The Presence of Wonder


Hi Friends!

We truly were in the presence of wonder! We were two dear friends taking a walk in one of the loveliest of places on a hot summer day. The Morton Arboretum is glorious to behold any day of the year. A hot, humid August day was no exception.


The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois

In the bright, morning sunshine, we meandered along the Conifer Walk pausing often to enjoy the cool shade and admire these beautiful cone-producing trees.


Conifers have long inspired writers, poets, artists, and songwriters.


In his epic poem, Evangeline, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote,

“This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks…

stand like druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic.”


Pines inspired Woodnotes II, as Ralf Waldo Emerson wrote,

“Who leaves the pine-trees, leaves his friend,

unnerves his strength, invites his end.”


Lord Voldemort, the main villain in the Harry Potter books, carried a wand of yew.

Author J.K.Rowling said the properties of yew matched his character ~

long-lived and poisonous.


I’ve always been drawn to pine trees. They bring back such sweet, childhood memories of visiting my great uncle, a forest ranger, in northern Wisconsin. He grew pine trees all over his wooded, country property, gifting small ones to my grandparents and parents to plant in their own gardens. As we grew taller, so did our beautiful pine trees.

Imagine my joy, years later, when I first saw a cozy, little bungalow with a swing on the front porch AND two towering pine trees in the yard!  My heart told me that it should be my own ‘home sweet home.’ Pines always fill me with the presence of wonder…

Dawn Redwood

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

Whenever I walk among the trees, I just love to reach up and touch their leaves.  The soft, feathery leaves of this tree felt so friendly and welcoming to my touch. A nearby sign brought both very happy and terribly sad news… This lovely tree is the ‘Dawn Redwood.’ Oh, the wonder of discovering that one of my favorite trees at the arboretum shared my name!

Very sadly, the ‘Dawn Redwood’ tree is critically endangered! “Forty million years ago, the ‘Dawn Redwood’ was the most common sequoia in North America. Today, only about 1,000 remain in the wild, and they all live in one remote area of China. Those few remaining trees are disappearing as forests are cleared to create farmland.” The sign also explained, “In China, extensive seed collecting is hurting this tree’s ability to reproduce. The Chinese consider this tree second only to the panda, as a conservation icon.” Fossils date the ‘Dawn Redwood’ trees back to the days of the dinosaurs.

One way that we can all take action is to contact our local arboretums or botanic gardens to learn whether any ‘Dawn Redwood’ trees grow in our own communities. “Learning to identify endangered trees is fun, and education is key to changing behavior.”

Leaving the Conifer Walk at Morton Arboretum

Leaving the Conifer Walk at Morton Arboretum

The presence of wonder was all around us, as we followed the path along Meadow Lake. The wildflowers were abuzz with busy bees and fluttering butterflies.

Meadow Lake at the Morton Arboretum

Meadow Lake at the Morton Arboretum

Coneflowers danced in the sunshine.

Coneflowers danced in the sunshine as we walked by.

The presence of wonder was all around us as we lingered at Wonder Pond, admiring the gorgeous weeping willow trees, and all of the plants that thrive in and around the stillness of the pond.

There is so much to see as we stood gazing at Wonder Pond.

There was so much to see as we stood gazing at Wonder Pond.

DSCN5632The tall plants along the edge of the pond offered shelter and rest stops for dragonflies. Illinois is home to nearly 100 kinds of dragonflies. We spotted one right away! Look closely into the tall plants and you can see a Widow skimmer dragonfly at rest.

Widow skimmer dragonfly at Wonder Pond

Widow skimmer dragonfly at Wonder Pond

Widow skimmer

Widow skimmer dragonfly

We walked on to the Children’s Garden, with its amazing natural wood and rope bridges for climbing among the trees, and child-friendly water features. This award-winning, four-acre garden, is celebrating its 10th birthday this year. What a popular place for children of all ages to grow and experience the presence of wonder!

Colorful perennial gardens also attracted children, parents, grandparents, nature lovers, and of course, lots of pollinators on that hot August day!

