A Fascinating Walk!

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Hi Friends!

It’s a wonderful tradition that began early on, when my husband and I were just getting to know one another! Very often, we found ourselves walking near water, with moments of peaceful silence and interesting conversations about anything and everything. Oh the beautiful places we have walked together! Not the types to sit on a beach, we have strolled along Lake Michigan beaches, the beaches of Waikiki, and along the North Shore of Kauai. Walks along the River Seine, the River Rhein, the Lower Salt River in the Sonoran desert, and the Illinois River hold so many dear memories. Over the years, we have enjoyed walking along rushing waterfalls, meandering creeks, and a quiet marsh. Yet, there has always been another watery destination on our long list of places to walk ~  a bog!

So, Sunday morning, we packed a picnic lunch and drove north quite a distance to the Volo Bog State Natural Area. Our walk was filled with unexpected surprises, lovely views, and new learning. We both agreed that it was one of our more fascinating walks… and I couldn’t wait to share our walk with you!

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With our first glimpse of the Volo Bog, we were very curious about the large patches of pink in the distance. It was time to explore!

This bog originated about 12,000 years ago as the Wisconsin glacier crept into northeastern Illinois. As the climate warmed, the ice melted and glacial lakes formed. The trees (in the photo above) mark the edges of the old glacial lake. 

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Volo Bog has a floating boardwalk, allowing visitors to view various parts of the bog while walking just above the bog’s surface.

This was our chance to walk just inches above the surface of a bog! We could feel the floating walkway moving gently underfoot with each step. We walked very slowly, as dragonflies and butterflies floated overhead and a chorus of nearby crickets and frogs sang for us. Below the boardwalk, the 50-foot deep bog was filled with plants growing in this unique wetland.

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From time to time as we walked, there were views of peaceful, open water, surrounded by cattails and sedges. However, most of the bog is now lush with plant growth.

A bog is a very unique type of wetland. It forms in a glacial lake that has very poor drainage and no inflow of water from streams. Rain water and melting snow fill the bog. A floating mat of peat, which is partially decayed plant matter, began to form long ago at the Volo Bog.  The roots of living plants support this thickening peat layer.

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Volo Bog is the only ‘Quaking Bog’ with an open water center in Illinois. Its floating mat of sphagnum moss and other plants is so thick in some places that a person could actually stand on it. However, this would not only damage the bog, but would be incredibly dangerous. The floating boardwalk allows visitors to safely explore the bog.

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Cattails turn to seed in mid-August at Volo Bog.

As early as 10,000 years ago, the Native Americans settled in northeastern Illinois. The Volo Bog, a distance from large waterways, would have provided good hunting grounds and places to gather arrowhead roots, cattails, blueberries, and other edible plants.

BogFloraColorful wildflowers were in full bloom throughout the bog and the pollinators were very active on this mid-August day.

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The wooden boardwalk leads visitors through four different plant communities at Volo Bog. As we made our way, the changing plant species seemed to take us back through time. Winterberry Holly, Dogwood, and Poison Sumac were among the tall shrubs in this part of the bog. During times of high water from rain and melting snow, some of the Tamarack trees in this area drowned. Ancient ferns also grow in this shady area of the bog.

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This diagram shows the different plant zones we observed as we followed the boardwalk (yellow dotted trail) to the ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog.

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The ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog is not an ordinary pond. It is 50 feet deep and everything you see is floating… even the Tamarack pine trees in the distance! As the plant layers in the bog continue to grow and decay, scientists predict the open water at the ‘eye’ will be overgrown with vegetation in the next 100-150 years.

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Tamarack pine trees grow in this part of the plant community. These unusual pines are deciduous! In Autumn, their needles turn golden yellow and fall onto the peat soil below. The Tamarack trees, with their shallow, spreading roots, float up and down as the water levels change in the bog.

Sphagnum moss carpets the ground in this area of the bog. Native American mothers gathered and dried this moss to line their cradle boards, as a sort of diaper. Early soldiers used dried sphagnum to cover their wounds in the battlefields, since this moss produces acids with antibacterial properties.

BogFaunaThe bog is a wetland habitat for so many animal species.

