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On another website, gaia.com, Siona asked a question the other day.  She always asks Questions and Reflections designed to make us think.  In fact this is how she says it:  Every day, we offer an inquiry designed to push you to think deeply about those things that matter most. We’ll encourage you to continue to discover and follow your calling, to explore and connect with yourself, to envision and attain your goals, and to craft, passionately, your own extraordinary and unique life.

The question of the day was this:  What do you love about nature?  What about the natural world appeals to or calls to or nurtures you?

So how would you answer that question?

The forest on a September afternoon

The forest on a September afternoon

I have sat with that question for at least three days, pondering it.  Turning it over and over, around and around.  You might think that it would be an easy question to answer.  Not so!!  I have thought about this one upside down and all around and am barely getting ’round to a satisfactory answer, one that seems to feel the most like “the truth”.   (Don’t get me going on what is “the truth”!  That’s another essay for another day…or maybe not…)

The eye peers knowingly out from the tree

The eye peers knowingly out from the tree

As I read through the comments about nature, it seemed like everyone likes something different.  You would think it might be more similar.  I would have thought people would say “I like nature because it’s beautiful and makes me feel more connected spiritually” or something like that.  And some people did say that.  But there are so very very many reasons we humans feel connected to nature, drawn to her, inspired to open our doors and spend time in the elements.

The surprise of red thread-like creatures growing up in moss

The surprise of red thread-like creatures growing up in moss

I guess I love the surprises of the natural world.  The way nature enthralls with amazements like strange plants, creatures, roots and rocks.  There are eyes looking out of inanimate objects like trees, staring at us with all-knowing intelligence.  You can’t walk six steps without something intriguing appearing.  This can be anything from the still shimmer of sunset against the lake or the tiniest insect crawling against a fern. 

Expanse of jutting stone

Expanse of jutting stone

Whether you’re inside or outside, you can still be surprised every moment if you cease your torrent of habitual thinking and just observe.  You can be just as surprised and amazed by the expression on a loved ones face, a wrinkle, the gleam on a pen, the way the calculator clicks.  You can be enchanted by the mix of indoors and nature:  the angle of the sun against the wood floor, the breeze wafting through the open window.

Let there be fungus among us

Let there be fungus among us

Turning the question around:  what about nature do you not really like as well?  Hmmm….well, I do not like mosquitoes and black flies nipping and biting and drawing blood.  I have learned to respect that they are a part of nature, and to keep moving when they come out in hoards, but they are sometimes challenging.  I suppose we can add wildfires, tornadoes, blizzards and hurricanes to the list of natural events which can sometimes disturb equanimity.  And large animals in close proximity…like bears and moose and wolves…I would prefer a small amount of distance between us.  Just enough for safety.

A single rose hip hovers

A single rose hip hovers

Nature has the ability to bring many people closer to their sense of the divine, of sacredness, of spirituality.  Perhaps it’s the beauty, the openness, the expansiveness.  For me, almost always doing things backwards, I found the sacred deep within…and am now learning to see it reflected outward into the natural world.  That has been a big part of the gift of this year.

Beyond the forest...

Beyond the forest...

What do YOU love about nature?  How would you answer that question?

Beautiful green of the creek in the ravine

Beautiful green of the creek in the ravine

Shhh….there’s no dogs around today, are there?  Since they’re back at home, I’ll tell you about what we saw in the ravine yesterday.  First of all, I LOVE this ravine.  It’s such a special place.  It looks like a green wide expansive park through which flows a beautiful moving stream.  In mid-summer, it often almost dries up.  Right now, after all this rain, it’s a roaring little river with mini-waterfalls. 

Fascinating inner circle of Fern

Fascinating inner circle of Fern

Tall ferns grow majestically here.  So do giant mosquitoes.  Here’s the secret to walking in the woods at this time of year:  Walk.   You’re safe if you’re walking.  If you stop to, say, scratch, or take a photo, or pet a dog, you’re in trouble.  The mosquitoes dive-bomb in with their radar-like accuracy for a blood-feast.  Just keep walking at a steady pace, and they generally stay at bay.

Across the road from the ravine grows a massive thimbleberry patch.  About four or five years ago the blossoms multiplied beyond imagination and grew fat red berries.  Enough to make jam.  Imagine that!  It takes so many thimbleberries to cook up jam that you need an active patch.  I became blissed-out picking maybe two or three quarts of lovely berries, lost in thimbleberry plants which grew over the head.  Do you think these plants will produce much this year? 

Hmmm...doesn't look like too many blossoms in the patch, does it?