DSCN5648We were also treated to some whimsy of the man-made variety, at the Morton Arboretum. LEGO artist, Sean Kenney and his creative team spent over 4,170 hours and used 464,770 LEGO bricks to create and assemble 27 sculptures, throughout the arboretum. Visitors were in awe of Kenney’s skill and artistry with LEGOs!

'Monarch on Milkweed' sculpture by Sean Kenney

‘Monarch on Milkweed’ LEGO sculpture by Sean Kenney

'Herd of Deer' sculpture, by Sean Kenney, is 80% life size.

‘Herd of Deer’ LEGO sculpture, by Sean Kenney, is 80% life size.

'Galapagos Tortoise and Finch scupture, by Sean Kenney contains 23,317 LEGO bricks. It took 290 hours to build!

‘Galapagos Tortoise and Finch’ sculpture, by Sean Kenney, contains 23,317 LEGO bricks. It took 290 hours to build!

The ‘Nature Connects‘ exhibit

of Art with LEGO bricks, by Sean Kenney,

will be on display at The Morton Arboretum through November 1, 2015.

‘Nature Connects’ is an important reminder that “nature’s building blocks ~ trees, plants, insects, birds, animals, and people ~ depend on all of the other ‘pieces‘ to construct a healthy planet.”

A day at the Morton Arboretum truly inspires reflection

on the ways we are all connected by nature,

and the responsibilities that we all share.

DSCN5609The presence of wonder is everywhere

at the Morton Arboretum!


“Trees need our help more than ever before.”


Hope you will stop to visit this special place…

in person, or online!

Wishing you a wonder-full day!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  What kind of trees hold a special place in your heart?

35 thoughts on “The Presence of Wonder

  1. Wow, beautiful photos, and the LEGO creations are so fun! I love pine trees as well, Dawn, and we’re lucky to actually have two of them right in our backyard 🙂 I hope you’re having a wonderful week ❤

    • We’re kindred spirits in so many ways, Chris! Pine trees will always have a special place in my heart, too. We are still in the midst of hot, humid days here. Hope your New York garden is growing well. So glad you stopped to visit today, Chris! ♡

      • Thanks, Dawn! My garden is doing well, though it’s a bit overgrown because I haven’t had too much time to tend to it. Next week I’ll be on vacation, so hopefully I’ll be able to give it the care it needs. Hope your garden is flourishing as well 🙂

      • Hi, Chris! We’ve had some big, heavy rains the past few nights. So, my garden is very happy right now! I’m going to spend the whole day weeding the flower beds and deadheading the spent blossoms tomorrow. The weather will be perfect… and it’s such fun for me! Enjoy your vacation days, Chris! 🙂 A little time in the garden is so good for the soul! Sending hugs! ♡

  2. I am ever fascinated at what can be made from Lego. As a child, I loved playing with my Lego on a rainy afternoon, sitting on the rug in front of a roaring coal fire. Such memories. The Monarch butterfly is stunning.

    Those who plant arboreta are true visionaries, for trees take so long, often many decades, to achieve their full beauty and potential that many who plant them will not see their work reach full fruition.

    • So true, Deb! Do you have a favorite kind of tree? I know you love fruit trees. I can just imagine you happily creating with LEGOS by the fire! Such a fun image! 🙂 Hope you have a wonder-full week, my friend! ♡

  3. Dawn, What a beautiful arboretum you are fortunate to have. I too love pine and evergreen trees. Our community is built around a 4 mile stretch of road and along both sides of the road are various pines. California pine is most prevalent and it’s one of the things that attracted me to this neighborhood. Each fall, when pinecones are dropping you will see many of us gathering them for fall and winter display in our homes.
    It’s good to know about the Dawn Redwood. I will look into whether there are any growing near me in Southern California.
    The legos are such fun.

