Wanderlust

I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored.
-David Attenborough

IMG_2554

When I was a kid, there were two ways that I could explore: in my head or by going outside. A little patch of land like this one, nestled between homes in a busy housing development, could have represented a number of things to me. It could have been a forest in medieval Europe or a haunted patch of land in my hometown. It could have been the home of faeries, ghosts or a haven for talking animals whose voices came alive at night after humans went to sleep. In my mind, I could have used this spot to travel anywhere. I just needed it to set the atmosphere.

In reality, this patch of land is located in a lovely middle-class neighborhood, not a new cookie-cutter community, but one of the older ones where people have bigger yards, the trees are established, and each home is unique. This neighborhood is in a prime location that is currently under heavy development. In a way that is understandable, but it is also rather sad. I worry for the character of the neighborhood. I worry about the animals that live in these little patches of land. And I worry about our collective imaginations as we lose so much green space.

I came across this spot this afternoon when I was walking with a friend and her dog. When I saw it, my imagination was immediately piqued. I knew that I had to take a picture and I felt the same twinge of excitement that I did when I encountered such scenes as a kid. That heartens me. It shows me that I haven’t completely lost the curiosity and sense of adventure that I had as a kid, even if it has been tamed by the demands of “adulting”. I hope I never do.

This world is but a canvas for our imagination.

-Henry David Thoreau

Advertisements

Brookgreen Gardens

A few days ago, I wrote my Haiku of the Spectacular Pig whom I met recently when I visited Brookgreen Gardens. I actually saw several beautiful sculptures that day and thought I would share a few more with you.

IMG_2413

 

Brookgreen Gardens was founded in Myrtle Beach, SC in 1931 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. Their intent was to display American sculpture, develop gardens using plants from the South Carolina Low Country, and educate others about art, conservation and the history of the region.

IMG_2404

Archer Huntington wrote that Brookgreen was “a quiet joining of hand between science and art”.  Today, among other things, it contains several plant and sculpture gardens, a zoo that houses animals which are native to the region and an old rice plantation. Brookgreen offers exhibits, classes, pontoon rides, nature excursions and much more.

IMG_2422

 

I spent several hours at Brookgreen and only saw a small portion of what it has to offer. My first trip focused mostly on the sculpture gardens. I have yet to see the zoo or experience the excursions. 

FullSizeRender (11)

But Brookgreen is not a place that you want to rush. I enjoyed savoring the trip. I will go back later to see more. 

IMG_2431

On a practical note, Brookgreen contains two restaurants which are affordably priced so you can stay all day. And if that isn’t long enough, tickets, which are $16 for adults, are good for seven days so you can go back later if you are still in the area!

 

 

Greensboro Writer’s Conference

This weekend, I did something very writery and attended the NC Writer’s Spring Conference. Located at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the conference offered exhibits and book sales, a choice of one morning and one afternoon workshop, faculty readings, open Mike readings and more.

FullSizeRender (9)

It was actually a busy weekend in Greensboro as an annual Furniture Market was also taking place. After driving over three hours to Greensboro on Friday afternoon, I was glad to have secured a room early at the local Hyatt as rooms were scarce and overpriced in response to the crowds.  While I sat at the hotel bar sipping a rum and coke and dining on chili and spinach salad, I overheard a few people at the front desk trying to get a room, only to be told that there were no rooms available. I felt very fortunate for mine.

FullSizeRender (10)

I slept well on Friday and arrived at the conference on Saturday morning early enough to peruse the exhibit tables. Small publishers and independent bookstores filled their tables with books from NC authors that they had published or were affiliated. A few of them offered information on writing contests. I met a woman who offered to put my name on an email list for an online critique group for people who write children’s books.

 

Next, I attended my first workshop at the conference. The topic was building poems that editors will publish. In the workshop, we discussed lyricism in poetry and finding one’s unique voice as a poet. The author and editor leading the workshop gave us some insight on what she looks for when she screens poems for her press.

 

Afterwards, we broke for lunch. I had never been to the UNCG campus so I googled restaurants close by. There were two within walking distance. As I stood inside the Old Town Draught House, a fellow workshopper from Charlotte, Reita, offered me a look at her menu. A gentleman behind us told us that in order to be served we simply needed to sit down at the bar. We decided to sit together and order. I dined on the Turkey melt with veggies and sweet tea and conversed with Reita over lunch. By the time we finished eating, we had exchanged contact information. We walked back to the workshop and parted ways. I went on to listen to a few faculty readings.

IMG_2537

My afternoon workshop, geared towards children’s authors, was titled “Exercising the Imagination”.  We discussed ways to tap into our personal passions and take our stories in new directions. The author leading the workshop gave us some ideas for exercises that we could use to access our imaginations. He was also a good source of information regarding future conferences.

 

Before I left for the day, I decided to pick up a book from both of my workshop presenters. They were on sale at the exhibit tables and were reasonably priced. Running Music  by Crystal Simone Smith is a book of poems and The Nine Pound Hammer  by John Claude Bemis is a YA fantasy book that explores American mythology. I look forward to reading them both.

