Gift # 1169: Cathedrals and Gardens

Whew!  It was a long and busy week.  I’ve been trying to rest and gather strength for the one coming up.  As I’ve enjoyed some quiet peace this weekend, I wanted to share one of the special places that we visited on our England trip – the city of Lichfield.  We had migrated up from London for our next stage in our trip – exploring the Midlands and Peak District.  This involved my first experience with the National Rail System.  I had been looking forward to all the train travel we would be doing and I loved being on the trains.  In less than 2 hours we found ourselves on the outskirts of a quaint city with a whole day of exploring to do.

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Naturally our first order of business was the cathedral.  Lichfield has a beautifully impressive three-spired cathedral (the only Medieval cathedral in Europe to boast 3 spires).  It was so large that I couldn’t manage the whole thing in my viewfinder from any vantage point.

Construction on the cathedral was started in 1195 and was completed in the 1330s.  It is built of sandstone quarried at Lichfield and is heavily carved with ornate motifs, kings, queens, and saints.

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The inside is stunningly beautiful.  A9E06F63-EAE8-4B53-904C-C7BA9ED65D23Although we visited a number of stunning churches I never got tired of gazing down through the center of the church and marveling at the arches and and columns and high vaulted ceilings.  They sent chills up my spine.  In this photo you can see the interior lights from the church mingling with the stained-glass tinted light filtering in through the windows and playing along the sandstone walls.  The original stained glass from the church was destroyed during the Civil War, but has been replaced with medieval stained glass from other sources.

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As you enter a cathedral, you move down the nave – which is the center aisle leading to the crossing.  At the crossing, there are north and south transepts that host quiet, smaller chapels for prayers and reflection.  In this crossing area, is the lectern, which I took pictures of in every cathedral we visited.  This one at Lichfield was stunning in the way it wrapped around the sandstone columns with the ornate metal screening on the railing.

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As you continue moving eastward through the cathedral, you enter the Quire, which is usually separated with a carved or decorated screen.  The Lichfield Cathedral’s screen (pictured above) dates from Victorian era when this intricate metal screen replaced the stone carved medieval screen.  I was absolutely enchanted with the Quires in all the cathedrals we visited.  They were filled with ornate metal and woodwork and there’s scarcely a square inch in these spaces that hasn’t been embellished. Along the sides of the Quire are the stalls where officials of the city would gather during services and these featured beautiful carvings and decoration as well.

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Beyond the Quire lies the heart of the cathedral – the sanctuary, or high altar, where eucharist is offered.

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At this point I must confess to a certain amount of envy.  The churches that I’ve attended did not emphasize architectural beauty and I’ve never had so much as a pane of stained glass, let alone sculpture in a church.  This filled my heart with inexplicable joy and awe.  My soul was fashioned to worship in such surroundings as these.   Everything in the cathedral is designed to lift the hearts and souls of the worshipers to see God in these surroundings and to tell His story of redemption.  The church was meant to be a separate and sacred place from the dirt, grime, and distress of daily life; a place where those who entered could find refuge, restore their souls, and catch a glimpse of heaven.

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Cathedrals are a feast for all the senses – not just the eyes.  The music of worship is an integral part of the cathedral.  Glorious music is designed to capture the heart and lead worshipers in praise and honor of God, celebrating His mighty deeds and His faithful love.  It was a delightful experience to be able to hear the organ and choirs throughout our visits to the cathedrals.

After our wonderful time in the cathedral, we sought out a brief respite of tea and scones before exploring the rest of the city.  Several notable individuals lived here, and Lichfield was known as a city of residence for philosophers and poets.  We spent some time exploring the gardens of Erasmus Darwin.  (His home is open for tours as well, but we got there later in the afternoon and didn’t go inside).

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The gardens were beautiful and in the height of blooms.  Afternoon sun drenched the area in golden light.  The gardens were arranged down a winding brick path according to the plant’s uses – cutting garden, medicinal garden, dyer’s garden, etc.  While we were there admiring the garden, we met the garden caretaker herself:

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She was deeply appreciative of our admiration of the garden and only demanded many pets as admission.  She was an enthusiastic and affectionate guide who proceeded to accompany us through the garden and show us her favorite spots.  (Apparently she was also quite fond of our feet as she planted herself on them frequently and refused to move till we had petted her).  Artwork and sculpture dotted the garden and this was our guide’s favorite one (I know because she told me so).

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I complimented her taste and told her it was my favorite too.  We thanked our hostess and gave her many goodbye pats as we had to start making our way to the train station.  As we left I turned back for one more look and took my favorite photo in Lichfield – the view of the Cathedral framed by Darwin’s garden.

