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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.

Dawn in the woods (see the lake? anyone see the lake?)

Tonight I am going to come clean.  Admit a huge psychological problem.   Time to tell you the ugly truth.

And the reason I can share this truth with you tonight is:  I am almost cured.

Almost.

But it’s been a long haul, a long road.

Our road. (Anyone see the lake? Do you see it?)

Imagine yourself moving to your Little House in the Big Woods.  (I am suddenly fascinated with the parallels between this life and the Laura Wilder Ingall’s Little House on the Prairie books that I read to my children before they could toddle.  Well before they started kindergarten anyway.)  Imagine yourself building an idyllic little cabin in the woods and raising children who ran wild and free building forts and playing amidst the trees.

Really imagine what this feels like.  You are surrounded by trees.  Trees everywhere.  Trees to the left, trees to the right, trees behind you, trees in front of you.  You carve out a space for a house and perhaps garage and lawn, but you’re in the forest. 

What does this mean?  It means there is no visible horizon.  You cannot see the sun set or rise, except through the blanket of tree branches.  You are always surrounded.  Your sight can no longer stretch infinitely to the north or west or east or south.  It stops.  It stops when it meets trees.

And you have to learn to live in this forest-world, without the gift of a horizon.

Trees sweeping upward into the sky

So I must tell you the ugly secret.  For much of my life here in the wood I have experienced horizon envy.  Envy of those who have a horizon.  Yes.  It was quite painful.  In the early years I begged my forest-loving husband “Please can we move down by the water?  I must have a view!  I must have a horizon!”  But my pleas fell on deaf ears.  He loved the woods.  He couldn’t imagine what his crazy wife was talking about.  And I certainly couldn’t articulate about horizon envy.

Sunset in a mud puddle (this is as good as it gets!)

The years passed.  I scurried on down to the lake as often as possible.  The kids and I camped on the doorstep of the neighbors for a long stretch.  Well, actually we kept inviting ourselves for coffee.  Because they were such wonderful people and because (this gets really ugly, I know):  they had a horizon.

Until one day I started looking at the Little Things.  The tiny plants.  The texture of bark.  The mosses.  The leaves.  Really looking deeply.  Appreciating what was there under my feet and all around in the forest.  Wow!  Details that had never before been noticed.  Subtle gifts.

The forest came alive and suddenly, one of those days, I realized I was no longer desiring the horizon.  Well, not as much anyway.  There still is a little bit of horizon envy.  It may never go away.  Especially when the best sunset you can sometimes view is a reflection in a mud puddle in your driveway.

The lake! The horizon!

Pa Ingalls moved his family out to the prairie.  They left the Big Woods and moved to a place where the horizon was all they could see.  No more being surrounded with trees.  They were on the big wide expanse of endless view.

Nope, not me.  I’ve decided.  I like this woods just fine.  As long as there is a lake you can walk to a quarter mile away.  There are Michigan mountains in this county, as well.  You can climb ‘em and admire the horizon all you want.  And some of my friends have farms.  Fields stretch in all directions around their house.  You can go and breathe deep and feel like you are an eagle, looking in all directions at once.

Sometimes we just need to adjust our view

My friend Melinda visited from California once in the middle of our green and leafy summer.  She lives atop a mountain.  She couldn’t get over the claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded by trees.

I understood what she meant.

Yet I have learned that sometimes the things we need to see next are given to us in life.  I needed to open my eyes and look at the little details, the little things.  Some people may need the wider view, to live atop a mountain or beside the sea.  Sometimes what we want aren’t the same things we need. 

Yep.  That’s what I’ve learned from this challenging case of Horizon Envy.

In the cemetery

In the cemetery

Today we celebrate the Day of the Dead.  When our children were little often I made a pizza on this post-Halloween day.  Even though we aren’t Mexican, I thought it an auspicious occasion to remember our ancestors.  We would take a slice of pizza and put it out under the oak tree for all the grandpas and grandmas and my godmother Kathleen.  Here, you ancestors, we won’t forget you!  You are still part of our family, even though you’re long gone into the coffin’d earth.  Join us in spirit.  Let’s share a slice of pizza.

