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,

IMG_6036

(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.

IMG_6162

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.

IMG_6082

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

IMG_6058

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,

IMG_6095

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.

IMG_6097

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.

IMG_6298

IMG_6356

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.

IMG_6261

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

IMG_6250
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.

IMG_6343

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

IMG_6305

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.

IMG_6340

WHERE DID THE YELLOW GO?

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,

IMG_2108R

which itself was surrounded by beautiful gardens,

IMG_2109R

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

IMG_6314

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

IMG_2091R

Nobody’s going to water his leaves continuously.

IMG_2099R

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

IMG_6312

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.

IMG_6139

 

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.

IMG_6241

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.

IMG_6346

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.

IMG_6242

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.

photo-31

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.

IMG_6247

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.

IMG_2243R

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.

The Profit of a Yard.

The best thing we did in 2013 was get sod in our front yard.

Previously, our slightly sloped yard was nothing but dirt – with a few weeds, a bunch of gumballs (or pricklies, as we call them at our house), and plenty of tree roots. It was a shame, as most yards in our neighborhood are too sloped to be properly utilized. And then there was our yard – not a bad plot at all – yet a wasteland of uninhabitable negligence.

We’re not much for big investments or big renovation-like projects, but even we could see that something needed to be done. So we got our yard guys to quote it, were surprised that it wasn’t as much as we feared, and within a few weeks, actually had….a yard.

My kids actually began playing in the yard nearly daily,

IMG_7882

We accessorized our yard with nostalgic items such as Slip n’ Slides,

IMG_6658

And it became so popular that odd traffic jams began occurring.

IMG_6654

Our yard became a gathering place, where Ali basked in the privilege of hostessing/bossing/organizing neighborhood friends to properly enjoy her domain.

IMG_3252

Although we have several neighbor families that we love to play with (one of which you heard about last week because apparently it’s Neighbor Month around here), our across-the-street neighbors became our most common guests, with playtimes and picnics occurring at least twice a week all Spring and Summer.

IMG_6659

Lachlan would drive over,

IMG_9043j

Bringing his older sister Olivia, who is a few months younger than Noah.

IMG_9002j

Ali and Olivia were tight from the beginning, as Olivia was more welcoming to Ali’s organizational bossing than Noah.

Ali and Noah

Olivia played the part of the adorable younger sister that Ali always wanted,

IMG_8912j

and Ali was a seven-year-old superhero to Olivia.

IMG_2478

But then, as the summer wore on, Olivia began to notice the other superhero in the family.

IMG_2563

And a new friendship began to develop.

IMG_3018

Noah had always been too busy avoiding the Realm of Girlishness to realize how fantastically awesome Olivia was, until all of a sudden, they were sneaking off for long conversations and impish giggles on the porch.

IMG_8985j

There might have been one occasion where Noah and Olivia snuck inside, upstairs, and into his toddler bed to “Play Nap.”

He wanted to show her his blankets, he explained.

She liked his noisemaker’s music, she explained.

Their appreciation for each other’s company grew,

IMG_9025j

And Olivia had to start diplomatically splitting her time between Ali’s maniacally organized activities and Noah’s casual conversations.

IMG_8919j

The pinnacle of the summer occurred on the occasion of Olivia turning three.

She had a birthday party with a water slide and bounce house, and, to cut down on toddler bashfulness, there were only two non-adult guests – Ali and Noah.

IMG_3157

So basically the best thing that ever happened to my kids.

IMG_3229

And Noah paid her back well, becoming The World’s Best Birthday Party Guest.

He jumped and bounced and jumped and bounced and ate cake and jumped and bounced some more.

Then, when it was time for presents, he sat a respectful distance away from the gifting area, joyfully wearing his assigned Princess Party Hat, and made unpresumptuous recommendations as to which presents she should open next.

IMG_3189

At each present opening, he awarded the crowd with a creepy way-too-loud-and-excited laugh, thereby fully demonstrating glee on Olivia’s behalf.

And even when he realized that she’d gotten a Barbie Motorhome and she wasn’t opening it quickly enough for his boyish needs, still he sat, dutifully holding his balloon.

IMG_3228

He inched closer as the motorhome was assembled, still being somewhat thoughtful of her Birthday Personal Space.

IMG_3206

Until finally, he found his opportunity to participate.

IMG_3211

Noah.

He might be a player, but he’s not afraid of some pink.

Hosepipe.

If I understand the differences in regional dialects correctly, some of y’all don’t call this a hosepipe.

IMG_7848

You call it a “garden hose” or just a “hose” or some other type of gibberish.

In Alabama, we call it summer entertainment.

IMG_7813[4]

That is, unless you’re not the one holding the hosepipe. Then it’s called a source of great anxiety.

IMG_7762

Or, more likely, a sure thing.

IMG_7772

But once you get past that initial moistening and it melts the southern summer heat off of your overclothed legs, you realize it’s not such a bad fate after all.

IMG_7773

The hosepipe holder, however, must take occasional moments of solace to ponder the gravity of his position,

IMG_7787

As well as study the Geometry of the task at hand.

IMG_7788

Like a Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace, he must also perfect his posture and carriage of weaponry.

IMG_7809

But don’t worry. He’ll remember you exist.

IMG_7845

And he’ll take care of all of your cooling needs.

IMG_7883

ALL of them.

IMG_8025

Until you start to wish that you didn’t exist.

IMG_7952

IMG_8016

At which time you can simply move along, and let him get back to his training,

IMG_7849

His marching of the perimeter,

IMG_7857

And his technique testing.

IMG_7874

Because it’s serious work.

IMG_7865

Grueling even.

IMG_7964

But if the hosepipe is taken away, great heartache will commence.

IMG_8030

Grieving will become necessary for all involved.

IMG_8032

Well – almost all.

IMG_8042

Because turnabout…is fair play.

IMG_7921