Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: keep shining

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail tour of lighthouses continues. I never get tired of observing these guiding lights and I hope my readers agree because I think they offer us a compelling insight.

During our search for Lake Ontario’s beacons during our early summer journey along that national scenic byway, often it took some perseverance to find a perfect location to spot some of the lighthouses we sought.

Oswego West Pierhead is a good example and I’m happy to report our persistence paid off. Since this particular lighthouse is located off the coast of Oswego, New York, and is not open to the public, it’s not easy to access.

Owned by the city of Oswego but operated by the U.S. Coast Guard since it is an active navigation aid, it’s located a half-mile out into the lake on a breakwater. We finally found a spot to park where we could view the lighthouse in the distance, and I managed to get some decent photos using a telephoto lens.

The current tower was erected in 1934 to replace an earlier one constructed in 1889 and has an attached one-story keeper’s quarters, which is not used because the station became automated in 1968. Oswego West Pierhead is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been the site of tragedy. Six members of the Coast Guard died when a boat transferring lighthouse keepers capsized in the lake in December 1942.  

On to Port Ontario, we again drummed up some patience to locate our next stop at Selkirk Lighthouse, situated on land at the mouth of the Salmon River. Situated on a sharp turn along a narrow road beside the river, with a small marina and few public parking areas, we were able to find a spot to pull over so I could capture a few shots of Selkirk.

An interesting aspect of this beacon is that it is one of only four United States lighthouses that still has an original bird-cage lantern. Constructed in the 1830’s with stone from a nearby quarry, eventually a need for Selkirk Lighthouse was no longer justified, and it was deactivated by 1858.

A private citizen purchased the building in 1895 with intentions to turn it into part of a hotel development. A few years later, the owner suffered a massive heart attack and died but his family continued to operate the property, which changed hands a couple more times, and eventually the hotel and property became popular with vacationers.

The hotel didn’t survive though and was razed, but current owners restored the lighthouse and offer nightly and weekly accommodations there and in cottages nearby. By special request, overnight guests can climb the light tower.  

The next three lighthouses listed on the driving tour of the national scenic byway proved even more difficult to observe, trying our patience and causing us to spend quite a bit of time attempting to view them.  Stony Point Lighthouse in Henderson Harbor was more easily seen but is privately owned, so while viewing it from the road, I chose not to share a photo here to respect the owner’s privacy.

We never did find spots to catch sight of the other two lighthouses located respectively on Galoo Island and Horse Island a few miles offshore in Lake Ontario. The only way to access these two beacons is by boat and much of the property on the islands is private.

But we didn’t give up! And next week on my Tuesday Tour, I’ll showcase the last few lighthouses we encountered on our June journey and one of my favorites among the many we observed on this scenic tour.

Lighthouses remind me that even when life gets kind of wonky and it doesn’t work out the way we plan, we must not surrender to defeat. And hasn’t life indeed been strange and thrown us all for a loop since 2020 and the onset of the you know what?

But we cannot give up. We can’t succumb to adverse conditions in life, no matter what it throws at us.

Instead, we need to stand firm and be shining lights to those around us who struggle and falter. Maybe we all can be lighthouses. We just have to keep shining.

“Lighthouses don’t get all wobbly when the weather gets rough; they just stand there shining.” ~ Unknown

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Words for Wednesday: mark my shoe

“No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving something behind.”

That quote is attributed to George Washington Carver, an early 20th century agricultural scientist, inventor, and professor, who is well-known for discovering an amazing amount of uses for peanuts, soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. I distinctly remember learning and writing a report about him in elementary school detailing some of the research he conducted on peanuts.

This man who came from a very humble background, was the first black student admitted to Simpson College in Iowa and became the first black faculty member of Iowa College. Because of his industrious career and the many achievements and awards he received, Carver definitely left something behind – his mark – on our world in a most positive way.

But somehow, I don’t believe when he spoke of leaving something behind or making your mark in the world the following is what he had in mind.

While on our early summer journey through western New York state in search of the many lighthouses along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Papa and I encountered a sight that really made us scratch our heads in bewilderment, turn the car around, and head back to ascertain that we saw what we really saw.

Somewhere between two lighthouses – Thirty Mile Point and Oak Orchard – on our way to Rochester, NY, this is what we stumbled upon.

