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The Denis Sullivan Schooner (Barry's photo)

The Denis Sullivan Schooner (Barry's photo)

I called my friend Jan today.  We’re trying to arrange a trip to a tea house in Houghton next Friday.  Along with another friend, Joanne, we’ve been planning this trip for a year or two now.  It seems we can never arrange a day when we’re all available.  It looks like this Friday might hopefully work.

Jan said, “You’ll never believe what I did yesterday!”  I was all ears, but never expected her next sentence at all.  “I was sailing on a ship from Keweenaw to Huron Bay.”

Jan was one of the passengers on the three-masted schooner that Barry and I waited for yesterday for two hours in the rain!  As promised, here is the photo of the Denis Sullivan ship.  The expedition was offered in conjunction with Michigan Technological University and the Keweenaw Land Trust. Participants, as the flyer announced, were challenged to work aboard the traditionally rigged Great Lakes Schooner while exploring important links between land and water conservation.

Jan said she stood near the operations and watched the crew work with great interest.  She marveled how they made precise nautical adjustments with such skill.  It sounded like it was a fantastic experience.  Her story sounded so fun and intriguing I almost wished I was on board ship rather than wandering along the shore of Lightfoot Bay for two hours peering for the sails on the horizon.  Which we never saw.  Barry eventually photographed the ship from Witz Marina near 6 p.m. when I was cozily at home writing yesterday’s blog.

Here are two websites for interested readers:  http://voyage.pierwisconsin.org/ds/schooner.php shows a virtual tour of the ship and answers the intriguing questions A) Who was Denis Sullivan?  B) Why did they build a schooner and, most important,  C) What is a schooner?

http://www.discoveryworld.org/denisSullivan.php tells interested folks how they can become a part of day, multi-day or semester-long voyages on this ship.  It says:   The S/V Denis Sullivan is a modern educational sailing vessel with two 180 hp diesel engines, a scientific laboratory, two computer workstations and a modern communication and navigation equipment. She maintains single bunks in co-ed areas, shared toilets (heads) and showers, and limited storage. The vessel can carry up to 21 participants overnight and 50 passengers on day sails. She is complemented by a professional crew of ten.

Circles in the sand

Circles in the sand

While Jan was sailing in Lake Superior, feeling the wind and rain on her cheeks, I was wandering around with my camera admiring the many beautiful images and natural art on the shore. 

Sand and water art

Sand and water art

I loved the way this reddish branch lay planted in the sand, sideways, dangling over the rhythmic rush of the waves.  See its reflection?  If you look closely you can even see glistening raindrops.  And this pollen-stained indention of the pond also looked so intriguing.

Inland pollen bay

Inland pollen bay

And a gift for the land from the magnificent bald eagle.  He (or she) dropped a tail feather onto this beautiful shoreland, perhaps to honor the sand and waves, the commitment of the Keweenaw Land Trust members, the memories of children who once built sand castles here, the cold June rain, the frozen snowy winters or…maybe the tail feather simply was ready to fall from sky to earth and rest gently between the green beach grasses.

Beautiful eagle feather

Beautiful eagle feather

Finally, some of you may have noticed I changed the header photo.  The red berries are gone!  Time for another view.  A wider more expansive view, at least for now.  (P.S.  today’s outdoor adventure involved taking a walk along the road in the rain. It’s been raining for days now, it seems.  And it’s cold.  In the 50’s.  Since when did the 50’s become cold?  My mind kept trying to convince me how miserable it was…until finding those wild ripe strawberries.  If it wasn’t for Part 2 of the sailing ships the title of the blog would have been:  Eating Wild Strawberries in the Rain.)

Ripples in an inland pond

Ripples in an inland pond

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Rumor had it:  a three-masted Great Lakes Schooner called the Denis Sullivan was sailing from the Keweenaw down to Huron Bay this afternoon.  My husband, who’s the editor of our town’s small weekly newspaper, planned to write an article and take photos.  The minute he announced his intention I thought, “Aha!  Outdoor experience!  Blog!  Must accompany him!”

