March is nearly over. I’m giving myself grace when it comes to doing all the things that could be called productive. It’s a little hard to concentrate so I go walking instead, alone most of the time. Even in this very unusual time, life goes on, and so, unfortunately, does death. In two separate instances, people I’ve known well enough to grieve over, have died. Neither had anything to do with corona virus, but were unexpected and shocking. These strange weeks/months will stand out in my memory for a long time.
My refuge is to walk in the woods and be reminded of how beautiful and special this world is and how it was designed to be a place where people could thrive. I see God’s intricate design everywhere – in the way the snow melts, the way some plants stay green and alive under the snow, the way the birds find their way back to their birthplace, the way everything responds to the sun in some way. God’s outdoor magic is medicine for my soul.
P.S. The seeds went in today. I hope I haven’t done it too early. I couldn’t wait.
I have written much about the wetland property where I now live in Wisconsin, where I take frequent walks and do my communing with nature and peace of mind. Well, today there was a major change.
One of the more prominent areas of our wetland is a huge marsh. It is bordered by higher ground and is composed mainly of cattails, water plants and sometimes water shrubs of some kind. There are usually waterways around the edges and sometimes small bays and extensions. The beaver lodge is in one of the waterways, close to the edge of the marsh.
The snow melt and the recent rains have raised the water level considerably. In some places water has started to cover our paths, and submerge our footbridges. The dams that the beaver have constructed are now completely underwater and I can’t see them. But the most amazing thing is that the marsh migrated last night.
My brother got a call from a neighbor on the other side of the marsh. She told him that she suddenly had a beach where the marsh had been – open water. I had to go out and see what had happened. Evidently, wind and rain had done the job of loosening the marsh from the soil underneath and the whole thing moved north and west. The open waterway to the beaver lodge is now closed – it’s the path I took over the ice this winter when I checked on them. And other waterways that were wide, separating us from the marsh, are now narrowed to five or six feet.
I wonder how many animals and birds had to re-orient themselves this morning. Nature is ever changing, sometimes delightful, sometimes catastrophic, but changing always.
Nothing refreshes me, body, soul and spirit, like being outside in the woods and marshes. I had a good dose of nature today.
I have a fascination with the beavers here on our wetlands. (I feel like I’ve said this before, at least once.) Today I was dressed well enough and had no time constraints so I went off the track into the woods to make my way to the beaver lodge – not that beavers live in the woods, but the wetlands are complicated. The water flows into ponds that have fingers of marsh that spread out into all the low places in the woods. I could see the beaver lodge from the path but to go directly to it would mean crossing a bit of ice with occasional open spots. I like to stick to the wooded areas around the edges.
The path, and I was surprised to see that it was an obvious trail, led through the most awesomely beautiful snowy wonderland. There were a lot of animal tracks, but a person with their dog had left prints as well. It’s kind of special when I get to go someplace that I know not many people have gone. I could hardly stop taking pictures.
We’ve had some storms in the last few year which have taken down a lot of trees. In addition to that the high water levels have killed trees, and the beaver have chewed a few down too. The woods look like they’ve a rough time of it, but even that has a beauty, in that life and death are there, entangled with each other. The starkness of winter leaves it all visible.
I found the lodge. I walked out on the ice. I even found a place that looked like it might be an entrance into the watery world below the ice – a dark hole, under a log at the edge of the marsh with open water and lots of animal tracks. Could it be where the beaver come and go? I was looking for tracks that might look like a beaver tail was dragging behind, but I couldn’t say for sure that I saw any.
The lodge is quite a large structure, a mound that can be seen from quite a distance away. On the way there I crawled into the fort built by the survivalists in the burn pile. There was snow in the entrance but further in it was dry and cozy looking. I imagine it could look a little like that in the beaver lodge. I hope they are in there, safe and warm.
Winter is awfully long here. I don’t know what beavers do in the winter, but it’s probably eating and sleeping for the most part. I hope they don’t get bored…
That’s what we called it when I was growing up, “the woods”. Even though there were trees in lots of other places, when we said “the woods” we all knew which trees we were talking about. It was a lot of several acres covered with hardwood trees of various kinds that had been left forested when the land around it had been cleared for farmland. It was behind our house and it never took more than two or three minutes to slide between the fence wires and run across the small pasture to the edge of the shady, cool greenness.
I spent a lot of time there doing “kid work”. I cleared paths, made moss gardens, forts from branches, and climbed trees. My favorite trees had names. I knew where to look for the first flowers in the spring, the small ones. They were soon replaced by a green and white carpet of triliums, then the jack in the pulpits, the columbine, the ferns, princess pine, and wintergreen. All this to say that I was blessed, early on, to have developed a love and respect for a forest ecosystem. I would almost say that I need to have ready access to that kind of place to be truly happy.
Which is why I like to think that I’ve been blessed again, by a knowing God, to live in another woods. This one I call “the oneacrewoods”. I’ve watched this acre of Florida bloom and grow since 1994. It never ceases to amaze with its century old live oaks, palms, citrus, kapok and pine trees. It has bromeliads, cactus, orchids, and many kinds of exotic ferns and grasses. We see land tortoises, raccoons, possums, armadillos, squirrels aplenty, large hawks, many smaller birds, and an occasional fox. I can’t adequately describe how beautiful I find this place to be, how special it is, how favorite to me.
Have you ever loved a place so much that it made you cry to think of leaving it?