Shoes. Hundreds of shoes hanging from trees. A whole new meaning to the word shoe tree. A shoe tree, in case you’re not familiar with that item, is a form you insert into your shoes to help keep them in their original shape.

So, we astonishingly saw shoe trees. Not shoe forms. Shoe trees. Literally four trees, upon which hung shoes of all kinds, colors, shapes, and sizes, situated in a triangle-shaped grassy area at an intersection near the town of Lyndonville.

Shoe trees. According to a little blurb I discovered on the website Atlas Obscura, “Shoe trees are a phenomenon that pop up all over the place, all of them loaded with legend, but rarely explained as much more than a tradition of the area.”

You got to believe the purpose of this sight perplexed us, and of course, I HAD to photograph this because who would believe me? After doing a tad of research on why in the world so many shoes dangle from trees, I discovered the reasons varied.

Supposedly, the most popular explanation is if you are successful at hurling your shoes upwards and they catch on a tree branch, you will be granted a wish or at the very least, good luck. Ah-huh.

But some of the shoes and boots on these four trees in the Lyndonville area were actually nailed or somehow affixed to the trees, not just tossed up and luckily catching on a branch.

Apparently, this is a decades old thing that I never was aware of until I saw it myself with my very own eyes. And being the practical-minded person that I am, I don’t quite understand why people – men, women, and children – are willing to leave their perfectly fine footwear (for the most part these weren’t old, worn out, dilapidated, or broken) behind on a tree.

Maybe people just want to leave their mark somehow that they were there? So, leave your shoes? Your perfectly good shoes?? Or instead of “if the shoe fits, wear it,” if the shoe doesn’t fit, toss it into a tree?

Naturally, this practice is discouraged and deemed environmentally irresponsible by some, yet it continues.  Shoes and boots flung skyward continue to hang suspended causing visiting passers-by to take a second look and for this tourist, an amusing photo opportunity and blog post fodder.

Even though I tend to kick off my shoes when Papa and I road trip, I won’t be flinging them into a tree anytime soon. No thank you, I believe I’ll hang onto my shoes.

I think I’ll need them when I depart our vehicle on an escapade to capture entertaining photographs to share with my readers right here in Mama’s Empty Nest. This blog may be the legacy I leave the world, instead of my shoes.

“If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” ~ Maya Angelou

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: letting my light shine

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

I don’t truly understand why I’m so fascinated by lighthouses. Is it because I grew up so far from the massive sea or a great lake or a mighty river and so lighthouses were unfamiliar to me?  Perhaps.

Maybe it’s because lighthouses represent a beacon of safety, a way of reaching out to offer a harbor from the storms of life? Perhaps.

Or is it because lighthouses symbolize a guiding source, and my faith embraces that concept (my faith in God is that guiding Source)? Perhaps.

Or possibly it’s a combination of all three of those explanations. Somehow my fascination for these structures has rubbed off on Papa too. He’s always been mesmerized by things of the sea – sailing ships and all things naval, including historical battles – so lighthouse visits are also interesting to him.  

That’s why we both thoroughly relished our early summer journey along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail stopping and observing almost all the lighthouses along the way and I appreciated the opportunity to photograph them.

And so, I continue to let my little light shine by showcasing these beaming beacons once again on this Tuesday Tour.

After driving a stretch of rural scenery along the national scenic byway, we entered the city of Rochester, New York, where we had a better opportunity to visit the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse there than the lighthouse in Buffalo (which was closed for repairs).

A friendly volunteer watering flowers and her dog greeted us as when we stepped onto this Rochester lighthouse’s grounds. Even though the 40-foot tower itself and the museum inside the keeper’s dwelling were closed to visitors at the time, she invited us to stay as long as we liked. 

Located on Lake Ontario right at the mouth of the Genesee River, this octagonal shaped stone beacon was erected in 1822 and is the oldest active surviving lighthouse situated on this Great Lake. Abandoned by the federal government in the 1980’s, thankfully the local community saved it from destruction.  

Now considered a City of Rochester landmark, this tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, owned by Monroe County, and managed by the non-profit Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse Historical Society.

While we were in Rochester, we also took time to view the port where ordinarily ships and boats traverse from Canada to the United States and vice versa. Not happening during the you know what though because Canada’s border remained closed, thus the port was fairly idle. I could certainly add thoughts about closed and open borders, but I’ll refrain because the intent of my blog is not to stir up controversy and arguments.