Looking out to sea

Looking out to sea

Who knew it would be pouring rain, northwest wind and 56 degrees?  Who knew we would stand on the rainy beach and in the soggy woods for more than two hours before returning home without even glimpsing the schooner?  (But never fear!  Wait for tomorrow’s blog.  We received a phone call from the marina just after taking off our sodden rain clothes and Barry re-traced our tracks to photograph the ship in its glory out on the bay.  The ship’s sails will wave on this blog tomorrow night, if all goes well.)
Still looking out to sea

Still looking out to sea

The land where we waited for the “Tall Ship” now belongs to the Keweenaw Land Trust.  This group, according to its website, is a community partner protecting land, water and quality of life through conservation, stewardship and education.  Several years ago they bought a beautiful piece of coastal wetlands near Skanee from Jerry and Gail Mattson in L’Anse.  They aim to protect these wetlands and this fragile Lake Superior shoreland so future generations can enjoy this landscape. For more information about Lightfoot Bay kindly click here.
Old "Caretaker's Cabin" on the property

Old "Caretaker's Cabin" on the property

Since you (and I!) have to wait until tomorrow to see the Denis Sullivan schooner, which was sailing with a group of participants learning about ecology, seamanship, conservation, water quality and history, let’s look at a few more photos of the property.
It's been a few years since this rowboat floated on the water

It's been a few years since this rowboat floated on the water

A lovely woman named Patricia, a member of the Keweenaw Land Trust, showed us around.  She exhibited such an enthusiastic passion for the connections between landscape and people, sharing stories about the people who grew up here swimming in these waters, the man who built the cabin, the caretaker who lived down the way.  I loved the way she wove the two elements together:  landscape and human stories. 
We shared with her a small story of our own about this particular place.  Years and years ago, when we were in our 20’s and raising young children, a large group of us camped out on the point beyond the cabin.  It was an idyllic weekend and we still have memories and photographs of wading across the inland waters to reach the point.  If I close my eyes I can see a half dozen or more pre-schoolers in bathing suits splashing in the waves and screeching in joy.  Do you ever open your eyes after a memory like that and wonder where the years disappeared?
Patricia waiting on the porch in the rain, scanning the horizon for the ship

Patricia waiting on the porch in the rain, scanning the horizon for the ship

Eventually the group plans to rent out the cabin, so if anyone who cares deeply for the environment wants to spend a week or weekend here…remember the link to its website!  You can’t bring your ATV’s, but that probably won’t be a problem for too many of us.  Also, you’re not allowed to have fires on the beach.  I’m sorry about that one, as we enjoyed great bonfires in the “old days”.  However, I’m sure you’ll still have great fun.
Here is the outside of the cabin:
Isn't it a cute little cabin in the woods?

Isn't it a cute little cabin in the woods?

We were so soaked and sandy we didn’t want to mess up the inside of the cabin with a full tour, but we ventured inside a little bit to admire the curving wooden stairway and the massive stone fireplace.  And it felt sooooo warm inside the cabin.  You could just imagine a cozy evening with the crackling fire…in late June!

Stone fireplace

Stone fireplace

Patricia heated water for hot chocolate just as we said our goodbyes.  Our feet were so soaked that we later wrung out our socks.  We stayed relatively dry though, beneath our rain jackets and pants. Part of me wanted the hot chocolate…but the other part wanted dry feet.  The feet won! 

Stay tuned tomorrow for this two-part adventure.  There’s at least four or five more photos to show you.  Keep your eyes peeled for that three-masted schooner!  (and will tell you more about it, as well.) 

P.S.  During two hours of waiting in the rain along the shore Barry sang me every sailing song he could remember.   Mostly:  “Brandy, you’re a fine girl, what a good wife you would be, but my heart, my love and my lady is the sea…”  and “Hoist up the John B’s sail:  drinking all night, got into a fight…This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.”   Yep, that was our outdoor adventure this afternoon on the shores of Lake Superior.

The inner world of a Goats-beard

The inner world of a Goats-beard

Let’s talk about weeds. Just because I’ve been here in the woods most of the day and nothing else comes to mind.  We could talk about wood splitting and stacking, but that’s old news here on this blog.  We could discuss a cloudy rainy drizzly afternoon in the upper 60’s in June, but no.  The subject shall be weeds and why folks vilify them so brutally.  Especially when some of them are darn-right beautiful, appealing and tasty.

