Monday, December 6, 2010

Being 60, Making Life An Adventure #26-30

by Donna L. Watkins

With this post, I'm halfway through my 60 new experiences for this 60th year of my life.  It all begins here. Deciding to focus on adventure rather than aging has been a great thing.

Donna Entering Westover Plantation
Formal Gardens - October 2010
My mind thinks young, so surely my body will follow my thoughts.  I think of Ephesians 4:22-23 which says to "put off your old self" and "be made new in the attitude of your minds." Not that the verse has anything to do with aging, but rather being holy, but I know thoughts carry a lot of weight since we do nothing without it beginning as a thought.

I do know that my days are made better when I wake up speaking Scripture/Truth so that I don't begin to grumble about the aches and pains. They're still there, but it's like they fade into the background as I speak out what I want to think on, such as "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." Since I also believe that healing was provided through Christ, I know that when my mind lines up with faith and truth, my body will follow.

I also like to get excited about starting a new day by saying, "Today could be the day that I am totally healed." It certainly could be and to have that outlook helps me to get my body in motion and my mind meditating on God's Word before the devil tosses in his request for me to complain about all that's currently wrong with life. It's like watching or reading the news, he likes to get us to focus on the evil in the world and take our minds and hearts away from worshiping our Father. Once we've made that initial step, he feeds in the idea that God is actually creating all the evil Himself. Lies, lies, lies. The "deceiver of the whole world" as Revelation 12:9 states.

So I choose to make life an adventure. It doesn't come naturally. I wasn't born with the name of Pollyanna. Quite the contrary. I spent many years complaining about everything that wasn't the way I wanted it to be. But I finally realized that when you Grumble, You Crumble.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Great Falls National Park
#26 of 60 - Great Falls National Park was a real treat for me since I'd seen it mentioned numerous times and wanted to go. Seems we would plan to include it in a visit that required us to be in the Washington, DC area, but then we would just not get there.

The history of the land rather fascinated me along with the amazing fact that this 800-acre national park is only 15 miles from the nation's capital. At Great Falls, the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge.

George Washington started the Patowmack Canal Company at Great Falls. The canal took seventeen years to build, and was one of the first canals built in the United States. Few ventures were dearer to George Washington than his plan to make the Potomac River navigable as far as the Ohio River Valley. An entire town grew up around the construction site to serve as headquarters for the Patowmack Company and home for the workers. The town was named Matildaville by its founder, the Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse" Harry Lee. Harry Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee, named the town for his first wife, Matilda Lee.

The greatest obstacle to the Patowmack project proved to be financial. High construction costs, particularly at the Great Falls section, and insufficient revenues bankrupted the company. Extremes of high and low water restricted use of the canal to only a month or two each year. The tolls collected could not even pay interest on the company debt. The Patowmack Company succumbed in 1828.

In 1930 Congress authorized this place of human history and natural beauty as a park. The National Park Service took on responsibility for its management in 1966. Today Great Falls Park, a unit of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, protects and preserves the ruins of the Patowmack Canal and Matildaville.  View Great Falls NP Video and Photo Album.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins
Larvae Stage of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
#27 of 60 - I was so excited to get to see a Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar while on a nature walk at Ivy Creek Natural Area in Charlottesville, VA on October 10. There were children on the walk and that makes for many sharp eyes and one of them saw it on a tree trunk. You would think that bright green color would just jump out at you, but they are very small and with all the green around you in a forest, the color doesn't seem to stand out.

This caterpillar is usually not seen since it feeds in treetops, making a shelter for itself by folding the edges of a leaf together. When it finishes eating, it will spin its chrysalis and overwinter until Spring when it becomes a butterfly.

You may think that those are eyes on the caterpillar but they are actually markings for protection. Many insects, birds and animals were created with built-in predator protection. To a bird, those big colorful eyes look formidable so it preserves the caterpillar so it can go about its cycle of growth and then form a chrysalis around itself and turn into a beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins
Larvae Stage of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
Just before pupating (forming a chrysalis) this larvae stage of the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly may turn brown, so my guess is that this is what we saw on another caterpillar on a different tree trunk. How unusual to see two of them close together. Maybe the previous storm blew their leaves down and they ended up on the ground and were now working their way back to the treetops.

