Callaway Gardens, a Photographical Journey.

140927d A Symphony of Skies

Chris and I wanted to go off for my birthday (early, by the way – you still have time to mark October 9 as a Very Important Date on your calendar), but we didn’t know where to go.

We only had a weekend available, so we needed to go somewhere relatively close, and we wanted to go somewhere new, somewhere pretty, and somewhere flat to be able to run.

So we did what any logical person would do: we asked Twitter. And got about four pages of responses. As we weighed your suggestions against our needs, Callaway Gardens, suggested by Katherine, Giann, and Emily, stood out the most.

Located in South Georgia, it appeared to be just what we needed: miles of trails, beautiful scenery, and a good deal of flatness.

So I dumped the children onto my parents, where they didn’t even look up to say goodbye,


(because who would when there was sand to scoop?), and we skipped town.

As soon as we arrived Friday afternoon, we took off for a run. Because I’m an all or nothing person, and since I’ve discovered the power of a run over my Dysautonomia, it’s kinda all I want to do.

(Sorry, blogging.)

We quickly realized why our fancy suite at the fancy hotel on property had been so shockingly cheap: we were clearly between seasons. Post flower season, pre Fall Foliage season. Our first run felt more like running through the most beautiful campground with lovely amenities and beautiful lakes rather than through the world’s biggest flower garden as we’d expected.


However, we quickly adjusted and enjoyed the views as they were.

And we managed to spot a few glimpses of fall along our way, making the backdrop of our runs even more beautiful.

140927 Sneak Peek at Autumn

I’m a nature lover of all sorts, so I was also thrilled to spot deer, all kinds of birds of the large variety, and this guy, who obliged me by becoming my pet for approximately 30 seconds.


And, although I would have rather discovered an actual one, finding this former home of a snake was pretty exciting.


Between the three days, we ran over 18 miles in Callaway Gardens (it’s a big place, y’all!) and walked at least five more. We discovered beautiful sites such as this chapel,


And, even though it said “Wedding in Progress” on the sign out front, we took our cues from the silence and risked entry to see the stunning interior.


It nearly made us want to get married all over again. Except for all the trouble.

Instead, we moved onto Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden, which was lovingly flanked with all the gorgeous flowers we’d been missing from our visit.



The flowers grew around and atop the vegetables and herbs to distract the bad bugs and, furthermore, entice the good bugs to come eat the bad bugs. Who knew flowers were so smart? And here I thought they were just a pretty face.


Chris discovered the Analemmatic Sun Dial, where you stand on the proper month, lift your arm, and it tells you what time it is.

I’m positive it works a heck of a lot better when it’s not completely overcast.

We moved on again, this time to the Butterfly garden.


My favorite part of all butterfly exhibits is the chrysalis room. They’re so fascinatingly beautiful, with their blazing jewel-like quality.


The paper kite chrysalides were especially fascinating, because they were bright yellow with iridescent qualities and gold highlights – until the butterfly came out, leaving them mysteriously clear, despite the butterfly not being the least bit yellow.



The world will never know.

The chrysalis room was also quite creepy because there were butterflies actively hatching. Watch the black chrysalides closely:

Butterflies Breaking out of Chrysalides on Make A Gif

The butterflies themselves were housed in a garden in a greenhouse of sorts,


which itself was surrounded by beautiful gardens,


…which might explain this Blue Morpho’s adolescent angst.


But if only he knew that out there in the real world, nobody’s going to hang him sliced fruit.


Nobody’s going to water his leaves continuously.


And nobody’s going to protect him from butterfly-chasing children.


At times, I did realize how very fascinating this trip would have been for my children and how it would have counted for like a week of school.

But then we would have never gotten to run. Or celebrate our runs quietly with identical books and frozen drinks.



Ultimately I felt no guilt. After all, they were too busy to tell me goodbye.

The gardens had their quirks, too. Chris raved about how they had been careful to build their parking lots around trees, making them shady and preserving nature – he thought that was so great. Until he parked in this extraordinarily un-square spot, perfectly lined up on his side and murdering the line on mine.


He got out.

He inspected. He couldn’t rest until he’d proven that it was clearly the parking space’s fault, not his. (And I had to agree, as much fun as it was to see him perplexed.)