OK, here’s the scoop. (Said in a whisper.)  I like weeds. I especially like some of ’em for dinner steamed and buttered with salt and pepper.  Some of them even taste really delicious in salads (like wood sorrel which tastes sour but adds pizazz to tossed salads).  Many of the ones that aren’t appetizing still look enchanting growing in the ditches. 

Yesterday I had to run ahead of the garden rototiller to pluck all the lambs-quarters from the garden.  It’s our annual treat in late June and early July.  The lambs-quarters grows in weed-like frenzy in between the nicely planted rows of onions, peas and lettuce.  It wants to take over the garden.  But we won’t let it.  We refuse to even allow the tiller to turn it under.  We think it tastes like the best greens on the planet.  Much better than spinach, kale and collards.  Better even than dandelion greens, which tend to taste bitter if not harvested when young.

Lamb's Quarters (or, yes, you can call it Pigweed)

Lamb's Quarters

We’ve tried to convince our friends of its merits.  “You must harvest your lambs-quarters!” we’ve enthused.  One of our friends almost snarled, “I’m noteating any weeds!” Other friends have been known to make fun of us.  Especially my husband,  as he has called attention to himself by munching some garden leaves one evening after band practice.  I believed they likened him to a cow munching grass after that event and bought him a t-shirt which said, “I like grass”.  Of course we had to donate the shirt to the local resale shop.  Passer-bys simply wouldn’t understand.

Fill your colander for dinner:  it shrinks down greatly after cooking

Fill your colander for dinner: it shrinks down greatly after cooking

The young lambs-quarters only need to be steamed or boiled for 3-5 minutes.  You might want to pick off some of the larger stems.  Oh just think of the nutrition you’ll be getting in your meal!   2.9 grams of protein, 8,730 (IU) of Vitamin A, 33 mg. of Vitamin C and .63 mg. of iron.  I’m sure there’s lots of other jam-packed nutrients, as well.  For more information about wild edible greens check out this website.  Even though it’s based in Maine, it probably applies here as well.   http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/htmpubs/4060.htm

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Birdsfoot Trefoil

I liked this photo of Birdsfoot Trefoil and decided to discover if it is edible for humans. The Peterson Field Guides “Edible Wild Plants” doesn’t list it.  I wouldn’t try it.  In fact, don’t try any weeds or wild plants unless you’re 100% sure they are safe.  Study your field guides carefully.  Even then, eat a few nibbles cautiously and wait to determine how the plant affects you.

Back to my original complaint.  Why do some people vilify weeds?  Make them lowlier than the planted variety?  I suggest we all begin standing up for weeds. When people classify plants dismissively as “just weeds” let’s get on our soapbox and start sharing all the positive values of these “ordinary” plants.

Interesting looking specimen

Interesting looking specimen

I have something almost scientific and accurate to share with you.  I’m 92.5% certain that the above looking ball is an oak or apple gall.  And if that’s the case, it was formed by a gall wasp. 

But that’s skipping ahead of the story.  It all started the other night when Barry recruited our son to help trim some oak branches which were growing perilously toward the electrical wires.  (He was planning to recruit me, a fact I was lamenting for several weeks.)  It involved propping a ladder in the Studebaker truck and hand-cutting some oak branches.  He insisted it wasn’t dangerous.  Since he’s a rather cautious fellow, he was probably right.  Nonetheless, I really didn’t want to be part of this particular adventure.

The culprit.  The oak tree which grew too close to the electric wires.

The culprit. The oak tree which grew too close to the electric wires.

Hmmm, the photo makes it look more dangerous than it is.  Perhaps it shouldn’t have been included in this little gall-filled discussion.

Anyway, in less than ten minutes the chore was done.  The offending branches fell to the ground.  The crew leaned close to look at the acorns and (I’m sure) gasped.  What were those strange green balls?  What were they doing on our oak tree?

Another view of the strange green ball growing near acorns

Another view of the strange green ball growing near acorns

We all pondered, but couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation.  Someone opened up the ball to examine the innards.  Even more interesting, wouldn’t you say?

