Gift #1021: The Hills and His Provision

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

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He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

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The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

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The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

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As we enter into a new week, may your heart be at peace and your mind be at rest knowing God’s love and provision for you never wane.  May you find beauty and see His face.  And may you know that you are loved forevermore and are held in His faithful hands.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1020: Dressing Downton

I’ve had some difficulty with internet connectivity the past several days, but I think wifi is cooperating enough right now to get in a blog post.  I’ve been so excited to share some of my recent trip to Cincinnati.  Every year my mom and I go to attend the Stampaway event, which is a large rubber stamp show.  We started off just going to Cinci once a year – down on a Friday afternoon and back Sunday morning, only for the show.  Now that we’ve gotten to know the city better, both Mom and I are hopelessly smitten. We go down on a Thurs morning and don’t come back till Sunday night – and we visit several times a year.  We are always finding new things to see and do – the city is full of delightful places.  This past spring we became acquainted with Taft Museum of Art when we went to see the Daubigny exhibit.  We made plans to return in August because they were hosting the “Dressing Downton” exhibit.  I’m not a diehard fan of the show, but I do especially enjoy the historical period when the first part of the show is set.  The costumes and the grand home are my favorite aspects of Downton.  Since I didn’t think Highclere Castle would be touring the US anytime soon, I jumped at a chance to see the costumes instead.

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The exhibit was very well displayed, with about 20 costumes you could admire up close.  Many were oriented so that you could see the back of the garment as well.  Pictured here are a few of my favorites.  The theme centered on relationship between clothing and culture.  The 1910s saw a dramatic shift in every aspect of society.  In many ways it was the swansong of a passing era, but it was also the birth of “modernity”.  The exhibit did a fascinating job of exploring the ideas, traditions, and hopes of each generation portrayed in the drama.  And now to the costumes!  Pictured above is Violet’s iconic costume – this was the first on display.  And we got to see the hat too!

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This iconic dress was a delight to behold.  One of the things I appreciated about the costumes was that they incorporated original fabrics and trims whenever possible.  Such was the case with this piece of lace which was converted into an overlay for the dress. I love everything about this one.

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Sybil’s day dress was a surprise for me.  On screen it looks blue, but it’s actually more of a grey color.  I learned that there was no formal color palette for the three daughters, but they still seemed to gravitate to particular colors to give each of the actresses a unique personality.  Sybil often was dressed in soft cool tones of grey, blues, and purples to accentuate her sweet and selfless demeanor.  We also learned in a lecture that this particular costume is a bit more subdued with black tassels because the family was in mourning during the 1st season.  Each  character wears black in their costumes in different ways.

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This evening dress was incredibly stunning and one of my favorites.  The bodice and front of the gown is completely beaded in a dramatic art deco style.  Embroidered flowers and sewn-in pearls add additional details.  All of this was hand-stitched and it made my heart flutter.  The long velvet overcoat has hand-stitched gold beads all along the edge.  Here’s a close up.  It was so feminine and elaborate.

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To round out the selection for today, this last photo may initially seem like a let-down after the evening gowns, but this one would be the one I’d like best to own.  I love this one dearly.

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It’s beauty is in it’s tailored practicality and understated details.  Though not covered in beadwork, it’s every bit as beautiful and full of workmanship.  The traveling coat is made of boiled wool in a fitted, graceful style.  It features dyed fur cuffs and collar (and we’re just going pretend it’s faux fur)  Accessories are modest and tasteful – a matching velvet purse and a hat which is the crowing glory of this ensemble.  It made me long for the days when a lady would wear such a thing to board a train with her steamer trunks for winter holiday.  Hands encased in warm velvet gloves and maybe a lace knit shawl for added warmth about the neck… oh, why don’t we dress like that anymore?

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Here’s a closeup of the hat.  Oh, my goodness!  Isn’t it beautiful?  I love the way the brim is blocked to slightly flair up above the face at that angle.  And there’s yards of dyed silk wrapped in a bow around the crown.  It’s brilliantly executed indeed.  While the exhibit extolled the progress of the decades ahead, I think most people, myself included, came away with a feeling of nostalgia.  On the “other side” of progress we can acknowledge that not all the revolutionary changes propelling us into the modern age were necessarily better. They came with their own set of unique problems, and I think that forges a bond between us and the characters of Downton.  Our times are not dissimilar from theirs; like the characters upstairs and down, we also struggle to make sense of a changing world, to have a sense of purpose, to find love, and make the most of the time we’re given….  although one can’t help but think it would be easier with tea and a beaded gown…

Blesssings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1019: July Art Bead Scene Challenge

Before July passed to far in the rearview mirror, I thought perhaps we should cap off the month with a review of the July Art Bead Scene challenge.

