The Bridge of Sighs

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Ponte dei Sospiri…the Bridge of Sighs…just saying the name evokes emotions.

This bridge is one of many such structures that spans Venice’s canals. There are, in fact, 400 plus bridges crossing more than 150 canals in this unique city. Venice, Italy is a collection of tiny islands, connected by canals.

The oft photographed Bridge of Sighs draws a multitude of visitors each year. I enjoyed experiencing the beautiful and sorrowful covered bridge on a visit to Venice in 2017.

Discover the history of this iconic structure and learn how it received its name.

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The History of the Bridge of Sighs

Built by Antonio Contin between 1600 and 1603, the Bridge of Sighs spans Rio di Palazzo. This baroque style, marble and Istrian stone bridge connects the inquisitor’s offices in the Doge’s Palace to the “New Prison”, a building designed specifically for detention.

Doge (Italian word for duke) Marino Grimani, whose family coat-of-arms occupies the center of the facade, commissioned the bridge.

While Ponte dei Sospiri attracts couples, who enjoy sharing a kiss near the covered bridge, it’s not romantic sighs that begat the name.

The name arose because prisoners stopped on the bridge and sighed at their last glimpse of beautiful Venice before entering the prison. The damp, cold, challenging conditions of the small cells often resulted in the deaths of the prisoners.

Peering out through the stone lattice windows, those escaping sighs surely carried regret, fear and grief.

The Bridge of Sighs closeup
The stone latticed windows in the Bridge of Sighs.

Stories About the Bridge of Sighs

Back to those romantic couples. The tale told is that if a couple kisses beneath the bridge, while riding in a gondola, their love will endure throughout eternity and they will know happiness. Some versions add that the couple must kiss at sunset, while drifting under the bridge, as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile ring out. As you can imagine, this is a busy route for gondolas.

The exterior of the bridge’s arch is adorned with faces on each side. A Venetian lion graces the middle, while ten other faces express anger or sadness. These grim faces supposedly scare evil spirits away. One happy face stands out. It is thought to represent the bridge’s guardian.

The bridge design is intentional, matching the style of the two buildings it connects. The Doge’s Palace, a huge, elegant palace overlooking St Mark’s Square, was the primary residence of the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, and the location of the city prison. The palace occupies the site of a former fortress that burned in the 10th century.

The Bridge of Sighs remains the only covered bridge in the entire city. Its passageway is topped by stone, with four windows looking out toward the San Giorgio Maggiore Island and the Lagoon. Very little light passes through the windows to brighten the dim, cool interior.

The Bridge of Sighs canal
The covered bridge spanning the canal.

Visiting the Bridge of Sighs

Views of the bridge are limited. See one of Venice’s most famous landmarks from these vantage points.

  • Admire the bridge from one of two nearby bridges. The Ponte della Paglia is located near the Doge’s Palace, as you stand with your back to the lagoon. The other bridge is the Ponte della Canonica at the other end of the canal.
  •  Enjoy a gondola ride that travels beneath the Bridge of Sighs.
  • Take a tour of the Doge’s Palace. The Bridge of Sighs is included in the tour and you get to walk across it and view the prison located on the other side.

Otherwise, the bridge is not open to the public. While it can be viewed from gondolas and the above mentioned bridges, the only opportunity to step inside the bridge is via the palace tour.

The Doge’s Palace is gorgeous and well worth a visit.

The Bridge of Sighs Doges Palace
A room in the Doge’s Palace.

My Experience Crossing the Bridge

My daughter, grandson and I were part of a travel group touring Italy. Our group enjoyed wandering through the Doge’s Palace with a guide. From an interior room, I got my first up close peek at the covered bridge and snapped a photo.

As we quietly entered the Bridge of Sighs, the energy within settled thickly around my head, shoulders and upper back, sending tingles down my spine.

It’s difficult to see much through the windows, however I paused there to reflect. Over the centuries, many, many prisoners walked this bridge and paused to sigh with despair. The bridge interior is actually divided by a wall down its middle, creating two corridors. That way, prisoners coming into the prison or going back to the courtroom for trial did not meet.

The atmosphere within the bridge felt very heavy to me, weighed down by those breathy final sighs. Sadness tinged with the fear of uncertainty surrounded me. The prison cells in the attached building were just as gloomy.

I’m grateful for the redemption of the bridge through its exterior beauty and the promise of romance beneath its splendid arch.

Have you visited the Bridge of Sighs in Venice? I intend to explore this unique city again one day!

The Bridge of Sighs faces

 

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Philbrook Museum Gardens

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One thing that I confirmed, while staying home more due to the pandemic, is that I REALLY want to travel. Feeling the itch to travel, during a time when travel as we know it isn’t possible, presented unique opportunities.

Since I can’t hop on a plane to somewhere, I channeled my desire to travel into other ventures.

I’m taking an online travel blogging course. And as a result, I’m writing weekly travel posts, based on past trips. Check out this example, The Tower of London Ravens. Today happened to be Take a Road Trip Day. Inspired, I set out on a road trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Philbrook Museum Gardens. Childhood memories of the museum drew me back to explore the gardens, which just reopened Wednesday. The museum is not yet open again to the public.

The Philbrook Museum Gardens were everything I remembered them to be…and more.

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History of the Philbrook Museum of Art

The original museum is a former 1920s Italian Renaissance villa, owned by pioneer Waite Phillips and his wife Genevieve. Kansas City architect Edward Buehler Delk designed Villa Philbrook. Construction began in 1926 and the house was completed the following year.

A stucco and ground marble exterior covers a reinforced steel and concrete framework. Kasota limestone, quarried in Minnesota, forms the corners and decorates doors and windows. At the rear of the house a spacious loggia with Corinthian columns overlooks the spectacular gardens.

The original villa featured 72 interior rooms, decorated with travertine and marble fireplaces and fountains, teak, walnut and oak floors and ornate ceilings.

In 1938 Phillips donated Villa Philbrook to the City of Tulsa, for use as a cultural and art center. Although the rooms on the main floor remain as they were, the rest of the villa received extensive remodeling for use as a public museum. In 1990 another wing expanded the museum, adding 70,000 square feet of space.

Philbrook Museum
Looking through the informal and formal gardens, to the former Villa Philbrook.
Philbrook Museum Gardens grand fountain
Philbrook Museum gardens – grand fountain and the loggia

The Philbrook Museum Gardens

Although I enjoy wandering through the former villa, imagining it as it was back when the family lived there, it is the gardens that appeal most to me.

The museum sits on 25 acres of formal and informal gardens. Originally designed by Hare & Hare, Philbrook’s gardens drew inspiration from Villa Lante, an Italian estate north of Rome.

Behind the museum, the original gardens extend through an expanse of formal gardens, pools of water and informal gardens to a classical tempietto, a stone structure similar to a large gazebo.

The gardens that extend to the summerhouse feature native Oklahoma plants and a nearby creek. This project completed in 2004.

Philbrook Museum Loggia
Looking from the loggia to the tempietto. It was the perfect spot for Ferni’s first travel photo.
Philbrook Museum Gardens tempietto
Looking across the pools to the tempietto. The far pool once served as the family swimming pool. Koi swim there now.
Philbrook Museum side garden
Another pool in the informal gardens.

Take a Tour with Me

Come with me on a photo tour of the Philbrook Museum Gardens. My desire is just to stir your curiosity. These gardens must be experienced, to fully appreciate them.

Italian style gardens
The Italian influence is seen in the main gardens.

Sculptures

There are 16 sculptures scattered throughout the gardens. They range from classical styles to contemporary. Here are three of them.

Philbrook Museum sculpture 2
Philbrook Museum Gardens sculptures – Nymph Holding Pluto
Philbrook Museum Gardens sculpture
Native American
Philbrook Museum Gardens woods
Tree sculptures in a wooded area. The orange leaves are made of glass.

Garden Cats and Wildlife

The garden is home to two cats, Cleome, a black and white, and Perilla, a calico. We saw Cleome, wandering about near the upper pond. She seemed intent on stalking something near the water. She reminded me of Rilynn, my garden cat!

And Greg and I spotted a variety of wildlife, including red squirrels, rabbits, a heron and several species of birds. The gardens are home to turtles, water snakes, foxes and beavers as well.

