• Thankfuls
    Hi River Roaders, I’ve always been an advocate of the Meister Eckhart quote, “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” This month I’ll share some things that made me thankful recently. I’m thankful for crab apple fruits that will nourish mockingbirds later this winter. I’m thankful for the grasses, … read more
  • Celebrating October!
    Hello River Roaders, This is the second edition of the new monthly Grounding blog. This month we’ll be celebrating the color and fruits of October. It was one of the warmest months of October on record, and it felt like a “second September.” Let’s take a look at October on our grounds. The many maple … read more
  • Breaking Ground (Take 2)
    Hi River Roaders, The first Grounding blog, “Breaking Ground,” was published in April 2020. The objective was to help River Roaders stay connected to our grounds while the building was shut down. Five hundred and sixty photos and about 70 blog posts later, I stopped publishing the weekly blog the week we re-started in-person worship … read more
  • Lunch Time for Pollinators!
    Hi River Roaders, The next couple of weeks are a peak time for observing pollinators in action on our grounds. The best time to observe them is when the sun is directly shining on the flowers you are looking at. The in-person services (starting Sunday) are a great time to take a pollinator walk on … read more
  • Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm
    Hi River Roaders, I don’t know about you, but the thunder and lightning on Tuesday night was some of the more intense I’ve experienced. Judging from erosion and drainage patterns, it was also one of the most intense rain events on our grounds in over two years. I have such respect for the power of … read more
  • Late Summer Blooms
    Hi River Roaders, I hope folks are getting excited about our return to in-person services. I know I am. When you return to RRUUC, I hope you can find time to take a walk around the grounds. This is a great time of year to find a nice spot near some flowers and just watch … read more
  • What’s New?
    Hi River Roaders, This week we’ll take a look at some of the new things you will see when we return to on-site Services (hopefully!) next month. We are being more visible and welcoming to the community. We trimmed the trees and removed many of the invasives between the lower parking area and Whittier Blvd. … read more
  • If you build it…
    Hi River Roaders, I remember walking on a reclaimed strip mine with my father many years ago (my dad worked on mine restoration), and he said that “if you provide the habitat, the creatures that belong in that habitat will find it”. That axiom is proving true on our grounds, as our on-going restoration is … read more
  • Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign
    Hi River Roaders, I came of age in the 70’s, and I remember the song by the Five Man Electrical Band that told the tale of a young man and signs. “Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign”. This week we finished a project to redo all of our outside signage, hopefully … read more
  • Summertime Blues
    Hi River Roaders, This week we’ll continue our flower retrospective, with a focus on the blue flowers on our grounds thru the seasons. Early spring brings the pleasant blooms of Glory of the Snow in our Peace Pole Garden. Soon to follow in mid-Spring our our Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica), a classic spring ephemeral. Late … read more
  • Mellow Yellow
    Hi River Roaders, This week we’ll take a retrospective of some images previously posted over the past 15 months that highlight some of our yellow flowers through the seasons. Out wonderful native Trout Lilies are pollinated by bees and a variety of beetles, and are one of our earliest blooms. Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) is … read more
  • Summer Blooms Part 2
    Hi River Roaders, This week we’ll continue last week’s theme of summer blooms, as lots of our summer flowers are approaching full bloom. The first goldenrod to bloom on our site is not surprisingly, Early Goldenrod (Solidago juncea). We have several Blackberry Lilies (Iris domestica) behind the sculpture in the Memorial Garden. Last spring we … read more
  • Summer Blooms
    Hi River Roaders, We’re getting close to the time when we can all be together on site. If you happen to show up this week, here are some of the blooms you will see. We have a wonderful stand of woodland sunflower (Helianthus divarcticus) in the bridge garden. This is a wonderful plant that is … read more
  • Mandala
    Hi River Roaders, A week or so ago, I ran into Jan, Diana, and Pauline as they were laying out the outline of a mandala in the gravel area behind the memorial garden. Building a mandala is a spiritual practice, originating in eastern religions, that is based on a circular pattern and symbols. Our mandala … read more
  • Wednesday Morning Five AM
    Hi River Roaders, Until our first choir practice last week, I didn’t have a need to visit RRUUC in the evening. I was very pleased with the look of the new lights on our front path, enough so that I got up this morning before five AM to take some early morning photos. I think … read more
  • Summertime
    Hi River Roaders, The summer solstice this year occurs at 11:31 PM on Sunday, June 20. However, from nature’s perspective, it has been summer for the past several weeks. I almost always see a rabbit on our grounds. They average 3 to 4 litters per year, so I guess we can expect more. We have … read more
  • Grounds Committee Projects: a Year in Review
    Hi River Roaders, This week’s blog is inspired from the Grounds Committee input for our 2020-2021 Annual Report. As a Committee, we made significant improvements to our grounds that I hope will make our return to RRUUC so much more enjoyable. Katherine, Kate, and Linda made improvements to the Peace Pole Garden, adding the stones, … read more
  • June!
