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Red apple trees surrounded by birch

How to make the perfect apple crisp:

Find a tree laden with wild apples.  Cultivated apples are OK, too.  If you find a tree the pioneers planted, your crisp will be filled with pioneer spirit.  Try to avoid the grocery store.  Supermarket apples tend to be filled with supermarket spirit.  Not conducive to the best apple crisp.

Laden with apples even in December!

Fill an oiled 8 inch pan three-quarters full of sliced peeled apples.  Peer in at your apples.  Smell them.  Remember what summer felt like.  Remember what autumn felt like.  Take a bite.  Slowly savor the apple-crispin’ flavor of the apple before you even bake it. Crunch.  Chew slowly.  Chew even more slowly so you can taste every single subtle sweet tangy buttery whatever-you-might-call-it flavor.  Think of three words to describe your apple flavor.  Pretend that you’re an apple connoisseur. 

Looking up with apples

After you’ve filled your pan with apples, it’s topping time!  You have two choices.  You can pile a traditional topping over the apples such as the one below:

Traditional:  Mix 3/4 cup quick oats, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup soft margarine or butter.  Mix together well and place over the delectable apples. (Optional:  add nuts and cinnamon, as described below.)

Or you can choose Vegan, also known as non-dairy.  Which is what I would choose at this stage in my life.  But because I don’t write recipe creations down, I’m going to try to remember the last (approximate) apple crisp topping created:

Kathy’s topping:  Mix 3/4 cup oats, 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, two tablespoons vegetable oil (OK you guys can use three tablespoons if you still have good gall bladders) and three tablespoons of maple syrup, honey, agave syrup or rice syrup.  Toss in cinnamon!  Not too much, not too little.  Maybe a teaspoon if you’re into needing more exact measurements.  Now go find your nuts.  Grab a handful of pecans, chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews or whatever kind you like.  Just chop ’em up into a reasonable bite-able size.  Add to the topping mixture.  OK, and if you adore flaked coconut, add some of that, too.  That looks good, doesn’t it?   Ready for the oven.

Yellow Christmas balls of apples adorn limbs

Now put the apple crisp in the oven to bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Think about how much you enjoy seeing those apple trees at the sides of roads at this time of year.  The world looks gray and bleak and the trees wave their skeleton arms at you as you pass. 

But in the midst of all that grayness, the Apple Trees still cling to their apple children!  Like red and yellow Christmas balls, they brighten up the landscape.  On a sunshiny-blue-sky day, they look awesome.  On a gray spitting snow day, their decorations look more muted, but you notice how their colors still make you feel…more festive.

Fallen apples sprinkled with sweet snow

I don’t suppose you should gather up the apples pictured above to eat now, though.  Nope, they’ve been frozen more than once and are mushier than baked crisp. They are now reserved for the deer. You should have thought about your apple crisp in the autumn.  (We don’t call this season autumn any more here.  Nope.  Even though they say winter doesn’t start for another two or three weeks, it’s definitely winter here.) 

But now your timer is beeping and the smells coming out of your oven are FABULOUS!  You thank those pioneers.  You thank the farmers.  If you can eat ice cream, go ahead and ladle a little scoop on your plate next to that steaming apple crisp.  Oh look at it melt…

Now it’s time to take a bite.  Ahhh…yessss….yum….apple crisp!

P.S.  If anyone wants to disagree about the wonderful fabulous exceptional part of this heading…your difficulty would probably be that you couldn’t find pioneer or wild apples.  Try to find ’em next year, OK?

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Hidden lake at dusk

It’s been 336 days now.  Three hundred thirty-six days of opening the door, walking outside.  In rain, in snow, in sunshine, in happiness, in resentment, in indifference, in delight.  The outdoors has opened itself to me, and I have opened myself to it. 

One month from now, on December 21st, the Winter Solstice will occur.  One year ago on the Winter Solstice we built a big bonfire back behind the house in a clearing in the woods.  My daughter, Kiah, was home and we invited a good friend, Catherine, over for the official commitment ceremony.  We each stated what we desired to accomplish during the next year and placed our slips of paper in the fire…which carried our intention to the heavens in the form of smoke and ash.  If you want to read about that first evening by the roaring fire please click here.

And now the year is winding down, as the hours of sunlight decrease each day.  Winter approaches.  We’re moving toward the depths of the year, toward the darkest hours.  Here is the place where we perhaps dream of next year.  Where the seeds of our next movements are born.