Garden cat
Cleome the Philbrook Museum Garden cat.
Wildlife at Philbrook
Heron in Crow Brook

Summerhouse Formal Garden

This area south of the museum underwent changes throughout the years. Officially completed after the family donated the property to Tulsa, this formal garden leads to a summerhouse. There are swings and benches along the pretty avenue.

Restrooms are located near the summerhouse. Greg gave the restrooms a five star rating! They are very clean. I posed on a rope swing in the little wooded area, From there steps descend to the path below.

Philbrook Museum Gardens summerhouse
Summerhouse formal gardens
Greg carrying our picnic lunch
Greg carrying our picnic lunch in my Decocrated bag.
Philbrook Museum Gardens swing
Swinging in the Philbrook Museum Gardens

Picnic in the Park

Multiple picnic areas exist in the park. Tables, benches, grottos and expanses of grass offer pretty spots to pause for lunch or a snack. We chose to stop for a picnic near the cabin next to the vegetable garden. The cabin is created from repurposed materials, including colorful t-shirts stiffened with resin for the roof.

Picnic time
Picnic time in the gardens. Bag from Decocrated spring box. Rug from Decocrated summer box. Watch for a review post of the summer box Monday.
Picnic lunch
Simple, healthy picnic lunch. Gluten free crackers, hummus, an assortment of pickles and olives, grapes, cherries and KIND nut clusters with almonds and coconut.
Philbrook Museum Gardens cabin
Cabin made from repurposed materials. Note the t-shirt roof!

Tiny Doors

As we wandered the grounds, looking for tiny doors attached to some of the trees, became a fun game. Fortunately, small green flags indicate where the doors are. Local artists created the little works of art and each door is unique.

Kids would enjoy this tiny door scavenger hunt.

In search of tiny doors
Looking for tiny doors in the Philbrook Museum Gardens.
Philbrook Museum Gardens tiny doors
One of at least a dozen tiny doors in the Philbrook Museum Gardens.

First Road Trip…But Not the Last

What a wonderful morning spent at Philbrook Museum Gardens. It’s uncertain when the main museum will open again, although special exhibits are opening July 1. However the gardens are available and well worth a visit. Purchase tickets online, selecting a date and time of entry. Masks are recommended, especially when entering the garden, talking to a staff member or encountering other visitors.

We found the park easily accommodated the number of visitors today.  People and staff were courteous and respectful of social distancing.

This was my first Road Trip Friday…but not my last. I may not be able to travel far, however, I can enjoy day road trips. My intention is one road trip, within 150 miles of Joplin, a month. My little VW Van will accompany me. Her name is Ferni, pronounced fairn-ee, from the German word fernweh, which means “longing for far off places”.

Beauty speaks to the heart and soul, I believe. And the Philbrook gardens spoke clearly today, soothing my spirit and reminding me of joys I experienced there as a child. In fact, I see Philbrook’s strong influence on my own desire to create a backyard paradise.

I even found a park bench that perfectly captures who I am now, inscribed with these words from Thomas Arthur Manhart:

“Learning something new everyday is what life is really all about.”

I left the gardens with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

Philbrook Museum Gardens path to the museum
I can’t get enough of this view…

Visit Philbrook Museum Gardens

Philbrook Museum is located at 2727 S Rockford Road, Tulsa, Oklahoms.

Hop on their website HERE to order tickets, which are $6.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors and free for children 17 and under.

Want your own little VW van to travel with? Get one by clicking photo below.

 

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Movie Review Emma

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Just before movie theaters shut down in March, across the US, I anticipated seeing the new theatrical release Emma. I love this story by Jane Austen  and I’ve enjoyed previous film adaptations. In fact, the 1996 version with Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role is one of my favorite movies.

Imagine my disappointment when the theater closed the same week I intended to view this fresh version of Emma. Although I appreciate so much the big screen experience with new releases, I’m grateful for streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video. This weekend I settled in for an afternoon of entertainment, watching this film at last.

How did it compare with the 1996 version?

Here it is, my Movie Review Emma.

Movie Review Emma title meme

Cast and Characters of Emma

Emma stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Bill Nighy, Gemma Whelan, Rupert Graves, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Amber Anderson, Callum Turner and Tanya Reynolds.

Autumn de Wilde directed this period piece romantic comedy. And Eleanor Catton wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Jane Austen. Emma carries a PG rating for brief nudity and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

Movie Review Emma friends
Movie review Emma – friends

Emma the Matchmaker

Set in the early 19th century, in the little town of Highbury, England, the story focuses on Emma Woodhouse (Taylor-Joy), the precocious younger daughter of Mr. Woodhouse (Nighy).

Emma is handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition. And she had lived nearly 21 years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She is also spoiled, stubborn and meddlesome, although she’s motivated by kindness and people are willing to indulge her whims. Content to never marry, Emma nonetheless believes herself an excellent matchmaker. After all, she successfully brought together her former governess, Miss Taylor (Whelan) and the widower Mr. Weston (Graves).

Encouraged by that happy union, Emma decides to make another match, this time with her new friend Harriet (Goth) and the town’s vicar, Mr. Elton (O’Connor).

Emma’s closest friend and confidante, the moody Mr. Knightley (Flynn) warns the headstrong girl to beware meddling in affairs of the heart. She pays him no heed.

Movie Review Emma Mr. Woodhouse
Movie Review Emma – Mr. Woodhouse

Emma’s Mismatches

What pursues are hilarious misadventures as Emma’s carefully thought out plans falter.

Harriet, a sweet girl of unknown parentage, is wooed by a young man who farms in the area. Although he is kind and intelligent, Emma persuades Harriet that he is beneath her. She convinces Harriet to refuse the farmer’s attentions and set her sights higher. While she pushes Harriet toward Mr. Elton, the vicar is actually hoping to impress Emma.

Meanwhile, Emma looks forward to meeting Mr. Weston’s handsome and mysterious son, Frank (Turner). When he finally appears, he leads Emma on, but it turns out he is secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax (Anderson) the beautifully sad niece of the tiresome spinster, Miss Bates (Hart).

After an astounded Emma refuses a marriage proposal from Mr. Elton, the vicar snubs Harriet by marrying a snobbish woman he barely knows. She becomes the new Mrs. Elton (Reynolds). Harriet then turns her romantic attention to Mr. Knightley, much to Emma’s consternation.

Emma’s matchmaking creates a tangled mess of emotions until she does what Mr. Knightley urged her to do all along. When she steps back, and allows people to follow their own hearts, true love draws people together naturally.

And Emma discovers that love is waiting there for her too, if she will only open her own heart.

Movie Review Emma dance
Movie Review Emma – the ball

My Thoughts on Emma

It’s interesting watching a new adaptation of this classic story. I’m so familiar with the dialogue, which is lifted from the novel, that I can quote portions of it as the actors say their lines.

However, I enjoyed the freshness of this version. The scenes are slightly different to very different from the 1996 film. And the actors brings their unique perspectives to the roles.

I loved Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse. He is an amazing actor and his performances make me smile, or in this film, laugh outright. His delivery style is perfect for the role of the solemn, fretful Mr. Woodhouse. Hands down, he is my favorite as this character.

Anya Taylor-Joy shines as Emma. It’s hard for me to see anyone but Gwyneth in the role, however Anya conveys the good-hearted if spoiled Emma perfectly. She’s excellent at allowing her expressions to speak volumes while she remains silent.

And I never thought I’d appreciate anyone as much as I appreciate Jeremy Northam in the role of Mr. Knightley. However, Johnny Flynn, whom I enjoyed as Albert Einstein in the Genius Series, won my approval. He’s mastered that stern, brooding look. When he turns it on Emma, she listens. And so do I.

Movie Review Emma Mr. Knightley
Movie Review Emma – Mr. Knightley

Emma Delights

If you enjoy period piece films or romantic comedies, catch this one on Prime Video. I love that the roles of novel author, screenplay writer and director are all filled by talented women. It’s incredibly fitting for a film about a woman with strong qualities and values.

And, I appreciate the opportunity to actually see this movie. I’m currently very concerned about the future of movie theaters. The impact of COVID19 is keenly felt in the film industry as it is in so many other areas.

