A Thanksgiving Poem

The past twelve months have been filled with personal challenges for me and I have not always been thankful for the many blessings in my life. Often we look at the problems we are dealing with, but neglect to see and be grateful for the gifts we have been given.

The other day I found this poem and it was a good reminder to me to not let the cares of this world keep me from being thankful. I am thankful for the relationships I have with family and friends. I am thankful for the people we serve. I am thankful for the work I do, and the beauty all around me. Trials can be turned to gratitude if we change our attitude.

We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hang about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives
And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past’s wide measure.

But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble.
Farseeing is the soul and wise
Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1896

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM YOUR FRIENDS AT THE DYCK ARBORETUM OF THE PLAINS!

The Prairie Window Concert Series Is Good for You

I usually like to have data and science to back up what I believe and claim. But today, I’m going to go with a gut feeling and make a bold statement. The Prairie Window Concert Series (PWCS) is good for you. It will make improvements to your physical, mental, spiritual well-being…yeah, all of it.

If you are anything like me, I would expect you to approach this claim with skepticism. Therefore, I’ll include a couple of references in this post to loosely back up its premise and make both of us feel better. (See obligatory reference #1 after this paragraph). But with this claim, I profess it mostly because it feels right.

The Goodness of Music

I’ll start with how music is seemingly ever-present during some of the most revered time with my family and friends throughout the year. Vacation and holiday playlists always are special and highly anticipated. The Walnut Valley Festival (aka, “Winfield”) playlist is extensive and was put together with great care. When it starts playing late summer in anticipation of September, it brings about tingling excitement in our family like no other time of the year. Music is essential to these experiences and these experiences are good for me, so there you have it.

The next generation making music at Winfield (Photo by Jenni Koontz).

Whether I’m happy, sad, excited, somber, exercising or being still, I know of music to fit that particular situation. Americana, bluegrass, classical, country, rock, jazz, rap, honky tonk, Irish, new age, Zydeco, hip hop, and alternative are all proper contributors. Portable devices, powerful small speakers, noise-canceling headphones, feather-light earbuds, digital music collections, and limitless streaming services make it easier than ever to allow music to accompany us and accentuate any occasion. (Obligatory reference #2, How Music Affects the Brain) Usually, that music listening happens while multi-tasking on something else.

The Prairie Window Concert Series

Thanks to the Old Settler’s Inn and the Prairie Window Concert Series, I’ve been able to regularly enjoy the music of blues legend, Guy Davis, up close and personal.

When you specifically focus on live music, uninterrupted in an intimate, listening room setting with friends and family, the music experience can be even better. With the PWCS at Dyck Arboretum, you can engage your senses further with a stroll through a diverse and thriving landscape teeming with colorful flowers and pollinators.

Late summer is a great time to visit the Arboretum when flowers and pollinators are showiest.

At intermission, you can indulge in delicious Crust & Crumb fare. The culmination of these layers at a PWCS show has to be good for you.

Crust & Crumb loves you and is good for you (Photo by Sharon Entz).

28 Years and Counting

Miner and Valetta Seymour designed this experience to perfection in 1991 at the Old Settler’s Inn in Moundridge. (See PWCS History) The overall structure of the series, including Sunday afternoon shows to hear quality artists of various genres and enjoy good food during intermission, still thrives 28 years later. Talented artists bring their passions to the PWCS stage on eight occasions each season. They share their finely honed craft, passions, and dreams while trying to make a living doing something they love.

Today, I am excited to introduce the 2019-2020 PWCS lineup. It is loaded with immense talent that includes a number of new artists and a few familiar ones. Visit our website, learn more about the artists and enjoy their music. Join the growing group of season ticket holders and take advantage of our early bird discount, and consider becoming an underwriter. You will not only support this unique live musical arts experience in South Central Kansas, but you will have fun while engaging regularly with familiar faces in a music-loving community.

Dare I say, your happiness and well-being depend on it.

Three Ways To Connect With The Natural World

There is something healing about being outside.  I am not a scientist or a psychologist, but a short walk in the great outdoors does wonders for my physical and mental well-being.  The problem is that I don’t get outside enough to encounter those helpful connections.  It happens too infrequently.  I sit in my office staring at my computer screen never venturing outside and then wonder why I feel tired, disconnected, and even a little uneasy when I go home at the end of the day.

If we know we need to go outside to lift ourselves up, why don’t we make it a priority?  I don’t know all the reasons, but I have heard that there are medical benefits from being outside for just 15 minutes.  This makes me think about why I need to create time in my schedule to be in nature.  So, I challenged myself to be outside at least once a day for 15-30 minutes.  Here are some ways I plan to connect with the outside world along with some positive benefits I know I will experience.