    Hi River Roaders, It’s the first day of June, and summer is almost here. Let’s see what’s happening this week on our grounds. Our entrance sign with fleabane flowers. I will always associate our grounds with the shadbush (Amelanchier sp.) which once lined our Memorial Garden. They are known by many names, including serviceberry (in … read more
  • Brood X!
    Hi River Roaders, I expect we are all aware by now that the magnificent Brood X cicadas have arrived. This week will focus on these creatures, with some fun facts provided by Deb Peck and some photos from the last week on our Grounds. The Latin name of this cicada is Magicicada septendecim.  The fact that … read more
  • My Favorite Week, Part 2
    Hi River Roaders, We had beautiful weather this past week, and the birds and blooms were out in force. For many naturalists, myself included, mid-May is a favorite time of year. Every year we have several deer that spend a lot of time on our grounds. I guess this one will be easy to identify. … read more
  • My Favorite Week
    Hi River Roaders, This week is probably the best time for listening to (and sometimes seeing) migrating birds. I heard at least a dozen different wood warblers and neo-tropical migrants on our grounds today. I was able to identify some by their song, including black throated blue warber, ovenbird, and Swainson’s thrush, but others I … read more
  • Take A Walk in Springsview Garden
    Hi River Roaders, Last week, I ran into Helen and Marney taking a walk in our native plant garden. When I joined RRUUC twenty years ago, Helen and Marney were both very active in the Congregation. Helen asked what we were calling the newly restored garden, and my response was “we really don’t have a … read more
  • Join the Grounds Crew!
    Hi River Roaders, Spring is in full force! This week, the catbirds, house wrens, and chimney swifts (all birds that breed on our grounds) have returned. One way of connecting with nature is to join the RRUUC Grounds Crew. We have been gathering in a socially distancing way every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 10 … read more
  • Green!
    Hi River Roaders, We’ve been lucky to have some rain over the last two weeks, and it it’s really showing up in our plantings. Here are some images from this past week. Sedges and rushes along our springs. We have a wonderful variety of sedges on our property. Maroon flowers from our paw paw (Asimina … read more
  • Peak Spring
    Hi River Roaders, I think of the time between mid-April and mid-May as “Peak Spring” here in the Mid-Atlantic. Warbler migration is at it’s peak, and the number of wildflowers increases until the growing tree cover shades them out. Here are some images from the past week on our grounds. If you take a walk … read more
  • Happy Anniversary!
    Hi River Roaders, This is the one year anniversary of this blog, created to help members and friends stay connected to our spiritual home during the pandemic. We’re starting to see some limited socially-distanced activity return to our grounds, with an Easter Egg hunt last Saturday, regular Grounds Committee work sessions every Tuesday and Thursday … read more
  • Bluebell Time
    Hi River Roaders, There is a magical time of spring here in the Mid-Atlantic that I call “Bluebell Time”. If you live close to a floodplain like the area around the C&O Canal, you should be able to see Virginia bluebells (Mertensia Virginica) in bloom for the next couple of weeks. We are lucky to … read more
  • Questions
    Hi River Roaders, This week we’ll ask some questions driven by what’s going on with our grounds this week. Don’t worry, some questions never have answers— “to question, is the answer.” The entrance by the office. What is new? What is missing? Daffodils in the memorial garden. What is the story behind the statue? Bluebells … read more
  • Spring Color
    Spring equinox occurs on Saturday, March 20, at 5:37 AM. As Reverend Amanda described last Sunday, the equinox is when the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world. It feels that spring this year is behind recent years. One way of gauging spring in our area is the … read more
  • Crocus
    Hi River Roaders, After a cold February, we finally have a warm up. It’s good to have some normal winter weather! Let’s take a look at some of the flowers that popped up this past week. A lone white crocus in the bridge garden. A pair of yellow crocus in the roots of the Beech … read more
  • Looking Back, Looking Forward
    Hi River Roaders, It’s been a year. A whole long, lonely, lengthy year since we had our last “in person” Sunday service on March 5, 2020. The March 12 eWeekly said that we were suspending in person services until April 1st… In discussions with Sheri, we thought it would be good to help folks stay … read more
  • Spring Cleaning
    Hi River Roaders, Even with the snow and ice, we are inexorably making the transition to spring. This week we’ll share a variety of images, some frozen, some thoughtful, and some laying out opportunities for spring cleaning on our grounds. Our first spring flower outside the Fiatfalva Room! The Memorial Stone covered in ice. I … read more
  • Mid-February Walk
    Hi River Roaders, One of the great things about taking a walk is that you can have multiple levels of focus- the entire horizon, the next hill, a grove of trees, a single shrub, or a single flower or stone. February is a good time of year to slow down and look for beauty at … read more
  • February Flowers
    There is rain, sleet, and snow in the forecast this week. Let’s go to a warmer time and place. An Asian variety of crab apple in our rear woodland. These should be blooming again in a month or so. Black-eyed susans in the Memorial Garden. Crepe myrtle in August. A bee favorite. A variety of … read more
  • Snow!