I’m grateful for services such as Prime Video and Netflix, that offer an amazing assortment of films worth watching. However, I’m not ready to give up seeing movies as they are intended to be viewed…on a big screen in a darkened theater. Movies have greatly shaped my life. I’m holding hope in my heart that the industry will continue on for many years.

Have you seen the newest Emma? Rent it HERE and let me know if you enjoyed it!

Movie Review Emma Miss Woodhouse
Movie Review Emma – Miss Woodhouse

Amazon Prime Video

Not a Prime member? Get a 30 day free trial, and access to thousands of movies and series by clicking HERE.

Already a Prime member? Watch the rental or purchase the Emma DVD HERE.

And if you’ve never read this classic, pick it up below by clicking on the photo:

 

 

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Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog

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When I visited Edinburgh, Scotland in 2017, along with my mother, sisters and niece, one site we all wanted to visit was Greyfriars Kirkyard and a nearby monument.

The monument honors a small Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby. This little dog displayed an incredible level of faithfulness to his owner, earning him the title “World’s Most Loyal Dog”.

Learn his story, in this Tales from Scotland post, and discover visit-worthy sites in the area.

Greyfriars Bobby Words Most Loyal Dog title meme

Greyfriars Kirk

Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, Greyfriars Kirk is a parish kirk (church). It stands on the site of a pre-reformation establishment of the Franciscan Order, the Grey Friars.

Built in 1612, the kirk is located south of Grassmarket and east of George Heriot’s School.

Greyfriars Bobby Worlds Most Loyal Dog kirk
Greyfriars Bobby, world’s most loyal dog – Greyfriars Kirk

Greyfriars Kirkyard

The kirkyard is the cemetery surrounding the church. A number of notable Edinburgh residents rest there.

The kirkyard is moody, in a gothic sort of way, and fascinating to wander through. Elaborate mural monuments along the east and west walls of the oldest burial section feature intriguing symbols of mortality and immortality.

Many graves are protected with stone walls, iron railings or ironwork cages called mortsafes, to protect against grave robbing. In the early 19th century, resurrection men supplied Edinburgh Medical College with corpses for dissection, in exchange for fees. The common practice of plundering graveyards provided those bodies.

And, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, drew inspiration from the kirkyard for character names in her stories. You can find burial sites for people with the names McGonagall, Moodie, Scrymgeour and Potter. Check out the grave of Thomas Riddell, whose name inspired one of the most terrifying villains in literature. In the Harry Potter series, Tom Riddle becomes Lord Voldemort.

Near the entrance to the kirkyard is a gravestone for John Gray, an Edinburgh City nightwatchman. And not far from that grave is another, marked with a similar headstone, for the dog known as Greyfriars Bobby.

Greyfriars Bobby World's Most Loyal Dog John Gray grave
Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog – John Gray’s grave

Greyfriars Bobby

Although slightly different versions of Greyfriars Bobby exists, the most commonly told tale is the following.

Bobby belonged to John Gray, the nightwatchman. For two years they went everywhere together. When John died of tuberculosis 15 February 1858, burial took place in Greyfriars Kirkyard. The dog earned the nickname Greyfriars Bobby because from that time forward, until his own death in 1872, the faithful companion stayed near John’s grave. In spite of various weather conditions and frequent shooing away by the kirkyard caretaker, Bobby refused to leave.

Residents of Edinburgh felt compassion for the dog. They adopted Bobby, feeding him and caring for him. Each afternoon, at the firing of the 1:00 gun at Edinburgh Castle, Bobby trotted to a nearby cafe for a meal and then returned to the kirkyard. Although not officially allowed, kind people even built a small shelter for him near John’s grave.

Sir William Chambers, Lord Provost of Edinburgh and director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, paid for Bobby’s license and provided a collar for him. That collar is on display in the Museum of Edinburgh.

Bobby remained vigilant near John’s grave for 14 years. After his death, the city buried him in the kirkyard, near his owner. The stone is red marble, like John’s. Inscribed are the words: “Greyfriars Bobby – Died 14 January 1872 – Aged 16 Years. Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”

Visitors leave sticks, for Bobby to fetch, on his grave and John’s. Occasionally dog toys and flowers adorn the graves as well.

Greyfriars Bobby World Most Loyal Dog grave
The grave of Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog

The Greyfriars Bobby Monument

A year after Bobby’s death, the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, moved by the story, paid for a memorial monument. William Brodie created it as a drinking fountain with an upper basin for humans and a lower one for dogs. A statue of Bobby adorned the top.

The city filled in the basins with concrete in 1957, due to a city-wide health scare. After damage by a car in 1985, the base is newly created, however it copies the original exactly. An attached plaque reads:

“A tribute to the affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars Bobby. In 1858, this faithful dog followed the remains of his master to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered near the spot until his death in 1872. With permission erected by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts.”

Greyfriars Bobby monument
Greyfriars Bobby Monument

Inscribed on the statue is “Greyfriars Bobby, from the life just before his death.” W.H. Brodie Sc RSA 1872

Greyfriars Bobby is a popular destination spot in Edinburgh. People gather around the monument, taking photos. And as attested by the shiny spot on the statue, they reach up to rub Bobby’s nose for good luck. Such superstitions necessitated two nose restorations for Bobby!

The Greyfriars Bobby monument stands near the entrance to the kirkyard. The pub behind it, affectionately known as Bobby’s Bar, is a popular tourist spot. You can find postcards, toys and works of art commemorating Bobby throughout Edinburgh. Additionally, Walt Disney created a film about him in 1961.

 

Greyfriars Pub
Greyfriars Pub – also known as Bobby’s Bar

Other Sites to Visit Near Greyfriars Bobby

These nearby sites are all within walking distance from the monument:

  • Greyfriars Kirkyard
  • George Heriot’s School, the inspiration for Hogwarts in Harry Potter
  • Grassmarket, pubs and shops, and a rich history. This STORY took place near here.
  • Victoria Street, full of shops and cafes
  • The Elephant House, cafe/pub where J.K. Rowling wrote the first chapters of Harry Potter
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • The Royal Mile, containing many shops, attractions, cafes and museums
  • Edinburgh Castle, at the top of the Royal Mile

I hope you’ve enjoyed Bobby’s story. His loyalty and devotion tugs at the heart. If you see Bobby, the entrance to the kirkyard with his grave and John’s is right there to the left. It’s free to wander about the cemetery and well worth a visit.

Have you seen Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog or the kirk and kirkyard? Share your experiences in the comments!

Greyfriars Bobby girls trip
Standing in the Greyfriars kirkyard

Greyfriars Bobby Inspired Treasures:

 


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When Travel Plans Go Awry

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I spend many hours planning a trip and months anticipating the fulfillment of those plans. That’s part of the fun of traveling.

And yet, invariably, I encounter snags during the trip, when travel plans go awry. I’ve learned that when the unexpected happens, staying open and going with the flow helps me to find the good in the situation. New opportunities usually arrive. And at the very least, I learn from the experience.

These five lessons learned during recent trips offer great examples of well laid plans going awry and the take aways from each experience.

When Travel Plans Go Awry title meme 2

 

GPS Failure

Using a smart phone equipped with GPS is a popular way of getting around in unfamiliar places. Most of the time, GPS is reliable and accurate, taking me where I want to go without a problem.

What happens though when GPS fails? Then the journey gets interesting, or at least it did in 2017 while traveling by car in Scotland.

My sister Debbie bravely volunteered to drive our girls’ group around that gorgeous country. Remember that compared to the US, traffic flows on the opposite side of the road in Scotland and the steering wheel is on the right, rather than the left. Debbie expertly drove us all over the country, relying on the car’s built in GPS system to guide us to where we wanted to go.

Are We Lost?

Except….one day it didn’t. Driving from the Sterling area northward into the Highlands, with the Isle of Skye as our ultimate destination, we suddenly realized we were approaching the Firth of Forth. The iconic Forth Bridge appeared, paralleled by the newly built but not yet open Queensferry Crossing.

We knew then we were headed the wrong way. And this time, my sister was not at fault. (See Wrong Way Sister for more about my sister’s challenges with directions.) However, the magic began as we crossed the Firth of Forth and entered the Kingdom of Fife.

Both bridges and Fife were on my “must see” list for Scotland. And yet, I didn’t expect to see them this trip. As the rest of us appreciated the views of the bridges and the forth, Debbie startled us by exclaiming, “What is that?”

