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Victoria Longwood Hybrid water lily

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The Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo purchased a Victoria Longwood Hybrid water lily earlier this year from American Aquatic Gardens in New Orleans. The rare water lily, native to tropical regions such as the Amazon River basin, can produce lily pads or floating leaves up to eight-feet across.

The genus Victoria was discovered in 1801. It caused quite a stir when it was introduced to Europe in the mid 1800s as the ‘Giant Water-Platter.’ Initially named Victoria regia in honor of the Queen of England, its name was later changed to V. amazonica. It is native to equatorial Brazil where it grows in calm waters along the mighty Amazon River, in ox-bow lakes (former river channels), and in flooded grasslands. Its gargantuan glossy green leaves grow to seven feet in diameter, with a pronounced maroon lip around the circumference. The lip is notched in two places to drain rainwater. As if prepared for the fight of its life, much of the Victoria is covered with flesh-piercing spines. Only the roots, flowers and the upper sides of the leaves are spine-free. The lush, 12-inch flowers open at night, heralded by a fruity fragrance described as reminiscent of pineapple.  A second recognized species, Victoria cruziana, (sometimes mistakenly called V. trickerii), is found in the cooler waterways of Argentina and Paraguay. V. cruziana has smaller leaves (only four to six feet!), a higher lip that is generally green, and is obviously more cold tolerant, making it popular for culture in the U.S.

Victoria exhibits some extraordinary structural characteristics. A notch in the middle of the leaf rim allows rainwater to drain from the surface of each pad. Spectacular sharp spines cover the underside of the leaves, the stems, and the flower buds, protecting the leaves from animals and fish. A web-like structure of hollow ribs supports the underside of the leaves; these ribs are filled with air and provide for exceptional buoyancy. In an experiment using sandbags, Victoria were found to support up to 300 pounds on a single pad. Young plants can grow at an amazing rate, exhibiting increases in individual pad diameter of over eight inches in one day.

The ‘Longwood hybrid’ is a giant among aquatic plants with its spectacular and spiny lily pads and exquisite white flowers that open at night. These South American natives are found growing in the calm backwaters of the Amazon River where they produce flowers that last only two or three days. This plant’s varied textures, colors, and shapes offer beauty and grace throughout the year.

absolutely beautiful

“Mah Lindy Lou” by Lily Strickland

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Lily Strickland was a prolific songwriter (and I only recently learned of her).

Family trivia:  Lily’s great-grandmother, Henrietta W. Sammon who married Oliver P. Strickland, was a sister to my ancestor Robert W. Sammon who married Susan Elizabeth Thrasher.

I realize this is of no interest whatsoever to anyone other than my Sammon relatives; however, Lily Strickland made a ‘notch’ in the musical venue that is admired to this day – information  which might be of interest to others.

Paul Robeson sang some of Lily’s compositions; Mah Lindy Lou seemed to be a favorite.

let holiness move in me

Let us swing wide all the doors and windows
of our hearts on their rusty hinges
so we may learn how to open in love.

Let us see the light in the other and honor it
so we may lift one another on our shoulders
and carry each other along.

Let holiness move in us
so we may pay attention to its small voice
and give ourselves fully with both hands.

– Dawna Markova –
[I will not die an unlived life – Reclaiming Purpose and Passion]

today’s prayer

May I live this day

Compassionate of heart

Clear in word

Gracious in awareness

Courageous in thought

Generous in love

John O’Donohue

“The Practice of Encountering Others”

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What we have most in common is not religion but humanity. I learned this from my religion, which also teaches us that encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get — in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing — which is where God’s Beloved has promised to show up. Paradoxically, the point is not to see him. The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery. The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead.

~ Barbara Brown Taylor [An Altar in the World]


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My Brown Heritage

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Thanks to a Brown cousin, Lily Brown Taylor, I didn’t start from Zero when researching my Brown lineage.

Lily researched, compiled, and shared a great deal of Brown information with her family.  We (speaking of folks like me who are amateur researchers) owe a great deal to those who came before us and I am most grateful for the generosity of folks such as Lily (Brown research); Fran Laird (Williams research) and so many others.  Bless them!

Alex Haley said that “every time you see a little frog on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.”

This old photograph is of my great-grandparents: James Martin “Bud” Caldwell and Martha Letitia Brown Caldwell.  This is obviously a very early photograph of them; they are so young.

I’ve written in earlier posts about my Caldwell lineage.

I did not know my great-grandfather James Martin “Bud” Caldwell; he died before I was born (before my parents were even married).

However, I vaguely remember my great-grandmother, Martha Letitia Brown Caldwell.  In fact, after my birth, my parents and I lived in a small house behind her larger home on the Caldwell  property in Springer, New Mexico.

As a child, I remember visiting Martha Caldwell when we would come to Springer in the summers.  She always wore long dresses and generally had an apron covering her dress.  There were lovely items in her home (which were not to be touched by little fingers, of course).

She raised a family of three daughters (one daughter died as an infant) and six boys.  She had stamina (or grit), intelligence, a stern beauty, and endurance.  I wish I had known her better.  She died when I was thirteen years old and since we didn’t live near her, there were few visits.

