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Flying away

I can’t believe this is the last night.

The last night to sit here at this computer and tell you stories about the day’s outdoor adventures. 

How quickly a year passes!

One minute you’re dancing around a bonfire mouthing the words “I’m going to go outside every day for 365 days and write a blog every day about what happens!” and the next minute you’re sitting weepy-eyed at your computer thinking back on the entire year.

I don’t even know how to adequately wrap it up into a nice little package.  How to end it.  How to thank all of you readers enough.  I don’t even know how I’m going to get up tomorrow and not have one to three hours of outdoor commitment and blogging.  It’s going to be a new doorway, a new chapter in life.  And it’s hard…because this chapter has been so precious.

Immature bald eagle on our road yesterday

A friend asked: What did you learn this year?  How has your outdoor commitment changed you?

This is a hard question to answer.  I will try my best to answer it here.

I learned that succeeding in a commitment involves something stronger than one’s thoughts and feelings.  Our thoughts and feelings are like weather.  One minute we want to do something; the next minute we don’t.  If we want to succeed in a commitment, we must follow something deeper and stronger than our surface thoughts and emotions.  In my case, I challenged myself  to go outside everyday.  Since that wasn’t the easiest or more natural path (although during the warm months I already probably went outside as much or more than most people) I linked it to something I loved–blogging.  When you want to change a behavior, connect it to something you love.  It will help you. Also, for me, publically announcing this intent proved paramount.  There was no way I could go back on my commitment after all you folks knew about it!

Little waterfall near the Eagle Pond

I learned how to see better this year through the lens of the camera.  To capture the miracles of nature, to see deeper, to view wider vistas.  The camera has become a second eye, always sweeping the landscape, always searching for new and interesting sights.  Before this year, I belittled the camera.  (Oh, shame, Kathy!) Belittled folks who would spend hours hidden behind the camera lens instead of experiencing the world directly.  (Beware what you scorn!  You, too, may be soon be in the same position.)  I am wondering what this next week will bring.  Will I drop the camera, forget about it, return to pre-photography days?  Or will it stay a second eye, a second skin, another way of viewing the world?

The Huron Bay through leaves

The two biggest challenges proved:  1)  going outside and staying outside when I didn’t want to be outside and 2) relaxing enough to be confident that there would be something to write about each evening.   My husband writes a weekly column for the local newspaper.  He struggles to come up with enough inspiration to write something every week; he said he can’t imagine how one could write something every day for a year.  It WAS challenging.  But, funny thing, something always presented itself.  Something always came forth.  So often I would empty my mind and sit at the computer and simply watch something larger than myself writing the story.  Even on the one day when nothing came to mind (and no photographs presented themselves) a story came forth about not having anything to write.  It was amazing!

Underwater green in December!

The most amazing thing, to me, has been the support and love of friends and family.  (Darn, crying again…)  You readers have enriched my life so very much.  I can’t even begin to thank you enough for stopping by, for commenting, for sending emails, for cheerleading.  For the family members with whom we have deepened our love and connection, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I have also made friends across the world, special friends who send Christmas cards and books and emails and other gifts.  You don’t know how much your simple presence and accompaniment has meant.  YOU are all so special and unique and wonderful….thank you from my whole being.

Single dried wildflower over icy bay

Here’s a quick story (see!  I’m having trouble finishing today’s blog) to illustrate something that I’ve learned this year.  Today I walked through deep snow down to the bay.  On the way back, two choices presented themselves. Either I walk the “easy” way along the established path…or wade down to a little creek, jump across, and view the back of the pond.

Most of me wanted to just continue on the easy path, but it looked like there were new and interesting places to explore on the other side of the creek.  So I slid down the snowy hill and leapt across the creek. 

That is my wish for all of you:  when faced with the easy paths, choose to jump across more creeks.  Choose to try something a little difficult, to venture off the beaten path, to risk getting your feet wet.  You can do it.  And your rewards will be…more than you ever suspected. 