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I hope you enjoyed this peaceful stroll through Lichfield.  It was a charming English country town and I enjoyed every moment here – from cathedrals to gardens, there were ordinary miracles everywhere you looked.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1168: Out and About in London

Today we’re back in London with a walking tour of a lovely sunny day.  This was our last full day in London before heading to our next destination and I wanted to make sure that we spent time at Westminster Abbey.

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After waiting in queue for a bit, we entered the sacred halls of this iconic church.  They didn’t allow photography inside, so unfortunately I don’t have those to show you.  They had audio tours that you picked up on your way in and followed a pre-laid out route to see the ground level of the church.  In this way, it was not quite so intimate as exploring on one’s own, but it was more efficient.  This was my first English Cathedral and it was overwhelming.  It’s probably just as well that they didn’t allow photography or they might never have gotten rid of me.  The cathedral itself was glorious and being aware of all the history that has occurred on that site in over 1000 years of worship was awe-inspiring.  All of the cathedrals that we visited are first and primarily functioning places of worship, and at Westminster, they periodically asked that visitors maintain an attitude of silence while prayers were offered.  I was deeply touched by that – several times while we were there, ministers of the cathedral would pray for those who had come from all over the world to be touched by the glory and presence of God at Westminster.

Now one area where we were able to take photographs was in the Chapter House, which had recently undergone restoration.  Chapter Houses were gathering areas for monks, where they would hold meetings and receive instructions.

The entire circular space was filled with stain glass windows at the top, below the glass were medieval paintings depicting scenes from Revelations.  And the tiled mosaic work on the floor was exquisite.

After we toured the ground floor, we decided to go upstairs to the Triforium (a gallery area above the nave and choir of a church) to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries.  This space was renovated and a museum opened to the public in celebration of the Queen’s 60th Anniversary of her rule.  In addition to offering spectacular views of the ground floor of the cathedral, there was an interesting display of artifacts from the cathedral’s history, ranging from art, architecture, daily worship, and its relationship with the monarchy.  I did not realize this, but when a member of the monarchy or prominent citizen was buried at Westminster, a wax figure of the person was put on display, often wearing their own clothing and jewelry.  One of my favorite items on display was a large wooden model of the spire renovations that Christopher Wren was overseeing.  I also got goosebumps walking through the Triforium because we could touch the limber beams that Wren had installed to reinforce the area.

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As we climbed the tower to the Triforium, we were treated to “secret” views of Westminster, not seen from the outside of the building. One of the views was this roof-line that had been decorated with scores of stone-carved beasties – some realistic and some fanciful.  It was enchanting and a personal look at the stone carvers who decorated the cathedral and lavished attention on spaces that most people would never see.

Once it got dangerously near to closing time at Westminster, we decided to walk around London for a while since we still had several hours of daylight left to enjoy.

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The Houses of Parliment are very close and this is a view of those from Victoria Tower Gardens.  I loved walking in this area – the buildings were all magnificent and looked like gold with the afternoon sunlight drenching down.

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We walked to the Thames and over the pedestrian bridge to admire the views of the river.  From there we turned our sights to Buckingham Palace.  We walked the length of St. James Park to get there and it was a beautiful open space park with tall mature trees and sculptured monuments.

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We stopped to admire the palace, and the gates and light fixtures (I won’t tell you how many photos I took of those) and got our pictures out front.  Then my attention was distracted by another set of gates which we just had to explore:

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Aren’t they gorgeous?  I was easily enchanted by gates that day.  These beauties beckoned us to Green Park, and we happily obliged.  It’s one of the Royal Gardens that is open to the public and we enjoyed strolling through the beautiful green spaces in London.  We also walked the length of Buckingham Palace Garden.  (though we couldn’t see much of those gardens because they were hidden behind a tall brick wall.  But we did have fun finding the security cameras and waving at them).  The far end of these gardens terminates at Wellington Arch.

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Wellington’s home was right across the street – at Number 1 London.  And turns out that Hyde Park was just right down the street as well.  So we walked through some of those gardens as well – they were beautiful!

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It was a warm and sunny evening, so we took advantage of an obliging bench to do a bit of knitting in the rose garden and rest our feet.

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Once the sun started setting we turned our feet towards the nearest Underground Station and made our way to our bed and breakfast and a tasty dinner at the pub downstairs.  Although the walk after Westminster was completely unplanned, it turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip.  I loved walking through London – people watching, admiring the architecture and the green spaces, the monuments and the tall trees, the sun and shadow and how they played over the buildings.  And we managed to walk through five parks/gardens that afternoon.  A perfect day!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1167: Foliage

There will be a brief interruption in the British Travelogue as we pause for a moment to admire the beauties of foliage, courtesy of the Art Elements Blog challenge theme for September.

fo·li·age:  the aggregate of leaves of one or more plants; cluster of leaves, flowers, and branches; a representation of leaves, flowers, and branches for architectural ornamentation

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Naturally, I had to participate in this month’s challenge as the subject matter is one of my favorites – leaves!  And on the cusp of autumn, most of my creations turn toward my favorite time of year when the leaves shed their greens for ochre, ruby, auburn, and burgundy.

