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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.

Welcome to our little township. I thought it was time to introduce you to some of the actual buildings which comprise our lesser metropolis.  Our tiny villages in the woods. 

We live in Arvon Township.  As of the 2000 census, 482 people lived here.  There aren’t really “towns” in Arvon Township, at least in the way most people think of towns.  Most people think that a town is perhaps composed of businesses like a grocery store, bank, restaurant, and gas station, all located in a common area.  (To find these conveniences our residents have to drive between eleven and twenty-five miles into the town of L’Anse which hosts all the modern conveniences.)  

There are at least three town “areas” in the township:  Skanee, Aura and Huron Bay.  The buildings in the following photos are mostly in the Skanee and Huron Bay areas, within a five or seven mile radius. 

But we do feature a school, a township hall, a post office, a Trading Post, a tavern, a church, and a community hall within our boundaries.  

So are you ready for the introductions? 

The Arvon Township School

 

Please meet our school.  It is a K-6 school which is very dear to my heart.  Mostly because I’ve worked there on a part-time basis as the business manager for many years.  Both of our children attended elementary school here.  The total size of the school has fluctuated between five and forty students since the 1980’s.  It is one of the last two-room schools in the Upper Peninsula.  A few others exist, but they are few and far between. 

Moving down the road a few miles and turning down Town Road, please meet the Arvon Township Hall: 

Arvon Township Hall

 

OK, I have to admit the Arvon Township Hall is precious to me, too.  I have been the township treasurer there (well actually I work out of my home) since about 1984.  

We even feature a little post office!  A very miniscule post office in a trailer.  Probably one of the tiniest post offices around.  I tried to convince our postmaster to pose for a photo in front of the post office but she declined.  

Our little post office

 

Where else can I show you on our little tour?  How about the Trading Post?  John is the owner and he’s a great guy.  He wasn’t around to ask for a photo shoot. 

The Huron Bay Trading Post

 

The Trading Post is where you go when you need supplies and don’t want to drive to town.  I mean the “real” town of L’Anse.  If your gas tank hits empty you head over here.  If you need toothpaste, beer, candy, chips, cranberry juice or pickle relish…you know where to go.  Aren’t we lucky to have a Trading Post out in the middle of the woods? 

And if you want to sit down and have a beer or drink, drive just a short ways up the road to the Huron Bay Tavern.  Also known as Billy the Finn’s (don’t ask why) it has been here for ages.  Years ago we used to have another bar/restaurant called The Timbers where everyone went for fish on Friday nights, but it burned down. 

The Huron Bay Tavern

 

If you want to see the Aura Community Hall (with its famous annual Fiddler’s Jamboree please click here).  If you want to see the pretty white Lutheran Church out in Skanee, you’ll have to use your imagination.  I forgot to photograph it. 

I did, however, take a photo of our unofficial “used car lot”.  The owner has been selling lots of heavy machinery for several years now.  I think this qualifies as a used car lot, don’t you? 

Anyone want to buy a dump truck? Loader?

 

So there you have it.  I have undoubtedly forgot several businesses like our marina, a beauty shop, a fire hall and some cottages for rent down on the lake.  (See!  I’m remembering as we speak.)  

Hope you have enjoyed the tour.  Please come and visit our little township along the shores of Lake Superior some day! 

P.S.  Outdoor adventure on Day 349 of the outdoor commitment:  walked up the road in the snow and back down the road in the snow.  A little slippery.  We must start walking very carefully on the snow now.  We only got a couple inches, but there are rumors that other places in the Upper Peninsula are getting more.

Afternoon reflections

Rain dripped from the sky most of the day.  It was a drizzly damp afternoon.  Mist descended upon the earth.  Waves of fog rolled in. 

By 3:30 it looked like dusk.  A late autumn afternoon.

Blue fog

Here’s my daily confession.  I went into the woods today.  Shhhh…don’t tell anyone.  You know you’re not suppose to hike in the woods during hunting season.  Especially during the first week.  But I couldn’t help myself.  The woods called.  I said, “No way, woods, I will not go in you.”  The woods called again.  I said,  “OK, but just in a safe place where hunters surely won’t go.  Near the lake.”  The woods smiled.  It knew I wouldn’t refuse.