If  I decide to start another blog, I will link it on this WordPress page. Blessings to all of you as we approach the Winter Solstice tomorrow.  May you feel inspired to listen to the Earth’s teachings.  Thank you again for everything you have contributed to the outdoor commitment.  One person doesn’t make a commitment alone–we are all enriched by the support of our family and friends.

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Catherine's little sauna

First things first.  How many of you know how to properly pronounce the word “sauna”?  Show of hands!  Looks like a lot of you think you know how, but some of you are unsure.  Let’s practice for a moment.  I hear some of you saying “saw-na”.  No, that is not the way the true Finnish folk in this area pronounce the word.  Let’s try again.  “Sow-na.”  Yes!  Now you’ve got it!

 I was fortunate enough to be invited to a sauna today at my friend Catherine’s house.  Yes, indeed.  It was time to sweat.  Time for a little steam and purification.  Before she crumpled up the newspaper, placed the kindling inside the stove and struck the match, I was fortunate enough to meet her friend, John.  Luckily, they agreed to pose for a photograph for the little Sony Cybershot.

Catherine and John

We said goodbye to John and got serious about our sauna preparations.  (Well, mostly Catherine got serious about our sauna preparations.  I stood around and looked helpful.)  Soon she had a roaring fire going in the tiny sauna stove. 

Loading the sauna stove

While the fire is heating up, let’s talk about some sauna facts. Here is what our good friend Wikipedia has to say about the first saunas:   The oldest known saunas were pits dug in a slope in the ground and primarily used as dwellings in winter. The sauna featured a fireplace where stones were heated to a high temperature. Water was thrown over the hot stones to produce steam and to give a sensation of increased heat. This would raise the apparent temperature so high that people could take off their clothes.

The first Finnish saunas are what nowadays are called savusaunas, or smoke saunas. These differed from present-day saunas in that they were heated by heating a pile of rocks called kiuas by burning large amounts of wood about 6 to 8 hours, and then letting the smoke out before enjoying the löyly, or sauna heat. A properly heated “savusauna” gives heat up to 12 hours. These are still used in present-day Finland by some enthusiasts, but usually only on special occasions such as Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and juhannus (Midsummer’s Day).

 

Stained glass window in sauna

There will be a quiz at the end, so study hard.  I suppose many of you astute readers will notice the phrase “This would raise the apparent temperature so high that people could take off their clothes.”  So you astute readers are wondering what people wear when they take a sauna together?  My acute observations over the years point to three possibilities: A)  towels B) bathing suits or C) nothing.  It seems to depend on the group with whom you’re choosing to sauna, your modesty and the sex of your fellow sweaters.  Catherine and I chose the first two options. 

Protector of the Sauna

 We enjoyed a rather mild sauna today. Catherine did not even pour icy cold water over the hot rocks resulting in a potent steam bath.  No.  We sat on the top bench and chatted and yes, eventually sweated.  It has been almost FOUR months since we last saw one another in the raspberry patch.  How could so much time pass?  It is amazing that we can be so busy that we don’t take time to visit our closest friends.  

After the sauna...a beautiful sunset

 We also took a short hike down to the beaver pond before our sauna and was it COLD!  Only eighteen freezing degrees.  I was thoroughly icy-frozen for the first time since last winter.  It didn’t help that I had forgotten my warm boots and had to borrow John’s too-big sized boots, even though they were stuffed with nice warm socks.  Tomorrow I will how you some photos of the snow-covered pond and other exciting winter photos. 

After the sauna we lingered over dinner (until I abruptly announced it was time to go home and write the blog) slowly savouring delicious oven-roasted root vegetables over quinoa.  Oh Heaven!  Food and sauna and outdoor adventures are so wondermous when shared with friends.

P.S.  I have decided to forgo the quiz. I’m sure you all memorized all the facts anyway.  Instead I will paste in some more sauna history for those of you who are interested.  The rest of you can go about your day plotting about when you can enjoy your next sauna. 