The tiniest of tiny green mosses, up close

We contemplate, we give thanks.  We dream perhaps of new directions.  Perhaps we’ve traveled west for a while; now it’s time to travel north.  (Metaphorically speaking, of course.  I am still aiming to travel ALL directions!)  We say goodbye to the green grasses and fallen leaves.  Snow’s sleep will come upon them soon.

Red berries over wooden dock

I spent lots of time outside today.  How shall I count the ways?  Outside helping Barry with his garage-addition project (two or three times).  Outside picking stray wet leaves out of the perennial garden.  And later on in the late afternoon, Barry and I decided to drive over to Keweenaw Bay to Carla’s Restaurant.  I really didn’t need to eat out any more after last week’s eating-out-extravaganza in San Diego.  But poor Barry hasn’t eaten out much lately…so over to Carla’s we drove.

A cornucopia of red berries!

On the way there I asked, “Would you like to see the hidden lake I discovered earlier this year?”  Yes, he would like.  It’s behind the Pow Wow grounds.  You can read about the magical day of discovering the hidden lake here.

We followed the almost-hidden path back to the little lake just as dusk descended.  He liked it.  I was pleased to see the placid waters yet again.  Ducks flew up in a squawking flight of wings as we approached.  It looked like they were running across the lake as they attempted to rise.  The lake was filled with invisible duck tracks that shimmered in the fading light.

Partridge on fence?

We walked back to the car.  “Hey!  Look at that partridge over there on the fence!” I said.  Grabbed the camera, stalked toward it (probably with all the finesse of a large elephant).  Triumphant because the partridge was not moving.  It would be the best partridge photo of the year! A National Geographic up-close wild animal shot.

But wait a minute.  As I got closer it didn’t look like a partridge anymore.  It looked like…

Owl wing

…an owl wing.

An owl wing?  What was an owl wing doing here on the fence?

But then I got the shivers.

The book I am writing for NaNoWriMo is about an Ojibway medicine man named Kookookoo’oo.  (Well it’s partially about an Ojibway medicine man, but he’s a big part of the story.)  And you know what Kookookoo’oo means?  You got it. 

Owl.

I’m not 100% certain it’s an owl wing. It could be some kind of little hawk wing.  (In which case the medicine man might be saying, “Change my name, will you?”)  But I have found many owl and hawk feathers over the years and these looked more like owl. 

OK.  That’s the story of how today’s outdoor and indoor adventures and dreams all merged together.

Afternoon reflections

Rain dripped from the sky most of the day.  It was a drizzly damp afternoon.  Mist descended upon the earth.  Waves of fog rolled in. 

By 3:30 it looked like dusk.  A late autumn afternoon.

Blue fog

Here’s my daily confession.  I went into the woods today.  Shhhh…don’t tell anyone.  You know you’re not suppose to hike in the woods during hunting season.  Especially during the first week.  But I couldn’t help myself.  The woods called.  I said, “No way, woods, I will not go in you.”  The woods called again.  I said,  “OK, but just in a safe place where hunters surely won’t go.  Near the lake.”  The woods smiled.  It knew I wouldn’t refuse.

Along the curve of the lake

Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle.  Camera shutter going snap, snap, snap.  (Christopher, out there in San Diego a few days ago, suggested I turn off the sound.)  Heck no.  I like the sound the camera makes.  It sings a lively four-note tune when you turn it on.  Maybe five notes. 

Deer tracks to water

I thought today about how our favorite places on the earth look different all the time.  They look so different on a foggy day than, say, a bright sunny morning.  They look different in snow, different in the jungle-depths of summer, different in the tentative green of spring, different when the autumn leaves fall.  This may sound obvious.  But isn’t it true of everything?  We think people or things are always the same.  But everything and everyone are constantly changing.  You are brand new in every moment!  And so am I!  Isn’t this a miracle?

Fallen tree on Huron Bay

I have 2,000 more words to write on the NaNoWriMo novel before bed, so had better shut up here right now.  The “novel” now has 32,328 words.  After the first five days of sheer torture and probably terrible writing at the beginning of the month, I have had a great time birthing this story.  We need to have 50,000 by November 30th to get our…I’m not sure what we get…an award?  Praise?  Inner contentment for actually writing a novel?  Whatever! 

Hope you all had sunlight after 3:30 p.m.  If not, hope you enjoyed the early dusk.

