February 2022 – THE MONTH OF LOVE

We often think of February as “the month of love” because Valentine’s Day always falls in the middle of the month on the 14th. People swap cards, candy, flowers, and gifts—and the stores are filled with Valentine displays. But where did these traditions come from?

Most sources suggest that Valentine’s Day originated as a feast day to honor Saint Valentine of Rome, a priest and early Christian martyr. Pope Gelasius first originated the Feast of Saint Valentine to remember the date of the priest’s death and to honor the good works and miracles performed in his life. On a romantic note, Valentine secretly married young couples when the emperor in his lifetime prohibited young marriage, believing unmarried soldiers fought better. Another legend says Saint Valentine wrote the first valentine greeting to the daughter of his jailor before his execution, signed “Your Valentine.”

Europeans, and especially the British, began to pick up on the concept of Valentine’s Day sending love notes and soon, also, candies to their sweethearts, probably as early as the 1400s-1500s. However,  the day didn’t become popularly celebrated until the 17th century.  By the 1900s, ready-made cards began to replace love notes and letters with new advances in printing and mailing. Cupid became associated with Valentine’s Day on early holiday cards. The Roman God Cupid, or Eros in Greek mythology—the God of Love—supposedly played mischief among humans by shooting his golden arrows to incite love in his victims. Many early Valentine’s cards showed the child caricature version of Cupid shooting out his love arrows, like on this old Victorian Valentine card.

In America, we started exchanging Valentine cards in the early 1700s and 1800s, and today approximately 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent or given out every year. The stores in America are already full of Valentine cards and gift displays. And in the schools, children swap Valentine’s Day cards and often create homemade cards in the classroom.  In addition to all the general cards for the Valentine holiday, there are a huge assortment of individualized cards geared to “my wife,” “my husband,” “my sweetheart,” “my friend,” “my son,” “my daughter,” and more. Cards are available for nearly everyone on a person’s family and friends list. I even saw a card “from your dog,” and some cards even play love songs.

Specialty candies fill the store racks for Valentine’s gifts, too. There are boxes of chocolate candies packed in pretty heart-shaped boxes and many specialty candies are shaped like hearts. Conversation hearts or candy hearts with little messages on them, like “sweet talk,” “hug me” and “love u,” began back in the mid 1800s when a Boston pharmacist invented a machine to make it easier to mass-produce lozenges. The pharmacist then shifted his focus from medicinal lozenges to candy, founding what would become the New England Confectionery Company or Necco. From this beginning messages on hearts evolved and the new colorful “conversation hearts” became a great success from the 1900s to today, with Necco becoming the leading manufacturer of the hearts. Today some hearts even say “text me.”

Of all the flowers sent out at Valentine’s, roses are the most popular.  One study in 2021 found that people spent $2 billion dollars on Valentine flowers—the most on roses.  Sources suggest the tradition of giving roses at Valentine’s Day began in the 1700s with Lady Mary Montagu, a British Ambassador’s wife, who wrote home to friends from Turkey—excited over learning the “meanings of flowers.” Roses quickly became linked with romantic love, especially the red rose standing for “love and passion.”

With February and Valentine’s Day associated with love, the question comes up: “What is love?” Definitions usually say it’s ‘an intense feeling of deep, constant romantic affection’ and ‘an affection linked with strong physical attraction, passion, and devotion.’  Of course, there are aspects of love in friendships, family, and in other personal ties—but it is “romantic love” that is celebrated most at Valentine’s Day. Multiple studies have looked at what attracts couples to each other, causing them to have a romantic or love attachment. Much of the “biology of love” can be explained by chemistry. That romantic attraction or “zing” arises from hormones, stemming from the brain, not from the heart as we often believe. These hormones kick up lust, attraction, and a desire for attachment—that feeling of “falling in love”—which can hit you hard with an assortment of hormones rushing into play.

Several other factors contribute to the likelihood of a couple developing a bonding love relationship—like proximity, people living near each other or interacting often, along with physical attractiveness and the “matching phenomenon.” The latter is the tendency for people to be drawn to and to choose partners who are good matches in attractiveness and in other similar traits like intelligence, age, income, or education. Like the old saying “birds of a feather flock together,” and research has shown that couples are more likely to pair up with others who share similar looks, attitudes, interests, beliefs, and values. People also tend to be most attracted and comfortable with others similar to themselves, somewhat disputing the “opposites attract” theory.  The entire psychological subject of how attractions form is fascinating to read about. Basically, though, we all seek to be liked and loved.