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This circa 1900 dairy barn was renovated to create a wonderful, educational Visitor Center at the Volo Bog.

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As a result of our rainy summer, water levels seemed high in this open water area of the bog.

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Waterbirds searched for food in the moss-covered water, while a family of turtles took turns sunning on a floating log.

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The bog is a beautiful, fragile ecosystem that we must carefully preserve.

As we walked along the boardwalk, observing the variety of plants and animals that make their homes in this habitat, my thoughts turned to my own garden. Years ago, as I added new flower beds, I would occasionally buy a large bag of peat moss to mix into the soil. Never again!!

Most of our commercially harvested (actually, it is ‘mined’) peat in North America comes from Canadian sphagnum moss. Our walk reminded me once again that bogs are fragile wetlands that must be preserved! There are much better (and cheaper) alternatives to amend the soil in our gardens ~ local leaf mold compost, wood chips, composted garden waste, and green kitchen compost. Continued use of these plant materials will keep my garden a healthier, more responsible little patch of nature for years to come!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

This is my 100th post at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes… 

and your visits and thoughtful comments are always such a treat for me!

♡♡♡♡♡♡

Enjoy your week!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you enjoy walking near water, too?  Please tell us about your favorite places to walk…

 

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A Wee Bit o’ Green…

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Hi Friends!

‘Twas a lucky morn here!

As the rain showers ended, the birds began to sing so loudly,

as if to share the happy news…

I grabbed my denim jacket and headed out for my morning walk through the garden

observing the quick growth of foliage, in so many shades of green.

I have been checking the garden each day for a week or so.

Today was different ~ a wee bit o’ green and purple!

Oh, my heart! The first Springtime blossoms were open!

Miniature irises were in full bloom

and crocuses were just unfurling their petals.

Daffodils will add sunshine to the garden any day now.

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It’s still too early to uncover our Midwest garden beds

from their crunchy, leafy confetti

here in USDA Zone 5.

Snowflakes are predicted this weekend.

(We have memories of one late March snowstorm of 16 inches!)

While we wait, we enjoy our favorite garden books and magazines

and dream our garden dreams…

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Our Conservatory, in a nearby park,

is a lovely oasis

filled with sunshine

and

wee bits o’ green.

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It’s the perfect place to pause and reflect…

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I have been feeling so lucky

(and by lucky, I mean blessed beyond measure!)

for all of the special people in my life.

YOU are one of them!

♥♥♥

Thank you so much for stopping to visit today.

Wishing you lucky days, too!

(‘A Wee Bit o’ Green’ ~ all supplies by Stampin’ Up)

Erin Go Bragh!

♡Dawn

P.S.  What’s blooming in your neighborhood and your garden this week?

Joyful

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Hi Friends,

 

Just the other day, I spent some time in our lovely conservatory in a nearby park.

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It is an oasis of calm, peace, and quiet beauty.

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As I admired the stunning Chrysanthemums 

in the Thanksgiving flower show,

each of you

were on my mind.

I was counting my blessings…

and they numbered more than the flower petals.

So I ‘picked’ a few of my favorites… just for you!

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Our little blog has become such a special

gathering place

of kindred spirits.

It fills my heart with

joy

when I think about all of us…

sharing, reminiscing, celebrating,

encouraging, learning and growing

together.

♥♥♥

Whether we are much-loved family,

 dearest old friends,

exciting new friends,

wonderful blog friends,

or quiet friends that I have not met yet,

it fills my heart with so much

gratitude

that we take a bit of time

to gather here.

♥♥♥

Wherever you live in the world,

may you make this a time of Thanksgiving.

Take time every day to count your blessings out loud.

It is gratitude that makes us joyful!

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

So thankful that you are here today!

Warm hugs!

♡ Dawn

Desert Delights…

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Hi Friends!

One might think that having lunch with a Roadrunner would be the highlight of any day,

but our afternoon was even more memorable!

Recently, while exploring the Tonto National Forest, in southern Arizona,

we were drawn to so many beautiful oases in the desert.

I can’t wait to take you to two of my perennial favorites!