Looking toward the front of the car, expecting to see a bus careening toward us, my mouth dropped open in surprise at the sight ahead. Two large, gleaming horse heads towered over the trees. We “accidentally” stumbled upon the amazing Kelpies, 30 meter tall sculptures of Scotland’s mythical shape shifting water spirits. We were enchanted. And I got to check another item off my list.

Lesson Learned

Sometimes the GPS fails. Sometimes we get lost. And yet, that’s okay. Getting off track might lead to a new adventure or unexpected experiences. We never figured out why the GPS failed that day. It worked perfectly the remainder of our time in Scotland. I am grateful though for the detour. I’ll never forget the wonder of seeing those majestic Kelpies.

When Travel Plans Go Awry kelpies
When travel plans go awry…you find Kelpies

We All Fall Down

Or maybe I should say, two of us fell down. On the girls’ trip through the UK, in 2017, we almost didn’t make it out of the US.

At the Atlanta airport, the stuff of nightmares happened. Riding the escalators down a level, my sisters exited, pulling their carry ons behind them. My niece Ashley followed a few steps behind my mother and me. Like many people, I get a bit nervous as the escalator stairs disappear at the end, knowing I need to time my step off correctly. As I pulled my carry on closer to me and prepared to disembark, I saw my mother falling.

In slow motion, it seemed, Mom’s legs folded and she sunk toward the steps. Panicking, I reached over to pull her up. That was a mistake. Her carry on toppled, knocking my legs out from under me and down we both went, on the moving escalator.

Do you know that 17,000 people receive serious injuries each year, while on escalators and elevators? And 30 people die? I didn’t know the stats, as Mom and I fell. However, I knew that clothing and hair getting caught in escalators are the main causes of injury or death.

We Get Back Up

Instinctively, I stuck my legs into the air and curled my upper torso upward, trying to keep pant legs and my long hair from getting snagged. Mom’s snacks from her purse bounced by me. It felt important at the time to grab the container of hummus. My niece and the man behind her bounded up the escalator stairs, searching for an emergency OFF button. They never found one.

Somehow, I flipped over onto my hands and knees and crawled off the escalator. Debbie helped our mother up. We felt shaken, and received scratches and bruises, however we didn’t sustain any serious injuries. Well, my carry on was a goner. The fabric suitcase did get caught and it tore. However, tape held it together until I returned home.

I still shudder when I think about that experience.

Ironically, the trip ended with another fall, this time on the London Tube. It was my fault. I stood near a pole with my suitcase. Thankfully, my mother found a seat. When the announcement comes to hold on because the tube is departing, they mean HOLD ON. I fiddled with my carry on a moment too long. The sudden movement threw me off balance and I smashed into the closest wall, cracking ribs. Thankfully a man caught me and halted my journey onward to the floor. It took three months for my ribs to heal.

Lesson Learned

Never let your mother step onto an escalator pulling a carry on!  If someone falls, get yourself off the escalator and then turn to help the other person. Also, practice awareness on escalators and subways. Keep luggage secured. Lack of attention may result in pain and injury. And that’s not a fun way to start or end a trip.

When Travel Plans Go Awry london tube
When travel plans go awry – Mom seated on the London Tube, bless her

We Can’t Control What We Can’t Control

Weather played a significant role in several of my travel plans that shifted.

Tornadoes on the ground in Charlotte, North Carolina diverted the plane my grandson, daughter and I traveled on, during the first leg of our journey to Italy. We stayed in Chattanooga, Tennessee until the all clear sounded in Charlotte. However, we missed our connecting flight to Rome. Thousands of people missed their connecting flights.

The resulting storm of emotions inside the airport rivaled the storms outside. We witnessed crying, angry words, displays of temper and glum resignation. Rather than join the masses, we chose to stay calm and hopeful and open to opportunities. On a night when very few people flew out of Charlotte, we ended up on a plane to London. And from there, we journeyed on to Rome. We missed our welcome dinner however we arrived in time for the start of our tour. I believe miracles happened that night in Charlotte. Read the whole incredible story HERE.

Weather Delay Allows A Problem to Surface

Last year, Debbie and I found ourselves stuck in an airplane out on the tarmac at JFK Airport in New York City, awaiting departure for Edinburgh. Thunderstorms kept us grounded for five hours. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Shortly before we were cleared for takeoff, a horrible clanging noise filled the cabin. One terrified woman stood up and demanded to get off the plane.

It turned out a mechanical problem surfaced, as we waited for the weather to clear. Imagine if that problem had occurred, out over the Atlantic? Grounded as we were, mechanics ably corrected the issue and at last we took off, in the middle of the night. We arrived late in Edinburgh, and yet thankfully, we arrived safely.

Allergies in Italy

And one non-weather related incident happened in Italy, during the trip with my daughter Elissa and grandson Dayan. We discovered that Dayan is allergic to the flowering vine, jasmine. In late May and early June, jasmine is everywhere in Italy, vining over stone walls, archways and buildings. This situation, totally out of our control, necessitated new strategies. We kept hotel windows closed at night, avoided the vine as much as possible in villages and accepted that Dayan might sneeze…often.

Lesson Learned:

We really can’t control much of anything, and certainly not the weather or mechanical problems or allergic reactions to flowering plants. Staying open to possibilities and in the flow of life, and disconnecting from outcomes, frees us to accept what is and move forward. Believing there is a reason for everything, even if I can’t see what the reason is, allows trust to grow.

When Travel Plans Go Awry jasmin
When travel plans go awry – some people sneeze due to jasmine

It’s Closed

In spite of well researched plans, disappointments may occur. On the girls’ trip to the UK, everyone picked places to see and things to do. We found it very doable to please five different people by giving everyone a say in what we did.

In Dublin, Ireland, my mother chose Trinity College Library for us to visit. Built in 1592, the library houses the Brian Boru harp, Ireland’s national symbol, and the Book of Kells, considered one of the country’s national treasures. This ancient manuscript, created in 800 AD, contains the four gospels of the New Testament.

We arrived at the library a few minutes after it closed! Unfortunately, we flew out of Ireland the next day, Scotland bound.

In Edinburgh, we couldn’t get into Real Mary King’s Close or into a crowded Elephant House cafe. And in London, a sign on the door of the dungeons beneath the Tower of London proclaimed them closed for maintenance.

Lesson Learned:

We pre-selected certain activities but in the case of the Dublin library, we didn’t prioritize it that day. Mary King’s Close was a spur of the moment attempt and we had no control over the busyness of the Elephant House or the dungeons’ maintenance work. However, the library should have been first on our activity list for the day, not toward the end of it.

I like spontaneity while traveling. Yet there is a place for order, especially when scheduling tours or group activities. We learned to do both: arrive on time for events and wander freely when the desire to explore called. And when met with a “no” we always found other places to go and things to see.

When Travel Plans Go Awry trinity college library
When travel plans go awry – you miss touring Trinity College Library

Missed Opportunities

This is an important personal realization I’ve had, as I travel. Don’t let opportunities slip away. It’s one thing to miss getting into a building because it is closed or too crowded. It’s another to walk away by choice and then regret the decision.

Sometimes, my reasons for missing an experience are physical. My back hurt from lugging a huge suitcase around, the day my cousins climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I stayed behind and rested at the bed and breakfast. Five months later, one of those dear cousins passed away. I missed the opportunity to experience Arthur’s Seat with her.

I chose to stay on the ground in Italy too, while my daughter and grandson climbed the bell towers in the little villages we visited. Sure, I might have huffed and puffed my way to the top. Now, I think about the magnificent views I missed.

The three of us were too tired to walk to Trevi Fountain in Rome, having arrived so late the night before. My coin for the fountain remained in my pocket. And we stayed out of a gondola in Venice, because those rides are mostly sought out by romantic couples. Who cares? We did, while in Venice. Now, I wished I’d gone for a gondola ride alone, if no one else wanted to go.

I’ve visited Edinburgh three times and still have not experienced the Royal Military Tattoo, where bands of pipers and drummers perform in their tartans at the castle. Why haven’t I?

And…I never, ever take enough photos as I travel.