Spidery inside of the ball

Spidery inside of the ball

Today I thought to google the key words “green balls on oak trees”.  One of the interesting features of WordPress is the capacity to tell you what people searched to find your blog.  You learn that people type in all sorts of strange words.  Today people found my blog by typing in “I have caterpillars in my birch tree” and “sand movement on Lake Superior” and “wrought iron moose bear driveway gate”.  It always somewhat amuses me to think that anyone is searching for anything scientific in this blog.  The last search sounds more like the stories you’ll find here.

Anyway!  This Internet world is amazing.  At your fingertips you can discover what the heck those green balls are in your oak trees.  Here is one credible explanation offered by someone in a group forum:

 Q: My Oak tree has large green balls hanging from the branches. I have seen these before, but never to this extent. How can I get rid of these?

A: The round growths you see on your oak are apple galls, which is another name for cynipid wasp nurseries. These growths are part of a fascinating arrangement between insects and oaks. The tiny wasps lay eggs on oaks, stimulating the plant tissue to grow at a rapid rate. The eggs become encapsulated, and the ensuing gall providing food and shelter for the emerging larvae. Different kinds of cynipids wasps will lay their eggs on bark, leaves, branches root, leaves and acorns, each one causing a different kind of gall to form in a very specific location and at a specific time. They range from the tiny jumping gall, to the large apple gall, and from white to red to brown to green. These galls for the most part do not harm the plant, although one leaf gall will cause leaves to turn brown and fall of. The trees are not harmed in the process, and as the wasps are so tiny with such complex lifecycles, preventing their appearance is not practical or possible. You can knock them off of the tree if they really bother you, but know that they will be back next year. If you would like to see the wasps, collect the galls in the late summer/fall and place them in sealed bags. The wasps will emerge in the early spring.

If you don’t believe all the facts in the preceding paragraph please click on this Wikipedia link to learn more about the gall wasp and its oak balls.  Fascinating reading.  (Just kidding!  I just skimmed to see whether it looked plausible.)

My brave husband carrying off the oak branch (and its balls)

My husband carrying off the oak branch (and its balls)

 Finally, today’s outdoor activities:  coffee/tea on the deck before 8 a.m., a little gardening in the afternoon and wood splitting in the evening.  Day 189 checked off!

Marquette Park Cemetery

Marquette Park Cemetery

We left for the Marquette airport at 6:50 a.m.  The six days of vacation with our son and his girlfriend so quickly disappeared and this morning their American Eagle plane soared skyward, headed west.  I fondly lingered to wave goodbye as they proceeded through the security checkpoint.  (Hint to future travelers leaving the Upper Peninsula:  do not put expensive thimbleberry jam in your carry-on bag.  It weighs over three ounces and therefore is suspect as terrorist contraband.)  Thank goodness I remained to take home the delicious jam.  Otherwise the security folk might have enjoyed the $ 12.29 (10 oz.) jam!

I know why it costs that much.  You try picking enough thimbleberries to make jam.  But that’s a story for another day. 

Today we’re talking cemeteries.

Otto Lundin

Otto Lundin

Cemeteries are interesting places.  One walks through them with a sort of  reverent hush.  The birds chirp and the sexton mows the lawn and you ponder the ancestors lying beneath the ground with only headstones to mark their passing.   You wonder about the dead.  Who they were, what they looked like, how they lived, how they died.

Who was Otto Lundin?  It looks like he died at age twenty two, in Alaska.  Did his parents live in Marquette?  Was he mauled by a bear or snuffed by typhus?  How did the body get back to the Upper Peninsula?  Did he have brothers and sisters who cried at his graveside? 

The gravestones tell so little.  Look at this one:

Anna

Anna

 Anna.  I felt kinda soft and sad just seeing this small flat gravestone.  We don’t even know an age, a date of birth, a date of death.  Nothing except the wisp of a name.  Anna. 

Wrought iron gate...perhaps a mausoleum?

Wrought iron gate...perhaps a mausoleum?