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.”
-Emily Bronte

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This necklace was made with a carved stone leaf and strung with jasper rounds and tiny brass leaves.  I found the pendant at a lovely bead shop that used to be in Nashville, IN, which was one of my favorite places to visit in the fall.

 

This next set was inspired by the polymer clay toggle made by Humblebeads.  It’s of a birch forest in autumn – with ochre leaves and deep blue berries.  I transformed the toggle into a pendant and strung matching glass beads and tiny navy seed beads.  To break up the strung beads, I added a birch bead on one side and a tiny navy bird perched on a branch to the other.  The earrings are birch polymer clay bead and brass leaves.  All polyclay beads are by Humblebeads.

“The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.”
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

Red maple leaves take the spotlight in this next set.  The polyclay stick pendant is by Tesori Treasures and I have several of these with different leaves imprinted on them.  To give more weight to the pendant, I layered it with a large brass skeleton leaf.  The body of the necklace is strung with a variety of glass beads in shades of red, orange, brown, and light blue, with a scattering of red maple Czech beads.  For the earrings I layered Czech maple leaves with tiny skeleton leaves and added poly clay rounds by Humblebeads and Czech glass beads.

“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.”
– John Burroughs

 

This is my favorite of the jewelry I’m sharing today.  To make the necklace and earrings, I painted brass leaves with a variety of yellow, brown, and green acrylics.  I wanted them to look like withered, aged autumnal leaves that were just about to fade into brown.  I paired the leaves with a variety of matching Czech glass beads.  I dangled a little squirrel from the leaves of the necklace because what fun is an autumn forest without frolicking squirrels?

These last two necklaces were last minute additions after a trip to Hobby Lobby.  The leaves are from the Vintaj “Artisan market” collection and I loved the style and how quickly they worked up into finished pieces.

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I also have some stamped cards and mixed media projects to share too.

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“I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.”
― Lee Maynard

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“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
― Lauren DeStefano, Wither

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This set of cards was made with Basic Grey’s “Indian Summer” papers.  These are among my very favorite designer papers and I love working with the beautiful colors and organic leafy patterns.  The stamps are from Inkadinkado – this graphic leaf set lends itself well to whimsical designs and is perfect for celebrating autumn.

My last project is canvas art that I made this afternoon for a Fall/Halloween swap I’m participating in.  My recipient loves leaves and crows, so I assembled this piece using stamps, inks, and lots of die cuts!  I cut the leaves out of watercolor paper and then colored them with a variety of distress inks.  I hope she will enjoy receiving it as much as I enjoyed making it.

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
-George Eliot

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

this is a blog hop, so if you’re interested in seeing more “foliage” art, please visit the other participants

AE Team
 
Lesley  
Marsha  
Claire  
Jenny  
Niky  
 
Guests
 
Dawn  
Hope  
Alison  
Laurie  
Kathy  
Sarajo  
Tammy  
Divya  
Karen  
Alysen  
Mary  
Cat  
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Gift #1166: Kew Gardens

At the top of my list of places I wanted to visit while in London was Kew Gardens.  This formidable bastion of botany has long enchanted visitors with its beautiful gardens and intoxicated scientists with its enviable collections.  I’ve been under its thrall since my college days when I fell in love with botany, and specifically botanical history.  Our first full day in London was dedicated to this pilgrimage and fortunately they have extended hours in the summer – and we used every single bit of it.

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It’s a bit hard to say when Kew Gardens first started as its early days as a royal garden blur its growth into a world renown collection.  However, it is generally accepted that King George III greatly propelled Kew into its birthright, aided greatly by the illustrious Joseph Banks (one of my heroes of botanic history).  Just being on ground he touched and seeing his handiwork made me tingle from head to toe.  Kew Gardens grew symbiotically along with the British Empire.  As Britain expanded its influence and exploration throughout the world, scientists and botanists (Banks among them) were there firsthand to record the natural history of these new worlds and collect plants to bring back to England for further study.  Because of this Kew boasts one of the largest botanical collections in the world, if not the largest.  In modern times, Kew is on the cutting edge of botanical research and conservation efforts.

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The glory of Kew Gardens is its greenhouses – the jewelry boxes that encase their botanical treasures.  It was a continuous battle with my camera about whether I was going to photograph the plants or the steel ribs of the greenhouses that are so incredible.  I took hundreds of photos and it was very hard to pare down just a handful to share with you.  In the depths of winter I’m sure I’ll revisit the resplendent greenhouses of Kew with you again.   So let’s go on tour… we can have tea and refreshments later.

