February’s Open Write with Stacey Joy

Stacey Joy never fails to bring joyful and inspiring poetry prompts.  Her free verse is a perfect way to begin this month’s Open Write.  You can read it here on EthicalEla.com, and join us in writing today. The blackbirds are such beautiful symbols of the flight to freedom in the story, and on this weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count when so many are counting birds, I’ll reflect back on this story and her poem and be reminded that freedom as people and as a nation is a blessing that took blood, sweat, and tears – and lives – to have and hold.  She inspired me to choose an etheree to write about one of my favorites, also with a theme of freedom – The Legend of the Teddy Bear by Frank Murphy.  

They Called Him Teddy

When Roosevelt let a wild bear go free,

The Washington Post ran a cartoon.

Rose and Morris Michtom took note.

In their candy store, she sewed~

Commemorating choice~

Celebrating strength~

Their idea: our

Nation’s first



The Serendipitous Steering Currents of Spirituality

My dad, a pastor, frequently travels back to former churches to officiate at weddings or funerals or to serve as a guest speaker. Sometimes in our early morning conversations, he shares updates about people and happenings along his always-interesting encounters. Recently, we got on the topic of the serendipitous steering currents of spirituality – – those seemingly innocent coincidental moments when you realize that divine intervention has put you exactly in the right place at the right time, where long-awaited answers or answers to questions you never asked come when you least expect them.

Throughout his career, Dad collaborated with his own preacher father on a number of sermons, including one about Joseph of Arimathea. He’s recently been going through his files, deciding which hard copies to keep and which to let go. He’d set this one aside, pondering all its possibilities.

Later that same week, he’d returned to a former church for a funeral when a member asked if he remembered that particular sermon on Joseph of Arimathea he’d preached two decades earlier.

“Yes, Charles, ” he answered, “I do remember that sermon. I’ve preached it probably ten times in my career, and it’s interesting you’re mentioning it – I’ve had it on my mind lately to become part of a series I’ll be preaching in the coming weeks.”

Charles paused briefly, then shared, “It changed my life.”

The serendipitous steering currents of spirituality come when we least expect them, whether we’ve searched the clouds looking for answers to burning questions in words written like skywriting from airplanes or whether we never even got as far as asking the question and felt only the gentle nudge that caused us to set aside an idea to return to it later.

And no matter how they establish their presence, we recognize these divine connections and welcome them as guiding lights along the path.

On Brownies and Goblins by Dr. W. Felix Haynes, Jr.

Today’s guest blogger is my father, Reverend Dr. Wilson Felix Haynes, Jr.


I did not know anything about Brownies and Goblins until I ”stumbled” into a 1915 grade school textbook entitled The Brownies and the Goblins by N.M. Bantlay. To add enhancement to my early education, I did a quick read-scan of the well-illustrated volume, beautifully crafted. I came to understand their profile.

Brownies, or Hobgoblins, evolved in Scottish lore. They are fabled household spirits who are domestically inclined. They come out at night while households sleep and do beneficial tasks. These welcome visitors oversee needed chores, deplore slovenly work, prod the lazy, and are experts in hiding. Brownies are mostly male and appear in a characteristic form as little thick people. Scottish homes left cookies and cream to assuage their temperamental nature. Handle them with care!

The Brownies’ reputation for good work and a merry spirit made them good examples in children’s textbooks. They found their way into cartoons and advertising posters as “salesmen.” Brownies created a fortune in products, including Eastman’s Brownie camera. They go fishing, horseback riding, and travel the world. Brownies have had a hey-day in products. On posters they accompany soft drinks, cookies, coffee and soap. Any item that has a Brownie connection is a jewel.

The opening page grabs the reader of the children’s text:

Good morning to you, dear friends!
We think it very fine
To see your faces beaming
Like the merry, bright sunshine.

Your hearts are beds of roses,
That breathe their sweet perfume;
And brownie folk all love you
With a love as sweet as June.

I advocate for their return and am leaving a bowl of milk and cooking beside my fireplace. I need their prod, blessing, and spirit.

Check out Pinterest for some great ideas on building elf doors and fairy gardens in your own yard or in a public space that invites others to add to the creative magic!

Valentine’s Day with The One and Only Kona

Today’s guest blogger is my dad, Reverend Dr. Felix Haynes, Jr., sharing the story of his best Valentine’s Day gift – and his deep love and gratitude for his best girl!


Dad with Kona on her first birthday in the dog park

Two key words on Valentine’s Day are BE MINE. Kona has officially been mine now for two loving years!

I celebrate her surprise appearance into my life on that Sunday afternoon of Valentine’s Day 2021 when my children conspired and collaborated on this life-changing rescue. Kim rescued an 8-month old Schnoodle from Tallahassee, Florida and drove her to Tifton, Georgia. There, she met her brother Ken, who drove the last leg of the journey to my home on St. Simon’s Island.

Ken Facetimed his sister as he disclosed the terms of the deal for me.

