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The Sun Rises

Tuscan Sunrise

No sun outlasts its sunset but will rise again and bring the dawn. – Maya Angelou

One of my favorite book titles is by the great Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises. There is so much implied in that title, don’t you think?

For me, it says, “The sun sets. Life is hard and things get dark and bleak, as if the world has ended. BUT thank God the sun also rises again.”

I don’t know what it is about sunrises and sunsets, but I’m always with my eyes to the sky. I think Emerson is onto something, also, in this quote:

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Sun Rises, from my Instagram

I love the ease of capturing something that is a WOW with my phone, and then sharing them and keeping track of them on Instagram. With sunrises, on my way out the door, I have my phone with me and ready.

Here, a few sunrises with other photos from my Instagram.

A sorbet-colored sunrise, spring
A sorbet-colored sunrise, spring

We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness. ~Author Unknown

summer sunrise
summer sunrises

Only from the heart can you touch the sky. – Rumi

Sunrise along the Ohio River and the most brilliant magenta sunrise I've seen
Sunrise along the Ohio River and the most brilliant magenta sunrise I’ve seen

 

Have a wonderful end to summer this coming Labor Day weekend and soak up the sunrises and sunsets!

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How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Yard This Spring and Summer

Hummingbird in the garden

“Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.” –Papyrus

I love hummingbirds. It’s true. And every year I look forward to the hummingbirds’ return to my yard.

I live in southwest Ohio, and here, they say to put out hummingbird feeders around April 15, tax day. But the dates hummingbirds return from their seasonal migration to warmer climates happens differently depending on where you live. I tend to think the hummingbirds follow the Redbud trees as they burst into bloom, so when your Redbuds bloom, set out your hummingbird feeder.

Regardless of where you live, you can put a feeder out now, and with a little patience, they will come. Now is a great time to start.

It’s Hummingbird Time

To me, hummingbirds define summer. They’ve always fascinated me with their shimmering colors and incredible fluttering wings. They also symbolize joy and magic and wonder, and without them darting about, a backyard doesn’t feel complete.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Rose of Sharon
Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Rose of Sharon

It isn’t hard to attract hummingbirds, but 3 things are essential …

1) Find a perfect spot for your hummingbird feeder. Choose a location where you’ll be able to see the action. I mounted a simple wrought iron hook to the side of my deck where my family and I can easily see it from our kitchen.

2) Choose a hummingbird feeder. The more basic the feeder, the better. It should have a glass main compartment and a wide opening for easy cleaning. Red accents as decorations are a bonus, as hummingbirds are naturally curious about red. Small drinking holes and an ant moat at the top help to minimize the wasps and ants and other pests, and if your feeder has a perch, hummingbirds will linger longer. A good hummingbird feeder doesn’t have to be expensive. Mine cost about $10 at Lowe’s.

My current hummingbird feeder
My Current Hummingbird Feeder

3) Change your hummingbird solution often. Depending on the weather, you’ll need to clean the feeder about every 2 – 5 days. How? With hot water, no soap, and a bottle brush. What is the right solution for hummingbird nectar? 4 parts water to 1 part sugar, which means 4 cups water with 1 cup plain sugar. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, pour in the sugar and stir. Cool to room temperature before pouring into the feeder.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Bonus: Plant flowers that hummingbirds love like (annuals) petunias, (perennials) salvia, monarda, tall garden phlox, penstemon, liatris, digitalis, and (shrubs) butterfly bush and rose of sharon.

My feeder is up and waiting for the first ruby-throated hummingbird jewels to flit about the yard. I can’t wait.

Do you feed hummingbirds? Have your hummingbirds arrived yet? What works / doesn’t work for you?

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3 Essentials for Attracting Hummingbirds

“Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.” –Papyrus

 

Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird with Jackmanii Clematis
Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird with Jackmanii Clematis, from my former backyard

Friends often ask what is the one thing I missed most about the US during our 4 years in Prague. The answer might (or might not) be surprising …

The one thing I missed most over the last four years of living in Europe doesn’t have to do with shopping or food or the differences in cultures or people. Those factors all affected me, and yes, I missed everything about home, really. But the one thing I missed most was seeing hummingbirds. Hummingbirds only are found in North, Central, and South America.

To me, hummingbirds define summer.They’ve always fascinated me with their shimmering colors and incredible fluttering wings. They also symbolize joy and magic and wonder, and without them darting about, a backyard doesn’t feel complete.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Rose of Sharon
Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Rose of Sharon

It isn’t hard to attract hummingbirds, but 3 things are essential … Continue reading 3 Essentials for Attracting Hummingbirds

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Craving Roses, Grasping Thorns

Butterfly wings

“But he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” -Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Czech field and National Forest
Czech field and National Forest

June is a beautiful month in Czech Republic. Everywhere, outside of Prague, vast fields of grain stretch out across the hills and into the mountains. The fields’ seafoam green coloring in June could almost pass for ocean. Here, two photos of the field and forest at the end of our street.