We told stories.  This was your grandpa and this is how he loved you.  This was Grandpa and he held you in his arms and read you this story when you were barely four years old.  This was Grandma and she made the best baked beans drenched with molasses and brown sugar. This was your other grandpa and once he fed us rutabaga and red jello in Florida.  Don’t forget them!  They loved you more than you will ever know.  You were their hope for the future.  You were the dreams they dreamed in the darkest night.

A bed of autumn leaves

A bed of autumn leaves

The gate between worlds is wide open at this time of year.  You can talk to your grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, all of them ghosts.  You can tell them about your life and listen for your inner thoughts to share stories in return.  They will tell you of their sojourn in the spirit world, in heaven, in the other place.  You must not label your thoughts imagination too hastily. Listen.  Take note.  Share the “imaginary” stories with those who knew them.  You may be surprised that your thoughts tell you stories of truth, stories your conscious mind never knew.  Believe.  Believe that the ghosts of your ancestors are only a breath away.  Only a sigh away on the autumn breeze.

The gate between worlds

The gate between worlds

The Day of the Dead.  I find it interesting that I was writing today, mostly fiction about those long dead.  About folks moving and breathing and loving and exploring and walking in the outdoors about 1932.  I was back among them, listening intensely to the footsteps they made almost a century ago.  The words flowed out so easily during the first writing session, and then proved more challenging later in the afternoon as I struggled to describe happenings in a century before my actual birth.

I went outdoors more often than usual today.  To clear the cobwebs from my writing mind.  First, I traveled over to Pequaming ( a nearby almost ghost-town and snapped about 80 photos.  You’ll see some of them maybe tomorrow.)  Later I wrote another hour’s worth of words from the distant past, and then Barry and I split up our last load of wood. Our last load of wood!  Did you hear that?  We’ve only been dealing in firewood since mid-winter.  Now our last wood is split, hauled and piled.  We’re almost two years ahead, rich in logs.  We sigh.  We relax.  Winter can almost come…as soon as we finish those other chores…

Boo!

Boo!

I am feeling so…nostalgic…today.  So intimate with those who have died, those who have been dear loved ones.  People throw around the term “ghost” too easily.  The spirits of our mind and heart are so often our dear uncles and aunts, our grandmas and grandpas, real people like you and me.

Only the red of apples

Only the red of apples

Don’t forget to feed your dead today.  Feed them bright red apples.  Slices of pizza.  Feed them your thoughts, your love, your appreciation, your joy.

One day you, too, will be an ancestor.  Someday your great grandchildren may remember you.  Give you some pizza.  Pass it on through the generations–pass it on.

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!)

Gabe (on left) and Doug (on right)

Gabe (on left) and Doug (on right)

Another family member has become a Yooper.  A resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

It’s my nephew, Doug.  He’s attending orientation tomorrow at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.  And, lucky us, he traveled up north with my brother, Scot, his wife, Karen, and sister Keely. 

Tonight I am coming to you live from the Cyberia Coffee Shop in downtown Houghton after hours and hours and hours of outdoor adventures.  I am soooo tired.  But will attempt to type faithfully, upload photos and stammer out a narrative.

Scot and Karen on the Downtowner deck, overlooking the Portage Canal

Scot and Karen on the Downtowner deck, overlooking the Portage Canal

We  ate a rather nice meal sitting out on the deck at the Downtowner Bar and Restaurant watching the sailboats and power boats and talking about Mount Ripley and winter skiing.  Doug already seems to know more about the Keweenaw after one day than I do after thirty years.  (Well, maybe not, but that kid sure knows a lot!)  His roommate, Gabe, seems like a nice fellow and I’ve promised to call them when I’m up in Houghton.  Maybe we’ll even come back to this coffee shop some morning in between class.  Or perhaps we’ll meet for lunch.  I am SO thrilled to have an extended family member this close.

Me and my beautiful niece, Keely

Me and my beautiful niece, Keely

After a leisurely dinner in which we sat next to other friends, we wandered downtown to watch…are you ready for this?…the band “Wolfgang” play for the Thursday night concert series.  And guess who plays bass guitar in the band Wolfgang?  You guessed it, I’m sure.  My husband, Barry.

Doug, Gabe and Keely listen to the band

Doug, Gabe and Keely listen to the band

The streets in downtown Houghton have been torn up for most of the summer.  They have been digging up the old street and replacing it with brick.  You have to maneuver through a series of detours to make your way around the city.  It’s been challenging.  The concert series was probably intended to keep folks in the downtown area. 