One of the family members suggested that wandering around outdoors in a cemetery might be “morbid”.  I beg to disagree.  Perhaps after dark it might be a little spooky.  But in broad daylight it’s one of the most peaceful places one could imagine.  Especially in the areas with the old graves from the nineteenth century. 

The Marquette Park Cemetery features tended gardens, ponds, ducks and bridges.  Community members stroll through regularly.  Years ago, visiting a friend in the city, she inquired if I wanted to join her for a lovely walk.  Guess where we went?  I had never returned until today…but want to remember and visit here again.

Swirl of lily pads on pond

Swirl of lily pads on pond

I especially like the way life and death mingle together here in this cemetery-park.  The reverence for the old ones joins with the laughter and excitement of small children feeding ducks in the pond, mothers pushing strollers and a woman smoking a cigarette and tending flowers while lingering near a recent grave.  

Children feeding ducks on pond

Children feeding ducks on pond

Life and death are companions in this special place.  And isn’t that the way it always is, although sometimes we don’t choose to recognize it?  I left feeling a deep reverence for this journey of life and death, and a desire to appreciate it even more.

Corn cob in the woods

Corn cob in the woods

I am so lazy these days.  Don’t know if it’s the 80-some degree temperatures or the fact we have visitors or the shifting season.  Soon the garden demands attention.  The logs need to be split.  The grass needs to be mowed.  In the meantime, laziness feels so good.

I barely could find enough energy to meander around the perimeters of the yard with camera in hand.  Surely there would be something interesting at the edge of yard?  Besides mosquitoes.  I wanted to take a photo of an engorged biting mosquito, but couldn’t wait that long before slapping it away.

So, there, up ahead.  What in the world is a corn cob doing, lying in the woods?  Looks like something ate all the kernels.

View of our deck from the woods

View of our deck from the woods

Oh yes, now I recall.  The “something” that ate the corn was us.  We have a strange habit of flinging corn cobs into the woods after we’ve eaten them.  Nothing else.  Just corn cobs.  Years ago one of us cheerfully and impulsively tossed the cob off the deck on a hot summer evening.  Now it’s a ritual.  Sometimes we see who can throw them the farthest.

Where the corn cob lies

Where the corn cob lies

We’ll be eating a lovely dinner on the deck later this evening.  A farewell dinner for Christopher and his girlfriend.  Tomorrow their plane flies to Chicago, and then they’ll wing it to San Diego.  What a fun visit this has been.  Hopefully we’ll see them before another eighteen months have passed.
Shiny green leaf possibly munched by insects

Shiny green leaf possibly munched by insects

I shall leave you with a poem by naturalist and poet Gary Snyder based on a Mohawk prayer.  Let’s expand our definition of family even wider this day.

Prayer for the Great Family

Gratitude to mother earth, sailing through night and day–and to her soil:      

rich, rare and sweet

In our minds so be it.

 

Gratitude to the plants, the sun facing light changing leaf and fine root hairs;

standing still through wind and rain;

their dance is in the flowing spiral grains.

In our minds so be it.

 

Gratitude to the air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent Owl at dawn.

Breath of our song clear spirit breeze.

In our minds so be it.

 

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets, freedoms, and ways;

who share with us their milk;

self-complete, brave and aware.

In our minds so be it.

 

Gratitude to Water:  clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers, holding or releasing–

streaming through all our bodies salty seas.

In our minds so be it.

 

Gratitude to the sun:  blinding pulsing light through trunks of trees, through

mists, warming caves where bears and snakes sleep–he who wake us.

In our minds so be it.

 

Gratitude to the Great Sky

Who holds billions of stars–and goes yet beyond that–beyond all powers,

and thoughts and yet is within us–Grandfather space and the Mind is his wife.

So be it.

 

 

 

Did we ever think we would hear those words, let alone utter them aloud?  Yet, I do believe yesterday we may have heard those famous three little words.  Might have even come from our California guests.  Even our son is no longer used to Michigan humidity.  When it’s in the middle or upper 80’s and no wind, one wilts and sweats quite profusely.

The kids meander ahead on the nature walk

The kids meander ahead on the nature walk

We thought a stroll along the Nara Nature Trail (also known as the Pilgrim River marsh) might be a nice diversion before eating out in Houghton yesterday evening.  Remember when Barry and I hiked along this short trail earlier this spring? 