We first went to the palm house (pictured in first photo) and then to the nearby waterlily house, which turned out to be one of my favorite greenhouses.  It was tiny but had a lovely display of many different waterlilies … and a magnificent Chihuly glass sculpture.

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Kew was hosting an exhibition of Chihuly’s work and had 14 different installations throughout the garden.  We were first introduced to his art at the Denver Botanic Gardens a few years ago, so this was a pleasant surprise for us.   This was my favorite piece on display – it was just perfect with the waterlilies.

We wandered through woodland gardens and the science gardens before exploring the alpine gardens.  This appears to be a newer area of the gardens but once it establishes further it will be lovely.  I was impressed with how well Kew manages the wide variety of plants that they have growing outdoors – all with different preferred environments, temperature, and moisture conditions – and keep them all so healthy

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The alpine house (in the dome building above) houses some of the more fragile and younger plants.  While most of my post will be about the plants in the greenhouses, I should point out that Kew has an impressive arboretum as well.  Trees from all over the world have found a home here, many as gifts to the government or gifts from the monarchy to the people.  One of my favorite trees was Turner’s Oak, planted in 1798.

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After some lunch, we headed to the tropical greenhouses.  Here was where I suffered my only disappointment.  I had read several books about the extensive orchid collection at Kew, but alas, there were not many on display in the greenhouses… leading me to wonder about the mysterious collection… another reconnaissance mission will be in my future.  However, there were other glorious plants to explore, including the famed Amazonian water lily (Victoria amazonica).

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The genus was first described in publication in 1837 and quickly became coveted among British gardeners.  Intense rivalry erupted as botanists vied to be the first to discover its growing conditions and coax the water lily to flower.  Joseph Paxon (head gardener for the Duke of Devonshire – you’ll be hearing a lot more about him) was the first to successfully achieve a flowering lily and the Duke presented it to Queen Victoria.  It was thrilling to see one in person – in their own special room of the greenhouse!

Another treasure of Kew that I was delirious with excitement to see was the Marianne North Gallery.  I’ve blogged about her before, as some of her botanical paintings were source material for my jewelry challenges.  She is another fascinating traveling botanist/explorer/artist of Britain.  She first visited Kew at age 13 and it fueled her passion for botany.  Decades later after she had gone on several world-wide journeys, she contacted then-director of Kew, Joseph Hooker, and offered to build a gallery to house over 800 of her paintings.  Hooker agreed and the beautiful gallery was open in 1882.  Photography was not allowed inside the gallery, but I did manage to take one outside the entrance way when the doors were open.

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I was vibrating with delight at seeing all of her magnificent paintings!  I thought it would look like a traditional gallery with lots of open space and some of the paintings on display: I was not prepared for the glorious way that all the paintings perfectly fit on the walls like puzzle pieces.  Marianne framed each of them herself and decided their placement.  Underneath the paintings are wood samples that she collected on her travels and fitted together.  Oh, for a ladder and to live in here for at least a month!

Our last great greenhouse to visit was the Temperate House.  Not only is it Kew’s largest Victorian greenhouse – it is the largest in the world too!  I could have spent so much more time in here!  This may have been the most beautiful greenhouse, and it was certainly the one with the most Chihuly glass in it!

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There were so many rooms to this greenhouse that I felt like I was wandering in a dream.  It was so incredibly beautiful, as this collage of photos attests.  Here’s another unique glass sculpture from Chihuly.

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It was delightful to just meander about the flowers and the ponds and waterfalls.  Everywhere you looked was a picture-worthy scene.

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The whole garden was a perfect amalgamation of the art of God and the art of men blended together seamlessly in a never-ending conversation.  Being at Kew was a dream come true.  I will hold all the treasures I saw and experienced there in my heart always and I’ll hope that it will be as beautiful in my dreams as it was on that sunny summer day.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

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Gift #1165: In London at Kensington Gardens

I’ve been off-line for a while as my mom and I went to England for a couple of weeks in Aug/Sept.  Then I came back to a whirlwind of activity and some major post-vacation blues.  I feel like I’m getting back to normal, sorting my thoughts into coherent sentences, and having time and energy in the evenings to think about blogging again.  Spoiler alert:  blog posts will be heavily centered on the England trip for quite some time.  It was an incredible experience and one I’m still reliving in my mind.  Every day there was so special and filled with beautiful places, scenery, and experiences.  I felt so overwhelming blessed to be able to travel there and share such a wonderful place with my mom.  She had been 10 years ago but this was my first trip.  To say I fell in love and am making plans to return is an understatement.