Martha Letitia Brown Caldwell died in 1951 at age 91 and was still intellectually sharp and walking each day to retrieve her mail at the post office in Springer, New Mexico.

I came across a short article in the Colfax County Stockman, June 13, 1903 – Hall’s Peak Item – which indicates Martha was her Own Person.

Mrs. J. M. Caldwell and Miss Nichols, teacher at the Vanderitas school, were recently seen drinking in the beauties of Canada Bonita.  It is stated that to sustain them on their homeward journey they also partook of a draught of that ambrosia brewed by cook Woodruff at the mill camp.

Martha Brown Caldwell was the daughter of Alfred (or Alford as was sometimes written) Brown and Louisa Jane Centers.  Her father was born in 1826 in North Carolina and died in 1865 at the end of the Civil War.  He had returned home to see his wife and newborn son, Remington, when he was “waylaid by Union soldiers, fourteen of them, at a ford in a little creek.”  His family heard the fighting from their home.  Alfred never saw his son Remington.

Alfred/Alford Brown was the son of Alfred Brown, Sr. and Narcissus Belk and the grandson of Amos Brown and Elizabeth Brown (who was perhaps a cousin of Amos; I’ve not been able to trace her lineage).

Amos Brown served in the Revolutionary War:

Certificate No. 12625 in N.C. agency
Amos Brown, Macon County, N.C. agency
Private, Capt. Whitners County, Gen. Morgans Regt. in the Georgia Line for 7 1/2 months
paid at rate “25 per annum” to commence 4 March 1831
Certificate issued 15 May 18 (illegible) and sent to L. P. Casson, Pleasant Gardens, Georgia

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future. ~ Alex Haley

words that draw me in . . .

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I did this exercise once before and surprised myself as to the first sentences or paragraphs in my books that  initially made me want to read more – and caused me to keep these books on my shelves.

Today, I’m only looking at five books in my library that immediately drew me in.

After he dies, missing Peter for me is like swimming in the cold spot of the lake: everyone else laughing in the warm water under some too-close summer sun.  This is the answer to the question no one asks me.

Rich in folklore and history, the cooking of the American South embodies all the glamour, grit, and heartbreak of Southern culture: the sad cruelty of slavery’s influence; the joie de vivre of wealthy, well-bred, landed aristocracy; the romance of moonlight and magnolia; the sun-washed wholesomeness of family memories; a note or two of twisted Southern Gothic; fierce attachment to the land; and recently, a prideful sense of place, with chefs boldly championing local, artisanal, and heirloom products and vegetables.  {Note:  I was not only drawn to the writing in this cookbook – but to the recipes! and I’ve made some of these delicious dishes . . .}

But we rebel against the impossible.  I sense a wish in some professional religion-mongers to make God possible, to make him comprehensible to the naked intellect, domesticate him so that he’s easy to believe in.  Every century the Church makes a fresh attempt to make Christianity acceptable.  But an acceptable Christianity is not Christian; a comprehensible God is no more than an idol.

I don’t want that kind of God.

What kind of God, then?

The girl was the first to hear the loud pounding on the door.  Her room was closest to the entrance of the apartment.  At first, dazed with sleep, she thought it was her father,coming up from his hiding place in the cellar.  He’d forgotten his keys, and was impatient because nobody had heard his first, timid knock.  But then came the voices, strong and brutal in the silence of the night.  Nothing to do with her father.  “Police!  Open up!  Now!”

My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another.  Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew.  Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear.  When I look back at some of those early resting places–the boisterous home of the Catholics, the soft armchair of the Christian Science mom, adoption by ardent Jews–I can see how flimsy and indirect a path they made.  Yet each step brought me closer to the verdant pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today.

flowers for moms

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My very favorite flower is the iris and a close second is the lily.  Each Mother’s Day I receive a lovely flower arrangement with one or both of those flowers in the bouquet.  It is always so beautiful . . . and always touches my heart . . .

I am grateful for this remembrance.

brief review of the McNay Art Museum

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The Washerwoman - Renoir

  • The impressive McNay Museum in San Antonio, Texas, housed in Marion Koogler McNay’s stunning Spanish Colonial Revival-style mansion, opened in 1954 as the first museum of modern art in Texas. It has a magnificent compilation of 19th- and 20th-century European and American art, sculpture, one of the best prints and drawings collections, and the amazing Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts featuring set and costume designs and rare books.

McNay Art Museum Courtyard

  • Don’t miss the delightful interior courtyard, complete with colorful tilework, fountain, lily pond, and Pierre Auguste Renoir’s fabulous bronze statue, The Washerwoman. For lunch or dinner try the charming French restaurant, L’Etoile   located nearby on Broadway.

The Washerwoman (in the rain)

A Lenten Prayer

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Awaken all of us who gather in your name, Lord, to the power of your death and rising from the dead.  Allow us to rise from the sleep of our daily cares to the glory of your transfiguration, the light of your Father shining in you for us.  Allow us to see how gathering in your name is to experience paradise.

Quote of the Day

The human heart is made by and for the God of Love

What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.
– Galatians 5:22-23