Sunday, September 25, 2011


If one would like to learn more about Japanese culture, but an overseas trip to that country is not on your schedule, how about exploring a Japanese garden instead? I had the opportunity to visit the Japanese garden at Cheekwood ( ) in Nashville, Tennessee, this past week, where I photographed their garden, and followed up with a "crash course" from Wikipedia, to give me a better understanding of this lovely art form. Several years ago I took the training to be a Master Gardener in Arkansas, but never progressed much past the classroom, in terms of putting my new knowledge into practice. Fortunately, however, there are highly-trained landscape gardeners who successfully manage to create a landscape that captures the essence of a Japanese garden. The stone lantern shown in this photograph, is typical of what one normally sees in a Japanese garden, and often are thought of as the "symbol" of such a place.

The Cheekwood space had the typical entrance gate, where the visitor is to leave the cares of the world behind.

Then there is the stepping stone path, where one prepares for spiritual renewal. Parts of the path are intentionally hidden to give a sense of discovery. It is uneven to focus attention on the journey.

A Japanese garden is said to be an artistic expression of the essence of nature, where the form, dimension, and arrangement of every element is meant to have a spiritual meaning. The purpose of the garden is to provide an opportunity to connect with nature and one's inner self. (According to the Cheekwood placard placed near the entrance to the garden).

From the viewing pavilion within the garden, one contemplates an abstraction of nature in the dry lake---encircled by hills---with every stone, lantern, and plant carefully placed.

The enclosure or "framing" provided by the hedges, walls, and bamboo grove is intended to create a feeling of security.

The pebbles of the dry lake are carefully raked to give a simulation of water and waves.

Although Japanese gardens have evolved over the last 1300 years, it is still accurate to say that the primary purpose of a Japanese garden is to create an oasis of serenity, and a place for meditation and contemplation. Although one might think these are only aspects of Eastern religions, there are plenty of places in the Bible where those qualities are encouraged. In the New Testament, we are told that Jesus retreated to a garden to pray; and in the Old Testament, Psalms 46:10 instructs us to "Be still, and know that I am God...." . It is very easy to neglect taking this quite time in today's hectic world, so I am thankful that there are places all around us (even if it is not a lovely Japanese garden!) where we can "BE STILL" and feel the presence of God. Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Buffalo National River Expedition

The well-equipped Tyler Bend Pavilion (top photo) was the location where dozens of volunteers, representing various area service organizations, gathered to participate in the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11( ) After opening remarks remembering all those who died on September 11, 2001, the groups received their safety instructions and equipment they would need to do a trash pick-up in, and along, the Buffalo National River. The group I was with---the North Central Chapter of the Arkansas Master Naturalists---is shown in the bottom photograph. Our mission was to cover the stretch of river between Tyler Bend and Gilbert, Arkansas.

One of the factors making this volunteer effort possible, was the donation of the use of all the canoes, life jackets, and paddles by the nearby river concession-operator, known as Silverhill Canoe ( ) It was a VERY generous gesture on their part, and greatly appreciated.

The Buffalo National River is famous for the tall and colorful limestone bluffs that border this very scenic float.

In this photo, one of our members is telling us about the "fern fall" that is growing out of the moist cracks in the bluff above her head.

Unless they are covered up by high water, several of the limestone bluffs have overhangs above the river, forming shallow "caves", as shown in the top photo of this collage. The paddler in the bottom photo is using the overhang to get a bit of shade from an otherwise, bright sunny day.

In this collage, the top photo shows some of our members pointing out the location of some fossils they learned about from a "geology float" they had taken earlier in the year. The bottom photo shows the foot-long nautiloid fossils easily visible on the bluffs there. These ancient organisms had long, cone-shaped, segmented shells and wavy tentacles. To see more photos from the geology float, go to, and click on "Geology float".

After seeing the incredibly beautiful scenery of the Buffalo National River on this day, I was thankful to be part of a group that is working to keep it clean. Since the GLAD Bag Company donated the trash pickup sacks, it seems appropriate to say that the floating and fellowship certainly made us paddlers GLAD---similar to what is described in Psalm 46:4 that says "There is a river whose streams make GLAD the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells." If YOU would like to "get GLAD" as well, try becoming a volunteer in God's great outdoors!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

A "Seedy" Expedition

When I refer to this as a "seedy" expedition, I am not referring to the definition of seedy that means "squalid"; rather, to the definition of seedy that means "full of seeds". This post is about an expedition you can take in Southern Missouri that is all about seeds! The first "seedy" place I want to tell you about is called the Bakersville Pioneer Village. This farm and pioneer village is in the beautiful Ozark hills, near the town of Mansfield, Missouri (See my blog post from August 14, 2010, for more information on visiting Mansfield).

