1351. Stella, oh, Stella, Stella! Stella for Star! ~Excerpted line from A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

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

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In north central Texas where I live, more often than not, we have a winter warm up for a week or so in January. It’s just enough for a few things to believe that spring has arrived and subsequently bloom weeks earlier than normal. As a result of this year’s January warm up, my first magnolia stellata, sometimes called the star magnolia, opened this morning believing that springtime had indeed arrived. Her white, tinged with pink, beauty intoxicated, as it always does, not only my soul but also my eyes. Thus  I found myself uttering the usual litany of words about her stellar loveliness, words like exquisite, gorgeous, magnificent, elegant and so on. However, I given that I’m certain the magnolia has been egregiously duped by January’s treacherous travesty,  I also offered up a prayer that none of her succeeding blooms should perish before the return to winter that February will bring.

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Ecclesiastes 3:4 tell us there’s “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…,” and what amazes me is that even the creatures and beauties of the field seem to know this. The more I observe the goings on in my garden and other aspects of Creation, the more awestruck I become with its plans, its workings, and its Maker. God’s promises are rock solid and too is His faithfulness in keeping them. For no matter what may strike at the foundations of Creation, nothing stops it cycles and continuation. Another thing that simply blows my mind is that God specifically chose all of you and I to partner with Him in Creation’s amazing and ongoing drama. Perhaps that’s something we should contemplate and let sink down deep in our spirits every day and then thereafter take great delight in the peace that comes with such an awareness.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… ~Ecclesiastes 3:1  ✝

1042. Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. ~Berthold Auerbach

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents
And as silently steal away.
~Edited lines by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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In January, as winter begins to deepen, the rhythms that “wash away from the soul the dust of everyday life” grow faint, as if whispered. However, when nature’s earthly notes are muffled by icy gales, heavy frosts, or falling snow, the “echo of the spheres” overheard remains audible. And on the less chilly days, the ones between cold fronts, bits and pieces of tender, albeit potent, harmonies often continue to rise. Today, for example, I spotted the tiny tips of hyacinth bulbs breaking the cold, hard ground, and as if escaping through the tiny fissures the bulbs had created, Eden’s heartbeat jumped up another fraction of a decibel. Even on the really, really forbiddingly cold days, within the sounds of silence, there are pauses, ripe and pregnant, that are as eloquent as notes and lyrics. For it is in those rests and pauses that can be heard dulcet sounds, soothing honeyed ones which are recognized not by the ears, but by the soul. And although it has been said that trees and flowers grow in utter silence while the sun, the moon, and the stars above our heads do the same, I’m not sure that’s true. I contend that on any  given day of the year if one listens with a hunger in the heart and a thirst in the soul, the footfalls of God can yet be ascertained upon the sacred soil of Creation and His voice which spoke everything into being can still be heard echoing amid the orbs of the firmament. That’s why if one stills him or herself and earnestly seeks Yahweh’s face, it can be made out even winter’s inhospitable bleakness. And after it’s glimpsed, one’s ears can also discern the sweet, sweet sounds of the Father’s loving utterances as He calls out to His beloved children.

The music is not in the notes,
but in the silence in between.
~Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day… ~Excerpt from Genesis 3:8 ✝

**Images via Pinterest; collage created by Natalie

1032….that blast of January would blow you through and through. ~William Shakespeare

The night is darkening around me,
The wild winds coldly blow…
~Excerpt from a poem
by Emily Brontë

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The world is resting without sound or motion,
And behind the oak tree the sun goes down
Painting with fire the spires and the windows
In my tree-shaded neighborhood.

Beyond calm streets pastures lie
Silvered with haze as fruits still fresh with bloom,
And the birds weave in flight across the zenith
On a sudden aerial loom.

Into the garden peace comes back with twilight,
Peace that since noon had left the remains of purple phlox,
Heavy-headed asters, the late roses
And the swaying spent hollyhocks.

For at high-noon I heard from this same garden
The far-off murmur as when gales are coming;
Up from the south and down from the north beating
Their stormy music like a drum;

And then hysterical sirens shattered
The brittle winter air,
To say that fierce storms are marching
Across towns and fields and open prairie.

But before the skies rage, they morph
Into violet, for the veils of dusk grow deep —
As earth takes her children’s many sorrows
And stills herself to sleep.
~Edited and adapted poem
by Sara Teasdale

…at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. ~Proverbs 7:9  ✝

**Images via Pinterest, collage by Natalie

653. He (winter) withers all in silence, and his hand unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life. ~William Blake

Drops fell…and rang like
little disks of metal.
Ping! Ping! and there was not
a pinpoint of silence 
between them.
~Amy Lowell

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Mama, mama mía! Here we go again! Down, down, down plummet the temps! And this time newly birthed lives will be lost in the chicanery of this winter skirmish.

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Why? Because here in north central Texas late January and early February often conjure up enough unseasonably warm days to convince the land that spring has sprung. And the dastardly scoundrels have done it again!

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These two deceiving culprits have successfully hoodwinked gardens and parks alike into believing it is time for blooming things to emerge from branch and soil. Now, after their two-faced, heartless lies, a harsh north wind doth blow.

