Garden of the Mind

 

My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece

~Claude Monet

 

We all engage in self talk. A running inner dialog that writes the script of our lives.

Seldom are we completely aware of just how influential we are on ourselves. We definitely live up to our own expectations. Positive or negative.  Problems arise when insecure feelings begin to dominate the conversation. And rarely do we share these dark thoughts with others. They are hidden behind a wall of bravado we put up between each other. This causes us to see only the exaggerations put together by our imaginations not the full scope of reality.

Insecurities are kept in a secret place locked inside ourselves in that dark closet of pessimism, where fear lives. It is fear that leads us to lie to ourselves in the first place. Much of the negative crap that our own insecurities whisper to us is not accurate or realistic at all, but these hidden feelings do have a profound effect on our behavior. Only when we can forgive ourselves for not being perfect can we begin to rebuild and replace all that negative crap with good crap.

I liken a life to a garden. What grows in our garden is what has been planted.

 

 

The lives which we are living now are the result of our past actions and those past actions were the result of our past thoughts. The seeds we planted long ago are sprouting now.

We truly are what we have cultivated. We can thrive in a colorful vigorous and sunny garden or we can wallow in the dark. and it is that simple… of course surprises can spring up

Life is random and certainly not fair. We are subject to the whims of that randomness…

…and no matter what we do surprises can spring up…

Sometimes squirrels can dig up your tulip bulbs and plant them in your neighbors backyard…sometimes a spring hail shower can wreck havoc on your tender pansies. There have been times when a black cloud descended into my garden and left it cold and dark. There have been times when I thought that the sun would never shine again…

And then I found the sunshine within myself and lit up my garden with hope, faith and blind determination.

 

 

These are the times when we have to rely on that sort of sunshine to make our gardens grow.

…that’s why you need a good dose of it stored up in your pocket for a rainy day.

 

 

Determination: Yes. Work: Most certainly. Anything worth anything takes work and belief. That is your sunshine and nothing will shine without it.

Gratitude is like water. It nourishes life in our garden. It makes what grows grow. Without gratitude we will never find the happiness and contentment we seek.

Attitude. How we frame the picture we see.

What some may interpret as a raging storm can seem like a gentle shower watering a summer flower.

 

Seeds are the ideas we present to ourselves. We can plant what we want.

 

Being afraid; having social anxiety…the alien-ness I felt being on the autism spectrum…my alcoholism.. these were symptoms of a greater problem these were/are my challenges. I on instinct planted seeds to counteract the ones planted many years before which led me to feel so sad.

How do I do this? I change my inner dialogue. I forgave myself. I saw myself as a poor damaged thing that needed sympathy, love and understanding.  I began to treat myself more kindly; I began to lie to myself but in a good, encouraging way.

I told myself wonderful things about me; things I didn’t believe. But I kept planting and counting.

I counted reasons to be grateful. I thanked God or the spirits that be. I thanked the universe for my good fortune. I embraced mindfulness and tried to enjoy every passing moment for what what it is without expectation. I found worthiness in contentment and strength in humbleness.

 

I wrote words like”optimistic” ,”happy”and “Yes” in bright colors and tapped them around the house.

I found solace in the colors of music and the sound of the rain.

I refused to be daunted by a reluctant sun so I made my own.

 

What began as a tiny spark has grown larger and my garden is growing with colorful, green, growing wild things.

I continue to plant seeds whenever I can. My garden is a work in progress. Always planting something, digging, weeding, taking it all in.

Despite changes and setbacks I am here to encourage other gardeners who may be discouraged. Maybe to make myself feel a bit better too.

 

As Ram Dass once said: We’re all just walking each other home.”

And I say that it’s damn good to have a friend to walk through the rain with. 

 

~nlm

 

 

 

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The Dreams of Bees

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
~Frances Hodgson Burnett

 

 

The sky is bright. The day is new and I am out in the neglected garden, busy as a bee, foolhardily attempting to resurrect order into chaos.  I feel wonderful out here in the fresh air and sunshine. It is a spectacular Saturday.  I have the whole day ahead to do whatever I want and this is what I want.