We seek out these breathtaking oases each time we visit our family nearby.

♥♥♥

Come join us!

For our afternoon hike, you will need:

sturdy shoes, a hat, water bottle, sunscreen,…

and you might want to bring your camera along, too.  ☺

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Follow me…. but watch your step!

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

Don’t worry. I have been here many times.

We won’t get lost.

Let’s begin our hike at the trail head, and walk down

to a beautiful oasis.

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The lower Salt River winds its way through the Tonto National Forest.

The Salt River provides a lush green oasis

in the midst of the harsh Sonoran desert.

People love to fish, canoe, and hike here.

Turn around, very s-l-o-w-l-y.

You will see the reason that I come

to this breathtaking oasis!

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These mountains bring tears to my eyes

every time I hike here.

I stand here in awe… fully mindful and present.

My worries seem small whenever I stand in this beautiful place.

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The Salt River is low at this time of year.

We can walk out onto the river bed.

I just love to look at the river rocks,

worn smooth over time.

During the summer months, when a nearby dam is opened,

the Salt River grows much wider and deeper.

The river flows over the

rocks where we are standing.

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Saguaro Lake, with 22 miles of shoreline, is actually a reservoir. It was created when the Stewart Mountain Dam was built on the Salt River in 1930.

Just a short drive brings us to our next

beautiful oasis.

Saguaro Lake is a sparkling gem in the desert!

It is very popular with boaters.

Visitors can cruise the lake on the Desert Belle tour boat,

and enjoy a wonderful meal on the patio of the marina,

overlooking Saguaro Lake.

It’s so hard to believe that this beautiful lake

is surrounded by the wild desert!

We love to come to the lake

for a picnic breakfast

at sunrise,

and we are not the only ones…  ☺

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It’s mid-afternoon already, but our hike continues.

The best is yet to come!

We can find the trail head for

my favorite place to hike

at Saguaro Lake,

 just past Butcher Jones Beach.

This trail is very uneven,

as it meanders along the water’s edge.

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Peregrine Point, along the trail at Butcher Jones Recreation Site

Be very careful, as we walk up along this narrow, winding trail.

I am always so amazed to see

these giant Saguaros

growing at the edge of this lovely lake,

named in their honor!

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I always stop to take in all of the unique beauty

of this special place,

where the water and the desert come together

side-by-side.

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We can hike quite a distance, before the trail becomes much too rugged for me.

Then we will just turn around and retrace our steps.

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Oh, how I love this very spot!   ↑

Calm.   Peace.    Solace.

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Looking across the lower Salt River to Red Mountain.  The mountain is on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Native American land.

Driving south along the lower Salt River,

we always stop here to admire Red Mountain.

Seeing this beautiful mountain

always means we are

very close

to

the dearest part

of the Arizona desert…

my parents!

We were here celebrating their birthdays,

 making wonderful family memories,

and counting our blessings.

♥♥♥

Thank you so much for hiking with us today!

I appreciate the time you spend visiting and truly love your comments.

Hoping you will find solace in nature this week…

Sending sunshine!

♡ Dawn

Seeking an Oasis…

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Hi Friends!

These are such difficult times…

The past week has been filled with so much

sadness and worry,

no matter where in the world we live.

Sometimes it helps

just a little bit

to seek out an oasis…

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We just returned from a wonderful visit with family in southwest Arizona.

Autumn in the desert is truly lovely!

Just a short walk from their suburban neighborhood

takes us into the beautiful, wild desert of the Tonto National Forest.

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

It is one of the most beautiful places I know.

The rugged mountains, prickly cacti, majestic Saguaros,

and dry, red earth seem timeless under the bright, blue desert sky.

The Sajuaro cactus is the state 'tree' of Arizona.

The Saguaro cactus is the state ‘tree’ of Arizona.

Yet hiking in the desert, with my ever-present large-brimmed hat, water bottle, strong sunscreen, and camera (of course!) often feels very harsh. Over the years, I have learned which cacti I shouldn’t touch, the safe way to pick up an interesting rock, and which desert animals are poisonous.  Yet, I always walk through the desert with great care, paying close attention to each step I take. (Oh, how I love the native desert plants, the tiny wildflowers, the birdsong, and the gentle breezes! However, the creatures of the desert ~ scorpions, tarantulas, rattlesnakes, javelinas, and vultures ~ have never been my ‘cup of tea.’)