 

Before I hit the road, I googled the closest Starbuck’s and picked up a Starbuck’s Mocha and a cookie. Probably not so wise as I’m trying to lose a little weight, but I’ll start over tomorrow. I had a long ride ahead of me and kind of wanted something special to take the edge off the commute.

I’m really glad I went to the conference this weekend. It was a great source of instruction and information, and I met a lot of pleasant people. Plus it was empowering. I don’t often travel alone overnight and it was kind of nice to go on my own. It was also nice to take another step towards fulfilling my desire to be a writer.   

IMG_2545

Opaque

When I first started thinking about the word “opaque”, snakes kept popping into my head. I guess I was thinking about their eyes. You probably know that snakes shed their skin in one big piece. This process is called ecdysis. Did you know that as a snake gets close to ecdysis, its skin becomes dull and its spectacle, which is a clear scale that covers its eyes, becomes milky? For that reason, when a snake is about to go into ecdysis, it is said to be opaque or pre-ecdysis.  You can learn this by googling the words “snake opaque”. You can also learn that Amazon has snake print footless tights for sale for $11.99. I’m not a big fan of snakes, but I just happen to have a few pictures from a previous visit to the Cape Fear Serpentarium. I’ve already used them to gross out my friends on Facebook so why not share the love and delight you with them, as well? 🙂

Below is a picture of a snake skin I found one day when I was out walking. I would have been running if he were still in it.

IMG_2534

And here are the tights in case you are interested. Very nice.

FullSizeRender (8)

Also, as an added bonus, I wrote a six-word story to describe this post:

It’s not tights. It’s a snake! 

 

Brunswick Nature Park

IMG_2463

I encountered Brunswick Nature Park a while back when I passed it leaving Brunswick Town. I had heard about the park in the past, but I had never explored it. As I hadn’t intended upon exploring it when I did, I wasn’t wearing the best walking shoes; but they were good enough for a quick look around so I decided to check it out.

IMG_2464

Brunswick Nature Park is located in Winnabow NC, along Town Creek, on 911 acres of land. It includes three hiking trails (my biggest interest): The Long Leaf Trail (beginner level), the Live Oak Trail (beginner) and the Dogwood Trail (intermediate) and four bike trails, including an advanced obstacle course. Hikers are allowed on the bike trails, but I am sure you would want to be mindful of bikers and exercise both caution and courtesy when walking on those trails. In addition, the park offers picnic shelters, kayak launches and scenic overlooks.

IMG_2471

I parked my car near one of the overlooks and decided to venture just a little ways onto the Live Oak hiking trail which is 1.44 miles long. The scenic dirt trail, marked by red dots on the trees, is not too difficult but you do want to watch your step. The terrain is a little more hilly than we locals generally encounter in our flat beach communities-which I love- and is strewn with branches, roots and all kinds of vegetation. I’m sure there are plenty of critters out there, as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw a gator sign on the way into the park (although he probably hangs out near the creek) and if I was a snake I would certainly choose to live there. Despite that, as I walked along the trail I found myself wanting to go deeper and deeper into the woods, there was so much to see and explore. Had I been wearing the proper shoes, and maybe had a buddy with me, I could have turned it into a very good hike. I’m certain that it is also a great place to watch for birds and other animals. I was fortunate enough to have my camera with me so I took advantage of that and snapped some pictures. At some point, because of my shoes, I cut the hike short and turned around. I walked back to the overlook, where a family sat by the water, and looked at the creek for a while.

IMG_2472

My trip to the park was brief, but it was long enough for me to soak up some of the magic of the outdoors. I left feeling more relaxed than when I came and with a greater sense of well-being (that tends to happen to me outside) and it was also long enough for me to establish that I will go back to visit again when I’m better prepared, perhaps take a pair of binoculars and a picnic lunch. You might want to check it out, too, if you are in the area!

IMG_2467IMG_2470

Food and Such

So as I wrap up the topics I decided to explore during Lent, I come to food. This year, I decided to go Pescatarian for Lent. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I live on the coast and have access to a lot of fresh seafood so I guess I have an advantage there. Also, even though I like pork and beef, it was not difficult for me to give them up. I’m sure this varies from person to person but for me, it was not very difficult. As it turns out, that is a good thing. A few weeks ago, we had biometric testing at my job through our insurance company. My cholesterol was 225, the highest it has ever been, so even though I will no longer be as strict with my diet after today, I still plan to go light on beef and pork and even shrimp, and incorporate more fish in my diet. This is a blessing for some of the pigs and cows, and truthfully, I’m happy for them.

Following, are some pictures of the dishes and information on places I’ve eaten over the last several weeks in case you are interested:

Crab Cakes and Shrimp Parmesan: I visited Gulfstream Restaurant at Carolina Beach, NC with a friend of mine for a birthday dinner. I had the crab cakes and my friend had the shrimp. Gulfstream, which is family operated, has been open for 35 years and was a location site for the TV series “Six”.