Once a relationship forms, it tends to have certain common elements: aspects of passionate and emotional love, intimacy and liking, the enjoyment for each other’s company, and affectionate companionate love, along with trust, understanding, and caring.  An interesting phenomenon occurs as couples spend extensive time together.  Atoms interchange between them and the atoms recognize, and are drawn to each other again, when the loved partner comes into proximity. Love is truly a science and a mystery and like the old song ‘a many splendored thing.’

Many sweet and beautiful theories abound about love—and hundreds of songs have been written about the joy and wonder of falling in love and about the hurt and heartache of love gone wrong. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote we tend to ‘love another, not only for who and what they are, but for who we are and become when we are with them.’

Happy Valentine’s Day this month…. I hope the sweetness of love has touched and enriched your life.

See you again in March … Lin

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.


As a new year begins, I decided what we all needed more than another set of tired Resolutions is some positive Inspiration. The last two years have been difficult in our country.  America is experiencing problems and unrest, as is much of the rest of the world. Each of us, individually, is feeling our own unique set of pressures, too.  So I decided for my January blog to offer ten inspirational messages to lift your heart and spirit. Hopefully, these will give you new hope, new goals, and new wisdom to help you live this coming 2022 year with more joy and purpose.


A quote by Max Dupress says: “We cannot become what we want by remaining where we are.” Even when times are difficult, we need to move on, to live, to improve, to chase our dreams. For many of us we have let the events of the past two years immobilize us more than we should have, stagnate us beyond any imposed restrictions. We’ve used the difficulties of the times to stop in place. Well, now it is time to move on. To step out. Whatever has been in your story for the last two years doesn’t have to stay in your story for the year to come. As C. S. Lewis wisely wrote: “You can never be too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” There is always something meaningful you can do. You get to choose how to fill up the pages of the year to come. Stop waiting. Today is the day to go for it. Where you are a year from now is a reflection of the choices you choose to make right now.


I suppose one of our greatest faults as human beings is wishing someone else would do it all for us—make us rich, do our work, plan our lives, love us without expecting much love in return, and make life easy and sweet for us. But life seldom works out that way, and even when it does, that route creates an emotionally crippled individual. In truth, if you’re searching for that one person who will change your life, take a look in the mirror. You are meant to find your own way and forge your own destiny. You are absolutely capable of creating the life you want and dream of. So stop sitting in front of the TV just watching everyone else’s life. Get up and make a life of your own. Make your own dreams happen. Within you is so much latent potential that you’ve never tapped into. Know that you are the artist of your own life. Don’t hand the paintbrush to anyone else.


Three of the greatest inhibitors to reaching our dreams and potential are the insidious little enemies of fear, doubt, and worry. When our minds are inspired with a wonderful idea, a new dream or goal, those nasty little critters come creeping into our mind—often before the day is over—saying: “What if you fail?… Who do you think you are to try that?” We’ve all heard their voices. They slip into our minds, rain on our parade before the parade even begins. They come from within and from without, from our friends, family, and coworkers, who see only the surface of us, the norm they’re used to seeing, and not the potential lying within. If you’re waiting for the world to inspire you and cheer you on, you’ll probably be waiting for a long time. Frankly, you need to believe in yourself. You need to make your way and follow your own dream. You might be limiting yourself, thinking “What if I fail?” … But, oh, my, what if you fly.


We spend so much time making excuses for why we’re not doing more of what makes us happy. We belittle our talents and abilities. We compare ourselves negatively with others. We point out our shortcomings and weaknesses and not our strengths. We bemoan that we don’t have enough money or enough time. We say we’re too busy when we could carve out a little time for happy pleasures or pursuing our goals and dreams more if we would.  We let ourselves be limited by what others think and say. What is the point in that? In general, whenever anyone strikes out to pursue anything new, they are always criticized for it. But here’s the thing, the happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything. You can, too, this year, if you decide to.