Hmmm...doesn't look like too many blossoms in the patch, does it?

I promised you a slug photo, right?  The picture of the tentacled fellow still isn’t ideal, but it shows you the creatures which have appeared all over the woods in the aftermath of the days of rain.  There are slugs on the trees, slugs on the plants, slugs on the wildflowers, slugs on the car…well, you get the idea.  This slug was crossing the road yesterday, aiming for the other side.  Hope no crazed driver (like myself, trying to get the dog home yesterday) ran it over. 

Slug

Slug

Very odd ant hills

Very odd ant hills

Perhaps some naturalists can share with us why the ants suddenly began constructing skyscrapers.  Instead of their usual ground-level rounded hill condominiums.  It probably had something to do with the rain.  This morning, upon going outside, I noticed dozens of upward-built ant hills.  Perhaps, sodden by the many days of rain, they determined to save the queen by building upward.  (In a sudden moment of absolute memory loss, I googled “Do ants have queens?” and learned that, yes, of course, indeed they do. They also don’t have lungs.  Want to read more about ants?  Try this website.)

Today’s outdoor activity consisted of a) a ten minute wander outside this morning, b) a lovely chat on the telephone on the deck for a half hour with an friend from gaia.com.  His name is Ben and we’ve never chatted before.  He was also sitting outside on his deck.  Very satisfying.  And c) unloading the truck and stacking the wood in the wood pile this evening. 

But in between my friends, Jan and Joanne, and I enjoyed a thoroughly lovely tea party!  Yes!  I know it’s not an outdoor adventure, but we did have to open the door and walk outside to get to our car in order to drive up to Houghton.  We went to the Four Seasons Tea Shop and experienced the most delicious tea, salads, croissants, wraps, soups and sweets.  Oh luscious.  We all ordered something different and divvied up the food into thirds so we could all sample each of the offerings.  We’ve been trying to arrange this trip for more than a year.  Thank goodness it worked out today! 

Jan, Joanne and Kathy with their little fingers up in the air like proper tea drinkers

Jan, Joanne and Kathy with their little fingers up in the air like proper tea drinkers

 

The Phantom plays on Broadway

The Phantom plays on Broadway

My feet think it’s been a long day.  A blister threatens to form in the middle of the left footsie.  But what a wonderful day it’s been!  We’ve had some high excitement.

First we walked ten minutes to the subway and zoomed beneath the earth to emerge on Times Square.  I have never seen anything like Times Square.  It’s crazy!  It’s nuts!  There are thousands of tourists and workers, flashing signs, Broadway plays, skyscrapers and everything else you might imagine.  We toured around before attempting a search for the “Today Show” building.  My mom and dad watch this every morning (and sometimes so do we) so Kiah and I scouted for the tell-tale building.  Finally, a success!  We found it!  Kiah suggested I have my picture taken with Meredith and Matt.

IMG_0297

 

We enjoyed lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant with a woman named Jody, whom I’ve met on-line through the Gaia.com Diving Deeper writing workshop.  The food and company proved exceptional!  Kiah absolutely loved her Pad Thai.

We returned back to the apartment for a mid-afternoon siesta before starting out again.  This time we walked blocks and blocks to the Green Market in Union Square.  We wandered through the booths selling vegetables, flowers, honey, and other delicacies.  I think photographing food is amazingly interesting.  I couldn’t decide whether to show you the asparagus, the radishes or the apples.  How about the radishes?

 

Radishes

Radishes

You just never know who you’ll meet on the streets of New York City.  There are so many different kinds of people! Everywhere you look there are folks in all sorts of attire speaking all sorts of languages.  So many of them look so interesting, as if you’d like to get in a nice long conversation and discuss all sorts of deep things with them.  Instead, you just pass on by, sometimes with a friendly smile, or sometimes just staring exhausted straight ahead, tired from all the walking.

 

Sad panda

Sad panda

 

Statues in the park

Statues in the park

Tonight we ate at a Greek restaurant with the windows wide open, half inside and half outside.  Afterward we hiked over to the Hudson River and almost caught the sunset.  The sun was just disappearing beneath the horizon as we crossed the busy road and reached the riverfront.  Kiah pointed out where the plane had crashed earlier this winter as she hiked along the Hudson, a few miles south of where the plane went down.

 

Kiah looking out over the pilings on the Hudson

Kiah looking out over the pilings on the Hudson

We hailed a taxi for home and now I’m bleary-eyed typing this blog while drinking peppermint tea.  Almost time for bed soon!  Another fun day in Manhattan…

The full moon played coy last night.  What a tease!  Now you see her, now you don’t.  It’s a heart-breaking story with a good ending.  Here’s what happened.