Wolfgang plays classic rock ‘n roll.  It’s fun to listen to them.  A lot of the time they play bar gigs or weddings, so I don’t have an opportunity to hear them that much.  It was especially fun to sit on the curb between Scot and Karen, swaying to the music and sometimes singing along.  Keely bought some fudge.  It was a lovely warm summer evening; a novelty in the Copper Country this summer.

Wolfgang playing on the Houghton street

Wolfgang playing on the Houghton street

Yawn…  Oh excuse me.  It’s really past my writing time.  I would drink some real high-potency coffee just to make the hour-long drive home, but that would truly interfere with sleep.  So I am nursing a decaff iced coffee americano or something similar.  I am still thirsty.  But you probably don’t care to know those kind of details, so we’ll return to a photo of Scot and Keely:

Keely and Scot

Keely and Scot

We’re planning a hike to the Sturgeon River Waterfalls tomorrow, if it’s not raining cats and dogs.  If it’s drizzling lightly, we’ll go.  We may even do more sightseeing around Baraga County…trying to figure out where to take guests…and which places might make a good outdoor blog!

Silhouette on rooftop listens to music way down below

Silhouette on rooftop listens to music way down below

It is this kind of summer night which sustains us through the long cold winters.  Memories of twilight wearing shorts and short sleeves, moving to the beat of good music, spending time outdoors with family and friends.

Ahhh, we are blessed…

OK, I’m warning you all.  This blog may get a little mushy.  And it’s not even our anniversary until next month. 

This blog is for my husband Barry.  Because he’s the best.  Seriously.  He has been one of the best supporters of this outdoor commitment.  Many days he waxes enthusiastically about how wonderful this is.  How it’s been one of the best years, ever.  How we’ve done more things than usual, visited more places than usual, experienced more adventures.  He loves to read these blogs.  (I suspect that’s because he’s a writer and photographer himself.)  He’s a newspaper editor who writes a column usually once a week.  He says: “I can’t believe it.  You have to write a column every night.” 

See why I love the guy? 

Therefore, tonight’s blog is devoted to show and tell about his big project.  What is exciting him. But don’t worry, I went outside today.  Mostly sat on the deck.  But for at least an hour or two. So I think that counts.  I also went outdoors to help him with his project.  Which you will see in the following photograph.

Can you guess what lies hidden under this tarp?

Can you guess what lies hidden under this tarp?

A show of hands now, please.  Anyone know what is hidden beneath the tarp, sticking half inside and half outside the garage? 

Well, obviously some of you know.

It’s his pride, his beauty, his love (besides me, that is.)  It’s his 24-foot 1976 hard top Sea Ray boat.  He purchased it for a lark as a fixer-upper about a year ago.  And he’s been fixing it up.  It recently returned home from the fiberglass doctor up in Chassell.  And he’ll soon be returning it for more work on the transom, as soon as the motor gets pulled.

And guess what happened today?  With the boat backed in to the garage and tarped, he pulled the motor.  It was a big day at the Drue household.  You have never seen a happier man. 

Would you like to see a picture of the engine?

The boat engine

The boat engine

There is a little strange story attached to this boat.  As he was cleaning up the area behind the swim platform (after taking it off) a face revealed itself where the screws were attached.  What do you think?  Does it look like a ship’s captain peering out at us from the fiberglass?

Who can see the captain's face staring out from the back of the boat?

Who can see the captain's face staring out from the back of the boat?

On that note, it’s time to sign off for the night. It’s been a full day.  A lovely weekend.  The temperature even reached 72 degrees tonight.  The wind stopped blowing like crazy.  Hope everyone has enjoyed their weekend!

It’s all about the Journey.  Not the Destination.  Right?

Today’s mission:  to walk through the cedar swamp and reach the lake. 

Could it be done?  Would it be possible to actually navigate through dense undergrowth, across swampy streams, beneath whipping branches, around massive trees lying in dozens of different poses?

I tried last Sunday and failed.

Would today prove a success?

Time:  9:30 a.m.  Left note on table telling working husband my destination, in case the swamp claimed me as its own.  Began to meander through the rather tame maple, poplar, ash, spruce and oak woods that we call “our own”.