Often we spend entirely too much time rehearsing to ourselves the mistakes and lost opportunities of yesterday or dreaming about a utopian tomorrow that may never happen. Ernest Hemingway wrote: “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.” Everything worthwhile happens little by little, step by step, in our todays. Our “todays” are the only days we can control and we all have the same twenty-four hours each day. We either use them wisely and well or we waste them. It’s our choice each day. This year, in order to follow your dreams and goals more, you may have to give up some things you do now to make time for things you want to see more of in your life. You may have to discipline your time and discipline your life. No one starts off being excellent and successful. Your future “You” is created day by day. Either you control your “todays” or they control you.


We read and hear so much today about having positive thoughts and a positive mindset, but if you listen to most people talk day to day and read their posts on Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites, you will hear more negative, complaining, and critical words than positive ones. Much of it is unconscious habit, based on how we were raised, who we spend our time with, and our own mindset we’ve settled into. Truthfully, we all have to train our unruly minds and thoughts to be what they should be. We have to purposely train our minds to focus on the positive and good and to speak it. What if whatever you spoke came following after you every day? What would that be? It’s wise to think about and it’s wise to monitor our words more. When you begin to channel your thoughts and words to be more positive, your life will begin to change to the positive. You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.


Nothing in this life will make you happy until you choose to be happy. Happiness won’t come to you; it comes from you.  Material wealth won’t make you happy, although it can make life easier. But we all know miserable people with more money than they know what to do with. People won’t make you happy either, although having loving friends and family in our lives is a blessing if we appreciate it.  But many have that and constantly grumble and complain. You can look around at your life and be grateful for all the good that you have or always find fault. The happiest people are grateful people, kind people, people interested in contributing to the happiness of others. Happy people are busy working and focusing on what they have in life, the opportunities and blessings in it, rather than focusing on what they don’t have. They are happy and grateful for what they do have while working for what they want. They’re the people happily enjoying a hike or picnic in the park nearby rather than complaining that they can’t travel to lavish faraway places.


You are the only person like you in the whole world. Your fingerprints are distinctly your own, your looks, your personality, the way you spend your days. Although others can offer you good advice and counsel, only you can change your life. Your path is your own in life. No one else can walk it but you, and no one can tell you your unique destiny but you. We all know that our opportunities in life are influenced by many factors—many of these within our control, others not. We walk the trail and path of our own life, like it or not … we can skip, hop, run, or bike—but it’s still our path. There are many rewards for living life well and hindrances for poor choices. We all experience problems along life’s way, but if you read the stories of happy, successful people, so did they. Our personal job is to try to seek and find our destiny and calling and to walk it every day with all our best. Be willing and eager to seek and work for that this year.


It is my belief that the greatest happiness, joy, life satisfaction, and pleasures come in a life sold out to God. As a believer that God created the heavens and the earth and all of us in it for His purpose and pleasure … the obvious conclusion to that belief is that my best purpose, my best life plan, my best life answers, my best way to walk and live every day is found in Him. That is the secret to my greatest joy in life, to my best contentment. I see myself as an Ambassador of God in the world, working for Him in all I do, trying to please Him in all my ways, and hopefully representing Him well with my time and my life—which belong to Him first. When you walk close to God, you tend to bloom more where you’re planted and are happier in your days. This, too, is something you can personally seek and grow in every day if you would.

In closing, I hope this coming year is a blessed and happy one for you. I hope you find more clearly what your purpose is in life, that you find more ways to bless and give to others, that you discover more ways to be happy and fulfilled in your day-to-day life. Like Fred Rogers’ quote below, you do make a difference in this world. You are more important than you can know. You leave something of yourself everywhere you go, with everyone you meet and interact with, and in everything you do. Work this year to make that legacy a good one that will live on after you. Live life with joy in your heart and love in your soul.

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And have a blessed new year …

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.


Many of us hold special memories about Christmas in our homes and the traditions we cherish … but I also hold many special memories of traditions and events held around my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Every fall, my mood begins to swing toward thoughts of Christmas when J.L. and I visit fall festivals and Christmas-themed shows where we begin to see Christmas decorations, handmade ornaments, gift ideas … and run into Santa!!! I usually buy my Christmas cards in the fall and do my holiday shopping then, too, but my real mood swing toward Christmas doesn’t begin until after Thanksgiving is over.

