Acadia: #FindYourPark

Did you know there are 58 National Parks? This summer the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service are running a campaign to encourage you to #FindYourPark. I found mine in Maine. Where will you find yours? There’s likely one closer than you think. Take the quiz and find out.

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The Pirate’s Life is Not for Me

My brave and intrepid friend Sheri is on an adventure unlike any I will ever undertake. She’s the chef on the schooner Isaac H. Evans this summer. In July I visited her while she was in port overnight in Rockland, Maine. I was able to stay on the boat all of 10 minutes before I needed to disembark, otherwise I would have been feeding the fish over the side. Add that to the insanely tiny quarters and it’s clear the pirate’s life is not for me!

Edith Wharton’s Home: The Mount

Have you ever lived near a “tourist attraction” but never visited it? Such is the case with me and The Mount. For a year I lived a few miles down the road from it in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, but I never visited.

That unfortunate situation is now remedied, as I made it the first stop on my 2015 summer vacation (which also resolved the issue of never having gone to Acadia National Park).

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Favorite Gardens: Winkworth Arboretum

As the winter keeps us in a deep freeze here in upstate New York, I’m longing for a sign of spring. While I can’t see into the future, I can take a peek into the past by revisiting photos of a special place I visited last year.

Winkworth Arboretum, in Godalming, Surrey (bonus points if you can pronounce that), is known for its tree and shrub collection as well as for the bluebell and azalea display in spring. I was lucky to visit in late April to catch the spectacular “bluebell moment.”

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3 Free Things to Do in NYC

“Sometimes to walk in shaded parts of Manhattan is to be inserted into a Magritte: the street is night while the sky is day.” ―Joseph O’Neill, Netherland

When I visit New York City I often feel like I’ve entered a Surrealist painting, where the absurd has somehow become ordinary. While the diversity of people, languages, and food can be inspiring, the busy-ness of it all can easily overwhelm me and I quickly retreat to the country where I feel far more at home.

But I go a few times a year because there are some things you just can’t see or experience anywhere else. On a recent trip, besides the free head cold I always seem to get from the Big Apple, I discovered the following three free things to do in NYC.

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Favorite Gardens: Great Dixter

It’s hard to underestimate the impact the gardens of Great Dixter have had on the field of horticulture and garden design. For more than 80 years, Christopher Lloyd (1921–2006) lived on the property, and nearly all his adult life was devoted to gardening there and writing about his experience. His commitment to the land and the plants themselves made what would have been another lovely English garden into something intimate, timeless, and extraordinary. These photos are from a visit in May 2014.

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Masses of Beauty and Horror

Some things are perfect en masse.

In fact, their sheer abundance is what stuns our senses and freezes our minds in a moment of wonder.

Swaths of flowers. A cascade of falling leaves. Herds of animals. Mounds of rolling clouds. Amber waves of grain. When it’s beyond what we can count, or even estimate, we find ourselves suspended in a pocket of stillness, beauty, and potential.

One flower alone may be remarkable, but combine it with thousands of others, and we’re in the presence of something far beyond the sum of the parts.

Our minds attempt to find the patterns, noticing subtle differences in color or shape that create vaguely detectable variations. It may be an ocean of blue flowers, but over there it’s darker, and under the tree it’s brighter, almost purple, but we’re not sure how.

We are humbled.

And sometimes we’re horrified.

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What Do You Say When You Meet a 4,000-Year-Old Tree?

Crowhurst Yew

Crowhurst Yew: Doorway to Stillness

What do you say when you meet a 4,000-year-old tree?

“You don’t look a day over 2,000!” Which, it turns out, might be a more accurate age for the Crowhurst Yew and many of the other gnarled specimens that dot the English countryside. 

A visit to this stunning, understated giant at St. George’s Church in Crowhurst, Surrey, on a rare sunny English day, was like stepping back in time (except for the constant airplane traffic above). 

Sitting at the door of this tree, and stepping into its hollow center with reverence, was an experience in slowing down. It required dialing back the forward momentum of life to just be with this venerable living thing that has been around for, well, a long time. But exactly how long? Four thousand years seems rather long.

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