Finally…

backyard studio

I miss it out here and from the looks of it it misses me. It is a cornucopia of green things vying for space and light. I liken this tangled mess to my mind and life in general; bursting with wild, colorful and impatient things…lush, exuberant and messy. Tending the soil has given me metaphor upon metaphor upon on which to reflect and the act of gardening itself allows my mind to meander down strange and unusual and often very creative paths.

I am more of a scientist really than an oranmentalist. I like crazy wild. I shy away from the straight line. I will allow a mysterious plant to grow, just to see what it turns out to be. Most of the time it turns out to be just a common weed but once in a while serendipity will shine on me with something new and wonderful.  Life is like that I think too.

It is labor intensive here. I set all this up when I had oodles of time on my hands. I didn’t have to do much at work and life came pretty easy. My garden, my sanctuary as I called it, was my respite from the world, a world I was very much afraid of. It was here I started this blog and the blogger Strawberryindigo was born. In a little converted garage we call the studio I typed and typed and purged my heart out.

I think about that now; how far I’ve come.  They say where our heart lies there lies our treasure. Once my yard was my treasure. It was pristine, nary a weed or grass-blade out of place. I worked hours at a stretch, this is where I gained my satisfaction in life but it was lonely being so afraid of the world…

 

flower shadow july summer

Through design and through fate via a series of sales related jobs has forced me out of my comfort zone again and again, so much it is a common occurrence.  Once I gain mastery I go onto the next challenge. I am cultivating my garden. I am accepting myself as I am but weeding out what does not serve me to make room for the more beautiful things that do.  Beautiful things we all can enjoy.  I am cultivating friendships where I did not before and now my garden is not so lonely anymore.

My goal is to spread goodness and light in my own small way; planting seeds along my path. Some may not take root but others will, growing into something wonderful. I figure the more seeds I plant the more flowers that will grow…

 

…and so here I am pulling weeds thinking about this and there I spy a butterfly; a swallowtail. It is headed for the butterfly bush.  I run and get my camera. It is kind enough to stick around for a few photos

 

june butterfly swallowtail in butterfly bush today

 

 

 

today butterfly swallowtail 2

 

I get excited at this sort of event , and yes seeing a butterfly is an event to me!  I lay back in the grass.  The breeze cools my sweaty brow. I am totally living in that moment and then as if on cue nature rewards me with a smallish flock of sweet little birds who make tiny hops around the branches of the tree next me, they make cute little chirpings the sort you’d expect from birds such as this.

 

I am happy…

nancy in jean jacket back yard

I watch honeybees visit the white clover flowers in the grass. They carefully buzz from one to the next fast and efficiently. Their devotion to their task inspired me to leave this wild area in the grass, unmown and full of clover, the patch has grown since last year.

 

clover grass bee

I am an avid bee watcher although I don’t have the time like I used to…

My mind drifts to the story I was reading earlier that queried if bees dream and then what do they dream about?  The whole prospect of bees dreaming intrigues the hell out of me and the writer of the article states that bees when kept from sleeping (yes, bees sleep) tend to forget where all the good flowers are.

This makes a whole lot of sense.  I think that we humans could learn a few things from our friends the bees:

A busy bee still finds time to dream. It is those wonderful dreams made into fruition by hard work that create beautiful gardens. 

 

~NLM

peach flower and bee

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“Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.”
―David Foster Wallace

 

Honey bee workers {Apis mellifera} flying towards flower, Digital composite, UK.
Honey bee workers {Apis mellifera} flying towards flower, Digital composite, UK.

References and Related articles 

  Do Bees Dream?  (BBC.Com) 

 

Cavorting with Nature

 

 

 

It happened so quickly: a flutter of wings, a white flash..and then I saw them…two cavorting butterflies, cabbage whites, I think.  Fluttering all around me; my head and legs, coming so close I can feel the gentle breeze on my face created by the fritterings of their little wings.  I sit as still as I can and take in this surreal and glorious moment. Then just as abruptly as they appear they flutter off together into the blue October sky.  It was quite a moment and strange as it sounds I got the idea they were thanking me for something. A place to cavort perhaps. A resting place amid the growing greenness in this nondescript urban oasis that is my backyard. A wildish place of ordered chaos. A pesticide-free zone with a little bit for everyone. Native plants and more. Providing nectar and seeds and shelter and safe spots to forage with berries and tomatoes and lots of tasty bugs and worms.

