our subway rides – I was keenly aware that below the surface – out of sight, was a system which moved vast numbers of people from one place to the next. There was a whole world moving beneath my feet.’

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 You know, it doesn’t take much faith to believe the subway exists. But what of those folks in that burial ground behind this subway station? Do you believe they existed? Do you believe they lived, died and were put down under the ground, and further that they just might be in another place even now? That might take a little more faith. What about this? Do you believe in resurrection? Not just at the ‘last day’- but that life, your life can be changed- resurrected, right here, right now. John Watts, Jr., Alexander Hamilton and even the life of Trinity Church changed numerous times. John Watts, Sr. was considered a traitor for leaving America and returning to his homeland, England- when the Revolutionary War began; he was stripped of his holdings in New York. Left with the shame of what their father had done-John Watts, Jr. and his brother did not leave- they were patriots who stayed; petitioned the new nation’s government and were allowed to buy back their father’s lands. John Watts Jr became a member of the General Assembly of New York State and later became a Judge. Alexander Hamilton came to this country a penniless pauper, became wealthy, a landowner and ultimately the first Secretary of Treasury, designed the country’s financial system and his image is engraved on our ten dollar bills- he was buried in this cemetery after a political foe, Aaron Burr shot him in a duel which was considered shameful, so he was buried in a remote corner of this graveyard-yet, even in death- we Americans came to honor this man- we might say- he was ‘resurrected’ as an historical figure. Trinity Church was first built in the late 1600’s, one of the first churches in America. It later burned to the ground during the Great Fire of New York City. A second Trinity Church was built on this site in the late 1700’s and was severely weakened by heavy snowfall. The current church was built in the late 1800’s as a masterpiece, a beautiful thriving church in the heart of the Financial District, visited by Queen Elizabeth, it ministers to the poor with low income housing, feeding the poor and it’s own- John Watts Jr. heirs established an orphanage and children’s services in his name-Leake and Watts Services,Inc which operates to this day, helping more than 5000 children each year. Their lives and the life of this church are the stories of human history, the rise, fall and resurrection out of shame, hurt-filled events, some not of their own making and of hope and faith.

‘For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.’

Hebrews 11:1

Jesus said ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life…’ John 11:24 – Jesus said, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to them that believe…’ Mark 9:23  As we sing…’Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…’

Can I get an Amen?


Have a Blessed Lord’s Day!   Love y’all, Camellia

Four Days- the Lazarus Principle- chapter 38 Four Days- the Lazarus Principle chapter 38