The real kick-off for me for the Christmas holidays comes right after Thanksgiving with the Fantasy of Trees held in Knoxville every year. It’s a premier event to benefit the Children’s Hospital and it offers over three hundred beautifully decorated trees, shops for children, elaborate gingerbread houses, and holiday wreaths and door designs. In a darkened room, ablaze with colorful Christmas lights and music, it’s hard not to “catch” the holiday spirit at the Fantasy of Trees and to want to run home and put up your own Christmas tree!

In the week after the Fantasy of Trees, downtown lights begin to appear around town, the big Christmas tree is lit in Krutch Park, and the annual Santa Claus Parade is held downtown, usually on the first Friday evening in December. Today, many elaborate parades are held all over America and televised, but when I was a girl this parade was looked forward to with great excitement and anticipation every year. Our family always sat to watch the parade on the high wall behind the post office building where my dad worked. It was such a thrill to hear and see the bands coming down the street, to see the decorated floats, and to wave at Santa Claus at the end of the parade. When my brother was in high school, he marched in his high school band in the Christmas parade and later strutted down the street ahead of his band as the school’s drum major. I, too, got my taste of being in the parade, marching in a sequined outfit with Claudette’s majorettes one year.

No holiday period is complete in our area now without driving into nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to see the outdoor light displays and to spend the evening at Dollywood theme park. The park’s buildings, trees, and entire acreage become a magic showcase of Christmas lights and decorations, with over five million holiday lights sparkling on every corner. The Christmas theme and colors of the lights change every year, as do the holiday shows, always making visiting Dollywood a beloved holiday tradition. The annual event is called “Smoky Mountain Christmas.” The holiday shows, carolers, Christmas parade, and other performances are always a delight and if you stay late in the evening, there are colorful fireworks, too. Dollywood is a joy year-round but at Christmas it is especially beautiful.

Another treat during the holidays is going to some of the wonderful Christmas shows and performances around the city of Knoxville. Some shows carry a high price ticket, like the Nutcracker ballet, Clayton Holiday Concert, and other special events, but we’ve enjoyed many of the equally beautiful free shows as a part of our holiday tradition for years. Special favorites of ours have always been the Living Christmas tree choral show performed at several local churches around town and the holiday concerts we can catch at area churches. We especially enjoy Christmas at West Park on Middlebrook and the Christmas Carol Show at the Catholic cathedral on Northshore Drive. Always on our list, too is the Nativity Pageant, a free drama presenting the story of Jesus birth in story and song put on at the Knoxville Coliseum. This beautiful event is now in its 53rd year and brings the Christmas story to life with glorious music, realistically portrayed Biblical characters, even donkeys and sheep, and closing with all standing to sing the Hallelujah Chorus at the end.

Another favorite part of the holidays is visiting the West Town Mall and its large department stores to see the beautifully decorated trees and holiday decorations throughout the mall. In times past, the mall used to be much more lavishly decorated than today but it is still fun to wander through the large indoor mall and stores to see all the lights and tree decorations. Often the florists around town decorate for visitors, too, and there used to be several we especially loved to visit. When I was a girl, the downtown Rich’s department store  extravagantly decorated inside and outside, and inside its tunnel leading under the street to the parking garage. The store also held a free choral concert outside which my family always attended, too.

Finally, no holiday period is complete without driving around town to see all the homes and yards lit up for Christmas. Word usually gets out as to which neighborhoods decorate with the most eye-catching displays every year and it’s a treat to drive through these neighborhood streets to spot the special lights and decorations the home owners have worked hard to create. The parks decorate, too, like Chilhowee park’s Christmas in Chilhowee in East Knoxville and Light the Park at Farragut’s Founders Park. Many parks also offer drive-through hours to enjoy the light displays, like the Festival of Lights at the Cove at Concord Park in West Knoxville.

This holiday, find and enjoy all the free and joyous pleasures around your own home town, just as we do. I’m sure you’ve discovered and created many traditions wherever you live that have become a special and cherished part of your Christmas season, as well as the traditions you enjoy in your own home.

Thank you to all of you for loving us and loving our books. We hope you have a blessed and peaceful holiday season … and a wonderful new year to come.

See you in 2022!


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Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.


The Foothills Parkway in East Tennessee is a beautiful two-lane scenic highway skirting near the borders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The legislation for the Foothills Parkway, Public Law 232, was approved and passed by Congress on February 22nd in 1944. The entire 72-mile road was originally intended to stretch from Exit #443 off Interstate 40, near Cosby and Newport, TN, to US Highway 129 near Tallassee and Maryville, TN far to the west. Originally, plans for the Parkway were laid out in eight distinct sections but construction didn’t begin until the 1960s and, to date, the full parkway is still not complete. Of all the seven different U.S. Congressionally Mandated Parkways, the Foothills Parkway is the only one yet to be finished.

