Ghosts of Christmas Past (and a bunch of pictures, too!)

As in, just recently past. As expected, Christmas came and went in a whirl of activity. Remember how I posted about dreading our trip to Texas? I dragged my feet like the sulkiest toddler in the park. I dithered over getting things ready for our neighbor to take care of the pups. I dawdled over packing. I complained (to myself, silently — thank goodness!) all the way to the airport. I grumped through security. I pouted at the gate.

And guess what?

It was all for nothing! I was so silly about the entire thing, and it turned out to be a great and fun trip. We saw old friends. We laughed. We made memories. I had a really nice, albeit quick, visit with my parents. Even my mom seemed more upbeat than she has in quite a while. The only downer was that my husband got food poisoning on the last day we were in Austin, so we had to delay our trip to Kerrville for a half day. As bad as that was, he bounced back quickly. I was thankful for that! By the time we were preparing to come back home, he was feeling much better.

So, this is just a short post to give the universe a shout-out and say, “Okay, Universe! You were right! It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And thanks for the memories.”

It was a good Christmas. And even a good New Year’s Day, too. I hope the same is true for all of you guys. I want to close out the post by showing a few of the pictures I grabbed of our tree and other things over the holiday — here and there.


I thought our tree was particularly lovely this year. This is the second or third year we have used colored lights, and I love their soft and gentle glow. I can’t take any credit for the tree, as my daughter and her friend decorated the whole thing for us. I think this made it even more beautiful and special!

I’ve been trying to get in some extra “play time” with my macro lens. And the tree ornaments were willing subjects. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in October, but we have been together for around 28 years. And we have had some of these ornaments almost that long!







Of course, I had to grab at least one “on the plane” picture. Unfortunately, I had stashed my camera under the seat in front of me. I didn’t want to dig it out, so I had to make do with my phone camera. Still, I think it turned out okay. We left so early that we got to watch the sun rise as we flew across the sky. Pretty special!



We got to visit some of our old haunts in Austin. Weirdly enough, it happened to be raining during most of our visit. We checked the weather before leaving, and the forecast was for temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and sunny weather. That is not what happened AT ALL! We definitely packed all the wrong clothes. But it worked out okay, in the end.






I think I have mentioned before that my parents live in a small town in the Hill Country. Kerrville has a population somewhere around 23,000 people. I was really proud of myself that I managed to keep up with exercising on this trip. Of course, I ate a lot of terrible things that I would never eat at home. But that’s okay! It was the holidays! And vacation!!

I love to walk all around Kerrville when I visit. In the Summer, my daughter and I stay with my parents for around a month or month and a half. I generally walk every day, either in the early morning or the evening. It was fun to walk my same route on this trip, in the chilly dampness of a winter morning.





And, really, that’s all I have for this post! I mostly wanted to touch base about our trip and share some pictures. I have thoughts on the New Year, which I hope to share in a post soon. I would like to get back on a more regular posting schedule with this blog in 2019. So I hope to see you guys again soon!


Snow Day

Today is a “waiting day”. It’s gray and overcast, with the clouds hanging low in the sky — fluffy but also solid. They seem to wrap around the world, a cosmic afghan inviting the earth to snuggle in for a bit. All day, it has felt as if all eyes and thoughts turn upward, searching the sky as we all wait for what might be our region’s first “real” snowfall of the season.

I’ve found that opinions vary on the whole snowfall thing. Some folks hate it with a passion. They hunch their shoulders against it and hurry along their way, retreating into overcoats and fuzzy hoods like grumpy turtles. Others love it. They revel in the daintily lazy way each flake floats down to earth, and can’t wait to be out there in the midst of it all, embracing and enjoying each and every frigid moment.

With rare exception, I find myself firmly encamped in the second group. I am one of those overly enthusiastic, ecstatic folks who celebrate every second of a snowy day. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a place where our seasons tended to be a few weeks of “HOT”, followed by months of “REALLY, REALLY HOT”, but, whatever the reason, I look forward to snowy days all year long. And I feel somewhat cheated when those frosty beauties get lost on their way to my house.

Art Journal: Snow / Mixed MediaSomething about sitting next to the window in my cozy house, watching those white flakes dance down from above, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And being out in it is just as heavenly. I turn my face to the sky, hold out my arms, and spin and spin and spin until I am out of breath, giddy, dizzy, and laughing. I feel just like one of those snow flakes that fall onto my face, melting into a chilly wetness that must be what magic feels like. I love the laughter that breaks the frigid air as I chase my daughter through the swirling white, flinging snow at each other with every step.