Our inspiration for the month was “Fireworks at Ryogoku” No. 98 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 8th month of 1858 by Utagawa Hiroshige.  This is a fine woodblock print in the classic Japanese tradition.  Earlier this year I fell in love with the work of Gustave Baumann who captured the Midwest and Western US in glorious woodblock images.  For that reason alone I have a soft spot for the artform and was excited to work with this piece.  It was custom at the time for boats to float on the Sumida River to enjoy summer evenings and host spectacular fireworks at dusk.  Entertainment, food, and drink made for a pleasant diversion during summer.  The artist was reknown for his landscape prints, often featuring birds and flowers.  This was among the last of his works.

One thing you’ll notice right away is that there’s not much color.  The print is saturated in dark tones with brief bursts of color.  Because I don’t tend to make pieces that are very dark, I wanted to try with this challenge.  Here is the necklace that I designed.

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I used a lily pendant from Humblebeads which was in a destash bundle of beads I bought earlier this year.  The dark grey/teal of the pendant matched with the print very well and I thought the floral sketch yielded an oriental feel.  To pair with the pendant, I used a strand of rough-cut dark aquamarine stones that I found in Cincinnati this spring.  The colors melded beautifully with the pendant and reminded me of the dark liquid tones of deep water.  To flesh out the design I used Hill Tribe silver spacers, beads, and clasp which are stamped with a little floral design on them that echoed the oriental inspiration.   It’s a little heavier than designs I usually create, but the silver helps lighten the overall piece and I’m rather pleased.  I had originally planned to use just a few of the aquamarine stones, but when I saw how lovely they were with the pendant, I decided to string the whole necklace with them.  I hope I can find some more!  They are a bit darker in life than the picture shows, with incredible rich colors.

Unfortunately I could not make the stones work in an earring design – they were just too big for that.  Instead I used some glass Czech beads in dark grey/purple finish.  I used them as dangles and thought they looked like umbrella-type buildings that are popular in eastern architecture.  They are paired with a couple different beads in teal hues (one of my favorite colors so I have lots of beads to choose from!) and more silver spacers.

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I’m really enjoying the selections of art this year – not so much for the art itself, but for how it inspires and makes me think of designing jewelry in new ways.  I’ve already had a peak at August’s art and it’s going to a fun challenge too and make me exercise my creative muscles.  Maybe you’ll play along too?

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1018: Alpine Gardens

First there were computer issues.  So much so that the computer needed to go to the “doctor” and stay for a couple of days to get back in business.  Then there were blog issues that I’ve spent many, many hours over several days trying to settle.  I think I’ve got the problem settled (and all on my own too!  Blog support was less than helpful).  I’ve missed blogging and there’s still lots to share from my Denver trip.  Today I wanted to show you my favorite garden at Denver Botanic Gardens.  My mom and I spend a great deal of time here when we come to visit.  It’s one of the first gardens we enjoy and we spend our last hours of the day here too, savoring its beauty.  The gardens are filled with rocky outcroppings, hardy perennials in bloom, succulents, and alpine plants.

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Here are some of my favorite plants from the gardens.

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Sea holly is a plentiful flower in the native gardens and gives a bright flash of color everywhere it blooms.

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This little demure beauty is a favorite of mine.  We first noticed it last year and tried to identify it, but there were multiple ID tags associated with the plant and it was hard to know which was correct.  After some corroboration this year, I’m 80% sure it’s an ornamental oregano, but it really doesn’t look like any oregano I’ve ever seen.  Thoughts anyone?

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My abiding love for seed pods and spent flowers continues unabated in this garden and when we visit in early July, there’s plenty of both – flowers in full bloom and tantalizing seed pods of all shapes and textures.  Some times these floral forms look just like fireworks!

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There’s so many lovely flowers and grasses in this garden that I think I could stay here forever.  I think one of the reasons I love it so much is because it does strongly resemble the mountain meadows that I cherish.  I forget I’m in a cultivated garden and let the echoes of wild mountain air stir my heart and I feel profoundly and utterly at home.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #1017:Denver Botanic Garden

Today I wanted to share some more floral pics from one of my most favorite places on earth – Denver Botanic Gardens.  I love this place and dream of it near daily throughout the year.  It’s a beautiful place, especially in summer, and my mom and I love spending the whole day there strolling through the gardens and exhibits.  During summer months they are open for 12 hours! 12 glorious hours and it’s still not enough time!  The pictures today are from the O’Fallon perennial garden, which is a long walkway bordered on both sides by tall evergreen shrubs and tons of flowers.

