St. Patrick’s Shamrock


A view from the hilltop of Saint Patrick’s Church on the southeast side of the Green Ridge State Forest in the Appalachian Mountains. — Little Orleans, Maryland

On a hill overlooking Fifteen Mile Creek near the C&O Canal in Little Orleans, Maryland, sits historic Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church. Built in 1860 in a simple Gothic style with arches above the doors and windows, Saint Patrick’s is a quaint sight…with a twist. The stained glass window above the main entrance is the shape of a shamrock.


St. Patrick’s Catholic Church (Little Orleans, MD)

The construction of the C&O canal in the early to mid 1800s brought an influx of Irish immigrants to the area. In fact, the majority of the laborers, ranging from diggers to carpenters to stonemasons, were Irish. In 1860, the Irish built Saint Patrick’s as their house of worship, an effort that was supported by such individuals as Lady Elizabeth Stafford, a granddaughter of Charles Carroll—who, as you may know, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.


The church was named after St. Patrick, a missionary who brought Christianity to Ireland in 400 AD at a time when Ireland was known for its violence, raids on its neighbors, slave trading, and pagan worship. It is in honor of Patrick and his mission work in Ireland that St. Patrick’s Day was instituted.

The 1.5-acre tract of land on which St. Patrick’s stands was given to the Catholic Diocese of Baltimore in 1808 by local resident Leonard Bevons. A cemetery surrounds the church, with some of the gravestones predating it. The oldest grave is marked 1802. [1]


The graveyard at St. Patrick’s is a mixture of the modern day dearly departed, as well as the unmarked graves of Irish canal construction workers and their descendants. (Little Orleans, MD)

Some of today’s parishioners can trace their roots back to the original Irish laborers who worked on the C&O Canal and on the railroads in Western Maryland.


A weathered gravestone of a 19 year-old Irish immigrant.

The shamrock, a distinctly Irish symbol, on St. Patrick’s Church in Little Orleans serves as a reminder of the rich Irish heritage of the country church and surrounding community. Tradition has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock—a three leaf clover—to explain the doctrine of the trinity (that is, one God in three Persons). Although Patrick may have done this, such claims did not emerge until the 17th century. Nevertheless, as “the apostle to the Irish,” Patrick led thousands to Christ. In that, there is cause for celebration.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I bind unto myself the name,
the strong name of the Trinity
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in Three,
of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
salvation is of Christ the Lord!

— an excerpt from St. Patrick’s Breastplate [2]

[2] Whether simply ascribed to him or whether he actually wrote it, for centuries this prayer (usually sung as a hymn) has been associated with St. Patrick’s life and ministry.

Art & Nature Unite at The Umstead

The lovely Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, North Carolina, is an award-winning and picturesque retreat for both travelers and locals alike. This local, in fact, likes it very much.

Built on 12 acres in 2007 with a focus on art and nature, the Umstead is a 150-room hotel complete with a Signature Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond restaurant (Herons), a lounge, a newly renovated spa, 10,000 square-feet of meeting/event space, and an immeasurable amount of tranquility.

Following a spectacular Sunday Brunch at Herons yesterday after church, I took a walk through the hotel, which contains pieces of modern and minimalist artwork throughout. I then worked my way outside for a stroll around the lake (to meet my indulgence of warm donuts with spiced sugar and mascarpone head-on).


The entrance to the Umstead Spa features some of the hotel’s private collection of artwork, created by renowned local and national artists. Self-guided tours of the hotel’s many pieces, ranging from pottery to paintings to glass sculpture, are open to the public. (Cary, NC)


A mockingbird sits in a tree outside the Umstead Hotel and Spa. …I later learned—thanks to an educational placard a little further down the path—that the Northern Mockingbird is a “copycat bird.” It doesn’t have its own song, but rather sings the songs of other birds near it. (Cary, NC)


Canada Geese groom near one of the two water sprays on the Umstead Hotel and Spa’s lake. (Cary, NC)


