Up North: The First Snow

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The hydrangeas never give up, and they look real good with a dusting of snow.

Today it snowed. It wasn’t dramatic. The temperature has been inching down toward the freezing mark over the last week or two. We have had a lot of rain, which usually will spoil the fall color and make the leaves turn uniformly brown and dull. But this year the colors have held out brilliantly. Today, every time we looked out the window the weather was changed from our last observation. The sun would come out briefly and be followed within minutes by a snow squall.

Since I will so soon be taking pictures of snow, I need to finish letting you all know how beautiful autumn has been. I am so blessed by God the artist, that I don’t have to take a vacation and travel to see the woods in glorious color. It’s right here in my backyard. Last Sunday, after lunch with the family, we didn’t want to go straight home. Mom, the husband and I drove out in the country, to the lake, just to see what the trees were doing. Later, I got to explore a park I had never been to with my brother and his wife. It was a wonderful day – that’s what “full of wonder” means. My  phone is so full of pictures – no way could I show them all – but here are some.

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Seriously, the air itself takes on a glow when there is this much gold and yellow overhead.
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But it’s the abundance of reds that stand out this year.
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A path to remember – my hiking companions Den, MaryPat and Scruffy.
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I love the color contrast with the remaining green. We came upon this pond in the forest – magical.
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At the lake, a bald eagle did a circle of the shore while we watched.

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Spatter technique – there was a lot of it this year.
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The color is close and touchable. It is easy to feel submersed in it.

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The goodness is everywhere to be seen, even down on the path.

There are so many more – it was hard to choose. I wish you all could see it. Part of the reason it is so beautiful is that it’s also so short lived, fleeting. As I said, today it snowed…

Birkie Trail, Next 6 miles

This is the second weekend that we have put on our hiking shoes and taken to the trail. After a week’s work, we really enjoy a good long walk in the woods. We skipped a shorter section in favor of a longer hike than last week. We will go back and pick it up someday when we have less time.

The trees were still more green than colored. There were only a few brilliant ones, but that didn’t keep it from feeling like autumn.

I was a little obsessed with the fungi, but you’ll see why. Strange stuff.

Enough talk. I just want you to see what I saw.

Makwa Trail, here we come.
First spot of color.
The trail skirts this lake except for here, where it gets a little crazy. This is a single track bike trail.

Moss abounds. Lovely, right?
Time for some fungi.
More fungi.
And more…

And this one!

This little guy, about head high on the trunk of a tree, amazing!
Can you spot the camouflaged picnic table?
One more.
No, one more.
Some trail worker forgot their saw.
I spent a lot of time looking at the path because it was always so lovely.
About mile 6 we left the single track trail and did a mile on the larger ski trail. We (the girls) were getting tired and the ski trail was straighter and smoother.

Up North: Fall is Coming

I feel it. What I saw out in the meadow and wetland…

The flowers of fall – we always called them wild asters – the last before a frost. Spots of purple among the greenery.

A lingering daisy, a summer holdout.

The meadow that was a sea of lavender is brown with dried Canadian thistle.

Gold to enhance the purple, drifts of goldenrod… and a flower we called “butter and eggs”

The beavers have built dams to create ponds for themselves.

Heron hiding spots.

Colors and textures of autumn are clothing the land.

Life and death in contrast

The higher water levels (thank you beavers) have caused tree kill around the ponds, but even these silhouettes are beautiful, I think.

Nature’s delicate lace.

Milkweed, nearly ready to burst its seed pods.

Grasses that bend with the breeze.

Water, hurrying on it’s way somewhere

Day sinks past the horizon, taking summer with it. Fall comes peacefully, relentlessly.

Up North: #EveningWalk

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Not sure why these walks are so calming, grounding, mind clearing – but they are. The whole day gets reviewed and put in perspective. The day things prepare to retire and let the night things come out.
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The meadow was blanketed with purple Canadian thistle only a few days ago, now it’s aging. The flowers are drying, the black eyes of the Black Eyed Susans are petal-less and browning.  It’s natural progression. As with the meadow, so it is with me. 

I’m reviewing my memorized psalm as I walk. It’s been a while but this part comes easily back to me “As for man, his days are like the grass. He flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone and its place remembers it no more.” How easily I fit into this meadow and take my place with the grass and the flowers as they age.