Along the curve of the lake

Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle.  Camera shutter going snap, snap, snap.  (Christopher, out there in San Diego a few days ago, suggested I turn off the sound.)  Heck no.  I like the sound the camera makes.  It sings a lively four-note tune when you turn it on.  Maybe five notes. 

Deer tracks to water

I thought today about how our favorite places on the earth look different all the time.  They look so different on a foggy day than, say, a bright sunny morning.  They look different in snow, different in the jungle-depths of summer, different in the tentative green of spring, different when the autumn leaves fall.  This may sound obvious.  But isn’t it true of everything?  We think people or things are always the same.  But everything and everyone are constantly changing.  You are brand new in every moment!  And so am I!  Isn’t this a miracle?

Fallen tree on Huron Bay

I have 2,000 more words to write on the NaNoWriMo novel before bed, so had better shut up here right now.  The “novel” now has 32,328 words.  After the first five days of sheer torture and probably terrible writing at the beginning of the month, I have had a great time birthing this story.  We need to have 50,000 by November 30th to get our…I’m not sure what we get…an award?  Praise?  Inner contentment for actually writing a novel?  Whatever! 

Hope you all had sunlight after 3:30 p.m.  If not, hope you enjoyed the early dusk.

P.S.  I am definitely back in slower-Internet land.  After uploading photos in ten seconds in San Diego…it’s back to almost three minutes per photo.  I am trying to figure out what to do during those three minutes.  Meditate?  Read?  Play a computer card game?  You can’t check any other Internet applications because the Internet politely refuses to cooperate.  Alas, the little problems in life, eh?

Honeybee on jar of honey!

Honeybee on jar of honey!

This morning, just as I prepared to dash out the door at 6:40 a.m.  for work, I called out to Barry,  “What time will you be home?”

From behind the shower curtain he mumbled, “I have that bee interview at 2 o’clock.”

My outdoor adventure ears perked up. 

Bee interview?  Sounds like an outdoor adventure blog readers might want to hear.

“Can I come, too, Honey?” I called.

Dan Grandy holds bee smoker for "real" interviewer while I sneak a photo sideways

Dan Grandy holds bee smoker for "real" interviewer while I sneak a photo sideways

That is how I came to tag along on the Bee Interview.  My honey works for the local newspaper and does “real” stories.  While he was taking the “official” photographs with his Canon EOS I was sneaking sideways pictures on my little Sony Cybershot.  While he was interviewing and taking notes, I was staring absent-mindedly at the Huron Bay, the wandering bees and the actual honey and only half paying attention.

So later I had to interview my honey to get the actual interview.  Here are the FACTS for you avid bee-lovers:

Dan and Lee Grandy have been raising bees for about six years now.  He had a rough start.  Killed his first two hives in two months.  But he’s got about 70 hives now in several bee “yards”. 

You take the honey out every year in September.  This leaves the poor bees with no food, so you then have to feed them a sugar/water solution from which they create a lower-quality honey.  This honey feeds the bees throughout the long winter. 

Dan collects 40-50 pounds of honey from each good hive.  Some of it remains raw, while other parts are processed and sold in local stores.  Did you know that honey contains an enzyme dangerous to babies under one year of age?  But that very same enzyme helps heal cuts, working a bit like hydrogen peroxide to help heal wounds.  Dan swears by it.

During the long cold winter, the buzzing creatures slowly churn around in a mass.  It can be 20 degrees outside and 70-80 basking degrees within the hives.  Bees take turns rotating around the Queen, take turns at the colder outer rim. 

Now comes the bee bathroom facts.  Bees don’t like to go the bathroom inside the hive.  In fact they really don’t like it, as it can create a parasite which kills the hive.  During the frigid winters they “hold it” for a long time.  On 35-40 degree days they take bathroom flights.  (I swear, I am not making this up.  You can ask the editor.  Or ask Dan himself.) He has lost hives to this parasite in the past.

The hives

The hives

About 30,000 to 50,000 bees buzz around a good hive.  When you first purchase your bees you buy 10,000 bees in two to three pound packs.  Plus the Queen.  Dan is trying to raise his own queens in hopes to avoid the $15-20 purchase price per majesty.

