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  • Frances Schwabenland

A Journey Through the years

Here in Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens is a definite stop for tourists and locals alike. Over half a million multi colored lights sparkle, thousands of poinsettias in whites, reds and pinks, cyclamen and orchids are all part of this horticultural splendor.

"Inside Longwood’s grand Conservatory, a whimsical wonderland awaits. The Exhibition Hall is transformed into a clear blue alpine stream with delicately flocked trees, a cascading waterfall, and suspended icicles gleaming above. A 21-foot flocked Fraser Fir, complete with an icy garland and silver bay laurel, beautifully reflect the festive scene."

The Music Room has been transformed into an inviting mountain retreat adorned for a holiday celebration. "The East Conservatory boasts the largest indoor tree in the display, a 22-foot tall Fraser Fir outfitted with flickering flame lanterns and red, gold, and amber ornaments. The Silver Garden is full of chilly cheer with a frozen succulent fountain, while the Acacia passage is a magical walkway of sparkling icicles."

The setting, "Fire and Ice" has now been set so let this story continue. May I now take you back in time to an orphanage in Moldova. Prior to 2007, this country had one of the highest numbers of orphanages in Europe. It was in one of those institutions that a little baby boy who scored very low on the growth percentile charts was scooped up into the arms of the most extraordinary healer and chiropractor I have every met, Dr. Patti Horne. I do believe nothing happens by accident. Life has its own way and its own surprises! When I would go for my weekly treatments year after year, I was able to watch Sean grow and thrive. He entered the school I taught in and I would see him fly down the corridor. One year, Sean and his Mom joined in with the other students I took to Italy. We had the best time as we went on the quest for the best gelato and engaged in the nightly debate on the benefits of thin or thick pizza crust as we practiced our Italian. We looked out on the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea from Cinque Terre and looked up in awe to the artwork on the Sistine Chapel. I watched Sean grow and tower over Patti and I. I would get lost in his huge bear hugs! After college, Sean and Patti moved to New Jersey and I hadn't seen Sean for several years. Then, a complete surprise! He sent me a text...he was going to get engaged and since I have known him all his life, would I be there to photograph this most special moment? I was more than touched by this one simple text which was HUGE for me! Sean told me he had been researching all different places and had decided that Longwood Gardens at Christmas was the best and most magical spot to get down on his knee holding out a beautiful diamond with a hopeful heart. (The theme of "Fire and Ice" was perfect...passion and diamonds!).

All was in place. Sean and Sarah would arrive at 2 and I would be there waiting. Not knowing Sara, I could stand there with my three cameras and she would not think anything of it and all could be a total surprise. The volunteer staff at Longwood could not have been nicer! They were in on the surprise and helped to give us a small spot where Sean could propose. The moment was priceless! Sean beamed. Sara cried with tears of joy and the visitors and staff all cheered for the happy couple. Many came up to offer congratulations and best wishes. One said that it was so heartwarming to see something so positive and uplifting since the news has been so depressive.

I was and still am so thrilled that Sean invited me into such a special moment of the heart, opening to great love. How fortunate was I to be able to photograph the beginning of this new and transformative path of love with Sara. I spoke with his Mom that night and we both talked about how amazing are the twists and turns of life. She was so proud to see her tall, handsome, healthy son so very happy with so much promise ahead. Patti and her husband made a choice that affected the lives of so many for the better. My life has been touched for the better! Choices and decisions set us on journeys. May our choices be grounded in wisdom and lead to expansiveness. May we all reach out to make another's life better while on the journey together! Thank you so much Sara and Sean for a day of photographing such beauty, wonder and joy! Thank you so much for your wonderful love story! "Tis the season!

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