Lesson Learned:

This lesson is a big one for me, as I desire to live a life without regrets. If I want to DO something, then DO it. On my most recent trip to Edinburgh last July, I visited Dean Village, the Botanical Gardens and Calton Hill, all places I’ve wanted to see that I’ve missed before.

We don’t always get second or third chances. I’m learning to step up and do what I want to do, in all areas of my life. I want to write. So, I’m writing. I want to travel. So, I’m traveling. I want to visit the Edinburgh Christmas Market. So, I will make that happen.

I’m telling myself, don’t wait. If it is important, find a way to do all that I desire to do. Be ready, when opportunities arrive. And capture those magical moments with photos….lots of them.

When Travel Plans Go Awry gondola
When travel plans go awry – you miss riding in the gondola

The Traveler

Life is a journey…and for me, journeying through travel is life. I acknowledge and accept my gypsy soul and my wild heart. It is time to release the wildness and go where my heart will take me. And to take along the many lessons I’m learning as I travel.

Have you had travel plans go awry? Share your stories in the comments below!

When Travel Plans Go Awry on the tarmac
When travel plans go awry – tired but in good spirits, waiting for the storm to pass

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Lions of Venice

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Venice is a magical city, with its lagoon, canals and bridges. I realized a lifelong dream when I visited in 2017 with my grandson and daughter. One of the things I noticed as I wandered around the city was the abundance of lions. The more I looked, the more of the majestic beasts I saw. In fact, the lions of Venice are everywhere, carved in stone, gracing archways and serving as knockers on doors.

The lion symbolizes courage, power and strength, all important attributes for the Venentians. The winged lion, so predominant in Venice, also represents the city’s patron saint, Mark.

Check out some of the stories around the Lions of Venice, in this Tales from Italy post, and a few of my photos capturing them throughout the city.

Lions of Venice title meme

The Lion of St Mark

According to early traditions, each of the evangelists who authored a gospel in the Bible is represented by a winged creature. The winged lion represents Mark. Many of the Venetian lions scattered throughout the city, therefore, display wings and hold an open book beneath a paw. Sometimes the head is wreathed in a halo.

The ancient winged sculpture, atop one of two tall pillars in Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square), in Venice, has come to symbolize the city as well.

A long history accompanies that bronze statue. Originally created in 300 BC, the winged lion came to Venice in the 12th century. Over the centuries, many repairs occurred around the sculpture’s core. The lion even left Venice for a time, during Napoleon’s conquest of the Venetian Republic in 1797. Badly damaged, it returned after Napoleon’s downfall.

Today the lion presides over the square, and the city, a symbol of strength. The flag of Venice carries the image and a golden lion is given as the prize at the yearly Venice International Film Festival.

Lions of Venice pillars
Lions of Venice – the two pillars in Saint Mark’s Square
Lions of Venice flag
Lions of Venice – gold lion on a red background forms the Venetian flag

Haunted Lions

Near the Arsenal, stone lions stand guard. As part of their plunder, the seated lion arrived in Venice in 1687, after the Venetians battled the Ottomans. Runes decorate the lion’s marble flanks causing the locals to believe that the lion possessed magical powers.

According to the story, in November 1719, after a mighty storm, the torn bodies of two sailors showed up near the lions. A short time later, after another storm, a third body appeared, bearing wounds created by wild animals.

During the next storm, officials hid nearby and watched as a merchant with the reputation of a sorcerer laid his hands on the runes and brought the stone lions to life. He sent the beasts after another victim, however when an official stabbed the merchant with a sword, the lions turned back into statues.

One of the statues continued to roar however. An official cut off the head, to silence it. And indeed, one of the statues obviously wears a head not original to the sculpture. Beware these statues, during stormy nights in November!

Lions of Venice arsenal
Lions of Venice – haunted statues in front of the arsenal

The Lions of Saint Mark’s Square

Although lions adorn buildings, arches and towers all over Venice, one of the best places to spot them is in the city’s huge piazza. Considered one of the finest squares in the world, Saint Mark’s is surrounded on three sides by public buildings. The fourth side is occupied by Saint Mark’s Basilica, the magnificent former chapel of the Doges and the equally impressive palace. Both feature lions, outside and inside.

 

Lions of Venice St Marks Basilica
Lions of Venice – golden lion on Saint Mark’s Basilica
Lions of Venice palace
Lions of Venice – a carved lion over the palace entrance

The brick bell tower for the basilica, called the campanile, is so tall that ships used it to guide them home. Look up high for the lion. This one wears a golden halo.

And the impressive clock tower, built between 1496 and 1499, features a mosaic of gold stars glittering against a blue background. The Lion of Saint Mark was added in 1755.  Two bronze Moors strike the bell to mark the hours. I caught the Moors in action. See the video at the end of the post.

Lions of Venice tower
Lions of Venice – bell tower in the square
Lions of Venice clock bell tower
Lions of Venice – clock tower

And, don’t leave the piazza without getting a selfie with the red lions. Located next to Saint Mark’s Basilica is a little square called Piazzetta dei Leoncini. It is home to two lions sculpted in the eighteenth century from Verona marble. These sturdy lions practically beg for children and the young at heart to climb astride. My grandson and I settled for standing beside one.

Lions of Venice - red marble
Lions of Venice – red marble lions

Lions, Lions Everywhere

Truly, lions lurk everywhere in Venice. Our hotel, a 13th century former palace located next to Saint Mark’s Square, boasted a lion door knocker and doorbell. A carved lion face peered out from the building adjacent to our hotel.

Door Knocker in Venice
Lions of Venice – door knocker
Palazzo Selvadego doorbell
Lions of Venice – our hotel doorbell

In fact, carved lion faces abound in Venice. Some of them resemble mailboxes with open mouths . In the past, a citizen could secretly accuse someone of a crime by writing his name on a slip of paper and placing it in the lion’s mouth. Special magistrates collected the accusations and acted on them.

A stern lion’s face even peers down from the sadly beautiful Bridge of Sighs.

Lions of Venice bridge of sighs
Lions of Venice – bridge of sighs with lion’s head in the middle

Lions of Venice

The lions on display in Venice contribute to its magical atmosphere. It’s fun to look for them and see the variety of sculptures, carvings and paintings. Searching for lions makes a great scavenger hunt for kids and adults. Many of them have ancient stories associated with them.

Have you been to this beautiful city? Did you notice the lions of Venice?

 


 

 

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Aligning with Your Sacred Yes

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In this post, I want to share with you about aligning with your sacred yes. I define the term as that which makes your heart sing and your face light up when you talk about it. It’s your purpose, your passion, the reason you are here on this earth as the creation that you are. Put even more simply, it’s whatever makes you say YES! with great enthusiasm.

Monthly I chat with people about this topic. I’ve found that many aren’t sure what their sacred yes is, much less how to align with it. Here are some ways to discover what your purpose is…and how to better align with it.

Aligning with Your Sacred Yes title meme

Defining Alignment

Alignment is defined as “bringing something into a straight line or an easy agreement.” We are most familiar with spinal alignment associated with visits to the chiropractor. She adjusts the spine to bring it into alignment, for optimal health. As many people know, when the spine is out of alignment, we can experience pain.

On a deeper level, alignment means “discovering the essence of your being and the values by which you live”. We can live out of alignment with that essence of being or purpose. When our outer lives are out of sync with our inner lives, we live in pain as well.

Symptoms of living out of alignment include fear, loneliness, boredom, apathy, depression, confusion, restlessness, an identity crisis, feeling lost in life and and experiencing lack of motivation.

As we move into alignment, matching our desires or sacred yes with our actions and outer life, we shift into joy, peace, creativity, flow, excitement, happiness and fulfillment. We experience winks from the Divine, synchronicities and signs as guideposts that we are on the right life path.

Aligning with Your Sacred Yes
Aligning with your sacred YES

Discovering Your Sacred Yes

So how can you discover what your sacred yes is? How do you know what your life purpose is? That’s part of the joy in the journey, discovering who we are and why we are here.

Consider these ways to learn what makes your heart sing and your face light up.

Live as Your Authentic Self

This is an important aspect of life’s journey…discovering who you are created to be and embracing that self. It seems easy and yet remembering who we are and in turn, why we are here, often appears elusive.

I believe children know, or at least live closer to their passions. Kids know what they like and don’t like. They connect with their gifts more naturally.