But, my goodness, was it hot.  Very hot.  And not very shaded.  By the time we returned to the car the air conditioning felt extremely welcome.  I thought about the challenges of going outdoors when it’s freezing cold versus boiling hot.  Different scenarios, but both demanding at times.

Perhaps crab apples?  Beautiful pink against the green leaves.

Perhaps crab apples? Beautiful pink against the green leaves.

At one point during the walk I settled on my hands and knees photographing whorls in the wood of the boardwalk.  Barry seemed a bit impatient.  Perhaps didn’t think a simple whorl would make a good photograph.  I beg to differ.

Close up of whorl in wood

Close up of whorl in wood

The earlier rain had roiled up the river into a murky muddy silty flowage.  Bits of weeds and flowers and debris floated by in the brown waters.  I liked this view from the trestle bridge.

Floatin' down the river on a lazy hot June afternoon

Floatin' down the river on a lazy hot June afternoon

On to Houghton for dinner and shopping.  I could tell you what everyone ate and who we saw and some of the interesting conversation.  But none of that part was outdoors, so you’ll have to imagine! 

After dinner we did walk around town and look at the construction and buildings before strolling down to the Portage Canal.  A welcome breeze blew in across the canal.  All the summer sounds ensued.  Children laughing, jet-skis howling, machinery drilling, families talking.  We felt so happy to be joined with our family members on such an evening.  I even texted Kiah in New York City to tell her we wished she could be with us.

Really close to a pidgeon

Really close to a pigeon

A pigeon lingered in a flower box outside the window of a store.  It refused to move.  We could have reached our hands over to pet it.  Most likely it would have pecked us or flown upright in a flurry of indignation.

An old building and sign in Houghton advertising Wilcox Studio

An old building and sign in Houghton advertising Wilcox Studio

We liked the Wilcox Studio sign painted on that building probably half a century ago.  Maybe a century ago, who knows?  It looks kind of artistic, don’t you think?

Portage Lift Bridge

Portage Lift Bridge

Now we’re caught up to today.  And I suppose someone might be wondering about the outdoor experience for this fine hot Wednesday.  Barry and the kids headed out before 7 a.m. for a fishing trip on a friend’s boat, but I have a meeting tonight and needed to work.  So…about 1:00 p.m…I hauled the lawn chair into the shade beneath the umbrella on the deck and snoozed.  Just lay there half-awake and dozed and listened to the noisy woods with birds calling and squawking and the neighbor’s rooster making his strange half-hearted holler.  Ahhh.  Summer.  Doesn’t get any better than this, especially in the cool shade with only a couple random no-see-ums biting.

Picture this scene.  It’s still fairly dark outside.  You’re sleeping in bed, covered only with a sheet, due to the steamy summer night.  In the distance thunder begins to rumble.  And rumble.  And rumble.

Closer it comes!  Lightening streaks through the bedroom window.  Flashes of silvery light illuminate everything.  The thunder now claps resoundingly, almost urging you to get up, even though it’s barely 5:30 a.m.

Then you hear the whooosh of rain falling.  All around, outside.  The rain pours so hard you can imagine the wildflowers and garden lettuces shivering with the intensity.  Suddenly…the dreaded sound…icy pellets of hail spitting against the house.  Clink, clink, clink.  You try not to think of the garden vegetables, but your husband is already groaning about the possible hail damage.

As quickly as the hail starts, it stops.  The rain continues to fall outside, but you drift (almost) back toward sleep.  Except you really can’t return to the depths of sleep.  So instead you enjoy the lulling patters of rain and thank the Universe for the moisture.

Raindrops on lupine leaf

Raindrops on lupine leaf

OK, let’s now move into awake day-time mode.  I checked the rain gauge and we received over 1.5 inches of rain during that early-morning excitement!  Very nice. 

Lots of plants lay sprawled tipped over on their sides.  The garden lettuce and spinach look a little flattened, but they are perking up as the day progresses.  They seem to be shimmering in the hot sun.  It’s 85 degrees just past mid-day.

