About hopesquires

I've left behind the daily grind to write full time and to figure out what my own flourishing tree looks like. I'd love to help you flourish and grow along the way, so that you, too, can cultivate a life that pleases God.

A love letter to my hometown, part 3

Dear Raleigh,

I took off from the airport Monday morning and was reminded of why your nickname is “the City of Oaks.” Green was everywhere. Trees are the finery in which you choose to clothe yourself.

Thank you for creating such a beautiful space for your citizens and guests to enjoy.

Trees line your streets:

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A busy street made beautiful by trees blooming in spring

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Trees provide shade along the parade route for the St. Patrick’s Day parade (which is another event I love you for hosting).

Trees give shelter and shade along your many running trails and in your beautiful parks:

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At Umstead. I know, I know, it’s a state park, but it’s still attached to Raleigh. And it’s beautiful any time of year.

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Some tree roots I pass by almost daily … thanks for creating so many trails and saving green spaces.

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Fred Fletcher park, a lovely place to walk or sit and enjoy Raleigh’s natural beauty

Speaking of trees’ beauty, the art museum has fabulous grounds (and a running trail runs through it—the property, not the building).

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Manmade art framing a beautiful tree

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More art, beautiful fall trees

Trees live at the heart of my favorite place to visit in Raleigh: NC State’s JC Raulston Arboretum.

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So thank you, Raleigh, for the trees. I hope you’ll keep fighting the good fight with the state to turn the Dorothea Dix property into a city park. Your efforts make me love you even more.

Best,
One of your native daughters

PS – My new city is trying to win my heart, too. When I called to set up my utilities, they said I qualified for their tree program and could get up to 12 free shade trees. One whole dozen. So, Raleigh, you may need to step up your game and see if Duke Energy or one of the other utility companies would provide such a beautiful offer to your residents.

A love letter to my hometown, part 2

Dear Raleigh,

You host some great parties every year, and one of the biggest arrives tomorrow: the State Fair.

I have fond memories of the fair growing up, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood, I lost some of the thrill of joining the crowds there year after year. Last year, I couldn’t ignore your invitation to go to the fair for free during lunchtime. I made two trips in two days and had so much fun. I hope to fit in one last visit this year.

First, I’m not sure you as a city can take all the credit, but thanks for making this year’s fair feel a little safer for me (and many others) by continuing to ban guns. I would say to anyone who feels the need to carry a gun at the fair, well, if you feel that unsafe, maybe the fair just isn’t the place for you.

The fair is a place for fun, not fear, a place for games and rides and food and livestock and quilting competitions and giant pumpkins and pig races and walking until your feet hurt. Raleigh, I thank you for providing that all these years.

Best,
One of your native daughters

For those of you who can’t make it to the fair this year, here’s a virtual tour of some of my favorite (mostly quieter) spots at the fair.

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You’ll notice I’m on the ground looking up, but I used to love to ride the ferris wheel.

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You can’t have too many kinds of ferris wheels at the fair.

I love looking at the arts and crafts competitions. These quilts make me wish I was crafty. They’re beautiful:

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The Village of Yesteryear is probably my favorite place at the fair. This building is filled with craftsmen and craftswomen demonstrating traditional arts and crafts. Among my favorite stops last year were a wood carver and a candle maker.

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Tucked away in a far corner of the fairgrounds is a flower exhibit. Nurseries and other groups set up floral displays for competition and teaching. There’s always a bonsai display, and last year, gorgeous sunflowers stole the show (for me anyway).

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Bonsai tree

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Towering sunflowers

Ever since that one trip to the fair when I got violently ill afterward, I’ve steered clear of much of the food. But I can’t visit without getting a caramel apple. This one was perfect: granny smith apple coated in caramel and peanuts. Delish! I hope I can find this same vendor this year.

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An annual treat

If you only had two hours at the fair, what would be on your must-see, must-do, must-eat lists?

A love letter to my hometown, part 1

Dear Raleigh,

You aren’t a perfect city (there’s the mess you have made of Wade Avenue traffic, for instance), but there’s a lot to love about you. This past weekend reminded me of the particular culture in this place I cherish, one that I’ll carry with me out west when I go.

You understand the importance of celebrating the musical roots of our great state, and this past Friday, you closed down one of your busiest downtown streets for a good old-fashioned street party. IBMA’s World of Bluegrass was making a return visit to town and bringing with it a host of world-class musicians. You scattered stages across several blocks and asked these talented bands to pick and strum and sing for us … for free. You invited vendors who played up a love of music and a love of this fine state. You made it feel like the state fair had landed a little early in downtown, and you made me a little sadder to be leaving just as you’re hitting your stride as host city to this annual festival.

I couldn’t be too sad, though. After all, when Scythian plays on the stage, how can I not be filled with joy? They know how to get a crowd up dancing, singing, bouncing up and down, and making friends with complete strangers.

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Scythian delights the City of Oaks. (Sorry for poorer than usual photo quality. They’re from my cell phone.)

As my husband and I wandered through the vendor area, we saw lots of music-inspired art, plenty of North Carolina shapes on tees and more, and even a stylized banjo made out of license plates.