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I took so many photos that part of my delay in resuming the blog has been figuring out how to pare down and organize the photos that would be most meaningful to share…. and how not to load a post with 100 photos – which would be really easy to do.  I’ve decided to share my trip with you just as I experienced it – and today we’ll be at Kensington Gardens.  We were looking for something low-key to do on our first day there, having had an overnight flight, and something near our bed and breakfast.  This fit the bill perfectly.

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Kensington Gardens started out as the hunting grounds of Henry VIII, but has been transformed into a much better use, as a public park.  Of particular import to me was that the famed Peter Pan statue has its home here and I definitely wanted to see that with my own eyes.

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It was created by George Frampton in 1912 and placed close to J.M. Barrie’s home on Bayswater Road.  Kensington Gardens was a source of inspiration for the creation of Peter Pan and the statue stands at the same place where Peter Pan alights from a nursery window in the 1902 book The Little White Bird.  The statue is beautifully situated in a clearing of wildflowers, surrounded by trees to the back and overlooking a river.  The base of the statue was my favorite as a multitude of woodland creatures are hidden in the rocky crevices.  I’m especially fond of the fairy conversing with the squirrel and the little family of mice hiding under a rock.  Past visitors had written small notes which were tucked into the base of the statue.

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The trail winds along the river through this section of the park and I enjoyed my first views of London here along with a smattering of sea gulls.  If you look closely, you can see a white seagull perched on every single one of those wood posts except two.  Also in the park was a huge tree that was home to a flock of lorries who were busy eating up all the seeds and fruit that park visitors would feed them.

After a lovely walk in the afternoon sun, we sat down to enjoy a bit of shade under some large trees and rest… and by rest, I mean knit and people watch.

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This is once of the projects I took with me and started on the plane.  It is a shawl from the Shawl Society, which is inspired by happy places at the beach.  For my inspiration for this set of shawls,  I had chosen several photos of the Lake District, which I was looking forward to seeing on my trip.

It was a perfect way to start out the trip and by the time we left we were refreshed and eager for what the next day would bring.

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We returned to the iconic Paddington Station to catch the tube to the station near our hotel.  Here are a few pictures I took at the station – a beautiful clock, a statue of little Paddington Bear, and his own bench fashioned as an open book.  Paddington is still endearingly popular in London and that warmed my heart.  It was also here at the station where I had my first English food – Cornwall pasties!  Yum!

Here are a few more pictures of the gardens:  Queen Anne’s Alcove and the Italian Garden.

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I’m excited to share more of our  wonderful trip with you again soon.  Another spoiler alert:  there are lots of gardens!!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #1164: The Natural Wonder of Trees

A friend of mine re-posted this on Facebook today entitled “Natural Wonders”.

“Every day a 40 foot tree takes in 50 gallons of dissolved nutrients from the soil, raises this mixture to its topmost leaves, converts it into 10 pounds of carbohydrates, and releases about 60 cubic feet of pure oxygen into the air”

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That stopped me right in my tracks – every day a tree moves a massive amount of nutrients up its trunk and across all those branches to each and every cell in each leaf.  The sheer amount of metabolism of all those nutrients converting into energy is astounding!  And this happens every single day!  No committees or bureaucracies are needed to work out an action plan, no governmental agencies are involved to oversee the process… and am amazing amount of efficient growth takes place just because the tree is functioning as it was designed.

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If you’ve visited my blog before you’ll know that I’m deeply in love with trees and consider them among the greatest ordinary miracles with which we share our world.  And after today I’m even more impressed.  It reminded me of my last post when I wrote about flowers being extras that God gives us as signs of His goodness.  Somehow knowing how much a tree accomplishes every day without any fanfare or noise comforted my heart too.  It’s been easy to get caught in the cacophony and chaos of the world – in all the grief, hate, and sin that we see evidenced every hour on the news.  Today, this brief post on Facebook about trees was a reminder to reset my heart.  As much as the world spins out of our comprehension, God has it under control and we can rest in Him.  He designed trees and our own bodies to flawlessly execute thousands of ordinary miracles every day in maintaining biologic processes that keep us alive.  And He allows us to learn, understand, and marvel at these wonders that reveal His care for us.

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I hope today you find an ordinary miracle and that it will give you hope and strength for the beginning of a new week.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1166: Flowers

July’s theme for Art Elements was flowers and that’s a perfect challenge when summer is filled with the glory of blooms.  I’ve actually spent a great deal of the month in gardens and in mountain hikes with fields of wildflowers.  To provide a bit of inspiration, I made a few photo collages from my recent trip to Denver.

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This one is of blooms at Denver Botanic Gardens.  It’s one of my favorite places on earth and  I could gladly live in this park all summer.  There are acres of gardens to wander through and explore – serene Japanese gardens, traditional cut flower and herb gardens, plains and meadow habitats, water gardens, greenhouses, and (my absolute favorite) – an alpine rock garden.

