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This may be a low point in the outdoor blog.
Why am I writing a blog entitled, of all things, “Don’t you eat that yellow snow”?
It’s a long story.
WordPress, the lovely host of this blog, tells you the results of top searches for your blog. For example, someone could type in “opening the door, walking outside” and that appears as one of the top searches. This week’s top searches include firewood pile, Ojibway park leafs (?) and the Huron River. All fine and dandy. However, recently, a few times one of the top searches for this blog has included the words “yellow snow” and “Don’t you eat that yellow snow”.
Honestly! Tell me, people, have I ever written six words about yellow snow? Ever? In this whole year? Why do searchers looking for the elusive yellow snow get to MY blog? Honestly!
I’m sure some of you know that this is a reference to a Frank Zappa song. We listened to it at dinner. Polite dinner music, as you can imagine. The main refrain is: “Watch out where those huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow”. In fact if you’re in the mood for a little Frank Zappa with your blog-reading, do click here.
Anyway, I’ve decided to give some of you blog searchers your due. You can see some yellow snow. It may not be huskie-yellow-snow, but it’s bona fide yellow snow. Get your fill.
Yes. it’s official. The yellow snow at this time of year is caused by tannin in leaves seeping into the snow. Or so I’ve been told. I really am not an official source on the subject. But it sounded plausible. You can click here to learn about tannin and determine if you agree.
There is yellow snow everywhere! Orange snow, yellow snow, brown snow, stained snow. And there are not that many huskies in the woods, I can assure you. Not even that many deer. It’s the tannin. Take my word for it.
And can we get one more close-up view of the culprit, please?
I have a lot of other more meaningful things I could share with you today. But they were all indoor adventures. I’ll bet you’re sorry this in not an indoor/outdoor blog, aren’t you?
A terrible thing did happen this morning, though. A very sad thing. I was headed to Marquette before the first light stained the horizon. It was pitch dark. Blacker than black. The headlights suddenly spotted a white rabbit running crazily across the road and I swerved the car praying not to hear that thump…please, rabbit, don’t…but sure enough the tire thumped against the rabbit. (However, I looked on the way home and there is no dead rabbit lying in the middle of the road, so it’s hard to say what happened. Two family members dared to ask if I got out of the car in order to bring home rabbit booya, which is the local name for rabbit stew. I don’t know why these particular family members would ask, considering our mostly-vegetarian status.) In honor of the rabbit we listened to Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit. Go Ask Alice, when she’s 10 feet tall.
Later in the day a white seagull almost crashed into the front window of the car. At this point I started feeling like a potential mass murderer of white animals. Fortunately the seagull flew upward at the last minute.
Here ends my Yellow Snow blog. I promise not to write about it again this year.
Happy Thanksgiving all you blog readers!
Even if you don’t celebrate thanksgiving, I am thankful for YOU.
Today (besides being the once or twice a year our mostly-vegetarian lips touch meat…that’s if you don’t count fish) we ate Thomas Turkey. He tasted quite good. Baked to that fall-apart perfection. Add some mashed potatoes, gravy and homemade stuffing and you’ve got a dinner to be grateful for. We said our words of thanks. I read a poem by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez entitled Grace. We included our family and friends, near and far, into the heart of our prayers. We ate.
It was snowing this morning. A very light snow, dusting the ground and then melting into it. Flakes danced from the sky and melted in odd patterns everywhere.
I was truly fascinated with the way the snow melted on the car. How interesting! What loops, what hieroglyphs, what symmetry! One has a lot to be grateful for when the snow melting on one’s car is more entertaining than a movie or a Macy’s parade, don’t you think?
Barry put up the bird feeder a couple days ago. We’ve been waiting breathlessly for the arrival of the chickadees and nuthatches. They have been calling and chirping all around us in the past few days. They kept singing, “Where is our bird feeder? Where is our bird feeder?” but when we finally put it up, they were nowhere around. Until this afternoon when we put the turkey in the oven. Then there were a dozen of them pecking away in the feeder. I was too busy to photograph their majesties.
Excuse the insertion of this green moss photo. It was taken yesterday, before the world turned white. Isn’t it a stunning color of bright green against the autumn leaves?