As you regular readers know, I readied to sit outside with the Broken Snowshoe Moon last night.  (That’s the Annishnabe name for the April moon.) The moon and I had some business to discuss.  You know she’s magic.  I know she’s magic.  There’s certain areas in my life (and the life of the planet) that need some magic.  You should discuss this with the full moon and see if she might lend a helping hand.

At 9 p.m. sharp I’m staring out the bathroom window where the night before Madam Moon shined her almost-full face down from the heavens.  OK, Madam Moon, where are you?  No sighting.  The dusk deepened all around, but our Lady refused to show her full white face. 

What to do?  I trudged outside and quizzically surveyed the sky.  Yep, there’s some random twinkling stars.  Yep, darkness descends.  Yep, those night birds chirp their goodnight songs.  Where oh where are you, O Moon?

Suddenly, through the trees.  What is that?  A great orange globe seems to penetrate through the woods.  YES!  I leaped inside, donned Grandma’s old snowmobile suit from the early 1970’s, and sprinted outside toward the car.  Shouted to my husband in the garage something probably inaudible like “The moon!  The moon!  I’m going to chase the moon!” and sped down the road through the mud and darkness, headed for the bay.

The 90 year old neighbor down the road insisted several months ago, “You must take a picture of the full moon over the bay.”  So here I am, trying to figure out where to park, trying to determine where to access the bay without trespassing wantonly on private properly, trying to chase down that Mother Moon rising full and orange and huge over the calm waters.

I finally found an access, not telling you where, running helter-skelter in the dark, trying not to fall with camera in hand.  The moon lit the surroundings enough to provide comfort while jogging in the blackness.  Arrived at the bay, breathless, prepared to greet the Moon and…and…I am not kidding…there is NO moon.

WHAT?  How could this be?  How could the moon shine so bright and orange and beautiful one minute, and the next minute be hijacked?  Who stole the moon?  I covered twenty possible scenarios in my mind in the next five minutes, standing dumb-founded.  (Well, it was probably one minute, before I began running wildly back up to the road and searching for another access.)

I had joined a group on another site, gaia.com, yesterday called “Now I can See the Moon”.  All I could think was…Now I can’t see the moon!  What an odd thing.  You join a group in the morning which advocates seeing the moon, and now the darn thing has packed up and left the country.  Without a cloud in the sky.  How could this happen?

At the second access, I stopped still in my panting tracks and beheld…the most beautiful sight in the universe.  That fat orange magnificent pregnant jubilant moon crested oh so slowly above the horizon, lifting herself onto our visible skies like a lady giving birth to a light we’ve rarely seen on the planet.

(Later, Barry helped figure it out.  We’re higher up on the road so the moon was visible rising here first.  Down at the bay it took a tiny bit longer.  Thank goodness that mystery was solved…)

I snapped photos of her magnificence but, alas, I don’t know how to slow the shutter speed and all those photographic adjustments to capture the way she appeared on the horizon with her shadow shimmering on the waters of the bay.

So this is the view the camera registered, with a flash illuminating the bush overlooking the lake.  The second orange ball is the shadow of our moon on the lake.

The "Broken Snowshoe" April full moon

The "Broken Snowshoe" April full moon

I’m heading back down there tonight to spend some more quality time with the moon.  Hope you all enjoy your time with her this month!

Abandoned robin's nest beneath our house

Abandoned robin's nest beneath our house

Each time we begin a new project or relationship, the opportunities for self-discovery and spiritual illumination occur.  We discover ways we limit ourselves, ways we cling to expectations, ways we remain in old grooves, refusing to change.

This 365 day blog with its promise of “opening the door and going outside” for an entire year has already taught me so much.  I can’t believe how the simple act of committing to a new discipline can swing wide the doors of our awareness and increase understanding.

First, there’s the challenge of actually opening the door and going outside each day.  This has actually been one of the easier parts of the commitment.  (Although we’re expecting frigid temperatures to soar in from the north later this week; will it be possible to actually enjoy spending time outdoors when the temperature hovers below zero?  Stay tuned to find out!)

Some things I have learned in the past three weeks:  you can’t please everyone.  This is a simple statement which of course may seem obvious to many.  Yet the significance of this has come clear to me through this blog.  Some people like pictures.  Others like words.  Some people enjoy factual reporting and informative posts; others like the spiritual connections and spider-web understandings.  Some people enjoy the rambling missives which relate to we humans; others solely prefer discussions of nature.  Some want flowery visual sense-filled words; others want practical words.  What’s a writer to do?  How do you please every one of your friends and relatives?