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It’s mid-August in north Wisconsin. Are some leaves already giving in to Fall? I’m remembering all the times I have seen these seasons change. Summer is so short, and so sweet up here.
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Poplar hearts on the ground. I love being up north, in this place, in this moment. I love all the places that God has put me, but this one is in my blood and even thirty years in Florida didn’t leach it out.
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Water and reflection. The greenspace I walk goes through meadows and wetlands. Several ponds are connected with streams and marshes. This was Grandpa’s pond where he trapped minnows for fishing.
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Grandpa’s pond and Grandpa’s barn. They too will change, perhaps disappear, just like the seasonal flowers, just like the people who have farmed this land, loved these views and walked these meadows like I walk them now. Oh to know their thoughts…
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I love many things. I love small fires and running brooks. This one is almost unchanged from the days of my childhood, sixty years. I wonder how the water can keep coming from a source that never seems to empty. I think long and hard on the metaphor of “living water”.
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Two families of Canadian geese have grown up here. They wander the banks around the pond until I appear, then they fly to the water. Out there they look so peaceful. How easily they float. 
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I can’t tell the parents from the goslings by their size any more, but their protective stance both in the water and out, give them away. By the size of the flock, they have done a good job.
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Up north, where sunset comes late and sunrise comes early.  I am here and get to see both ends of these beautiful days.

I get to see it! My gratitude is sharpened because I am daily with people I love who do not get to see it so clearly. How blessed I am. Tonight, across the table from me, one of my people who struggles to see at all, related that even eating had lost much of its appeal. She cannot see what she is eating. I try to imagine eating food that I cannot see.

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As the sun spends its last few minutes above the horizon, I take picture after picture of it cutting through the trees like a giant flashlight 93 million miles away. How can that be?

Today I marveled at how well my computer and internet were working. Today I did ordinary things like cooking breakfast for the husband, writing a letter to a friend. scrubbing sinks and making beds, Today I prayed and considered my family, my friends. Today I took an evening walk.

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things R

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The Namekagon, although in a different season than my story.

Rivers

I’m not sure where rivers come from, someplace hidden, but I know that if it were not for them, there would be no lakes and maybe even no oceans.  I hold them to be a little less scary, most of them having at least two shores visible, sometimes more if there is an island in the middle. They seem to be self-cleaning if left alone. Sometimes they become shallow enough that the bottom can be seen and there is no fearsome, endless descent as in the sea. Another wonderful thing about them is their motion, always on their way to something and wanting to take you along, which is mostly a good thing. Sometimes not.

We were visiting our hometown for a family reunion and one of our bonding activities was a river trip. The Namekagon runs past our town in its own valley, one of the nation’s Wild River Refuges, and we have often gone down sections of it in boats, canoes, kayaks and inner tubes. This time I was in a short, one person kayak, which because of its lack of length and directionality, was more like a teacup floating along on the current.

I don’t remember how I got close enough to the willows on the bank to get caught in them, but it was a place where the current quickened and was strong as it bent around a corner. Leaning a bit to avoid getting hit in the face, I lowered the edge of the teacup enough on the upriver side to allow the flow into the boat – the death knell of staying upright on the water.  We, the teacup and I, flipped.

There are only split seconds in which to discover whether you will stand or swim, hang onto the boat or onto the paddle. It is exciting, so much so that you may not even notice injuries incurred on the rocky river bottom. I stood, a little more than waist high, in the cold, swift and amazingly strong stream, choosing to hold onto my boat. Like a sail catching the wind, the kayak caught the water and only the overhanging branches kept us from going quickly downstream. It took an adrenalin rush for me to wrestle the boat upright and walk it to more shallow water where I could empty it.

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Whoa, turn around. I think Mom’s in trouble …
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Oh never mind, she’s wet but she’s alive.

By this time, others were aware of my predicament and were watching for my paddle to float past. We regrouped and continued our trip.

I remember this incident because it is the only time I have capsized (unless there is another that I have truly forgotten). I remember it because of the large bruise, scrape and painful lump on my shin that took a couple months to heal. I remember it because of the miracle of going back and finding my camera, catching the sun and glinting among the rocks on the bottom. I dried it out and it still worked, sort of. I remember it because of all the gorgeous pictures on the digital card that I still have and enjoy.

The river meant no harm. We just had an experience together.

When has nature given you an adrenalin rush experience?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things O

Orchids

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You have to love these cute little faces. Seriously, look closely at them!

The first one for me was in high school, probably it was at the prom. It came in a clear plastic box and was so ornate, almost bizarre looking, that I could hardly believe it was a real flower. It was delicate green with dark burgundy stripes and it lasted for a whole week in the refrigerator before it started to decompose. It was an orchid.

