A Thing of Beauty: The Blossoming Jade Vine

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

— Wm. Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

TO HIM who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware.

— William Cullen Bryant, Thanatopsis


Fully as beautiful, and unexpected, as mercy itself.

QUITE possibly, on temporary loan from the Heavens.

Side view of the Cottage, year before last

The flowering vine is as capricious as it is promiscuous in its beauty. Last year it chose one site to flower, directly over the coral chamber.  (Admittedly not a bad choice, at all, if its goal were to achieve maximum dramatic effect without all that trouble of taking shape, blooming, going back to nature, and so forth.)

Jade Vine over Coral Rock.

THIS year it’s going wild in the Mission backyard, meaning that our guests will have
to share the beauty.

Backyard, Mission.

This hurting world needs all the beauty it can find, to feel its light, healing touch.  These glorious blossoms, ever so fleeting and now in their full hour of glory, are for you.

Thank you.


A Beautiful Winter Afternoon, Impression.


Tuesday afternoon.  Florida’s brief winter days are a quiet glory.

IF I know of a single blessing, it is surely the Earth’s ancient, fragile and sustaining beauty.  All we need do is to seek it out and pay attention, and we are welcomed without condition to its great and good table.

Where al fresco remains fresh, daily.

HAVE you ever seen a jade vine plant in bloom? You might not believe your eyes.

But there it is!

Jade Vine (native to the Phillipines) in annual bloom, today.

AGAINST that promising backdrop of golden sunshine and blue sky, let’s throw in to the mix a one-of-a-kind, fanciful old Spanish house, just for good measure.  It’s awfully nice to have a comfortable place to lay one’s head down, to dream.  And to wake up in, to dream.

THEN, just because we can, let’s further fold in a little of Alan’s magic.  Wait. There’s a horse… up there!

Well, of course there is. 

Horses should fly, or at least so Humankind has dreamt for thousands of years.  Until such time as those fine creatures can take wing, brightening the day with their whimsy and illuminating gently the night, Alan has created this… vision.

WELCOME to the Mission.  We have dreamed for some time of your arrival here.  We have dreamed that you will come, for all kinds of reasons and from all over the world.  And you have.

Thank God, you have!

Thank you.

Alan chatting with our boy, Hoppers.


Wishing You All Good Things.



Magic Never Sleeps.

Backyard of Mission, Twilight.

Our imaginary staff of thousands works heroically, night and day, to provide any and all necessary magic in our small green slice of Miami, and then some. Alan’s particular genius (or one of them) is in landscape lighting, and his pursuit of beauty in that arena is unceasing and unparalleled. In this role of lightbearer he is most definitely in hot pursuit of his own artistic quest, and follows no map. Yet he somehow always manages to bring back with him yet another jewel of a star back down to this Earth, and the night seems glad for it. Another light in the darkness, and in yet another color of some greater rainbow.

Alan in his Christmas best.

In this role of lightbearer he is most definitely in hot pursuit of his own artistic quest, and follows no map. Yet he somehow always manages to bring back with him yet another jewel of a star back down to this troubled Earth, and the night seems glad for it. Only another small light in the darkness near the heart of this sprawling city, perhaps, one more unlikely drop of rich color from some greater rainbow.

But if that small light brings even a moment of delight to some weary traveler, or looks just right to a child far away from home who needs a little magic to hold on to, then it has well served its purpose.

Sometimes, a little light can make all the difference. Consider this hunk of stone that decorates the foot of the entry garden, just inside the Gate. A friend with a sharp eye who lives in the historic Bayshore Section of Miami (NE Miami, along the Biscayne corridor) chanced upon it and salvaged the piece from a jetty on to which it had been unceremoniously thrust decades ago:

It turns out to be an architectural rarity in a place with scant regard for its own history: the remains of a City park bench most likely enjoyed in the 1910’s, bearing the original municipal logo. Not until darkness falls does it really reveal itself:

God knows, we all need the right lighting, sometimes…

The lighting and its focus are constantly changing, for that is Alan’s nature, and it is probably wise to avoid attachment to any particular configuration. That lesson does not come easily for me. Yet what I’ve learned time and again, is that “this is only the best it has been, so far.” There is an inherent excitement to the new, and it always get richer, more fantastical, and, in some cases, simpler. Yet your breath may be taken away, and more than once.

Garden Gate, side.

They are constantly changing, for that is Alan’s artistic nature. But they always get richer, and more fantastical, and, in some cases, more simple. Yet your breath may be taken away, and more than once.

Outside (above), and in.

At least, we hope so.

Inside Front Gate, Well Past Bedtime.
Sweet dreams.
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A Prayer for the “Stranger Within Our Gates.”

By day…

Returning from a family vacation a couple of summers back in Colorado, my brother Whitney and I drove into Boulder, returned the rental car, etc., and checked into the Holiday Inn there near the airport. The staff was friendly and the place nice enough, but the one thing I will always remember about the stay was finding a poem in our room. And not only finding it there, printed on a laminated card, but really being moved by it. I don’t know which caught me more by surprise, but there it was.

Its message surprised and delighted me, and somehow touched me. In today’s America especially travel often seems inherently a “tensing” thing, and I found myself melting just a little. For the last couple of weeks the Prayer/ Poem has kept popping back into my mind, and refusing to let go. So I finally sat down yesterday and Googled it, and first found it quoted in a web site by “Jenne Ink,” a talented and spirited writer journaling online about her experience of cancer. She had come across the message at the Courtyard Inn in Oklahoma City
( jenneink.blogs.com/jennethink/2007/07/stranger-within.html ).

In skimming only the first few other postings I saw that any number of travelers had also encountered the Prayer in all kinds of hotels across the Country (one in Williamsburg, Kentucky at the Cumberland Inn, another the Embassy Suites in St. Charles, Missouri (near St. Louis), etc., etc.) and thought enough of it to post their experiences. It had been the subject of discussion on one forum of the Great Western Hotel chain. The prayer and its message also showed up on web sites for alternative lodgings, been adapted as well for churches, etc.

So quite obviously it hadn’t been just me; here was a message with a power of its own, that all kinds of people in all kinds of places were thirsty to receive. Now seems the time.

And so I share it here, its wonderfully simple language changed only a bit. (I must say, I love it that both of our properties share a common Garden Gate, so the prayer seems a propos in a particular and special way.)

In ancient times there was a prayer for “The Stranger within our gates.”

You are here because you have accepted our invitation to hospitality, and we are grateful and glad. Hosts among the Inuit people, sometimes called the Eskimo, customarily greet their guests with this heartfelt acknowledgment: “You bless our Home with your presence.” May you experience peace, rest, and a promise of refreshment while you are here.

May this humble home and its gardens be your “second” home. May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be comfortable and happy as if you were in your own house. Or even happier, and happier still to return at last to your own bed.

May the business that brought you our way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy. When you leave, may your journey be safe.

We are all travelers. From “birth till death” we travel between the eternities. May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those who know and love you best.

and by night.