Then I heard sounds of “The Old Cookpot” drifting down the street. The Duhks were playing somewhere nearby! We couldn’t exactly see them because of the sardine-packed crowd, but what a treat to hear a few songs, including their iconic “95 South” that talks about driving all night to get to Cackalack (that’s Carolina): “95 South, 95 South. That is the way to my baby’s house.” Continue reading

Hope and headbands

Despite still fighting a nagging ankle injury, I signed up for a cross-country 5K that was this past weekend: the Sweat Hope 5K. One of my dearest friends agreed to run it, too, and because it raised money for a great cause and promised to be my last race in my hometown for awhile (and because of its spectacular name, especially appropriate for me), I wanted to have as much fun with it as possible.

The fun started a day early.

I picked up my race packet Friday afternoon, and, having just come from a Girls on the Run (GOTR) event, was sporting my GOTR coach’s t-shirt. When I arrived, several folks greeted me with enthusiasm and remarked on my shirt. It turns out that the race organizer (Jessica Ekstrom—also the CEO/Founder of Headbands of Hope) and her sister had been in the very first Girls on the Run.

The very first season! The one that started it all. Both girls are grown now, and they were both at packet pick-up Friday. They joked that they must have been the reason GOTR kept going. I walked away wondering how many other success stories such as theirs had come out of GOTR.

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My new “Sweat Hope” headband with a sticker from Saturday’s race. I thought my happy Fall mum was the perfect place for this shot.

On Saturday, the fun continued. Although I didn’t run as well as I had hoped and had to walk the big hills on the course, it was a beautiful day and a good excuse to spend time with my friend and her husband.

I emailed Ekstrom after the race to congratulate her on such a great inaugural race. This was a great race, in large part because it was so well organized. The race started on time (yay!). It had great volunteers along the course and at the finish (yay!). There were great sponsors who were present with goodies for all of us (including a yogurt parfait station complete with dairy and vegan yogurt — double yay!). There was even a sack race for kids after the main race wrapped up.

I don’t know if Ekstrom plans to organize future Sweat Hope races, but if she does (and I hope she will), you runners out there won’t be disappointed.

Ekstrom kindly agreed to share a little about her experiences as a founding member of the GOTR family and in her role leading her own company. Headbands of Hope makes and sells fantastic headbands (seriously, runners, these things do not slip while you’re running). For every headband the company sells, it donates a headband to a girl with cancer and also gives $1 toward cancer research.

Ekstrom is gaining national attention for her work, and I wanted to know more of her story. Continue reading

Falling leaves and felling trees

As you probably know by now (especially if you saw yesterday’s post), I’m excited about the start of Autumn. So, let me wish you a very happy season! (And for those of you reading from the other side of the equator, happy spring!)

I love this time of year when cooler weather returns. Where I live, cooler weather has come along with cold, steady rain. I won’t complain, but after a few dreary days in a row, I’m looking forward to a clear weekend that includes sunshine without the heat of summer tagging along.

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The only leaves that have fallen so far dried in the late summer heat. Most leaves are still green, although I’ve noticed a few with just a hint of red to them. Giddiness! That tinge of red makes me giddy.

What makes me a little less giddy is the knowledge of the coming onslaught of falling leaves. We have lots of trees in our yard, and while I wouldn’t trade them for anything, that means lots of raking soon. And with our house on the market, my husband and I will have to tackle that chore more often to keep the yard looking tidy and inviting. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a yard without so many trees and therefore so many leaves to clear in the fall.

Felling trees
I’m grateful that our home’s builder decided to leave so many trees in our yard. So many developers in our area clear out beautiful old growth trees to make construction easier. It strikes me as a lack of imagination or vision to clear everything away.

Near my neighborhood, a developer has just begun clearing land. Whether the final result will be new homes or offices, I don’t know. What I do know is that the usual peace has been drowned with constant machinery chewing up a forest of trees.

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Where there were trees …

Now there is mud and debris where once so many trees grew, an ugly scar where there was once so much natural beauty. I’m sad to see them all go, and I feel bad for the neighbors whose houses back up to this property, especially those who didn’t realize this development was coming soon to their backyard.

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Small tree protection areas such as this one make me cringe.

I’m relieved to see a few spindly trees with the orange protection fence around them. Even those may not survive, given the small area protected and the heavy machinery that can damage the trees’ roots growing outside of the protected zone, but at least there’s some attempt to save a few of the trees.

Maybe the developer plans to plant new trees once the buildings are done, and maybe someday this space can be beautiful again. It may be years, though, before this space experiences a beautiful Autumn again.

Without trees, could Fall be as beautiful? I don’t think so. A pumpkin spice latte and a burgundy scarf are fun, but nothing can trump (for me anyway) nature’s color palette this time of year.

Aside from the trees and the aforementioned latte and scarf, I love the crisp feel of the air, the clear sky, football, happier morning runs, the pumpkin patches and kids searching for the perfect jack-o-lantern pumpkin, pie, apples, Halloween, …

So what do you love most about Autumn? I know it’s not everyone’s favorite season, but there must be something for everyone to love about this time of year. So let’s hear it. What makes you giddy about this new season?


P.S. I learned something new today and wanted to be sure to share it with you. Google keeps an archive of its doodles. So if you missed one (like yesterday’s) that everyone at the office was talking about, you can browse through them to your heart’s content. The archive also provides a great way to see what the rest of the world is celebrating.