FullSizeRender (6)

Mahi Tacos: Kickback Jack’s . I know it’s ironic to push a dish from a sports bar when you are trying to eat healthy, but I can’t stay home all the time, can I? These babies were so good I had to pull the picture off of the website as I forgot to take it not once but twice because I started eating before I remembered.

FullSizeRender (3)

This is a healthier dish. You quickly learn to supplement your diet with eggs for protein when you give up other kinds of meat. I’ve transitioned to egg whites part of the time, in the interest of keeping cholesterol down. They will be good for omelets and such, but good egg salad requires yolk. My mother made me this meal for lunch one day when I went to visit and it was perfect.

FullSizeRender (7)

 

I put this little concoction together one night with some lettuce, a can of Bumble Bee chipotle-flavored tuna and some fat-free shredded cheese. It’s easy:

Drain can of tuna, add a dash of mayo (if you want to-I did to cool off the chipotle a bit), top with cheddar cheese, microwave for 20 seconds and place on a bed of lettuce. Delicious and easy.

Have a great weekend, all!

Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Saints Peter and Paul Russian and Greek Orthodox Church resides in St. Helena, NC about 26 miles outside of Wilmington. I was introduced to the church by my parents a while back when they found out that I was writing and taking pictures of churches.

FullSizeRender (1)

Called The Disappearing Church, there are currently only three members: Ann Debaylo Mizerak, her son, David and her sister, Mary. When Ann and Mary are no longer able to help care for the church, David will care for it along with some cousins. They have not had a full-time priest since 1998, but they meet loyally every Sunday at 10am.  *Check out the short video documentary at the link above for more details. I personally found it rather haunting in a good way.*

FullSizeRender

According to an article in Our State Magazine Sts Peter and Paul church is the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in North Carolina. In 1905, a developer from Wilmington, Hugh McRae, purchased land in Pender County, NC for the purpose of creating small, European-style farms. He hired immigrants from various ethnic groups to do the farming and between 1923-1932, several Ukrainian and Russian families made their way to St. Helena. In 1932, McRae gave them a deed for land so they could build a church. The church was once thriving, but throughout the years, as families moved away or children assimilated and moved on, attendance began to wane.

IMG_2498

Some unique features of the church, at least for this area, are the gold dome architecture associated with Byzantine churches and the triple-barred cross. The triple-barred cross has three cross-beams: the top one is a title bar where “Jesus, King of Jews” was written, there is the center beam standard to Christian crosses and the bottom beam which is a foot rest.

IMG_2503

Currently, Sts Peter and Paul Church is in the process of being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. I would like to see that happen as this church contributes a unique and fascinating story. It would be a shame to forget it.

IMG_2502

Pleasing sounds on a spring night

I love the sounds of a spring night. I turn off my TV and sit in the quiet listening to song birds, crickets and the occasional dog as they lift their voices to the sky. Throw in a couple of frogs and I’m in heaven. Lately, the lead singers of my outdoor concerts have been the birds. There are times when the crickets and cicadas rule the night, and in the summer, after a rain, the frogs take the lead and sing their parts. But right now, it’s the birds. I’ve actually pulled out my computer and launched investigations to determine which birds are making the sounds that please me so.  My current suspects are mockingbirds, the whippoorwillblack birds or robins, but I’m not an ornithologist so I’m not completely sure. It could be another species completely. Whoever it is, I find their songs delightful, and thank goodness. If not, I’d be losing my mind trying to rest as they pretty much dominate the acoustics of the sky.  Instead, their songs lull me to sleep.

I’m a girl who digs the sounds of nature. I find them comforting. When birds are singing, crickets are chirping and frogs are croaking, it feels like, at least for the moment, all is right in my world. As long as they don’t sound panicked, I kind of assume that a catastrophe is not immediately at hand. If it was, the animals wouldn’t be singing. They’d either be hunkering down or let’s face it, hauling ass. That’s a bit morbid, but you have to admit, there is usually more peace in chatter when it comes to nature than quiet. Chatter means everything is still operating as usual.

I do have other nocturnal sound makers in my yard besides the birds. There is a feral cat that lets himself into my yard every night. I know because I hear the cling when he squeezes himself through the gate which is always ajar in the morning. His visits are both exciting and antagonizing for my cats who race to the back porch and scan the yard to determine his location.  Every now and then, one of them will spot him in the darkness or he’ll come right up to the porch, and I hear them hiss or spit. Interesting that they challenge him because I feel like he could probably take either of my cats, but perhaps I do not give them enough credit. There is also the fact that they are separated by the screen. I know the feral cat is a he because I’ve seen him out there spraying everything. Otherwise, I’m not sure what he does in my yard , but he comes regularly. Might be trying to catch those birds.

And then there are my neighbor’s roosters, who do not simply crow at dawn, but rather anytime, day or night, whenever they feel the urge; although I have to say that as I write this, they are quiet as little baby mice.

I don’t know why I am so pleased by these sounds. I guess it is because they fill me with peace and a sense of connectedness. I don’t mind them at all whether they be wake-up calls in the mornings or lullabies at night.