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Moreover, freezing rain is falling and soon will switch to sleet and/or snow. In the frigid, darkness of night, the samaras of a Red Maple, the yellows of a smattering of daffodils and forsythia as well as the pinks and whites of some saucer magnolias will be washed out leaving only the browns of death and decay. Oh what a wicked, wicked, fickle web Mother Nature ofttimes weaves.

So that your trust may be in the Lord, I teach you today, even you. ~Proverbs 22:19   ✝

625. Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. ~Sir Walter Scott

So long sad times
Pull along bad times
You are now a thing of the past.
The skies are clear again.
So let’s sing a song of cheer again!
Happy times,
happy nights,
happy days 
are here again!
~Excerpted lyrics from song 
by Benny Meroff

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The birds are chirping happy tunes. High in the trees the squirrels are happily scampering to and fro. Lengthening sunny days are making those who till the soil happy. And happy little seedling are growing bigger in the warmth. But hold on just a minute! Something’s terribly wrong with this picture. After all it’s still January and therefore winter. So why all the happy dances? Could it be that lies are being spread? As a matter of fact they are, and it happens nearly every year here in north central Texas. In mid to late January the sun begins to speak seductively of springtime, and it tells the fairy tale so well and so long that the land is duped into believing the fallacy. What’s more the unusual warming trend often extends into February making it a partner-in-crime in the treacherous deception. And then wham, bam!!! Winter reclaims its hold on the land. But that’s not the end of the story. Spring will arrive at its ordained “hour upon the stage” for no matter what happens, God is still in control and what He has promised will come to pass.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. ~Ecclesiastes 7:14   ✝

**Image via Pinterest

617. Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. ~Anne Frank

Life is full of beauty.
Notice it.
Notice the bumble bee, the small child,
and the smiling faces.
Smell the rain, and feel the wind.
~Ashley Smith

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Oh, the green, green, green of fresh growing things; the scent, scent, scent of fragrant flowery things; and the buzz, buzz, buzzing of little, busy bees. But wait, wait, wait! Back that “wagon” up and hold on just a minute! It’s still January and therefore wintertime. So what’s up with the green, the flowers, the aromas, and the buzzes? Ah the joyous blessing of a greenhouse filled with thriving, flowering, sweet smelling things! The only downside to such is that the bees seem to think the greenhouse is solely their domain and so object to a human interloper’s pottering visits. But then again, I seem to be developing a history outside the garden of adverse encounters with the wee buzzing folk. In my recent tale about a trip to Paris two years ago, I neglected to mention that on the very first day of our long-longed for visit to that magical city, we got off the metro, walked to the Pont Alexandre, and as we turned to walk on the gorgeously adorned bridge where I would get my first view of some of the city including the Eiffel Tower, I was stung on my face by a bee. But let me assure you that the subsequent outpouring of tears had absolutely nothing to do with the bee’s assault and everything to do with the legendary marvels that now lay before my very own eyes. And ya know, it didn’t stop me from the joy and the journey then and there nor will it keep me from the same in my greenhouse for both were and are filled with unforgettable beauty, fabulous fragrances, breathtaking spectacles, and beguiling allures.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” ~Numbers 6:24-26   ✝

**I took this photo in my greenhouse.  The bee was nectaring on a gorgeous anemone.

607. He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter… ~John Burroughs

The simplicity of winter has a deep moral.
The return of Nature, after such a career of splendor
and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere,
is not lost either upon the head or the heart.
It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet
and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread.
~John Burroughs

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At daybreak yesterday winter’s customary leaden skies spread out in brilliant, China blues, and the cold, cold January day issued forth golden streaks of sunlight that ran across the wheat-colored lawn. Blanketed in warmth inside, I sat for some time enjoying an untroubled spectacle and watching the birds fly back and forth from feeders to their sheltering places.  But soon the serenity of the scene was threatened by four feral cats who moved in, crouched down, and inched along the ground in hopes of securing a tasty “catch” for the day. However, as luck would have it, one of the birds spied the predators, sounded the alarm, and off they all flew. When the cats tired of waiting, they wandered off, and the birds returned to their feeding frenzy. Eventually I spotted the one for whom I’d been waiting; he, a bright red cardinal, zoomed in and perched momentarily atop the feeder pole, a throne not wholly unbefitting his majesty. As I lingered watching his bright red flashes flit about here, there, and everywhere, I realized that last night’s blustery north wind had ceased, and now only sporadic zephyrs were ruffling the bamboo’s leaves. And so it was that a splendid morn had unfolded and everything within my frame of vision had been steeped in a heavenly quietude, a “chirpy” kind of beauty, and a soothing calmness. What a healing balm tis such for one, wearied, crestfallen, and grappling with pain! The Lord, in His loving and mysterious ways, had tipped over my cup of despair and once more filled it to overflowing with His loving grace. O Eden, how you yet issue benedictions that fill and thrill the children of your faithful, Master Gardener.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. ~Genesis 2:15   ✝

**Image via Pinterest