“Dad, Kim rescued this dog, and you have 48 hours to decide on whether you want to keep her. No pressure. We had you in mind, but Kim fell in love with this sweet puppy, and I did too.”

Within thirty minutes, I knew she was mine! Kona remains the love of my life! She is the best gift ever and the best definition of true Valentine love! I couldn’t let the day go by without celebrating my cherished girl – Kona! My Valentine!

Within a few days, she had already put me on a strict routine. She makes sure I get a walk to the pier and village area every morning at 5 a.m. She licks my face and breaks into the full body wag, her nub of a tail a language of joy all its own.

Time to Go!

I grab our gear and leash. She’s more excited than a kid on Christmas morning as we step out into the fresh morning air – – a beautiful start to every day for both of us. She eagerly greets a couple of other wee hour canines and their walkers as we make our way toward sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.

When we return, she leads me to the kitchen to fix our breakfast, still vigorously wagging her tail. I move to the easy chair with my coffee, and she cozies up beside me, snug and warm, bringing complete peace and love into my heart and home. 

She takes me on rides in the car, mid-day walks, and quick trips to the grocery store, where she accompanies me inside on the leash and sets an example for me to behave as well as she does. Cashiers and customers alike know Kona and shower her with attention and praise as we make our way down the aisles shopping for each item on her grocery list.

She brings me home to rest in between our outings. We recharge our batteries and sit a spell as she climbs into her very own chair – – the one covered with the big beach towel. She knows when I feel tired or stressed and cuddles up to say, “It’s Ok.” 

My Valentine is the queen of the dog park family. I take her there each afternoon, and every occasion is one big family reunion. We meet people from all over the country who fall more deeply in love with St. Simons Island because of the dog park. Glynn County acknowledges that the Mallery Street Dog Park has been the number one amenity they have provided through the Recreation Department (pickleball courts are a close second, but even pickleball can’t compete with dogs).  Kona and her buddy Seamus, a pug, are two of the most present magnets of this fun loving community.

Dog Park Family

Kona knows when I dress up (by which shoes I put on) that she is not going with me on the occasion. She asks with her inquisitive eyes, “Why can’t dogs go to church?”

Her intuition is astounding. When I see Ken arriving and announce, “Kasa is coming,” Kona runs to the door to welcome her cousin canine! Any time I return home, she hears the distinctive sound of the car door and waits by the door to welcome me back.

I cannot even begin to enumerate the moments of love that Kona provides. She is simply the best Valentine’s Day gift ever. I can surely say how much I love my children( their mother raised them so well), but I love them a thousand times more for the gift of Kona.

Let’s Get Deep

In the early fall when I was sipping my coffee and gazing out at Lake Juliette from my camper window on a Saturday morning, I got a call from my brother.

“I went on a blind date, and I like her a lot,” he told me.

I knew when he was ready to talk about her so soon after the first date that something was different – he’s never done that before. He’d sworn he was going to throw himself into his work as a real estate agent and enjoy the life of a single man, but he’s an attractive guy – as much as any brother can be – and when friends of friends start talking and matchmaking, a strange sort of magical chemistry happens. Friends see in their single friends a compatibility factor between two yet unintroduced soul mates. A seed is planted, and love blooms.

I was also surprised – though I shouldn’t have been – that he’d ordered a game as a Christmas conversation starter that has become a relationship-strengthening part of their courtship.

According to my brother, you can play the game Let’s Get Deep different ways, but they choose times to draw cards and take turns answering three levels of questions – from icebreaker, deep, and deeper categories.

“I’d recommend this game for any couple progressing to a more serious phase of a relationship. It gives you a chance to gain valuable insights into the shared values and dreams – and yes, it gets deep,” he told me. “In fact,” he offered, “I can also see how couples who have been together for a long time and seem happy should perhaps avoid this game. It has the potential to shake things up, but it also helps clarify how close or far apart you stand on issues.”

That, he explains, is why they keep holding their breath, holding hands, and taking turns drawing cards.

I’m pretty sure an ever-deepening love is in the cards for them, and on this Valentine’s Day, that’s worth celebrating! This adorable couple will make another blog appearance in March with a big announcement about their tastes. Stay tuned!

Gratitude for Felix on his Birthday

The key to loving how you live is in knowing what it is you truly love. – Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

Today is my dad’s birthday. He’s a classic!


Forever a collector~
Eloquent officiant
Lover of books
Incurable love of dogs
Xenial pastor

Dad’s Valentine/Birthday dog he rescued a couple of years ago, a Schnoodle named Kona, has brought a whole new realm of friendships through the local dog park, which he visits more than once each day to let Kona play and to chat about life with other dog owners. He held a birthday party for her there last year (complete with dog treats and ice cream) and in a characteristic Dr. Dolittle move, blessed all the animals – including a parrot who showed up for the party and sat on the fence. This past week, he officiated at a dog park memorial for the unofficial mayor of the dog park and made the paper. Here he is, in true Felix fashion, officiating:

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Preparing for This Weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count kicks off this weekend (February 17-20), and I’ll be counting the birds that come to visit the Johnson Funny Farm in Williamson, Georgia – partly because I love birds, but partly too in memory of my mother, Miriam Haynes, who adored them and worked hard to establish a nature-loving legacy that she would be proud to know lives on in ways that continue to make a difference.