The first section of the Parkway to be completed (Section H) was the west end from US Highway 129 at Tallassee to U.S. Highway 321 at Walland, which lies between Maryville and Townsend. Due to funding difficulties in the 1970s, erosion and environmental difficulties, the continuing sectional pieces from Walland to Carr Creek (6.1 mi) and Carr Creek on to Wears Valley (9.7 mi) weren’t totally completed and opened until 2018, fifty-two years later. In between these years, the east end of the parkway (Section A) from Interstate 40 to Cosby, a 5.6-mile stretch of roadway, was completed in 1968, but the proposed parkway sections from Cosby to Pittman Center (14.1 mi) and on to U.S. 441 (9.6 mi) have never been started nor has the additional 9.8 mile section of the parkway to Wears Valley.

In actuality the Parkway has been in the works, since its legislation date, for over 75 years, and it will probably be another 20 years or more before all the missing sections are completed. The right-of-way for constructing the remaining sections has been purchased by the National Park Service, which is a plus, but funding is not in place for the work to be done at this time. According to the National Park Service, the next section proposed for completion is section 8D between Wears Valley on US Highway 321 and the Spur on US 441/321 near Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Since the completion of the new stretch of parkway, traffic on Wears Cove Road and Line Springs Road to Metcalf Bottoms is now exceeding design capacity and safety concerns have pushed completion of this parkway section to the forefront.

Parkway background and history aside, traveling the completed sections of the Foothills Parkway is a pleasure at any time of the year, but it is especially beautiful in the fall. Many travelers to the Smoky Mountains know little about the Parkway but locals love it as a place to travel to enjoy views of the mountains, generally without the crowds and traffic found within the National Park. Many websites call the Parkway “The Unfinished Dream” and sing of its beauty even as it is.

This week we traveled across all three sections of the Foothills Parkway to see the fall colors beginning their annual show in East Tennessee. Our journey started on the west end of the Parkway where the road begins at Highway 129. Across the street from the entrance is Chilhowee Lake, created in 1957 when the Chilhowee Dam was built. Nearby on the highway are pull over spots to see the lake more clearly or to put in a boat or fish. About a block south of the entrance Happy Valley Road winds between Chilhowee Mountain and the Smoky Mountains to Abrams Creek Campground in the Smokies. A narrow road leads to a ranger station, parking spaces, and the small campground and to several fine hiking trails. J.L. and I love to hike here and especially love the Cooper Road Trail which winds out of the back of the campground toward Cades Cove.

The Foothills Parkway rises from the road’s entrance sign gradually uphill to Look Rock with several pull-over spots along the route up. Plan to stop at the large parking lot as the road reaches its high point on Chilhowee Mountain to enjoy the rock observation deck with views toward the Smoky Mountain range. Across the street from the parking lot, you can also hike the paved one-half-mile trail to Look Rock Tower. The path is steep but there are several rest stops along the way. At the tower, you can walk up the ramp to the railed observatory area, which offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the mountains. Signs around the deck tell you the names of the mountains and ranges you can see in the distance … and the tower, with visibility 20-miles or more on a clear day, is a great spot for photos.

A side road beyond the observatory and hiking trail leads to the pretty Look Rock Campground which is, unfortunately closed at this time—and has been since 2016. However, the picnic area recently reopened and plans are in place to hopefully update and reopen the campground and its sites in the future. After passing this point, stop at several other scenic pull-overs as the parkway descends to enjoy views across the mountain ranges to the south and to catch panoramic views of Maryville and the valley below the Chilhowee Mountains to the north.