One of the best things about life in Florida is that orchids will grow here, outside, unattended for the most part. Of course, they do better when cared for, but even I with my frequent lapses in attention to my plants, even I can keep orchids alive. April is a very good month for orchids. They bloom and stay beautiful for weeks.

Here are some pictures of my favorites. I get to see them every day, hanging in the pergola outside my dining room window.

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these deep purple ones are some of my favorites

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I bought this orchid having not seen it in bloom.  I waited for a whole year before coming out one morning and seeing this flower stalk – not at all what I expected.  Since then, it has bloomed every spring and looks like this

 

 

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My surprise orchid in full bloom.

A neighbor has an “orchid wall” and I use it as an example of what they can look like when they are carefully tended.

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I wonder if other people stand outside her house and stare like I do…? Creepy

Anyone else have a favorite flower this spring?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things I

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Indigo Glass

I have always found the deep blue of this glass to be irresistible. It’s never been that it matches any of the décor in my rooms but that it has a singular attraction all it’s own. Deeper than the blue of the sky, or of water, it combines reflectivity and translucence in a jewel-like way.

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twelve (!) of these glasses in the set probably because they are so durable

On one of our rare anniversary outings, we celebrated in a quaint Florida town known for it’s antique stores. Purely as a self-treat, I bought a set of juice glasses that have been a delight ever since. They are heavy and sturdy, defying breakage, and yet their color and shine add a luxurious nature to whatever I put in them.

I put most of my indigo glass together on a shelf in my china cabinet because I think they make a more defined statement when grouped together. I look at them a lot and am consciously aware of visual pleasure as I look.

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Many of my indigo glass objects are garage sale “finds”. In particular, the carafe with pour spouts on both sides. Its blue is not quite as indigo as some of the other pieces but it is definitely in the blue family and it is lovely.

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As with all collections, I will probably part with them when I no longer have space to display or store them. But for now they are special and favorite.

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things H

Horses

This will be a short post because I can’t think of a way to explain the irrational love that I (and many other women) have for horses. I liken it to the way that a man will throw money at something like a boat that is seldom used, for I seldom have time or opportunity to be with my horse.

I have been scared near to death on a horse,

injured on a horse,

frustrated nearly to the end of patience by a horse,

money poor because of a horse,

and yet I love horses.

And though, unlike boats, they can get sick and die, also unlike boats they are living and can love you back. They are a bit like people – some handsome, some not so much, some with great personalities, some a little cranky – all kinds of apt comparisons. If you’re at the right end, they smell really nice, like fresh hay and they have wonderfully soft noses. That’s some of it, but like I said, it doesn’t really explain it all.

I have posted this sequence before but it was fun (funny) and I love to relive it.

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Ghost want to go for a ride? No? This looks like a belt and I think I need it to be tight. Don’t be holding your breath now…
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Yeah, I’m on. Nice horsey, you knew that’s what was happening so don’t act all surprised. Nice horsey, let’s go.
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You are so pretty and white. I am red and blue. We look so red, white and blue together. I make you look good, don’t I? Smile for the camera please.
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Round and round the track we go – and you lift your feet so pretty.
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We are so cool, and I am still firmly in the saddle and hoping to stay that way.
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Good ride Ghost. Now let’s get back to the barn before something bad happens…
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Whaaa!!! Getting off is supposed to be the easy part! Gimme my shirt back!
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That was embarrassing. I’m outta here. Don’t pretend you’re sad.

Ordinary Times and Travels: Alki Drive, post 7

Come along. Charlie (the dog) and I are going for a walk.

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A summer shot along the sea wall from Alki Beach.

West Seattle is a peninsula of sorts with a variety of geographical features. In previous visits I’ve posted about the Alki lighthouse, the stairways leading up the steep bluffs, the old growth forest in the interior, and some of the sights along the default exercise walk, Alki Drive. Today, Charlie and I went on that walk just to see what it looked like in winter.  It has been so cold, wet and windy that we were glad to have time outside on a calmer, warmer day.

On Alki Drive one can traverse the western side of West Seattle from the lighthouse and Alki Beach all the way up to the northern point where there is a good view of downtown Seattle across the water. It’s hard to describe in words so you really have to look at a map. Puget Sound has many islands, inlets, peninsulas and bays and is a long body of water. There are some beaches but often the shoreline is rocky and steep. My daughter’s house is only a few blocks from one of the few beach areas so that is where my walk usually starts.

