Carpe Diem!

Over the last several months my wonderful wife bought some really nice pop-open cards, all titled “CARPE DIEM.”  She hides them here-and-there for me to find and writes something sweet on the back of them.

1029162348a_hdrAfter popping open the perforated cover of the card, inside each is a quote that shares an inspiring thought for personal growth and self-actualization.  This is particularly nice because it fits right into the niche I’ve been passionately pursuing for the last couple of decades – to learn, to grow, to live fully, to expand my horizons!

Some of the quotes:

“Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will.”   – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin”     – Robert Collier

“If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author and everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page.”    – Mark Houlahan

“… parade through each day convinced that every task… brings you closer to fulfilling your dreams.”     – Og Mandino

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”     – Muhammad Ali

“Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it.”     – Earl of Chesterfield

“Live daringly, boldly, fearlessly.”     – Henry J. Kaiser

“The future is always beginning now.”     – Mark Strand

“Wake up with a smile and go after life.”     – Joe Kapp

“Make each day your masterpiece.”     – John Wooden

“It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined.”     – Henry James

“The future starts today, not tomorrow.”     – Pope John Paul II

“We know nothing of tomorrow; our business is to be good and happy today.”     – Sydney Smith

“What we do today, right now, will have an accumulated effect on all our tomorrows.”   – Alexandra Stoddard

“Each day comes to me with both hands full of possibilities…”     – Helen Keller

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”     – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.”     – Dale Carnegie

“Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.”     – Wayne Dyer

“Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.”    – Ruth Ann Schabacker

“Grab life by the handlebars.”     – Unknown



Walking Question Mark

Rosicrucians, because of their world view of questioning everything, are frequently known as Walking Question Marks.  Some applicable quotes from the monograms include:

“A true Rosicrucian is a walking question mark.”

“A lack of explanations or obscure statements never satisfy a Rosicrucian.”

“This is the spirit of the Rosicrucian – a person who is not so quick to accept as truth that which they are told is truth.  Rather, a Rosicrucian is one who is ready and willing to challenge the norm for the sake of discovering for themselves the nature of truth at any cost.”

“It is suggested that you examine various beliefs that you hold to be true and try to understand an opposing belief as if you actually held it to be true.  To be able to develop such an ability is the key to true listening and understanding and is referred to in Rosicrucian epistemology as the “polemical exercise.”

These are attributes of history’s greatest minds – Leonardo da Vinci, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Giordano Bruno, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Thomas Payne, Nikola Tesla, etc.  Brave minds and spirits who challenged the status quo, sought truth at all costs – some of whom paid the highest price.

Whether or not one is a student of any specific Rosicrucian system, anyone who desires to rise above the herd of the complacent and mundane should practice this approach to life. Properly done, the clinical attitude helps us tackle this pursuit via genuine critical inquiry and humble intellectual integrity.

It’s an approach to life and proper thinking that becomes the basis for wonder – as well as helping you overcome pervasive cognitive biases such as Confirmation Bias, Cognitive Dissonance and Rationalizations.


Think For Yourself; Question Everything

It’s an essential skill for the pursuit of truth. Question everything. Doubt the veracity of what you’ve been taught and what you assume to be true.

Question your belief system. Question your world view. Question your religion. Question your teachers. Question your politicians. Question your government. Question any so-called authorities. Question history. Question science. Question duty. Question guilt. Question sacrifice. Question media. Question the popular narrative.  Question all you were taught through life. Much of what you “know” isn’t true. Seek beyond your cultural indoctrination and “education.”

Intelligence – Not because you think you know everything without questioning, but rather because you question everything you think you know.  – Unknown

Question everythingDon’t accept standard answers.  Find your own answers.  Assume claims are wrong until you’ve dug into them sufficiently.  Be a Walking Question Mark!




Two Steps From Hell – Heart of Courage

Powerful. Inspiring. Epic. Invincible!

I was surprised to hear this being played in the opening video montage at recent University of Louisville football games.  I had heard it numerous times previously on my Pandora shuffle of Delerium, Blue Stone, Sleepthief & Conjure One.  It’s composed by Thomas J. Bergerson and has  been used in numerous film trailers, television shows and advertisements.  This song gives me chills; moves me; envelopes me.  It makes me feel like I can accomplish anything!

Here’s the extended version of Heart of Courage:


Knot Garden

Elysium’s Knot Garden . . . . 2015-07-13-e2015-07-13-bMy wife and I always make a point of visiting gorgeous public gardens when traveling.  The beauty is breathtaking and inspiring!  Of particularly fascination for me are those places that include a “knot” garden.  “Knot,” meaning that two or more varieties of plants are arranged in an intricate pattern and trimmed such that they appear to be a ribbon passing over-and-under each other – giving a knot effect.  I believe this was first done in Elizabethan England.