At the end of this 18-mile stretch of parkway, you can exit onto Hwy 321 for fuel, food, or a rest stop, or continue into the newly completed 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway ending in Wears Valley. We continued on, following the Parkway as it rose from the gap at Walland to wind up hill along Raven Cliff Ridge and Bates Mountain to the high Chilhowee Mountain range again. We stopped often to take photos and enjoy the fall colors along the way. As this section of the Parkway rises high on the mountain, pull-overs offer stunning views toward the Smoky Mountain ranges. Where the ridgetop crests a wide pull-over yields especially fine vistas. At these high points you will also catch views of the bridges spanning the mountain ridge tops, which were an ongoing challenge to build on this Parkway and held up completion of the road many times. As the two-lane road winds downhill scenes of Wears Valley and the ridges and around it appear until the Parkway finally ends on Hwy 321 in Wears Valley. Turning right at the Parkway’s end, the highway winds its way back for 15 miles to Townsend or the road leads east for 10 miles to Pigeon Forge.

From the Foothills Parkway sections, completed on the west end, to the finished section of the Parkway on the east end near Cosby and Newport is about a 45 minute to one hour’s drive, depending on the route chosen and the tourist traffic. We drove and explored the eastern piece on a separate day, traveling from Knoxville (where we live) on Interstate-40 to get off onto the Parkway at Exit #443. This piece of the parkway, although short, also has several lovely pullovers with views to the Smoky Mountains. At one pullover you can see north to English Mountain and at another south to Mt Cammerer, Mt Guoyot and Mt. LeConte. The mountain town of Cosby, the Cosby Campground, picnic area, and a number of fine hiking trails are not far from the west end of the Parkway, and visiting around the area makes the trip more fun. We often take a hike after driving the parkway and make a side visit to Carver’s Orchard on the Cosby Highway, for fresh apples in the fall.

If you have never taken time to drive the three completed sections of the Foothills Parkway while in the Smoky Mountains, you might want to put them on your “to do” list for a coming visit. We love the Foothills Parkways in all seasons—in fall when the colors are a glory, in winter with snow on the high mountain ridges, in spring as the new green of springtime touches the hillsides, and in summer when the rich greens of the landscape sooth the soul.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.




As fall arrives I keep an eye on the trees in East Tennessee, looking for the first changing leaves, wondering when the autumn colors will begin to pop out in our neighborhood, along the highways, and in the Smoky Mountains. As the chlorophyll production, that causes the leaves to stay green, stops, the actual hidden colors of the leaves appear—the oranges, reds, yellows, and golden browns—giving us a glorious show before the leaves finally fall. The longevity and beauty of the fall colors every year are affected by temperature, rainfall, frosts, winds, storms and other natural factors. But generally, the trees in East Tennessee begin to change color by mid to late October, and into early November, so that by Thanksgiving most trees, except the evergreens, are bare.

We sometimes grow anxious about changes in our lives, but trees don’t. As Donald Miller wrote: “All the trees are losing their leaves and not one of them is worried.” A popular quote on Facebook right now, adds: “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go” [anon]. Trees provide many wise lessons for us and these are some of the lessons I think trees teach us about life:

Lesson 1: Trees show us that good things begin small and that growth takes time…. “Even the tallest trees always begin as a seed.” [A.J. Darkholme]… “The day you plant a seed is not the day you eat the fruit” [anon] …Trees remind us that all big and beautiful things in the natural world begin small. They show us the hidden potential in ordinary things, and the importance of steady, constant growth. Growth always takes time and ongoing patience, a lesson we can learn from in a world that is often pushing, rushing, and marked by impatience. Trees remind us, too, that we need to grow deep roots before reaching further upward.

Lesson 2: Trees teach us we need to develop strong roots to live wisely and well. . . .   “A tree with strong roots laughs at storms.” [Malay Proverb]… “A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.” [Wangari Maathai] … Strong, deep roots help trees—and us—weather the inevitable storms of life. When difficulties and tragedies come to trees, breaking their branches, stripping their leaves, bringing hardship, they stand strong and patient through it all, gradually recovering and continuing to grow and flourish and fruit. They adapt to the problems and seasons of life that come their way with a calm strength we can learn from.

Lesson 3: Trees illustrate to us the beauty of diversity and the joy of individuality….     “In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike.” [Paulo Coelho]…Trees represent life, growth, peace and nature—with over 60,000 different types of trees.” [Laylee Brensenaki]… Except in fanciful storybooks, no tree yearns to be like another tree or envies another. Each is what it is, true to itself, growing to its best self and type. Trees show us the beauty of diversity and teach us that we are each meant to be unique and not all the same. We need to remain always true to ourselves, fulfilling our own unique purpose to the best of our abilities, like the trees do.