As a result of the industrial revolution, the sauna evolved to use a metal woodstove, or kiuas [ˈkiu.ɑs], with a chimney. Air temperatures averaged around 70–80 degrees Celsius (160–180 degrees Fahrenheit) but sometimes exceeded 90 °C (200 °F) in a traditional Finnish sauna. Steam vapor, also called löyly [ˈløyly], was created by splashing water on the heated rocks. 

The steam and high heat caused bathers to perspire. The Finns also used a vihta [ˈvihtɑ] (Western dialect, or vasta [ˈvɑstɑ] in Eastern dialect), which is a bundle of birch twigs with fresh leaves, to gently slap the skin and create further stimulation of the pores and cells. 

The Finns also used the sauna as a place to cleanse the mind, rejuvenate and refresh the spirit, and prepare the dead for burial. The sauna was (and still is) an important part of daily life, and families bathed together in the home sauna. Because the sauna was often the cleanest structure and had water readily available, Finnish women also gave birth in the sauna. 

Although the culture of sauna nowadays is more or less related to Finnish culture, it’s important to note that the evolution of sauna has happened around the same time both in Finland and the Baltic countries sharing the same meaning and importance of sauna in daily life. The same sauna culture is shared in both places still to this day. 

When the Finns migrated to other areas of the globe they brought their sauna designs and traditions with them, introducing other cultures to the enjoyment and health benefits of sauna. This led to further evolution of the sauna, including the electric sauna stove, which was introduced in the 1950s and far infrared saunas, which have become popular in the last several decades. 

In Tibetan, there is a word Shokhang,wich means Sauna.

Let's pass the basket around first.

Dear Friends,  Black Friday has come and (almost) gone.  We’ve all decided to give natural items for the holiday this year, haven’t we?  Especially for our virtual friends.  Because most of us only know each other in cyber-realms, we shall have to exchange cyber-gifts.  This avoids the prohibitive cost of mailing. Please sit down at your computer and prepare to open your gift.  I suppose you can have more than one.  You don’t even have to wait for the holidays. Please be considerate of the other cyber-recipients, though. 

I shopped for gifts for all of you today.  Oh my, there are too many of you to name with insulting at least dozens of you.  But I am going to throw out some names at the top of my head.  (All of the names not mentioned are at the bottom of my head, which doesn’t mean I love you less, it just means that for some reason you were waiting patiently at the bottom of the head and didn’t funnel out first.)

So here are gifts for the Susans, Cindy, Gerry, the Amys, Joanne, Dale, Kiah, Christopher, Craig, the many Jessicas, fountainpen, Gigi, Sybil, Emma, Julia, Pamela, Sandy, Christine, Carla, the Dawns, Deborah, Jen, Karen, Melinda, Catherine, Yellow Bells, Christie, Scot, Tim, Mom, Dad, Georgia Mom, Patty, Sonya, Kim, Janet, Laurie, Raven, H. Forward, Mrs. Uhdd, Reggie, Maunderer, Kath, Bree, Nature Loving Super Mama, Iris, Tina, Doris, Margo, Nancy…AND IF I’VE MISSED ANYONE ELSE WHO WANTS A PRESENT PLEASE GIVE A HOLLER AND YOU CAN CLAIM YOUR VIRTUAL GIFT TOO!  (oh and all you unknown blog readers…please…take a gift.  I am so thankful for all of you for stopping to read, even though we might never even have “officially” met in this virtual or earthly world.)

A sweet little white feather for all of you who like feathers

Of course this was all Sahlah’s idea.  As I posted yesterday, she got the brilliant idea that we should shop for rocks and feathers and twigs and such on Black Friday for all our blog readers. 

If we meet face-to-face on the street I will give you a real rock.  I swear it.  I will carry around that basket of stones in my car until the Solstice.  However, I’m afraid that there’s only a handful of you within shouting distance.  So the rest of you must be satisfied with virtual gifts.  As we’ve only had virtual acquaintance, I’m sure you won’t be dismayed or disappointed.

A special antler for anyone who will treasure it.

