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Perfect dandelion puffball

Perfect dandelion puffball

Make a wish!  Did you ever play that game as a child where you blew from the bottom of your lungs at that dandelion puffball, hoping, hoping, you would blow away every last puffy seed? If you blew away every single seed (not a single one remaining, thank you!) then your wish would come true.

Honest.

Of course, 99.9% of the time you couldn’t blow hard enough in one long breath to remove every last seed.  So you lingered afterward, either looking for another one to try, or figuring out how to do it better next time. 

Plant growing in an old bottle in the middle of the woods

Plant growing in an old bottle in the middle of the woods

Is that plant wishing it could grow beyond the confines of that brown glass bottle half-buried in the woods?  Or is it content to simply be there in the forest, only knowing the sun dimly through the reflection in the glass above its head? 

Raven's feather

Raven's feather

Is the raven missing his feather?  Does he even notice it’s gone, dropped on the needles beneath the white pine where he lingered earlier this spring?  Does he wish it back?  Or is he soaring on the currents of the wind above the Huron Bay, his talons outstretched, prepared to land on that branch, his black feathers hot in the May sun?

Birch bark tendril dangling from spruce branch

Birch bark tendril dangling from spruce branch

Is the birch bark tendril wishing to return to the comfort of the tree bark wrapped in white round and round and round that birch tree?  Or is it content to ornament a spruce branch?  Is it wishing it still papered itself like skin around its mother or does it thrill to be free?

Bubbles of foam near the shore

Bubbles of foam near the shore

Does the wave dream of the moments when it swelled and rocked deep in the middle of the bay, long before it separated itself into the word “wave”?  Does it wish to gently feel again the bellies of sleek whitefish, silvery trout, flitting herring?  Or is it content to wash against the shore, now feeling the grains of sand and rocks, now turning over on itself?

Reflections in the pond

Reflections in the pond

Or is it only humans who wish and dream and pray for things to be different than they are?  Is it a gift or curse that we sometimes long for change, for healing, for difference, for new creations?  I suppose it is both.  In our wishing, let’s not ignore the beauty that surrounds us in this moment, a whole perfect beauty that shines forth in the reflection of our ponds every single day.

You can't escape nature, not even in the city

You can't escape nature, not even in the city

I was tired of the swamp and the woods today and decided to drive north to Houghton and Hancock to run errands, buy organic food at the co-op and indulge at the coffee shop.  Today’s outdoor adventure would be a walkabout around the two cities.

For all you non-Yoopers (Yoopers are folks from the Upper Peninsula), Houghton houses about 7,000 residents and Hancock 4,323 as of the 2000 Census, at least according to Wikipedia.  You might not even want to call them cities.  You could call them large towns.  But for folks who live near the really small towns (or in the woods) we think these cities are really big

Downtown Houghton

Downtown Houghton

Driving around Houghton these days keeps one alert and focused.  If you haven’t visited recently, there’s new routes and roads and pathways to follow. The city is doing a streetscape project for the next several months, tearing up the main street and replacing it with brick pavers.  New sidewalks, street lights, and water/sewer pipes will grace the downtown. 

The above photo shows the initial construction which goes south from the bridge for a couple blocks.  I heard rumors they dug up old streetcar or trolley tracks beneath the pavement.  Isn’t it fascinating to think of the history which might be uncovered digging down through the layers of soil?  Years ago I spent a week on an archeology dig in the Ottawa National Forest.  It’s so interesting (well, and sometimes a tad bit boring) to sift through the dirt, finding recent and prehistoric treasures.  Seems like we found a chipped prehistoric stone tool on that dig, if my memory is even slightly accurate.

Slant of sun through an alley

Slant of sun through an alley

After wandering around Houghton, I attempted to follow the directions to cross the bridge to Hancock.  Mission:  a success!  It really wasn’t hard, once you figured out where to go.  I parked the car at a great little bookstore, Northwind Books, and started the walkabout through this city.  Wanted to wander through a neighborhood and see what interesting photo opportunities presented themselves.  (Believe me, lots presented themselves.  Fifty photos were uploaded, just to prove it.)