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It ends at a little courtyard with roses and a gazebo, then the walkway turns to a sunken garden which is new and is filling in nicely with plenty of roses, accented by annuals.

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A couple  of years ago the gardens hosted installations of the famous glass artist Chuilly.  He did a fabulous job creating organic pieces that accented the beauty of the gardens.  This stunning piece was left on permanent display and is a focal point in the new garden.

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As the path meanders along the back of the gardens, you can stop to rest in this lovely conservatory.  It was installed a few years ago and quickly became a favorite place.  Nestled among large trees and shade gardens, the green filigree of the Victorian structure lends a stately, historic feel to the spot.  It’s where we eat lunch and spend some time knitting. It’s always felt Disney-esque to my mind and this year there was a new sign explaining the history of the conservatory.  Surprisingly, they were commissioned by EuroDisney but they cancelled the order after they were made.  They sat up assembled in a warehouse for over 20 years before being auctioned.  A donor bought one and gifted it to the gardens.  It’s the only one on public display.  What an amazing story!  And I was right about the Disney feeling!

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There are are lots of photos to share.  I took an embarrassing 800+ photos during our visit! I’ll be posting more in the near future as the are only from 3  of the gardens.  I hope your weekend is filled with flowers.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

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Gift #1016: Thoughts on Life

Sometimes I feel like my blog is a frivolous thing and that posting of various experiences or places I love is a waste of time in light of the world’s problems and difficulties.  Tonight is one of those nights.  My heart is burdened with the weight of knowing there’s so much evil in the world (and sin in my own heart) and it’s hard not to fixate on that.  In fact, it’s hard to see anything else.  Promises of a coming world where God’s kingdom makes all things new feels like a distant mirage.  And deep down in my heart I wonder if it’s all just a pipe dream.  It’s a times like this that there’s a crucial decision to be made – am I going to wallow in my feelings, convinced that the only reality is the one I see, or am I going to preach the truth of the gospel to my heart?  Am I going to believe that God is bigger than all the mess or not?  One of the great gifts of the biblical record is the that as you read it, you understand that our time is not unique.  Biblical accounts are filled to overflowing with the same problems we face today – no group of people is immune from the effects of sin.  Way back in the beginning chapters of human history we find them struggling with the exact same situations and hurts and fears.

One of the devotional sources I follow, called Today in the Word, is going through the book of Genesis this month.  One of the themes as we’ve reviewed the first interactions between God and His people has been the enormous weight of sin that clouds each of the narratives.  Murders, deception, stealing, hatred, and violence form the substance of human history.  But the glorious message that seeps through is that God has stepped in.  As God builds relationships with the individuals highlighted in Genesis, you see judgement turned to blessing, outcasts find homes, want turns to abundance, enemies become friends, hurt heals into ministry, sin is forgiven, and sinners become saints.  God’s power and presence rewrote each story – and out of ruinous despair came new life and a glorious testament of God’s grace.  Though it’s hard to see now, what we’re living now is not the final word.  God is bigger and His grace is greater.  His promise is the reality.   While we wait for that glorious fulfillment, God has given us many reminders of His grace, provision, and love for us.  Not the least of those is flowers – and so I leave you with a few pictures of some flowers – the beautiful love notes God drops for us along the path of life.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1015: Three Sisters Park

Whew! This has been a long week and it’s not even Wed yet!  I’m having a hard time motivating myself to do much in the evenings beyond stare and half-heartedly attempt my lace shawl.  I’m not sure why I’m so listless, but it’s nothing that a quick mountain romp through the Rockies won’t fix.  So who’s ready for a hike?  Today’s pictures come from Three Sisters park, which my mom and I discovered about 3-4 years ago.  It’s a grand park, with a great mix of trails – easy or hard, short or long, meadow or mountain.. it’s got nearly everything.  There’s only one trouble we’ve had with the park – we can never get in a full day of hiking here because inevitably it starts to rain.  On this trip, the rain descended just as we were packing up lunch and thinking about heading out on another hike.  We had watched the ominous clouds build up.. .