A respite from the lifeless urban jungle of hard concrete and indifference.

 

 

Hummingbird and Pineapple Sage
Hummingbird and Pineapple Sage

 

These moments bring me such joy; my encounters with the urban wildlife that visit my garden.   There are  the squirrels who compete for nuts with the squawky jays. They are beautifully blue and like to fly from rooftop to rooftop swooping down in the yard hunting and catching insects.

Along with the white butterflies, there are bees galore, buzzing from here to there, intermixed with hover-flies which seem to defy gravity. These beneficial insects love the sweet asylum that seeds itself freely and grows every summer against the southern wall that borders the driveway. This once barren slab of cement now teems with exuberant life. The other side is filled with a hodgepodge of annuals and perennials.

It resembles more of a science experiment than a tidy yard. I’ve never been a very tidy person but the urban fauna doesn’t seem to mind.

And as the season progresses and as October turns to November my time in the garden has decreased in fact admittedly, it has been nearly a week since I have been back here.   I take advantage of a much needed sunny day and plan to spend some time working and appreciating. All the work I do know will pay off next Spring.

Of course I leave much of the wildness for the urban wildlife who will winter here.

 

All the remain of the once vibrant yellow Susans are the jet black seed pods which the chickadees and finches have been devouring with a flourish. 

 

goldfinch-eating-black-eyed-susan bird
Goldfinch on Black-eyed Susan

I am always reflective this time of year and I do much of my reflecting back here. The fuchsia is still blooming and the Pineapple Sage is in it’s full glory. It’s scarlet spires provide nectar to the hummingbirds which still visit as the season progresses and progresses it does. The leaves have changed and many have fallen to the ground. I can hear them crunch under my feet. My mind goes back to the white butterflies and my brief encounter with them just a couple weeks ago. I haven’t seen any since.  Our next meeting will have to wait for Spring when they return. And so will the Canada Geese that I hear flying overhead, their distinct honking flooding the sky with such riotous sound. This brings me back to Autumn’s past. It is these living harbingers of winter who make me sit and pause and reflect upon life and time.   It will be the Geese again who will prompt the same reflection upon their return.

 

Canada Geese flying in V formation
Canada Geese flying in V formation

 

And now it is my turn to say thank you to the fantastic world around us. From the smallest proton to the largest supernova…from the tiny microbe in the soil to the hummingbird to the black and white house cat to the awestruck and humbled human. We are all connected and what a beautiful thing is that.

 

Have a fantastic day!

Nancy

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“…Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

Mary Oliver

goose-picture-3

Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me

Three Little Birds and One Fat Squirrel

 

 

The air is clear and slightly cold, just chill enough to notice.  A layer of glittery dew covers the grass. I stand on the back porch my eyes closed, face to the rising October sun. I feel a slight warmth on my eyelids and this makes me smile.

The birds are in riotous glory; I listen to their songs intently; trying to make out as many distinct songs as I can. I recognize the song of the chickadees accompanied by the expectant cluck of the chickens next door.   I hear the caws of the crows in the distance; calling to each other from neighboring trees. At once they all take flight, flying high into the deep blue sky circling the tall pines and calling out to each other.  I can feel their hurried energy as I do the squirrel’s. I think I hear one rustling in the large bush in the back, or at least what I presume is a squirrel. My imagination comes up with ” interesting scenarios” as to the identity of this “mysterious” creature when Jay, the Scrub Jay, bursts out of the very same bush and scares the zen-like serenity right out of me.  He lets out a distinctive SQUAWK, swoops down across the yard in perfect form and lands right on top of the roof.

