TREES

Trees

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mount is prest

Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

–Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

 We have, over the past two or three years, had the privilege of visiting many of our National Parks and some other worthy sites in our vast and beautiful country. I’m not a loco-tree-hugger, but I have become a huge fan and I appreciate the necessity of keeping as many as proves to be healthy for them.

 This is my holiday blog. It is not about Christmas trees, as beautiful as they are, but a note to honor the creator of these magnificent living partners in His world.

 I begin with my most recent trip to visit Pearl Fryar. Topiary Artist. In Bishopville, SC Mr. Fryar has spent his life creating this garden from a corn field. It was featured once on CBS Sunday Morning and I was spellbound. I never dreamed I would see it, let alone meet the sculptor. He is ageing, but still the strongest and most agile person I have met older than me. He has started to hire help and has started a foundation to carry on his work. www.gardenconservancy.org

 

ODD TREES:  A few odd ones we move to next:  a work of art called a singing tree, a tree with wonderfully shaped root system, a frozen tree archway and a shoe tree we saw in Montana.  I have no idea what the purpose of the shoes in the tree were.  I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a picture of a tree with such unusual fruit.

 

 

SEQUOIA:  These majestic giants are native to our west coast.  A few have been moved to other continents during the Victorian era, before the environmental protection laws were written.  These laws are meant to save other trees from un-native insect pests.  A good Idea.  Sweet Husband is standing in front of one exported to Scotland over a hundred years ago.  It is still quite young.  These trees live to over 2,000 years making them the oldest organism on our planet.  Pictures cannot capture their grandeur.

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Banyan Tree:  These trees are characterized by their aerial prop roots that grow into thick woody trunks, which can become indistinguishable from the main trunk with age. Old trees can spread out laterally, using these prop roots to cover a wide area. In some species, the effect is for the props to develop into a sort of forest covering a considerable area, every trunk connected directly or indirectly to the central trunk. The topology of this structure of interconnection inspired the name of the hierarchical computer network operating system Banyan Vines.

This photo was taken at Edison’s summer home in Florida.  It covers an acre of ground.

When near the Edison & Ford Winter Estates' west entrance, see t

REDWOOD:  Superlatives abound when a person tries to describe old-growth redwoods: immense, ancient, stately, mysterious, powerful. Yet the trees were not designed for easy assimilation into language. Their existence speaks for themselves, not in words, but rather in a soft-toned voice of patience and endurance.  I can only express my reaction in tears of gratitude to my wonderful creator.

Exactly why the redwoods grow so tall is a mystery. Theories continue to develop but proof remains elusive. The trees can reach ages of 2,000 years and regularly reach 600 years.

Resistance to natural enemies such as insects and fire are built-in features of a coast redwood. Diseases are virtually unknown and insect damage insignificant thanks to the high tannin content of the wood. Thick bark and foliage that rests high above the ground provides protection from all but the hottest fires

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Monterey Cedar: These are medium-sized coniferous evergreen tree, which often becomes irregular and flat-topped as a result of the strong winds that are typical of its native area along the pacific coast of California. It grows to heights of up to 40 meters (133 feet) in perfect growing conditions, and its trunk diameter can reach 2.5 meters (over 8 feet). The foliage grows in dense sprays which are bright green in color and release a deep lemony aroma when crushed.  I fell in love with their wind-shaped beauty

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Live Oaks:  As a resident of the deep south, all of my life, these magnificent trees never fail to make my heart stop each time I see one.  They do not become lovely until they are at least 100 years old.  The trees below are 300 to 500 years old.  They lose their leaves in the spring when the new leaves push out last years leaves.  Therefore they are evergreen and probably why they gained the name LIVE.

Lodgepole pine cone, Pinus contorta, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

This is the cone of the Lodge Pole Pine.  The seeds are naturally glued in and can only be dislodged by fire.  The forest are dense and as far as the eye can see in most areas of Montana and Wyoming.

White House Christmas Tour

THE STORY

We were told if we contacted our congressman several months in advance we could apply for tickets to see the White House decorated for Christmas – for FREE. We arranged with our friends who live outside DC, applied and were approved.

Our tickets were for entrance at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, December 8th, so after contemplating the traffic from Virginia to DC, in rush hour, we took the train (a very pleasant experience). We arrived in time for an hour’s visit to the White House Visitors Center, two blocks from the tour entrance at Hamilton and 15th Streets. The “Visitor’s Center” was just ok, in my opinion.  Union Station was WONDERFUL!

The day before Toby had gone to see his doctor for a cardiac stress test. This requires an IV shot of some type of radiation. Naturally, at the White House we had to go through four security stations. The first was simply to check our IDs to see if we were on the approved list. The second was when the alarms started going off. The Secret Service agent holding the dosimeter was freaking out and made everyone stop. When she finally took the meter over to Toby – bingo he was pulled aside. They took him in a private room to test him for dose levels. He told them about the test the previous day and the meter confirmed he had indeed only a small, medical dose. They released him, but failed to give him a “PASS”, so the next two entrances through

Kay & Toby with The Willard Hotel behind them.