P.S.  I am definitely back in slower-Internet land.  After uploading photos in ten seconds in San Diego…it’s back to almost three minutes per photo.  I am trying to figure out what to do during those three minutes.  Meditate?  Read?  Play a computer card game?  You can’t check any other Internet applications because the Internet politely refuses to cooperate.  Alas, the little problems in life, eh?

All you non-hunters get out of the woods now!

All you non-hunters get out of the woods now!

Every year come November 15th, I’m outa the woods.  Goodbye forest!  You won’t catch me wandering lazily through the poplar and maple trees, shooting with my trusty camera.  No.  Not even with a bright orange vest and hunting garb and orange cap could you convince me to hike in these beloved forests. 

I’m outa here.

Although, it seems, at least a few thousand extra visitors do fearlessly enter our north woods, ready to bag their seasonal deer. That’s not counting the local guys and gals who have been excitedly planning and plotting and checking their guns and preparing their bait piles for the last few weeks.  They are all dreaming of venison stew.

Everywhere you go signs appear:  Deer apples.  $2.00 a bag.  $5.00 a bag.  $7.00 a bag. (Makes one wonder if the sizes of the apple bags are all different. One sign, I noticed this weekend, showed a picture of actual bag with the words “Actual Size” penned beside it.  Just to avoid confusion, I suppose.)

Our little house in the big woods--from the back, through the woods

Our little house in the big woods--from the back, through the woods

Nope, I’ve been properly scared over the years.  Stories of people getting shot by stray bullets.  (Not that it’s ever happened to innocent hikers…I don’t know.)  Dire warnings by loving grandmother-type neighbors, “You stay out of those woods now, Kathy!”  Sounds of gunshots at dawn:  bang, bang, bang!!!

Usually this is the time of year I say Goodbye Outdoors.  Forget you.  I am staying in my nice warm cozy house and hibernating until spring, thank you.  You can’t make me go outdoors.  Just try.

Although some years I stay inside for the first week of deer hunting season and somewhere around Thanksgiving emerge and start cautiously traipsing up and down the road.  There aren’t a lot of hunters in our rather populated woods, after all.  Most of the out-of-towners who don’t know any better than to shoot indiscriminately on private property have left to return home to turkey dinners downstate or in Illinois.  Then it’s safe.  Or so I think.

The bark face knows.  It really knows.  Everything.

The bark face knows. It really knows. Everything.

Today I wandered in the woods, “Goodbye trees.  Goodbye birch-bark face, aren’t you precious?  Goodbye pine cones.  Goodbye old fort that the kids built.  Au revoir.  Enjoy your time with the hunters.  Show them some of your beauty, eh?  Let them see your magnificence.”  And then I saw IT.  Litter.  Right there on the forest floor, behind our house.  How dare someone litter back here?  What were they thinking?

How disgusting!  Litter in the wood!

How disgusting! Litter in the wood!

And then, with utter clarity, I realized that We were the Litterers.  This was our missing grill cover!  It had flown off in a whipping wind sometime earlier in the summer and we could not find it again.  So we traveled to Marquette and brought a brand new cover, to better prevent rust and exposure to the elements.

And here was the original cover!  A few sprays of hose water and surely it would be ready to do its duty once again.  When the new one flies off on a windy day, that is.  We’ll keep this one handy somewhere.  What a lucky find!

An ancient bridge across the ravine stream

An ancient bridge across the ravine stream

What a lovely afternoon it has been.  Temperatures in the 50’s.  No sounds of bullets, yet.  The forest floor littered with leaves. 

I paused beside the old bridge which once led across the ravine.  Our son nailed it together, all those years ago, back when he was still a youth building forts all over the woods.  I looked at the bridge and smiled.

Because I am really OUTA HERE!  I am going to San Diego tomorrow to visit this beloved son!  Have not once visited him on his turf since he moved to southern California three years ago.

Would you guys like to come too?  Let’s leave the woods together.  Meet you tomorrow (or the next day) in San Diego, OK?

River pool

River pool

For the third time in thirty years we attempted to visit Silver Mountain and hike up the steps to the summit.  Everyone in the whole county has already been there, I am sure.  My husband has successfully visited there several times.  Yet every time I try to climb Silver Mountain, Something prevents it.

Today, I was determined, we would find the elusive mountain, climb it, take photos, return home and publish a blog about the wonders of the rocky-mountain top.

Right.