Oh look!  A wasp nest in that tree.  How close dare I get to snap a photo?

About a seven inch round wasp nest.  Better not get any closer!

About a seven inch round wasp nest. Better not get any closer!

About ten or twenty minutes later, the aforementioned swamp presented itself.  Time for the challenge!  Time to bravely attempt to penetrate its depths.  Can’t you almost hear the loon calling?  The ducks quacking?  Don’t you really want to see them?  I certainly did.  Time to enter the enchanted forest…

Look at those roots.

Look at those roots.

A damp and quiet hush exists in the cedar swamp.  Light shines irregularly, illuminating only what it desires.  If you’re not careful, you trip.  And stumble.  And mutter beneath your breath. 

If you’re careful, you walk slowly and dance almost imperceptibly with the landscape.  It blocks your way with sixteen fallen trees; you move rhythmically to the right or left, staying aware, trying to determine the flow of the hidden path.

Impenetrable swamp.

Impenetrable swamp.

The lake wavers in and out of vision.  You know it exists up ahead.  But how to reach it?  How to reach it without a soaked leg?  Without falling into a stream?  Without your clothes being torn to shambles by knife-like branches? 

“It’s about the journey,” you say, insistently to yourself.  To the swamp.  To whoever might care.

Ahhh, there she is, sliver of lake!  How can we reach you?

Ahhh, there she is, sliver of lake! How can we reach you?

But because part of you is remembering the importance of the Journey, and the way the mind can deceive us into thinking only the Destination has value…you stop and breathe and truly start to notice all the bits of beauty around.   And the cedar swamp IS the most beautiful place in the world, just on its own.  It’s truly enchanted. It only wants us to see its green and ragged world, its shadow and sunlight, its impenetrable delight.

Look!  Down on the ground.  A fish skeleton gleams up in its shadowed whiteness.

Fish bone

Fish bone

And because you’re truly present with the cedar swamp, suddenly no longer caring if you reach the lake or not, guess what opens up?  The lake!  Suddenly, there you are.  It’s still a little challenged to view it in its entirety, and a cattail swamp filters the view, but, hey!, it’s awesome.  You made it.  I made it.  We made it. 

The Mind has a big problem, in that it often then says stuff like, “OK, we’re here. Let’s go now.”  You just have to roll your eyes when the Mind says things like that.  You must then, painstakingly, either ignore the Mind or simply just sit down on the bank and relax and breathe and give thanks for all your blessings.  Just sit and let your awareness open up more and more and more.  Until, suddenly, you know it’s time to go home. 

So back through the cedar swamp you walk, looking, looking.  Listening, listening.  Feeling, feeling.  And still more marvels present themselves as you slowly travel back through the woods.

I am still amazed at this tiny mushroom-like creature growing on a log.  Have never seen one before!  Isn’t life filled with miracles, each and every day?

Wow, to think that this exists!

Wow, to think that this exists!

Burst open thistle blossom

Burst open thistle blossom

In less tolerant places, one could probably be punished for writing a blog like this.  For daring to bring up the subject.  For discussing this.  For even mentioning the edges of this. 

Thank goodness we’re allowed to speak the truth, all of it.  And here’s the deep-down nitty gritty awful truth:

Autumn is right around the corner.

Swirl of fern drying up and turning brown

Swirl of fern drying up and turning brown

“What?”  you’re saying.  “What are you talking about?  It’s only July 20th!  It’s mid-summer, for goodness sake.  Fall isn’t for a couple months.  Let’s enjoy summer.  Let’s just stay present with the beautiful green leaves and flowers.  You got some kind of weird winter fixation, or what?”

Nope, not me.  I’m enjoying summer (or whatever resembles summer in these parts, this year) as much as anyone else.  Loving the blossoming, the blooming, the rich greenery, the garden, the jungle-like woods, the sun, the warmth, the…well, you get the picture.  Summer rocks!

But the woods, itself, tells a story of the changing seasons.

Dead fern on crumbling log

Dead fern on crumbling log

A slight yellow hue transmutes some ferns from vibrant green.  Some leaves waving merrily in the wind of green trees lose their vibrancy.  The reds and oranges and yellows of autumn still remain at bay, but the subtle signs of change already waft through the landscape.