 

scrub jay flying blue bird
SCRUB JAY in Flight–Credit: DianeVarner.com

 

A-ha! He then spots the peanuts “some kind human” has set out. I watch with delight as he goes from the roof down to the top of the fence. He  picks up a nut in his beak, tips his head back, the nut rolls into place and then he’s off with his prize…off to one of a half-a-dozen stash places located in the surrounding tree canopy. Every time he dives down he squawks and this sound reverberates all over.  I watch as he checks the ground for any missing nuts. He lets out one last flurry of distinctive calls then takes off somewhere beyond the neighbors Maple tree.

 

scrub jay blue bird nut

 

My listening has not ended as I try to make out as many sounds as I can; city intertwined with nature. The purr of lawn mower and the edgy beep beep of traffic noise and mixes with the sweet innocence of  birds. I hear the other neighbors goat, yes goat. A child’s laugh is drowned out by the roar of a  jet engine high in the sky, leaving a white trail behind it.

I am distracted once again, this time by a real squirrel. It has come to the fence and found the nuts gone. Again, taken by that dashing blue bandit. The squirrel scolds me; staring at me and barking. Its fluffy tail adding to the drama, twitching and and going in circular motions.   I laugh knowing it will soon be checking the bird feeder out front and gorging itself on mixed seeds.  All the while eyeing me out of the corner of its eye.

I can’t help but smile.

 

 

Jerome the squirrel, resident bird feeder raider and scolder.
Jerome the squirrel, resident bird feeder raider and scold.

 

 

 

Mario is obviously fascinated.
Mario is obviously fascinated.

This is a spectacular time of the year. The exquisiteness of the season deepens with every passing day. I feel intoxicated with the thrill of life as I live from moment to moment each changing from one to another like the seasons, deepening and becoming more and more beautiful.

Life is good!

 

 

♥  Nancy

 

The ground we walk on, the plants and creatures, the clouds above constantly dissolving into new formations – each gift of nature possessing its own radiant energy, bound together by cosmic harmony.

~Ruth Bernhard
bird gif hop

 

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BOB MARLEY THREE LITTLE BIRDS

 

All The Things You Are – Helen Forrest & Artie Shaw

The Sexy Gardener

 
 
 tulips gavota-560_86731o
 
 

It is a sunny afternoon in mid October. There is a slight breeze. I can hear the sound of birds and the occasional airplane overhead. I am engaging in one of my favorite activities; Gardening, It makes me happy, especially today–today I am doing one of my most favorite of favorite activities; digging…

 

…Oh how I love to dig…

dirt hand photo(2)

 

 It is primal, it is physical. It gets my blood pumping and pulse racing.  It is natural and it penetrates my soul…it is almost akin to having sex.  It is the mindless and mindful coexisting, together as one.  It hovers on a higher plane and rewards in obvious and not so obvious ways. It is almost spiritual and definitely enlightening. I can do it for hours and become quite invigorated. In that token digging is sexy and so are the people that do it.

Yes, I’m still talking about digging. 

Being a gardener, this thing for digging is a good thing. I am drawn to nature and to the very soil itself.  I suppose that is the way with us gardeners. The soil plays such a vital role in our lives and in life in general. For there wouldn’t be life as we know it, without it.

I love the feel of the fresh good earth–it feels so alive. It is soft and luxurious, fertile as the day is long, this stuff is almost akin to magic.

Gardening is sexy–don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. All that fresh air and exercise, not to mention all the “naturalness” can really get the heart pumping. 

Gardening is good for you.  It is a unique form of exercise that allow you to do something calming, creative and fun while working various muscle groups….gardening can keep you fit.

Women in general can burn up to 300 calories with an hour of moderately strenuous gardening activities like digging, cultivating or using a spade. Men typically burn around 400 calories per hour while doing the same activities.

Being in shape can enhance sexiness…

love-passion-kiss-shadow-photo-70160

OO-la-la…

And what about dirt?  Can dirt be sexy too?