From Rochester, we traveled northward along Lake Ontario until we reached the lovely town of Sodus Point where Old Sodus Lighthouse is situated. A popular attraction, the original beacon here was erected on Great Sodus Bay in 1825 but, after deteriorating, was replaced by a square stone tower with an attached keeper’s house, both completed in 1871. 

Even though the lighthouse was decommissioned by 1901, when a pierhead light (pictured below) was utilized more, the community and the Sodus Bay Historical Society has maintained the property very well and it truly is a lovely spot to visit.

The grounds are quite attractive and picturesque, and we relaxed as we strolled around, viewed the vibrantly blooming flower garden, and enjoyed a restful perch on a park bench overlooking the lake.

Old Sodus also includes a maritime museum open to the public for a fee and a gift shop. We learned Sodus Point would be a charming place to stay as bed and breakfast inns within walking distance of the lighthouse are available as well as a lakefront park and beach.

On such a pleasant day with abundant sunshine and cooling breezes in a tranquil spot along magnificent Lake Ontario, it proved difficult to imagine a dark, stormy night when water vessels would need a beaming light to help them navigate to safety. But that is why lighthouses exist, to be a guide.

And the following quote nicely sums up why I continue our search for lighthouses – to be reminded that we all need a Guide to see us through life’s storms.

“God built lighthouses to see people through storms. Then he built storms to remind people to find lighthouses.” ~ Shannon Alder

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in joy, Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: joy makers

Joy. What gives you joy?

I’ve been thinking about that lately as it seems there is so little of it in the world today anymore.

You sure don’t find joy from watching, listening, or reading the news. Or even walking down a street where you hear folks gripe and grumble about this or that.

But exuding joy does our hearts and minds a world of good. God’s Word tells me that in Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

I once read an article that described joy as an attitude instead of an emotion and I think I readily agree with that definition. Happiness is an emotion, but it can be fleeting and often times depends on our circumstances.

Joy is deeper and a more constant outlook. For me, joy comes from another source other than my circumstances, my surroundings, or even my relationships with others. Joy comes from God, from knowing His presence is constantly with me.

It sounds like a contradictory statement, but I can experience joy even when I’m not necessarily happy.

And as I mature, not just physically by age but also spiritually, I find the smallest aspects of life fill me with joy.

A simple act such as catching the aroma of lavender wafting by on a sunshine-filled day.

Or being a passenger in our vehicle traveling down a blue highway, propping up my foot and extending it out the window wide open, fresh air blowing my hair all willy-nilly, and sunshine warming my face.

Or noticing miniature artwork some unknown person painted on the sidewalk under my feet.

Or beholding a peaceful, idyllic countryside scene from a quiet hillside spot.

Or noticing a beautiful multi-hued sunset sky right off my backyard deck like the one pictured at the beginning of this post.

Sometimes we find joy by just slowing down, taking our time, not rushing into the next thing on our to-do list, but noticing a little treasure of blessedness right where we are.

I don’t think we come across those snippets of joy by accident like the little town so named in Maryland Papa and I happened upon on a day trip.

I believe those smatterings of joy are laid before us, just waiting to be discovered.

And that’s when I give thanks to my Joy-Giver who provides them.

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” ~ Bill Watterson

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Humor, Life

Words for Wednesday: sign of the times

Photo by Maria Gulyaeva on Pexels.com

Signs. If you live in any community, no matter where on this planet, you more than likely will see a sign or two or twenty.

Signs on street corners, signs on billboards along the highway, signs in cities, small towns, and even in rural areas. Signs in people’s front yards.

Signs that advertise. Signs that inform. Signs that endorse political candidates. Signs that provide direction. Signs that label this street, road, or lane or this or that building.

Signs are everywhere. Even when Papa and I drove along a long stretch of the famous Route 66 in Arizona on one of our jaunts out west, we saw signs. Not many cars or trucks. Very few houses. But every so often, we read the iconic Burma Shave signs of old. And we got a big kick (get your kicks on Route Six-Six) out of reading those signs.

Likewise, on our summer trip through western New York along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, we noticed some signs that gave us some good belly laughs. Alas, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to capture those signs, but I did remember them.

Like the one I spied as we drove through Batavia, New York, a quaint mid-sized town, one evening after checking into our hotel. We were on the lookout for ice cream and we found it at a delightful candy shop called Oliver’s, where we also sampled our first ever taste of chocolate sponge candy. Delicious, by the way.

