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.

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.

Weighing In

It’s Sunday, which means it’s a day off from the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Instead I want to update anyone who has wondered whether or not I accomplished anything with my December walking/fitness goals.

10,000 STEPS

For a while there, the 10,000 steps a day thing was at the top of my list. It was hard to make it happen. I got tired of it and was glad when the month was over. But, guess what? It became more of a habit than I anticipated.

It was a challenge, and not meant to last forever, but I loved the activity and have kept it up, with a few alterations.

First, I lowered my daily expectation to around 8,000 steps, which I have heard is just as beneficial as the higher number. Who decides? I think I heard it was a somewhat arbitrary number that sounded good to someone in charge of a program.

Second, I don’t reach that number seven days a week. Realistically, there are days when it’s just not going to get done because something else is more important. But if I go two days without walking, I know it’s time to hit the road again. Now that the snow is gone it is so much easier, and so interesting to be outside in the spring!

Ooops, did I say the snow was gone? Well, it was, and then it wasn’t.

FITBIT

In December I frequently found myself looking at fitness trackers and smart watches. Carrying my phone for GPS and counting steps was always an uncertain thing. I was always wanting to walk at the low end of the phone battery life. But I thought I could hold off getting one – maybe someone would get me one for Christmas?

So that’s what I finally did, bought myself a Fitbit Versa 3. I spent about a month wearing it 24/7 and got addicted to all that good information it was giving me. Then I noticed a reddened area on my wrist under the band that looked very unusual to me. Being a nurse, I immediately googled the problem and found scores of reports of allergic skin reaction and possible EMF sensitivity. I was very disappointed and stopped wearing it all the time.

Made myself a little cuff, for when I’m not wearing long sleeves. Zeb can’t figure out the new gadget.

I still use the Fitbit for shorter periods of time, and I always wear fabric between it and my skin. So far, so good – no new skin inflammation. It can still read my pulse and count steps, and give me notifications from my phone. I’m not using it to track my sleep though. I’m being cautious and giving my arm some free time at night. Basically, the Fitbit is now an expensive pedometer.

NOOM

There’s more. I saw a trial offer for Noom on Facebook and decided to go for it. I like learning about different approaches to weight loss and wanted to know just what was so unique about this one. They promised I could lose what I wanted to lose by mid April, and they were right! I did it. I am back down to a weight I can easily live with, and I think I can keep myself there. Here’s why.

I’ve been made so much more aware of why I eat (overeat) and this understanding has made a lot of difference. The psychology around weight loss has taken some pretty big leaps. I was surprised by a lot of it, but it made sense. The daily lessons were short (I chose how long I wanted to spend on them). They involved some snarky humor, which helped it be interesting. And who doesn’t want a couple coaches and a group of fellow Noomers available for encouragement and accountability, right there in your phone, whenever you need them?! Again, a little addicting.

Gonna miss the #NoomNerds

Apparently I wasn’t keeping track of when my trial period ended, and was a little surprised when my next monthly charge came through. I decided not to renew, even though the program was good and effective. Daily weighing and logging of meals raised my awareness of what I was doing to myself which was helpful, but also time consuming. It was like a long range project. I don’t need another project in April. They refunded the charge and cancelled my account with no hassle. I still have use of the free app, and I learned a lot of good stuff.

BOTTOM LINE

I feel pretty good about my general health and have added some new tricks to my “already pretty good lifestyle”. Everything isn’t perfect, and I’m still feeling wear and tear on my aging body, but I’m not dead yet and I’ve lived through 2020 without getting COVID 19! How great is that? Feeling blessed, just sayin’…

December Wreckage

I crashed. Taking off from my walking challenge was intentional Christmas Day. I don’t know what happened the day after that but no walking was done then either, (Oh, that’s right, it was the husband’s birthday. He got my walking time.) By Saturday night I was like wreckage. I sprawled in the recliner and looked terrible, felt terrible, and probably acted terrible. I was complaining and practically weeping as I tried to explain it to mom and my brother and niece. The frustrating part was not knowing why the sudden drop in energy, motivation, positivity. Was I sick (Covid, aaaagh!) or was I having endorphin withdrawal? Was that even a thing?

Yeah, two in a row. Not good.

I forced myself back on the treadmill last night and tonight. I guess I feel better, but it was really strange and I’m not completely out of that bad space yet. Honestly, it was having to report in here that kept me from quitting – and the fact that my family was laughing at supporting me and being sympathetic. Thank you guys.

After my pity party over at Mom’s I was walking back to my condo and momentarily all the bad stuff was forgotten. The snow that had been drifting in all day, and the dark, and the lights were so arresting I had to stop in the freezing cold and just look. The snowflakes were so large and flat that the light reflected off them everywhere. The dark sky was a complete contrast to the glittery, sparkles on the ground. Winter moments like these are the reason I can stand to live up here.