One of the most simple ways to align with your sacred yes is to embrace your unique gifts and talents. You instinctively do so when young. And yet, as you grow, you often lose that sense of self due the influence of others in you life. Parents or grandparents may attempt to steer you toward a different purpose. Or teachers may not understand what your gift truly is and dismiss it. Classmates may ridicule you for displaying you gift or, lacking understanding, they bully or pressure you to behave like everyone else.

Some of the saddest conversations I have with adults are those that reveal how they abandoned their dreams due to the opinions of others. The man who loved trees became an attorney because his parents discouraged him from a career as a forest ranger. And the woman who longed to be a ballet dancer grew too tall and too big, she was told. Both lost their way in life, disconnected from their truest selves.

Embracing Your Inner Child

The best way to discover your authentic self is to uncover that inner child, removing all the layers accumulated over the years that hid the gifts you were born with. How have you tried to fit in? Listening to others’ opinions about who you were, when did you silence your voice? What talents did you pack away, because others told you that you weren’t good enough? Pleasing others, when did you stop pleasing yourself?

Answering these questions, looking through photographs of your childhood, remembering what you loved as a child and hoped to do as an adult help you to reconnect with your authentic self. Be kind to yourself, as you dig deeper. Parent your inner child, if necessary. Practice extreme self care. Journal. And above all, wholeheartedly embrace that inner child and those gifts. Complete acceptance goes a long way toward helping you step into the person you are created to be.

Aligning with Your Sacred Self childhood
Aligning with your sacred yes – connecting with your inner child

Go Beyond Fear

While removing those accumulated layers, on the way to reconnecting with your inner child, it is common to encounter fear. Most often, in fact, the thing that keeps us from attempting that journey in the first place is the fear of what we will find.

Fear surrounds our hearts in layers as well. Keep going. Keep digging deeper. The fear of being alone is really a fear of connecting deeply with ourselves. My fear of the dark turned out to be a fear of accepting who I am and my intuitive gifts.

Once we see fear for what it really is, a form of protection, then we can face it. We don’t have to banish fear. Acknowledging it, thanking it for the protection offered and releasing it allows fear to bow and step aside.

Beyond fear, we find aspects of ourselves that we abandoned or locked away long ago. When my fear stepped aside, I found my inner child waiting, patiently. I connected again with playfulness and creativity and my desire to express myself through writing. And I recognized my intuitive abilities as gifts rather than a curse to hide away. For the first time in my life, I fully accepted myself exactly as I was, gifts, quirks and all. Doing so brought restoration and healing and alignment with my sacred yes.

Aligning with Your Sacred Yes fear
Aligning with your sacred yes – releasing fear

Connect with Intuition

Although some are more so than others, everyone is intuitive. Call it instinct, gut response or a knowing, intuition is your inner guidance system.

Intuition allows us to know something directly without analytic reasoning. It creates a bridge between the conscious and subconscious parts of the mind and also between instinct and reason.

Learn to listen to your intuition. It becomes a deep knowing that goes beyond understanding, guiding you unerringly toward your purpose.

Free writing is a great way to tap into your intuition. Playing “random” games helps to build trust in your instincts. Meditation and energy work keep your energy centers open and your mind, body and spirit balanced.

Why is intuition important in aligning with your sacred yes? Because that powerful sense of instinctive knowing keeps you connected to your passions. When you know that you know, you are not easily persuaded to step out of alignment. You come to recognize what that alignment feels like, much as you know the rightness of your vertebrae lining up. Joy, peace and happiness replace uncertainty, anxiety and sadness. Moving out of alignment creates pain as a clue that something needs attention. Your intuition picks up on the subtle shifts before your emotions or body do. Pay attention to it.

I call it a disturbance in my spider sense, that feeling that something isn’t quite right in the web of reality around me. It is my signal to pause and go within and see what is pulling me out of alignment.

Aligning with Your Sacred Yes intuition
Aligning with your sacred yes – intuition

Engaging Imagination

Imagination is an important part of aligning with  your sacred yes. Further defining what your unique purpose is involves following curiosity, imaginative play and creativity.

Try new things, to better understand what lights up your soul and what doesn’t. Paint, crochet, sing, travel. If somethings catches and holds your interest, continue to explore it. Writer and speaker Elizabeth Gilbert calls this the flight of the hummingbird. Hummingbirds, she says, flit from flower to flower, trying this and trying that. She shares:

“As a hummingbird person, you bring an idea from here to over here, where you learn something else and you weave it in, then you take it here to the next thing you do. Faithfully continue to follow the trail of the hummingbird and you just might look up and realize ‘I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.'”

Allow your imagination to open opportunities and bring possibilities. Play. Create many different things. Follow curiosity. Your sacred yes will appear.

Aligning with Your Sacred Yes imagination
Aligning with your sacred yes – imagination

Sparking Joy

I love the phrase sparking joy, popularized by organizational expert, Marie Kondo.  When something sparks joy, it provides a little thrill of excitement. My granddaughter Aubrey called the feeling “ringing her bell” when she was tiny.

You know you are aligning with your sacred yes when you experience incredible joy. A feeling of intense pleasure and happiness, joy is a high level vibrational energy.

Joy begets gratitude. Aligning with your sacred YES invites joy and gratitude into your life, two powerful feelings akin to unconditional love.

When gratitude bubbles effortlessly from you, when “thank you” is your continual prayer, then you know you are living in alignment with your purpose. You are living as your authentic self.

As a method of confirming your sacred yes, pay attention to your feelings. What are you doing, when joy overflows your heart? What gratitudes do you express? Write them down, in a journal or your daily planner. Watch for patterns.

Are you most grateful and joyful when writing? Drawing? Baking goodies for others? Does teaching or helping others obtain greater health spark joy?

On the contrary, feelings of anxiety, dread or obligation are indicators you are moving away from your sacred yes. Of course we all have responsibilities and chores that do not spark joy. However, living a life that primarily brings those lower energy feelings reveals a life out of alignment.

Aligning with Your Sacred Yes joy
Aligning with your sacred yes – what sparks joy?

Aligning with Your Sacred Yes

I hope you have a better idea of what your sacred yes is.

My life shifted dramatically, once I moved into alignment, with my outer reality matching who I am and my purpose for being here. I am aware enough that I immediately feel the difference, when something pulls me out of alignment. Rather than circumstances and situations defining me, my strong sense of self and my belief in what I am doing guides me.

As my journey continues, I gain more clarity. Living life beyond the edges is so much more than a tagline for my blog. Going beyond is what I am here to do, so that others know that they too can live life beyond the edges of their own comfort zones, limiting beliefs and fears.

Are you living in alignment with your sacred yes?

Aligning with Your Sacred Yes
Living in alignment with my Sacred Yes!  I am a Dreamer shirt available HERE.

Amazon finds:

 


 

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Plants Gone Wild

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Gardening is an adventure and a journey. No two gardens are exactly alike and no two journeys are either. I’ve learned over the years, as a gardener, from successes and mistakes.

One of the first things I learned is that some plants thrive, to the point that they can overtake a garden, crowding out other plants and hogging water and nutrients. This is my list of plants gone wild!

 

Plants Gone Wild title meme

Be Aware

Planting is purely a matter a choice, which is why my subtitle is “be aware of these invasive perennials” rather than “beware”. I choose to include a few invasive perennials, because I appreciate their beauty. I control their prolific spread. Others I dug up and removed because the effort to keep them in check proved too great.

With awareness, you can decide what works best for your garden. Check out your gardening zone. And then be aware that the following plants may spread into other areas of your garden or yard.

Liriope

This plant officially counts as my first big gardening mistake. From east and southeast Asia, this low growing plant is often used by landscapers to border a walkway or edge a flower bed. Liriope produces green or variegated grass like leaves, and stalks of purple flowers. And it thrives…in full sun or partial shade, in a wide range of soil conditions and it’s drought resistant. Perfect, right?

Liriope is optimistically called a “vigorous grower”, meaning it quickly overruns its boundaries and invades other areas. Using landscape edging or other barriers can help restrict it, however I found it too difficult to control. Even after years of weeding it out of flower beds in the front yard, it still shows up.