Another interjection: Remember when I told you about the NaNoWriMo commitment of writing a 50,000 page novel during the month of November? How many of you placed bets it couldn’t be done? Well, I am here to tell you that 51,214 words have been sprawled across 96 pages and I now have the official “prize”. You want to know what the prize is? I will upload it for you:
However, of course, the novel is not done. Nowhere near done. The characters are still deep involved in their drama, romance and historical fiction. Who knows when it will be finished. This month? Next? I do vow to finish it. Some of the writing is so raw I’m sure you could scrub countertops with it (ha ha, how’s that for a metaphor?) but other passages are almost…almost…fairly decent. The editor would have to utilize an eraser and thesaurus before anyone could ever read it.
Just wanted to let you know the status of this secondary commitment. Which didn’t really interfere with the outdoor commitment at all, did it?
What else can I tell you about this Thanksgiving night? How about the bald eagle which landed in the tree over the garage and sat there a long time? Barry said he’s seen it there two or three times lately. I tried to grab the camera and capture his majestic wings in flight but he flapped away with his broad wingsweep the very moment the front door opened. Like all good trackers, I followed him up the road. He landed in a tree. I approached; he flew away. I shook my head and wandered back home, photographing ice crystals instead.
As for the front porch: oh my! Very dangerous. An unsuspecting walker, say, someone with birdseed in his hands, could take a sliding dive on the icy steps. Luckily, we maintained our wits. We walked oh-so-carefully. No one tumbled. No one fell.
We were truly thankful as we said our Thanksgiving prayer this year.
Sending you all Thanksgiving blessings, as well.
****Darn! Darn! I almost forgot to tell you THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Phew. Memory is not always the best. Dawn, Sahlah, had a great suggestion for Black Friday. I will paste her idea here:
I have an idea – we can all give virtual rocks/feathers/twigs/puddles whatever to each other in our blogs!
We could spend Black Friday searching for those “just right” images…
So that’s going to be MY Black Friday shopping. I’m going to officially shop for rocks. And a few other goodies from the woods. Virtual presents for all of YOU!
The hardest part of an outdoor commitment (besides going outside when it’s too cold, too rainy, too miserable…) is when you really have no time to go outdoors.
Such as the days you spend in airports and airplanes.
On these days you must make an extra effort to fit in your outdoor adventure before 7 a.m. or after 10 p.m. You have to Plan.
This morning Chris and I were out of his apartment by 6:20 a.m. and headed for Golden Hill. He planned to pick up his friend Chrissie at 7 a.m., drop me at the airport, and then proceed to campus for classes.
I said, “OK, we’ll do the outdoor adventure at 6:30 a.m., ok?”
He raised his eyebrows, but he’s a good son.
He complied. We took a nice walk through the early dawn of San Diego.
We walked in silence. The early morning air felt chill. But in San Diego “chill” does not mean the same thing as it does in Upper Michigan. In the U.P. we would be bundled in winter clothes, hats and mittens. In San Diego we wore a light coat or long sleeve shirt.
We said our goodbyes. Goodbye, Christopher. Goodbye, Mom. When will we see each other again? Perhaps next summer? Thank you for coming. Thank you for having me. I love you. I love you, too.
After about 20 minutes he headed back to the car. I slowly walked around the park. It would be a long day. Little did I know then but our flight would be momentarily delayed because both clocks in the cockpit refused to work. Luckily, a maintenance guy fixed them and we took off before impatience set in. Later on the flight the captain announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a delicate situation.” My heart stopped. Here we go, I thought. Delicate situation. Are we ever truly prepared for “delicate” situations? But then his voice continued, “All four lavatories are not flushing well. Please do not put paper toweling down the toilets.”
Ahhh! That kind of “delicate” situation. We can live with that one…
Just before we drove to the airport, a flock of birds settled on the overhead wire. They were all lined up to go. So were we.
“Goodbye!” we said, “Until we meet again…”
I’ve named the above rock. Meet “El Cabrillo”. El Cabrillo, meet the blog readers.
El Cabrillo lives in the Tidal Pools at the Cabrillo National Monument Park in San Diego. He was staring up at the walkers traversing on the backs of his brothers and sisters along the pools.
I spotted him immediately. Forget looking for anemones and crabs and seaweed. There was a face in the rocks! We could return home perfectly satisfied.
