Northwoods Journal: Summer

It is sinking in that summer is really, finally here. This usually happens about four weeks before it gets cold again, so I am being very much in the present, eyes wide open, walking without a jacket, swatting at deer flies and even getting a bit warm at times.

It is getting late, almost 8:30 but I have sunlight still and it’s been a few days since I walked the wetland trail. We’ve had regular rain so the meadow is green. There are a few clouds but no wind. The sunset is getting better by the minute.

Even with the rain, the creeks and ponds are low but I love the way this one looks like a ribbon of reflected light.

The first sections of my path go past fields where milkweed plants abound. They are in full flower now which makes for a rather stunning plant. I often see deer in the fields in the evening and tonight I got to lock eyes with this young fellow. I thought he was stunning too.

Farther out in the marsh, I’m seeing “my geese”. I’m getting a sense of ownership – after all I’ve watched them grow up. Most of them look like adults now. Tonight they have the company of a pair of sand hill cranes. None of them seem to mind that I am taking pictures of them so I spend quite a bit of time watching.

Passing the wildflower field makes me happy because the black eyed susans are the color of happy. Passing the wildflower field also makes me sad because black eyed susans are a mid to late summer flower and I don’t want summer to be over anytime soon.

Splashes of color are everywhere, if you look for them.

I am reminded that this beautiful greenspace used to be a small golf course every time I see this sign, which now makes me laugh. It’s all green so I guess we can exit anywhere we want to.

The sun is nearly down and I am feeling like I’ve just had a shower of peace and blessing. Even the deer flies have gone to bed and are no longer following me. Time to be thanking God for helping me to be here in this place, at this time. Time to rest. Thanks for coming along.

June Journal

It’s lilac time. Lest you think we overdid it,,, we shared with others.

June 1

June started on a Wednesday. Our usual morning trio was increased to a quartet since cousin Kim is up from Florida for the week. Mom has been getting up early to see the sunrise, which is now around 5:15, but it has been less than spectacular. There are too many trees and houses in the way of the horizon, and it is either too cloudy or completely clear, neither of which make a great sunrise.

I thought a lot about my daughter and her husband who left Seattle in the afternoon to fly to Bethesda, MD to investigate a cancer treatment trial. At this stage it is still an adventure for Ryan, well, except for the stress of decision making and waiting for other’s decisions to be made. The opportunities come suddenly and they had only a day to get mentally prepared for this trip. I pray that it will be productive and that they will feel well cared for.

I spent an hour in the afternoon with a young mother. She was happy to sit on the couch and talk, forget studying anything or counseling of any kind. She was without the children or their father and hardly knew what to do with a whole hour to herself. I prayed for her not only to myself, but also with her after asking her permission. I don’t think she is often in conversation with God because talking to him brought tears, good ones.

June 2

Read to the husband this morning. Besides our Bible passage, and a spiritual growth book, we read the first 7 days of “Sac Prairie Journal”. It totally inspired me to write this month. Life is 99% average stuff so a writer just cannot afford to wait until something explosive happens to write. I’ve known that but the confirmation was good. This author feels the same way I do about the woods, and I should quote him. Yes, I will.

My biking friend couldn’t keep our date to meet for a ride in the afternoon, and I was tempted not to go at all. But thank God, I went anyway and was glad I did. I went on the CAMBA trails at the hospital, and I mean ALL of the trails. It was an 8 mile ride. I didn’t go fast and furious, and I often go alone just so I won’t have to match anyone else’s pace. I stopped and took a picture along the creek. It was a lovely day and I managed all the rocks, bumps, bugs and wind in my face without having any spills or times when I had to walk up a grade.

June 3

My calendar says “Patty will clean house.” This was a birthday present from my Mom who gets her house cleaned by Patty every other week. I have a bad case of “cleaning before the cleaning” syndrome, especially since my house smells somewhere in between a nursing home and a kennel. Having someone from the outside come in and deal with my mess takes a little getting used to, but the payoff is having clean floors and a whole lot less dust. Worth it.

I biked the same trails this afternoon with Sue, but this time it was harder and I didn’t make it up a couple of the grades without stopping. I’m tired from yesterday. Sue, a physical therapist, said I just needed to learn to use my gears. I’m not sure the bike has gears that low.