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And then after a few raindrops, it was a torrential downpour!  We waited it out in the car for an hour until it finally let up a bit.  We seized our chance to get some trails in before the next deluge.  One of the parks noted features is a large outcropping in the middle of a field.  In fact, the park is full of unique rock formations and outcroppings that really make the scenery interesting and offer a thousand options for photography.

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I love the mix of woods and boulders.  The trails that I enjoy most in this park are the low-montane ponderosa pine forests.  One year we saw Albert squirrels playing in this park (they are dark grey with enormous ear tufts) and I was nearly raptured with joy.  I’ve never forgotten the experience or the spot on the trail.  They didn’t come back this year, but there was plenty else to see.  Seed pods attract my attention perpetually and rare is the one I don’t try to photograph.

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These were stunning.  I also amuse myself on such hikes by taking pictures of unusual angles of pine trees.  Their limbs jut out in so many directions that it’s fun to capture them behind the lens. I always get a couple of shots from the inside of the tree looking out on the meadow below.

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If we hiked together in person, you’d notice a propensity for dizziness as I’m always torn between looking up at the mountain views and down at what’s at my feet.  Forest treasures abound in these woods and it’s thrilling to see what bits of nature you can find there.  This park has cast off bits of ponderosa branches and stumps like you wouldn’t believe.  They are all so lovely too – windblown into amazing swirly, gnarly shapes!

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I do gather small pieces of them that can fit in the hiking bag or pockets.  At home they decorate shelves or planters.  This year I got braver and some larger pieces came home.  I’ve had to put my foot down about absconding with the stumps… though it’s awfully hard.  Some of those large stumps are amazing!  Ferns linger in the shady bits of the forest where it’s slightly damp.  There weren’t as many this year as in the past, but there were still enough to delight, especially when draped across lichen-crusted rocks.

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And then another storm kicked up, it got cold and windy, and we hastily retreated back along the paths to the car, racing the storm as we went.  Just a few raindrops later we were safely back in the car and headed down to Denver for a tasty dinner.  One day we will spend all day at this park with ne’er a raindrop.  I’m determined…

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Until then, farewell beautiful outcroppings… I can’t wait to see you again!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #1014: Colorado through the seasons

I’ve blogged so often about my special spots in Denver that I rather fear I say the same things every year I go back to visit.  This is especially a concern with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  It is my favorite museum on earth and there are some galleries that I love so much I think I should be well satisfied to live in them.  Most notable among the galleries I love is the Explore Colorado exhibit which has beautiful dioramas of each ecosystem in the state.  I’ve blogged about it several times before and so this time I wanted to share something different.  The dioramas in this museum are incredible in their attention to detail and are the perfect melding of art and science.  I do so wish that I could have lived and worked at the museum when they were being put together.  In addition to the Explore Colorado exhibit, there are several other fine wildlife displays and the one I’m going to share pictures of today is from the North American Wildlife Hall.  They have a series of dioramas featuring deer species in each season of the year.   These are wonderful to admire on their own, but they are especially meaningful to me  to see Colorado in all the seasons.  I only go back in summer now and the beauty of other seasons is consigned to memory alone.  The next best thing to experiencing the year’s progression in person is to at least see them preserved for time in these dioramas.  And so, I give you “the Colorado seasons through the eyes of deer”

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It starts with fall, which is my favorite season.  I only see the aspens in their green leaves now, but I clearly remember the glory of their golden robes.   Seeing Aspen trees at any time is a blessing, but especially at autumn they are one of the wonders of the world.

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Autumn melts into winter and as the trees go bare the landscape mellows.  A grayish cast overshadows the mountains as they are draped in snow.  While there’s still abundant sunshine, it’s dampened and cold and makes one rejoice in a fire and good book.  Or for the more adventurous, it means ski poles and snowshoes!

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Spring brings all the bright joy of returning green to the land.  Unlike the gradual spring of Indy, spring emerges seemingly overnight in Colorado.  Melting snow reveals the emeralds of emerging plants. Green and snow will compete for a while, but winter’s days are numbered.  This scene shows a luscious spring forest warmed with sun and filled with bounty. Oh those aspens!! Be still my heart!

