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River stones

River stones

A couple of days ago flandrumhill (Amy) from Nova Scotia passed along a MeMe blogging award to Opening the door, walking outside.  Who knows who came up with this idea in the blogosphere?  But here were the instructions:

In order to accept the award one must reveal seven things about oneself and then pass along the award to seven other bloggers.  Since I won’t be extensively outside today until after blog-writing self-imposed deadline (and still have photos from yesterday!) it’s time to play along.

There are so many interesting blogs that I have read this year…it’s hard to decide which ones to highlight.  But since this is an outdoors blog, the decision is made.  The highlighted blogs must have writers who feature the outdoors predominantly, or who exhibit a strong sense of Place or Landscape in their blog-space.  My other beloved blogs will have to play second fiddle.

I don’t know if this is allowed, but the first award goes back to flandrumhill.  Amy comes from Nova Scotia and her blog is utterly utterly fascinating.  She is a teacher and lover of the natural world extraordinaire.  She blends together facts and mystery with a charming style.  She’ll make you want to visit the coasts, the bogs, the woods of this fair landscape.  Do visit her world and I guarantee you’ll learn so much about Nova Scotia and the way the land intersects with our human vistas.

Red pine bark

Red pine bark

Then there is Gerry at Torch Lake Views.  I admit to adoring Gerry’s neck-of-the-woods because she lives smack-dab in the middle of the area where I spent many years growing up at my parents’ cottage.  Reading her blog brings back memories and joys.  She’ll mention a place like the Dockside or Brownwood or Bellaire and my heart goes pitter-pattering back to those years of floating on Intermediate Lake on a paddleboard, learning how to drive on Antrim County Roads, exploring Lake Michigan’s shoreline.  She’s REALLY funny too; has a great sense of humor.  Do stop by and read about this lakeland community in Northern (lower) Michigan.

Then there’s Bree.  Bree lives halfway between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.  “What?” you say, “What exists between the two peninsulas?”  The answer is Mackinac Island.  She’s living there this summer from Georgia and her blog is jam-packed filled with the enchantment of living on Mackinac Island, a place where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed and the muskets fire from the fort.  She’ll make you want to pack your bags and move there.  She almost makes me want to scurry over to the island before the summer’s out, just to walk again along the roadside smelling fudge and dodging bicycles and… Do visit Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog.

Pebbles caught in between slate

Pebbles caught in between slate

Moving back downstate Michigan (hmm, seems to be a Michigan theme going here…)  you all might want to check out these blogs:  Nature Loving Super Mama who lives near the Pigeon River forest and the Tip of the Mitt and  Adventures of an Innkeeper about Iris and her life as an innkeeper in Benzie County (haven’t quite figured out exactly where Benzie County is yet.  Not exactly…)  Also Kath at the Great Lakes Gazette is a wonderful promoter of Michigan and shares IMPORTANT information like where is the best pasty?  (Everyone knows the U.P. is famous for pasty meat-potato-vegetable pies, right?)  Hurry on over and find out what she has to say.  OK,  one more Michigan favorite:  Jessica at The Magical Mundane Blogspot.  She shares lots about gardening and the outdoors…check it out!

Shadow play

Shadow play

Guess I can’t even follow simple instructions.  Two more blogs, just two more, even though I’m probably missing at least a dozen of the really good ones.  My dear friend Sahlah has a wonderful blog.  I LOVE her photos.  They are astounding and they lure me into the thought of traveling out to the West Coast to visit.  If you have a spare minute or fifteen minutes, drop into her wonderful world at sahlah.wordpress.com.  You won’t regret it. 

Finally (I promise!  I promise!)  do you want to see some MAGNIFICENT photography?  This fellow has been a photographer for more than twenty years and has some “real” equipment, much better than the little Sony Cybershot this blogger is using.  You’ll drool looking at some of his photos, I promise.  Please visit:  http://cherokeebydesign.wordpress.com/  (and he writes some good poetry and other thoughts as well!)

OK, to finalize the deal.  Seven things about myself.  Oh dear.  What don’t you already know?  Well they would have to be indoor kind of things.  Let’s see:

1)  I have two part time jobs.  As a business manager of a two room school and a township treasurer.

2)  We’ll be married for 31 years next month.  Barry and I, that is.  (had to do some quick math.)

3)  I have a challenged gall bladder, so to avoid surgery, we started eating a macrobiotic diet about three years ago.  So far:  no surgery!  And no pain, if I don’t eat too much fat.  (like on trips.  which sometimes happens.)