Oh what a lovely day! I spent the night at a motel in Little Italy. Up at 5 a.m. once again (forced myself to lie abed until the late morning hour of 6) and then explored the streets. Ate a breakfast Panini and coffee along India Street before sitting in a courtyard to write 2,000 words of the novel along with the most delicious coffee in the Universe. Well, good coffee anyway.
We attended another farmer’s market and then picnicked near Balboa Park under eucalyptus trees. I wondered why there wasn’t any grass beneath our feet. The kids explained that planted grass needs watering; therefore, many places remain grass-free.
Later in the day we ventured to the Cabrillo National Monument park. It was so cool. I loved it. First we viewed the skyline of San Diego and the hundreds of white sails on the ocean. I won’t show you this view because the little Sony Cybershot refuses to do justice to wider views, to skylines. So forget the sweeping panoramic views of the magnificent ocean. You can look at closeups instead.
I kept gushing, “Oh this is wonderful! Oh, isn’t this great?” as we explored the tidal pools. Chris said, “I am a little underwhelmed, Mom.” But later after we viewed the crabs and fish and anemones he changed his mind, I think. He may not have been overwhelmed like his mama, but he was impressed. And so was his girlfriend.
You wouldn’t believe how slippery the rocks were. I mean they were slippery. You had to pray you wouldn’t fall into the underwater world of those sea creatures. Some of us less agile folks had to crawl along the rocks, placing the feet very carefully. You wanted hands to help you jump over pools and seaweed-covered slime. You thought to yourself, “How old am I anyway? At what age should you stop clamouring over slippery rocks?”
Some nice volunteers gave us advice about the creatures in the tide pools. They showed me a little green worm, a magnificent find! They shared the names of the amazing sea-beings. I would have called the following sea creature an “urchin” but the kind lady explained that it was an anemone. Isn’t it cool?
Another exciting thing happened. A woman gave me a new name. She was attempting to coral her three children into a cave for a photograph. “Grace, Grace, come on in the picture!” she kept saying. And then she turned to me, who was standing three feet from her and gasped. “Oh no, I thought you were Grace! I am so sorry.” “It’s OK,” I said, and we both looked at Grace who was crawling on some nearby slippery rocks. “Guess you have a new name now,” the woman told me, “Your name is Grace.”
OK, I’ll take it. My new name is Grace.
Grace (the real Grace) and her sisters approached a nearby black bird who refused to move. They finally stood about a foot from the bird before the park volunteers urged them away, “The bird isn’t feeling well today; please leave him alone,” the volunteer kindly explained to the sisters.
When we got in the car, Christopher noted, “You talk to a LOT of people.” Yes. It’s true. I am fascinated by people.
Hope you enjoyed the tour of the tidal pools.
When you tiptoe outside in the early October dawn, with sunrise temperatures below freezing, frost meets your sleepy eyes.
Frost thick on car windshields. Frost atop the remaining garden carrots and kale and beets. Frost ice-searing the edges of autumn leaves.
You shiver in your winter coat, burrowing deeper into mittens and beneath knitted hat. Your breath spirals in smoke-vapor trails. The frost crunches thick beneath your sneakers or boots. As you walk among the plants, it melts oh-so-quickly and your jeans get soaked in two minutes. You don’t mind, wandering in a world of crisp-white beauty.
It’s not light enough to truly take pictures until after 9 a.m. Yes, the sun rises earlier. But, no, the light refuses to illuminate until the magic hour. You must capture frost at its dawn zenith. Not too soon, not too late. Timing is everything. Just like in our human lives.
Frost is the harbinger of snow around here. Frost speaks a language that the squirrels and deer and birds and mice understand. They scramble to finish preparations. They know their fattening-up days are limited. The wolves bay at the moon, talking to frost gods. The owls hoot, exchanging wisdom. The humans stoke their fires and linger inside. They remember ice in the marrow of their bones. But it does no good to push it yonder. Winter comes.
It’s almost time to trek home to that warm kitchen. Breakfast simmers on the stove: hearty grains, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, almonds, coconut, blueberries. What a delight to wander home after the frost-walk! Cheeks rosy and yet body warm after the hike, you open the door and return inside. A chickadee chirps its sweet winter call from near the garden, requesting sunflower seeds.
