Robert Lewis Stevenson

The House Beautiful

A naked house, a naked moor,

A shivering pool before the door,

A garden bare of flowers and fruit,

And poplars at the garden foot;

Such is the place that I live in, Bleak without and bare within.

Read on at the following pages….

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An Heirloom Iris Story

The heirloom small yellow Iris was first grown by Mary Pientka Henninger‘s great-grandmother, Karolina Tanistra Pientka, of Wilkes – Barre Township in Pennsylvania. 

Mary’s grandmother, Evelyn Timek Pientka, of Plains, Pennsylvania, continued to grow the family Iris. Mary’s mother, Regina Leonardi Pientka, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, carried on the tradition of raising the Iris. 

Then the Iris was passed down to Mary Pientka Henninger, who raised the beautiful flowers in Hennertown, Pennsylvania, and later in Saratoga Springs, New York. Mary Pientka Henninger dug up a few iris plants from her mother Karolina’s grave in 1980.

The family heirloom Iris is now grown by Mary’s daughter, Jill Henninger Burks, of Cambridge, New York, and at the Wesley Community, where Mary resides, in Saratoga Springs, New York. Now, the flowers grow at the Embury Apartments Cafe Patio Gardens, where a resident gardener introduces the heirloom iris to fellow residents. 

Intergenerational gardeners have a living treasure to cherish and look upon today. It is essential to remain connected to our history. We need to know our ancestors to understand who we are today. The destiny of the yellow Iris tells us so. 

To learn more about the Heirloom Iris species, visit The Website states, “Scientifically speaking, it is a family of plants which has existed for 60 to 100 million years. In the present day, the family contains roughly 80 genera and 1500 species. They are found in almost every habitat and on almost every continent.”

(Photo copyright Jill Henninger Burks).

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Bluebird of Happiness

It is thrilling to sit outside in the Patio Garden and watch the Bluebird family that resides in a nearby birdhouse. Mother and father fly in and out of the birdhouse throughout the day. I do not hear any peeps from the offspring yet. Happiness is seeing the Bluebird of Happiness.

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Rainy Day Tales

It was a humid, rain-soaked summer morning. My dog Tia and I went for a walk on a dirt road near our home in the village of Minong, Wisconsin. No one used the road, and we had the woodlands and prairie all to ourselves, just the way we liked it. Problems disappeared when we were out in nature. The sun glistened, and occasionally small agate stones smiled back from the steamy earth. I stooped to pick one up and pocketed the tiny red gem.

Tia decided to go adventuring. Looking into a prairie, I saw my dog’s white-tipped tail waving in tall native grasses kissed by dewdrops.  She looked up as if checking on me. After seeing me, Tia went back to frolicking. After awhile, she returned to my side. We heard the sweet song of chick-a-dees in Jack pine trees. The birds were enjoying tree nuts and insects. We heard their Thanksgiving song. I knew that milkweed grew in a nearby field, and we went over to investigate and to see if any life was astir after the rain.

Bending down, I look on the underside of the milkweed leaves and saw a monarch caterpillar sleeping under the protection of the soft green roof. Rainbow-colored water drops dripped from its back, and still, the caterpillar slumbered. Did it dream that soon this part of its life would end? Soon the caterpillar would change into a pupa, and then a beautiful monarch butterfly. Did the butterfly come to tell us that we too would be transformed and emerge into a new form?

Sadly, Tia passed away in the fall, and my life changed dramatically and forever. I became an executive director of a nonprofit public charity, Happy Tonics, that implemented sanctuary for the monarch butterfly. My name was given to me by Dr. John “Little Bird” Anderson. In Ojibwe, I am called Memengwaaikwe, which means Butterfly Woman. Looking back on this rain-drenched morning, I know my life was transformed forever, just as the tiny messenger foretold.

NOTE: Notice of John “Little Bird” Anderson’s obituary is at


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