Kay & Toby with The Willard Hotel behind them.

two different security checks caused the alarms to trigger. Poor Toby was mortified, to say the least, but it was surely the most exciting part for the day for the Secret Service.

Some of the people who were entering with us looked suspiciously at Toby for the balance of the tour. We, instead, had a big laugh.

THE TOUR

Before we entered our tour, I showed Kay & Toby the Willard Hotel, which is just across 15th Street from the White House. As the story goes, every afternoon President Wilson walked to the coffee shop at the Willard. If anyone needed to talk to him or intercede for a favor they would wait for his arrival in the lobby. This is where we eventually got our “Lobbyist”.

We entered the East Visitor Entrance, on the ground floor guarded by large penguins and a glorious, multi-sized, silver ball ornament garland which lead us down to the East Colonnade and East Garden Room. The colonnade’s ceiling was covered in hundreds of dangling snowflakes intermingled with one large flake for each State, Territory and Commonwealth. As you walked through the Colonnade you could look out on the Ease Garden filled with merry snowmen.

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At the end of the colonnade was a room dedicated to the White House’s current furry inhabitants – Bo and Sunny (Portuguese Water Dogs) and tennis ball trees. The same room held a small gift ship, beautiful tree and a bust of Mr. Lincoln.

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Continuing on the lower level we visited the White House Library, The Vermeil Room and The China Room. All were smaller than expected.  They are, however used for small meetings and receptions by the First Lady and all tastefully decorated.  The Vermeil Room had portraits of several of the recent first ladies.

The China room displays the various official china including the new service chosen by Michelle Obama.  Not every new administration chooses new china.

We went up one level to the Green Room, the Blue Room, The Red Room, The State Dining Room, The East Room, The Grand Foyer and Cross Hall.

The Green Room was brilliantly decorated in exotic peacocks and the colors of sparkling gems, teal and feathers in the garlands, the trees and wreaths accented the colors of the room. The wall were covered in emerald silk.

The next level up we entered the historic East Room under a canopy of sparkling icicles and glimmering silver spheres, we were awed by a multitude of white, silver and champagne tones. Four grand trees covered in ornate decorations of iridescent pearls, frosty icicles, vintage jewels, and delicate buttons trim the largest room in the White House  

The White House crèche graces this room. The nativity scene made of terra cotta and intricately carved wood was fashioned in Naples, Italy in the eighteenth century. Donated to the White House in the 1960s, this piece has sat in the east room for the holidays for more than forty-five years, spanning nine administrations.

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I have not mentioned the draperies, the rugs and the chandeliers, but they are of the finest I have seen and we have visited more mansions in our great nation that I can count. These pictures will not do them justice. It is, after all, our White House and should be the most outstanding of all our homes…and in my opinion, it is.

The Blue Room had the grandest and most patriotic room of decorations. This room is dedicated to our Nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. The whole room is decorated in red, white, blue and golden stars. The tree sits in the center of the room in from of a double door facing the Grand Foyer, the entrance to The White House. The doors in the foyer are flanked by our flags and the Presidential Seal.

The Red Room was once First Lady Dolley Madison’s famous salon. This room customarily glistens with cranberries during the holidays. The two trees in the parlor emit a warm crimson glow.

The State Dining room was decorated for children of every age with giant nutcrackers, teddy bears, a giant gumball machine and trees on the grand table all made of real candy. This is a tradition started by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy who announced her first theme would be Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite.  This is also the room where the Ginger Bread White house is displayed. This year was covered in milk chocolate.

The Grand Foyer and Cross Halls are the graceful entrance of all Guests and dignitaries to White House events. Today it had a grand piano and chairs set up for a string quartet for an upcoming reception. The room is most impressive and inviting with marble flooring and steps up to the open double doors inviting you straight in to gather in the Blue room or to the State Dining room on the left or the grand East Room to the right. This was our point of exit.

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Standing in the Grand Foyer with the State Dining Room behind us.

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Walking out that door you knew you had been a part of a great historical experience. Every room we went through had portraits of past presidents and First Ladies. When you step out the door the grand light above and the ornate front door with the imposing Washington Monument in the distance was beyond words. This time of year stationed between the White House and the Washington Monument is the National Christmas Tree, surrounded by a tree from each state and territory.

We walked down to see the National Tree and found, by accident, the oldest and most famous restaurant and bar, The Ebbit Grill. Great food, great service, wonderful ambiance at the most reasonable of prices.

 

San Diego

Every good thing you have ever heard about San Diego is true, I can testify.  They were having an odd cold snap while we were visiting, but the days turned out to be warm with sunshine.  Only the nights and early mornings were cold.

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Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park in San Diego. In addition to open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, and walking paths, it contains museums, several theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. There are also many recreational facilities and several gift shops and restaurants within the boundaries of the park. Placed in reserve in 1835, the park’s site is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use.  Naturally, we went to the art museum.

balboaFirst day in San Diego was Christmas eve.  We had planned to be in the zoo from opening bell to closing bell.  Unfortunately, the zoo closed at 5pm because it was Christmas eve (naturally).  Sweet husband was upset because the website said it closed at 9pm.  However, by 4:30 p.m. he was ready to call it a day.  The zoo is a combination zoo and botanical garden.  There is a bus tour and an overhead gondola lift to move you from one end of the park to another, quickly.  It is truly wonderful.