But I think my very favorite part is what comes before all the fun and hijinx — and that’s the waiting. Feeling the air turning colder and colder, until my breath turns to fog with each exhalation. There is a peace and a calm about it, and I find myself holding my breath along with the world around me. We pause together for a few precious moments, poised at the edge of something dazzlingly magical. And, together, we savor the hush.


Finding Fall

I love Fall. It feels like such a short season, but it makes up for brevity with a wild abandon of color, scents, and emotions. It’s like Nature’s last, wild fling before taking a much-needed winter vacation. I have memories of “Fall” from my childhood in the S. Texas Hill Country, but, given how typically hot it is there year around, I sometimes wonder if I just imagined those beautiful, free fall days of my youth. I guess I’ll never know for sure. But one of the most wonderful things about being a displaced Texan living in Virginia has to be that I get to see Fall, in all its glory, every year.

Looking for Fall in the “wilds” of Virginia

So my family and I set out last weekend to look for “Fall” in the wilds of Virginia. OK, so I guess Virginia doesn’t really count as “wild” since there are so many people living in this little state … but we headed out into the country, anyhow. Final destination: Shenandoah National Park, where we were sure we would find enough fall color to astound our senses and satiate our longing for this briefest of all the seasons.

Along the way, we stopped off in Sperryville. It’s more accurate to say we were lured off the main road by the amazing sight of several beautiful fire trucks all lined up together on the grass in front of the fire house. All those vibrant, shiny reds and whites against the lush green of the grass and the deeply cool blue of the fall sky … It was irresistible!

Bell on  the front of a fire truck.

Detail of a fire truck bell.

It turned out that the Fire Department was having its annual Open House. One of the firemen showed my daughter all around the fire house. She got to climb up into the trucks and run the sirens, and she got awesome fireman swag, too. This is a nearly unbelievable amount of awesomeness for a kid. And I think my husband was pretty enamored, too. Big, shiny trucks, sirens, and flashing lights — what’s not to love?

But, we were on the hunt for “fall”. And so, after a brief sojourn, we piled back into the car and continued on our way. And soon, we arrived at our destination: Shenandoah National Park.

You can see the whole valley from the various look-out points along Skyline Drive.

Shenandoah National Park has to be one of the most amazing things I’ve seen since moving to Virginia. It is truly a treasure. There’s something astounding and awe-inspiring about standing at the various look-out points along Skyline Drive and seeing the entire valley laid out before you. It feels like you’re looking down at the whole world, contained in a little, green jewel of a bowl gouged out of the mountains by some unseen, benevolent force.

Some of the “fall color” we were seeking. Rich golds and oranges.

And we even saw a little bit of the fall color we were searching for. Vivid oranges and yellows stood out in stark contrast to the deeper greens of Summer.

The Shenandoah River, winding along in the distance.

It was breathtaking and beautiful. Tame and, yet, also somehow wild and free. And yet … I couldn’t help but feel something was missing. After all, I had envisioned rolling hills full of scarlets and golds and oranges, tumbling wildly around each other, screaming FALL!! right in my face. That’s not what I found. In spite of the beauty of the valley laid out before me, I felt … disappointed.

And then … I looked around and realized …

Fall grass, touched by late afternoon sunshine.

I had found Fall! It was right there with me, in so many little ways. Like the way the sunlight glinted off of the grass, giving it a soft, golden glow.

Beautiful yellow (almost golden) leaves, getting ready to fall from their branches.

Or the bright yellows of the leaves,  just before they fall from the trees.


A little “woodland scene”. Were the squirrels here just before us?

Or the soft browns and mossy greens of a little forest scene — almost like the squirrels arranged this for us to see.

Red Vine

Vibrantly red even in shadow, these vines snake around almost everything. Probably not so great for the stuff growing under them, but they are really pretty.

Or in the rich red of a vine, slowly creeping across a backdrop of gray rock.

Beautifully purple flowers. I was surprised at how vibrant their coloring was.

Or the surprising, rich jewel tones of the little flowers that seem to wait until Fall to “show off” to the rest of the universe — as if they are shouting out, “Hey! Over here!! Look at me!”

And so I left Shenandoah National Park and headed home. I felt humbled by the vastness and beauty of the world around me. And happy that I had managed to find “Fall” — even better in its realness than the imagined seasons of my childhood.