These are some of my prized possessions and gifts from the woods.  But I’m willing to give them away to you in spirit, because I know you will honor them.  You readers, I can tell, share a deep love for the earth, for the blessings of the land, for the abundance which surrounds us everywhere.

This is one of the most precious gifts I could give you. Do you know why?

Rocks, feathers, pieces of woods, antlers, sticks.

As precious as Nintendos, computers (hmmm?), cell phones, iPods?

Stone on stone

In the above virtual stone gift you could have one rock or both.  It’s up to you.  It’s kind of hard to separate them in the virtual world, though.

Your final choice: a twig that really is a magic wand. (shhhhh....)

OK, tomorrow I really do have to hit a few stores for a few small gifts.  I’m not a big shopper.  (Can you tell?  Maybe I could just shop virtually from now on.  Tell the relatives, “Just log in on-line and you can see a picture of my gift for you.”  Hmmm, wonder how far that one would go?)

Hope all of the rest of you had fun on your Black Friday shopping.  Enjoy your gifts! 🙂

Our weekend motto

Our weekend motto

This blog is Part II of our weekend attempt to Climb Silver Mountain.  For Part I, please click yesterday’s post. To summarize:  we did not Climb Every Mountain yesterday.  We searched high and low and followed every rainbow but did not reach Silver Mountain. Instead we were sidetracked into a delicious dinner at the Hardwood Steakhouse. 

 This morning our conversation went like this:

 Barry:  Let’s go back and climb Silver Mountain.

 Kathy:  No, I don’t want to drive all the way back there.

 Barry:  OK, let’s not go.

 Kathy:  Wait a minute, maybe we should go.

 Barry (a few hours later):  No, it looks like it’s going to rain.  Let’s not go.

 Kathy:  OK.

 Barry:  It looks like it’s not going to rain now.  Let’s go.

 Kathy:  Arhggghghghghghghghghgh!!!!! 

Prickett Dam

Prickett Dam

This time we drove directly there.  We did not drive through convoluted backwoods roads.  We were civilized.  We took the paved highway and followed the nicely marked signs.  There was no question of getting lost.  We knew where we were 99.9% of the afternoon. 

Kids, I’m showing you the picture of Prickett Dam.  Can you believe how low the lake is?  Remember when we camped there?  When all four of us crowded in that tiny rowboat along with our tents and sleeping bags and food and fishing poles and camped there for a weekend?  Didn’t we have fun?  Wasn’t it a lifetime ago?

 Excuse me, all the rest of you.  Needed to break for a Nostalgia Moment.  Prickett Dam was built ‘way back in the 1930’s…the construction of the power dam resulted in the death of hundreds upon hundreds of trees as the river was damned.  One can still see the stumps sticking out of the lake even when the water level is high; this year the stumps themselves rise out of the lake like giant wooden beasts with octopus-like wooden legs stretching out in every direction. They are repairing the dam; the water level will magically rise again to cover up the stump-creatures come spring.

Silver Mountain mine entrance

Silver Mountain mine entrance

 

The famous Silver Mountain steps

The famous Silver Mountain steps

After our view of the low water levels of Prickett Dam Lake, we proceeded easily to Silver Mountain. What were we fussing about yesterday?  So easy to drive there.  How could anyone get lost?  Several other vehicles parked along the base.  Darn, we didnt have the mountain to ourselves.  (We are so spoiled way up north.  It can be so isolated that you hardly cross the path of other folks in the backcountry.  How many other places in the country can you sometimes have a whole mountain–albeit a Michigan mountain–to yourself?)  

Our first peering:  at the closed-off mine shaft built into the side of the mountain.  Back in 1847 miners built a shaft 150 feet into the mountain looking for silver.  A sign says the miners were probably drawn to the area by rumors that the Chippewa had discovered silver particles along the riverbanks.  The Chippewa, however, believed that Silver Mountain was haunted, or at least bad luck.  This may have been well-founded (according to the sign) because the mine was abandoned by the fall of 1847 and no precious metals were ever found there. 