Plants Gone Wild liriope
Plants gone wild – liriope

English Ivy

And this classic beauty was my second big gardening boo boo. My grandson and I purchased one small ivy plant, years ago, and lovingly tucked it into a corner of a flower bed near the front deck. That ivy plant became a monster, covering all other plants in the bed and consuming them. Well, it didn’t literally eat them. However, ivy chokes other plants, depriving them of sunlight. They die.

Ivy is an evergreen woody vine. It is extremely aggressive, vining and climbing over other plants, shrubs, trees and even buildings. It took me a great deal of time to remove the ivy that spread from that one tiny plant. I’ve learned that the safest way to grow ivy is in a container…indoors!

Plants Gone Wild ivy
Plants gone wild – my glacier ivy in a pot

Creeping Jenny

Any plant name that contains the word “creeping” implies a warning…this plant spreads! Creeping jenny is considered a ground cover that tolerates both shade and sunlight. It’s a pretty yellow green in color and it’s commonly used to fill in areas where other plants won’t grow.

I added creeping jenny for exactly that reason, in a shady area with shallow soil. It thrives there and has indeed filled in the area. Because it’s in a contained space, I simply watch for it to encroach into the neighboring area, and pull it up when it does. For me, this easy to care for plant is worth having in my garden.

Plants Gone Wild creeping jenny
Plants gone wild – creeping jenny

Goldflame Spirea

Commonly called Japanese spirea, this mounding shrub is simple to grow. The goldflame variety produces showy leaves and clusters of pink flowers. It tolerates full sun to light shade and handles heat well. Spirea bushes are aggressive self seeders, however, and can escape a garden if not tended. They’ve naturalized in areas of the eastern US.

I love my goldflame spirea though. The leaves are brilliantly hued, from bronzes, golds and reds in spring to to yellow-green in summer to finishing with copper and crimson shades in autumn. Plus, the flowers attract butterflies. I keep my spirea in check by pruning it back to the ground during the winter. I admit, it does get a little bigger each year!

Plants Gone Wild spirea
Plants gone wild – goldflame spirea

Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Bee Balm

These herbs, all members of the mint family, are prolific producers and can overrun the garden. Extremely easy to grow, simply plant them in a sunny location and forget about them. They return year after year, often showing up in other flower beds, containers and the lawn. Lemon balm is one of the first plants to appear in my garden each spring and thrives until a hard frost nips it in late fall.

I love these herbs, for their wonderful health benefits, and happily tolerate their wildness. Their flowers attract bees. I keep mint in a contained area, however I give lemon balm and bee balm free reign, pulling up the excess plants.

These herbs do well in containers and that is the best way to keep them from spreading. Also, shear off the flowers before they go to seed. That practice not only helps prevent new plants, it encourages the existing herbs to produce more leaves.

Plants Gone Wild lemon balm
Plants gone wild – lemon balm

Lamb’s Ear

These gray-green plants with the soft fuzzy leaves are fun to include in the garden. They make perfect additions to sensory gardens and their stalks of purple flowers attract bees and butterflies. Native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran, lamb’s ear is considered an ornamental plant that tolerates various soil conditions. It thrives in partial shade to full sun.

I added three small lamb’s ear plants to my garden in 2014 and realized quickly that they aggressively fill in an area and pop up all over the garden and yard. I’ve even found new plants in the alleyway, pushing up through gravel. I’ve kept the plants under control by rigorously pulling up seedlings as they appear. It also helps to cut down the flower stalks, before they set seed.

Perhaps because we had so much rain last summer, most of my lamb’s ears did not return this spring. However, three plants appeared at the edge of their usual space. I know what three plants can do!

Plants Gone Wild lambs ear
Plants gone wild – lamb’s ear

Ornamental Grasses

When I planned out my garden in 2014, I knew I wanted ornamental grasses. I love the way they wave in the breeze and their tassels in the fall are so gorgeous. And leaving the dried grasses up in winter creates interest in an otherwise drab garden.  What I didn’t take into consideration is that those tassels are seeds. And the seeds go everywhere.

Ornamental grasses come in a variety of colors and sizes, with different shaped tassels. I still love having them in my garden. And…no other plant creates as much work for me!  Because my garden area covers more than half of my backyard, there is a great deal of disturbed ground for those grass seeds to sprout up in.

While the clusters are small, ornamental grasses are relatively simple to remove. And remove them I must, or grasses would spread throughout the garden, choking out all other plants. If I miss any, they reveal themselves in the fall, as other plants die back to the ground.

Knowing what I know now, would I still have ornamental grasses in my garden? Yes. I’ve learned to walk the garden frequently and remove baby grasses. Plus, a heavy layer of mulch greatly reduces their numbers as well.

Plants Gone Wild - ornamental grasses
Plants gone wild – ornamental grasses

Have Your Plants Gone Wild?

There are other plants considered aggressive invaders. I’ve only listed those I’ve personally dealt with. Bamboo, for example, should never be planted in a garden. It is the most difficult plant to contain and even more difficult to remove. And pretty little periwinkle, a ground cover, can certainly run amok!

Truthfully, most perennials possess the potential to spread beyond their borders. That’s why I choose to plant them. They return every year and continue to fill in.

That’s okay. I love a little chaos in my garden. A profusion of flowers, herbs and plants and a bit of wildness makes my heart sing. How could it be otherwise, for a woman who continually seeks to “go beyond”?

Tell me about your garden. Do you have a story about plants gone wild?

Plants Gone Wild night garden

Check out these posts in the Backyard Garden Series:

Spring Garden Tips

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden

 


 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

The Pole Dancer

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

I’m excited to expand my writing into more travel related posts, as I have more travel experiences. One of my biggest dreams is to work remotely, from my laptop, anywhere in the world.

However, what is a traveler to do, when the whole world is under a travel ban? She revisits the places she’s been, via photos and memories. And she crafts stories from those previous trips.

Today I introduce the “Tales from…” Series with a funny story, The Pole Dancer, from a trip to Scotland in 2017. I hope you enjoy it. And watch for travel tales here each Friday…until this wanderer can wander again and deliver new content.

The Pole Dancer title meme

Tales from Scotland, The Pole Dancer

Stepping off the tour bus, we disembark into a changed Edinburgh. When our girls’ group began exploring the city that morning, people overflowed the surrounding landscape, covering streets and parks like an international patchwork quilt. Visitors from around the world jostled shoulders as they scrambled for buses or pulled up maps on their phones and set off on foot.

Now, nearby streets empty as weary wanderers move toward cheerful pubs and cafes, intent on refreshment. Even the piper on the corner has vanished, taking the signature sound of Scotland with him.

I glance at my tired traveling companions, my mother, sisters and niece, and shrug.

After spending the day wandering the city, including a tour of Edinburgh Castle, and shopping along the Royal Mile, we thankfully boarded the last hop on/hop off bus for the day. We looked forward to a hot meal and hotter showers and a good night’s sleep. Except…we missed our hop off spot. The bus parked for the night, with us still onboard.

It’s up to us to find a way to our lodging.

The Pole Dancer Hop On Hop Off Bus
The Pole Dancer – Hop On/Hop Off Bus

George to the Rescue

We have options. The bus tours begin and end on Waverley Bridge, near the train station tucked into the heart of Edinburgh. The three span iron bridge we stand on literally connects medieval Old Town with 18th century New Town. Cabs regularly swing through this area, assured of a steady stream of arrivals.

“Are you ladies lost?” 

A guide approaches us, a smile on his round face. An unruly thatch of gray hair caps his head, and in spite of the long day, his good humor remains intact. Laugh lines frame bright blue eyes that disappear when he chuckles. His rumpled white shirt stretches over a rounded belly. GEORGE is etched across his name tag.

George sees damsels in distress. He nobly offers assistance. We like him immediately.

He listens as we share our dilemma. We aren’t lost, we explain, only temporarily displaced. Perhaps George can flag down a cab for us? He concocts a better plan.

“Where are you staying?” he inquires in his soft Scottish brogue.

The Pole Dancer Edinburgh Church
The Pole Dancer – Edinburgh Church

A Private Joke

I supply the name and address of our serviced apartment near Grassmarket, south of Edinburgh Castle.

George’s reaction surprises us. He rocks back on his heels, his smile widening. Laughter bubbles up and George waves other guides over. As he tells our story, they raise eyebrows and chuckle too. The band of guides shares some private joke and we aren’t in on it.

