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.

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.

Falling leaves
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.

Today’s Google doodle

Just a quick post a day early because I didn’t want you to miss today’s Google doodle. Not sure why the original leaves are blue, but it’s a fun way to usher in the first full day of Autumn.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more about the general giddiness of this season, with the promise of cooler weather, colorful leaves and pumpkin everything. Happy first full day of Fall!

On finding new trees to love

I hope you won’t mind a shorter-than-usual post today. Between trying to sell a house in North Carolina and buy a house in California and finalizing my manuscript to publish my first book, my 24-hour days seem even shorter than usual.

Last week brought a whirlwind house-hunting trip, but I had a few precious hours while my husband worked, and I found a new tree or two that would make my new home feel more like … well, home. Surprisingly (given that I love to support local coffee shops when possible), these particular trees live at a Starbucks in what will be my new hometown. This Starbucks has quite possibly the most beautiful outdoor seating area of any Starbucks I’ve seen:

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Just one side of the outdoor seating area; two stately oaks

Look closer, though, and you’ll see the effects of Northern California’s severe drought, browning leaves and an early leaf shed so the trees can protect themselves.

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I’m not quite sure how I’ll adjust to such a dry environment. Do you think it’s odd that I’m already praying for rain in a place where I don’t yet have any roots?

I’ll leave you with this map of all the trees in the contiguous 48 states (how I wish they had included Alaska and Hawaii in this). How’s it look where you live? If I visited, would I find plenty of new trees to fall in love with and sit under while I drink tea and write? And finally, if I may ask a favor, would you share a kernel of wisdom about uprooting gracefully and moving to what feels like a faraway land?

The art of hand-lettered words

Several years ago, I took an introductory calligraphy class with calligraphy artist Don King. He was a great instructor, even for as poor a student as I was. Watching him create calligraphic letters was nothing short of mesmerizing, and he occasionally brought in beautiful pieces he had done to illustrate particular techniques.

From him, I learned that calligraphic art is equal parts engineering and artistic talent. This may seem a contradictory combination of science and art, but King’s life may also seem a contradiction. He served in the US Army’s Special Forces before deciding he would prefer to take orders from himself. There’s no gruffness left over that you might anticipate from a career military man, only discipline.

Along with that discipline—he constantly told us to practice, practice, practice every day to improve—and his artistic talent, he generously shares his gift for encouraging and teaching budding calligraphers, sometimes leading multiple classes in a season.

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Don King with some of his artwork

Don sent out an email recently announcing an exhibit of some of his 2D and 3D work, and unlike my usual procrastinating self, I didn’t wait until the end of the exhibit to rush over. (Facing a cross-country move has made me carpe diem more often than usual of late.)

The exhibit is at a local church and is only open to the public when the church holds services. But two other times each week, Don has agreed to escort visitors through his works. If you’re in Raleigh, NC, and love this kind of beautiful work, make sure you see it (more details at the end of the post).

He graciously agreed to let me photograph his work and even him, asking afterward, “Did that look as unnatural as I felt?” I laughed. I’m also one who feels about as unnatural as possible when someone asks me to pose for a photo. Some of us prefer to create and let the light shine on our creations rather than on ourselves.

Don’s work does shine. Some of it literally, with metallic paint and even costume jewelry pins he inherited from his mother and is now using to inspire unique works of art. There’s one of these pieces I would buy in a heartbeat if it didn’t mean one more thing to wrap up for the move. (Most of what he is exhibiting is for sale.)

These photos provide details of some of the pieces on exhibit. You can visit Don’s website to learn more about him and his works, but nothing beats seeing them in person. Go if you can. The exhibit runs through October 30.

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A detail from John’s Revelation. Many of Don’s works incorporate Scripture, his favorite source.

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A 3D piece called Why Not?

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A delightful piece called Joyful Noise

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A 3D piece Beginning inspired by the turn of the millennium and 9/11

The story behind Beginning is an intriguing one, and in case you don’t get to hear Don tell you about it himself, I’ll share a bit of it with you. He was creating a piece for the new millennium and came into his studio one morning to find that the easel had fallen and dashed the work into little pieces. He saved them, not suspecting the tragedy of 9/11 that would inspire this work and enable him to put his own rubble toward its own new beginning.

As I looked at piece after piece, I was reminded again: we lean increasingly on computers to produce calligraphy and lettered “art,” but simply nothing beats what an artist can do with a real calligraphy pen.

More on the art and cost of letters
Learn more
about the exhibit. I’ll try to post here as he announces days and times he’ll escort visitors through the exhibit. This week, he’ll be there today (Wednesday, Sept. 10) and Friday, September 12, from 4-6 p.m. both days. The church is Crossroads Fellowship, located at 2721 E. Millbrook Road in Raleigh.

See some of the “hands” (we might call them fonts in our modern age) Don uses in his work.

While we’re talking about hands and fonts and why sometimes computers aren’t better, check out this Huffington Post article about the cost of the font Comic Sans.

I’d love to hear what you think of Don’s calligraphy, whether you view it on his site or get to visit his exhibit. Maybe you’ll be inspired to sign up for one of his classes or find a local teacher near you.

When the (holi)days pile up

Did August zip by in a blur as fast for you as it did for me? Here we are in a new September, a new school year already underway. Soon enough (or maybe not soon enough if you’re living through a heat wave like I am), the days will turn cool and crisp, leaves will fall, and children will dream of costumes for trick-or-treating.

What follows is the headlong tumble through November and December, and before you know it, plastic eggs and marshmallow chickens will decorate store aisles.

Walking by a neighbor’s house earlier today, I had a horrible reminder of how quickly the holidays can pile one on top of another:

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Santa and ghosts and the Easter Bunny, oh my!

I am not even making this up. (!)

Other than straightening and cropping the photo and adding a watermark, I did not alter the photo. Do you see the scared Thanksgiving turkey peeking out from behind one of the trees? I felt like hiding, too.

I drove past the house on my way out of the neighborhood so I could take pictures. This is a view from the other side.

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There’s even a birthday cake in the shadows for an extra “holiday” into the mix. Happy Merry Thankseastereenmas, everyone!

When I walked by this morning, I thought, “Garage cleaning?” Maybe they were testing all the decorations to make sure none had holes?

As it turns out, someone in the house is celebrating a big milestone birthday today, and I guess her family (and friends, too?) decided this would be the perfect way to announce the occasion.

I’m grateful all of our celebrations don’t happen at the same time and not only because of what the big celebration would mean for our neighborhoods. I like holidays spaced out with time to anticipate, prepare for, and enjoy each one in its own special way.

I’m also grateful that my family celebrates birthdays in a quieter way.

In case this post has stirred a little whisper of panic in your heart or head about the approaching holidays, let me arm you with this Bible verse:

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

—Matthew 6:34

Each day has enough trouble and, I would add, enough to celebrate, too, without worrying about the holidays lining up on the calendar ahead.

I have a long line of loved ones’ birthday celebrations coming up, all before I even have to think about buying giant bags of candy, and I hope to celebrate each one without worrying about the next. What’s the next special occasion you’ll celebrate? And do the holidays ever feel like they pile up on you as these pictures suggest?