 

The Exquisite View

The Exquisite View

Up the steps we climbed.  Heart pumping faster with each set of steps.  Keep your eyes on the steps, keep your feet square on them.  Hold on to the rail.  In between the steps your feet pound upon the earth.  It almost sounds hollow, like a drum.  The mountain isn’t really a solid mountain…it’s a mine.  And keep your eye open for ghosts!

A giant stone cracked in two

A giant stone cracked in two

 After surveying the vista from the top of the mountain we descended the stairs.  An odd synchronicity met us at the bottom.  First I need to back up to yesterday.  When we were approaching the restaurant last night I said to Barry, “Wouldn’t it be fun to meet Karen and her husband at the restaurant?  I know they live out here.”

 Of course we didn’t see them at the restaurant.  I haven’t even glimpsed Karen since last June or July, when we abandoned our Artist Way gatherings.

 As we descended the last of the steps down Silver Mountain today, guess who drove up in their truck and came walking toward us?  Karen and her husband! 

 I love when this happens!  🙂

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!

Wriggling earth worm

Wriggling earth worm

C’mon now, ‘fess up.  What did the earth say to YOU today?  What stories did she whisper in your ear?  What tales did she share? 

Were they romance stories?  Drama?  Historical fiction?  Murder-mystery?

When you took your walk down country roads, down busy city streets, in suburbs, on trails, through impenetrable bush…did you pause to notice the stories all around you?

Did you see leaves of many colors, each one with a wordless teaching?

Initimacy with rain-soaked black leaf

Intimacy with rain-soaked black leaf

Did you leave the thought-world in your head for a few moments to stay present with the calling crow, the rustling trees in the wind, the crackling-dried autumn flower arrangements along the road?

Did the earth tell you it loved you?  Did you reciprocate? Did your patch of earth look healthy, strong, resonant?  Was it weak, littered with garbage, belching with factory smoke?  Perhaps a combination?  Did you think how you might share her stories, or help her in some way?  Could you even see her as a sacred essence, or was she relegated to a “thing” or “object” in your mind, not worthy of personal stories?

Smell those apples.  Breathe deep!

Smell those apples. Breathe deep!

What gifts did the earth give you today?  Any apples?  Squash?  Carrots?  Any wool, cotton, wood, herbs?  Did she give you fresh air and a home, heat or air conditioning?  Did she shower you with gifts from across the world like coffee, bananas, grain?  And did you pause in gratitude, your heart suddenly realizing the immensity of this gift?  Did tears rise in your eyes?

The blackest of cones (or some cone-like object on a low bush)

The blackest of cones (or some cone-like object on a low bush)

And the mysteries!  You can’t take a walk, can you, without finding something of interest?  Even while visiting  the depths of Manhattan last spring I noticed how Mother Nature flouted her treasures, her tresses, her beauty.  Something unusual or unique presented itself around every corner, in odd nooks and crannies.  I love that we’re surprised every single day.  And that her story never makes us yawn.  Not if we keep our eyes open and aware. 

Looking down into the curling cylinder of birch bark

Looking down into the curling cylinder of birch bark

So what did Mama Nature share with you today?  Did you spend some time in her sunlight, her rain, her heat, her snow, her wind?  Did you shiver or bake?  Did you keep your eyes wide and interested?  Did you talk to her in your mind (or maybe even out loud!)?  Did you lay on the grass?  Swim in a lake or ocean?  Climb a tree?  Walk down a road?  Catch a falling leave?  Bicycle?  Just think of all the different things we did outside today!

And, if we didn’t or couldn’t go outside, just think!  There’s tomorrow.  We can go exploring tomorrow.  Just don’t forget.  Don’t let tomorrow get away from you, too.  Even a space of fifteen minutes breathing the crisp autumn air can revive you down to your tippy toes and take away tension and stress in your back, your arms, your heart, your head.  Do try it!

Follow the trail which presents itself.

Follow the trail which presents itself.