June 4

Saturday, the last day of the week. I wear my loose, crazy pants to remind me not to do things that aren’t restful. Did a lot of reading today and took Mom in the golf cart to all our favorite places on the farm – Mary Pat’s spot overlooking the pond, Scruffy’s gravesite in the silo, the lilac hedge and the peony bushes and the perennial garden. We drove slow and savored it all while we talked.

Later I went back to MP’s bench and just sat, looking at the water reflections, the clouds, the sunset.

The Canadian geese families were wary of me for a few minutes but later decided I wasn’t dangerous and let their young charges march up to the wildflower field to snack. I say march because they stick together almost in formation. I am amazed at how fast they can waddle. They must eat a lot because they are getting big, fat almost. The two adults spend most of their time upright, looking around on guard duty. They seldom duck down to nibble anything. I’ve seen how fast they can get their brood back in the water at the smallest threat. They know how to do family.

On guard

It is so peaceful – I long to share the quietness of this scene with others.

“Hugh observed that nature was as necessary to some men as opium to the opium eaters… Opium eaters of a different kind. Perhaps – though it is not to say that nature is escape, because every nature lover knows that all is not soothing peace close to the earth, but rather that there is manifest always a ceaseless war, the endless struggle to survive, the marks of which are everywhere to see at all seasons. No, this kind of opium eater has about him a core of inner strength no one else ever has. Something there is that marks his kinship with the earth, something that makes itself manifest in the lingering of an eye upon a bird, the way his body takes the winds, something that rises to quicken the pulse in mid-winter at the thought alone of spring. The necessity of nature to him is stronger even than he; take him away from nature, and an essential part of him will shrivel and die… Nature is the kind of opium that quickens every sense a man has, that enriches and enlivens his appreciation of the earth on which he lives, and to which he ultimately returns as a part to its whole.”

from “Wisconsin Country, a Sac Prairie Journal” by August Derleth

This time of year the sunsets are more interesting than the sunrises, but you have to be up till 9:30 pm to see them

Fall Fun

I’ve just spent a considerable amount of time changing the header that you see on my blog from leafless, bare trees to beautiful fall colored leaves. I’m keeping this one up until the first snow because I want to remind myself of all the FUN I’ve had walking in the woods, taking drives, and photographing our beautiful autumn 2021.

Although I don’t have to go out any further than our parking lot to see some color, I do go out, taking Mom on drives in the car and hiking and biking on the trails. Things change daily. We’ve gone from mostly green with a few brilliant splashes to mostly bare with a few brilliant splashes. Even though the leaves are getting mostly on the ground now, they are just as beautiful. It’s like finding little gems all over the paths and lawns.

We’ve had an unseasonably long period of warm weather this October. Instead of being shocked by early snows, I’m still picking raspberries and working in the garden (in shorts and T-shirts). I know that will change and I can’t help it, I’m sad. Summer is too short, autumn is beautiful and winter is… long. Really long.

So here is a sampling of what I see and enjoy on a daily basis. It’s only a small percentage of the number of pictures I have on my phone and in the cloud. Finding things to photograph is definitely one of my “fall funs”.

Town of Hayward Recreational Forest
Out on the Birkie trail
A walk along the river
Driving the fire lanes with Mom
Even in the parking lot

The Beauty of the Earth

“For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the love which from our birth, over and around us lies; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

Looking Up

It was a day with clouds but enough blue sky to inspire a walk in Town of Hayward Recreational Forest.
The path I walk is wide in many places and the sky is visible as a backdrop for the trees. How seldom I remember to look up to see how awesome the TOP of the forest is.
We are seeing the fall colors coming on quickly. The maples are turning red.
And yellow. And orange.
The pines are straight and tall, so tall it’s hard to picture their height.
Even the dead, decaying ones make me look at them, and admire how useful they are as habitat for animals and insects.

Looking Out

The pond is wild, murky, reflective, full… and the shores are beginning to be decorated.
Fall has its barren places and looks. The dark water fascinates me when it turns into blue sky and white clouds.
Smaller paths through the woods get my attention
Even though at times they almost disappear. Finding a small clearing with a splash of sunshine is worth getting “lost”. (I wasn’t lost, really.)
There is a bench where I sit and look at this tree and wonder why it is so different from others, so prominent, simple… a minimalist tree?