There have been studies as of late indicating how exposure to the bacteria found in healthy soil, whether it be from the food grown in it or just by working the soil can raise serotonin levels which boosts your immune system and elevates your mood.  There has been numerous studies linking the act of just being out in nature to good health. These indicate a direct correlation between our health and happiness and the exposure to the soil itself. We all know that general happiness and satisfaction with oneself is the key to sexual attractiveness.

Come on, tell me dirt is not sexy.

dirt plant hands

 

I do feel more connected with the Earth out here and I am compelled to seek this connection. There is a force inside us that needs to express this somehow. There seems to be a theme behind all this random chaos. We are intertwined with all of creation in a symbiotic dance of existence on planet Earth. We are driven to spread forth and propagate. We share this drive with all other life.  This too, is sexy…

egg and sperm

 

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself, 
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” 
― Walt WhitmanLeaves of Grass

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Have a great day,

Strawberryindigo.

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The Behemoth

pine tree morning

Have you ever had a behemoth in your life?  Did the elephant in the room ever come sit on you? Has there ever been a big thing that plopped down on you and grabbed you and now is sucking the light out of your life or in this case your yard…

I moved into this house 13 years ago. Back then it was quite a different place, besides of being denied of my whimsical vibes and general weirdness, the house and surrounding yard lacked the appropriate plant and animal life.  The backyard lies on a double lot. In the far west back are big bushes of the still unknown variety.  A very tall pine tree stood in the center like a behemoth.  This tree was too big for the yard and it’s influence was greatly felt.  The tree rendered 90 % of the yard dark and pine needly, what little grass that grew was patchy and only grew to shaggy and straggly near the outer parameters of the yard—the only place the sun was able to shine. This was where the tallest of the strongest weeds grew. They stood like sentinels seeming to be guarding the yard from interlopers.  This yard had been neglected for some time. There was nothing; no odd wildflower sprouting up, no old forgotten rosebush in the corner overgrown with weeds. Nothing to show that someone who loved flowers was once there. I have a fondness for old neglected gardens, finding the traces and leftovers of a plants that at one time were planted there by someone and cared for and enjoyed them. To me it sort of feels like walking back through time. And I try how to image how the place once looked. To me gardens have always felt like the person who once loved them.

It has always been a fantasy of mine to move into a place with a yard like that. Where I would have the joy of discovery of  finding and resurrecting once overlooked wonderfulness. an opportunity to nurse it back to former glory with equal parts love, devotion and hard work.

Well this yard had none of that; no hidden charm or gem. Just pine needles, grass and a few weeds and an overgrown hedge.

There was nothing to save and resurrect because there was nothing there.  The tree took in all the life-giving light for itself and didn’t share. Nothing was left.

I tried to make the best of it. I have always been a gardener at heart. I have this need to be surrounded by plants. I probably got this trait from my mother who lived and breathed plants too.  My childhood was filled with memories of the outdoors; of soft green grass, and miniature roses, big green trees with arching limbs, blue skies with big puffy clouds, a chorus of birds chirping and singing away happily. To me nature has also been magical and gardens a way for us mere mortals to create a bit of our own magic.

I much as I love trees I knew that if that if that behemoth didn’t leave we would never have a decent backyard, besides it was dropping needles like crazy, probably not a good sign. We knew what had to be done. We got three bids and went with the lowest one and the behemoth was gone 3 days later.

backyard stump
We decided to save the stump. We had it shaved off at about three feet. It reminds me of the one the Lorax stood on in the Dr. Seuss classic. There it remains today.

Once the behemoth was gone, the yard was instantly transformed.  It was if summer had finally come after a long cold lonely winter. My mind starting whirling with ideas on what to do next. I picked a corner, started digging and never looked back.

I wanted this place to become an extension of me– “my little kingdom” and I spent hours and hours working…sometimes 6 or 8 hours a stretch with no break out there digging in the mud, planting, raking, pruning, mowing. digging, lots of digging…

I really enjoyed the work which surprised me. I was never good at sports or anything physical but I enjoyed this gardener’s workout.  (it’s not as easy as it may look)

Over the years, a little this and some more that. I couldn’t afford a bunch of plants at once, so I would add little bits here and there; more and more each year. I saved many seeds and learned to propagate, adding more and more plants. As time went on the yard looked better and better. I started to feel good about this and started to feel good about myself.