The river is POWERFUL!  Remember that.

The river is POWERFUL! Remember that.

Trip #1 (all those years ago):  we just plain got lost in the backwoods wilderness of the Ottawa National Forest.

Trip #2:  We knew where we were going, but torrential spring rains washed out the road to the mountain.

Trip #3 (today):  We started out about 3:15 p.m.  I said to Barry, “Do we need a map?”  “No,” he replied breezily, “I know just where we’re going.” And proceeded to tell me exactly how to get there.

So we drove.  And drove.  And drove.  And pretty soon the clock showed 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. and we still could not find the right road.  Alas.  We turned down a side road and ended up turning around.  We were starting to get hungry.  And the sun now sat at a very low angle on the horizon, diving down lower.

“We should have started earlier,” we said glumly.  But then I had a brilliant idea!  It may not be the outdoor adventure that we planned, but…”How about we drive over to Covington and eat dinner at the Hardwood Steakhouse?”

I have been wanting to eat dinner at this out-of-the-way restaurant since it opened a couple years ago.  And we are NEVER anywhere near the restaurant at dinner time.  It’s about forty five mintues from our house. Perhaps this is the Universe’s treat.  If we had found Silver Mountain earlier, we never would have traveled this far south. 

“What do you think?  Can we go?  Oh let’s go!” I enthusiastically gushed.

We should have brought our map.

We should have brought our map.

Finally we discovered exactly where we were in these winding back roads, and we could have easily found our way to the little mountain.  But by then it was 5 p.m. and would be dark in an hour.  We decided to follow the road to the Sturgeon River Campgrounds (where we had camped years ago with our family).  This brought back memories of the time a rainstorm washed out our tent and how we rose soaking wet at 6 a.m. Sunday to drive home.  I remember we ate donuts in the car and somebody…no names please…threw up the donuts all over.  What a fun family trip that proved to be!

Sun-lit tres along the river

Sun-lit trees along the river

I climbed down to the river to take photos and discovered the following rock.  Someone had written appropriate sentiments onto the big stone overlooking the rapidly rushing river. 

The rock says it all

The rock says it all

So we didn’t make it to Silver Mountain today.  (Or the last time, or the time before that.)  Remember the saying, “You know how to make God laugh?  Tell him your plans!!”  We announced our intentions, but the Universe had another plan.  It said, “No, today you will drive down lovely country back roads.  You will wander by the Sturgeon River.  And, best of all, you will eat a lovely sesame-encrusted salmon with orange-ginger sauce at the Hardwood Steakhouse in Covington.”

Delicious dinner

Delicious dinner

Here is the secret to life:  Sometimes you have to make plans.  But always be prepared to listen to any alternate plans the Universe has in mind.  Be infinitely flexible. Be ready to turn left instead of right.  Laugh a lot.  If you can’t find Silver Mountain before sunset, look for a good restaurant. 

It’s as simple as that.  🙂

Ice

Ice

The Anishinabe (Ojibway) call this November moon “The Freezing Moon”.  We all know why.  As the angle of the earth tilts away from the sun, our northern hemisphere begins to cool.  Winter whispers in the ear of autumn, “You’re outa here!”  Autumn waves the last of her vibrant leaves, recognizing that it’s here time to go.

Vibrant oak leaves...last to go...

Vibrant oak leaves...last to go...

I’ve had a challenging day or so.  I feel overwhelmed; spread too thin.  The precious silence and simplicity that I love has been eaten away by too-much-busyness.  It’s not just the new novel-writing commitment for the month of November.  It’s simply that I am not making enough room for quiet space if my life.  My soul is begging for me to listen and I simply brush it away, “Oh, do be quiet now, I’m busy!”   It feels as if an inner voice keeps whispering, “It’s time to let go of a few things in your life right now.  Let go of a few of those autumn leaves that are ready to release into the wind.”

The Freezing "Moon"

The Freezing "Moon"

People often move to the woods or country desiring a less hectic lifestyle.  They want simplicity, quiet, ease of life.  That can happen if one cultivates it.  But more often than not, Life and Busy-ness have a way of finding you even in the backwoods.  Busy-ness can take over your life, wherever you go. 

When Busy-ness starts getting overwhelming, we need to have a talk with her. 

“This is what must go,” we might say to Ms. Busy-ness.  “This and this and this.  You might like all these things, but are they really necessary?”