I always wanted a knot garden of my own, so . . . . I turned the useless side of my house into one.  For those interested, here are the steps and timeline:

1)  Choose a pattern that will work in the space identified for the knot garden.  I Googled “knot garden” images and found numerous ideas. Most seemed to work best for large open areas. Mine was somewhat small by comparison, so I chose a relatively simple design, and decided to place it in a diamond orientation for my application.

gsgknott12)  Design a layout for your entire garden area around the knot.  Will it have sidewalks, and if so, in what design and configuration?  What other features do you want in and around the knot portion of that garden – if any?  Parterres (symmetric planting beds)?  How will you create the boundary around the garden area – hardscape (such as fences or walls) or softscape (such as long rows of manicured shrubs)?  Maybe you decide to keep it as simple as possible and cordon off the knot by itself in some part of your yard – without a surrounding garden? Rough sketch up ideas on paper.  Once you decide on what pleases you, take dimensions on the entire area you want to include, and create a scale (or near-scale) drawing on paper.

Walkways and surrounding beds:  I decided on four parterres with a pea-gravel sidewalk.  Brick would look more formal and finished, but would require more expense and effort than I desired.  I always have the option of going that route later if I desire.

Boundary walls:  Next to the house, I wanted a concealing type fence to hide my heat pump, firewood rack and compost bins, so I went with treated lumber with a gate.  For the front-facing boundary we decided on a small iron-looking fence with gate. Painted steel was cheaper and easier to get.  I may replace it with actual iron at some point.  For the side facing the rear yard, we went with a river-rock dry stream bed, which carries drainage away from a nearby downspout.  For the side toward my next door neighbor we went with a row of shrubs.

knotgardenplan3)  Decide on the plants to use for the actual knot formation.  Again, I researched on Google to find out what plants are typically used, the pros and cons of each, and which ones appealed to me for my design.  Typical knot garden plants to choose from include: dwarf boxwood, santolina, wall germander, dwarf hyssop, rosemary, crimson pygmy barberry, winter savory, dwarf yew, purple sage, and several others.  They fall into either the herb or dwarf shrub categories.

I decided on Dwarf Boxwood (Buxus Microphylla ‘Winter Gem’) and Pygmy Barberry (Berberis Thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy).  I liked the fact that I could more tightly control their shapes via trimming versus some of the herbs.  Plus they are winter hardy.

4) Prepare the site.  Kill the grass, till the ground, layout the site.  Using stakes and string layout the garden plan on the ground.  I decided to put in my fencing and boundary shrubs before tilling.

[Click on images for larger versions]

2008-07-132009-05-30-f2010-05-23-a2010-05-23-c5)  Layout your design on the ground with stakes and string.  I chose to spray paint the knot pattern exactly where the plants would go, but that’s not necessary.  Plant miscellaneous perennials where you planned.  We chose to line the walkways with variegated liriope moved from elsewhere in our landscape. I compressed the dirt where the sidewalk would be (here in Kentucky we call that “tamping” the dirt down   🙂 ).

2010-05-30-a2010-06-06-d6)  Locate a source for your knot plants.  I bought mine on Ebay as “liners” – tiny plants no more than a few inches tall, shipped with their roots wrapped in wet paper towels.  You may have to go to a nursery and order if you can’t find what you want online.  After they arrive plant them in the knot pattern. I chose to space mine about 6″ apart, and therefore calculated and ordered enough to more than fill the total linear feet of each knot segment. They will grow together over time and give you the desired effect.  Make sure to mulch around them and water frequently to keep them alive while they get established.

Here’s a photo after planting and mulching – July 2010. The plants are hard to see because they’re so small at this point. Silver mound anchors the four corner openings:


A year later – 2011.  We planted gold Cosmos to fill in the four parterres:

2011-06-13-iTwo years after planting – 2012.  The gaps between individual plants are almost filled. It’s getting there!  I added aluminum Permaloc landscape edging to better define and segregate the pea gravel sidewalks from the garden beds and their mulch.

2012-05-31-eThree years after planting – 2013.  Finally the gaps between plants are closed and it has the ribbon effect I’m after!  We eliminated the Cosmos as they were dying out and becoming a mess, with volunteers growing up in the sidewalk.  Late season choice to plant potato vine in the parterres:

2013-08-31-bFour years after initial creation – 2014 (winter shot):

2014-02-15-aFive years old – 2015.  Decided to try Wave Petunias in the parterres:

2015-07-13-eShot from the roof (at an odd angle) – Late fall 2015. My neighbor next door tells me they love looking down on it year-round from their second story window!