When it’s my turn to choose our hiking destinations, I always seek out the oases in the desert.

Surprisingly, there are many

green, fertile spots where water can be found

in the Tonto National Forest!

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It was so relaxing to spend the day

following the lower Salt River,

as it wound its way through the rough, desert terrain.

The area near the river felt like a calm, peaceful oasis!

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The lower Salt River winds its way through the Tonto National forest, in Arizona.

This riparian area, along the banks of the Salt River,

is so different from the harsh, dry desert that surrounds it.

This greenbelt of land is filled with trees and bushes that could never survive

in the dry, rugged conditions nearby.

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I always feel at ease hiking along the rocky banks of the Salt River.

It feels more familiar to a Midwestern girl!

Fish can be seen jumping and splashing in the slow moving water.

Reflections of green, deciduous trees catch my attention.

Water Birds

Water birds stand quietly on the riverbank before flying off to other nearby spots.

Squirrels frolic between the tree roots.

Hoof prints in the mud reveal places

where wild horses stop for fresh water.

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The lower Salt River is a natural boundary between the Tonto National Forest (foreground) and the Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on the other side of the river.

As we walked through this riparian zone,

we noticed that other people were also attracted to this oasis in the desert.

There were people tent camping under the trees,

fishing from the riverbank,

and kayaking along the meandering waterway.

Such a comfortable refuge, in the midst of the Sonoran desert!

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Tall reeds, growing along the riverbank, provide an important habitat for animals that can only survive in this riparian zone.

After several warm days,

we delighted in a lovely, cool, November day for our hike.

The temperature was only 60 degrees as we walked along the river.

Puffy clouds above us cast beautiful shadows on the mountains.

Welcome rains would fall over night.

(Rain is a real celebration in the Sonoran desert!)

A roadrunner walked along the road on its way to the area along the river

A Greater roadrunner walked along the road, then walked toward the riverbank.

We had a fascinating guest at our picnic lunch at Blue Point!

A Greater roadrunner strolled back and forth through the picnic area,

graciously stopping to pose for our camera.

Its beautiful tail feathers

sparkled in the noonday sun,

as it wandered about looking for its lunch.

(I was very happy to learn that it eats black widow spiders, tarantulas, scorpions, and rattlesnakes!) ☺

Although it can only fly a short distance,

the Greater roadrunner can run at speeds of 20 miles per hour.

This proud roadrunner seemed very content just posing for videos for other hikers!

 The lower Salt River flows south, with Red Mountain in the distance.

The lower Salt River flows south, with Red Mountain in the distance.

A healthy riparian zone, along the Salt River, benefits everyone. The bushes, grasses, and trees that thrive along the riverbank provide homes for a wide variety of wildlife, prevent soil erosion, and provide flood control by slowing down the water when the Salt River overflows its banks. The shoreline trees shade the water for fish, while the insects, leaves, and twigs that fall into the river become part of the aquatic food chain.

During our lifetime, much of the riparian greenbelt has seen a loss of vegetation from clearing farmland nearby, heavy livestock grazing, and the construction of dams that raise and lower the river levels. The trees that grow along the river can only survive the dry periods if their roots are always submerged in water.

As the population of Arizona continues to grow, the riparian ecosystem faces even more risks. There is such a fragile balance necessary between the growing demands for our natural resources and the health of this important ecosystem in the Sonoran desert.

We must take care to protect this wonderful oasis!

It is a vital, fertile spot of refuge

in harsh, difficult times.

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It feels so good

to spend time in peaceful oases.

Whether in the Sonoran desert

or closer to home…

Treat yourself  to some quiet moments of peace.

Peaceful blessings!

♡ Dawn

                                                                 P.S.  What places feel like peaceful oases to you?

Finding an Oasis…

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Desert plants and WATER…  What a wonderful surprise!

Hi Friends!