And we know what is simply wasting precious minutes and hours in our day.  We know.  But it’s often challenging to let that autumn leaf fall off the branch.  To simply let go of that which is not serving us, in order to give more quality time to that which nourishes our souls.

Snowy bike

Autumn slipping away...

Snow fell on the morning of the full moon.  Less than an inch draped our car, scattering on the fallen leaves.  In town, at the top of the hill, as I drove to get my hair trimmed, I noticed at least two or three inches of white.  Amazing how one area has no snow; three miles away you almost need boots. 

Every person is different.  Some of us need huge vistas of silence, of space, of walking in the woods with the companionship of the sun and moon.  Another person is satisfied with much less.  The snow falls in different proportions everywhere; we must listen to our inner guidance and follow the quiet direction which prompts us.

A frozen Buick

A frozen Buick

Too often if we refuse to heed our wise inner voice, our body speaks up instead and suggests a nice vacation with the flu or perhaps some other illness. 

I’m going to try, starting today, to make room in the midst of busy-ness.  Perhaps the busy-ness will sit back and relax.  Perhaps she and I will share a cup of jasmine tea and some silence.

Perhaps the leaves will effortlessly release from the trees and drift in the autumn wind, beneath The Freezing Moon.

Perhaps.

Miracle

Miracle

Outdoors today:  helped Barry move and cover the wood splitter.  Then we carried long heavy boards for his garage edition.  Later we covered the woodpile.  More checks off our “to do list” before winter arrives.

The miracle of a buttercup on October 30th

The miracle of a buttercup on October 30th

“Tis the season when the leaves blow madly out of the trees.

The wind sings and the leaves fall.

The earth gleams lush with a yellow carpet of golden leaves, interspersed with bright red of maple, lavish green of birch, dusky- orange of oak.

The skeletons of trees remain, silhouetted against an autumn sky.

Grey skies and skeletons on the horizon

Grey skies and skeletons on the horizon

So you look up in the late October sky.  Watch out!  Duck!  There’s a leaf flying in your eye!  Swat it away and look up again.  Look at the skeletons of tree limbs on the horizon.  We are now at the time of year when the trees become bones.  No wonder we celebrate Halloween.  The world is filled with bones of trees everywhere…empty of colorful leaves…skeletons against the sky.

Self-heal in the ditch

Wild basil in the ditch

It is indeed a miracle to discover a flower blooming at this time of year.  Everything looks so sparse.  So empty.  And then, in the oddest places, blooms a flower!  How could this happen?  It is as if the Universe kindly and gently speaks to us, saying very quietly, “You will find my miracles even in the darkest days of your life.  There I will bloom.”

Sky and branches

Sky and branches

A Native American friend once said, “Even in the deep of winter you can dig beneath the snow and find green medicinal plants.”  Even when we think the world is stark and empty and void, plants grow beneath the surface, beneath the obvious, available for those with faith.

The gift of goldenrod

The gift of goldenrod

I always gasp a little, glimpsing the unexpected flowers.  To imagine that they exist even after the hard edges of frost browned most of the landscape.  These flower-children have been hiding in ditches and protected areas.  They offer the world new hope in these days of freezing.

Double-pronged in the sky

Double-pronged in the sky

The wind blows and the rain spits and it’s 62 degrees at mid-afternoon.  Barry and I sit on the deck before dinner, perhaps the last time this season.  I sweep leaves off the deck, unto the lawn below.  Later I rake up some of the leaves (although he will mow the majority of them with his lawn tractor).

The wind keeps blowing fiercely, sending dozens of leaves to their winter resting-place.  It’s almost impossible to photograph their final plummet.  You snap picture after picture, but only photograph dots in the sky.  The wind also shudders the leaves on the grounds, making their autumn whispering sounds as they blow around in circles in the driveway.

But wait!  One lone leaf drifts downward.  Can we capture it? 

Another miracle, indeed.

Leaf, cloud, blue sky

Leaf, cloud, blue sky

Make a wish.  Open your hand. If you catch the leaf, your wish will come true.

🙂

Four red leaves

Four red leaves

There arrives a perfect autumn afternoon.  Warm, near 50 degrees.  Check.  Not raining.  Check.  Partly sunny.  Check.  No swine flu or sickness. Check.  Nothing much to do.  Check.  A friend wants to go hiking.  Check.