There is the water, a sandy beach which gives way gradually to a cement sea wall, then a wide grass and shrub strip, then the sidewalk for walkers, another strip of shrubbery, the wide paved area for bikers, skaters and long board riders, then the street, the sidewalk again, a row (sometimes two) of dwellings and finally a steep, unbuildable cliff covered with trees and vines. Every once in a while there is enough of an outcropping that someone feels safe attaching houses to it, but the roads to them are narrow, switch-backed and have very inventive parking areas.

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The bluff is not very high here. Another row of houses hanging on up top.

Although it is cold here, it doesn’t freeze hard enough to kill many of the plants and shrubs. There is green grass, many of the trees still have leaves and the houses and condos along Alki Drive looked much like they do in the spring and summer. I passed the monkey tail tree, araucaria araucana, one of the oddest conifers I have ever seen.

This is the thought game I play while I walk past all the small summer houses, the old ones. Many of them are run down, poorly maintained, and some are uninhabited (condemned most likely), in spite of the high priced land they are sitting on. I look at them and plan what I would do first if I lived there. Give me a sledge hammer, some paint, a shovel. They beg me to pull the weeds, pick up trash and simply make them look like someone loves them. I know if they are not fixed up they will soon find themselves replaced with high rise condos.  Some are fixed up and are very cute – showing that it can be done.

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Draw a circle around the one that is not like the others.

The goal today is to walk to the so-called “flower house”. Nestled between two high rises, a small house and adjoining building have become locally famous for being festooned with flowers throughout the summer, extremely festooned. The flower house is right on the sidewalk and the owner has seating for tourists to have their pictures taken surrounded by flowers. I’ve posted photos of my daughter and I in those very seats last year. This winter the décor is more sparse but still lovely.

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On the way back, the house that wins my vote for Christmas prettiness is this one. I choose it mostly because of the blue lights which are my favorites.

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I walk a little further and see another one of my colorful favorites, the Blue Moon Burger joint. They have some crazy good sweet potato fries there.

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One of many eateries lined up along Alki Drive in the beach area.

And then we head inland a couple blocks and are back to Esther’s house, “Ocean’s Arms”, immediately below the path leading into Schmitz Park.  To end, I am showing you a picture of the Star of Bethlehem tree, which you saw in the dark a few nights ago.  This is how it looks in the day, along the walk going up into Schmitz Park. Both pictures are from my bedroom window. We think they must leave the star up there all year, although Esther has not thought to look.

 

Thanks for coming along on my walk down Alki Drive.

Thanksgiving Chronicle: Visiting Pennsylvania

Sunday: three days in Pennsylvania after not being there for ages… being with people had to take first priority. Several of us got up early and went to church with Dennis’s brother Ron and wife Deanna. Their church is small but the reception was warm. It was actually a highlight for me. I loved seeing the different age groups interact. There was a Thanksgiving anthem by the choir and all ages were represented in the singing. Ron and Deanna sing, who knew? The children present gave their own prayer requests and the sermon was heartfelt and square on.

Back at their house, Deanna hosted a rather large, bountiful dinner and had invited Dennis’s sister and her family to attend. Here we were eating again. We spent a lot of time catching up with all these dear people. My girls took some time to walk and visit sites they remembered.

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Monday: the outing of the day was a trip to the nearby city of Pottsville to tour, yes, the Yuengling Brewery. It’s a historic site, having been built before the Prohibition Era and especially interesting because it is built into the side of a mountain. The caves were the perfect temperature to age the barrels of brew.

We had an excellent tour guide who gave us the complete story of the premises while leading us through the tunnels and up and down over 60 stairs. Even those of us who are a little leery of steps did fine and at the end we got to rest and sample beer. Did you know that during Prohibition Yuengling made ice cream instead? They still do. I had some of that too.

Tuesday: the highlight of this day was designed for the husband. Unbeknownst to him a former high school classmate had arranged for a number of his class to meet for breakfast at a local café. He knew nothing about this but I was able to convince him to take me out for a meal. What a surprise it was for him.  One man had come quite a distance to participate, and everyone there was glad to see Dennis since he hadn’t been able to attend any of the reunions. It was nearly a two hour breakfast, but it was interesting to hear all their high school stories.

We also visited one of the husband’s cousins at his house. I was experiencing an overdose of listening to loud conversation so I took my phone out to wander and take photos. I have always loved the PA landscape. It is so vertical, and the buildings are often rustic and just the kind I love to photograph (I’m a collector of barn photos.)

The rest of the day provided time for a jigsaw puzzle! It was all about the state of PA so we felt a little educated when it was done. Early to bed because tomorrow we travel again…

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