Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Monday, January 26, 2009

To Delight in a Rose

Given the state of the all current news (sour) and the economy (abysmal), and given the fact that outside my window as I write this, snow falls atop inches more of snow, I have to write about something colorful, something beautiful, and something that lifts my spirits (as I hope it does yours)—roses. Ah, yes, roses … life should be a beautiful bouquet of roses. Especially around this time of year, when the ground and everything surrounding it appears dead and brown, and the snow washes everything clean and white, and our eyes forget the riches of Nature’s beauty in the color that spring so lavishly brings. Yes, roses.

The roses I’d like to share are no ordinary roses. These roses are … my favorites, which mean these rosebushes are ones which have withstood the tests and trials of time in my backyard garden in Zone 6 Southwest Ohio. It also means these beauties have outlasted one very feisty old dog and her tricks and three young men who constantly test the roses’ durability with soccer balls and the like. These roses, Jennifer’s favorite roses, are ones that, with enough abuse, can survive and flower beautifully in any other garden, too—including yours. Of course, I’m being funny, but it’s true—these roses I’m listing below are ones which have bloomed in profusion despite everything I do wrong. I hope the photographs I paste in bring you a slice of fragrant springtime …

Jeanne LaJoie: One of the most beautiful roses I have ever seen. The two in my garden, I bought at the clearance table at a local nursery one year. They have produced abundant blooms every June and then throughout each summer and into fall. Both top out at about six feet tall, and send up new canes for even more blooms each year. Technically, Jeanne LaJoie is a Miniature Climbing rose. Click here to find it online.

Double Delight: This rose is one of the roses my grandmother loves most, and so I also planted it in my garden a few years back. Every rose seems to be different, with a unique and exquisite blending of cream-colored white and crimson red. Combining its looks with its captivating fragrance, this rose is a definite favorite. Mine has always remained somewhat small, and the leaves never look very attractive, so I’ve interplanted mine with other perennials, but the blossoms are amazing. Technically, Double Delight is a Hybrid Tea. Click here to find it online.

Tahitian Sunset: Truly, I have to say that this rose has been the one, besides the climbers, to continually produce oodles of blooms. Not only is it robust and its leaves are attractive, but it has a wonderful fragrance and is resistant to the blackspot that normally disrobes my other roses by mid-summer. But the best part is that I have had the pleasure of cutting a dozen long-stemmed apricot-colored roses from my single Tahitian Sunset rosebush. Many times. Amazing, in my mind. Click here to find it online.

Peter Mayle: This is my absolute favorite in the rose world—Peter Mayle. The fragrance on this Hybrid Tea rose is beyond that of any other in my garden, and the blossoms—well, the photograph speaks for itself. Heat has never seemed to affect its flowering, and a single long-stemmed rose lasts for over a week in a vase. Yes, this is the one I love most … Peter Mayle. Click here to find it online.

I would love to hear your stories and favorites from your yards. Please add as you like to the comments below. Enjoy the day! Looking forward to a color-filled spring-- Jennifer.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finding Rest

A song popular some years ago by Soul 2 Soul entitled Keep On Movin’ was a favorite of mine. The beat kept moving with a catchy rhythm, and the lyrics repeated endlessly the phrase “keep on moving, don’t stop.” Keep On Movin’ has always been one of those songs which I could sing in my head all day long—all week long, for that matter. And before I know it, I’ve kept on moving through the grind of life, and kept on moving more, without taking a time to slow down.

Each year, with all the gains in technology, as a society we’re able to accomplish more, do more, and keep on moving longer than we could even the year previous. But one thing, I think, does not change, which is our common need to slow down. We can work and run and drive and accomplish, but when do we let our souls catch up to our bodies? When do we allow ourselves the chance to be unproductive? Is it possible to have enough margin space in modern life to take a breath and really enjoy a day once in a while? How can we even remember how to rest?

Rest is the name of a recently released book by author Keri Wyatt Kent, and in its contents, Keri addresses the need for rest in the midst of our busy lives. Another word Keri commonly uses in her book is Sabbath, nearly synonymous with the word Rest. One of Webster’s definitions for Sabbath is “a day of rest or prayer.” In her book, Keri makes practical suggestions of ways to incorporate the ancient Biblical practice of Sabbath into the rigors of modern-day life.