P.S.  I am SO filled with joy tonight!  Our friend Reggie from Grains of Sand blog made the front page of WordPress.com today!  My greatest wish is that some of my dear friend-bloggers here find their blogs highlighted.  There are so many wonderful blogs written here, and it’s such a great feeling of excitement to be featured.  Hurray, Reggie!  We’re cheering you on from the sidelines and happy to hear that your home in South Africa is being featured.  (And I know the earth is silently singing, Thank you Reggie for all the blogs you write about us.  Thank you for caring!)

Exhibit A:  Droplets of rain on leaf

Exhibit A: Droplets of rain on leaf

The truth is:  I don’t live in Spain.  Have never even visited that beautiful country.  Although my daughter visited there last autumn and spent a week aboard a sailboat in Barcelona.  She actually learned how to sail on the Mediterranean!  How cool is that?

Exhibit B:  Droples of rain on yellow-green leaf

Exhibit B: droplets of rain on yellow-green leaf

However, I am a fan of My Fair Lady.  The recesses of the brain that still love to sing “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.  (By George I think she’s GOT it!)” undoubtedly hijacked this blog.  Hence, the title.

Exhibit C:  Upright Leaf with (you guessed it) droplets of rain

Exhibit C: Upright Leaf with (you guessed it) droplets of rain

Actually, I made it outside for today’s outdoor adventure in between showers.  All morning an ominous inner voice kept nagging, “You better get outside.  You’re going to be sorry.  You’re going to be cold and wet and miserable.  You better stop your putzing and get outside.”   (I mostly ignored its dire predictions, until the sky suddenly darkened threateningly.  Time to go outside.)

Exhibit D:  Leaf veins of rain

Exhibit D: Leaf veins of rain

As usual, nothing immediately presented itself as an interesting photographic study.  Same old, same old.  Who wants to see more colorful autumn leaves, especially when they are starting to turn that dismal flat pastel washed-out color? (With a few vibrant exceptions, of course.)  Then suddenly I saw It.  Oh my goodness!  A perfect Leaf with perfect water droplets.  What could be more magnificent?

Exhibit E:  Studies in White Leaf

Exhibit E: Studies in White Leaf

Once you see one, you see more. Your eyes are suddenly opened.  Leaves with water droplets appeared everywhere!  And aren’t they so…so…artful?  Like they belong hanging in some art museum where we can all admire something as simple as Rain Droplets on Leaves.

Exhibit F:  Sappy brown rain droplets on leaf

Exhibit F: Sappy brown rain droplets on leaf

The journey to photograph leaves took me down the road, with a side detour on an old logging road.  The eyes remained trained on the ground, lest a single leaf escape admiration.  (Anyone believe that?  There are nigh on a million leaves on the ground!)  As I exited the logging path, I spotted AJ walking up the road.  Walked down to him, and together we crested the hill.   Invited him to look at Barry’s garage project.  OK, will show the rest of you the garage edition project another time, once we get off the subject of leaves.

Exhibit G:  And Two shall join together...

Exhibit G: And Two shall join together...

It started to rain harder.  AJ continued on his walk.  I did one more loop around the back of the house, emptying the woodstove ash buckets (with the dead trapped mouse lying belly up in the white ash) and discovered the Family of Leaves conclusion to the series.

Exhibit H:  Family of leaves in rain

Exhibit H: Family of leaves in rain

Came inside to turn on the computer and discovered another message from Wordpress.com saying they were featuring the previous blog on their home page.  This time I didn’t get wildly excited and almost suffer a heart attack from dancing on the ceiling.  This time I maturely wrote the editors a note, “Have I told you guys how much I love you lately?”  They haven’t written back.

Blog readers, this is Pedro.  Pedro,  meet the blog readers.

Blog readers, this is Pedro. Pedro, meet the blog readers.

Strangers are turning up on local porches.  Hanging around front doors.  Looking a little…how do we put it politely?…different.  Not like your usual Yoopers.  (A Yooper, for the benefit of any new reader, is a resident of our beloved Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)

The other night at Book Club at Sue Bollech’s house we met Pedro Gonzales swinging on a porch swing and looking rather interestingas the rain poured mercilessly all around his perch.  I think he’s a cigar-smoking sheriff from some western town. Unfortunately, I came to Book Club camera-less.  This is a huge mistake.  One must carry one’s camera EVERYWHERE.  Even when it’s pitch dark, raining and you’re going to be spending the evening inside.