If you click on the 'brown' photo you can see a side view that seems to show some kind of substance forming which indicates it's begun the process of pupating.  What a treat and delightful experience to add to my 60 list.  View photo album of Ivy Creek Natural Area.

#28 of 60 - Since Ivy Creek is not too far from us, we been many times, so to find two new experiences on the same nature walk made it a very great day!  We were out near at the south Rivanna River reservoir on one of the Ivy Creek trails and there are always damselflies and dragonflies to be seen since the water is rather still at that area.  I was intent on seeing something new and while I stood still, this Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly landed on a plant right in front of me.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly
Dragonflies are similar to damselflies, but the adults can be differentiated by the fact that the wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest. They are valuable predators that eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, and very rarely butterflies.

They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic. Female dragonflies lay eggs in or near water, often on floating or emergent plants. When laying eggs, some species will submerge themselves completely in order to lay their eggs on a good surface. The eggs then hatch into nymphs. Most of a dragonfly's life is spent in the nymph form, beneath the water's surface, using extendable jaws to catch other invertebrates (often mosquito larvae) or even vertebrates such as tadpoles and fish.

The larval stage of large dragonflies may last as long as five years. In smaller species, this stage may last between two months and three years. When the larva is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs up a reed or other emergent plant. Exposure to air causes the larva to begin breathing. The skin splits at a weak spot behind the head and the adult dragonfly crawls out of its old larval skin, pumps up its wings, and flies off to feed on midges and flies. (Information Credit: Wikipedia)

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Tercentenary Monument
Dedicated in 1907 - Historic Jamestown National Park
#29 of 60 - I like to celebrate birthdays as a big event and for me, it's not about stuff but about memories. Generally my husband, Randal, does not want to go anywhere for his birthday; he likes to be around the house, but this year was different. He decided we should visit Historic Jamestowne which is part of a national park between Williamsburg and Yorktown, Virginia.

It was an unbelievably gorgeous day! Deep blue skies and Fall colors. They had an archaeological dig area and this was a day one of the archaeologists was speaking to a group of school children.  What a blessing to be able to listen in.  This is a subject neither of us had payed much attention to over the years, but after her explanations of what we were looking at, it became rather fascinating.

Remember the names Captain John Smith and Pocahontas? Jamestown was actually the first settlement in America, even though it seems the Pilgrims got more attention on a later arrival in Massachusetts.  Learn more through the titles and historical info on the photos in the Historic Jamestown Photo Album.

#30 of 60 - While in the area of the James River, we also decided to visit Westover Plantation, one of several historical plantations on the James. This estate doesn't have an open house tour other than when privately scheduled, so we thought it would be less busy and all we wanted was to stroll the grounds anyway. It had a lot of history attached to it and some outbuildings that were open for viewing.

Randal and Donna at Wisteria Arbor Bench
Westover Plantation - Charles City, VA
This historical plantation was built in 1730 by William Evelyn Byrd II who was also the founder of the city of Richmond, Virginia. The location is beautiful and the brick mansion at Westover is considered to be one of the most outstanding examples of Georgian architecture in the country.

There are poplar trees over 150 years old and a formal garden that is lovely! We visited on October 23rd when there wasn't anything but a few blooms scattered, but it was a wonderful feeling wandering through the paths and ancient boxwoods. What an amazing place to visit in Spring and Summer!

We had the place entirely to ourselves until we were exiting the garden when another couple was coming in. It was a wonderful place to dream and walk with The Creator of it all. It felt like home to both of us. A lot of work had obviously gone into it when it was re-established about 1900, and many maintenance hours are certainly required.

Later I thought about when we passed the couple that was beginning their journey in the garden, that we should've said something to them .... maybe something like, "Welcome, have a delightful time" ... as if we were ourselves the creators of it all. Isn't it grand to dream now and then about what we would do with such a place? I certainly wouldn't want the maintenance headaches, but holding spiritual gatherings there to praise our Lord would be so lovely!  View photo album of Westover Plantation.  Continue on with my adventures.

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from TheNatureInUs.com. The link to use is: www.TheNatureInUs.com.

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