In late winter, a paper bush adds color to the bird and butterfly meadow. (Imagine the meadow in spring and summer!) — The Umstead Hotel and Spa (Cary, NC)


The Umstead Hotel and Spa’s Cypress Swamp. Cypress swamps are common in the southern United States and may also include other shrubs and trees, not just cypress. (Cary, NC)


The trail around the lake offers opportunities for exercise, observation, and leisure. Padded wooden benches provide places to watch the sunning turtles or the flying, floating waterfowl. –Umstead Hotel and Spa (Cary, NC)

The Research Triangle region of North Carolina, (which includes the cities of Raleigh and Durham, as well as the towns of Cary and Chapel Hill), is home to several appealing inns. …The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. …The Carolina Inn. …The Fearrington House Inn. …And The Umstead Hotel and Spa.

Snow Pretty


February was an eventful month weather-wise for North Carolina. We had several bouts of snow and ice. Although those events were considered minor to folks from northerly parts of the country, it was enough to cause quite a stir—and brings things to a screeching halt—here in the south.

Perhaps I’m getting more cautious in my old age—and shaming my more northerly roots; but after seeing a Mini Cooper sliding straight at me on the ice recently, I opted to venture as few places as possible. I wasn’t a total bear in hibernation, though. I took some photos here and there—mostly around my house (such as the cardinal snow scene above) and in the Duke Gardens:


The century-old Roney Fountain in the Rose Garden


The Gothic pavilion in the Page-Rollins White Garden


Iris Bridge


Yellow finches and yellow-rumped warblers in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants


The Dawn Redwood, (planted as a seedling in 1949), in the Historic Gardens


A paperbush in the Memorial Garden


Culberson Asiatic Arboretum


Japanese apricot blossoms by the Arched Bridge in the Asiatic Arboretum

One of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson, wrote many timeless works about everyday life and nature, including one about snow that is brilliantly reflective of the charming elements of winter:

by Emily Dickinson

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil

On stump and stack and stem, —
The summer’s empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.

It ruffles wrists of posts,
As ankles of a queen, —
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.

A Blue Devil of a Pond

It’s been nearly two years since work began on a 5.5-acre pond on Duke University’s west campus in Durham, North Carolina. But it’s not just any pond—it’s a water reclamation pond designed to save 100 million gallons of potable water a year. The pond will collect rainwater and runoff from 22% of the Blue Devils’ main campus. Duke’s Chilled Water Plant, adjacent to the reclamation area, will use this water to cool the buildings on campus.

When I first read about this effort back in November 2013, completion seemed a long way off. Progress has been slow but steady. Recent estimates project completion by May 2015.

My excitement is mounting! In addition to its environmental benefits, such as water conservation, reduction of storm water run-off, as well as improved storm water quality, the 12-acre space will include a boardwalk, a pavilion, a nearly one-mile walking trail, and an amphitheater with lawn seating. Many of the trees originally cleared from the site were milled for use in building these structures.

Recent rainfall has filled the pond to a depth of nearly ten feet in some areas. To date, landscapers have installed 41,000 native plants—and counting! When completed, the green space will be home to 21 different types of shrubs, 40 species of herbaceous plants, and over 1,800 trees. Maples, redbuds, cedars, and magnolias will be among the 60 tree species planted. Altogether, the landscaping is designed to withstand both wet and dry conditions and blend into the existing Duke Forest.

Here’s a picture of the reclamation pond, taken on 15 February 2015:


Duke University’s water reclamation pond, on the corner of Circuit Drive and Towerview, is scheduled for completion in May 2015. When finished, it will include a pond that holds 6.7 million gallons of water, a walking trail, a boardwalk, a pavilion, and an amphitheater—all surrounded by native plants, trees and shrubs. (Durham, NC)

Check back later this spring, when I hope to have pictures of a completed and thriving natural showcase.

Sources for this post:
Construction To Begin on Reclamation Pond
Reclamation Pond Construction to Finish in May