So yesterday I backtracked to Sue’s house to photograph Pedro.  And here’s where it gets tricky.  Pedro isn’t really Pedro. At least not entirely.  He’s only Pedro in October and early November.  Then he changes his clothes and becomes The Hunter for hunting season.  He wears his hunting garb and, who knows, maybe carries a gun.  Then just when you get used to seeing The Hunter, he transforms again in December to become…anyone want to guess?  Yes, you’ve got it right.  He metamorphosizes into Santa Claus.  So he’s a changing fellow.

You may be interested in viewing a natural wreath made by Sue, which hangs near our Pedro.  I so admire folks with talent who can put together such objects of beauty from natural items.  (Sue is really an artist and loves to create.)

Natural wreath

Natural wreath

Yesterday, after Pedro’s photo shoot, I convinced my friend Lyn that we should walk through downtown L’Anse.  In order to discover if there are other seasonal visitors of interest.  She probably raised her eyebrows, but happily complied and even pointed us toward a couple places where the “tourists” might be visiting.  But first we paused to photograph two pumpkins lounging between a sprawling rose.

2 pumpkins and a rose

2 pumpkins and a rose

Then we spotted One of Them.  One of those interesting-looking visitors.  Actually TWO of those visitors.  I wondered if it would be acceptable to creep close to the house to photograph.  Lyn said:  Of course.  It’s so-and-so’s mother’s house.  I only vaguely figured out who she was talking about.  But here are the visitors on this home’s front porch:

Oh no!  (and look at that little Pumpkin Fellow)

Oh no! (and look at that little Pumpkin Fellow)

After our brisk walk and endless catching-up, we drove back out Skanee Road toward our homes.  But we had to pause in front of Mary Fran Menge’s house to greet a rather ghoulish-looking bride and groom.  To think they came all the way to the U.P. for their wedding!  They probably like the Cold and Rain and forecasts for Snow.  Some people…go figure…

Are we all invited to the wedding?

Are we all invited to the wedding?

Reflection of "Third Bridge" in water

Reflection of "Third Bridge" in water

You know how you travel the same roads, day after day, or month after month, or year after year?  And how many times do you actually stop the car, open the door, and go outside to explore? 

We travel “up the road” to the Houghton-Hancock area maybe 40 times a year.  Two weeks rarely pass without one of us traveling  north on US-41.  We’re headed for the Keweenaw Co-op to buy our organic vegetables or other natural foods.  Maybe we’re aimed for Walmart to purchase something we can’t find easily in Baraga County.  Or perhaps to a coffee shop (that would be me) or a restaurant (that would be both of us) or someplace else.  This year, thanks to this blog, we’ve explored more interesting places than in the previous ten years.

But we rarely simply stop several times along the way.

The problem is this:  when you see an interesting sight, you’re already past it by the time the brain registers.  You’re 50 or 100 feet down the road thinking, “Hey, that would make a great photograph!”

Today I decided to turn around at least four times, back up, get out of the car and actually take the pictures and, sometimes, explore.

The first stop:  Third Bridge.  I never knew that was the name of the bridge at the Head of the Bay, but Barry insists.  I was acting like a tourist, trying to capture the bridge reflected in the water (have wanted to do this at least a dozen times this summer but never mustered the energy to actually stop the car.)   While moving around and changing the angle of the shot, a car whizzing by on the road started honking.   So who was that person?  Which friend was it? 

Now close your eyes or scroll down the page really fast if you don’t want to see a dead coyote.  That was the next stop.  It was lying in the road across from Carla’s Restaurant.  I did a huge backing-up maneuver and walked over to the animal.  It was really sad.  It was probably just crossing the road last night and a fast-moving car clipped it and killed it.  It could have been any of us drivers.  The animals sometimes move so quickly it’s hard to see them.   However, it’s unusual to see a dead coyote on the road.