    • Oh,Karen! I know you would really enjoy walking through the Morton Arboretum! In the Springtime, we go to see the Daffodil Glade covered with yellow blossoms. Of course, Autumn is always spectacular there! In Winter, it’s a fun place for a brisk, cold hike. One Winter day, we followed the clues in search of the Yule Log in the woods at Morton Arboretum. We never found the special Yule Log, with the ribbon around it… but we found the hot cocoa! So, it was a fun day after all! It must be so pretty to walk along your 4-mile stretch of pine trees, Karen! I would join you in picking up pinecones! Baskets of pinecones make wonderful decorations. I love to fill a basket for the front porch, and add a big plaid bow. Be sure to let me know if you find any Dawn Redwood in your area. The leaves are so soft and feathery to the touch! So glad you stopped to visit. Have a wonder-full day, Karen! ♡

  4. How lovely a blog post you create with your beautiful pictures and picturesque words! The Morton Arboretum looks gorgeous! We, too, love evergreens/pines of any kind. Living in northern Wisconsin we are blessed to have many! When we moved here 12 years ago, our lot was nearly bare, being a new construction. But, there were 2 big black pines in the front yard and 2 white pines in the backyard….HUGE 40 foot ones! One looked like a giant bonsai tree in its shape and had a big hole halfway up where we saw raccoons and also heard, but never saw, an owl. Sadly, we had to take down the owl tree because it was very hollow on the bottom and top-heavy and in danger of toppling over. I saved the section with the hole and made a gnome home! Since then we have planted about 30 more or so, working toward beautiful, natural privacy. I love that you have two big ones in your front yard! Isn’t it fun to see what draws us to the place we eventually call home? For us, when we were house-hunting it was peak Autumn color and I knew as soon as I turned into our wooded neighborhood that this was the house for us! Thank you for sharing this today! (Sorry this is so long)

    • I can just imagine your gorgeous, pine-filled yard, Karen! It’s so wonderful that you have planted so many trees! The gnome home is a perfect remembrance of your special tree. Such a great idea! Our two, big pine trees are in the backyard. We love how they help to shade our deck and most of the yard. They were very, very tall when I moved here, and now they are towering compared to our one-story home! From time to time, an arborist comes to be sure they are still healthy. I’m so glad they are! They originally came from Wisconsin, in the early 1920s, when this house was just built. So happy that you stopped to visit today, Karen! Your comments could never be too long! 🙂 Hugs! ♡

  5. What a lovely walk – and you got to share it with a friend! 🙂 It is so great to appreciate and cherish the moments. I can just smell the pine!

    • Thank you, Jodi! Walking, talking, and enjoying the natural beauty all around us made it a very special day together. We promised to do it again very soon! So glad you stopped to visit, Jodi! ♡

  6. Looks like you had a wonderful day of it there among the trees and plants. I recently went to the National Arboretum and posted about the bonsai collection. Sadly much of the property is not well maintained – federal budget cuts I’m sure impact that lovely space. The one you went to looks much better than the one I visited.

    • Marcia, I remember your visit to the National Arboretum and the bonsai collection! The Morton Arboretum offers so many lovely activities that draw people to return again and again. We are so blessed to live nearby! Thanks for visiting today, Marcia! Wishing you a wonder-full week! ♡

  7. Wonderful post, Dawn.
    Love the conifer walk and you very slowly and brilliantly took us along it and through the many paths of the conifers and how the relate to not only your own life, but, to all of ours as well.
    I did not know about the Dawn Redwood and its endangerment. Thank you. As it obviously grows in our area, I will look into it as we are looking to plant a tree to honor our grandson and to replenish trees lost here. We planted a tree for our granddaughter and now it needs a bookend. 🙂
    Your photos of the LEGO exhibit are splendid and I’m envious of how well you captured the dragonflies. WOW!
    As I write this, the tornado warnings have been cancelled. Phew! What a night. I know your area was under a warning as well. Let’s hope all has passed and all are safe tonight.