Cool picket fence

Cool picket fence

It was really hard to decide whether to post the picket fence photo or the gate photo.  Or the step photo.  Or the bench photo.  Or the Yooper snow scoop photo (every backyard had one to help them shovel out the 250 inches of snow each year).  Or the raven sitting on the phone wire.  Or how about the guardrail with this most magnificent plant/weed growing upward near it?  I’ll tell you, deciding which photos to post is a real challenge.

Fire escape at the old Hancock school

Fire escape at the old Hancock school

For some reason, this fire escape really looked interesting.  Doesn’t it just look like you can keep walking up into the sky from it? 

After the walkabout, one more stop beckoned.  Time to go to the Keweenaw Co-op.  It’s a regular stop.  Best place in town to buy natural food, organic produce and all sorts of cool eclectic healthy products.

They feature panels of hand-painted murals on the side of the building.  For your viewing pleasure, here’s one:

Art on the co-op wall

Art on the co-op wall

I wish you all could have enjoyed the luscious piece of melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate and the cool berry ice tea.  Very delicious.

A delightful walkabout in the cities!

Spooky old tangled undergrowth

Spooky old tangled undergrowth

Today I convinced Barry to explore a haunted and overgrown stretch of outdoors in the Copper Country.  Old crumbled buildings sink into the earth, and tangles of brush and trees rise everywhere.  The earth smells different here, as if memories of yesterday still linger in between the old fallen rock walls, in that silent building, beneath trees which keep long secrets.

You walk quietly among the old ones, never sure what might collapse beneath your feet.  Caution keeps one alert.  The steep slope of the hillside also makes you sure to stay balanced and upright.

Oh how fascinating everything was in its spooky aged splendor.  How I wouldn’t want to be here under a full moon on Halloween Eve!

Tumbled-down old wall

Tumbled-down old wall

We bickered back and forth about who got to carry the camera.  Each of us kept deciding such-and-such angle looked more interesting or provocative.  It’s amazing how two people can look at the same landscape and see different angles, different shots, different perspectives. 

And then…and then…are you ready for this?  In the midst of this barren and desolate and decaying place we saw…the first wildflower!!  After weeks of studious hunting, there she was in her blooming glory:

A dandelion

A dandelion

Barry countered with the idea that a dandelion wasn’t a “real” wildflower.  “A lawn weed” he called it. I was terribly insulted on behalf of the dandelion and demanded an apology.  He is under the–mistaken–impression that “real” wildflowers might be varieties such as wood anemones, lady slippers, violets and forget-me-nots.  I wanted him to get closer and examine the delicate floral essence of the yellow wildflower.  I don’t know why people become prejudiced about dandelions.  I would like a whole lawn full, thank you!  They are awesome!  And, by the way, it’s time for all of us to eat some of the spring dandelion greens, as well.  Yes, they can be a tad bitter.  But they’re a good spring tonic.  Yep, that could be a new blog topic coming up soon…

The dried leaves of this tangled undergrowth were dotted with very strange fungus-like black spots.  It makes one wonder why.  What created those black stains?  Human-made by-products leaching on the soil?  Or something else?

A strangely spotted leaf

A strangely spotted leaf

The trees in the woods around our house are not usually covered with vines.  Therefore, when one spies a vine-covered tree it becomes utterly intriguing.  It’s as if the undergrowth attempts to merge with the tree.  It added to the mystery of the place.

Vines and undergrowth snaking up a tree

Vines and undergrowth snaking up a tree

Just as we were discussing the spookiness of this place, a crudely scribbled message appeared on a brick, sending shivers up my spine:

Who Killed Amanda Palmer???

Who Killed Amanda Palmer???

Barry said, “Oh!  Look!  A perfect picture for your blog!”  and I said with a hushed voice, “No, you have to be kidding, what if it’s a local girl who was murdered?  What if she was murdered…here?” 

Well, I’m here to report that we googled it and Amanda Palmer was not a local girl.  It’s a play, a book, alternative punk-flavored music.  You may even have seen it playing around the country.  In fact, we may be the very last people on the planet to have heard about Who Killed Amanda Palmer.  But we’re educated now.  Barry, in a classic rock band for 20 years, found the pounding piano-driven music refreshing! It certainly wasn’t hip-hop and it wasn’t country twangy–and it wasn’t rock. But who killed the girl, anyway?

You just have to wander around outside in spooky overgrown areas and…you never know what you might learn or discover. Something new every day.

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