So you dig out your backpack and camera and an extra jacket, hats and mittens and head for Little Mountain.  (For all you new readers, Little Mountain is a Michigan mountain.  It doesn’t count as a “real” mountain.  It’s a rocky crag which juts up above L’Anse, a lovely little steep-ish hill with a panoramic view of Lake Superior and endless trees.)

Here's where we start

Here's where we started

Bertha and I sloshed in on a rather wet trail, narrowly avoiding getting our feet soaked.  We chatted away as if we hadn’t seen one another in months.  Which we hadn’t.  How can four or five or six months slip by just like that?  Especially since our last words were “Let’s get together again SOON!”

We used to work together, half a lifetime ago.  OK, it wasn’t that long ago.  It only seems like it sometimes.  We spent our youth (by that I mean our 20’s and 30’s) hanging out together quite regularly.  These days we try to meet for occasional walks where we try to condense months into a couple hours.

Bertha atop the mountain

Bertha atop the mountain

Here’s the best kind of friend in the whole world.  You ask her if you need to bring anything.  She says no.  She says she’ll bring some wine and we’ll have a toast to friendship and mountains and sunny autumn days.  And when she arrives, guess what she has?  Red pepper hummus.  Cut up vegetables.  And two of the healthiest yummiest cookies on the planet (with pumpkin seeds!)

Zee hummus!

Zee hummus!

So we sit and talk and the sun heats us just so wonderfully.  And then that sun dives beneath a cloud bank.  We both dig in our packs, looking for little gloves to keep our fingers warm.  We solve all the problems in the universe.  We sip our wine.  It’s a glorious afternoon.

I wander off to take photos of red leaves and lichen.  She scoots down the hill and sits quietly.

Lichen

Lichen

Bertha in silence

Bertha in silence

The sun moves across the sky, ducking in and out of clouds, playing its elusive game of hide and seek.  We munch the last vegetable and sip the last of our wine. 

What the other side of the mountain looks like

What the other side of the mountain looks like

We promise, “Let’s do this again SOON!” and head down the mountain.

Time to go home

Time to go home

I’ve been to the mountain three times this year (well, maybe four times, but I can’t remember when the fourth time might have been.) The first was last winter with my daughter Kiah.  We climbed up in the snow and admired icicles along the way.  That was the moment the idea for this outdoor commitment and blog incubated.  We had so much fun on a cold snowy day that I said, “Why don’t I go outside more at this time of year?  Maybe I should make a commitment…and write a blog…and…!!!”  That’s the way ideas get started, you know.

The second time was an adventure with Amy and Dan when they visited at the end of July.  Click here to read that blog.

Hopefully all you readers have an opportunity to picnic on top of a mountain soon!

Well, bring the computer outdoors, then!

Well, bring the computer outdoors, then!

It’s a pity when you can’t tear yourself away from the computer to go outside.  Such a pity.  You’re sitting in front of the computer staring glassy-eyed at Facebook or WordPress or Gaia or whatever computer program with which you’re currently hypnotized.  You can’t leave.  What if someone else comments?  What if you get a few hits?  What about all those things you need to be doing on the computer? 

You stare some more.  You think, “I really should go outside.”  Just to get the energy going you post your status on Facebook, “I really really need to tear myself away from this computer and go outside and enjoy the magnificent 52 degree afternoon. Please send energy  to do so–right away!’

Because a few of your Facebook friends are blog readers or simply care, they comment back.  Now, of course, you really can’t tear yourself away.  What if someone else comments?  You’re stuck.   You know you should go outside but you’re stuck like glue to the computer.

Long shadows at dawn when you rushed out in your pajamas w winter coat and boots

Long shadows at dawn when you rushed out in your pajamas w winter coat and boots

So you comment back.  And they comment back.  And then there is another email coming in.  And maybe you should check your blog again.  And then go over to another site and check and see what craziness is happening over there.  And maybe head over to check the news to make sure your kids are still safe in San Diego and Manhattan, and don’t forget your parents down in Florida and your in-laws in Georgia, and what about all those friends across the world to whom you’re connected via the Internet?
Dawn, October 27th

Dawn, October 27th

Earlier this morning I left the computer-world and scurried outside in winter coat, boots, hat and mittens to the shock of…wait!…a rather warm morning.  What had happened to freezing?  It felt almost luxurious.  And there was the Sun!  The amazing sun was showing off in the sky.  We haven’t seen the sun in so long we forgot it existed.  Immediately, I became giddy.  And remained giddy all day.  (Thanks to the sun and a couple cups of coffee.)