Cruising around town before we found the goodies, I noticed a variety of garage/yard sale signs, but a particular one caught my eye. It was a large, hand-painted sign that read “Mammoth Sale Today!” And I wondered out loud how the sellers managed to find a mammoth for sale? I thought those were extinct.

Not long afterwards, I spied a second sign at a nursery/garden center that made me chuckle. “Help Wanted for Mums.” Well, what about Dads? Don’t they need help also? Or is it just Mums who can’t cope and need assistance?

But the one that totally cracked my husband up had been noticed earlier in the day, somewhere along the highway, and I honestly don’t remember exactly where we were in New York but I do recall it was in a rural area.

That one had a rather large photo of that state’s governor with this editorial comment painted under his smiling face: “My Governor is an idiot.”

Okay, it certainly is not right to call anyone names, but my guess is that there are a lot of folks all over the place (and not just in my country) who probably think the same thing about their leaders.

I’m reminded of a catchphrase that comedian Bill Engvall used a lot in his comedic monologues: “Here’s your sign.” I imagine that he could make some pretty funny jokes about all of these signs.

A spot of humor. A dash of lightheartedness. A moment that brings a smile to our faces and causes us to laugh out loud. Isn’t that what we all need a bit of in light of all the bleak, dark realities of our world?

A sense of humor… is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.~ Hugh Sidey

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in family, Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: into the woods

School is now in session. But you don’t always have to be in school just to learn something new.

It’s that time of year when the big yellow buses travel down our road stopping every few houses to pick up school students. New backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes, clothes, and other school necessities have been purchased.

The school bell is ringing, and our oldest grandchild is growing up before our eyes as she is launched into a new year of learning.

The end of a lazy, hazy summer arrived before we could believe it, and we wanted to enjoy one last hurrah before her first day of school.

So, one day while her mama worked, Nana and Papa took Little One on a day trip that promised not only to be full of outdoor fun but also would allow some exploring and learning to boot.

Little One helped Nana pack a picnic basket with our lunch, sunscreen, tick repellant, and a thermos of ice water and off we set on an adventure into the woods. Our destination was a spot for which I have fond memories from my own childhood.

We traveled to Cook Forest State Park, an 8,500-acre area along the Clarion River in northwestern Pennsylvania. Sometimes thought to be a gateway to the Allegheny National Forest, Cook Forest is well known for its thickets of old growth white pine and hemlock trees.

It’s a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing down the river as well as offering cabins for vacation stays, camping areas, picnic spots, and many wooded hiking trails.

We first stopped at an old, historic fire tower that I remember climbing as a teenager. Papa and Little One braved the 80-foot climb to the top while Nana snapped photos of their ascent. From its pinnacle, the scenic view from the tower is panoramic.

After being cooped up in the car, Little One thoroughly enjoyed the short hike through the woods to and from the fire tower and climbing over gigantic rocks. Being active was a plus, but what she didn’t realize was that she was also learning something new.

We stopped along the way to inspect fungi growing on trees, toadstools, moss, and giant gnarly tree roots. Papa helped her count the rings on a tree stump to determine how old the tree must have been.

At lunchtime, we found a quiet picnic spot beside a creek which provided even more adventure and education. While eating, Little One noticed two kinds of butterflies on a nearby tree and enjoyed watching them.

After eating, we explored a short trail that took us over the creek via two wooden bridges. But the best part was when she examined critters and rocks in the creek.

Tadpoles were a delight to watch. Wading up and down the cold-water creek was even more so and giggles of glee abounded.

From there, we drove along the river where we watched a few folks paddling kayaks and those tubing along on floats.  We even found a spot to wade in the shallow water and toss stones to determine the largest splashes and kerplops made.

A quick shower of rain didn’t dampen our fun either. As the day wound down and it was time to head back home, how did we end our excursion? By eating delicious scoops of ice cream, of course, from the Cooksburg Café.

Little One devoured her strawberry ice cream cone happily discovering chunks of real strawberries in it. Papa indulged in white chocolate raspberry trifle and Nana satisfied her cravings with a chocolate peanut butter cone that included the largest pieces of frozen peanut butter I’ve ever eaten in my life.

It was a great way to end a summer’s day, to enjoy an outing before school resumed, and learn a few of nature’s lessons.

Our Little One may be growing up with no way to stop time but we hope she never halts her desire to learn new things in this life. And her Nana and Papa will provide those opportunities as long as we are able.