The pioneer village contains gardens, pastures, an old-time mercantile store, herbal apothecary, natural bakery, garden museum, blacksmith shop, a Western jail, a native-rock oven, and a windmill.

The kids,especially, like the fact that they can see some "historic" livestock, like the sheep and pony shown here.

This "storybook-looking" building is also on the property, and never fails to bring a smile to folks who observe its unconventional construction methods. The owners say the decor seen around the village comes from years of collecting sickles, churns, washboards, old movie posters, horse collars, etc., etc.,! And the best part is that looking at all this stuff is free entertainment for you (except for the two days each May when the Spring Planting Festival is taking place). There is also a cafe on the premises where you can purchase a healthy lunch on weekdays. You can find out their exact hours of operation, get directions, and see the seed varieties they have available by clicking on their website,

The Bakersville Pioneer Village all got started around the original seed store, called the Baker Creek Seed Store. The owners of the seed store, Jere and Emilee Gettle, says seeds are their actual business, but their Bakersville Pioneer Village is more a "labor of love". And the seeds they sell are VERY SPECIAL!! Their advertisements say that they sell only pure, non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented seeds. They say they are NOT members of the pro-GMO American Seed Trade Organization. Rather they work with a network of about 50 small farmers, gardeners, and seed growers to provide the selection of over 1300 varieties of fine seeds, they have available in their actual store at Baker Creek, and on their website store.

The next "seedy" place I want to tell you about is the Ozark Seed Bank, located in the "don't-blink-or-you-will-miss-it" community of Brixey, in south-central Missouri. I was going there for a meeting, had the address set in my GPS, and STILL managed to miss it, because I glanced to the opposite side of the road for a split second! The white structure, which has a very typical architecture for this area of the Ozarks, has been there for decades. Buildings such as this have been used for schools, churches, community centers, polling places, and whatever else a group of locals might need. The Ozark Seed Bank website states that their mission is to research, cultivate and conserve indigenous and non-native plants, and disseminate information on their potential benefits. They use the main floor of their building for monthly educational events, that serve as a gathering place for local farmers and gardeners interested in sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and plant protection. You can find out about volunteering to conduct a seed trial in your garden or farm by clicking on their website or phoning 417-679-1003.

The building's lower floor contains their climate-controlled seed vault that stores over 300 varieties of culinary and medicinal plant seeds. One of the special ladies that keep this very worthwhile organization in operation is shown in this photo, holding her container of seedy treasure! I am very thankful that organizations like the Ozark Seed Bank and Baker Creek Seed Company are out there with the mission of not only preserving heirloom seeds, but also educating folks on their importance. There is such a disconnect today between the food one buys at the megamart, and the seed from which it came. This is significant not only for education about the physical environment, but also, education about the spiritual realm, as well. There are so many references to seed in the Bible, that are absolutely meaningless to many of today's younger generation, because they have never grown anything from seed, and were not really even aware that food comes from seed! The Parable of the Sower that Jesus told in Matthew 13:3-9 is an excellent example. Having an understanding of the principles of sowing seed will help us see the importance of understanding what Jesus meant when He said "Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop---a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. " SOOoooooo, if you would like for your annual leaf-peeping drive to have a "destination" this year, meander your way through the Ozarks, and go on a "seedy" expedition!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011


As we approach the ten year anniversary of the day our country was attacked by terrorists----often called " 9/11 " ----I am reminded that the date of September 11 has been significant in my family's history, long before the September 11, 2001, attacks. That is because my family's history is intertwined with the attack on September 11, 1857, of the Baker-Fancher wagon train, that left Arkansas earlier that year, on its way to California. In that attack, approximately 120 men, women, and children were murdered. However, there were 17 children (all under age 7) who were spared. One of these orphans was returned to Arkansas, and taken in by ancestors in my family, who raised her as their own daughter.

The wagon train camped along the banks of Crooked Creek, near Harrison, Arkansas. The group then proceeded westward, to camp on another night, in the area known as Carrollton. Anyone who has driven Highway 412 between Harrison and Huntsville, Arkansas has passed through the tiny community of Carrollton. Although you may not have seen it, there is a church (now listed on the National Register of Historic Places), just off the highway, with a cemetery next to it. Adjacent to the church, a special memorial was erected in 2005. It was designed to be a replica of the U.S. Army's original 1859 cairn that was at the Mountain Meadows Massacre site in Utah. For decades, at our annual family reunion, I would hear the story told about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and efforts that were taking place to get the site turned into a national monument, rather than a location owned and controlled by the Mormon church. This goal was realized just this year, and the announcement was made at our family reunion in July, 2011, the Mountain Meadows Massacre site is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.