Possibly tamarack trees in the bright sunshine framed by blue sky

Tamarack trees in the bright sunshine framed by blue sky

So in between dawn and dusk I spent some time running errands in town.  Delivered this, banked that, banked some other stuff, grocery shopped, visited two friends (Hi there you guys if you’re reading!), and then sat down with my laptop at the coffee shop to drink java and wait for my visit with an 88-year-old friend.  So you can ascertain this was a computer-filled day, can’t you?

Oh, oh.  Looks like there are some outdoor chores to do.

Oh, oh. Looks like there are some outdoor chores to do.

So finally this afternoon, nearing the witching hour of  6 p.m., realizing that the outdoor adventure had not yet happened,  with the help of Facebook cheerleaders, I tore myself from the friggin’ computer and headed outside prepared to look for interesting Things in the woods.

Except.  Suddenly my husband’s words resounded in the memory, “Hey, Kathy, if you go outside could you rake some leaves?”

Oh.  Yeah.  Right.  Raking to do.  Sigh…  Go find the rake, and get to work.

Leaf-raking job

Leaf-raking job

So I raked.  And thought about Facebook comments, WordPress comments, Gaia comments, emails, group notifications, weather forecasts and other Internet communications.  Was I fully in the outdoors today?  

…probably not… 

Except for a magical moment with the sun sank into the forest and the light gleamed at just that beautiful angle.  Suddenly I was right there.  Not in computer land.  In outdoor land.  Completely present for this sacred moment of the day.

And then it's dusk

And then it's dusk

But then I decided to bring Miss Ellie (the laptop) outside on the porch with a cup of  tea.  Just to see who might have commented or emailed.  You know how it is when you’re attached to this computer world, perhaps a little too much.

Don’t you? Or am I the only one?

Scary leaf ghost

Scary leaf ghost

Yep.  Nature is getting ready for Halloween.  You can see the little leaf-creatures and rock-creatures and bark-creatures putting on their costumes and dressing up.  Everywhere you look a face peers up from the earth or down from a tree or in stones at the beach.

You must try to look appropriately scared when a face appears unexpectedly in the woods.  Try not to say “Boo!” Just wish the little creatures “Happy Halloween” and continue on your walk.

Grandfather Bark

Grandfather Bark

Once you start looking for faces in nature, you see them everywhere.  (I especially love to collect shell faces on the beach when visiting my mom and dad’s condo down in Fort Myers Beach.)  You simply have to keep your eyes open.  The trees love to put on masks.  Oh, and yes, I must confess.   I did tweak Grandfather Bark’s left eyebrow just a bit and place Ghost Leaf on a black plastic background.  But that was the only tweakage of these faces!  Honest, cross my heart.

Just look at that Halloween costume!

Just look at that Halloween costume!

Sometimes you can see faces peering out of rocks.  Rocks with actual holes are very exciting, but sometimes hard to find.  Look closely at the following photo.  Do you see a sideways bird eye?

Eye in the rock?

Eye in the rock?

Then we have the more contemplative costumes.  This leaf is a little shy.  Doesn’t want to dress up too crazy or wild.

Whimsical fellow

Whimsical fellow

No Halloween in the woods would be complete without footsteps.  We experienced a moment of, well, nervousness, yesterday in the deep forest when we saw dozens and dozens of these:

Wolf footprint in the woods?

Wolf footprint in the woods?

There we walked, along a trail far from civilization, surrounded by wolf foot prints.  Rather fresh wolf prints.  We didn’t act nervous.  We only made one comment concerning wolf packs.  We took a deep breath and continued on, perhaps listening a bit more acutely for the sound of animals. We didn’t jump too high when we heard snow falling from the branches.

Until suddenly we spotted a footprint next to the wolf print.  Trick or treat!!  Silly us.  It was probably a dog print, melted in the snow to look bigger than it actually was. 

Probably.   Near Halloween you never know.

Footprint filled with leaves

Footprint filled with leaves

On Halloween night will we hear the owls hooting and screeching, the coyotes yipping down by the bay, and the leaves rustling in the wind?  Will the mice come trick or treating?  Will someone come and steal an hour of daylight from us?  (Or will they return an hour that they stole last spring?  Hard to keep track!) 

Jus remember this when you put on your costume this year:  nature is already dressed up and peering at you all around.  Don’t Be Frightened!!

 

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