Czech Republic scene in June
Czech Republic scene in June

Here in Czech Republic, my family lives in a house very modest in size by US standards, but the fenced-in yard is even tinier — our grass is about the size of an average US living room. But despite the small size, we love it. Less stuff = bliss. And I still grow flowers …

Marigold and Salvia
Marigold and Salvia

Continue reading Craving Roses, Grasping Thorns

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Work and Living, En Plein Air

Writing in Italy, along the Mediterranean

“The basis of human happiness is the possibility to be together with nature, to see it and to talk to it.” –Leo Tolstoy

Jennifer Lyn King
In the Alps

As I type these words, I sit outside on the patio tucked into the back corner of our house near Prague. Bees buzz lazily around the dainty blue catmint and fading lavender planted beside the patio, and creamy roses tinged in raspberry pink dazzle in the setting sunlight. A light breeze whisks across the yard. Puffy cumulus clouds sail across the powdery blue sky. Songbirds call out as they dart toward the feeder. And the notable Prague passenger pigeons make their whispering rounds of flight in tight formation. I type and I can’t help smiling, because there is something so free about being in this exact spot. I love to be outdoors. Continue reading Work and Living, En Plein Air

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Reflections: Stormy Beauty over the Teton’s Jackson Lake

Grand Teton's Jackson Lake after the storm
Grand Teton's Jackson Lake after the storm
Grand Teton's Jackson Lake after the storm

Storms happen frequently in Spring, especially in the United States … they’re not as violent here in Prague. I’ve always been someone who loves to watch the storms. In our prior backyard, I’d lie back on the kids’ slide and watch as clouds billowed and puffed and sailed by, wrenching colors out of the changing atmosphere that I never thought possible. Those storms happen when the weather changes–hot to cold, cold to hot, etc. Big changes. Like in Spring.

I think it’s the same in our lives–those times of change, the big sweeps of one phase of life to another, cause the most storms. The storms of life can be just as violent as the storms of Spring.

When I took this photograph, I was sitting at the edge of Jackson Lake in the Grand Tetons National Park, USA, and watching the weather swing wild with color and wind. It was breathtaking watching it, especially for the reflections on the water. For from the side, the reflections on the storm have a story to tell– colors and shapes and energy and blows that can’t be seen from inside the storm.

Perhaps it’s that way in our lives … the reflections of our lives are like ripples upon the water. We gain meaning from the storms of life when we look and observe, and reflect.

Do you like to storm-watch? Why?

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The Benefits of Snow

World Washed White
Never before has my world been so white. I look outside my window, and all I see is snow.
World Washed White
World Washed White

Snow on the balcony, even, a step beyond where I write. Sure, on a mountain pinnacle, overlooking the next ski trail to carve down a snow-covered mountain, I’ve experienced lots of snow. But the snow in Prague is different. For even though we have a deep blanket of snow now painting the world clean, ever-mysterious Prague is also shrouded with fog. It’s amazing, really. And in my mind, I continuously hear the great song by U2, “No Line on the Horizon”, because of the fitting name for my white world. There truly is no horizon line.

 

A few days ago, the thought occurred to me that I love living in a place with distinct seasons. Without four dramatic changes, I feel as if I haven’t had a year. But winter—well, it’s easy to bemoan, but I think it also has a few great benefits.

 

I’m quickly learning that to “drive” through two feet of unplowed snow is remarkably similar to off-roading. Fun, sometimes.

 

In winter, we can hibernate. All the usual demands of daily life somehow fade into winter’s chill. And we can rest, if we let ourselves.

Winter transforms the normal into a magical world of fairy-dust snow and architectural hoarfrost.

We can be kids again: skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, and countless hours making snowmen, snow forts, snow angels … winter brings an uncommon youthfulness, one I cherish.

 

Winter ushers in quiet time for reading by the fire, steaming coffee to warm hands and friendships, and soft blankets under which we can snuggle little ones.

Winter gives us time to catch our breath and reprioritize the pieces of life most important.

Oh—and winter is a perfect time to write. So while I cozy up with a latte, blanket, and laptop to write, I’m grateful for winter and the opportunities it brings … time to slow down and fill back up.

Enjoy the snow … -Jennifer

Starting the conversation: What do you appreciate about winter?
(Leave your comment below by clicking on the word “comment”.)

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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.