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This collection of flowers came from some of the mountain hikes that we enjoyed during our trip.  I’m constantly enchanted that on each visit to the mountains we are greeted by different wildflowers, depending on the weather conditions of the winter and early spring.  For example, on this trip the flowers were about 3 weeks behind what we usually see, so we were able to see more “spring flowers” in bloom and enjoy the beginnings of summer flowers.  The thistles weren’t quite open yet, but we did get to see the beautiful mariposa lilies.

Since this blog is a celebration of flowers, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share with you my favorite quote concerning the botanical beauties.

“Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

          – Sherlock Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle

I first heard this quote one summer in high school when my family watched all the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes episodes from the library.  “The Naval Treaty” was one of my favorite stories, mostly because of this observation made by Holmes.  It touched me deeply and shaped my theology and my views of the world.  Truly flowers are to me one of the surest proofs of the existence and goodness of God and I’m delighted to share my creations inspired by flowers with you.

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This first set of cards was an exploration in techniques.  Apparently I really enjoy making pink flowers – I noticed that as I was taking photographs.  The left card is a collage technique with overlaid floral and fern elements.  I inked the stamps with markers and small inkpads so I could use a variety of colors for a more realistic effect.  It reminds me of pressed flowers and leaves in an old love letter.  The right top card was made by inking the rose stamp, then spritzing it lightly with water to achieve a watercolor effect.  After stamping, I lightly flicked water on the paper to mottle the image a bit more and layered it with a variety of floral papers.  The bottom right card features a collage stamp that was inked and stamped on vellum.  Then after drying I used markers to color the image on the wrong side of the vellum, and I lightly inked the edges.  I adhered the vellum to white cardstock and cut it out and layered it with a doily and patterned papers.

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For these cards, I explored watercolor techniques a bit further.  These were some I made while playing – not fancy cards.  Upper left card was created by stamping flowers and leaves with a light brown ink.  Then you can use watercolors to paint over the stamps, giving a free-form watercolor look.  (This is handy for those of us who can’t draw for beans).  After creating the background, I lightly added a teal wash to the unstamped areas, and flicked brown ink specks for interest.  I stamped a quote on vellum and adhered it along with some pearls.  The upper right card was made by clear embossing the large floral stamp on watercolor paper.  I colored it with watercolors and then inked the leaves and spritzed with water before stamping so they’d look watercolored as well.  I gave a wash of light teal to the background and splattered it with water drops to mottle.  Then I stamped the quote, punched out the butterflies, and colored them with inks.   Bottom card was made with similar techniques – stamping image and watercoloring the flowers, adding the teal background (can you tell I like pink and teal?).  This one I finished a bit more with patterned papers.

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For jewelry, I have several pieces to share.  This first one was actually made for another challenge just recently but it worked so perfectly for this one that I wanted to share it here.  The floral focal was a gift from a bead artist and was formed with air-dry clay and highlighted with gold gilding.  I had a beautiful collection of vintage beads from a local bead store that were a perfect match for the flower.  I love how this piece came out.

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The rest of the necklaces are made from the Vintage Groove Collection, designed by Jill Schwartz.  These were released in Michaels and Hobby Lobby many years ago and I loved all the components – lots of pendants, charms, dangles, frames, and flowers!  This piece incorporates a rhinestone frame with a ribbon flower link, resin word, and a dangling butterfly.  I used tiny floral carved beads mixed in the chain.

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“Romantic Florals” is one of my favorites from this collection.  I enjoyed practicing assembling a variety of motifs as choker-style necklaces – this is a bit different from my usual design.  For this one, I placed a dark brown mesh rose as the main focal, with a smaller green velvet flower off to one side and a framed scrap of old letter on the other.  I added a couple tiny charms to the top to balance out the design and a brass leaf dangles from the brown flower.  These Art-Deco inspired brass frames were part of the Vintage Groove collection and I’ve used them quite a bit in my pieces.  I like the way it gives the necklace a retro-vintage feel.

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“Garden Blooms” is a more simple design, that just lets the collection of flowers speak for itself – here a velvet cut rose, doily with resin flower, and mesh rolled rose combine for an elegant effect.  It’s the perfect accessory for strolling along the garden paths before tea.

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“Assemblage Florals” is a mix of a variety of components that I put together.  In this necklace, the carved shell pieces provide a unifying framework.  A gingham ribbon flowers with sequins and seed beads and a beaded flower with resin rose anchor the bottom of the design, with a mother-of-pearl leaf dangle.  On either side is a shell rectangle and a flower made of shell slices, sequins, and seed beads.  I added tiny carved shells with a floral-inspired design before finishing off with doubled chain.