    Hi River Roaders, It was quieter than normal at RRUUC earlier this week, allowing me to soak in the sights, sounds, and impacts from the falling sleet and snow. Sign on Whittier. Looking into the sun. Reflections on the spring in our Native Plant Garden. Our bell tower. The warmth of our springs. Winter Jasmine … read more
  • Just Hanging Out
    Hi River Roaders, Those of you who are still stopping by RRUUC know that it’s not unusual to see my silver Subaru parked in the back. Maybe I’m working, maybe I’m sitting on one of the benches, just hanging out. That’s what I was doing last Thursday, around 5pm. I was sitting on the memorial … read more
  • Geology: What Lies Beneath RRUUC?
    Hi River Roaders, This week we’ll take a deep dive into the rocks that are underneath our grounds. This blog was developed by Andrea Mangum, who also collaborated on the “Springs!” blog last year. It’s a great example of the “detective” work that is practiced by geologists. RRUUC (and virtually all of Montgomery County) is … read more
  • Early Winter Walk
    Hi River Roaders, I was worrying how I was going to maintain a weekly blog through the winter months, but today’s walk though our grounds allowed me to appreciate the views you can only get in winter. I hope you enjoy. Spent flowers from our native Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana. Ajuga in moss by the … read more
  • Planning Your Native Plant Garden
    Hi River Roaders, Following my blog three weeks ago on “Nature’s Best Hope,” a couple folks reached out to get advice on what natives they should plant. In this blog I share resources you can use to plan your native plant garden. The resources allow you to select plants that are native to our specific … read more
  • Winter Solstice
    Winter Solstice this year occurred at 5:02am on December 21. It is the instant in time when the North Pole is furthest from the sun. In our area, the sun was above the horizon for 9 and 1/2 hours. Our building is a kind of Stonehenge, where you can tell the time of year by … read more
  • Nature’s Best Hope
    Hi River Roaders, Every now and then I read a book that sparks an “a-ha” moment that explains something I have always wondered about or that ties things together. In this week’s blog, I provide a mini-book report on just such a book (really two books) that helped me better understand the interdependent web of … read more
  • Springs!
    Hi River Roaders, This week’s blog is a collaboration with Andrea Mangum, a scientist with a geology/hydrology background. Andrea has spent a lot of time over the past year on invasive plant removal and native plantings in our native plant garden area. At the heart of RRUUC’s conservation area, natural springs flow year-round; providing life-giving … read more
  • Late Afternoon: Early December
    Hi River Roaders, Most of the photos I’ve taken for this blog over the year were taken in early or mid-morning. This week for a change of pace I went around 3:00 on a sunny afternoon to experience the low-angle light from the west. Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) is probably the most common shrub in front … read more
  • Thankfuls
    A tradition/ritual in our family is to share “thankfuls” when we sit down to eat dinner together. They can vary from something special that happened that day or a more general statement. A default for our boys is to say that they are thankful for Stormy, our dog. This week I’m sharing thankfuls from the … read more
  • Get ‘Em While They’re Green
    Hi River Roaders, A change of pace this week, focusing on some non-native invasive plants on our grounds (and throughout the DC area) that are clearly visible right now. The next several weeks are the best time to identify and remove these plants, as most remain green longer than our native vegetation, allowing a gardener … read more
  • Saturday Morning, November 7
    The morning of November 7 was glorious, with a clear blue sky and leaves at their peak fall glory. The morning was full of optimism and anticipation of even brighter days ahead. I was lucky to be at RRUUC then and to be able to share these images. Our new path. Tower and American beech. … read more
  • Breathe
    Hi River Roaders, Today, Wednesday November 4 is a beautiful, sunny day. I’m going to take walk, find a nice place to sit among the leaves, and breathe in the fall air. Sitting near our Memorial Garden fountain, listening to its patter, is soothing. The seeds from the many White Snake root on our grounds … read more