There are so many beautiful places in this country. I can’t help but think that I am in one of the greatest for this time of year. I’m a “Yankee” according to some who were born here in Florida, but after 30 years in this state I think I’ve earned the right to brag on it. I’ve spent the last two days working outside in perfect weather. Perfect. I’ve driven past the sparkling blue Gulf. I’ve sat out in the yard, visiting with neighbors and listening to the birds. I’ve been watching the buds on my orchids swell and open to the sun. And tonight I’m out in the back yard listening to the crickets while I watch the brush pile of downed limbs burn, glow and spark upward. I love living in Florida.
It’s the way I’ve always experienced it. When I start anticipating a possible move, I also start a new awareness and appreciation of my present home. It’s the season when one of our rare trees in the oneacrewoods, the kapok, blooms and drops literally thousands of blossoms on the ground. The flowers are the size of badminton “birdies” and have to be raked up or they become a wet, sticky mess that sticks to tires and shoes. What could seem like a never-ending chore, since they are falling even as I rake, is instead a marvel to me. Someday I will not have this gorgeous tree to tend, and that thought makes me sad. I think of all the energy and work that has gone into the production of these showy, red missiles and wonder what the abundance means. Was it our wet fall, or does the tree know that there are hard seasons ahead?
The truth is, I’ve loved everywhere God has allowed me to live, even the places I didn’t want to go to at first. There are reasons for being where we end up being, and we are there to look for those reasons. Looking with expectation, curiosity, and the desire to learn is the challenge. Tonight I’m really thankful for our time in Florida. I’m just sayin’, it’s a great place to be.
This is the last post of my challenge since this visit to the northwoods has come to an end. This lake was a surprise for me. Although the road my sister-in-law and I were biking had been around forever, and was named Company Lake Road, I hadn’t been aware of how pretty it was or of the lake it was named for. The lake was breathtaking in the morning light when we came past it. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera and had to come back later in the day for photos. It was still pretty gorgeous.
I have to say that this spot is typical of the beauty in the Hayward area and the northwoods in general. These small lakes, marshes and streams are common. Fish, frogs, turtles, cranes, crows, eagles, geese, ducks, swans, chipmunks, skunks, badgers, otters, beaver, fox, wolves, bear, deer… you name it, it’s here and can often be seen close up. I will admit that I did not get wet in Company Lake but I have an excuse. I will suffer with mosquitoes, but I will not go close to poison ivy, and the bank where I took these pictures was full of it. Just enjoy these pictures of late summer in north Wisconsin and know that it is a wonderful place to be.
It’s not just about the lakes here in northern Wisconsin. It’s about the whole outdoors experience. Part of it, for those of us who grew up here, is berry picking. I’m talking about serious berry picking, where you gear up with two layers of pants, long sleeves, a belt to hang your berry bucket on, head protection against the deer flies, lots of bug repellant and your sixth sense of where not to go, where not to step, what not to touch.
We went berry picking this morning because my brother had reported seeing bountiful berry patches on our farmland near Round Lake. He had been cutting trails in the overgrown woods and fields with his flail mower (he does this for fun, yeah???) and wanted to take us out in his Kubota tractor to where we could just stand in the trail and pick all the blackberries we wanted. Sounded good. We went early because of forecasted severe weather coming our way.
Mom and I drove out to the field/woods in her SUV and met my brother and his wife. We were startled by a graceful buck deer that ran across our path. We were also aware that there were bear in the area, as seen on my brother’s woods cam, but thankfully we didn’t flush any of them out this time. We also saw large flocks of Canada geese and several sandhill cranes in the harvested oat field we drove through. After hunting for a while we did find what we were really looking for, berries, hiding amidst the goldenrod and pines. Unfortunately, the storm found us and we had to cut our picking short. But now we know where they are, and we’re not telling.
Today’s lake is Lake Hayward, which is formed by a dam on the Namekagon right in the town of Hayward. Here the town has its beach park and I remember many picnics and swims in this spot. I remember it being a lot larger than it really is, oh well. It is close to another Hayward landmark, the “big fish”. Hayward being the Musky Capital of the World someone had to build a giant muskelunge for tourists to get the full experience. If you want to, you can climb the stairs and view the town from the fish’s mouth, something you don’t get to do everyday. Today’s photo credit goes to Mom who accompanied me.
Seattle in early spring is the way I imagined it before I had ever been here. Today was cool (50’s ) and rainy, clouds rolling through. Everything green is glowing, in contrast to the grays and browns of wet rocks and trees. I am usually here during the one week in summer when there is a heat wave, so this sweet chill is a treat for me. I am prepared for this visit with my sweatshirt hoodies and scarves, and of course my walking shoes.
I took my friend Charlie the dog for a walk on one of our favorite routes from last summer. I couldn’t stop looking at all the things that were visible through trees that hadn’t leafed out yet. Surprisingly, there are a lot of houses hanging precariously on the sides of the ravine above the park’s lower trail. I did not know they were so close. In spite of the cold, there are flowers coming out all over, and they are different from the ones in the summer or fall. And the lush moss grows everywhere.
We walked up to the top of the ridge over Alki Beach (what a workout, gasp..) and I was glad to be here, grateful to be seeing it all. I couldn’t help wishing that my friend Karyn who followed my stories last summer was still here to read again. I was grateful that it was a day when resurrection, physical resurrection, was on my mind. As unexplainable as it sounds to modern ears, a man came back to life never to die again. Because he did this miraculous thing, Karyn will too. This is not a hard thing for me to believe, because I see life coming out of what looks dead all around me. It’s right there in front of us, if we have eyes to see and hearts willing to consider.
Thanking Jesus for doing what he did – the first of many.