Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Simple Joys of Summer

“Live Simply, Live Well.”

In our kitchen, we have a sign hanging above the doorway with the quote: “Live Simply, Live Well.” For some reason, those four words strike a harmonious chord down deep within me, and probably in many ways sums up the values I hold close—family, friends, love, laughter—the simple things.

Summer is the season for simplicity, I think. Sun, warmth, barbeques, pool-side conversation, splashing and playing, and, of course, garden flowers and fruits and veggies. There is nothing better than slowing down and soaking up some sun, joining friends for great food, and enjoying the simpler things. Living simply, living well …

We’ve been harvesting our best crop ever of garden raspberries. Maybe the abundant rain mixed with sunshine has done the trick, as opposed to other years with hardly any rainfall, but the boys and I have picked a couple gallons of raspberries this June (which doesn’t include the handfuls we’ve consumed right off the vine!). It’s been a sweet time, a delicious month of enjoying some of life's simpler things.

Also, since I love to photograph the living canvas of blooming art outside our back door, I’m pasting in a few shots that capture some of the beauty I’ve been enjoying.

The Back Border garden coming to life: Pandora’s Box daylilies, lithrum, Russian sage, scabiosa, Becky daisies, Greetings rose, miscansis grasses.

Lavendar Illusion daylily, one of my favorites

Heirloom Tall Garden Phlox, with a fragrance that perfumes the entire yard!

Enjoy your summer, and don’t forget to make time to savor the simplicity of the season ... :)


Friday, June 19, 2009

The Wealth of Czech Culture

In a handful of weeks, our family of five will be taking the giant leap across the Atlantic to settle into a new life in Prague, Czech Republic. We are all very excited about the adventure that is sure to come with life in a new country and a new continent. In addition to the endless physical preparations, we are doing our best to prepare ourselves from within, as well. This week, we went through cultural training, which not only gave us points of cultural differences to prepare for, but also introduced many wonderful aspects of Czech life to look forward to living and experiencing during our time there.

Since I really didn't know much about Prague and Czech Republic until recently, I’d like to share a few key elements I find interesting.

The Czech Republic is a beautiful, modern country about the size of the state of South Carolina with a population of roughly ten million. The Czech Republic has been a member of NATO since 1999 and of the European Union since 2004, and is bordered by Germany to the west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the East, and Poland to the north. Though the region thrived as an intellectual European center prior to 1948, the government fell to Soviet rule, and Czechoslovakia endured communist regime until 1989. In 1993, Czech Republic and Slovakia split into their respective countries. Amazingly, the Czech people have only been without communism for only twenty years.

Prague, the main Czech city, has long stood as a cultural center for much of Central Europe, hosting artists and musicians and intellectuals for decades. One of my personal favorites, Antonin Dvořák, musician and composer of the New World Symphony and many Slavonic Dances, lived near Prague in the late 1800’s. Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart resided in Prague and found tremendous inspiration there. Today, opera, ballet, and symphony perform regularly in breathtaking opera houses.
Prague is also well known for poets and writers, including Franz Kafka. And since original buildings exist throughout the city, Prague is known for its wealth of architecture: Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Cubist, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau. On a practical level, the city's beauty is everywhere, brought to life in weathered plaster buildings, cobblestone streets, and brightly-colored geraniums planted in quaint windowboxes.

With castles and music and arts and natural and societal beauty, our time in Prague is certain to be a culturally decadent experience. As a writer, I know the rich surroundings of Prague and Central Europe will have a profound impact on my life, my living, and my art.
So much to learn, so much to enjoy, so much to savor and pass on … looking forward to the upcoming years of experiences in Prague, Czech Republic.
Looking forward to sharing it with you …
Enjoy Summer! -Jennifer

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Winds of Change

True to form, these last couple of weeks of vast change in our personal lives, I have been finding refuge in small spurts in the backyard. I’ve always been a backyard girl, excited about plants and animals that live there. Considering that the clematis and climbing roses have created a breathtaking paradise just outside our back door, recently I’ve spent a larger quantity of time outside than normal. It just so happens that an amazing phenomenon has been taking place. Not only have the tiniest birds in the avian world taken up residence in and around our yard, but the Ruby-throated hummingbirds have become a ubiquitous presence throughout every moment of daylight—even at 5:30 am. The garden fairies are out in full force now, rain or shine.