  • Fog
    Hi River Roaders, Earlier this week there were several foggy mornings that transitioned to brilliant sunshine in the afternoon. Nature is like that…. Our new path. Spiderwebs on juniper. Our paw paw grove. The memorial stone. Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in bloom! Spice bush leaves in a pool in the first spring. The exit driveway. … read more
  • The Peace of Wild Things
    I first heard Wendell Berry’s poem, The Peace of Wild Things, performed by the River Road Choir. It has special meaning for me in today’s chaotic times. …I come into the peace of wild thingswho do not tax their lives with forethought of grief… This week we’ll look back on some of the wild things … read more
  • Pre-Peak
    Hi River Roaders, We’re a week or two away from peak fall foliage in Montgomery County, but there are a number of trees/vines that are already turning, and they stand out among the green. Can you feel the change in the wind? The deep crimson of our native Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) stands our along … read more
  • October Surprise
    Hi River Roaders, Every month our grounds provides surprises and wonders. Here are some October surprises. I was surprised this year to find several blooming Obedient plants (Physostegia virginiana) in our rear grounds. I expect they came in with some other transplants and did well because it was so wet this year. I was very … read more
  • Seeds of Renewal
    Hi River Roaders, Every seed can provide the possibility of renewal. Seeds come in different shapes, sizes, textures, tastes, and colors. Let’s look at a variety of seeds on our grounds that are coming into their prime this week. The Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is one of our deciduous holly trees that likes the damp areas … read more
  • Fall!
    Hi River Roaders, Fall officially started today (September 22) at 9:31 AM. August was really hot and wet, but this week has been glorious. Many of our native plants put on their most spectacular show in the fall, and this week we’ll look at plants currently blooming on RRUUC grounds. Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) is the … read more
  • Native Plants for Restoration, Meditation, and Education
    Thea here, taking over the blog for the week to sum up my Girl Scout Gold Award project which I called “Native Plants for Restoration, Meditation, and Education. ” The Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting and is comparable to, if not more rigorous than, the Boy Scout Eagle Award. It requires … read more
  • That’s Interesting
    Hi River Roaders, This week I’d like to share some recent images that I just found interesting. One of our trails is lined with art works created by our children. Last week I found a fresh walnut by the art. They are typically eaten by squirrels within a day of falling. Common evening primrose (Oenothera … read more
  • Pathways
    As we start a new Congregational year, I expect we will each need to find pathways to growing together in community, spirit, and service. Some may be familiar. Some may be new. Some take the long way. Some may sustain. Some may be unfamiliar. Some may be lined with flowers. Some allow you to time … read more
  • Inside Out
    Our award-winning building “brings the outside inside”. It will be great when we can return and be together. Waiting… Outside looking inside looking outside… For Jerry. Memorial Garden from the bridge. View from a classroom in the new wing. View from the Fiatfalva Room. Deb Peck planted the Ostrich ferns on the Fireside Patio earlier … read more
  • Summer Spectrum
    Hi River Roaders, This last week has seen both heavy rain as well as brilliant sun. This combination has intensified the flowers, fruits, and fungi on our grounds. If you look carefully, you can see the full spectrum of color on our grounds. RED. This has been a great year for our Cardinal flowers (Lobelia … read more
  • Dog Days
    Hi River Roaders, The Dog Days of August are the hottest, most humid days of summer, when Sirius, the Dog Star, is bright in the night sky. It’s a great time to sit in the shade and experience summer with all your senses. My favorite place to sit is the large stone behind the Memorial … read more
  • Butterflies!