Wiping his eyes, George steers us toward a bus, empty except for the seated driver. “My friend, please take these ladies back to their apartment,” George instructs. “They’ve had a long day in our city.”

The Pole Dancer Girls Trip
The Pole Dancer – enjoying the Royal Mile

An Impromptu Game of Charades

The driver nods. George gives him the address. His mouth quirking into a lopsided smile, the driver looks at us with amusement as we settle gratefully into seats.

“Okay, what’s so funny about where we’re staying?” I ask.

In response, George hops into the bus. With an infectious grin, he prances toward the metal pole nearest us. Placed there to steady standing travelers, George has other intentions.

Humming, the Scotsman grabs the pole and dances, surprisingly agile. He twirls around and throws back his head, amid cheers from guides gathered near the bus door. Hooking one leg around the pole, George looks at us, expectantly.

Our dancer plays a spontaneous game of charades. My family members exchange glances as understanding comes. He’s pole dancing, as a clue!  

We are incredulous. “Are we staying in Edinburgh’s red light district?” 

Applause from the guides confirms the guess. The driver snorts and waves George off his bus. He exits with a wink and an admonition to behave ourselves.

The Pole Dancer View of Castle
The Pole Dancer – Our view of the castle, from our five star lodging

A Street with a View

As the bus pulls away from the curb, we look back at George and wave. Laughing, he performs another little twirl on the sidewalk and bows. 

Walking up to our apartment building, we stop and really look at our surroundings. We arrived late the night before, eyes captivated by our first sight of Edinburgh Castle perched high on its volcanic rock.  And we left eager for adventure that morning. Now, turning slowly in a circle, we realize that our five star lodging is located in the middle of strip clubs, lap dance parlors and adult shows. No wonder George and the other guides laughed. We are amused too.

My sister Debbie recently returned with me to Edinburgh, my favorite city in all the world. We stayed in a different serviced apartment, in New Town. However, every time our hop on/hop off bus passed through Grassmarket, we peered up the hill toward our previous lodging. And we smiled, remembering George, our rescuer, our pole dancer.

The Pole Dancer Edinburgh Castle

Check out these travel finds on Amazon, for your next trip:

 


 

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Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden

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It’s true that April showers bring May flowers! The plants in the garden flourish during this month, offering colors, scents and beauty. In fact, May is Gifts from the Garden Month, with a different emphasis on each day.

May 3 is Meditate in the Garden Day and I celebrated the occasion with afternoon tea, journaling and a time of meditation in my contemplative corner. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and re-entered the house refreshed and full of joy.

It’s easy to create a meditation area in your garden. Think of this space as a place to daydream, write, relax, reflect, draw and pray or meditate. From a simple chair in a corner of the garden, to a hammock filled with pillows, to a fun, themed corner, the meditation area soothes the body and feeds the soul.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden title meme

Elements of a Meditation Area

I first fell in love with small personal garden spaces as a child. In my own backyard I found a large bush to crawl beneath, when I craved alone time. And the wonderful couple across the street, whom all the neighborhood children loved, gave me permission to use their little corner backyard garden spot anytime I wanted. This area, with a single bench and honeysuckle covering the fence, became my own secret garden. I spent hours sitting in that space and as a result, I love honeysuckle.

Use some or all of the following elements, to create a meditation area in your garden. Simplicity is key. You don’t want a high maintenance area that creates more work and stress. This is your personal spot to de-stress, unwind and breathe deeply. Make sure that the environment supports those intentions.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden chairs
Create a meditation area in your garden – seating

Water

Water features soothe frazzled nerves and relax tense muscles, encourage reflection and mask noise if the water is moving. They encourage butterflies, dragonflies and birds to visit.

Add a koi pond, fountain, tabletop fountain, bird bath or a simple shallow bowl filled with water to the meditation area. If the water is still, change it frequently to discourage mosquitoes from using it as a nursery.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden water feature
Create a meditation area in your garden – water feature

Natural Elements

Add natural elements such as brick, stones, wood, bamboo, grass, pebbles or sand to your area. These materials complement plants, flowers and trees, providing a restorative space for grounding and centering. They also offer a deep connection to nature.

Add a couple of large rocks for interest. Or create a privacy screen from wood. Brick, sand, cedar mulch or paving stones make an excellent floor that helps to define your space and provides a solid foundation for chairs or benches.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden natural elements
Create a meditation area in your garden – natural elements

Seclusion

This is perhaps the most important element to keep in mind, when creating a meditation area. Find a place that is separate from the rest of the garden. A simple chair in a corner or alcove works well. A bench at the end of a pathway or a hammock strung between two sturdy trees is ideal also. If you have a structure in the yard or garden, such as a gazebo or a covered back porch, create your own little private nook there.

Partition off your chosen area with fencing, repurposed gates, pig wire covered with flowering vines or lightweight fabric. Make use of existing trees or shrubs to provide privacy. And consider how much sunlight the area gets. Too much sun can be uncomfortable during the summer. Tent the area with a water proof, lightweight fabric or grow vines on an arbor to provide shade.

Create a place that delights the senses, where you can be alone.

Create a Meditation Area for Your Garden hammock
Create a meditation area for your garden – hammock

Beauty

Beauty inspires creativity, uplifts the spirit and brings joy to the heart. And beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. What makes you smile? Include those things in your meditation area.

Plants, flowers, herbs, ornamental grasses, trees and shrubs are excellent choices. Water features fall into this category too as do small boulders, pathways and garden art. Gather items that spark joy, to borrow a concept from Marie Kondo. This is your personal space. Let it be a reflection of who you are.

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden beauty
Create a meditation area in your garden – beauty for my eyes, next to my meditation corner

Personal Touch

Finally, because this is your personal retreat area, add items that showcase your unique personality. Add garden statues for whimsy, flowers in repurposed containers and inspirational signs.

You’ll need a place to sit. Add a chair, or a pair of chairs if you’d like to occasionally share your space, and a small table. The table is perfect for holding a journal, a candle, a glass of cold water or a tray with afternoon tea.

Choose a playful theme or include your favorite colors. Add interesting textures by way of cushions, pillows or snuggly wraps. If you’ll practice yoga in your meditation area, create space for a mat. Add twinkling lights, battery powered or those that plug into an outlet, so you can enjoy your meditation area during warm summer evenings.

Use what you have on hand to personalize your space. Make your own pillows. Repurpose items. This project does not need to be expensive to create. This is all about enjoying peace and solitude, even if only for a few minutes a day.

Create a a Meditation Area in Your Garden bicycle
Create a meditation area in your garden – repurposed bicycle

Bringing It All Together

Here is how I used the elements listed above, in my own meditation area.

I created the contemplative corner when I laid out my original garden in 2014. The space evolved over the years, to its current state.

I am adding a water feature this summer, in the form of a fountain. Greg is running electrical wiring to the corner so the fountain can plug into an outlet. I’ll string lights up as well.

A wood privacy fence forms two walls in my corner. Pig wire, covered in clematis vines, creates the other two walls, leaving an entrance into the area. This spring, Greg replaced the cedar mulch flooring with vintage brick. I love this change. The brick defines the area beautifully and creates a feeling of permanence.

The wood fence and vine covered fencing separates my meditation area from the rest of the garden. And yet, I still have gorgeous views of my backyard paradise through the vines and the entrance.

Beauty is provided via clematis vines, flowering plants, potted plants and the colors and items I’m using to cozy up the space.

And I’ve definitely added my own personal touch to my meditation area. My favorite colors…blues and greens….are represented in the cushions, pillows, throw, table and flower pots. I light candles when I’m enjoying my space, carry out tea and a journal, and include a colorful sign that reminds me to RELAX. And my beloved metal cranes stand guard at the entrance.

Meditation Area
My meditation area

What Will You Include in Your Meditation Area?

What will you include in your special area? I’d love to hear your ideas and see photos of your meditation area, contemplative corner or relaxation space.

May you enjoy many pleasant and restorative moments in your garden or backyard this season!

And check out these posts, in the Backyard Garden Series, for more ideas!

10 Shade Garden Plants

Easy Container Gardening

Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden gate

Gardening Finds from Amazon:

 


 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.