I really enjoyed creating these pieces – it was fun to lay out all the components and see which ones wanted to play together and how to create cohesive designs with them.  Thank you all for stopping by to share my love of flowers and see how I incorporated them in this month’s challenge.  In the comforting words of Sherlock Holmes – “We have much to hope for from the flowers”

This is a blog hop – please follow the links to see all the beautiful creations from our talented participants.

Here is a list of our Visiting Artists:
Alysen
Cat
Divya
Evie and Beth
Jill
Kathy
Linda
Martha
Melissa
Michelle
Rozantia
Sarah
Sarajo
Tammy

And our Art Elements Blog Contributors:
Caroline
Cathy
Claire
Jenny
Laney
Lesley
Marsha
Susan

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1165: Art Journey #4

Today was the end of the Art Bead Challenge #5 and I was preparing to blog about it  when I remembered that I never blogged about Challenge #4!  That ended right as I was getting ready to travel and I was off on adventures and busy with work, then on to new challenges, and traveling again… and you get the picture.  So we’ll take a brief step back to enjoy Art Journey #4 because it was lovely.  During last rotation, we had “the Dreamy World of Odilon Redon” as our inspiration.

Odilon was a Symbolist painter and one of the most important of the movement, which emphasized feeling, emotion, and ideas in their artwork.  Odilon himself was deeply inspired by his dreams and imagination – including the beautiful, surreal, and the sinister.  We were fortunate in this challenge to have picturesque images for our inspiration point.  From left to right:  Madame Arthur Fontaine (1901), Bouquet of Flowers (1900-1905), and Butterflies (1910).  The soft textures of the pastels, the color palettes, and subject matter were a delight to study and create from.

The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.  – Charlotte Bronte

I found the soothing, soft colors of yellow and blue most appealing and was mesmerized by how they blended into each other and into the charcoal background.  The flowers both on the background and in the needlepoint are frothy and subdued.  For my necklace, I chose to mimic the color palette with a beautiful clay bird from Humblebeads and ceramic pendant from Grubbi Ceramics.

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I added a few flower charms to the pendant, which reads “In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take”.  The quote seemed applicable to following your dreams and making them come true and I also liked how the little flowers framing the quote echoed back to the painting.  Czech beads and brass spacers fill in the chain.

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Earrings match with similar floral charms and more Czech beads.

Dreams are the seeds of change. Nothing ever grows without a seed, and nothing ever changes without a dream.  – Debby Boone

This lovely still life of an overflowing vase had me wanting to make something with a floral bouquet too.   I didn’t have anything particularly summery in my bead collection, but I did have these gorgeous faux tin components by Humblebeads.  They were appropriately termed “Autumn Bouquet”.

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Isn’t that pendant amazing?!  It’s one of my favorite pieces she’s made.  And it’s her own artwork too!  I made a bead soup of several different Czech bead strands, tiny green agate rounds, and brass spacers and strung the beads on wire.  I added chain as well to balance out the weight of the pendant.

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I used matching charms for the earrings, along with tiny Czech leaves dangles and a bit of glass and brass spacers.   I can’t wait to wear these during the autumn months!

I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?  – Zhuangzi

I loved this butterfly pastel scene so much – it was my favorite of the set.  The sky and clouds are fabulous and it feels so dreamy.  I appreciate how Odilon has captured the emotion of a scene rather than the stark reality of it.  It is a masterpiece indeed.

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I knew I had the perfect component for this piece, but I had to work up the courage to use it.  This beautiful lampwork butterfly wing is a treasure made by Kim Snider.  She sells most of her work by auction so it’s a rare event to win one of these beauties.  The wing is capture in a bronze clay vine with tiny white flowers.  Quite frankly – there’s no way to improve on this work of art and I was daunted about transforming it into a necklace.  To do so, I kept the materials simple – using tiny stones and Czech glass pressed ovals in delicate hues that mirrored the butterfly wing’s coloring.

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The earrings were made with enameled butterflies from Anne Gardanne fluttering in front of lengths of chain.  They are an elegant accompaniment to the necklace.

I hope you enjoyed exploring the dream world of Odilon Redon with me.  To close, here are some photo collages I made of my jewelry and his art.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1164: Going on a Hike

“Let’s go on a hike” – these are some of the greatest words in the English language! An invitation to adventure, exploration, and beauty awaits!  One of the great pleasures of being in the Colorado mountains are the abundance of trails that can take you to amazing places and views.  We were able to spend a few days in Rocky Mountain National Park and today I wanted to take you with me on my favorite hike we did there.  So put on your hiking shoes, grab your water bottle, and let’s hit the trail!  This is a quiet hike around Lilly Lake – perfect for an early morning when the sun is brightly shining but the breeze is cool.  Our trail begins with a bridge… as so many wonderful adventures do.

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Crossing the bridge leads you down to the lake and to the trail head.  And what lovely views greet us on this morning!