Dead coyote

Dead coyote

Next I drove by a beautiful garden filled with sunflowers waving in the breeze.  However, just kept on driving, not wanting to tun around.  So I vowed to stop on the way home, and did.  And the gardener-lady herself was working in the hot sun.  We enjoyed a lovely conversation.  She moved here seven years ago from her former residence in Ohio and is amazed about how many people appreciate her garden alongside the highway. 

Sunflowers!

Sunflowers!

A bit farther down the road, the eyes spotted a turnoff near the Keweenaw Bay which I have never explored.  Ever.  Hard to believe you can live in an area for thirty years and there’s still new places to explore!  The eyes had never seen this particular view of Lake Superior.

Fallen tree in Keweenaw Bay

Fallen tree in Keweenaw Bay

Red and brown and yellow and gray rocks littered the shore everywhere.  But the find that seemed the most interested today was green beach glass.  Don’t you love how glass looks when it’s been in the lake for a very long time?  No longer sharp and cutting, it now shines like a jewel in the sunlight.

Beach glass

Beach glass

Then…be still my heart!…the absolute best gift of the day.  Two symetrically stacked piles of stones sitting upon a log.  Oh, enchanting!  I took photos from eight different views, but like this one best:

Just look at how high that pile of flat rocks is!

Just look at how high that pile of rocks is!

My question is: did Cindy (faithful blog reader, commenter and friend) stack those rocks?  Cindy, was it you?

Apples

Apples

Hey, what do you know, it’s the last day of August!

And you know what that means when you wander outside around these parts?

It means that apples are loaded upon the trees, apples upon apples, weighing heavy upon the branches, dragging them down toward the earth.

Two apples

Two apples

We don’t have any apple trees nearby our house in the woods.  We’re in a “new” part of the forest which hasn’t been inhabited by people too much.  The apple trees lie in orchards in “old” parts of this land, parts of the land settled by old-timers who have long since passed on.  They’ve left the shining orbs of apples behind; and this year they are hanging ripe and heavy on almost every gnarled tree.

Lil tiny green apple

Lil tiny green apple

I actually grew up among an apple orchard.  In the backyard of our house in Yale, Michigan, grew a dozen noble apple trees.  They were getting old even then, back in the 1960’s.  We built sandboxes and tire swings beneath their mighty branches and climbed high in their limbs, attempting to reach the skies.  (My brothers climbed higher than I did; I quaked in the lower branches closer to the safety of the ground while they dangled ‘way up there near the clouds.) 

I recently have been reading a book sent by a dear blog reader friend named Sahlah (or Dawn).  It’s called “Peace at Heart:  An Oregon Country Life” by Barbara Drake.  The author talks about how she samples dozens and dozens of wild apples.  She records the taste and look on a chart…I was in awe of this upon reading the way she discriminated between the hundreds of apples, noticing their differences and similarities, their sweet and sour, their tang and twist.  It made me want to begin sampling these apples today.  But no, it’s still too early.  The apple-juices are still coming ripe on their twigs; let’s wait til September or early October to sample their sweet fruit.

Swath of green apples covers the branches

Swath of green apples covers the branches

I wandered among the apple orchards for a half hour today, lost in the sound of singing cicadas (well, maybe that’s what they are), enjoying the last half-way warm day in August.  The ground lay littered with pine needles and the birds sang a quarter mile away.  There is a hush one hears and feels in woods like these; it silences you. 

The silence lies so enchanted you forget to dream of apple pie or apple crisp.

Instead your eyes notice a spider web spun perfectly between in a tree.  You marvel at its perfect symmetry, attempting to capture it gleaming in the sunlight.

Mystical light in the forest reveals the Spiderweb

Mystical light in the forest reveals the Spiderweb

Later will come a time for baking the earth’s offering of apples, for tasting the cinnamon and struesel.  For now, we wait.

The juices continue to ripen as our sun turns toward its equinox…

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