Years ago, I became a fan of Keri Wyatt Kent when I read her book entitled God’s Whisper in a Mother’s Chaos. Since then, I’ve become friends with Keri, and now have the privilege of asking Keri a question or two about her book, Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity, and am posting them here to share them with you. Keri also is the author of Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life. Rest picks up where that one left off—offering life-giving guidance for living a sanely-paced, God-focused life.

So, Keri, to you, what is Sabbath, and what is its purpose?
Sabbath, first and foremost, is a gift from our loving God. He invites us to
take a day to rest from our labor, so that we might engage in relationship with
him and with others.
Jennifer: What should a reader expect to gain by reading Rest?

I think Jesus said it best: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST." Rest gives practical help to readers who are tired, frazzled, and feeling like they are too busy. It is a non-legalistic, grace-filled, practical approach to finding a sane pace. The book teaches how to live in Sabbath Simplicity--not with formulas or lists, but by listening to God through the stories of other people just like you. Most of all, readers will discover how to receive the gift of Sabbath. Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity provides practical ways to slow down and simplify. It offers the gift of Sabbath, as a lifestyle and a spiritual practice.


Keri and Zondervan are graciously offering a free book for readers of this blog. To become eligible for the drawing, leave a comment below (or for email feed, click at http://jenniferlynking.blogspot.com/ to leave a comment) for a chance to win a copy of Rest. If you leave a question, Keri will be glad to try to answer it. We’ll select a winner on Sunday, January 25.
Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity is available at bookstores everywhere, and on-line. Click here to purchase it from amazon.com or christianbook.com.

For more information about Keri Wyatt Kent, visit her website at http://www.keriwyattkent.com/ or http://www.sabbathsimplicity.com/

Leave a comment (you can even just say "Hey, JK" and you'll be entered :) ) … enjoy your day! -JK

Monday, January 19, 2009

Enduring the Cold

This past week’s weather has been blisteringly cold for most of our nation, and dipped below zero a few times even here in Southwest Ohio. I really can’t imagine living any farther north. The USA Today weather page had an interesting fact a few days ago—at -37 degrees F., the rubber on tires freezes, meaning that the flat spot from being parked remains when driving at or below -37 degrees. Thump-thump, thump-thump …

It’s no wonder, then, that roses can hardly survive the cold, especially the beautiful ones, the hybrid teas. As I look outside now, our backyard gardens wear a thin veil of snow to protect them from the cold. Not enough, I’m afraid, to withstand the cold from the last week. We’ll find out if any survived in April …

Every year in November, I go about our fifty or so rosebushes and dress them for the winter. I am not a finicky gardener—in fact I’m probably more of a minimalist. With a normal garden shovel, I heave a mound of nearby soil over the base of most rosebushes, depending on what they are, to help them endure the cold.
For the shrub roses, like the very popular (and rightfully so) Knock Out, I don’t do a thing. In my experience, the Knock Out roses, along with all Rugosa roses and other shrub roses, can withstand a chainsaw pruning and bloom beautifully even still.
Knock Out shrub rose

For English roses (cultivated by the legendary David Austin), I use substantially more care. Not only do I hill dirt and mulch around the base of the plant, but I also gather bundles of spent Becky daisy stems and work them into the branches to the base.
English roses, Evelyn, Jubilee Celebration, Jude the Obscure, and Redoute

For floribundas and grandifloras, like Simply Marvelous, I do the same as for the English roses.
And finally, for the most demanding of all roses, the Hybrid Teas, I accommodate them with a bit more attention and ensure the dirt, mulch, stems, and grass straw all cover the base and first foot of each plant. I have to admit, I love Hybrid Tea blooms.
Double Delight, hybrid tea

That leaves my handful of old roses to cover, which includes one of the old beauties, Baronne Prevost, whose visual beauty comes nowhere near her amazing fragrance. I treat the old roses for the winter basically the same as the floribundas.
Baronne Prevost, an old (1840's) hybrid perpetual

Climbing roses, I don’t touch. Eden and New Dawn are favorites of mine that have survived every Ohio winter since I’ve planted them nearly ten years ago.
New Dawn, an unstoppable climbing beauty

As far as other annual maintenance for the roses, I leave the pruning and sealing of canes for late April, and fertilize with a liquid fertilizer that also incorporates systemic to keep diseases and pests at bay.

