One of the highlights of our Cape Town tour was visiting Kristenbosch Garden. It was established in 1913 as the first indigenous botanical garden in the world. Kristenbosch is part of the Cape Florisitc Protected Areas Site,one of only 154 natural World Heritage Sites, and the only natural World Heritage Site to include a botanical garden! There are over 4,500 plant species being cultivated in this 528 hectare estate,many of which are rare or endangered, and the Cape site boasts the world’s highest levels of endemism(species that occur nowhere else): 31.9%. Although you can access Table Mountain from the garden,
we took a more gentle walking tour. Thanks to careful labeling (and our knowledgeable guide),
we were able to learn a lot about the various plants, and I particularly loved the huge King Proteas, South Africa’s national flower. Egyptian geese and other unusual birds grazed quietly on the lawns,
reminding me that there is no garden quite like this in America! One recently added highlight of Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is a graceful aerial walkway that glides like a snake twelve meters up through the tree tops.This gleaming structure has been nicknamed the boomslang
because it’s shaped like a snake’s skeleton.
It’s a whooping 130-meters long and made from galvanized steel and timber. However, the walkway reminded me more of a sky-high swinging bridge
than a snake, because it moves when you walk!It also twists and turns in artful suspension so it can withstand the winds but still let you feel the breezes while enjoying a birds’-eye view of Kirstenbosch Garden below, distant Table Mountain, and the Hottentots-Holland peaks. As a lover of beauty and the out of doors, I was entranced!
Although I was delighted by everything, I was particularly excited when our guide showed us a spotted Eagle-owl snoozing in the sun with her little chick. We have owls around our home, but in twenty-three years of searching, I’ve only caught a few dim glimpses on dark nights. To see owls in their natural environment unperturbed by our presence was a unique experience I never even thought to hope for. Africa was full of great surprises! “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Ephesians 2:20-21).
Posted in African Adventures, Beauty Around the World, Gardens, Parks, Travels Around the World
Tagged Area with highest endemism in the world, Boomslang canopy bridgeway, Cape Florisitc Protected Areas Site, Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, Ephesians 2:20-21, Hottentots-Holland peaks, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Owl with her chick photo, Photo of a King Protea, Table Mountain
Here’s a big bouquet of roses gathered from Manito Park last summer while helping out with Jon and Gerlinde’s new baby, paired with a bouquet of quotes by former presidents of America that I thought might help inform our thinking as we consider for whom we should vote next week:
“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” George Washington, Jan. 8, 1790 “The happiness of society is the end of government.”
John Adams (1797–1801) “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.” Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809) “The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.”
Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)
“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone,
and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
John Quincy Adams (1825–1829) “But I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free.” William Henry Harrison (1841)
“Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality.” John Tyler (1841–1845) “I have come to realize that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865) “The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.”
Andrew Johnson (1865–1869) “I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.”
Ulysses Simpson Grant (1869–1877) “No other people have a government more worthy of their respect and love or a land so magnificent in extent, so pleasant to look upon, and so full of generous suggestion to enterprise and labor.”
Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893) “It is the responsibility of the citizens to support their government.
It is not the responsibility of the government to support its citizens.”
Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909) “Absolute freedom of the press to discuss public questions is a foundation stone of American liberty.” Herbert Clark Hoover (1929–1933) “Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.”
Harry Truman (1945–1953) “The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961–1963) “Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961–1963) “If government is to serve any purpose it is to do for others what they are unable to do for themselves.” Richard Milhous Nixon (1969–1974) “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”
Gerald Rudolph Ford (1974–1977) “The best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation.”
James Earl Carter (1977–1981)
John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the White House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time. He made this statement: “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it” (Psalm 90:17)
Song of Solomon 6:11 “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.” What did Solomon’s wife do? “I went down…” This action is one she chose on her own, but it was not a willful “I will” like Satan’s, who declared, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14: 13-14). It was the “I will” of one who knew the will of God and joyfully set her heart to do it…one who had learned to be guided by his eye…who no longer needed to be commanded, or even asked. The bride now knew him and knew his heart. She knew what he wanted, and she did it. It was as simple as that. Her action was an act of love, drawn from her heart of love, as one whose will had become submitted to and submerged into the will of her beloved…one whose desire had become nothing more than to please her Lord. She went down into the garden of nuts for three purposes: to see the fruits of the valley, to see if the vine was flourishing, and to see if the pomegranates were budding. In spiritual parallelism, what might this mean? The Hebrew word for the grove of nut trees is ginnat. The only other Old Testament uses of this word are in Esther 1:5 and 7:7, where it refers to the palace garden where state banquets were given. For the queen to go into the palace gardens to check on the state of the orchard in springtime seems like the perfect wifely thing to do! How did the gardens look? Were they flourishing and beautiful for the king’s use?