Lesson 4: Trees provide a role model of giving, sharing, and contributing to others. “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” [Joyce Kilmer] … “Trees are constantly working to make earth a healthier planet … Trees provide shelter and food for a variety of birds and small animals…. And they make a difference in lives and in the world.” [Natural Wildlife Federation] … Trees are givers. They provide beauty to the earth, inspiring us, and they work in many ways to make the world better for others beyond themselves. Birds nest in their branches, and many animals live in, on, and around trees and depend on them to survive. Trees give shade freely, provide fruit, nuts, or flowers according to type, showing us a giving role model. In a world in which most are “all about themselves.” trees show us the goodness of sharing and of living in community wisely, contributing to the good of others as well as growing to become the best they can be.

Lesson 5: Trees help to exemplify that every season of life has its beauty and merit….    “I feel a great regard for trees; they represent age and beauty and the miracles of life and growth.” [Louise Dickinson Rich]…“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven… [and] everything is beautiful in its time.” [Ecc 3:11, KJV Bible]… There is beauty in every season of a tree, and trees show us how each season of life brings its own unique grace and wonder. In the Fall trees display glorious beauty even during a time of hard change. In the quiet and cold of winter, trees rest and put down deeper roots. In the Spring, they burst forth with newness, budding with new growth, freshness and joy. And in the deep of Summer, they grow rich, abundant, and warm with life. We pass through our seasons of life, too, not only broadly over our lifetime from birth to death … but in an ongoing manner as the days and seasons we live through ebb and flow, one into another. The trees teach us how to change, and move through the seasons of life with grace and a positive and right attitude, growing and becoming better and stronger, seeing the beauty and possibilities in each season and time. Trees never get stuck in one time or season either and they never retire from the wonder of life.

Walt Whitman suffered an early stroke in his life and claimed coming into close touch with nature, and learning from it, helped him recover. Horace Kephart similarly found emotional healing in coming to the Smoky Mountains. There is a deep comfort in nature available to us that we often ignore, and a deep comfort in trees. They represent life, the wonder and beauty of growth, strength, stability, wisdom, and peace. For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers,” Herman Hesse wrote. “Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.”

Like the old Sound of Music song I go to the mountains and hills, the parks and out-of-doors, when my heart needs a lift or is lonely. I know the beauty of nature, the richness of the trees, will help to recharge me, bring me new inspiration, reconnect me to my goals, to myself, and to my faith. As John Muir wrote: “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” So…”Get lost in the trees every now and then; it’s good for the soul.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.



September 2021 – LATE BLOOMERS

September 7th is Grandma Moses Day. Reading about her life was a positive story reminder to me that it’s never too late to pursue dreams and goals, never too late to learn, and never too late to create a life you love.

Grandma Moses life is such an inspirational one. Anna Mary Robertson Moses, born on September 7th, 1860, didn’t begin painting in earnest until in her seventies. She grew up one of ten children on a big farm, married Thomas Moses at seventeen, and ran a farm with him while raising their five children. When arthritis made embroidery more difficult in her sixties, she began dabbling with paint, mixing leftover house paints to create pictures on old farm board. In her late seventies, when her husband died, she began to paint more, selling some of her primitive folk art paintings, like the one depicted here, in a local drug store. An art collector, Louis Caldor, saw a group of her paintings and bought them, and the next year put them in a New York art exhibit. The public loved Grandma’s simple colorful paintings of rural countryside scenes and farm life, and she soon grew a wide following. From her seventies to her nineties Anna Mary created more than 1,500 paintings and her work was exhibited through the U.S. and abroad. She won many prestigious art awards, was memorialized in books, magazines, and movies. One book about her life you might enjoy is her own autobiography called Grandma Moses: My Life’s History.

So often we think we need to have the right connections, the right training, or a lot of money, to try anything new … but Grandma Moses shows we can often simply begin where we are. If we would. As she wrote: “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”

Another “Late Bloomer” grandma story I love is of Grandma Gatewood, who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail at sixty-seven, the first woman to hike the entire AT, with no special equipment and a drawstring sack carrying her simple trail needs. It was 1955 and the Appalachian Trail was rougher and less developed then than it is today and few had hiked its length. Emma Gatewood had known a rough life before this date, raising eleven children, enduring an abusive marriage and harsh poverty. When she set out that spring of 1955, she told her children she was “going on a walk,” never offering them any particulars. You can read her remarkable story of that “walk” and her many hikes after in Ben Montgomery’s book Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. Her story shows again what is possible, no matter your age.