Before a friend gave us a hummingbird feeder several years ago, my husband and I had lived much of our lives in the Midwestern United States without ever even encountering a single hummingbird. Given their size and speed, hummingbirds are difficult to watch or even notice. But with a feeder and a garden blooming with hummingbird favorites, we now have such a steady stream of hummingbirds flitting about that it’s not uncommon for a hummer to come up for a personal greeting. Armed with my digital SLR camera, I have been hanging out near the hummingbird feeder to catch a shot or two.

Each time I actually capture a good photograph of a hummingbird, I rejoice! It’s not easy standing hidden and still for long minutes waiting, and hummers may be one of the fastest moving targets imaginable. BUT, I do occasionally catch a couple of good ones … I’d like to share a couple with you.

Every year, we have a juvenile male hummer take up residence near the feeder, and literally try to guard the feeder from any other hummers. Whenever another hummingbird comes into the vicinity, the high-speed chase begins. Funny enough, he chit-chits at me so as to scare me away as well, and if I’m lucky enough, he’ll do the famous hummingbird dive-bomb, too. It’s amazing that the tiniest of all birds have the largest personalities! So, as I caught this photograph of the mature male Ruby-throated hummer, the guard must have been sleeping…

The hummingbird in the next photograph was enchanting—completely unaffected and undeterred by my presence. I’m judging by the shortened tail and fluffy feathers that this one is a juvenile—I think it’s adorable!

Finding perspective while the winds of change blow through can be difficult. For our family, in the midst of an international move, looming change blows in like a gale force. Nothing seems as if it will stay familiar. But in the midst of unfamiliarity, many things stay the same—Nature. The sun rises and sets. The flowers bloom and the grass grows, regardless of what our schedules say. The birds fly and the sky blazes in impressive colors and shapes, unswayed by the craziness of our lives.

Solace and peace isn’t easy to hunt and find, but it certainly can be experienced by sitting back for a while, catching a breath or two, and enjoying the creation around us. Through the winds of change, I’ll be catching my breath in the backyard, camera in hand, catching more joys that fly.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Adventure Called Life

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing [at all].” –Helen Keller

Last week, my husband and I had the immense privilege of traveling abroad to Prague, Czech Republic, a sweepingly beautiful country in Eastern Europe. We knew the trip would be an adventure, but in every way, our experiences exceeded our expectations. Of course, as travel and change are sometimes difficult, on our first day in Europe last week, our oldest son broke his arm in the States. Thankfully, our son received good care and is on the mend, but with that situation combined with our lack of internet access, last week’s blog did not get posted … perhaps later on this week.

To share, a few highlights of our time in Czech Republic:

With grand Prague Castle perched high above the Vltava River, even a single glimpse of Prague is impressive. On one warm day we were there, we walked the Charles Bridge among tourists and street vendors, took in the sights, and watched the colorful rowboats out for evening river rides. The Prague Castle dazzled us at night as its illuminated reflection danced across the Vltava, as we strolled along admiring the scene from the other bank.

History and romance reign in Prague’s Old Town, with cobblestone streets and open squares and cathedrals and monuments and quaint shops and open-air restaurants. Inspiring architecture and rich tradition saturate the ambiance in Old Town, showcasing the musical gems of opera and symphony, religious landmarks with centuries’ old spires and stained glass, and historical sites such as the Old Town Square and its Astronomical Clock circa 1410.

A city with a high “green” ratio, Prague boasts many forests and parks and public gardens to visit, creating a pleasant balance between buildings and nature. Outside Prague, countryside stretches over rolling hills patched by crops and lined with waving crimson poppies. Beautiful!

Though the dominating language in Czech Republic is Czech, the people were welcoming and kind, and we found many spoke some English.
This summer, we will be relocating to Prague for an expat assignment for my husband’s work. During last week’s trip, we accomplished the objectives of finding housing, investigating the city, and registering our children for school. We are all excited to set off on a new adventure in Prague!

Life can be viewed through various lenses. But, as Helen Keller famously noted (quoted above), life really only sings when it’s seen through the lens of possibility. Whether it’s moving across the world, or walking across the room to make a new friend, our lives are completely made up of our choices -- choices toward or away from adventure. Looking at life through the lens of possibility, life can be a daring adventure. Here’s to squeezing every last drop of life out of today, and every day … to the Adventure called Life.