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Summer is a glorious season as well.  Wildflowers fill the mountain meadows in June, blossoming and filling the land with riotous joy.  Bright reds, purples, blues, and pale pinks and whites sparkle against the contrast of heavy deep greens of the montane forest.  By late summer the grasses deepen to brown and seed pods replace the flowers.  All is golden in expectation of autumn,  And so we come full circle.  And in a few minutes I’m reminded again of the passage of time through a Colorado year.  Though I can’t be present for the seasonal dance now, it is embedded in my heart and a trip to the museum brings it all back.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1013: Lair o’ the Bear Park

And now we come to my most beloved park, Lair o’ the Bear.  My mom and I spent 2 days here.  It’s the park we visited most frequently when we lived in Denver and it holds lots of memories for us.  Although one of the smaller parks in the area, it boasts a wide variety of habitats.  There’s trails that takes you up to rocky outcroppings in the mountains, down past meadow grasslands full of wildflowers in summer, and along the banks of a wild stream nestled in the roots of the mountains.  There’s lots to see here and I love observing how the ecosystems change depending on what trail you’re on.  This park has it all.  Here’s a brief photo tour of some of the highlights.

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I’ve no idea what this tree is – perhaps a locust of some sort?  It appears to be in the legume family.  If anyone knows, please tell me.  I’d love to know what to call this beauty.  After all my years living there and visiting, this is the second time I’ve seen them in bloom.  The first was last year – apparently they have a pretty quick bloom time.  We caught the tail end of it this time, but it was still really exciting to see them again.

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While on the meadow trail, I caught sight of this wild poppy.  Most of them had already bloomed, but this beauty was still in its prime.  I love poppies!

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I also love thistles!!  For the past couple of years, they’ve been my favorite wildflower.  Whether in spite of or because of their bristly nature, I’m just fascinated with their form and texture.  I especially like them when they’re just about to open and the stem and bud meld in a wild fusion of green and purple.

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Here’s the crest of the Bruin Bluff Trail, which takes you up from the parking lot through a steep rise up from grasslands to ponderosa pine forests.  Just when you wonder if you’re going to reach the top or not, you turn a curve and there’s the bluff!!  (It’s actually not a grueling hike at all, I’m just exaggerating).  We used to climb all over those rocks when I was a kid.  I think the formation has changed somewhat over the years, but it’s a great picture spot.  After that, there’s a slow descent down the sunny side of the mountain and into aspen groves, before you come out upon the creek again and finish up the loop to the parking lot.

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Here’s a shot of my beloved Bear Creek.  (I took many, many pictures of the river).  Oddly enough, this is the only park we hike in that has a river.  It’s lovely to hike along the banks and listen to the river’s voice.  It was loud and trilling this time as it was full from snow melt this spring.  Jubilant water droplets sprayed up from rocks and birds sweep across the river snatching up insects.

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We stop at an obliging rock to dangle our feet in the icy water after a long day of hiking and to do some knitting.  Here is where my skein of blue/green yarn was birthed into a shawl.  I wasn’t planning to bring this yarn with me, but it kept insisting it was meant to come to Denver and I think I agree.  It melts into the lichen-colored rocks most beautifully and will be a treasured project for that reason.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1012: Hudson Gardens

I hope you all have been enjoying the weekend.  We had lovely weather here and I spent the majority of the day at Eagle Creek park, one of my happy places in Indy.  Today  I wanted to share one of my happy places in Denver – Hudson Gardens.  We began and ended our trip to Denver in this idyllic little spot.  I daydream about this garden all year long.  It’s filled with wonderful garden beds and whimsical sculptures.  There’s a garden railroad, a chocolate garden (the plants are either dark foliage or varieties named after chocolate), an herb garden, pumpkin patch, vegetable gardens, a Hobbit Hollow, songbird walk, and lots of water gardens.  I’m fond of it because many of the garden areas are styled in a natural way, not in formal beds, and they are full of wildflowers and native plants.  They also keep bees, which is very endearing.

My favorite spot is a little grassy island in the middle of the pond, which is accessible via a wooden bridge.  Benches provide places to rest underneath large cottonwood trees.  It’s delightful to just sit there, listen to robins chirping, watch the ducks and geese on the pond, and feel the wind rustling the leaves.  My mom and I come to this spot to knit and enjoy the peace.  I like to walk the grass in my bare feet and look for leaves, feathers, seedpods, and other treasures to collect.  It’s such a joy to return to this spot each year and relish the beauty and serenity of nature.

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Wildflowers in the field

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Dragonflies flit all around you, landing in the sedges and skipping across the pond

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A bit of heaven on earth

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Yarn-bombing my cowl on a goose sculpture.  The yarn colorway is called “Monet” and I knit with it in the garden called “Monet’s Place”.. coincidence??  I think not!

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I love the reflection of the trees in the pond below.  Something about this photo reminds me of a painting… Monet’s maybe?

Blessings to you,
Sarah

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