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in empty nest, Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: roadies

Just call us roadies. No, we don’t travel with bands from coast to coast setting up their gear.

But we do travel…mostly via our automobile. So maybe you should just call us road trippers instead. For some reason, Papa and I love road trips, and if you’ve been a steady reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you will have already realized that.

Papa enjoys driving which might be a side effect from all those days he spent “on the road” as a sales representative for a national company. I grew up with a father who also relished being behind a car’s steering wheel and traveling near and far, so road trips were a normal part of life for me.

Sure, Papa and I have traveled by airline but honestly, we would rather drive. Excursions on boats and trains – we do take those as well, but they are relegated to just a few hours or a day trip.

Driving our own vehicle gives us a sense of freedom. We are on our own timetable, not tied to frustrations like cancelled flights, delays, or layovers.

We can leave when we want, travel as many or as few hours as we decide and stop whenever and wherever we notice a noteworthy spot to check out.  Maybe it’s a bit of a control thing, but traveling this way delights us.  

So, gas up the car, set up some destinations, and we are happy and excited to be jaunting off on a road trip. Cue the Willie Nelson song, “On the road again goin’ places that I’ve never been; seein’ things that I may never see again, and I can’t wait to get on the road again.” (Lyrics written by Willie Nelson)

When we venture out on our journeys, we don’t stay in one place for very long. Our idea of a fun vacation, unless we’re spending a week at the beach with family, is to travel each day by vehicle on those blue highways to see as many sights as we possibly can.

Being able to stop randomly at whatever piques our curiosity, floats our boat, or presents itself as a great photo opportunity makes our trips fun and remarkable.

Because of the you know what, we were itching to get back on the road again. Blessed that we live in a rural area, we could travel easily around our neck of the woods on day trips during that time.  But this past June, we were more than ready to take a vacation ‘somewhere else.’

As states nearby started relaxing restrictions, Papa and I began seeking in earnest a journey we could take away from this ol’ empty nest of ours. When a week free from childcare for one of our grandchildren presented itself, you know what that meant! Freedom to travel somewhere for more than a day!

The open road beckoned to us. We flipped open our Rand McNally atlas of the United States (yes, we still use such a thing!), initiated several internet searches, and pondered over what direction to take. And then it dawned on us – a trip close enough that wouldn’t take us days of travel to arrive but someplace we’ve haven’t visited yet.

Next week on my Tuesday Tour post, I’ll divulge where we traveled, but here’s a little hint: it involved some of these two empty nester’s favorite sightseeing spots.

“Making memories one road trip at a time.” ~ Unknown

©2021 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in human nature, Life

Words for Wednesday: who, me?

This is Barley. The photo above is when he was an adorable puppy in 2014. Now he is older of course, but he’s still pretty adorable.

Barley belongs to our son, daughter-in-law, and two of our grandchildren. Barley is a full-bred Brittany, a breed of dog once called Brittany Spaniel until the early 1980’s when the name was changed to simply Brittany.

Barley totally fits the description of his breed. He is extremely smart, loves to please, and has a lot of energy so he is most enthusiastic about taking long, brisk walks. He’s also very obedient and our son has trained him well. He follows commands and willingly performs a repertoire of tricks.

But one of the aspects of Barley’s personality is that he is oh, so loving. I recall when our son and daughter-in-law first brought Barley to meet us and told us the breeder referred to him as a “love bug.”

That he surely is. Someone along the way forgot to inform Barley that he’s not a lap dog because he loves to jump up into our son’s arms or hop into your lap for snuggling. And that’s a lot of dog in your lap!

Barley is truly a great pooch, loyal to his family, well-trained, lovable, and bright. But now it’s time for confession: I’m not a dog person, but I do love Barley.

Honestly, I’ve never wanted a dog to join my family. I grew up with many felines as pets, not once a canine.  

As a child, I remember one occasion when I came very close to being bitten by a mutt, and I recall as a young teenager taking a walk with my friends when we were chased by a fierce looking, growling German Shepherd.  

Just a bit frightening, but I’m not necessarily afraid of dogs, I’m just not fond of them and I have never liked when they jump up on me and try to lick my face. Yuck.   

But Barley is a different story. He is so eager to see us, he becomes wound up and excited but he’s obedient enough not to jump up on me. He follows me begging for my attention and affection.