4)  We had a delicious enchilada sauce pizza covered with black beans and onions and peppers and cilantro and low-fat mozzerella cheese last night for dinner.

5)  Oh dear!  Nothing else interesting is surfacing.  Let me think harder.  Our last dog was part probably half-coyote.  We found her pitchforked and injured at the neighbor’s house back in the 1980’s and I picked up the injured dog in the dark (what kind of idiot does this?) and she screamed and lay still.  We had her fixed by the vet and she was the greatest dog in the world.  But she’s been long gone.

6)  This blog has taken a LONG time to write. 

7)  OK, I’m a rulebreaker.  Will not state a #7.  Except for the fact that stating you’re a ruler breaker, is probably #7.

Trail of needles on stone

Trail of needles on stone

Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to photograph five natural subjects that each captures one of the following elements.  Each one is characterized by one or several colors that may be substituted for a literal image of the element.  We must then post ona blog or email flandrumhill (the organizer of this hunt) with the depictions by July 20th.

The elements are:

1.  Fire (red)

2.  Water (blue or black)

3.  Metal (white, gold or silver)

4.  Earth (brown or yellow)

5.  Wood (green)

Even though she posted notice of the Scavenger Hunt on Midsummer’s Eve, some of us have not yet completed the assignment.  This morning I knew today was the day.  But how to proceed, how to proceed? 

One could cheat and copy photos already taken.  But that wouldn’t satisfy requirements for an outdoor adventure today.  Sitting on the couch, pondering, suddenly the playing field materialized in the mind’s eye.

I am pretty much convinced we can find exciting treasures in small patches of earth.  Like our back yards.  Our front yards.  We don’t need to travel long distances.  We sometimes just need to plop on a piece of land and explore.  In the world of tiny-seeing, in smallness, in slowness…a magnificent world often opens up to us.

Would it be possible to find all the natural elements of this scavenger hunt in a small patch of ground? 

I took the measuring stick out into an area surrounding the fire pit which last burned on Winter Solstice at the consecration of this Outdoor Commitment.  See this blog to view our fire and blurry lights from the darkness of the night. We danced around the flames, honoring the shortest day of the year.  And we spoke our plans and desires for the upcoming seasons.  How apropos to re-visit this place and truly look deeply on Midsummer’s Eve.  (Well, let’s not quibble.  It is a little past June 2oth.  But in theory we’re still celebrating the long days of summer with this scavenger hunt.)

OK, OK, I’m almost through “setting the stage”.  The photos shall now present themselves.  Let me tell you how hard it is to limit the photos to five!  I could easily post ten or twelve here.  But, alas.  Flandrumhill said five, and we don’t want to break the rules so quickly.

Earth.  Brown meandering...hmmm, don't know what it is.  But I like it.

Earth. Brown meandering...hmmm, don't know what it is. But I like it.

Ooops, almost forgot to tell you.  There’s more to this scavenger hunt than meets the eye.  Not only should we photograph the five natural elements, we are also encouraged to include patterns of nature.  (I figured this would be fairly impossible in a 12 X 12 foot patch of earth, but you’d be surprised.)  Here are five common patterns:  stars, circles, spirals, branching out and meanders.

I found lots of dried brown and orange leaves and the yellow centers of daisies, as well as buttercups.  Also the soil itself, but well hidden beneath layers and layers of breaking-down debris and rotting leaves.

Rain drops on fern

Water. Rain drops on fern.

Fortunately, it had just rained.  Moisture glistened on the plants and leaves.  Of course this meant one needed to wear rain pants to intimately explore the terrain on hands and knees.  Other photo possibilities included the leaden blue heavy clouded sky and above and the black burned wood and ash in the wood pit.

Red of the fire element paints this leaf

Fire. Red of the fire element paints this leaf.

The fire element seemed the most challenging to find in the small plot of land.  The berries weren’t ripe, darn it.  No beautiful red flowers dangled above green stems anywhere.  There was the actual fire pit.  I contemplated that for awhile.  That’s when something started to click in the brain.  The elements aren’t actually solid and separate, are they?

Take the burned wood sitting in the fire pit.  The wood represents the earth.  The dark black ash represents water.  The fire pit itself represents the fire.  Gray silvery ash represents the metal element and green (wood) surrounds it.  Wood is what it is.  The five elements dance together and apart, present in all.

The above leaf looks like it has some sort of discoloring, perhaps a fungus or mold. 

Pearly everlasting like a radiant nucleus of a star

Metal. Pearly everlasting like a radiant nucleus of a star.

The pearly everlasting represents the Metal Element, white beauty that she is. 

