1454. How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Old-fashioned flowers! I love them all:
The morning-glories on the wall,
The pansies in their patch of shade,
The violets, stolen from a glade,
The bleeding hearts and columbine,
Have long been garden friends of mine;
But memory every summer flocks
About a clump of hollyhocks.
~Edgar A. Guest

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You may have noticed that I’ve been posting lots of photos of hollyhocks lately. Why? There are two reasons: first because they are one of my favorite flowers and secondly because the hollyhock is a flowering plant of such antiquity that it was found at a neanderthal burial site, where it had stood as a silent sentry for eons. And then after the neanderthal era the hollyhock, a member of the mallow family, was grown in religious gardens around churches and monasteries, and hollyhock seeds were included in the cargo on early ships to the Americas.

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So the tall, showy hollyhock has been used in gardens all over the world and for those tens of thousands of years their chalice-like blossoms, when facing upward, have captured and held countless dollops of daylight while captivating mortals and pollinating creatures alike with their winsome ways. The name hollyhock probably resulted when crusaders brought this versatile plant to England. Holy and hoc (mallow) were the terms associated with it at that time. The sturdy plant gained popularity and even became the subject of a 15th-century poem. However, over the years and sadly, at least hereabouts, less and less of them are to be found in gardens, even gardens where they were once considered a staple.

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Those red hollyhocks are at the back of our lot,
and I think they are even taller than 9 feet.

So the tall, showy hollyhock has been used in gardens all over the world and for those tens of thousands of years their chalice-like blossoms, when facing upward, have captured and held countless dollops of daylight while captivating mortals and pollinating creatures alike with their winsome ways. The name hollyhock probably resulted when crusaders brought this versatile plant to England. Holy and hoc (mallow) were the terms associated with it at that time. The sturdy plant gained popularity and even became the subject of a 15th-century poem. However, over the years and sadly, at least hereabouts, less and less of them are to be found in gardens, even gardens where they were once considered a staple. So I’ve been thrilled that the last two years I’ve been having such great luck with growing them. I especially like that they sometimes reach a height of 9 feet or more which means they tower above all else in a garden; also wherever they grow, the flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Miracles are they then? I think so. The first miracle is that all the data needed to replicate this lovely giant and its flowers is stored In something as small as one of my freckles. The next miracle is that for thousands upon thousands and thousands of years the small seeds have not perished nor failed in their purpose. The third miracle is that the Lord ordained pollinators along with the sun, soil, and water, to be faithful guarantors of the hollyhock’s lifeline.

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How could anything be more amazing than that God not only created all that is and devised ingenious ways for everything He made to be replenished, but that he also valued the importance of beauty as well as purpose. The Lord created not just a human body that needs tangible nourishment but also a soul in the physical body that needs to be fed in spiritual ways, a soul that longs for and seeks its beautiful Source.

Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. -Luke 12:23 ✝

**All photos taken  by Natalie; collages created by Natalie

1446. Beauty is a nectar which intoxicates the soul. ~T.C. Henley

Beauty unites all things,
links together flower and star,
with chains more certain than
those of reason.
~Henry James Slack

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One spring years ago when the flowering trees were in bloom, we came across one of the most beautiful specimens I’d ever seen. I hadn’t a clue as to what kind of tree it was, but I knew I had to have one of my own one day. Thus began the search, a search as it turned out that was not so easy. First I had to find out what the name of the tree was, and once I found that out I discovered that none of the local nurseries had even heard of it before much less had one for sale. So I went online and found a few mail order places that had them. They were fairly expensive but I knew I’d never be happy until one grew here.

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One spring years ago when the flowering trees were in bloom, we came across one of the most beautiful specimens I’d ever seen. I hadn’t a clue as to what kind of tree it was, but I knew I had to have one of my own one day. Thus began the search, a search as it turned out that was not so easy. First I had to find out what the name of it was, and once I found that out I discovered that none of the local nurseries had even heard of it before much less had one for sale. So I went online and found a few mail order places that had them. They were fairly expensive but I knew I’d never be happy until I had one of my own.

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Then another year or two went by and I finally found one at a nursery in a small town close to where we live. It was autumn and the leaves were falling off but you could tell it was alive so we bought it and all winter my hopes ran high that come spring I would at last have my ornamental Peppermint Peach Tree. As the temps began to rise, I’d go out every day looking for signs of life only to find none and eventual heartbreak once again.

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So I told myself it just wasn’t meant to be and moved on until last spring when I saw another one in full bloom again. As soon as I got home I got online to try one more time to find one, and I did. It came on a late and cold wintry day which was not a good time to get out and plant it. It was packed in ice to keep it alive until we didn’t have to plant it immediately, so it lived like that for nearly a week until at last we could finally get out and get it in the ground. And then the waiting game began again. Every day I would make my little trek out to the back fence where we had planted it to see if anything was happening and sure enough green leaf swellings began to appear and what looked like a few blossoms too. Some of the little flowers are white, some are white with red stripes, and some are just red, and it’s all one one tree, thus the name, Flowering Peppermint Peach Tree.

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A week later, we had a late freeze and I feared the worst, but although the little blossom swellings fell off the green leaves did not and so all summer the little baby tree was filled with the sweet music of many leaves and I made sure it was watered well. Then autumn followed by winter came and the leaves vanished. Nevertheless, I waited with great faith that this, the third try, would prove fruitful and praise the Lord and hallelujah it did! I know, I know, it’s just a tree right?! And many would think me silly and that such really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but you see it truly does. It reminds me that God is still in His heaven and all’s right with the world!!! Mankind may be doing it’s best to destroy all that Yahweh made, but He, the Maker of heaven and earth, is still on the Throne of Grace and in control!