And he moved his car to a more deserving spot.

Building your parking lots around trees can also have other undesirable outcomes, such as root damage. This particularly unfriendly handicapped spot may have made us giggle a little too much.


The hotel we stayed at had a spa, and every time we got in the elevator, we had no choice but to stare at this woman.


Which was completely fine until I told Chris “You know, if you look at the picture just right, it looks like holes all the way through her back instead of rocks on top of her back.”

And then he couldn’t look at her ever again without getting an internal shiver.

Of course, we had to find the best views in the area, and there were plenty from which to pick.

140926b FDR's Lookout

This one was at the garden’s adjoining state park, F.D. Roosevelt State Park, and Chris caught me photographing from atop FDR’s favorite place to think.


I’m pretty sure I could end a war now if I had to.

And then there were the sunsets.

140926 A Moody Sunset at Callaway Gardens

As breathtaking and gorgeous as all of the views were in and outside the park, a straight shot at the sunset was surprisingly hard to find. After fighting my way through cobwebs and underbrush and running down an abandoned trail for half a mile, I finally found my spot.


Chris managed to catch my graceful journey out onto my log…

Creeping Toward the Sunset on Make A Gif

In my defense, I was carrying a camera and an iPhone, the water was pretty murky, and I was uncharacteristically concerned about a snake slithering by – in my mind, if a snake is in the water, it’s probably poisonous.

Fortunately, I didn’t consider the fact that I was much more likely alligator bait than snake bait – we were, after all, in South Georgia.

But the view was worth every fear.

140927b Front Row Seat for Sunset

Every time I thought I’d caught the best of the sunset, I’d run back up on shore to escape any creepy crawlies and the family of mosquitoes that were munching my flesh…and then I’d look back and see that it just got better, and I’d splash back out to my log.

140927e Waves Over Callaway Gardens

Chris was highly amused to watch my ridiculous back-and-forth and asked why I didn’t just stay out on the log until after dark.

140927c A Perfect Reflection

I sneered at him. Was HE out on that log? No. He was safe on shore with nothing to fear but the spiders, who seemed, as they should be, more interested in the skies than him.


On my fourth trip out to the log, I captured my final picture,

140927f Nature's Playground

then told Chris I was done.

We needed to leave.

Before I looked back and it got even better.

But, like Lot’s Wife, I did look back. And through the thick layer of trees, I could see that the skies were pinker than any neon light ever dreamed of being.

The moral of this story is: always stay on your log until it’s completely dark. Even if an alligator has you for a beautiful sunset dinner, the taxidermist will probably be able to recover the camera card.

Sunsets By the Package.

In two days, I got two emails from different guys that I have zero connections with. (They were real emails from real people, guys!) One wanted advice as to where to take his girlfriend for a special date, and the other wanted advice as to where to propose to his girlfriend.

This might sound extraordinarily random (and it kinda is), but both had been googling for the best sunset locations in Birmingham and had naturally found me.

I gave them both advice on where to take their women, and recommended each a completely different array of locations, as I customized my suggestions to their specific needs and desires.

Because I’m apparently the new Romantic Advice Column of the Birmingham metropolitan area.


Which made me realize: it’s time to create some packages and start selling my services.


You want sunsets? I got sunsets. Choose from the below packages for the correct amount of sunset advice that you would like.

The Crush Package: I tell you where to go to see a sunset. No refunds or exchanges.

The Date Package: If you’re interested in romance and safety, I tell you where to go to see a sunset in a location that you will most likely not get mugged and/or fall off a cliff.

The Sweetheart Package: If you’re interested in romance, safety, and not getting eaten by zombies, I tell you where to see a sunset in a location that does not include a haunted parking deck that you can’t escape from after sunset.

The Memories Package: If you’re interested in romance, safety, not getting trapped, and not regretting your date all week, I tell you where to see a sunset that will not involve chiggers and/or mosquitoes feasting on every inch of your flesh AFTER they completely devour your girlfriend.

The Lovebird Package: If you’re interested in romance, safety, not getting trapped, not getting eaten, and not getting shot by a resident and/or reported to the police and taken into custody for trespassing, I tell you where to see a sunset that doesn’t involve encroachment onto private property.