I wish pictures could do justice to what I saw. Not even close…

White and Cold

This morning the snowplows were running before daylight, when it’s still kind of hard to see where you’re plowing. I shoveled myself out and had coffee with Mom. My brother got off his snowblower long enough to join us and then went back to work.

But the sun did come out. Walking outside seemed a possibility and I did have some things to deliver at our church, which is only about a mile away. I put on every possible winter layer, including a mask which, for once, was a help, not an aggravation. There was a breeze which was chilly when I was walking into it. Our temp was about 5 degrees F.

I stomped into the church with frost on my eyebrows and semi-numb feet. I didn’t realize that I had arrived at the same time as the work party for the coming Christmas Eve event. By the time I delivered my envelopes to the office I had also been given a job. I had nothing better to do so I put up lights, erected a wooden menagerie of animals, and carried decorations here and there. Every time I took off my mittens, even for a few seconds, I was amazed at how fast the cold became painful.

Can you imagine celebrating Christmas Eve outside when it’s below zero weather? Blame COVID for that.

By the time I set out for home, my feet were more like blocks of ice but I hadn’t gotten my steps in for the day. Hitching a ride was out of the question. I knew I could make it, and I did, but it was the fastest section of my walk for the day. My app said I was walking 5.5 miles per hour at one point, but that would be more like running so I think it must be wrong. All I could think about was getting warm again… fireplace, hot drink, my “blankie”.

It is beautiful after a snow, and I did snap a few pictures because I couldn’t not do that. (There are times when nothing says it better than a double negative.)

I might rest tomorrow instead of taking a walk. It’s supposed to be even colder. Just sayin’… May you all find a blessing in your Christmas celebration.

My view right out my front door. Clean, white, and cold, very cold.

Blizzard Blessings

Living in northern Wisconsin, I am used to winter starting early and ending late. We had a good snow earlier, but then it gradually melted. We’ve had bare ground for several weeks now.

Today Mom and I spent the whole day at the house we are helping to pack up for our friends. We’ve nearly got the upstairs conquered. Tonight, and by that I mean 5 pm, I went out in the darkness to put a couple things in the truck and was surprised and a bit alarmed at the weather. It had been raining, just above the freezing point, all day. The water had been dripping off the roof onto a pile of metal bound for the recycling station, making a loud sound like a running faucet. But now, it was snowing and the wind had picked up. There were two inches of white stuff on the ground already and clouds of it were being hurled around, blizzard style.

My truck door opened with a crack, breaking a film of ice. I hurried back in to help Mom out and once in the truck we wondered if the wipers would be able to clear the windshield. I have a scraper somewhere in the back seat but it was buried beneath the boxes of things we were taking home to sort out. We were able to see out the front after a few swipes of the wipers, and I lowered both front windows to clear them enough to see the lights of other cars on the street.

We live only about a mile from where we were working and I was glad of that. The road was snow covered and no longer had edges and lane markings. The few cars that were out were going slowly and following each other’s tracks. A deep enough layer of snow removes all boundaries and landmarks, making everything look strangely unfamiliar.

But it is exciting. Whereas we were having a relatively boring, predictable weather pattern, now, SOMETHING WAS DEFINITELY HAPPENING!!

The wind blew most of it off. The rest of it will melt and go down the drain.

We made it home without mishap. I was glad to push the button and see my garage door go up. What a blessing to have a warm, dry place to drive into. Tomorrow the blessings will continue because we will have a good excuse to stay at home and sort through the boxes and bags of our friend’s belongings. Staying at home will be restful, even though there is plenty to do. I need the change. For us, at least this time, the blizzard is our friend.

I got about 7,000 of my steps today going up and down the stairs where I was working. It was easy to get the last 3,000 on the treadmill. And now I am ready to turn out the lights and be snug in bed, listening to the howling fury outside.

Twice Blessed

It just so happens that I have two men in this present stage of life that are near and dear to me. It just so happens that they are both named Dennis. It just so happens that they both have birthdays this week. Isn’t that a little odd?

The husband’s serene smile.

The one that I’ve known for the last 49 years is the husband Dennis. We are together still and figuring out life together, one day at a time. He will be 75 on Friday. His birthday has always been a little anticlimactic, being a day after the birthday celebration of the Savior of the world. He’s always seemed very accepting of being in the shadow though. It’s fortunate for him that he doesn’t put a lot of stock in birthdays in general, his or anyone else’s.

My brother even goes geocaching with me (well, once…).

The second Dennis is my brother. I’ve know him for all of his life. He came on the scene when I was ten years old, the youngest of my four brothers. His birthday is tomorrow, Monday. He might as well have been born on Christmas, since the holiday lasts nearly a week for all practical purposes. It’s easy to get overlooked in a very busy season.