But, the meaning of “to see the fruits of the valley” was a bit puzzling at first. Was the valley part of the garden, or simply something she could see from their garden? The Hebrew word for “valley” is nahal which is translated in the New English Bible as “stream,” because it generally referred to the narrow wadis where streams ran in the spring, but dried up during the summer. I don’t know if the valley was part of the garden proper or not, but it was definitely at least something that could be seen from the banqueting garden, and this gave me such a thrill as I meditated on the possible spiritual parallelism! In the New Testament, the Lord tells us to go out into the highways and hedges to bring in guests for his banquet (Luke 14:21-23). Could it be that here the bride is looking beyond the garden proper (her normal sphere of influence), to see the possibilities for fruit in the regions beyond…the wadis that were dry most of the year but that were now filled with water and might bring forth fruit?…the blind and halt and maimed of this world whose hearts were stirring and might bring forth the fruit of eternal life to the praise and glory of the king? I believe so. I think the bride looked beyond the palace garden to see the possibilities for fruit in the valleys below, and her action is still a model of sacrificial love for us, as the bride of Christ today. Jesus is still delighted when we leave our comfort zone and go in search of fruit for him among the seemingly desolate valleys of this world!
Posted in Bible Commentary, Commentary on the Song of Solomon, Gardens, Meditations on the Song of Solomon, Rise Up My Love
Tagged Commentary on Song of Songs 6:11, ginnat, Learning how to love the Lord sacrificially, Luke 14:21-23, Nahal, Photographs from Israel and Tunisia, Wadis, What is the meaning of "to see the fruits of the valley"?
ArtPrize 8 is off and running! I’ve had several friends wander into the Holiday Inn without realizing that my mural is there, so let me give you the details in case you’re in GR and planning to go to ArtPrize, because I’d love to see you and I’d hate to miss you! My entry is titled “From the Rising of the Sun” and is being displayed at the Holiday Inn at 310 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.
It’s opposite the Gerald Ford Museum, across the street from the Van Andel (Grand Rapids Public Museum), and kitty corner from Ah-Nab-Awen Park.
It’s just across the river (0.2 miles) from the Amway Grand, so it’s at the cross roads to some of the best art in town. It’s also just 0.4 miles from Grand Rapids Art Museum, 0.5 miles from the B.O.B. (Grand Rapids’ “Big Old Building), and 0.6 miles from DeVos Place, so it’s super convenient for the most popular venues! Whether you go in the front or back entrance, you’ll see half the mural. “January through June” is at the front entrance, and “June through December” is at the back entrance. Using 400 of my favorite photographs from around the world, I’ve created a collage trying to tell the story of life on Planet Earth through the seasons of one year and one lifetime. Here’s my “Artist Statement: “The top row reminds us of the universal constants we all experience: the glorious sun and moon, rising and setting with comforting precision. Row two showcases another global experience, the beauty of flowers, which can be found everywhere around the globe. Row three highlights the experience of fauna through the seasons. Row four looks more closely at how the flora and individual homes are affected by seasonal changes, using photographs from our cozy “Tanglewood Cottage” here in Grand Rapids. Row five takes an intimate look into one person and one family (mine) through the seasons of one year and one lifetime, but my hope is that it resonates with the emotions and cultural experiences of everyone who views it: birth, growth, adulthood, marriage (or family life; I know some never marry), new life and enjoying grandchildren, growing older, and finally, in the December of life, walking into a sea of clouds on the mountain top, looking hopefully to a glorious future life after we leave Planet Earth.The lower half of the mural is arranged in ten collages, each comprised of twenty photographs from around the world on a particular theme that compliments the season above.” This is my hope and prayer for the mural: “From the rising of the sun on the day we take our first breath until we walk into life’s sunset, I hope the beauty of our world lifts our hearts to praise the One who created us and provided such a glorious home.” I have a booklet with notes on each photograph for anybody who comes and would like to know more detail, although if I’m there when you come, I can answer questions! I’d really love to see you if you come, and if you leave me a message in the comment box or on Facebook (message works too), I’ll try to make sure I’m there when you come! I’ve been going about 10:00-5:00 Monday-Friday every day, but I’ll be less regular on weekends due to family responsibilities and fun, although I’ll still be there at times, so please don’t be shy! It’s a real highlight of my day when friends drop by!
“From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same,
the Lord’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).