    • Oh, Penny! Thank you for your lovely words! You know more about the Morton Arboretum than anyone I know. I’m always in awe (and a bit lost, even with map in hand) as I wander through. I’d love to go back soon and continue exploring where we left off. We didn’t see all of the LEGO sculptures, since it was so hot and humid. We finally decided to cool off in the gift shop! The dragonfly was just waiting for us at Wonder Pond! It rested there for the longest time, while I took photos. 🙂 The Dawn Redwood would be a lovely addition to your your yard. Its leaves are so soft and feathery ~ just waiting to be touched! Ezra and Kezzie would both enjoy it! So glad the storm has passed and everyone is safe, Penny! The tornado sirens sent us down to the basement twice this evening. What a torrential downpour, too. The next few days look much better for spending time in the garden! Big hugs, Penny!

  8. Dawn, thank you for taking me to this wonder filled aboretum! Nature always amazes me! How lovely to have a redwood named after you, sweetie. I will have to check about this tree in our area. I love all conifers and have many on our property.
    I was reading this week that the dragonfly is older than dinosaurs! What lovely ones you found at the arboretum. The lego creations are truly so creative! My grandsons love legos and other than stepping on them when they play, I love playing with them also.
    My all time favorite tree has to be the dogwood. But truly, I love all trees, except maybe the sweet gum–those dreaded sweet gum balls! Enjoy all the wonder all around! xoxo ♥

    • Martha Ellen, you would just love walking around at the Morton Arboretum! New discoveries lie around every turn in the paths! It’s so huge that we often take ‘driving tours’ just to see more of the natural beauty. What an interesting fact about dragonflies! It’s such fun that you and your grandsons play Legos together! We have some beautiful dogwood trees in town. Sweet gum balls?? 🙂 I must look up the sweet gum tree to learn more. I always learn new things from you each time we chat, Martha Ellen! Have a wonder-full day, my friend! ♡

  9. Good morning Dawn! Well my “neighbor”, this has been the most wondrous summer I’ve had in years, for so many reasons, but none of them extravagant…it all started when we took a rare vacation outside of the state and went back to our honeymoon spot in Carmel California. Traveling always OPENS your eyes in a new way to allow the light of inspiration to enter. Then, at home more wonder happened. Though my days were quiet and a bit lonely (my husband had to go to work while I enjoyed my time off as a teacher) and having no friends to “play” with, I enjoyed myself with my camera, poetry books and a bit of writing. The discoveries were endless. Now, I go back to school next week for another kind of discovery. Nothing beats however, the wonders of the garden, and we’ve had some great ones. More rain than usual, but when the sun was out, it was PERFECT.

    Your surroundings and share are LOVELY, as well as the quotes. I believe we were made to be in the garden. To be near nature is in our DNA!

    Enjoy the rest of your outdoor days sweet Dawn! Anita

    • Good morning, Anita! What a perfectly wonderful summer you had! I remember your lovely third honeymoon in Carmel, and have been enjoying your amazing photography on IG all summer long! You are recharged and re-energized for a whole new school year. I’ve always loved new beginnings ~ and the start of a whole new school year is a fresh start, filled with new possibilities every day! Nature must be in our DNA, for sunshine fills us with new inspiration and energy! Thanks for your kind words, dear Anita. It’s always a joy when you make time to visit! Wishing you a wonderful year with your lucky students! ♡

    • Judy, isn’t it amazing how powerful our childhood memories are throughout life? Even the smell of pine trees transports us back to those sweet memories! Imagine the creative thinking and problem-solving involved in each of the LEGO sculptures. They are impressive reminders of the ways that we are all ‘connected’ by nature and our responsibility to care for our planet! Be on the lookout for the presence of wonder today. I’m positive you will find it!:) So glad you’re here, Judy! ♡

  10. Love Jacarands…the purple blossoms make quite a lovely canopy. The presence of wonder is always with me as my car license is “IN AW” !