We who write, read, and blog – we’re kind of a community, aren’t we? I’ve shared my two Dennis’s with you because I have an “ask” to put out there. If you have time, and just want to put a kind, happy surprise in the life of someone you may not even know, would you wish them a happy birthday? I haven’t tried this before so I don’t know if Facebook lets you say happy birthday if you aren’t on a person’s friend list, but I love experiments. Feel free to tell me if it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter if you do it on the exact day either. Thank you so much! I love these guys.

Brother Dennis can be greeted here: https://www.facebook.com/dennis.l.smith.739

The husband Dennis can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/dennis.r.dietz

Yes, I did my 10,000 steps!

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.

The Next Steps

Yesterday was a different kind of exercise day. None of my steps were expressly for the purpose of getting exercise. They were all “on the job”, and included upper body and balance work.

I didn’t get an exact count but I carried 30 plus boxes of various sizes and weights down 15 steep stairs, through the house and garage and deposited them in a trailer. Stairs can be tricky, and these did not have a very wide tread and I tried a couple different methods, depending on the size of the box and whether I could see over it. I really didn’t mind the work, knowing that I was working on two different goals at the same time.

Six out of the last seven, yay me!

Yesterday wasn’t a 10,000 step day, it was 5,000, but that is fine. The thing that I love about being the age that I am, is that I can be flexible, and I can give myself grace when I don’t meet my own benchmarks. Today, December 12th, I am back on track with 10,000. Overall this month, I’ve exercised some every day, and made my goal for six days. There were a few days at the beginning before I started using the phone app to track progress, so it might have been more than six days. I am good with that.

As the month wears on I’m becoming more aware of exercise as just one part of life. It’s important and it takes effort to plan it into my schedule. Some days are full of appointments, responsibilities, and the demands of living a balanced life. There are other activities necessary to a happy life that get postponed when I’m on an exercise kick. Early in the day, I have to think about where to fit in that walk. Because it’s dark so much of the time, that walk might have to be on the treadmill at some weary time of night. Adopting this level of activity as a permanent lifestyle is going to be a challenge. It will probably be altered from time to time – thus my philosophy about giving grace. I like being kind, to myself as well as others.

Even this moving stream ices over on the edges.

I walked early this morning around the wetlands and it was cold. Most of the wetland trail is on open land around the edges of an extensive marsh. There aren’t many windbreaks and today the breeze was from the north, off an iceberg up there somewhere. I was warm enough under my coat but it wasn’t a long coat and my upper legs got tingly and then numb. I kept my hat pulled down and my collar pulled up and didn’t lift my head to look around very often. All of that and the steady cadence of walking does something to fire up my creative neurons (all half dozen of them). I get all kinds of ideas to be excited about. Walking does that and it is one of the best reasons to walk.

Today’s Four Good Things

There were four very good things about this day. They were good things to me because they made me feel very alive and stimulated by new insights. They spurred me to action.

The earth is still spinning in space. It’s a good day.

The first was seeing an amazing sunrise, with my favorite morning people. I love watching the sky, the clouds and light doing their thing at the beginning and the end, like bookends of the day.

The second thing was a set of lessons on recognizing and understanding more about shame and the part it plays in people’s lives. It was so enlightening that I finished nine lessons. I couldn’t stop. Thank you Dinah Monahan! I would sit in any class you were teaching.

A third good thing was hearing an interview with a very insightful writer who said so many profoundly helpful things about writing. Everything she said was meaningful and gave me ideas about collaborative writing (and about life in general). I wanted to try new things right away. I had to take action and buy her book immediately on Kindle. Thank you Diana Glyer for your “Bandersnatch” book and I hope I have time this weekend to read it.

The fourth good thing was that I made my step count for the day once again. It was a combination of treadmill, walking outside, and just getting around doing life. I’m finding that it’s a commitment that’s not always convenient. For instance, it means getting sweaty two or three times a day and having to decide whether to shower and change clothes – yeah, that’s right, I don’t always do it.

You might think this picture is too big. That’s okay, you can think that. It makes me feel good to look at it.

But I feel like it is doing me some good. I’m sleeping differently because I’m physically tired at the end of the day. I’m starting to get some lower blood pressure readings, and although I’m not usually in a bad mood, I feel my mood is better than usual. It feels so good to have done something challenging.

Today as I was walking outside, sweating underneath my winter coat, and hoping my phone wouldn’t run out of battery, I kept getting texts from some poor scammer. Whoever it was (and I don’t think it had to be a woman), they used the same tired story of wanting me to be their Mary Kay consultant and help them with a big order for a daughter’s wedding. I don’t know why I get pleasure out of playing with these people for a bit, but I do. I tell them they can order off my website, which is where they got my phone number. And then it branches off into why they can’t do that, followed by how their boss is going to cut me a check for the product. Their boss? It’s such a lame story that it always amazes me.

The good part is that I did get home before my phone (and exercise app) ran out of battery. I’ve also taken a shower, finally, and will be ready for a clean start tomorrow. Just sayin’…