I was glad to get to visit the site, so close to where I live, and thankful that the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation is maintaining this location for posterity. As this photo shows, the cemetery adjacent to the church is very old, and a stroll through it, reading the dates on the tombstones if quite interesting. I also had the opportunity to visit the actual Mountain Meadows Massacre site in Utah, in 1999, when my husband and I made a motorcycle trip out west. We rode for what seemed like hours in rural Utah, trying to find the memorial site that we had read was just completed earlier in the year of 1999. We stopped at several places to ask for directions, but when I would ask (with my usual Arkansas drawl) "How do you get to the Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial?", all I would get would be a blank stare and a shrug of the shoulders. Finally, one young woman, who was a waitress at a cafe in the area, said "I don't know about a Mountain Meadow Massacre site, but I can tell you how to get to Mountain Meadow". It was my first clue, that the word "massacre" was not included in their history of the area! You can see a photograph of the Utah site, as we saw it when we visited in 1999, by going to and typing "Mountain Meadow Massacre" into the search box. The information provided there is a fairly reliable synopsis of the historical events, attempted cover-up, and progress toward resolution of the issues involved. It will link you to numerous sites for more detailed analysis of what took place during those days in September of 1857.

There have been volumes written about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and the book shown in the top of this photo collage was the first one I read that went into great detail about the events of September 11, 1857. I also was able to attend a showing of a documentary about the Mountain Meadows Massacre at the historic Lyric Theater in Harrison, Arkansas. The film was very well done, and was awarded as the "Best of State" for the Utah 2004 Film Festival. The cover for that video is shown in the bottom two photos of the collage ( ) I can also recommend the excellent website, for further study. Being familiar with the tremendous amount of controversy involved in memorializing the location where around 120 people were murdered, it is not surprising that there is controversy regarding memorializing the site in New York City where thousands of innocent people were murdered. Yet rather than despair over the events of the past, involving 9/11, I suggest going to Psalm 91:1 for comfort. It says "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." We can be confident that, as verse 2 goes on to say "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Despite the world problems that rage around us, if we put our trust in God, we can still be confident of "miles of smiles"!! Tricia

Author's August 6, 2016, Addendum:  This photo shows the White River, as it passes through the little community of Beaver, in Carroll County, Arkansas.  I have added it, because I just read that this is the location where the ill-fated Baker-Fancher Wagon Train, crossed the White River, before they proceeded westward to face their death, in the Mountain Meadow Massacre, in Utah.  The incomplete railroad bridge can be thought of as symbolic of their incomplete trip, to make a new home for themselves on the Western Frontier. 
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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Canopy Tour

When I googled the phrase "Canopy Tour", there were 1,520,000 results!! Although I did not check out every single reference, my estimate is that most of those references dealt with the kind of Canopy Tour shown in this photograph. In the past decade, I have come to think of a Canopy Tour, as a trip through the treetops of a forest, largely because of the publicity received, when such tours started being offered in Costa Rica and other similar forests. The one in this photograph is actually at the Ferndale Center, near Little Rock, Arkansas. The tour was a part of a course I was taking there, called "Becoming an Outdoor Woman".

Another kind of canopy is the type shown in this photograph, that is a square of fabric, used to cover areas, such as this beautiful, Southern California outdoor patio.

Yet another type of canopy is the "canopy of shade" that this wooden arbor provides. This particular canopy is in that gorgeous neighborhood of Southern California, that I recently had the opportunity to spend time in. Because one of the areas in that neighborhood was called "Canopy", it got me to thinking about all the images that come to mind when one hears that word.

I called this post a "Canopy Tour", because, all but the first of the photos were taken on my recent visit to Southern California, that required me to put the word "Canopy" into my mapquest! The arbor pictured in the previous photo, is shown again here, from the bottom of the hill which it presides over in the "Canopy Neighborhood".

This expansive park that the neighborhood is blessed with, is just minutes from the Pacific Ocean---a definite plus, if you are a fan of going to the beach! On the day this photo was taken of me at the neighborhood park, I was content to be a "land lubber", and simply enjoy strolling on the well-maintained walking trails!

The glass roof shown in this photo forms a canopy of weather protection to the palm trees and people beneath it. What is above that glass roof canopy is even more wondrous! Isaiah 40:22 makes this statement about God's creation: "He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in." I am thankful for the expeditions I have been able to take under the canopy God created, as well as expeditions involving the man-made canopies I visited in Southern California!! Hope you will keep on exploring all the amazing experiences YOU can have under God's canopy! Miles of smiles!! Tricia

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