The Quiet Solitude Package: If you’re interested in romance, safety, not getting trapped, not getting eaten, not getting arrested and/or killed, and a romantic atmosphere, I tell you where to see a sunset and guarantee that I will not show up there to take sunset photos with my tired, hungry, and whining children who will almost certainly fall down, skin their knees, and scream for freaking ever.

The Proposal Package: If you’re interested in romance, safety, not getting trapped, not getting eaten, not getting arrested and/or killed, a romantic atmosphere, and being able to remember your moment forever, I tell you where to see a sunset and I’ll show up without my kids, hide in the bushes on private property*, and subtly take pictures of your perfect sunset proposal**.

* After you sign a waiver promising to bail me out of jail, pay all of my court costs, hire me the best lawyer in town to defend my reputation, and provide Chigarid for the 98 chigger bites that I am guaranteed to procure.

** Even if she says no.

Burning Questions of the Public Restroom.

Burning Restroom Questions

I visit public restrooms more often than I’d prefer.

My preference would be zero times per lifetime, of course, but as I drink 100+ ounces of water a day, that’s just not going to happen, unless I go all Boo Radley on you and never leave the house.

And if I did that my blog would flounder and die and I’d finally leave the house out of desperation to find anything to write about and I’d end up in a public restroom writing this post.

So why fight the pull. I go to a lot of public restrooms.

But every time I’m in one, I leave with SO MANY QUESTIONS.

1. Why do auto-flush toilets have to exist? Just to scare children out of their minds? To turn every bathroom visit into a sobfest? To make mothers have to play Twister to cover the sensor while holding their children onto the commode?

I get the idea – to cut down on the spread of germs – but I guarantee that I acquire more germs from the intricate balancing act I have to do to help my kid on the toilet while covering the sensor and keeping my toddler from licking the floor than I would if I just had to flush the dang toilet.

(For the record I have started making Ali go in a stall alone and get over herself about automatically flushing toilets. If they suck her down she won’t go far and I promise to come get her when I finish hoisting her brother onto the evil toilet next door.)

2. Why do automatic soap, sinks, and paper towel dispensers never sense me? I wave and I wave and I wave. I yell and I dance and I command them to put forth their product.

Yet I am completely invisible to them.

Then another woman walks up and they spit out soap before her hands even reach the spigot and she’s welcomed by pre-warmed flowing water at the sink. The paper towel dispensers bow before her, giving her a double portion of their papery goodness.

It’s as if they all know that I’m a middle child or something.

3. Speaking of paper towels, why do their dispensers have to come in so many forms? It’s like they can’t make up their mind what they want from me.

Wave in front of me!

Wave below me!

Push my button!

Pull my lever!

Use my crank on the side!

Desperately try to yank the sixteenth of an inch of paper towel shooting out the bottom because I refuse to work any other way!

…I spend 40% of my total time in public restrooms trying to figure out what parlor trick the paper towel dispenser requires of me.

4. Do the auto-deodorizers of the world have weekly planning meetings to strategize on how best to be aware of my presence so they can squirt directly above my head as I walk into a stall? Must I always smell like Kiwi-Coconut-Hell after leaving the restroom?


6. Is there a rule stating that restroom trash cans must be impossible to access without receiving more germs? I do NOT WANT to stick my hand down into your encrusted flappers in order to deposit my used paper towel that I so desperately fought to have.

7. Why can’t we scramble cell phone signals in public restrooms? I despise nothing more than having pee over my stall-neighbor’s mushy conversation with her boyfriend. If we can make a law against texting and driving, then surely we can make a law against calling and urinating. Call while you drive, text while you pee. Everyone’s happy.

8. Why is it always the nicest bathrooms that don’t have purse hooks? I appreciate your spacious 800 square foot stalls, thought-provoking artwork, and the potted plant watching me pee, but having a fern in the room cannot possibly make your floors clean enough for my purse butt to rest upon.

9. Why do automatic paper towel dispensers vary so vastly in the length of product they will supply? I punish short-changers by making them give me triple towel. I’m all for saving the ecosystem but I want to do it with dry hands.

10. And finally, the most puzzling public restroom question of all time. What kind of person uses the hand dryer when there are plenty of paper towels to be had?!

Psychopaths. That’s who.