And when he turns those deep brown eyes full of love on me, I just swoon and coo to him in baby talk. “Is Barley a good boy? Does Barley love his Nana?”

Yeah, I’m a sucker for him. If I’m sitting down, he hops up into my lap and closely snuggles with me. He’s just so lovable, I cannot resist him.

Barley is smart enough to know when he’s done something wrong though. The expression in his eyes and look on his face tells the story. That sheepish, “who me?” kind of look.

And that prompted me to think about us humans. Don’t we do the same thing? We say or do something we know is wrong but when we’re called out on it, we feign a ‘who, me?’ look on our faces to try to deny it.

For those of you who thought this post was a cute story about an endearing doggie, you might want to brace yourself for this next part.

An epidemic of wrongdoing is occurring in our society currently and it seems the human race is pitted against one another. We rail with denigrating, vehement words and deeds against people who don’t think the same way we do.

One political party against another. One supporter of this policy or that against the anti-whatevers. One side claiming to be justified while pointing fingers at their perceived adversaries as wrong or uneducated or worse yet, stupid.

And it’s dividing us in so many ways. Dividing friends, dividing families, dividing us by race, creed, and religion. All because we don’t agree.

We can claim, “not me, I don’t do that.” But you know what? We are all guilty as charged. We do it and we continue to do so. We’ve bought into this ‘you’re either for me or against me’ mentality that society has promoted. Some of us just haven’t been called out on it yet.

Speaking of myself here, when all is said and done, I know that my words, my actions, and yes, even my thoughts will be called out someday, if I don’t address them today by admitting those wrongdoings and repenting of them.

When I rant against and denounce those who don’t agree with my stand on life’s aspects, or my beliefs, or my political persuasions, I can’t say I’m blameless. I can’t put that ‘who, me? I didn’t do it’ look on my face.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, it’s a sobering thought to know that all mankind will stand before God to be judged.  Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37: “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

According to the Bible, those who don’t believe in Christ will be judged and then punished according to what they’ve done. But believers’ deeds will also be judged (Romans 14:10 tells us about the judgment seat of Christ). Those whose names are noted in the Book of Life (those believers who have accepted the gift of salvation) will be judged to determine their rewards in heaven.

But here’s the thing: just claiming to be a Christian won’t be your one-way ticket into eternal life in heaven. Going to church, tithing your money, opening up your Bible from time to time, and being “a good person” are all activities we often associate with being a Christian.

But if we’re not following and obeying Christ, if we don’t have a real and personal relationship with Him, if we don’t put Him first and foremost as Lord of our lives, our eternal life is in deep jeopardy.

Too easily even believers can reject truth, turn away from God, and be drawn to loving and adhering to what our society deems ‘good’ instead of following Christ and His Word.

It’s all about our hearts and what desire lies within. Is it truly believing God’s Word and its declaration of what is good and what is evil? Or is it embracing our society’s version and its worldview?

Do we love Christ above all else and glorify His name in what we say, think, or do? Or does self-gratification, acquiring money, power, notoriety, or being perceived as “politically correct” rule our hearts?

No matter what, we will all answer those questions someday. And when we must, we won’t be able to claim “Who, me?” and deny the truth.

Wouldn’t it be better if those of us who profess to be Christians prayed for our fellow humans, especially those we don’t agree with? Prayed for this strife between fellow humans to end? Prayed for those we perceive to be our “enemies?” Prayed for truth to prevail?

“Facing the truth might be uncomfortable but denying it is devastating.” ~ unknown

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, Summer

Wordless Wednesday: hummingbird wisdom

Summer will soon begin winding down. The days will shorten, the nights grow cooler yet, summer blooms will begin to fade, and the garden will stop producing its bounty.

Thoughts resort to back-to-school preparation for those to be educated and those who educate. Fall decorations will pop up reminding us the season will soon change.

Often, the end of summer causes me to recall those seasons of my younger years. This current summer reminds me a lot of ones I enjoyed as a child.  

Like many summers when I was a kid, the temperatures this season weren’t high with heat and stickiness, laced with humidity so thick it makes it hard to drum up energy. The usually hot and humidity-laced weather is mostly the reason why summer’s not my favorite season.

But this year, for the most part, summer was pleasant, and I appreciated this season, when we’ve not used our central air conditioning as often,  much more than I have in recent years.

Sunny, warm days followed by cooler nights when we could sleep with fresh air wafting through our open bedroom windows prevailed.