    • So lovely to see you, dear Anne! What a magnificent license you have! So fitting! It describes just how we feel about YOU! We fell in love with the Jacaranda trees this Spring in Arizona. Those purple blossoms just stole my heart! How are your trees surviving the terrible, four-year drought? We think of you so often, dear friend! Sending hugs! ♡

    • Hi, Joan! I just love your fresh, happy card designs! We had such a wonderful walk through the arboretum. Relaxing and oh-so peaceful! Thanks for your kind words, Joan! So glad you stopped by to visit! ♡

    • Many thanks, Ericka! “We do not inherit the earth from our fathers, we are borrowing it from our children.” ~Native American proverb ♡

  11. Dawn, there is so much to love about this post. My favorite, though, is your incredible enthusiasm for life among the trees. It’s palpable and I love it.

    What a great capture of the dragonfly. Aren’t they amazing? We don’t see them here very often, but when I do, I think they’re magical.

    We’re in year four of a severe drought in California, and sadly it is taking its toll on our trees. Several pines have been lost to the bark beetle which they can normally fend off, but not when under great stress. Our local school cut down close to a dozen dead trees last summer. It’s heartbreaking for the tree and the loss of habitat, too. We share a towering pine with our neighbors. We’re keeping a close eye on it and hoping for the best.

    Great photos, great quotes and a great snapshot of your day.

    • Awwwww, you are so sweet, Alys! I always feel such joy walking between the trees ~ any kind of trees! You can imagine my joy, a few years back, at a Yoga retreat. We practiced Yoga early in the morning, among the trees! Such an unbelievable feeling!! That dragonfly was resting right in front of us for the longest time! Perhaps it was just posing for my photo! 🙂

      We are always thinking about our California friends and your terrible, four-year drought. In fact, the very first time I visited your blog, you were carrying jugs of water from your bathtub to try to save your trees. Your photo made such an impression on me, Alys! It made the terrible drought seem so real, in ways that the news media cannot. I knew I had found another kindred spirit because I would be doing the same things to try to save our trees. It’s so difficult for the pine trees to fend off insect damage when they are under such extreme stress. It’s heartbreaking to think about the loss of trees. I truly hope your towering pine will make it through this extreme drought!

      I recently visited a friend whose neighborhood has been entirely changed by the Emerald Ash Borer. Every home had a beautiful Ash tree in the front yard, and now all of the Ash trees in the entire neighborhood are dead and waiting to be cut down. Every home has suffered such a big loss! It has become a lesson about the importance of planting a variety of trees in a neighborhood!

      Thanks for your kind words! Small moments can make the best memories, especially when taking a walk with a dear friend at the Arboretum! Wishing you a wonderful weekend, Alys! So glad you visited today! ♡

  12. Hello Dawn, another gem of an article! Loved all the details of plants, insects and LEGO sculptures. The arboretum really seems amazing. What beautiful quotes you insert in between your photos and writings! They really enhance the overall experience.
    For my Ph.D. I worked on the Indian Yew (Taxus baccata ssp wallichiana). It involved tissue culture and taxol (Anticancer drug derived from Yew bark) production in tissue culture. So that is my favourite Gymnosperm. Amongst Angiosperms, I simply love the Orchids for their flowers and all medicinal plants for their therapeutic principles.
    Sorry for all the technical terms that have crept in…….

    • Heartfelt thanks for your very kind words, Anjali! We just love to visit our nearby arboretum throughout all four seasons. I learn so many fascinating new things during each visit!

      Since I don’t have a background in Botany, I am thrilled to learn more from you, Anjali! In our yard, we have beautiful pine trees that tower above our rooftop. They are already 94 years old and bring us cool, welcome shade on hot summer days. They are my favorite Gymnosperms! My favorite Angiosperms are old-fashioned Hydrangeas and the sweet, simple beauty of Daisies. In the Midwest, Orchids are grown indoors as house plants. I love to visit large Orchid greenhouses nearby! Orchids of all varieties are grown there. On cold, snowy winter days, I love to walk through the greenhouses to chase away the winter chill!

      Thank you so much for visiting today and sharing your wonderful experience with us, Anjali! I am so happy to learn two new words from you ~ Gymnosperms and Angiosperms! I am so grateful for your plant research in the fields of science and medicine.

      Wishing you delightful November days, Anjali! Your university students are most fortunate to study with you! 💗

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