2015-11-15-aSix years old and in need of trimming – 2016.  I trim the knot about 3 to 4 times a year.  The pygmy barberry grows at a faster pace than the boxwoods. We tried Wax Begonias in the parterres this year.

2016-09-02-bI love the result of our work!  It’s such an impressive, beautiful and tranquil place to visit.  In fact it’s nearly a secret garden.  Because the house is up on a slight hill not much of it can be seen from the road and sidewalk in the front.  And it’s tucked around the deck and shade garden in the backyard, so you can’t see it unless you walk down the stepping stone sidewalk past the pond and deck and happen to notice it on the left..

We’re still experimenting with the annuals we want for the parterres.  The Wave Petunias were nice, but have a somewhat haphazard way of spreading – filling some areas between plants and not others.  The Wax Begonias would be better if we planted more of them, closer together and start them earlier in the season so they have time to spread and fill.

A couple of years ago my daughter and her fiance bought me two heavy antique concrete winged-rams (of Jason & the Argonauts golden fleece fame).  I decided to locate them on either side of the entrance to the garden and place a potted Dragon Winged Begonia on each.  It’s a nice effect.

Tackling a project like this isn’t something I would recommend to anyone.  But if the idea appeals to you – to create unique and impressive beauty around your existence – then start somewhere.  It can even be done in steps.  Perhaps create the knot only first, then add sidewalks and other plant beds around it as time passes.  The world is full of possibilities and creativity if we only choose to pursue it and make it a priority!

Create something meaningful and appealing to you.  Immerse yourself in beauty.  Let it satiate your soul.


The creation of our gardens – Elysium

My wife Debbie and I cut our teeth attempting our small landscape in our first tiny home.  At that time we couldn’t tell you the name of most plants and shrubs.  We moved into our current home in May 1989.  Although the house was only thirteen years old at the time, it needed work to achieve the potential that Deb and I saw in its structure and grounds.

Here are a series of before-during-after photos of certain angles of the landscape. It gives you a good feel for how much things have changed for the better.  The grounds have become an oasis for us, such that we now call it “Elysium” (an ancient Greek/Roman word for paradise/heaven).

Here is our Elysium as the creation “blossomed” over the years.  More detailed pictures will follow, but this is enough of a start to share its progression.

I would encourage anyone who has an appreciation for landscape gardens to create your own beauty.  Even if you know nothing to start, learn as you go; look at books and online to get ideas; experiment and try things; get free consultation from others who’ve done it; start somewhere.  You’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come. Create your own escape from the complacent and mundane.  Satisfy your soul resting among the beauty of your very own creation – your sanctuary.

Build, Create, Enjoy!

Rear yard next to the driveway:

[click on the photos for a larger image]

1990 – There was no walkway from the drive to the small patio in the back yard. Step 1: dig out the hillside and install fanning steps and sidewalk.





Rear yard from the side street:

1991 – There was no privacy while sitting on the patio. Anyone driving along the side street or walking that sidewalk had a clear view of the entire yard.  Not being hardscape-fence type of people, we opted to create a softscape barrier of shrubs.




View down the sidewalk to the drive from the patio:






1990 – starting to do some landscaping around an existing apple tree:

16-19901994 – new, larger patio and broadened rear steps into the house:

17-19942008 – With new Cardinal Crapapple replacing the old diseased apple tree:


Rear deck:





Rear stepping-stone walkway:

1995 – Create a walkway near the deck using the jack-hammered pieces of the old patio:


26-19972008 – note the twisted Wysteria vines trained up on the pergola above the deck:


The small waterfall, stream and pond I built next to the deck:

2008 – We decided to limit the fish to Fantail Goldfish and to keep the number to something under ten:


Cycle of Life – Paul Howard Manship

I share here two versions of the same beautiful sculpture – each with their own unique finish.  The Brookgreen Gardens version is a natural bronze whereas the Speed Art Museum example has a gold finish.  Both are gorgeous!  Paul Manship is one of my favorites.  The theme, particularly with the use of an armillary, is appealing to me!  My garden armillary pales by comparison.  🙂

Cycle of Life
Paul Howard Manship
Bronze, 1924
Brookgreen Gardens (Murrells Inlet, SC) & Speed Art Museum (Louisville, KY)