“Not yet,” you say. “We’ll put up the feeder soon, when the garden is empty.”
The chickadee flutters to the spruce tree. Another good day. And it’s not even 10 a.m.
It’s happened before. At least two or three times over the years, a hummingbird has flown through the open doors and attempted to feed upon the bright orange hoist which hangs in the middle of the garage. Once inside, the hummingbird flies up and cannot understand that flying down and out the door might lead to freedom.
Barry moved his boat outside today, and left the doors wide open for awhile. He commented to me, while in the garden, that a hummingbird was flitting back and forth at the top of the ceiling, frantic, needing to feed, trapped.
A little while later, while inside on the computer, I heard a knock on the door. It appeared to be Barry. I opened the door with a joke, “Hey, you don’t need to knock, come right in!”
The seriousness on his face stopped me in my tracks and I looked more closely. He held a hummingbird in his hands and was attempting to get it to feed from the feeder. Instead, it lay inert and looked pretty much dead. He handed it over to me and I put my hands over the tiny beating heart-body and sent it love and energy and prayers. Please, hummingbird, heal. Please, hummingbird, live. Please, hummingbird, stretch your tiny wings and fly.
We sat for a long time, the beating heart of the silent hummingbird and the hand which held it. I kept putting the sharp tiny beak against the sugar-water. Finally, she drank. If you looked closely, it looked like she was spitting it out, then sucking it back in.
She opened her eyes.
She rested a lot longer.
Finally, she fluttered her tiny wings. She drank, spitting out the liquid, drinking again. She stood on her tiny feet and stretched and looked around.
The suddenly, with a huge burst of energy, she soared heavenward, up, up, up, toward the spruce tree! And settled on a branch of the spruce tree, squawking loudly, the loudest hummingbird squawks you’ve ever heard.
I smiled and went inside, giving thanks.
Here are some more pictures ‘way back from another past life: last Friday. Back when Scot and Karen and Doug and Gabe and Keely and myself drove a half hour out to Point Abbaye at the end of the peninsula, bouncing up and down on the sandy two-track. The day was rainy and owly. Look at this wave:
Point Abbaye is a rocky peninsula that juts way out there in Lake Superior. Not as far as the Keweenaw, but still out there. There is no electricity out this far, no year-round houses. Just the rocks and the lake and the wind. It’s a place to meet the elements and feel their special gifts.
The extended family has returned home to the Thumb of Michigan now; our little house resumes its silence. We had such a great time with the crew. Barry has said (at least ten times) what a great time he had. And Doug is now only a hop, skip and a jump away up at Michigan Tech. What a gift!
Now, if we can just keep those hummingbirds out of the garage…
I almost always forget about Monday afternoon.
Monday afternoon is the day my friend Janet turns into a radio personality and hosts her very own live radio program on 88.1 FM WYCE out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She’s got another on-line name and her listeners know her as “Lee”. (Guess I’m not the only one with more than one name…)
It’s an independent community radio station that streams on the Internet and plays the MOST interesting eclectic music mix. At least on Janet’s day (oops, I mean Lee’s day). She sends the music out to all of us on Monday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. You follow the link to WYCE and then press “Listen Online” and then (if you have a laptop) you can bring it outside near the garden and have a genuine outdoor experience while listening to your friend play cool music that wafts and pounds and surfs on the breeze.
One of the first songs she played today is fast becoming one of my favorites. Go to YouTube and listen to The Littlest Birds by the Be Good Tanyas. Don’t just listen once. Listen at least three times. Then you’ll be hooked and will find yourself cheerfully singing “The littlest birds sing the sweetest songs…” And they do. Just ask the garden beans. Or this spider.
My, the harvesting time sped by this afternoon with the music playing on the laptop. The carrots needed thinning, and now they’re producing some decent-size orange carrots. A half dozen cucumbers are ready to eat. The basil shimmers and smells great. And Barry’s first tomato is almost…I repeat almost…turning the slightest tinge of yellow-orange. He may get a tomato after all before frost!