The wood element (three leaf clover) with its repeating circles

Wood. The wood element (three leaf clover) with its repeating circles.

The color green ruled the 12 x 12 foot plot!  Everywhere you looked, green vibrated and grew gustily all around.  From the ferns to the leaves to the plants…we can tell it’s the depth of summer.  I am wondering whether one could discover each of the five elements in this same plot at Winter Solstice?  Hmmm….

Thanks for the fun, flandrumhill!

Better not leave any children unattended!  Dire consequences...

Better not leave any children unattended! Dire consequences...

Do you think the children really want to go to this Day Care Center?  Looks kinda spooky.

Do you think the children really want to go to this Day Care Center? Looks kinda spooky.

Oh fun!  Rock, paper, scissors.  But if you get "rock" or "paper" do you still get your hair cut?

Oh fun! Rock, paper, scissors. But if you get "rock" or "paper" do you still get your hair cut?

No, Duluth is not the last place on earth.  There's a sign on the Keweenaw Peninsula that says the same thing.

No, Duluth is not the last place on earth. There's a sign on the Keweenaw Peninsula that says the same thing.

We laughed about the saying on this coffee cup for five minutes.

We laughed about the saying on this coffee cup for five minutes.

You got this straight?  Especially the part about 2 whistles or 2 bells?

You got this straight? Especially the part about 2 whistles or 2 bells?

Just wondered...can you have children without adults?

Just wondered...can you have children without adults?

Leave the city behind!  You're up north now!

Leave the city behind! You're up north now!

Maybe some wishful thinking...

Maybe some wishful thinking...

OK, I think we’ve just about wrapped up the Duluth trip.  Today (Tuesday) I sat in a swamp for the outdoor adventure.  Perhaps I’ll find another swamp to sit in tomorrow and we’ll have a swampy blog. 

**Here’s another sign for you all:  REMEMBER THE SCAVENGER HUNT OVER ON FLANDRUMHILL’S BLOG!!  The contest ends next Monday, July 20th.  C’mon, everybody can play.  All you need is a digital camera and some imagination.  You can email ’em to her if you don’t have a blog. **

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…

Shimmering underwater rocks

Shimmering underwater rocks

This morning I thought about the upcoming six month anniversary of this outdoor commitment and blog.  What an incredible six months it has been! (Well, it’s Day 166 as of today…June 21st, Solstice, shall be the six month anniversary.) It’s been one of the best years of my life.

I am so very grateful to the blog readers and commenters who have encouraged and cheered and helped me stick with it.

White pine cone

White pine cone

Years ago a native American friend shared this teaching:  when it’s your birthday or lucky day for you, share with others.  Be grateful for their presence in your life.  Instead of expecting presents, give to others.
I started thinking about this today.  I am feeling so grateful about this year, this blog, the great outdoors…it’s time to share some of the love and good feelings with others.
Our friend, Amy, flandrumhill, will be having a photographic scavenger hunt sometime around the Solstice later this month.   We are all anticipating that event!  Before the scavenger hunt begins, on the June 21st,  I would like to draw a name out of a hat (or somehow let nature decide…haven’t figured out how…) and send a free nature book to a reader of this blog.
Lily pads and flowers on pond

Lily pads and flowers on pond

Here are the rules.  Comment on this blog, a paragraph or two, sharing what you like about the outdoors.  Your best nature experience of your life.  Or this month.  Or last year.  Or a litle paragraph about what you saw outside today. Whatever.  Share what inspires you or turns you on about opening the door, walking outside.

Magic lily pad on another pond

Magic lily pad on another pond

On the Solstice, June 21st, I will put the names of all commenters to this blog in a pot.   Then Nature will decide which lucky winner will receive the contest award.

The winner can choose one of  the following prizes:

Superior: Journeys on an Inland Seaby Gary McGuffin (looks like a book about our great Lake Superior)

The Ultimate Guide to Digital Nature Photographyby the Mountain Trail Photo Team (for anyone interested in nature photography)

Deep Water Passageby Ann Linnea (I’ve read this one!  A great spiritual story about kayaking around Lake Superior.)

Hands-on Nature:  Information and Activities for Exploring the Environment with Children by Jennepher Lingelbach (nature activities for children)

Pink blossoms!  The end of the blossoms coming soon...

Pink blossoms! The end of the blossoms coming soon...

** If the winner prefers a different nature book (for under $20) perhaps we can negotiate…  🙂

Thank you, all of you, for your readership, comments and support.  It means more than you can imagine.  Thank you also to Emma who helped inspire this idea.

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