Get your hands in the soil.

This can be done in many ways, but the most obvious is growing something.  I love: the smell of the earth after a rain; the thrill of establishing a new plant; soil on my hands; planting a vegetable garden.  Just planting a few plants can have tremendous benefits to you and nature.  It is invigorating being in the garden and watching your landscape be transformed each year.

Landscaping-wide

Take in the Sunshine.

It has been cold and gray for the past few weeks and I am craving some sunshine.  What is it about the sun that we need?  Maybe it is the Vitamin D our bodies need that is best supplied by the sun.  I know too much sun is not healthy so I get enough sunlight by sitting under a nice shade tree after puttering around in the yard with a cool drink in my hand.  There is a link between sunlight and the prevention of all sorts of diseases.  So get outside in the sun for your health.

Another important benefit of the out-of-doors is that it will make you sleep better.  Everything I have read about being outside points to the importance of sunlight.  When you wake up, and throughout the day, sunlight is really beneficial.  Again, don’t get too much, but 15-30 minutes exposed to bright sunlight will help you sleep better.  Try to exercise outside, walk your dog during the day, and enjoy that first cup of coffee in the morning in a sunny spot.  Not only is the sunlight soothing and relaxing, but the natural world slows us down.  When we are bombarded by too many stimuli, we need to remember that the sunlight will help calm us down.

IMG_8140

Enjoy the Natural Beauty.

Nature can transport us away from it all.  Take a walk through the park or visit a natural area and you will be mentally and physically changed.  There are so many fascinating sights to behold: the beauty of a coneflower in bloom or monarchs clustered on a branch.  Often I am mesmerized by the richness of what I see.  My senses are overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of the natural environments I find.  A short walk each day will change your perspective.

The calming effect of the outside world is something I need in my life currently.  Let’s face it, we are worn down over time by the busyness of life.  I need moments that energize me, reduce the stress, stimulate my brain in different ways than a computer does, and boost my attention span.  Fear and anxiety slip away the more time I spend outside.  Boost your spirits. Get outside.

IMG_7927

I am not a scientist or doctor but I know how my countenance changes the moment I am outside.   Simply put, we need to get outside for better health.   In my opinion, 15 minutes outside makes the next hour inside so much better.

 






Five Surprises from our Prairie Garden

I know it is cliché to say I have been busy, but I have been busy.  We are all busy these days.  It seems that is just a fact of life.  You are not living if you are not busy doing something or going somewhere.  We are moving so fast that we are too distracted to notice the little things.  However, something happened to me the other day that I can’t stop thinking about.

I had been working around the greenhouse and stopped for a few minutes to rest.  If I had not stopped, I would have missed it.  A ruby-throated hummingbird sipping nectar from the hummingbird mint.  I was mesmerized as I watched him flit from flower to flower only three feet away.  It was amazing how something so small could capture my attention.  But the key to seeing it was stopping what I was doing and observing what was happening around me.

Male_Ruby-Throated_Hummingbird_1

That hummingbird was my first surprise, but more have followed over the past few days.  I noticed a large black and yellow bumble bee that was climbing completely inside the Penstemon cobaea.  He would almost disappear as he searched for the nectar deep in the flower.  He would climb out and go to the next flower as he tirelessly worked each bloom for food.

 

The stately beauty of Indigos has taken me by surprise.  They rise early in the season to put on a show and then persevere through the summer, ultimately turning black as the weather cools.  The vibrant blue and yellow flower spikes stand out in the sea of green prairie grasses.

Spring Flowers

 

The birds feeding their young is another surprise.  Where do they find the food for all those hungry mouths?  They are constantly searching for food.  Whether robins or cardinals, they do what needs to be done to keep their brood happy and healthy.

A nest of robins in a hawthorn tree.

A nest of robins in a hawthorn tree. Photo by Cheri Kaufman.

 

The intricate beauty of a Pawpaw tree blooming caught my attention.  The reddish-brown flowers held upside down drew me to the tree like a magnet.  I had seen these trees bloom before, but there was something different this year that made me stop.  It was something special.  It was interesting and beautiful – worth the time to witness.

Asimina_triloba_kz1

These are just a few things that caught my attention.  I know there are many more surprises out there to discover.  Should these types of things surprise us?  They would surprise us less if we took time to observe more, but we are distracted too much.  Stop and take in what is happening around you in your garden.

Hopefully you, like I, will be rewarded by observing the landscape, by taking the time for quiet reflection in your prairie garden – leaving you with a mental note that will bring a smile to your face during your busy day.

I can still see that hummingbird around those flowers.  What is your hummingbird moment?