Even with the marriage of beans and peas intertwined together in among what was supposed to be solely beans, we’re still getting lots of beans. We think they’re called Rattlesnake Beans. They sport purplish lines which disappear when steamed or sauteed. They taste delicious. Very tender, fresh, bursting with flavor.
It was an at-home cozy afternoon where the temperature feels like bathwater. Do you know that feeling? It’s like the temperature reaches that oh-so-perfect place. Just right. After a discussion with my son in San Diego today, we’ve agreed to disagree which temperature feels oh-so-perfect. He thinks 68 degrees. For me, 78 degrees feels sublime. Like bathwater. And that was this afternoon.
Wasps keep finding their way into the house, like unwanted house guests stopping by to linger and buzz. I’ve a reputation as a wasp-rescuer, and will help them escape back to the outdoors. This didn’t work out last summer when I kindly moved a wasp out of the way while cleaning green onions. The persistent wasp returned to the green onion and stem and…YIKES!…stung me badly as I attempted to clean the onion. It wasn’t pretty, especially as red lines later began to climb up my arm and eventually a doctor very worriedly prescribed antibiotics. Still, I continue to rescue wasps.
Even the jeans swayed in the breeze, dancing to Janet’s music. I love the way you can live in the middle of the woods and still connect with the world beyond the trees and the plants and Lake Superior. Don’t we have a great life? Don’t the littlest birds sing the sweetest songs?
Oh my, oh my. Sometimes I just sit down at this computer and think “There’s nothing to write about, absolutely nothing to say”. This is one of those nights. I feel like I’ve been babbling every single night for seven and a half months. What possibly could be left to say? What story left to tell?
So then my job is to ignore the voice who insists there’s nothing to say…and start typing. To see what comes out. To see what the encounter with the outdoors wants to share.
So I started walking up the road this afternoon, planning to visit a woods I named Marantha many years ago. I was going to share all about one of my favorite special places in the woods with you. How she was razed, logged, scarred and cut many years ago. How I agonized over her logging. But then suddenly…it sounded all too familiar. And finally it occurred that the blog about Marantha had already been written. Remember the photo of the porcupine’s rear end quivering in his winter quarters? Click here for a memory refresher.
So the story had already been told. But the story of this summer day, August 3rd, 2009 had not been told. And a new story is born every day. Every minute. If we but open our eyes to look.
The porcupine, of course, is nowhere to be seen. Off cavorting in trees or raising babies or sticking quills in intruders, perhaps. There were plenty of chipmunks dashing to and fro. And chickadees, woodpeckers and other assorted songbirds. Mosquitoes galore, although none biting viciously unless you sat lazily on a log in the sun for an extended amount of time, listening. Lots of flies. No wood ticks, though. They’ve mostly disappeared from the woodland scene in early August.
If you carry a jar or yogurt container, there are lots of raspberries in this woods. After the forest trees fell, raspberry bushes grew up in the openings. I picked at an easy pace, enjoying a juicy red berry in between collecting them for tomorrow morning’s breakfast. The temperature actually reached 75 degrees today, so it felt hot again.
When you return home after walking an hour or two in a special woods, letting your feet determine where they want to go, wandering here and there, you will feel so energized and alive. As if the forest has taught you things in her silence. The forest tells stories, but not in words. She speaks in the language of moss, flowers, bark, mosquitoes, ferns and raspberries.
Well. It’s time to report back to you today about Day # 221 of the outdoor commitment. Yes. And, truly, there’s not much to say.
Here’s what happened outside: after work and running errands in town and having lunch with a friend, I came home and lugged the new laptop out on the desk and wrote a blog for another site. About (and I suppose this does not surprise any of you) “Did you remember to meditate while brushing your teeth?” Then Barry and I picked pea pods in the garden for a Szechuan tofu pea pod stir-fry. Later we leisurely ate outside on the deck, enjoying good garden food. Ahhh…the joys of a simple times outside.
I didn’t even pick up the camera today, so there are no new photos. The above photo of dusk along the Huron Bay occurred during a visit two nights ago with our company. The following photo (taken yesterday morning on the way to Little Mountain) has a small story attached.
Amy, Daniel and I were driving leisurely through Aura in our separate vehicles. First we witnessed a partridge couple crossing the road. Then…what could they be? Wild turkeys? Or…could it be?…sandhill cranes? Yes!