Pock-marked leaf

Pock-marked leaf

Some of the leaves now sport pock-marks from fungus or other diseases; many contain holes where insects have lunched their fill.  If you look at the different leaves, each one has endured a journey throughout the summer which has both strengthened and challenged.  Hey, does that sound like us humans as well?

Lupin pods

Lupin pods

Even our “Bud Man” has disappeared from the elder tree; the berries eaten by birds.  Click here to see how the “Bud Man” looked back in May. Oh how fleeting is the Moment!  Perhaps it can make us appreciate even deeper the momentary appearance of the flowers, the berries, the garden peas. 

Goodbye Bud Man.  It was nice knowing you.

Goodbye Bud Man. It was nice knowing you.

The forest whispers its secrets to us.  And the secrets are not taboo.  If we allow the hint of autumn to open our hearts to the majesty of what appears, right now.  Let’s continue to appreciate it.   Perhaps if the leaves never turned red or orange, or the frost never nipped the pumpkins, we’d never truly feel so amazingly blessed by what the Earth shares with us.

P.S.  Today’s my birthday!  And I am feeling so utterly grateful and blessed by all you readers, this blog and the world of opening the door, walking outside…

First of all, I have no photos of the dead possum.  We’re not even certain it was a possum.  It was a tragedy for the little animal which ran directly into the path of our car as we drove along Lake Huron. 

Thank goodness we didn’t swerve.  There were cars coming toward us and behind us.  The poor possum simply wanted to cross the road and reach the woods on the other side.  My mom and I both felt terrible as the sickening thud sounded when cute little animal crunched beneath the tires.

Perhaps we shouldn’t talk any more about it…but we both felt bad for the little fellow…

Swan in the Lexington Marina

Swan in the Lexington Marina

After we shopped at the Port Huron mall and lunched on salads at Garfield’s, it was time for an outdoor adventure. We had read that a Civil War Re-enactment was taking place in Lexington, a town less than a dozen miles to the north.

So off to the Civil War Re-enactment we drove!  However.  I am once again sad to report there are no photos of civil war heroes.  No guns, cannons, muskets, Union or Confederate flags.  We never could really locate the hub of activity.

Instead we meandered along the shore, walking along the pier, truly luxuriating in the beautiful June afternoon along Lake Huron.  Everyone reading this blog would have enjoyed it.  You could have even bought a cup of coffee before your stroll.  Like I did.  Except poor Mom had to keep holding the coffee cup while I took pictures.  (She didn’t seem to mind!  What a good Mom she is !)

Rather tame Red-wing blackbird along the pier

Rather tame Red-wing blackbird along the pier

We pondered why we don’t do things like this more often.  The best part of this blog and outdoor commitment has been that it keeps all of us active and trying new things.  Instead of staying on the worn and beaten path, we try new trails.  We linger looking out over the lake.  We congratulate ourselves on trying new adventures.

Laughing young girls enjoying the afternoon

Laughing young girls enjoying the afternoon

Speaking of laughing young girls, it was delightful spending time with the nieces and nephews again later this afternoon (after our time in Lexington).  Our nephew flew in from Florida in the middle of the night and regaled us with stories about his life down in Fort Myers.  So fun to see him.

Here is a photo of another niece, the youngest, surrounded by three lively and engaging dogs.  Guess you’ve seen all the nieces now! 

Another beautiful niece (plus Chloe, Mazy and Cami)

Another beautiful niece (plus Chloe, Mazy and Cami)

Finally, I wanted to take a photo of the very last standing live apple tree in the backyard. When we were kids, at least a dozen apple trees, maybe more, served as our playground.  We had a sandbox, swings, tire swing, forts and all sorts of fun beneath the apple trees.  We climbed them, dreamed in them, and played in them for most of our childhood.  My two brothers and I loved those trees.

The apple orchard was planted years back when this sub-division was a sprawling farm.  An old wooden wagon nestled beneath one of the trees.  It’s kind of sad and nostalgic to say goodbye to the apple orchard…unless perhaps one of these baby apples might drop to the ground and re-seed another orchard sometime in the future.

Remnants of Johnny Appleseed...

Remnants of Johnny Appleseed...

Tomorrow is the graduation party, and by tomorrow night at this time a friend and I will be driving north.  Back toward the Upper Peninsula, after a wonderful week here in the Lower Peninsula with friends and family.

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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