Posted in Activities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area, ArtPrize, Bird Photos, Current Events, Flower Photos, Gardens, Local News, Michigan Beauty and Fun, Museums and Galleries, Nature Studies, Photography, Seasonal Pictures, Simple Pleasures, Travels Around the World, Travels in America
Tagged 400 beautiful photos from around the world, ArtPrize 8, From the Rising of the Sun, Kathryn W. Armstrong's ArtPrize Entry, The Holiday Inn Downtown ArtPrize venue
Kathy asked yesterday which site in France was our favorite. Wow! That’s a hard one! Alan said Mont St. Michel, and there’s definitely something to that! I feel like we came home with a lifetime of unforgettable memories, and that narrowing it down to one favorite is nigh unto impossible given the uniqueness of the various scenic places. However, for an over-the-top sensory experience in color, texture, fragrance— even sound…in fact, pure, unmitigated beauty everywhere I turned, I would vote for Giverny, the sublimely riotous gardens so artistically designed by Claude Monet.Monet (1840-1926) was the great father of —and most prolific contributor to—French impressionistic painting. Ten years ago, Alan and I visited the fantastic gardens of Giverny with two of our kids (Kathy and Jonathan), and we were enthralled. Five years ago, I reflected on those visions of glory while visiting Manito Park in Spokane, Washington with Jon’s family (https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/monets-giverny-reflections-of-glory/).This May, Alan and I visited again, this time with our two youngest, Stephen and Joel, and I have to say that if anything, Giverny is even more than ever an unforgettable kaleidoscope of color and perfumes! The Japanese bridge over Monet’s lily pond (basis for his most famous paintings) was bursting with exuberant wisteria, and cheerful beds of tulips interlaced with forget-me-nots and a profusion of other spring-blooming plants were joyfully overflowing their bounds along every path. We could have sat transfixed for hours at any resting place without ever taking in all the intricacies right before my eyes. Even if I possessed all the money in the world, I couldn’t imagine or produce such a magnificent display of brilliant color. The impact was so overwhelming that I just found myself laughing and blinking my eyes, like I’d walked into a Thomas Kinkade painting of heaven! In fact, it did make me think of heaven, which will be more glorious and exotic and dazzlingly beautiful than we can imagine. Are you ready? Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:1-16)(Yes, all these photos are from Giverny, taken a couple of weeks ago [except for the photo of Claude Monet from Wiki, and Mont St. Michel, taken a few days later]. May is perhaps the most beautiful time to visit!)
Posted in A Few of my Favorite Flowers, Beautiful Estates, Beauty Around the World, Flower Photos, Gardening, Gardens, Impressions of France, Inspiration, Meditations and reflections, Parks, Travels Around the World
Tagged Beautiful spring flowers, Claude Monet, Father of French Impressionism, Favorite sites in France, Giverny's gorgeous gardens, John 14:1-6, Manito Park Spokane WA, Mont St. Michel, Photographs from Giverny Home and Gardens
Springtime is in full bloom at Meijer Gardens, and it’s all I can do to keep from running over there every sunny afternoon to see what’s new.This is the first year for spring blossoms in the new Japanese Garden,and they are a delight, although the trees are young, so they’re like frilly little girls compared to the glory of cherry blossom festivals in Asia. Still, I think the 158-acre Meijer Gardens is by far the most colorful and artistic botanical park available in Michigan,and I never tire of breathing in all the beauty. We’ve been members since the park opened in 1995, and by 2005, Wiki rumor has it that The Wall Street Journal wrote, “There’s nothing quite like Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park this side of the Kroller-Muller Museum and Sculpture Park in The Netherlands.” That seems a bit grandiose, although it may be true. Also, since I haven’t been everywhere in the world, I can neither verify nor discredit the claim that in 2009 it was listed as one of the top “30 must-see museums in the world.” On the other hand, I don’t doubt that it’s one of Michigan’s top tourist attractions, or that it hosts more than 650,000 visitors every year. And, every time I visit my mind is always filled up with new visions of beauty to treasure. The pleasure I find in Meijer Gardensreminds me the joy I experience in meditating on the Bible,and I just keep running back to see what’s new
(or, at least how the Bible speaks to me in a new way).However, I also know that the grandiose claims I make about the Bible being God’s Word and 100% true may seem suspect. If you doubt that the Bible contains the words of life, I encourage you to delve into it for yourself. May you experience the rebirth of your spirit and find springtime blossoming in your soul.“Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).
Posted in A Few of my Favorite Flowers, Activities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area, Beauty Around the World, Flower Photos, Gardens, Meditations and reflections, Michigan Beauty and Fun, Nature Studies, Parks, Seasonal Pictures, Simple Pleasures, Travels in America
Tagged DeVos Japanese Garden Cherry Blossoms, John 6:67-68, Photographs of beautiful spring flowers, Springtime at Meijer Garden, The beauty of meditating on Scripture, The beauty of springtime