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The trail meanders gently about the lake.  A steep trail beckons mountain goats up a nearby mountain but for now we’ll remain down at water’s edge, appreciating the cool breeze scented with wildflowers that are drinking in the sunlight.

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We round the curve of the lake and the terrain starts to change from meadow to mountain forests.  Right in the midst of this transition lives a wild iris.

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A look-out over the lake from this vantage point provides a scenic landscape and a strategically placed bench invites you to stop and savor the beauty.

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Invigorated by our rest, we now continue to explore the trail.  On one side we run into a fallen tree, whose weathered limbs have been buffed smooth by the elements.  The dead branches make a poetic natural sculpture.

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And then in a glade overshadowed by pine trees, we find treasure!  Stands of columbines are in bloom!  These are among my very favorite wildflowers and what a treat to find some on our hike!

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On the other side of the lake, the land turns marshy and we must tread lightly on boardwalks to preserve the integrity of the vegetation.  Tall grasses grow here, providing plenty of shelter for birds to nest.  And the plethora of water insects are a never-ending buffet table for the birds.

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Here we stop to watch swallows careening in acrobatic moves in the sky and listen to the cries of red-winged blackbirds.  Maybe we’ll see a heron fishing for his breakfast!  All too soon we find ourselves back at the beginning of the trail, richer with all the beauty we have seen and felt.  We linger here for a moment, soaking it in, and inscribing the landscape on our hearts.  This is a morning we will never forget…  Are you ready for a picnic?

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

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Gift #1163: Winds of Heaven

I’ve returned from my yearly pilgrimage to Denver.  My mom and I spent a blissful two weeks in the city we still call home, visiting our favorite haunts and exploring some new places.  We were veritable mountain goats – spending many of our days in county parks and at Rocky Mountain National Park.  I miss Colorado so much and it is a blessing to be able to return each summer to experience its beauty.  One of the many charms of Colorado I fell in love with when my family moved there was the gentle, cooling breezes that filled the summer days.  They were refreshing on hot days, and they were scented with the most delicate perfume.  I’ve still not determined what the source of that smell is – but not knowing makes it all the more alluring and special.  My mom and I refer to it as the “breath of heaven”.

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And on those mountain meadows when the wind blows the grasses and wildflowers and kicks up that heavenly aroma while you gaze out at snow-capped mountains, it’s easy to think that the door to heaven blew open on that mountain and the air of earth and eternity mixes and swirls together.  To be truthful, there are times when that happens when I’m not sure if I’m on earth, or if the curtains shifted and I’m standing in heaven’s threshold.  I’ve come to love the mountain meadows of my parks with the passion and reverence of a holy place because it feels so much like heaven is near.  And in these moments I love to listen to the wind whisper to my heart and feel it caress my face.  I store up the secrets of the wind deep within to give strength and remember my beloved mountains.  Readers of my blog from years past know that I always end my Colorado trip with a song that was of special meaning during the visit.  I found myself humming this song while up in the mountain meadows and it’s a perfect choice for commemorating the sacred moments when earth and heaven meet in the mountain winds.

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Wind of Heaven

I woke up in the ruins of yesterday
I just can’t break away
I’m losing faith in the dream
Trying to recreate the life I knew
Find the heart that once was true
Lost and cast away, adrift, floating downstream
Yet still the battle rages, I don’t know what to do
Then I hear you whisper, Baby, I love you
Feel the wind of heaven blow
Over fields for all time unfrozen
Hearing words of ancient wisdom calling out to me
Let the tears of sorrow go
Riding free in the wild, unbroken
Those eternal voices tell us love will set us free
I saw the stallion run along the river bed
With the eagle overhead
And then I realized
That time is but the curse that we all share
Bringing heartbreak and despair
But we can break the spell
Oh, yes, and then I open my eyes
And the battle’s raging, I don’t know what to do
Then I hear you whisper, Baby, I love you
Feel the wind of heaven blow
Over fields for all time unfrozen
Hearing words of ancient wisdom calling out to me
Let the tears of sorrow go
Riding free in the wild, unbroken
Those eternal voices tell us love will set us free
Where is love? Now my brothers all are gone
A man who walks alone
Living day by day
Breathe into me
Breathe your breath of life into my soul
And save me from my dreams
Before my time is done
Breathe into me now.
Feel the wind of heaven blow
Over fields for all time unfrozen
Hearing words of ancient wisdom calling out to me
Let the tears of sorrow go
Riding free in the wild, unbroken
Those eternal voices tell us love will set us free
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Justin Hayward / alberto parodi / david minasian
If you would like to hear the song as recorded by Justin, here is a link to youtube.  It is a beautiful song.
And now, on the other side of the mountain I will carry the music of the wind, its joy and sorrow and wisdom, in my heart until I can walk in the winds of heaven again.
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Blessings to you,
Sarah
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