Summer evenings when I could relax on the front porch swing without feeling like I was encased in an oven were more the norm.

And remembering those kinds of summers reminded me of a song from the past.

Like any teenaged girl, I listened to popular music on the radio, especially a favorite past-time in summer when I hung out at my next-door neighbor friend’s swimming pool with her and her sister.

And in those days, I purchased vinyl records of my favorite songs — yes, I’m THAT old — which I played repeatedly on my record player (received as a Christmas gift when I was about 13), while tucked away in my bedroom.

Vinyl records were determined by diameter size and rotational speed in revolutions per minute (rpm) at which they were played on a record player’s turntable. Single songs were recorded on 7-inch 45 rpm discs while several songs were recorded on LPs, long-playing albums, 12-inch in size and played at 33 1/3 rpms.

I owned an entire case full of 45’s as a young teenager then graduated into buying albums as an older teen/young adult.

One of those albums was entitled Summer Breeze by American soft-rock musicians named Seals and Crofts. I purchased that album when I was in college and it was a favorite of mine. The songs were so easy to listen and sing along to, so mellow.

The lyrics still play in my mind when I think of the song titles – “Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind….”

Hey, it was the early 70’s when we wore bell-bottomed jeans embellished with patches or embroidery, mini or midi skirts, ponchos, choker necklaces often made of tiny beads or puka shells, and fringed leather belts and vests. Everything was “cool” or “groovy.” A bohemian, hippie style was in fashion and music reflected that as well.

Number one music hits ranged from groups like The Beatles to Three Dog Night to The Rolling Stones to Simon and Garfunkel and single performers from Carly Simon to James Taylor to Carole King to Stevie Wonder.

Another popular song, Hummingbird, from that era and Seals and Crofts’ Summer Breeze album recently played in my mind’s jukebox.

On a recent day trip away from our country home, Papa and I visited a beautiful farm where we spied plenty of hummingbirds sipping sweet nectar from hanging feeders.

Zoom, they buzzed by. Wings beating so fast, they were a complete blur. Whiz, whir, zip. Sometimes those tiny birds were quicker than the eye. And often quicker than this amateur photograph behind the lens of my camera could capture.

That’s when those old lyrics buzzed through my brain along with the hummingbirds’ buzzing in my ears:

Hummingbird don’t fly away, fly away
Hummingbird don’t fly away, fly away

Thinking about those lyrics later as I downloaded the photos I’d taken, I looked up the words and was surprised to find the real meaning behind them.

Apparently, those lyrics written by James Seals and put to music by Seals and his singing partner Dash Crofts in 1971 weren’t really about a tiny bird that flits from fragrant, brightly colored flower to flower sipping up nectar.

Instead, hummingbird was a metaphor for a prophet of the Baha’i faith, of which both Seals and Crofts had converted to in 1969. They actively promoted their new-found faith and attempted to evangelize people into it through their music and following their concerts.

I honestly do not remember that aspect even though Papa and I (while dating in college) attended a Seals and Crofts concert because we both liked the duo’s music. But when I read those lyrics now at the ripe old age that I currently am, I clearly notice references to a different kind of faith than the one I have.

What strikes me most about this song’s information I just discovered and the soft-rock duo that sang it is that as a young, impressionable “adult” girl in the early 1970’s, I didn’t realize then that I was singing lyrics meant to exalt a belief I didn’t embrace. And I didn’t understand what those words even meant.

Which makes me wonder how easily young people are influenced by the music they listen to, the media they watch and read, the video games they play…you get my drift. I’ve often read that medical and psychologic research suggests that human brains aren’t fully developed until age 25.  

So even though physically, a young person may be mature in their late teens and young adulthood in college, they may not be able to make the best life decisions. I can attest to that from personal experience. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with the onset of adulthood, does it?

I thought watching and marveling at hummingbirds was purely just entertaining. Who knew they would prove to be “enlightening” in another way long into adulthood?

“Time passes as fast as a hummingbird flutters.” ~ Anonymous

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: in the back yard

Sometimes you should search for treasures in your own back yard.

After almost a decade living in the Midwestern United States, our family of five relocated to a Pacific Northwest altered state (to us) in the early 1990’s.

It didn’t take long to settle into a routine of work, school, church, and a myriad of activities that accompanied those aspects of our lives. But we still found time to scope out our horizons and realize travel far from our home wasn’t necessary to see sights worth seeing and experience excursions our children would enjoy while making memories for years to come.