In other blogs, with audiences of similar interests (such as gaia.com)  it’s easy to comply to what appeals to the majority.  In this blog, I’ve finally had to return to my own inner guidance.  To not rely on what “others” want.  To relinquish control; to simply express what the Outdoors in conjunction with the Deepest Self  teaches on a each day.  To get out of my own way, my own desire to control.  To share what Nature wants to share; not necessarily what Kathy wants to share.  This lesson has continually been drummed in. 

I’ve also had to let go of a desire for readership.  This has never been a concern in other blogs; I was surprised at the ferocity of the desire to have readership.  It rocked me off balance.  Why this sudden concern about readership, and why did it matter?

At first, readers of this blog spiked to 70-80 readers a day.  Now it’s down to about 30 hits.  And you know what?  Letting go of the ego’s desire for readership has been so fulfilling.  There’s a peace which seems to be building.  I am feeling so grateful to every one of you who stop by:  my parents, my mother-in-law, brother-in-law, brothers, Gaia friends, local friends, random drop-ins.  My heart is actually swelling in gratitude for whoever stops by to read and participate.   (fill in the blanks with your name; I’m thinking of so many of you fondly right now and wanting to type out everyone’s names….at least 30 of you wonderful people….and wanting to thank all of you so much for your presence in my life…)   

I can also now imagine feeling perfectly happy if no one reads…..an imagination which wasn’t possible a week ago.  This is my own personal commitment, something I need to do, and it ultimately doesn’t matter about readership.  What a vital lesson to remember again and again!  The peace that is re-appearing with this realization is lovely.  I feel quite humbled to have experienced this lesson.  How many times do we keep looking outside of ourselves for validation, rather than returning to the center, to the personal truths we already know?

Today I walked down to the Eagle Pond.  It felt so warm at 22 degrees.  Who could imagine the tropical feeling one gets at 22 degrees when the wind isn’t blowing?  However, on the return trip, up the road, the wind blew fiercely.  My cheeks felt frozen and red and I longed to get home, fast.  Barry was out fishing.  It’s been his third trip in a row with no fish.  He said he’ll be in counseling if he doesn’t catch a fish soon.  🙂

It’s too easy to leave the door shut, to stay inside during cold winter days here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s too easy to stoke the woodstove with dried maple and linger near the window reading books, checking email, putzing on various projects, writing blogs on Gaia.com, doing work, cooking healthy dinners.

At other times in the year it’s easier to walk briskly up the road, wander in the woods or hike along a nearby river. But in November each year something inside me clicks shut and the door stays closed and the energy moves inwards towards warmth and inactivity.

But not this year! I swear it, not this year. (I know, I’ve said this before. Every year there’s a new vow to force myself off the couch and into the wild & woolly outdoors, but you know….there’s always some excuse to make the indoors more appealing. I’m sure many others have experienced similar failures of motivation.) But this year a new incentive surfaced.

And you’re looking at it! (What? you ask, there’s no pictures here. What am I looking at?) You are looking at the incentive in the form of a new blog. This blog will have the power to pull like a magnet. It will.

Starting next Sunday, as the Solstice arrives, I will begin writing a daily blog complete with daily photo about what’s-outside-the-front-door. The blog will insist upon it. It won’t allow bedtime to come without fulfillment.

We shall explore the outdoors here. Although the Mind says, “oh what’s interesting out there anyway?” and “what a silly project” and “no one wants to see pictures of snow and trees” and “It’s going to be way too cold!” we’re out to see if the Mind is wrong. We’re ready to investigate and see if there’s something interesting in these-here woods.

My goal is to stretch this beyond the Winter, into the flowering of Spring, the bursting greenery of Summer and the golden-red-orange Autumn. The goal is 365 days. 365 days of blogging! 365 days of opening the door and walking outside every single day. While this may not be feasible, let’s see how many days can be accomplished.

I’m not a seasoned photographer, so this part of the experiment requires some learning. Blog-readers (if any shall exist) must be patient.

So that’s the overview. That’s the promise. That’s the pledge. As background, I live in the middle of the woods with my husband, twelve miles from the nearest “little” town of 1,500. The entire county hosts 8,000 at last census. We’ve lived here thirty years, raising two young ‘uns who now live in major metropolitan cities of the United States. We own twenty three acres of cut-over forest, meaning the land once grew huge maples, oaks, spruce and hemlock which burned in a fire back in the 1920’s after lumber companies harvested most of the trees.

Until the Solstice, then. Please come back and read then if you like. Together we’ll discover….what’s outside the door.

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