Perennials drooped over the hose (sorry, don't remember their name)

Perennials drooped over the hose (sorry, don't remember their name)

The kids–although should one be calling those near the age of thirty “kids”?–picked some wild strawberries last night out by the road.  Christopher’s girlfriend had never seen strawberries that tiny.  They are the sweetest taste, though, the wild berries growing in between the daisies and the buttercups.

Wild strawberries on a leaf

Wild strawberries on a leaf

I was going to put another flower photo in next, a picture of an orange hawk-weed.  However, Chris just examined the photo selection and requested a viewing of the summer sky.  He, perhaps, is getting bored with flower shots.  I told him straight, though.  How in winter all there is…is snow.  Then in early summer…blooms.  Later, we’ll get in the fruit & vegetable mode.  Finally, we’ll get bored by autumn leaves before returning to the vigilance of snow.  Everything in their season, you know.  I’m sure he was impressed by the explanation.  He still wanted to see the sky rather than flowers.

The blue, blue sky sandwiched in between the green, green trees

The blue, blue sky sandwiched in between the green, green trees

We’re taking the kids out to dinner up in Houghton within a few hours.  We may wander along the boardwalk near Chassell once again.  We shall assuredly enjoy this sultry late June evening.  We will not be thinking about our long winter.  And if anyone complains, “It’s too hot!”  we will reminisce about the brave hardy souls who jumped into the Portage Canal for a Polar Plunge on that 4 degree afternoon in January!  Click here if you want to read that story!

Butterfly in driveway

Butterfly in driveway

If you were a true Yooper (person from the U.P.) you would probably say, “Hey, yous guys, there’s a scavenger hunt over at flandrumhill’s blog!”   Please click on the link to learn the exciting details.  We had a scavenger hunt back in…excuse me, must go check…back in March.  Those of us who participated had a marvelous time and wanted to do it again. 

Amy, of flandrumhill, comes from Nova Scotia.  I, for one, am looking forward to finding photos of the natural elements and emailing her or uploading into this blog.  Maybe it will be one entire day’s outdoor adventure. 

Before the July 20th deadline, please join in!  July 20th is actually kind of an important day in my world.  A birthday, as a matter of fact.  So it will be kind of difficult to forget the final day the contest ends.

Barry & Christopher do the wood splitting

Barry & Christopher do the wood splitting

Speaking of gifts, I am luxuriating in a vacation from wood splitting!  Chris has taken over the chore.  He and Barry have split, transported and stacked at least two full truckloads.  Oh, heaven.  Oh, joy.  It’s a delight to have him home!!

So now that I’m not splitting wood, what did I do outside today?

1)  surveyed the woods from the deck this morning

2)  walked lazily to the mailbox, twice. 

3)  weeded the garden a tiny bit.

4)  stopped beside the roadside and photographed daisies just because they looked so pretty.

The sides of the roads sprinkled with daisies and clovers and buttercups

The sides of the roads sprinkled with daisies and clovers and buttercups

5)  read part of a book on the deck.

6)  meditated for a few minutes before becoming distracted.

7)  phoned a few people (also from the deck).

8)  sipped a glass of wine before dinner on the deck.

9)  ate dinner…you guessed it…with Barry and the kids…on the deck.

Getting up close & personal with daisies

Getting up close & personal with daisies

10)  well, there isn’t a 10 yet.  That will probably happen post-blog.  It’s 90% certain that I will head back outside to enjoy the warm 76 degree evening.  It’s sooo enjoyable  this time of year.  Inside/outside…there’s no difference.  Except for those mosquitoes.  But the black flies aren’t biting, so all is well in our northern world!

Baby robin falls out of nest

Baby robin falls out of nest

I feel like there’s way too much to talk about tonight.  Where to even begin?  First of all, it’s my six month anniversary “Opening the door, walking outside”.  Six months!  Who could believe it would pass so quickly? 

The memory of those -13 below zero afternoons already seems hazy.  Like, did that really happen?  And was it really that hard?  All those frigid winter days when it seemed so difficult to imagine going outside…but when one dressed warmly and went outside…it was almost fun.  Or that freezing cold rain in Munising after 9 p.m. a week or so ago.  Was it really that bad?  No.  In truth, it proved almost invigorating.  It’s only our minds which try to convince us it’s too much.