I leaped from the car, and conferred with the visitors. Should I try to get a photo? Even without the zoom lens? Someone must have said “yes” because I proceeded to scurry through the mostly-open field dotted with trees, attempting to photograph the four majestic birds. Forget the fact it was private property. Forget the fact that the birds were backing away rather quickly, alarmed at the human apparition attempting to reach them.
I never got close enough to get a really good photo. The photo below is what the actual picture looked like before the computer’s crop function accomplished its good deed:
My friend Catherine could tell you lots of information about sandhill cranes. They nest in her fields each spring. She knows so much about these birds. I only know that they look beautiful, and seem elusive. And would like to see them up close. Perhaps you have to earn that honor.
This is probably enough for tonight. Will leave you with a photo taken near the strawberry fields a week or two ago. I believe they’re fireweed which grow abundantly around here. If we could get a little closer up (for example, perhaps cropping the photo) we could determine if they are actually fireweed or purple loosestrife, which has a bad reputation. Loosestrife is an invasive plant, so they say, and should be rooted and disowned and scorned. I don’t like the sounds of that. How ’bout we appreciate all the plants on this planet, even the invasive ones? Why declare war on plants?
On that note, a peaceful goodnight to all.
The earth is happy today. Last night it drank long and sweet from the rain falling from thunder-clouds. The parched grasses and plants and flowers heaved a sigh of relief and this morning they’re waving and dancing in the breeze. And growing toward the sun with more zeal, already perhaps forgetting the drought-like conditions of the past weeks.
I was drinking outside today, as well. No, not rain. No, not anything too celebratory. Just sipping a cup of hot tea on the lounge chair on the deck, reading a book. Ahhh…one of the best kinds of outdoor experiences.
It is humid. Near 80 degrees. Perhaps hot tea wasn’t the greatest idea. Perhaps lemonade or ice tea might have prevented the sweat.
Out in the driveway, a handful of mud puddles almost block the path to the mailbox.
One of these years we’ll need to invest in some more gravel for the driveway. To fill up these holes. They’re still not that deep, so we hardly notice them except when it rains.
Mud puddles always bring to mind a childhood trauma. Seriously. I suppose you might not call it a trauma, but it was to two second grade girls. Carol and I scurried outside for recess in our galoshes. Anyone remember galoshes? They were slip-on rubber boots that you pulled over your shoes to keep them dry in the rain.
A mud puddle lay outside the classroom. We splashed our galoshes in the puddle and smiled and played and laughed and giggled. Until… (here’s the trauma part)…our teacher opened the door and YELLED at us. “GET OUT OF THE MUD PUDDLE!” Because we were both so terribly shy, this nearly destroyed us. I can remember feeling horror and shame for years afterward. Anyone else ever traumatized by a mud puddle?
Of course, to be fair, I think I traumatized my own kids the same way. You kids correct me if I have the story all wrong. Seems like I remember them splashing and practically swimming in the frog pond one autumn day. (Or was it in the middle of winter…?) With my memory, I shouldn’t be telling stories at all. And yelling, “YOU KIDS GET OUT OF THE POND!!” They probably were not traumatized. They probably don’t even remember.
Well, I can’t be tarrying any more writing a blog today. Our son and his girlfriend are flying in tomorrow night and it’s time to do some more housecleaning. Clean the bathroom, kitchen, vacuum, dust…you know the whole story. Thank goodness the windows are already washed. And the basement vacuumed.
I shall leave you with two tidbits. 1) a friend just sent at least a half dozen animal pictures. Yes! She apparently felt very sorry for my whining blog yesterday about the lack of four-legged creatures. She works out in the woods and has lots of opportunity to capture wildlife. She actually recommended buying a remote camera. Suggested we would be amazed at the number of animals visiting beneath our deck. Perhaps I could set up a fund. Anyone wanting to donate to buy us a remote camera…for blog viewing….no! I’m just kidding, really!
2) The robin saga never ends. The fellow who pecked our window mercilessly all spring has finally given up. Mostly because we put a screen up over his window of choice. But, there’s more robin news. The nest on the windowsill of the garage now sports three new blue eggs. A recycled nest! And look at this shot of four more hungry robins with beaks wide open built near the top of the garage. They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere…