Tulip Timing is Everything Thursday, May 5 2022 

Have you ever experienced a time when everything you did turned out perfectly? You set out for an adventure, and with each step, you happened to be at the most opportune moment for the ultimate outcome. Everything you hoped for fell right into place.

Well, this week, my boyfriend and I went on a quick three-day get-away, and most everything we experienced, wasn’t that. In fact, the trip was quite disappointing.

Paul and I drove about three and a half hours to Holland, Michigan, a sweet little town on the east side of Lake Michigan. The plan was to enjoy the views and experiences of Holland a few days before their annual tulip festival. We imagined discovering a tulip haven, a mini paradise with tulips growing everywhere prior to the expected crowds.

We arrived late afternoon on Monday and checked into the Staybridge Suites on James Street. The hotel was very nice with friendly, accommodating staff. We had a full kitchen with counter seating, a sitting room, and a comfortable bed. The price was reasonable as our reservation was a bit off-season, and they offered a military discount. So far, so good.

We unpacked and went out to find a restaurant. Initially, we only spotted fast-food chains, which rarely are our food of choice. Google showed most of the local restaurants to be on a main strip, but with so many one-way streets, it was tricky to get there. We could see where we wanted to go but had difficulty figuring out how to get there. Later, we learned that U-turns are a thing in Michigan for just this reason.

When we arrived at the four-block downtown area on 8th Street, our next challenge was to search for a parking lot that had an open spot that wasn’t reserved. After touring several of the area’s public lots, we finally found a space and walked over to a lovely street with trees in bloom and attractive shops.

Restaurants were scattered throughout. To our dismay, they were closed on Mondays. At the end of the downtown area, we found an Irish Pub that was open. Damp and chilled from the drizzling rain, tired, and very hungry having only eaten snacks all day, we got a comfy table by the fireplace. A friendly waitress served us a couple of beers and a delicious, hearty dinner of Irish stew for me and shepherd’s pie for Paul. Rejuvenated, we were ready to go again.

Since tulips were the reason we ventured to Holland, we headed out to the main parks. We expected the town to be decked out in the blooms. Surprisingly, few homes showcased them. More tulips are blooming in my own neighborhood.

The main location to see tulips in Holland is Windmill Island Gardens. Unfortunately, we arrived a few minutes after 5pm and were told that the last tickets for the day were sold. The ticket vendor said that we could come back after 6pm when the windmill closed (a key viewing spot) and wander through the gardens. However, she added there was little to see. Because of the unusually cold and rainy weather, only about 25% of the tulips were open.

The lady suggested we check out a nearby park called Window on the Waterfront that had more open buds. The tulip photos shown here were taken at that park. The location claims 100,000 tulips. The winding paths were pretty, but it was difficult to take a photo that didn’t include the cars and buildings on the streets surrounding it. And much like Windmill Island Gardens, the majority of tulips were yet to open.

We woke Tuesday morning to heavy rain, and the forecast stated it would continue like that all day. We searched online for museums only to find ones of interest were not open. We did try one that some online information indicated was open. After running through a downpour from the lot behind the building to the museum door in front, we discovered it was closed until Friday.

Soaked and frustrated, we decided to pack up and return home. Paul was just getting over a bad cold, and the weather was not good for him especially. Plus, I had a work event to attend on Thursday and a meeting on Friday.

The drive home took us two extra hours due to the weather and a truck accident, which thankfully, did not include us. We crawled in traffic long enough for me to read through my hundreds of emails.

In retrospect, we should have done more research on the sites and restaurants in Holland, their hours and days of operation as well as ticket prices, and considered the weather forecast. We also could have checked this online tulip tracker to learn how many flowers were currently in bloom. No doubt, the parks will be beautiful next week.

Holland wasn’t what we expected but probably is a good destination for young families. The beaches along Lake Macatawa are said to be clean and fun. There also are some activities, such as the wooden shoe factory and Nelis’ Dutch Village, a cute, albeit small, Dutch-themed park that young children would enjoy.

Do you have any advice on where to or not to go for a little getaway? I’d love to hear about it.

***

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Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem Tuesday, Mar 15 2022 

While pilgrimaging in Israel and Italy in 2019, I followed the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, a processional route symbolizing the actual path Jesus walked to Calvary. Catholic churches typically display images of this path around the church so parishioners may walk and pray while meditating on Jesus’ Passion. I’ve walked this many times in churches, and it’s always meaningful. However, it’s nothing like walking the actual path in Jerusalem.

Following are photos from my pilgrimage in regard to the Stations of the Cross. When looking at the tree with thorns, notice how long those terrifying spikes are and remember that they were formed into a wreath and pressed into Jesus’ skull.

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We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

  1. Jesus is Condemned to Death
(Site Where Jesus Was Condemned to Death. Jerusalem)
(Thorns as Used in Jesus’ Crown, Jerusalem)

2. Jesus Carries His Cross

(Via Dolorosa. The Path Jesus Walked to His Crucifixion)

3. Jesus Falls the First Time.

(Location Where Jesus Fell the First Time. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

4. Jesus Meets his Mother Mary

(Location of the Fourth Station of the Cross, Where Jesus Met His Mother. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

5. Simon Helps Jesus

(Site Where Simon Helped Jesus Carry His Cross. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

(A Woman Wiped Jesus’ Blood and Sweat from His Face. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

7. Jesus Falls the Second Time

(Jesus Fell a Second Time on This Site. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

8. Jesus Comforts the Women of Jerusalem

(Jesus Comforted the Women on His Way to the Cross. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

9. Jesus Falls the Third Time

(Jesus Fell Three Times. Image in the Church of Condemnation. Jerusalem)

10. Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

(Before Jesus Was Crucified, He Was Stripped of His Garments. Jerusalem)

11. Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

(Jesus Was Nailed to a Cross. Jerusalem)

12. Jesus Dies on the Cross

(Alter Over Site of Jesus’ Crucifixion. Jerusalem)

13. Jesus is Taken Down form the Cross

(Pieta, Vatican, Italy)

14. Jesus is Buried

(Stone of Anointing Where Jesus’ Body Was Prepared for Burial. Jerusalem)

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Meditate on Christ’s Passion with the book, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, available from Amazon and ACTA Publications.

Caves! What Lies Beneath Thursday, Sep 23 2021 

From the mountains to the forests and sky to the seas, nature’s masterpieces are on display for anyone who takes the time to notice. Plant life from moss to oak trees, clouds, sand, waterways, prairies, soil, hills, insects, birds, and land animals show off their hues, shapes, music, and fragrances.

Go deeper, and we also can find nature’s magnificence below ground level. My boyfriend and I recently took a trip to Blue Mound, Wisconsin to experience the treasure of Cave of the Mounds. The natural structures, textures, and colors left me in awe.

The area’s history dates back more than 400 million years ago when warm waterways covered it and the discarded calcium carbonate seashells compacted into limestone. Over the next few million years, carbon dioxide created in rain and melting snow, and then becoming diluted carbonic acid, seeped through the surface soils, dissolved the limestone, and created cavities. Simultaneously, the water table lowered causing streams to deeply erode the stone and allow air to fill in the developing cave.

Water droplets and dissolved calcium carbonate and minerals continued, and still continue, to drip though the cave and build on each other forming structures called speleothems.

Stalactites are speleothems growing down from the ceiling.

Stalagmites are structures forming from the ground up.

Helictites grow sideways and downward. And round oolites are considered cave pearls.

The rate of growth of these speleothems is tremendously slow taking 50 to 150 years to build one cubic centimeter of cave onyx, depending on the speed of the dripping water and the amount of calcium carbonate it contains.

The colors of the trails of crystals formed by these droplets varies with the minerals they carry. For example, reddish brown crystals contain rust—oxides of iron; black, purple, blue, and grey contain manganese compounds; and those with calcite appear as translucent or white crystals.

Nearly all of the more than 400 known caves in Wisconsin are privately owned. Cave of the Mounds is noted as a National Natural Landmark in a public-private partnership with the National Park service. It is located on a family owned property that was used for dairy farming. In 1939, the family also contracted out a portion of the land for quarry blasting. The cave was discovered when one of those contractors blasted an opening to the hidden world below.

Cave of the Mounds is open year-round and maintains temperatures in the 50s. Located outside of Madison, Wisconsin, Midwesterners have easy access to this natural gem. Guests can meander through the cave on their own, spending as much or as little time as desired. Typically, it takes about an hour to view as it is only about 1/5 of a mile long and from 40 to 57 feet below ground. Guides are on hand at the beginning of and about half-way through the tour to answer questions. At this time, tickets for adults are under $20. Trails surround the cave and also are open to the public.

I expected the cave to be dark, dank, dirty, and buggy. Instead, it was quite clean without visible creatures, well-lit, and had a smooth, concrete pathway on which to walk. The air quality varies with the barometric pressure but also was comfortable. I understand that water drips in the cave on rainy days and those with melting snow.

If you aren’t able to visit Cave of the Mounds, check out their virtual tour. You lose the close up experience of being surrounded by nature’s sculptures but will get a sample of what to find there.

*Pilgrimages offer countless benefits, and you don’t have to travel far. Find out how in this post, “Stillgrimage-Taking a Pilgrimage Near Home“.

*Looking for gifts for caregiving friend? Check out these books: Inspired Caregiving, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Navigating Alzheimer’s.

Luck and Faith of the Shamrock Monday, Mar 15 2021 

Oh The Shamrock

Through Erin’s Isle,
To sport awhile,
As Love and Valor wander’d
With Wit, the sprite,
Whose quiver bright
A thousand arrows squander’d.
Where’er they pass,
A triple grass
Shoots up, with dew-drops streaming,
As softly green
As emeralds seen
Through purest crystal gleaming.
Oh the Shamrock, the green immortal Shamrock!
Chosen leaf
Of Bard and Chief,
Old Erin’s native Shamrock!

  -Thomas Moore

See a shamrock, think of Ireland. The most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle since the 18th century, shamrocks are used in emblems of state organizations, clubs, flags, and companies such as Aer Lingus airline. It’s even a registered trademark of the Government of Ireland.

The word shamrock comes from the Gaelic Seamrog, meaning little clover. Clover is commonly referred to as any number of plants belonging to the genus Trifolium in reference to their three leaves. Most botanists agree that the white clover is the original shamrock of Irish heritage. However, white, red, and hop clovers, and the clover-like black medick, are often used as shamrocks, all of which are members of the pea family. The sprigs are believed to have been consumed by the Irish people in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The four-leaf clover is a mutation rarely found in nature, which lends itself to the universal connotation of being lucky. The plant, oxalis deppei with its four leaflets is widely sold as shamrocks, but in reality, it is not clover.

The plant’s religious connotation has ancient roots. Celtic holy men, known as Druids, believed the clover to be powerful against evil spirits, and the number three found in clover to be mystical. Surrounded in legend, Eve is said to have carried a four-leaf clover out from the Garden of Eden. Most notably is St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock to explain the teaching of the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one God.

The three leaflets of the shamrock also represent faith, hope, and love. When a fourth smaller one is present, it represents luck due to its rarity.

Today, clover is considered a nuisance when it pops up in our lawns but once was included in lawn seed mixes. Until the 1950s, clover was considered a beneficial addition to the overall look and feel of a lawn as it is inexpensive and maintenance-free. Clover is easy to mow, fills in thin spots, tolerates compacted soil better than grass, doesn’t require fertilizing as it captures nitrogen from the air, and attracts honeybees. It is also soft to walk on.

Erin go bragh! (Ireland forever)

Do You Believe in Leprechauns?

* Take a dose of self-care with my newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Moral Builders.

(Political) Climate Change Thursday, Nov 14 2019 

(Venice, Italy)

As I noted in my last post on my Mary K Doyle Books blog, the recent pilgrimage to Israel and Italy with my daughter, Lisa, was the perfect trip at the perfect time for us. The saying is that “Timing is Everything,” and that’s certainly evident with recent events in both countries we visited.

I’m grateful to the many loving friends and family who covered us in prayers. No doubt, their prayers helped keep us safe and make a holy pilgrimage. Our trip was peaceful and in perfect weather.

(Bethlehem, Israel)

Cross-border violence began this week between Israel and militants in Gaza and continue after an Israeli air strike that killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that their campaign is directed at Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza. Israel holds the group responsible for 100s of rocket attacks from Gaza since fighting began.

(St. Mark’s)

In addition to the troubles in Israel, Venice is under water. Water levels are at their highest in more than 50 years peaking at about 6 ft. St Mark’s Square was one of the worst hit. The square has flooded six times in 1200 years, according to church records. The crypt is now completely flooded. Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed the enormous damages on climate change.

One of the greatest gifts of travel is the bond that develops between differing peoples. Once we’ve met and connected with someone from another society, we become more aware of their daily situations and concerns and understand them better.

The trauma to the people and their land in both countries saddens me. Lisa and I were privileged to see Israel and Italy in their glory. May all of Israel and Venice return to peace and tranquility very soon.

***

(See all posts from both of my blogs on my author Facebook page.)

Jerusalem. City of Sensual Overload. Thursday, Nov 7 2019 

DIMG_3985.Old JerusalemStalls packed with brightly colored scarves, carpets, and clothing. Whiffs of olives, spices, and humanity. Ancient art and centuries of architecture intermixed with current signage and walls of graffiti. Heavy military presence controlling the massive crowds. Narrow cobblestone streets streaming with people from all over the world. Arabic, Hebrew, and English along with Russian, French, Italian, and countless other languages ring through the air.

DSCN6415.Jerusalem

I just returned from a pilgrimage to Israel and Italy and the impact of the trip has left my head full of images, sounds, and smells. As Dorothy said to Toto in the Wizard of Oz, Americans such as myself quickly realize that in Israel, especially in Old Jerusalem,  we’re not in “Kansas” anymore, an expression that indicates things are very different than our norm.

Jerusalem is the largest and poorest city in Israel. Located between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, it’s also one of the oldest and perhaps, holiest, cities in the world. The first human settlers are believed to have arrived in the Early Bronze Age around 3500 B.C. In 1000 B.C, King David conquered Jerusalem and his son, Solomon, built the first temple.

 

DSCN6462

In only about a third of a square mile, numerous locations are considered significantly important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims which has resulted in a long history of conflict.

DIMG_3975.Via Dolorosa

  • For the Jewish community, Jerusalem is recognized as the site of Mount Zion, the traditional site of King David’s tomb, and the Western Wall.
  • Christians hold the city sacred because it is where 12-year old Jesus impressed the elders in the temple and later spent the last days of his ministry, was sentenced, scourged, taunted, crucified, and resurrected.
  • Muslims also are religiously connected to Jerusalem because it is where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven from what is known as the Temple Mount.

In adition to being emotionally and spiritually moved, Israel was fascinating for me because I’m intrigued with other cultures and religions and appreciate the opportunity to learn from them. Personally, I never felt unsafe but often did not feel welcome by the majority of Israelies. When traveling, I strive to be a good guest and representative of my home country. I’m not sure how much this mattered to most people I encountered. Greeting Jews in Hebrew rarely resulted in anything other than a blank stare. Currently, more than 60% of its residents are Jewish, 36.5% are Muslim, and only 1.8% are Christian. (The other 1.2% are unspecified.)

The religious tension in the country is evident, even among the Christian denominations. Everyone vigorously defends their sacred site and appears to be reluctant to allow others to visit. Without the assistance of our experienced and knowledgable guide, navigation through the country and entering sites at the best times would have been difficult, if not impossible. Our guide also protected our money by pointing out where we could safely use a credit card and deal fairly with merchants.

DSCN6420.Jerusale,

Most of our meals were prearranged and buffet style. Typical meals consisted of stews, fish, grilled vegetables, salads, and breads. My favorite foods were those common in the region including falafal, schnitzel, shwarma, hummus, olives, herring, and dates.

Breakfast.IMG_3937

Stay tuned for more to come on this adventure! Faith-related posts will be posted on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

 

 

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