Sunset last night at 10:25 p.m. over Keweenaw Bay

Sunset last night at 10:25 p.m. over Keweenaw Bay

OK, let’s move on to the first photo.  Remember the robin photo from the other day?  Yesterday one of the babies fell out of the nest onto the hard cement floor in front of the garage.  We think it lived, however.  For about an hour it sat very still and panted in the bright sunlight.  Then it hopped over to the shade.  And finally it was gone.  Along with all the other robins in the nest (except for one, who still remains).

Last night we went to the airport to pick up our son and his girlfriend.  While we waited for him, Barry and I wandered along the harbor.  A very fun evening.  As we reached home, and took the above photo overlooking Keweenaw Bay, both kids expressed amazement at the late hour of sunset.  It’s true.  During summer solstice it doesn’t get dark in Upper Michigan until 10:50 p.m.  And our son lay awake at 5 a.m. in the light and…are you ready for this?…the pecking robin on his basement window!!!  Yes, our beloved robin hath returned to peck.  Barry’s putting a piece of plywood over the window later tonight.

View of old pier in Marquette

View of old pier in Marquette

So anyway.  On to the Fairy King story.  I know some of you are waiting impatiently.  One of our regular bloggers, flandrumhill, announced a few weeks ago an ancient legend that if you wait beneath an elder tree at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve one would meet the Fairy King.  Of course, doesn’t that sound intriguing?  Who among us wouldn’t anticipate a meeting with the Fairy King? 

Of course the problem with this is that I always go to bed around 10 p.m.  Bedtime is more important than meeting with fairies, right?  Except.  Last night we were meeting the kids at the airport and we didn’t arrive home until after 11 p.m. and we sat around the living room chatting.  Suddenly it was 11:50 and I’m yawning and ready for bed, when suddenly Barry said, “C’mon now, aren’t you going outside to sit under that elder?”  WHAT?  Do I really have to?

So off I went, with flashlight in hand, at 11:50.  Totally exhausted.  (Not really expecting to meet the Fairy King, but curious what it’s like after dark outside.  Would I be afraid?  Would the bears come by?  Would the mosquitoes lunch on the human beneath the elder tree?)

Ropes near the harbor in Marquette

Ropes near the harbor in Marquette

This is what it’s like at midnight, in the dark of the moon, sitting beneath an elder tree, on Midsummer’s Eve.  First, fireflies flit everywhere.  Little blinks of lights shining on and off.  The scent of blossoms enchants the air.  It’s warm, even at midnight, although you need a sweatshirt.  It’s so dark you can’t see the tree itself, although you know it’s there, having maneuvered here via a flashlight.  In the distance an owl hoots, “Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you?”  You listen for coyotes, but none begin their mournful howling.  You heard them the other morning, so you barely notice.

And then.  The mosquitoes start humming.  At first they simply hum.  You smile, because you’re almost completely covered.  You’re happy watching the fireflies and distantly thinking about the Fairy King and hearing the kids laugh in the distance as they marvel over the sprawl of stars in the sky.  Then the mosquitoes start biting.  Bite, bite, bite.  Slap, slap, slap!!  You think, “Well, I hope the Fairy King isn’t coming disguised as a Mosquito, because I’m out of here!”

And after seven, or maybe seventeen minutes, you bolt for the house, smiling.  Happy for another strange outdoor experience.  But really glad to be anticipating a warm and cozy bed.

Lilacs and sailboat

Lilacs and sailboat

FINALLY, it’s time to proclaim the contest winner.  The person who has won a free nature book from the contest announced on June 4th.  I am already feeling guilty.  Everyone should get a free book.  Every single person who shared their love of nature and the outdoors and this grand and glorious earth.  But that can’t happen.  I’m not rich.  So…here we go…drumroll…the winner is….the winner is….are we ready….Emma!   Congratulations, Emma, on your win.  Will be emailing you very soon to find out which book you would like.  Thank you all for playing!  And for reading!  And for making this outdoor blog & commitment so special…

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