I didn’t much feel good about myself back then so this was a really good thing. I lacked self-confidence and wasn’t too sure of myself. I was shy ( I still am) this simple act of working hard, achieving a wonderful result that others and yourself can enjoy is absolutely wonderful. It makes a person such as myself feel all warm and toasty inside. This gave me a dose of confidence and more importantly made me realize the other behemoth in my life. The one’s who mighty shadow I was standing in and to an extent still do

This huge dominating force is not a tree, but it has taken root in me–planted there a long time ago. This behemoth is called fear. Unlike a tree I can’t just hire someone to come cut it down. But living in its shadow has rendered me a late bloomer I am afraid to say.  I am also afraid to say it still stands but it is no longer a behemoth; just a big weed now. I will probably always struggle with fear to some extent. I highly doubt that I am the only one…but, I have cut it down to size and now my own personal garden in thriving in the light and is home to thousands of bright happy things.

Strawberryindigo.

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Did you ever have a behemoth in your life? What was it and how did you overcome it? 

lemon rose cu

“People where you live,” the little prince said,grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

“They don’t find it,I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

“Of course, I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

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Garden Confessions

I have to admit something that I am not proud of and this is difficult for me to do.  I am somewhat ashamed but I have the need to confess…I am a nature lover.  I proclaim this in much of what I write. I cannot help but do this since I feel a profound connectedness to nature, I do.  I am a big advocate for the environment. I recycle, I reuse, I hug trees and all that….yes, I am a nature lover….. and I am a neglectful gardener.

For the past year really, I have barely done the bare minimum in my yard and it shows. My sanctuary, as I once called it, is getting ragged at the edges; weeds are popping up, left to seed, the grass has brown patches and the roses are wilty.

Queen Anne’s lace has taken over in the back and choked the life out of one of my favorites: a spectacular white swan coneflower, its creamy whiteness and dark brown centers stood in terrific contrast to the Black-eyed Susan. Now only the Susan remains; her bright yellow petals were being encroached by the fine white flowers of the over-zealous and jealous Queen Anne.  A wild and invasive royal who is apt to take over the whole kingdom. I have been digging out her bundled white roots but no matter how deep I dig there is always more.

Black Eyed Susan

I lament this. This is my fault. I am not only a neglectful gardener, I am a soft-hearted one who tends to let an unknown mystery plant grow and grow until I find, which I usually do that it is an invasive weed.  These science projects, so to speak have run rampant as I have not kept up my previous level of commitment.

The Hot Lips Salvia has grown leggy and the usually sensational Scarlet Daylillies never emerged due a growing shade from a behemoth of a hedge that has taken over the west side of the yard.

The hydrangea need pruning but the fuchsia has never looked better.  I am amazed at the resilience of nature; how it endures. How no matter how much we mere mortals try to have it our way, nature has hers in the end.

That being said, it would be foolish of me to fight what has been going on since before we know-it-all humans came on the scene. Nature has her checks and balances. It is a good system and insead of trying to buck that system I am going to try to mimic it as much as I can.

My plan is to plant mass quantities of White Sweet Asylum; a free-seeding, free-wheeling annual that’s ambitious and attracts a good number of various beneficial insects. The Queen and the Asylum will battle it out and hopefully, with some help from me, the Asylum will win out.

I am coming to the realization that I can use these priciples anywhere. The trick is to go with what already works. I have been reading up on the subject and plan on eventually taking out much of the grass and replacing it with native plants and edibles.

This will take a few seasons but I’m not in a hurry. I will document my progress and keep your posted.

For now I will try to stop cringing when I see the brown patchy grass and the wilted roses…and I’ll try to hold my head up high in the neighborhood. Having an unkempt weedy lawn doesn’t make me a bad person does it?  Hey, I can proudly say that we used less water this summer…conservation is important too!

Have a happy day!

Strawberryindigo.

(Note: all the above photos were taken last summer)