Worker bees live 21-26 days and work themselves to death.  That’s how it is for them.  Here is the job-cycle for bees:

1)  newly hatched bees take care of eggs

2)  They get a new job promotion meeting the worker bees at the door and taking the pollen inside

3)  They get another job promotion and now become pollen-gatherers falling in love with flowers outside the hive.

4)  Then they die.

Honeycomb

Honeycomb

I asked Dan if he ever gets stung.  He raised his eyebrow, “Only 14-15 times a day.  But after six stings I quit having a reaction and don’t even get any swelling any more.”

Hmmm….

Local honey

Local honey

Dan’s note to self:  “Wear the bee suit.  If you don’t it hurts a LOT.”

Kathy’s note to self:  Buy some of Grandy’s raw honey next time I’m in town.   A peanut butter and honey sandwich sounds good right now.

I know some of you must have been worried.  You perhaps had a sudden premonition that something must be wrong with Kathy over at Opening the Door, Walking Outside.  Perhaps you fretted.  Frowned.  Momentarily thought about me.

Thank you.  It’s all OK now.  We’re back home, safe and sound.  We’ve taken off our sopping wet clothes and we’re celebrating a dry house, safety, knowing where we are!  After a very very hot bath, I’m sipping jasmine tea and attempting to decompress from this afternoon’s outdoor adventure.

Ready for a story?

The mud puddle we couldn't cross

The mud puddle we couldn't cross

It may be a long story with a slew of photos.  Here was our mission, should we choose to accept it.  Our friend Cathy drew a detailed back-country map with directions to reach the Rock Cut.  The Rock Cut is way back in the bush, down crazy logging roads.  You can’t reach it unless you have directions with mileages written on it.  You turn here, you turn there, you say a little prayer, you turn the wrong way, you consult your map, you plan on spending the night in the car, you ask your husband if you can build a debris hut of leaves INSIDE the car if you’re stranded.  He says, no, we’ll be walking if the car dies.  You sigh and say another prayer.

So we have the infamous map.  Thank goodness.  First, we head off the wrong way.  Bouncing along rough graded roads with Grandma’s 1995 Buick.  You see, we couldn’t take the 1949 four-wheel drive Studebaker.  It has no odometer.  We needed the odometer more than the four-wheel drive.  Or so we thought.

The Map.  The Precious Map.

The Map. The Precious Map.

We headed off down the wrong road, turned back, followed the map even more closely.  Up into the higher elevations we climbed.  The rain gave way to snow.  Yep, it was snowing up there in the high country.  Pretty soon there was snow on the ground.  Pretty soon the road began to look slightly challenging.  We hit a couple somethings (maybe rocks, maybe holes, maybe minor wash-outs).  The car moaned.  We moaned.  We only hoped we could discover the elusive Rock Cut SOON.

So we finally reached the Big Impassible Mud Puddle.  See first photo.  We might have made it, but we didn’t want to get stuck.  Our map suggested it was only a mile to the Rock Cut.  We set off through the rain and snow and mud on foot like troopers.  We had traveled all this way; we would not retreat.  We would forge ahead.

Checking the car to make sure we didn't have troubles

Checking the car to make sure we didn't have troubles

Except.  We couldn’t find the Rock Cut.  We looked and looked, climbing up roads and down roads.  You can imagine how we felt.  While we are looking for the Rock Cut in this blog, let’s take time out for a History Moment.  To explain what the Rock Cut might be.  And why we wanted to see it.

picture_huronbay_1890s_rockcut2

Here is the brief history.  In the 1890’s several Detroit business fellows joined together with plans to create a 42-mile wilderness railroad from Champion to Huron Bay.  They aimed to haul iron ore to the bay, from whence it would be shipped across Lake Superior to the Sault.  The terrain, however, proved most forbidding.  It was preferable, at that time, to construct grades at no more than 3-4%.  The engineers of this project utilized grades up to 8%.  (For you non-engineers, that means very steep grades.)

This little project became known as the Million Dollar Railroad.  They built the railroad (with up to 1,500 workers at one point) and then constructed a huge wood ore dock down on the Huron Bay.  And guess what happened? 

The project failed.  Here’s where two stories come into play.  I don’t know which one is true.  The local legend says that the locomotive made it downhill to the bay, returned and could not climb up the steep  8% grade near the Rock Cut.  Other sources say that the trains never even ran at all.  It was a failed venture. The company spent $2 million in four years and went bankrupt.