I chronicled much of those with my point and shoot 35 mm film camera, but now 25 years later, I find my photos featured more of our family (and rightly so) in those places instead of just capturing scenic spots (except for the many pictures I captured of the Pacific Ocean coast which seemed to cast a magic spell on me).

Those first couple years in our new abode, we searched in our “own backyard” for new places to visit and we found plenty of opportunities to do so, whether it was watching wind surfers on the Columbia River near a town named Hood River, a well-known top spot for that sport; visiting the Oregon Zoo; attending festivals; spying all kinds of wildlife in a drive-through animal park called Wildlife Safari; or just enjoying walks through the farmer’s market buying fresh produce and baked goods.

Today’s Tuesday Tour highlights a few experiences we enjoyed when we traveled not far from our suburban Portland, Oregon home.

Papa has long been a history buff and, as a military veteran, he’s especially keen on Civil War battles, so when he learned that a Civil War Reenactment was scheduled at a state park not too far from Portland, our family of five jumped in our station wagon and headed out for a day trip.

The event took place in Silver Falls State Park located south of the city and east of Salem. The park itself contains more than 35 miles of trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding and campground areas suitable for tents and RVs as well as cabin rentals.

We visited the South Falls day use area there, with wide, clear spaces and picnic areas, where the re-enactment took place over a July weekend. Authentic-looking Civil War era camps enticed our curiosity.

Imagine seeing our 16th President Abraham Lincoln in conversations with visitors, watching Confederate troops with rebel yells charging Union troops and reenacting a battle right in front of our eyes. History presented itself live-time and it wasn’t just Papa that was fascinated.  

On other occasions closer to home, we visited Portland’s International Rose Test Garden several times. The site of more than 10,000 roses, it is the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the country. From its location in one of the oldest city parks, Washington Park, the Rose Garden is composed of smaller areas known as the Royal Rosarian Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, and the Miniature Rose Garden. 

Views of downtown Portland and also Mount Hood can be seen from the Rose Garden, which is open daily and offers free admission. The best times of the year to visit are May through September when the myriad of roses of every kind and name are blooming prolifically providing a feast for the eyes and aromatic scents for the nose.

Tucked away in the city’s west hills and near the Rose Garden is another beautiful spot we found, the Portland Japanese Garden. A visit there, named as “one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan,” provided a calm, tranquil, and relaxed experience, even for our children.

This 5 ½ acre garden was developed in 1963 as a symbol of healing between the United States and Japan, countries who warred against one another during World War 2. For an admission charge, visitors can observe Mount Hood from the Japanese Garden and venture along walking paths into several different areas: the Tea Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden, the Natural Garden, the Sand and Stone Garden, and the Flat Garden.

Because Portland is blessed with ideal weather for growing roses, it’s dubbed the “City of Roses.” Every year for over a century, the Portland Rose Festival is held beginning in late May and continuing through the second weekend of June. The festival includes parades, a carnival, art shows, live music, food booths, and many other events.

Occurring simultaneously with the festival is Fleet Week. Since 1907, the Rose Festival has been a port of call for the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and Royal Canadian Navy.

Huge naval ships and even submarines make their way to Portland’s Waterfront Park offering chances for the public to take ship tours onboard, meet and converse with sailors, and hear their stories. In addition, numerous pleasure crafts cruise along the Willamette River during the festival. (As pictured at the beginning of this post.)

We found the Rose Festival a fun, entertaining event for our young family. Papa, who’s always been interested in all things naval, appreciated seeing the various ships and our children’s eyes widened in awe since they had never seen immense sea-going vessels in person before.

During our six years of living in Oregon, we never ran out of memorable experiences, many of them so close by they were just day trips, and because of the mild, temperate weather year-round, we could enjoy the great outdoors. Eventually, we spread out a little farther from our suburban home and ventured into Washington state, California, and other areas of the altered state in which we lived.

Tuesday Tour will continue as I dig out more film photos, scan them, and highlight some of those memorable experiences we’ve encountered, and eventually I’ll share a recent trip Papa and were blessed to take this summer. Spoiler alert: There will be lighthouses!

Although travel may still be somewhat hindered where you live during this difficult time we continue to endure, there just might be a hidden gem, a treasure, in your own back yard that you may be able to visit.

“Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near.” ~ Paulo Coelho

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021