Looking Down

It’s easiest to look down, and I tell myself that it’s safest too. There’s a lot down underfoot.
Some oak dropped this gift in the middle of the path. I think it was for me.
And this little maple is finishing its first summer with four red leaves which don’t have far to fall to the ground.
I always wonder why God made fungus so cute and fanciful.
See what I mean?
See?
Designed, orderly, yet unique and randomly beautiful.

Thank you for taking this autumn walk with me.

August in the Garden

I was away from my garden for two weeks in July. The days were long and warm. There were a couple of good rains. Things grew and although I know that sort of thing happens I am always surprised at how quickly it happens. I came back to find out that the family left in charge had been “forced” to pick the green beans. They had started pulling beets and onions. There were a few raspberries. And, of course, they had pulled weeds.

A garden is an endless source of things to do and that is one of it’s most valuable characteristics. When I need to get away from frustrations, worries, work I don’t enjoy, I just go to the garden where I lose track of time. Total absorption. It’s kind of like managing a small kingdom. I spend money and time. I plan and lay out my plots and paths. I defend my ground from rabbits, gophers and deer. I look back and quit doing things that didn’t work. I look ahead and plant things that won’t produce for a couple years. And if the work gets too “over the top”, I can decide to pull up some plants and be done with them. I am queen. I am boss. (As a side note, plants do know when you have good feelings for them. They do. )

And a garden is beautiful, even with some weeds. Here is a bit of my August garden for those of you who love growing things. I will also mention that the food I get from my kingdom is delicious. I try not to waste any of it.

Four Brothers

Truly, a most random post, but I warned there would be some… Mom actually suggested it and I am glad to comply.

First,

A picture of her four brothers, singing together. John, Ervin, Don, and Wendell

And next,

A picture of my four brothers (her sons), singing together. Ron, Gary, Bob, and Dennis

Just kind of fun that we have this singing thing going on from one generation to the next.

What interesting characteristics do you see in your family photos that you might not notice any other way?

It’s June

It’s June, only 20 days away from the longest day of the year. The sun was still quite a way above the horizon at 7:30 pm when I took the picture above. In spite of this, last week we had a couple nights below freezing. The night it got down to 28 degrees, my new potato plants froze. They had just gotten above ground and were looking so healthy and strong. Everything else in the garden got covered with tarps and sheets and survived. It is light now at 5:15 am so maybe everything will grow fast and produce before the short summer is over.

I took several walks this week. It is scary how fast the trees went from bare to fully leafed out. It’s like they know they have to hurry. The wooded trails are SO BEAUTIFUL! My walks go slow because I am always stopping to take pictures, or identify bird calls. It all looks lovely to me and is like medicine for my soul.

Even things that are nearly spent can be lovely (and that should be comforting to those of us who are nearly spent…)
Birch trees are so unique. White trunks just aren’t the norm.
The streams and marshes are full of water, flowers, reflections.
Who could refuse a path like this?
Looking a fern in the eye is kind of amazing.
Black water reflections captivate my camera (and me).
Canadian mayflowers are even a little late here. A natural garden in the pine forest.
Such a contrast from my winter trail. And to think that all this was just waiting in the cold ground and appears in its season without any help from us.

Yesterday’s walk was past a beaver pond and a large marsh. I pushed through the bushes to get a view of the water and watched a family of ducks swimming. The cattails started rustling and moving and out of them came the largest raccoon I have ever seen. It had a grizzled white head and was prowling through the marsh, probably looking for nests with eggs. Later I saw a pretty box turtle digging a hole in the dirt for her eggs

It was a good walk. I am still counting steps – 13,000 yesterday and 10,000 today. The last two weeks I have been working on getting the garden going instead of walking, but even then it was easy to get 5,000 to 7,000 steps tilling, carrying mulch and fixing fence.

Suddenly, it is summer in this crazy, wild, northern place.

It’s a good thing it doesn’t have to be a very big hole.

On Riverside Drive

Yesterday’s steps were finished in the late afternoon. Today’s steps will be done this evening. I have already taken a long walk outside, in the cold, with fresh snow underfoot, so 8,000 steps are already accomplished.