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I was most impressed that the zoo had a Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES).  This was founded in 1975 at the urging of Kurt Benirschke, who became its first director. CRES was renamed the division of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species in 2005 to better reflect its mission.

The day after Christmas we drove out to del Coronado Hotel on Coronado island.  Hotel del Coronado (also known as The Del and Hotel Del) is a beachfront luxury hotel.  It is one of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre: the wooden Victorian beach resort. It is the second largest wooden structure in the United States and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and a California Historical Landmark in 1970.  It opened in 1888, and at the time was the largest resort hotel in the world. It has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities through the years. The hotel has been featured in numerous movies and books.

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Christmas day we went for Christmas services at a nice Methodist church near our hotel.  It was a sweet, sacred celebration complete with a wonderful Christmas choir and communion.  This was the event that made me KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we were in California – they had communion with gluten free bread.  Enough said.  That afternoon we went for the first day release of Unbroken.  The movie based on the book by the same name about Louis Zamperini and directed by Angelia Jolie.  The book and the movie were both excellent.

That week we also received news of the loss of our sweet friend, Lexie.  She was a faithful companion, friend and playmate for 15 wonderful years.  That day I stayed alone at the hotel while Sweet husband, sister-in-law and brother-in-law went back to Balboa Park for the day.

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WE REALLY HAVE BEEN ON THE MOVE. . .

We left our family visit in Austin and Wimberley, TX and headed west with the goal of being in California for Christmas…check.

I have so much to tell you about the trip from Point A (Austin) to Point C (California).  However, we have spent only one or two nights in each location.  We have allowed ourselves the liberty to stop and see stuff in Big Bend National Park, Roswell, Carlsbad and Santa Fe, NM, Sedona, AZ, Las Vegas, NV…ooooooooooooh soooooooooooooo much to say and see.  We have had 7+ hours in the car driving and site-seeing, so when we stop there is only enough energy to unpack, eat and (maybe) do laundry.  I still have to answer email, read Face Book, pay bills, reconcile bank statements, etc.

I will share a few pictures below and go into detail as time and energy allows.

OBSERVATIONS: 

(1) We (sweet husband and I) have been involved in wonderful church fellowship for many years.  Leaving our home church I wondered what it would be like to worship with people we didn’t know.  We have worshiped in Pigeon Forge, TN, Richmond VA, Belfast and Bangor, ME, Scotland, Richland and Brandon, MS, Geismar, LA, Santa Fe, NM and California.  Each time we came away encouraged and warmed by the fellowship of fellow Christians.  One funny observation:  You know you are in California when the communion wafers are gluten-free.  (I always thought communion wafers were blessed [the Body of Christ] and that shouldn’t harm you – right? – who knew?).

(2) Most all motels/hotels are clean, comfortable, safe and reasonably priced.  To be clear, we have ONLY one exception so far:  NEVER EVER stay at the Best Western near LAX.  Sweet husband called it The Worst Western.  They are NOT reasonably priced nor are they comfortable or SAFE.  We had a couple of scary moments during the night.  Naturally we stayed only ONE night.  We would have been safer under a bridge in West Jackson.  That is all I need to say.

Judge Roy Bean, the law west of the Pacos

Judge Roy Bean, the law west of the Pacos

Big Bend

Big Bend

Roswell (we saw no UFOs)

Roswell (we saw no UFOs)

Carlsbad Caverns (1 1/2 hour walk thru a cave...yep)

Carlsbad Caverns (1 1/2 hour walk thru a cave…yep)

Santa Fe - Oh MY!

Santa Fe – Oh MY!

Meteor Crater in the AZ desert

Meteor Crater in the AZ desert

Painted Desert

Painted Desert

THE STAR OF BETHELHEM

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus stayed in Bethlehem for two years and moved into a house.  The Magi or the Wise Men, arrived two years after Jesus’s birth. Thus they were not at the cave.  It is reasonable to assume that there were three Wise Men because they present Jesus with three gifts.  The Magi were from present day Iraq or Iran.  Three Gentile men started following a star that eventually brought them to the house where Mary, Joseph, and the two year old Jesus lived  (see the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew).

The star was supernatural and cannot be logically or astronomically explained.  Many people much smarter than I have tried: astronomers, scientist, theologians.  However, I want to offer you a theory I received (I believe) from the Holy Spirit a few years ago.

It is recored in all four Gospels that angels were involved in the announcement of the birth of Jesus and all though out the Bible they are associated with the delivery of messages from God to man, and many other activities in the Spirit Realm.

I did a study of angels a few years ago.  They are mentioned almost 300 times.  They all have different jobs…only some are messengers.  Some are called seraphim, cherubim, The Hose of Heaven and (among other names) Stars.  I present you the Star of Bethlehem, a Spirit Being assigned to herald the birth of the greatest man ever, the son of God.  So large and so bright he was seen as a celestial object and brought the Magi from far off Iraq.This beautiful being shown over the stable and moved with the Christ and His family until they went to Egypt to escape the army of Herod.