A tree, by the beach, on the Potomac!

Who knew!  Well, a lot of people did.  After decades of living in the DC area, I finally paid a visit to the Mason Neck State Park, by the banks of the Potomac in Lorton Virginia.  Having lived in Northern Virginia for years, I still remember Lorton as the place were prisoners were kept.  And yet today, on the grounds of the penitentiary, suburbia has taken root.

Meanwhile, by the home of George Mason (Gunston Hall), the Potomac River widens on its way to the Chesapeake Bay.  There are several places to visit in this beautiful area of Virginia.  Pohick Bay Regional Park.  The Elizabeth Hartwell National Wildlife Refuge (bald eagles!).  And Mason Neck State Park.  And on the sandy beach on the river, I heard the voices of dogs barking, people frolicking in the water (I hope it’s safe!!!).  And saw this.

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The beauty of reeds

Reeds.  Where there’s water, there are reeds.  Most of the time.  From the Nile River, where the early writers got their start, to the Potomac River and the many ponds that dot northern Virginia, reeds are everywhere.  For years, I never paid attention to the stalks growing in the wild.  Until one day, as the dimming, slanted light of the late afternoon sun wandered into my eyes, I saw the beauty of reeds.

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A month later, on a frustrating morning looking for eagles by the marshes of the Potomac on the Elizabeth Hartwell Wildlife Refuge, a momentary glitter attracted my attention.  More reeds!  And not just green ones.  A single yellowish brown stalk jutted between its green brethren.

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Reeds..  They are around us.  The as with many of the things we tend to ignore, they are beautiful.

Don’t stop with the first picture

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This is one view of the tulip garden at Meadowlark Gardens. After two days of taking pictures of the tulips at Meadowlark Gardens, the picture above is the one that “moves” me the most.  A day earlier, I was at the same spot in the garden, taking pictures of the tulips.  Here is my view of the tulips, a day earlier.

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It’s a good idea to come back to the same place, at different times, to have a fresh look at the “scenery.”  Light plays an important role in every photograph.  It affects the mood, the atmosphere.  Coupled with a different point of view (accomplished by pointing the camera about ninety degrees to the previous image axis results in a totally different type of image.  Or you could have taken the picture below.  I supposed it’s not bad, but is it as interesting?

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Digital photography makes it easy to experiment with what you are “seeing.”  It doesn’t mean that you need to take the same picture seven to ten times.  It means looking at the same thing with a differently each time you click the shutter.  Variety.  The spice of life.

Once Upon a Time

Family values.  What is that, exactly?  In a world in which we are bombarded by words and images from so many different sources, we lose track, sometimes, of what’s really important in life.  This past Sunday was a reminder of what it means to be a faithful servant to God.  Living a life of service to others is the great goal that we, as individuals, should strive for.  The canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II should be an inspiration to us all.  In our busy lives, how often do we stop to contemplate the many blessings that we have been given, let alone take the time to really give ourselves to others?  It doesn’t have to be dramatic.  A hug, a kind word, things that we sometimes take for granted can mean so much to others.  I am especially guilty of such lapses.

The title for this post is also the name of my favorite show on television.  You can be forgiven to think that this fantastic fantasy show is all about fairy tales.  It is that and so much more.  There are dwarves, ogres, heroes and villains galore. Earlier in the season, they had Peter Pan. Now they have the Wicked Witch of the West. And yet, for all the trappings of magic and fantasy, this is a show, that in its heart, is a manifesto of tenderness, forgiveness, longing, sacrifice and yes, love.  If you’ve never seen this show, watch if from the first season.  If you must watch only one episode, watch the episode “Skin Deep.”

In the early 90′s, Disney came out with the fantastic animated film, “Beauty and the Beast.” To me, that movie was one of the greatest love stories ever told. Imagine the story retold, with even more poignancy and depth.  The great Robert Carlyle, one of the most versatile and accomplished actors in the planet, and the beautiful Emily de Ravin make this forty five minutes or so of escapism a reflection of what it means to be human.   Vanity and despair, through sacrifice and understanding, give way, slowly, to something that changes the lives of two people, profoundly.  Fear gives way to hope.  Understanding gives way to forgiveness.   And through forgiveness, love is born.  The moral of a fairy tale. The words preached and lives lived by two remarkable men.

Arches National Park

It’s been a little over four years ago since we visited Arches National Park.  It’s still fresh in my mind.  The sheer beauty of the red rocks, the wonderful hikes, the mountains – it’s one of the great places to visit in Utah, a state blessed with abundant natural beauty.  I was looking at pictures from this trip and noticed several (well a lot, really) unprocessed images.  Here is one such picture, finally finding the light of day after being stored in the hard drive for years.

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This image was taken on the way back from a walk to Landscape Arch, in the Devil’s Garden area of the park.  The arch is one of the longest such formation in the world. 

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Ideally, one should plan these trips to take advantage of sun positioning and get to the place at a specific time and date to get the sun in the right part of the picture.  How many family vacations are actually planned out like that?  The highlight of this hike, though, is that my then eighty one year old grand aunt actually walked the mile or so trail to the arch.  I think if she were younger she would have beaten us to the arch, such was and is the enthusiasm that she has for life.  May well have the same sense of joy and wonder in our lives.

The Flowers are Coming Out

It’s springtime in Virginia and while the Nationals are yet to hit their stride, the flowers are certainly hitting theirs.  In suburban Vienna, Virginia, one can find fresh air and solitude amongst the ponds, the trees, the geese and the flowers.  Even in early spring, the beauty of nature is asserting itself.  It’s amazing that this gem of a garden is only a ten minute drive from the rapidly growing urban corridor known as Tyson’s Corner.

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And if flowers are not enough, have a sit by a pond and enjoy the sound of water shooting up a fountain.

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Cool afternoons, colorful flowers, water everywhere.  The power of three.

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Afternoon walks in the park, with the wind gently blowing as you pass the pond, the gazebo, the Korean Bell and Pavilion.  Who said a little bit of exercise can’t be fun?