It isn’t only grandmas who bloom late. Many men, or grandpas, also pursue new ventures late in their lives, move into new careers, discover new inventions, create new businesses. Some notable examples of late men bloomers are Mark Twain, Morgan Freeman, Colonel Sanders, Albert Einstein, Ray Kroc, and James Michener to name only a few.

I love Harlan David Sanders story. As a young man he did a little of everything—farmer, pilot, salesman. He loved to cook, too, and at mid life opened a restaurant, which failed, leaving him bankrupt. But he didn’t give up his dream or his belief in a fabulous chicken recipe he’d discovered. At 65 years old he used his first Social Security check of $105.00 to begin again and to found the Kentucky Friend Chicken Company, becoming a multimillionaire before he died. He once wrote: “Every failure can be the stepping stone to something better” and he proved that belief to be true.

Albert Einstein is another man who bloomed into greatness in latter life. He was born in Germany in 1879 and considered slow in development and learning as a boy. A late bloomer, he taught himself calculus and geometry and loved physics. He failed the entrance exam for the Federal Polytechnic Institute the first time but tried again and passed later. Einstein struggled in his early adult years, taking menial jobs to get by, and in the scientific field later, people had trouble understanding the importance of his work. He wrote: ‘The ordinary adult never bothers his head about the problems of space and time… but as a child I developed slowly and began to wonder about this.” Einstein’s wonderings, study, and work led to his discovery of the mathematically complex Theory of Relativity in his mid life. His name became synonymous with brilliance and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921 for his services to Theoretical Physics.

I think both these men’s stories show that people don’t always understand the dreams or talents of others. None of these people had an “easy” life either. A common misconception is that talents, production, and intellectual development peak in young adulthood and decline with age, but this has been disproved time and again by research and by countless individuals who didn’t find their deepest talents and abilities until later in life or who didn’t get the time or life breaks to pursue them earlier in their lives.

For many of us at mid life, or later, there might be many reasons that cause us to push forward to doggedly pursue an old dream despite life’s setbacks or to totally change course to begin pursuing an entirely new dream. Reasons which might lie behind mid life change include:

(1) Termination from a job. Statistics show that businesses are less loyal today than in the past and that 56% of employees are “let go” for various reasons at late midlife so companies can avoid paying retirement benefits and the higher salaries a long-time employee nets.

(2) Demands of life. The busyness and responsibilities of life often keep individuals from reaching for their higher goals and dreams until their latter years.

(3) Unhappy work situations. Discontent and changes in employment situations often push individuals to reevaluate their lives and seek change.

(4) Work retirement. After retirement individuals gain a long “second adulthood” of useful years, freeing them to pursue new dreams, works, and goals.

In all instances, change is hard and never easy. It’s risky. Change forces people to leave “the comfort zone” of their present life and its familiarity. It demands overcoming fears and self-doubts. It requires self analysis and the courage to change in all the ways needed to pursue something “new” and different. Change demands discipline, hard work, and persistence. It also pushes against the innate nature of people to remain comfortably or uncomfortably as they are. Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion reminds us that: “a body at rest tends to stay at rest.” People are governed to a great extent by this law, and it takes a “push” or a “force” from within or without to propel most people into a new path. However, on the positive, Newton’s Law also states that: “a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” So once factors from within, or without, push a person to change – and they get past that first stage of fear, anxiety, and resistance—a move in a new direction may prove very positive and productive indeed.

I hope you can see more now that Late Bloomers are individuals with the zeal and courage to bloom a little later than at the expected time in life … and often in a way no one would have ever expected. Late Bloomers may achieve recognition and success or they may simply find joy in discovering new, rewarding, and useful works and interests. Can you bloom late? Yes! People are living longer and stronger today, and a “wide open” new life period exists for people at mid life who want or need to change direction and for those beyond sixty-five to pursue new interests, new careers, and new pursuits. Be assured, you CAN BLOOM beautifully and bloom well even in midlife or late life. Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re “over the hill” and that it’s “too late to pursue new dreams.” Success and joy in work can happen at any time and at any age … and there are more late bloomers out there than you may think. …I’m one of those Late Bloomers myself and blooming more joyfully every day.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.