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Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. ~Deuteronomy 7:9 ✝

**All photos taken by Natalie; the first one is the tree when I first saw it years ago in another’s yard, and the remaining ones are what’s happening now in my yard on my own little tree

1434. On this cool, crisp morning, I arose before the sun and went out the front door to look for the newspaper…

But that’s not what caused me
to stop in my driveway, paper forgotten.
Overhead, the “Big Dipper” (Ursa Major)
and other stars twinkled brightly,
framed by thin, wind-shaped clouds.
Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 8.13.18 PM.pngIn that moment, I felt magical,
caught by the wonder of nature,
blessed with beauty.
In this time of year
when children take center stage,
The thought of happy children reminded me
of the wisdom of innocence in all of us.
For it was not my intellect that caused me to look up
but my own innocence untarnished by age.
Like a child , I had no doubt that each moment
holds limitless awe, magic, and wonder,
and I knew how truly blessed we all are.
~Edited thoughts by my sadly
deceased, dear friend, Emily Seate|
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Let us remember that He has given us
the sun and the moon and the stars,
and the earth with it forests and
mountains and oceans–
and all that lives and moves upon them.
He has given us all green things and
everything that blossoms and bears fruit–
and all that we quarrel about
and all that we have misused–
and to save us from our own foolishness,
from all our sins, He came
down to earth and gave us Himself.
~Sigrid Undset

Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession? -Song of Solomon 6:10 ✝ (The Song of Solomon is often interpreted as an allegorical representation of the relationship of God and Israel, or for Christians, God and the Church or Christ and the human soul, as husband and wife.)

**Images found on the internet; superimposed photograph of the Big Dipper on  newspaper image done by Natalie

1361. The spring is coming by many a sign… ~Excerpted line from a poem by John Clare

I have said that there was
great pleasure in watching
the ways in which different plants
come through the ground,
and February and March are
the months in which that
can best be seen.
~Henry N. Ellacombe

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March! March! March!
They are coming In troops to the tune of the wind.
Redheaded woodpeckers drumming,
Gold – crested thrushes behind;
Sparrows in brown jackets, hopping
Past every gateway and door;
Finches, with crimson caps, stopping
Just where they stopped before.

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March! March! March! They are slipping
Into their places at last. . .
Literature white lily buds, dripping
Under the showers that fall fast;
Buttercups, violets, roses;
Tulip and bluebell and pink;
Daffodils and saucer magnolias
Throng upon throng of sweet posies
Bending the dewdrops to drink.

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March! March! March! They will hurry
Forth at the wild bugle sound,
Blossoms and birds in a flurry,
Fluttering all over the ground.
Shake out your flags, birch and willow!
Shake out your red tassels, larch!
Grass blades, up from your earth – pillow.
Hear who is calling you. . . March.
~Edited and adapted poem
by Lucy Larcom

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Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. ~Song of Songs 2:12 ✝

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**All photos taken by Natalie except the one of the House Finch.

1360. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you. ~Rumi

The Wine and the Cup

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The wine of divine grace is limitless:
All limits come only from the faults of the cup.
Moonlight floods the whole sky from horizon to horizon;
How much it can fill your room depends on its windows.
Grant a great dignity, my friend, to the cup of your life;
Love has designed it to hold His eternal wine.

~Rumi

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. ~Excerpt from Galatians 1:15  ✝

**Image found on Pinterest; specical effects done on iPiccy

1249. The bee’s life is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water. ~Karl Von Frisch

Bees do have a smell, you know,
and if they don’t they should,
for their feet are dusted with
spices from a million flowers.
~Ray Bradbury

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I could do that.
I could nuzzle into those blossoms,
bury my nose in that corolla,
rub my belly all over with that
succulent pollen.

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I could live in that body
with the requisite pose,
with the honeybee’s reticent
enthusiasm,

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never taking too much from any one blossom,
never quarreling with my fellow foragers,
keeping my pollen-sacs well-balanced,
eyes shined, antennae erect

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I could master the dance steps–
I love to dance.
And I have no qualms about
humming the solar anthem
dawn to dusk,
praising the fire in my wings as the one
and only engine of pure transport.

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Just don’t ask me
to enter the hive. I get anxious
even thinking of that buzzing horde,
packed together in angelic densities. Inside
I can’t tell which are the brood chambers
and which are the tombs, which is the honeycomb
and which are the catacombs.

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To whom do I bow? Where do I spit?
What if the guard bees take me for an interloper?
And what will the queen do
if she catches me alone?

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So maybe
I’m not ready for that life.
Maybe I haven’t even figured out
how to be a human–

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how to walk straight
pay attention,
try to keep my head out of the clouds.
~Honeybeeing by Charles Goodrich

Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. ~Proverbs 24:13 ✝

**Images via Pinterest and Pixabay

1243. Pay attention. Be astonished. And tell about it. ~Mary Oliver

Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way
by Mary Oliver

If you’re John Muir you want trees
to live among. If you’re Emily
(or Natalie), a garden will do.
Try to find the right place for yourself.
If you can’t find it, at least dream of it.

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When one is alone and lonely, the body
gladly lingers in the wind or the rain,
or splashes into the cold river, or
pushes through the ice-crusted snow.

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Anything that touches.

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God, or the gods, are invisible, quite
understandable. But holiness is visible,
entirely.

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Some words will never leave God’s mouth,
no matter how hard you listen.

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In all the works of Beethoven, you will
not find a single lie.

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All important ideas must include the trees,
the mountains, and the rivers.

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To understand many things you must reach
out of your own condition.

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For how many years did I wander slowly
through the forest. What wonder and
glory I would have missed had I ever been
in a hurry!

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Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still
it explains nothing.

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The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.

Stop and be astonished… ~Excerpt from Isaiah 29: 9 ✝

**All images taken by Natalie; the 3 collages by Natalie