In truth, I always lose at least a few rosebushes each year. This year, I’ll probably lose more than a few—but in my gardens, as in the rest of life, nothing goes just the way I think it will. I figure the ones that die leave room to try a few new ones each spring. And as a result, every year I seem to find a new favorite.

Whatever time I spend tending to roses—one hour in fall preparing roses for winter, and one hour in spring whacking the dead canes off and fertilizing—I find the pleasure and joy I gain from having roses far outweighs the work. Walking amongst the lingering fragrance and petals floating about on the breeze, and cutting rose blooms for enjoyment indoors remains one of the greater pleasures of having a garden. And when the dew dazzles like diamonds atop a rosebud on a heady summer morning, maybe, I think, the experience is one of the greater pleasures of life and living.

Next week, I’ll plan to share a few photographs of the roses I enjoy the most.

And, on the 23rd (this Friday), I’m hosting my friend and fellow writer, Keri Wyatt Kent to talk about her latest book, entitled Rest. For a preview, visit her website at http://www.keriwyattkent.com/.

Finally, a huge thank you to the editors at the renowned author website, The Red Room, for giving me the honor of the "Red Room Rising Star." Visit their home page to see more: http://www.redroom.com/. Thank you!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Irrepressible American Spirit

I know I promised to post next with more about the gardens, but I’m inserting an extra set of thoughts in here based on what I’m thinking about today … to compensate, an extra photo for aesthetic beauty. :) Looking forward to this kind of summer in the bone-chilling and bleakest days of this winter!

It was somewhat surreal to be talking to my husband this morning on the phone and listen to him tell the story of the US Airways jet that crashed yesterday into the Hudson River. An incredible and miraculous story, for sure. It is more amazing to hear that story told from the other side of the world, as Brian is in Northern India right now. Listening to him retell it from the rest of the world’s perspective hit me in a different light.

We all marvel at the incredible feat and modern-day miracle that occurred when Captain Sullenberger landed an entire jet filled with people in an almost-frozen river running beside New York City. And, I think, we all marvel at the speed of the local ferries and boats which responded to the emergency immediately. That a handful of civilians would rush to help in blisteringly-cold weather demonstrates the amazing, irrepressible, American spirit.

On a local scale, yesterday, I had the awesome opportunity to witness the enthusiasm bubbling up from within a class of fourth-graders as they learned more about writing stories and realistic fiction. All around the room, hands popped up and waved like flags as the kids eagerly awaited their turn to contribute to the class discussion. Every child in the twenty-five student class participated in grand ways.

Being just a bystander on the education process, I marvel at the dedication and tenacity of our teachers as they go about the massive task of educating children. Not only do they endure crowded classrooms and interesting attitudes, but they also make do with less in response to diminishing budgets. For the sake of investing one of life’s greatest riches into the lives of the next generation, our teachers give, and live out daily the American Spirit.

For me, it is the little things, like the ferry-driver’s decision to fire up the engines and help someone in need, or the teacher’s daily decision to stand before a class full of energetic tweens, that define the American Spirit. And it is with these small and courageous acts of the real neighbors around all of us that I look with hope into the future. That by these small acts our children might learn to give of themselves for another, and that in doing so, we might all discover the truest sense of living—giving to help another—the irrepressible American Spirit.

Even in the face of these tough economic times and the uncertainty of the coming years, it is with hope I look forward to our future … God bless America.

One last thing—on the 23rd, I’m hosting a friend and fellow writer to talk about her new book entitled Rest, author Keri Wyatt Kent. Looking forward to that!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

For Color-Starved Eyes

Every year about this time, in the darkest, coldest, cruelest part of winter, my eyes become color-starved. The reason I know this is because when the gardening catalogs start arriving just about the time the lights and glimmer from Christmas fade, it’s all I can do to keep myself from poring over their pages for hours. Not only do all of the flowers and sample gardens indulge my eye, but something intangible in the shapes and opulence of the photographs make my eyes want to hang onto the images for hours. This is the reason, I realize now, that I wanted to have my own camera and my own gardens—to find something of beauty upon which to gaze when winter has sapped the color from my world.