Our visit to the American Southwest filled our hearts with wonderful family memories, breathtaking views, and long, quiet hikes in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Walking through the harsh, dry, prickly desert terrain under the blazing sun often calls for a brief retreat… an ‘oasis’ in the desert.

Oasis  [o-a-sis]     

1.  a fertile spot in the desert where water is found

2.  something serving as a refuge, relief, or pleasant change from what is usual

3.  a place of calm, happiness, or peace

Fortunately, having visited this beautiful part of America many times, we know just where to find our oasis! Those who live nearby have also made this wonderful discovery. We see them trailering boats and  jet skis, walking with fishing gear, and even carrying huge inner tubes. There is nothing more refreshing than finding an oasis in the desert!

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Saguaro Lake is a sparkling jewel in the Tonto National Forest! It is a man-made reservoir, built in the Salt River. This beautiful lake was formed when the Stewart Mountain Dam was built in 1930.  Named for the Saguaro Cacti growing nearby, Saguaro Lake has 22 miles of shoreline, a busy marina, and beautiful picnic areas.

We often enjoy a picnic breakfast or lunch along the shores of Saguaro Lake on a day of hiking in the Tonto National Forest.

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Saguaro Lake was built in the midst of the wild, untamed desert of the Tonto National Forest.

Hiking along the trails surrounding Saguaro Lake is always a delight!  It’s a rare treat to find Saguaro cacti, desert wildflowers, Palos Verde trees, and Mesquite trees growing near water. Water birds, desert creatures, boaters, hikers, and fishermen all enjoy a visit to this unique oasis.

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The Butcher Jones Trail, in the Tonto National Forest, is a spectacular place to hike.

Hiking along the Butcher Jones Trail, on the shores of Saguaro Lake, is a lovely retreat from the harsh desert. At an elevation of 1, 500 feet, the trail begins with a slow incline and with time, becomes steeper and very rocky. We enjoy hiking the easier parts of the trail, stopping often to admire the view.

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The Salt River provides drinking water and water for irrigation for the metropolitan Phoenix area. Throughout much of the year, parts of the lower Salt River bed are dry and used as roads.

The Salt River winds through the Tonto National Forest creating a quiet, serene oasis for desert wildlife and visitors to the area. The lower Salt River forms a natural boundary between the Tonto National Forest and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. During long periods without rain, the river flows slowly, meandering through the desert. However, from April through October each year, a nearby dam is opened releasing rushing water into the Salt River for tubing. This popular activity draws large crowds for a wet, wild, desert adventure!

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The Sonoran Desert is home to spectacular sunsets, with silhouettes of the Saguaros and the mountains. What a perfect ending for a wonderful vacation!

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Now we are back home again in the Midwest, enjoying a busy holiday season. The weeks between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day are always filled with so many fun holiday preparations. During these busy days, it’s so nice to find a little ‘oasis’ of quiet and calm.

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The conservatory is a true ‘oasis’ all year long. My favorite time to visit is during the winter months.

I just love to visit the Conservatory in a nearby park. Just a few peaceful moments enjoying the flowers and lush greenery fills me with the same happy feelings that I find in my cottage perennial and herb gardens all summer long.

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In the Conservatory, red and white Poinsettias, bright red Cyclamen, and Norfolk Pines offer such a cheery contrast to the drab, late Autumn landscape outside.

Visiting this little ‘oasis’ always fills my soul with happiness in a most glorious, peaceful way! It’s so important to find or create a little ‘oasis’ of our own during these busy days ~ a pretty place for a brisk walk, a candlelit place with my favorite music, a quiet place to journal about the ‘small moments’ of each day, reading in a rocking chair near the Christmas tree, or creative time in my paper crafting studio always fills my heart with calmness.

Just a few minutes in an ‘oasis’ really makes a difference during this busy, most wonderful time of year. I’m going to try extra hard to spend a little time in an ‘oasis’ every day! Hoping you will find your own ‘oases’ this season, sweet friends!

 

Warmest wishes & Christmas cheer!

♡Dawn

P.S.  What place or activity feels like an ‘oasis’ in your day?  Hope you will share…