The Rock Cut is a place where they dynamited an almost-impenetrable wall of rock and workers carried away the debris in wheelbarrows.  For all you history buffs, check out more information here or here.  (The first site is rich in information; the second site has great old photos.  Look under Photo History Pages, Huron Bay.)

One of the last remaining railroad tracks

One of the last remaining railroad tracks

Just when we were about to return home (and I already had the title of the blog:  Our failed trip to the Million Dollar Railroad) Barry decided to hike up a hill.  And hurray!  He discovered the elusive Rock Cut.

The Rock Cut!  Site of the Millon Dollar Railroad.  Finally!

The Rock Cut! Site of the Millon Dollar Railroad. Finally!

Later we discovered the sign on a tree.  The Boy Scouts put this sign up many years ago, to help challenged souls like ourselves find the way to the old cut.

What do you know?  There IS a sign.

What do you know? There IS a sign.

And, finally, Barry snapped a photo of me.  Maybe to prove we were there.  We have to let our map-friend Cathy know that, despite our crazy detours and challenges, her map actually was correct.  And we have returned safe and sound.  We didn’t have to spend the night in the woods.  The car still runs. 

Even though the Million Dollar Railroad didn’t make it, we did!  🙂

Yep, me and the Rock Cut.  Jeans, socks & boots are soaked.

Yep, me and the Rock Cut. Jeans, socks & boots are soaked.

Hi Mom and Dad! Welcome to the U.P.

Hi Mom and Dad! Welcome to the U.P.

It’s not suppose to snow until October 15th.  We thought we had an agreement with Mother Nature.  No snow until mid-October.  We thought she signed on the dotted line, especially after our summer-less summer.  (Except for Beautiful September, in which summer finally decided to pay us all a little belated visit.) 

But no!  Mother Nature cheated.  First she doused us with a hard frost last night and sent the temperature down to the upper 20’s.  Then, this morning, the snow flurries started blowing in on the north wind.  It looked like mid-winter for a few minutes there.  Except, of course, nothing was sticking to the ground.  The snow just looked fierce.

And actually, I admit, we were all a little exhilarated.  Snow!!  Like children we stood outside enjoying the flakes, taking photos, getting some red in our cheeks as the wind blew here and there.  My parents, I think, were secretly glad that they could return to the Lower Peninsula next week with the exciting news of  seeing October snow.

Snow against the spruce tree

Snow against the spruce tree

We lounged inside much of the morning, enjoying the warmth of the woodstove, good conversation and laughter.  After a lunch of yellow split pea soup (mine) and Povety Sop* (my mother’s) Mom and I decided to go for a brisk walk.  I insisted she put on my heavy winter Columbia jacket.  She was glad to comply.

We walked down to the Eagle Pond.  I pointed to the house where the two roaming dogs used to live and smugly said, “Well at least they’re gone now.  Now we can walk without dogs accompanying us!”

We turned off into the woods to the sound of a nearby dog collar tinkling through the trees.  And, sure enough, we soon had a new wild and crazy puppy joining us on our walk.

Hello doggy

Hello doggy

We aimed back toward the lake repeating to the dog quite sharply,  “Down!”  “Sit!”  “Get away!” as he threatened to knock us off our feet.  We didn’t dare throw sticks in case he decided to adopt us and follow us home and live here forever.  We tried to be stern and yet friendly.  What a crazy big-footed slurpy fellow he was. 

The minute he saw the waters of the Huron Bay (ice cold though they may have been) he romped in for a little swim.

Dog in lake

Dog in lake

My mom knew we were looking for photos of red trees reflecting in Lake Superior.  We had a little problem locating red trees along our path.  There were plenty of yellow-leafed trees, but no red ones.  Then Mom said, “Oh, look at that beautiful red reflection in the water!”

I peered down by the dog.  No beautiful red reflection.  Just looked like waves and brown water.  What was she talking about?

We peered longer.  She was about to suggest something might be wrong with my eyes.  When we remembered the polarized sunglasses she wore.  I put them on and, sure enough, what a beautiful red reflection on the water!