    Earlier this spring Deb Peck and I were working on the grounds and I showed her a photo of an unknown butterfly that I had taken earlier in the day. She quickly identified it as a Mourning Cloak. I asked Deb to “take over” this week’s blog and provide descriptions of the butterflies that I … read more
  • A Sense of Wonder
    Hi River Roaders, The journey to becoming an appreciator and protector of our natural world is often enabled by experiences where one discovers the “wonders of nature”. This week, I’m sharing some wonders I’ve discovered on RRUUC grounds this past week. Enjoy, and come visit our grounds! Last year Thea and her mom planted a … read more
  • Fun with Fungi
    Hi River Roaders, This week, I’m taking over this blog for my dad. For those who don’t know me, I am Andrew Saliunas, a rising Junior at Saint Mary’s College in MD.  While I am by no means a fungi expert, I find them fascinating and wanted to share with you all some of the … read more
  • Ferns
    Hi River Roaders, Along with our mature trees, our ferns are another defining characteristic of our grounds. They add an element of texture at the ground level, framing blooming plants as well as being notable in their own right. As far as I can tell, we have nine species of native ferns. This week, we’ll … read more
  • Roots Hold Me Close
    Our tree canopy is defining characteristic of River Road grounds. Our trees give us shade; feed animals, birds, and insects; absorb our storm water, absorb CO2, and help make our grounds a special place. This week we’ll look at some of our most common trees. We have many American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) trees, including this … read more
  • Pollinator Magnets
    Hi River Roaders, I was recently browsing a native plant nursery website and they described a plant as a “pollinator magnet”. A number of our best pollinator magnets are just starting to come into bloom. We’ll share better views later this summer, but here are some early looks. We have common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) at … read more
  • Summertime
    Hi River Roaders, I started this blog in late March with the objective of sharing the sights and stories of spring unfolding on River Road grounds. With the continued shutdown of our building, I hope to continue the blog with the same objective of sparking a sense of wonder and connection with our spiritual home. … read more
  • Morning Has Broken
    At our June 7 music service, Linda led us singing one of my favorite songs. Morning on our grounds can be a special time, with breaking sunlight casting shadows that late sleepers will not be able to appreciate. Here are some early morning images from the past week. Our tower from the fireside patio. Cardinal … read more
  • Green Sanctuary – Restoring Our Grounds
    At this week’s Annual Meeting, we will be voting to commit to pursue the goal of re-accreditation of our Green Sanctuary status. One of the goals is to “return RRUUC grounds to native plants and wildflowers”. This week’s blog tells the story of how we are making progress toward that goal. The Grounds Committee is … read more
  • Flower Communion
    Our Flower Communion ceremony celebrates beauty, human uniqueness, diversity, and community. This week I’ll share some of the flowers recently in bloom on our grounds. Large and small; outrageous and discrete; pink, orange, purple, and white. Living in an interdependent web with our local bees, beetles, butterflies and other insects with an objective of continuing … read more
  • A Closer Look
    Hi River Roaders, You can appreciate nature at all scales – the stars, the sky, a watershed, a mountain, a pretty scene, a deer, a bird, a flower, and insect, and more. This week we’ll get down in the dirt to take a closer look at some of the smaller wonders on our grounds. Moss … read more
  • Wings Set Me Free
    Hi River Roaders, A change of pace this week with a focus on the birds that frequent our grounds. The pools formed by our springs are a real attraction, especially during the warmer weather. There is a new bench on a trail where you can sit and watch the birds taking baths. It’s not unusual … read more
  • May Flowers
    Hi River Roaders, Well you knew this one was coming after my “April Showers” post two weeks ago.  After several weeks of wetter and colder than normal weather, it looks like things are going to warm up. Here are some of the flowers, shrubs and trees that have bloomed recently. Virginia spiderwork (Tradescantia virginiana) in … read more
  • In a New Light
    Hi River Roaders, Monday this week was a singularly spectacular day. It started with rain early in the morning, and then was partly cloudy with a deep blue sky and brilliant sun. The alternating sun and shadow enabled me to see our grounds in a new light. Patterns of light and sun on the grounds … read more
  • April Showers
    Hi River Roaders, There is something special about the saturated greens and shadow-less light of a drizzly April day that draws my attention to the textures of the plants around me.  Our new front pathway is almost done.  All that is remaining is a short stone pathway to connect to Whittier, adding edging on the … read more
  • Earth Day
    Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and my thoughts go to our seventh principal: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are part. Our focus on use of native plantings on RRUUC grounds will allow us to model this web. The native plants will attract and feed our native … read more
  • Peak Spring
    Hi River Roaders, Spring is in full glory, with ephemeral wildflowers still in bloom, woodland shrubs starting to flower, and bird migration hitting a peak. The sights, sounds, and smells of spring on the River Road grounds can be joyous both in the moment and when viewed as memories.  Joe
  • Breaking Ground
    Hi River Roaders, This is the first in a new blog series called “Grounding”.  I hope to share the sights and stories of spring unfolding on River Road grounds with the goal of sparking a sense of wonder and connection to our spiritual home.   I hope you enjoy. Joe