Walking outside is much superior to walking on the treadmill (if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it more than once…). I am always stopping to look at something beautiful and hearing the “workout paused” remark, then “workout resumed” as I walk again. I’d prefer having a whole body along for the walk but a voice is better than nothing. I could mute it but sometimes it’s just nice to hear that my app is tracking me.

The walk today was a circle mostly done along the highway and small residential roads. Riverside Drive winds along the Namekagon River and has some remnants of tall pine plantation on either side with rustic looking homes tucked in here and there. I look at the ground a lot when I’m walking because the footprints are interesting. I measure my prints against the one other walker who has come since the last snow. It was probably a woman – the boot print is narrower than mine – and she had a dog with her. There are lots of rabbit tracks and deer prints as well. Winter walking is interesting when I look into the woods as well. The trees “bones” are laid bare and have lovely composition. Crows, hawks, and woodpeckers give alarm calls and fly away as I get closer than they would like.

An unusual pine. Had to take a picture.
Another “had to take a picture”.

I end up walking along a major highway and cut into the Walmart parking lot. I go in and pick up a prescription for the husband, then finish the walk by circling the store and opening the gate into our residential development.

It’s been a quiet, overcast winter day and the walk was very calming. I had a lot of time to think and pray.

All Trails Project: Henks Park Trails

This trail was not on the All Trails app, but it should be! I have learned how to suggest it be added and plan on doing that.

Millions of leaves, from millions of trees…

Another warm fall day was given to us in Wisconsin so I took another hike. In case you think time spent walking is time wasted, let me tell you it is not. Something about the rhythm of walking, and the peaceful, natural environment is perfect for creative thinking. If only I could remember all the ideas that come to me out in the woods…

If only the deer could read the signs.

Henks Park has recently appeared off a road I have traveled for years. Only about five miles south of Hayward on State Highway 27, it is well marked with nice maps available at the parking area. There are numerous loops of varying lengths. I explored today and was able to walk three miles without retracing my steps. All loops are in beautiful, deciduous woods with glacial ravines and hills. The nearest highway is out of sight but close enough to be heard – it is not a remote area and it would be hard to get lost.

There are picnic tables near each loop and a gazebo at the parking area. This kind of wooded area has deep ravines, most of which have a marsh or pond at the lowest elevation. There are hills to climb. I tried to photograph the ups and downs of the trail but the topography is hard to capture. The trail is well groomed and leaf covered in most areas – great for walking but I would not have wanted to be riding a bike up the leaf covered slopes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this bunch of trails and want to go back soon and record them for the All Trails App (unless the technology is more than I can figure out). Check out this beautiful park!

#eveningwalk

It’s been a harsh month, this August has. When I’m on an emotional roller coaster for days on end, this place where I walk is like a medicine for everything that is wrong with the world. It’s not long or strenuous, less than half an hour for most but longer for me. I never tire of stopping to look for the beaver, or pulling out my phone to check the name of a plant or flower. I know which direction to look for deer and usually see several. My walks in the evening are graced with sunsets and in spite of having lots of trees around, I can see lots of sky and clouds.

Each scene that I photograph is like a gift from God to me. For every one I capture there are dozens more that I don’t. In a way it’s special to be the only one witnessing these moments that are physical, but also spiritual in a way that is hard to explain. I guess it’s realizing how big nature is, how complex, how constant, and that it was created by someone bigger, more complex, and more constant. But it’s also wonderful to be able to photograph and share what I see. It is just too magical out there for me to be the only one that sees it.

My life problems line up differently after the evening walk. I’m reminded of a different perspective. I’ve been calmed, loved, amused and often surprised with some new discovery. Sometimes I look through the lens and see the scene take on a different look, even more awesome than I thought (although sometimes less awesome). I must share with you this evening walk.

Shadow play on the quaking aspen screen
August flowers are purple and gold
The fence hasn’t been electric for years, but there’s something picturesque about the sign.
My camera loves the way the light comes in horizontally at this time of day.
Even from a distance she knew I was there.
The sky is really the only and the best place for clouds to be appreciated. So big.
The patchwork barn. Not much light left but I always have to have a barn picture. I love this barn.
Most evenings the sun gives a parting wave, a touch of warmth in a cool blue sky before it turns dark.