Here is everything you need to know to prepare and to participate this weekend. I’d love to invite you to participate and to share your findings and photos on your blog post next week. It takes as little as 15 minutes to observe and only a few minutes to report.

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) started in 1998 when the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society collaborated to create the first online citizen-science project. In 2009, Birds Canada joined forces to expand the geographic data collection points. Its goal is to encourage people from all over the world to spend time watching and counting as many birds as they can, and then reporting their observations – which helps scientists better understand global bird populations and their migratory patterns.

To take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, you can visit this link to learn more – but to make it quicker and easier, I’ve pasted this information from the link:

Step 1: Decide where you will watch birds.

Step 2: Watch birds for 15 minutes or more, at least once over the four days, February 17-20, 2023.

Step 3: Identify all the birds you see or hear within your planned time/location and use the best tool for sharing your bird sightings.

How to Share Your Observations:

  • If you are a beginning bird admirer and new to bird identification, try using the Merlin Bird ID app to share what birds you are seeing or hearing.
  • If you have participated in the count before and want to record numbers of birds, try the eBird Mobile app or enter your bird list on the eBird website (desktop/laptop).

Here’s a link about the Great Backyard Bird Count from a former edition of Georgia Magazine.

We have two Great Horned Owls that I hope will make an appearance – or at least be heard – during the GBBC Weekend! Listen closely and you can hear them exchanging their innermost thoughts.
Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers at Slice of Life

Savoring Saturdays: 1828 Coffee Company on the Zebulon Square

Think of the world which you carry within yourself…pay attention to what arises within you.  – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

We recently spent another Saturday savoring the morning hours with coffee and conversation in Zebulon, Georgia on our town square. We love the atmosphere of our small town coffee shop, restored from a historic building to the place we love and enjoy today by Dr. Dan Dunnahoo. You can read his story here. Dunnahoo, a retired Pike County art teacher known affectionately as “Dr. Dan” by locals, named the coffee shop 1828 Coffee Company because it was built in 1828 by Samuel Mitchell and still has the same wood floors that creaked under folks’ boots all those years ago, every plank restored and returned to its original position in the floor.

You can step back in time and order a cup of Zebulon Pike or any of their unique blends of coffee or tea and a cinnamon roll, then sit back and wonder about the history of this place and your own indelible time stamp on it, the dust of your own shoes settling somewhere beneath your feet between a crevice in the wood on the very dust brought in by those who used it as a trading post when it was first built. You can also wonder about those who later became proud first-ever owners of automobiles within its walls when it was a car dealership, and all the romance that bloomed here when it was an ice cream shop and young men brought their sweethearts here to share a date night treat – many of whom no doubt brought their own children back years later when it was a restaurant or an office.

Today, you can find a book in one of three Little Free Libraries here in this coffee house, hear live entertainment, or listen to students reciting poetry or performing a dramatic reading. Dr. Dan and his son-in-law Bryan open their doors to welcome a variety of events that shape the culture of this small town.

Next time you’re traveling through Zebulon, Georgia, be sure to stop in and say hello. Order coffee upstairs, admire the art, and then stroll downstairs where you can play a board game or sit outdoors on the brick patio and enjoy the sights of the town. If you happen to see a middle-aged woman huddled in a corner savoring coffee, reading, or writing, come introduce yourself – – it may be me!

Botanical Candlelight Nonet

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” -William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

botanical candlelights dancing
flickering in moonlit darkness
memories of summer walks
with my daughters, picking
flowers, pressing them 
between pages 
of stories: 

Nonet Poetry

Gratitude for Sunrise Views

Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything speaks to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish it. – Anne De Lenclos from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

February sunrise on the Johnson Funny Farm

In the gamut of all we inherit from our parents, I’m eternally grateful that my DNA carries the early rising gene. No one ever needed to take me in to have me tested for the marker – I’m positive for wee hour waking so predictably that I rarely need to set an alarm.

Sunrise in late fall

My favorite part of the day is early writing with coffee, before I make a peanut butter milkshake to begin the day and head off to work. Years ago, when I lived just over the bridge from Hilton Head Island on the mainland, the view from the top of the bridge at sunrise – boats on the water parting the smooth glass surface – was there for all my admiring on my commute to school. As beautiful as it was – still is – I’m eternally grateful to live on a small farm with no close neighbors and a sunrise that greets me each morning with a reminder that every sunrise, with its golden-buttery fingers, wraps in its warmth the promise of another day with beauty to be admired no matter where we awaken.


Johnson Funny Farm Driveway, 7:45 a.m. February Sunrise

My husband once believed that vacations and weekends were created for sleeping in……

Sunrise along Highway 18, Pike County, Georgia
Deer breakfasting in our yard
Wreath catching sunshine
Sunrise rays (summertime)