So … I’m sharing the beginning of the story of how our gardens came to be …

We moved into our home, an ordinary suburban house in Southwest Ohio, almost ten years ago from a tiny bungalow in New Orleans. During our time here, it’s possible we may have spent as much time outdoors as we have indoors. At least, so it seems. Even as toddlers, the boys stole every chance to escape out the back door to stomp in puddles. Instead of trying to corral them back inside, I joined the boys outside. I still have memories of their little legs running through the grass while they pushed plastic wheelbarrows loaded with brightly-colored children’s tools. The boys have spent years beside me on their knees building worm habitats while I weeded or worked in the gardens. Muddy or not, we all have a love for the backyard, and as a result, we have many gardens.

Our yard contained only a postage stamp-sized concrete patio and two spindly trees when we moved in. So, the first year we lived here, I spent hours chipping away at the sod in frugal attempts to transform our plain yard into something more interesting. The shape came slowly at first, laid out in crude shapes with garden hoses to represent the picture I had painted in my mind. As we built a couple of structures—a pergola and an arbor—the gardens started to move along. Plants came a little slower, but eventually, through pass-alongs from friends and plants found in the bargain bins at local garden centers, our backyard came to know some color … these four photographs follow our gardens through the change in seasons, from dull and lifeless in winter to rose-covered arbors in spring to the eye-popping rainbow of summer and the more muted tones of autumn.

Per the requests of a few blog followers, I plan to return with more posts of garden photography over the coming weeks.

Here’s to looking forward to a beautiful Spring!

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009: a Once-in-a-Lifetime Year

It’s the New Year, the Christmas break we all loved is now past, and the kids are back in school … hard to believe. Looking down the slope for 2009, before giving the slide a whirl, I like to take a few moments to reflect.

Recently, I sorted through photographs from 2008, to share with a friend. In my case, with photographs, since I am constantly hauling around my D-SLR, I have many. Many many. And in looking back, I found several that were once-in-a-lifetime. Most of those, of course, were of the family, doing things we’ll never do quite the same way again. I’m so glad we’ve captured those moments to look back on. But one other photograph in particular has held my attention for the past few days. Maybe it’s part of my New Year’s reflections.

This photograph sticks in my mind because of its quiet beauty—a photograph of a zebra swallowtail butterfly in our backyard. Though the photograph is imperfect being somewhat off-center, I wouldn’t change a single thing.

© Jennifer Lyn King, http://www.jenniferlynking.com/, 2008.
Before that lazy summer day, I had only seen a zebra swallowtail butterfly in books, though our backyard flowers frequently attract other types of swallowtails. This zebra, beautifully adorned with black and white stripes and a detailing of crimson and azure near the base of its tail, was hard to miss.

That day, our seven-year-old sited it first. After the scramble for my camera, we approached slowly and maintained our distance, trying not to scare the amazing butterfly away. But after this zebra hung out with us in the lavender patch for many minutes, we found it so unafraid it was practically brushing our arms with its wings. Usually, swallowtails flutter incessantly, making good photographs difficult to take. But with this zebra swallowtail, it seemed as if he was as interested with watching us while sipping his lavender nectar as we were in observing him.

When I downloaded the photographs later that day, I discovered this shot—a magnificent rendering of that zebra swallowtail mid-flight. Soaring. After years of sitting still for hours attempting to photograph hummingbirds and butterflies in our gardens, I know I will never capture something like that again. Some things come around only once-in-a-lifetime.

This coming year is sure to be filled to the brim with new experiences, some good, some great, some terrifying—just like my 2008. It must be human nature to clench our fists when faced with something new, whether out of the need to hold on tight or out of the desire to keep things just the same. But one thing I’m continually learning as the calendar pages pass is that through all of the experiences, if I can remember to pry my fists open and quietly trust, things will be okay.

Remember how preschoolers make a butterfly out of their hands? By opening their hands and linking thumbs, a butterfly can be made. Maybe that’s the case for our lives as well—as we stop clinging so tightly, open our hands and relax, we can find the way to spread our wings and fly as well. Perhaps this is our year to open up to possibility and soar.

2009 is sure to be full of once-in-a-lifetime moments. I hope to have my eyes and hands open and ready to catch the joys as they fly by so that I may, too, spread my wings and soar.