It's a different world out there with polarized sunglasses

It's a different world out there with polarized sunglasses

On the really really brisk walk up the road (oh weren’t we glad we wore our winter coats?) we spotted a wooly caterpillar.  You’re suppose to be able to predict the length and severity of the winter by the coat on these caterpillars.  I am posting this picture so you can make your prediction.  Will winter be over with by March?  April?  May?  What do you think?

 

And how long do you think winter will last?

And how long do you think winter will last?

* P.S.  “Povety Sop” is an ancient family recipe passed down from generation to generation.

Disappearing act

Disappearing act

Dear blog readers,

If you remember anything from this year of outdoor adventures, do you know what it should be?  (In other words, Kathy, if you learn anything from this year of outdoor adventures, do you know what it should be?)  I have repeated this at least sixteen times and you poor readers will probably have to hear it ANOTHER sixteen times before the year ends.  You poor things.

But here it is, once again for anyone who is still reading after that first paragraph:  Do Not Believe Your Mind When It Tells You Not to Go Outside.  It will attempt to abort your opening the door and walking outside.  It will tell you, over and over again, often in a slight whine, “I don’t WANT to go outside. It’s too cold (substitute the current weather condition which might not look or feel optimal).”  If you believe that Mind you will stay inside.  I have too often believed that Mind before this year.

Today, Day 283, the thermometer said 44 degrees in the early afternoon.  The memory of yesterday’s cold and rain surfaced.  Momentary dislike for having to go outside surfaced.

And guess what?  After about three minutes of feeling slightly cold, it suddenly felt JUST RIGHT.  Once again, the Mind could not see accurately.  It was even pleasurable.  And, you know what?  I might even go outside tonight again and help split up yet another load of firewood.

So there, Mind.

Here are some pics from two evenings ago (or was it three?)  when I walked down by the lake.  Today I wanted to spare you more photos of garden produce and soggy leaves.  Except of course for the leaf which hangs above this blog.  It’s already posted, so it can stay. Here we go:

The lovely Huron Bay

The lovely Huron Bay

Log, water, earth, sky

Log, water, earth, sky

One thin reed

One thin reed

I actually could be babbling on, telling stories about the evening down by the lake, but let’s just let the pictures tell the story today.  You can supply any inner story-telling you like, if you want to imagine the feeling of spending an hour down on the lake during one of the last 70 degree evenings of September.  Of maybe the rest of 2009.  But we won’t go there in our story-telling, shall we?

Guess what these are, littered all over the sand.

Guess what these are, littered all over the sand.

Then, because we can’t really stand NOT to photograph leaves (it’s going to be an autumn of leaves, let me assure you!  Just like it was a winter of snow, and a spring of flowers and now it’s Glorious Leaf Season…)  here you go:

Leaf and sky and a lil bit of sun too

Leaf and sky and a lil bit of sun too

Here’s to autumn!  Let’s raise our apple cider to the sky and enjoy the glories (and, ahem, the colder days) of the season.

Love, Kathy

P.S.  8:15 p.m.  Just finished splitting another load of wood.  Only maybe two more to go!  I LOVE splitting wood.  Really.  Hope you didn’t believe any previous blogs you might have read.   🙂

Hear the honking of geese overhead?

Hear the honking of geese overhead?

Yesterday, magically, we heard the first geese honking in the sky.  Barry heard them down by the bay; I heard them directly overhead (but was photographing leaves deep in the woods and couldn’t see the clearly).  They are lining up in their V-formations and heading down South. 

Every year they begin migration mid-September.  By early October they honk regularly, like minstrels, urging us outdoors to admire their flapping wings and goose-language.  They like to rest on the Huron and Keweenaw Bays, gathering energy before venturing across the interior of the Upper Peninsula. 

The heart soared yesterday to hear the familiar honking.  Hopefully the camera will succeed in recording an image of a low-flying flock before the autumn ends.  Unfortunately, many groups fly high in the sky, looking like little black specks in the classic V-formation.

Sky at dawn

Sky at dawn

I took the above photo at 7 a.m. on my way to work.  By 9 p.m. these days the sky is dark.  Our days are getting shorter.  The trees around here are still mostly green, although shocks of red or orange or yellow sometime decorate certain branches or trees.  Tomorrow I will be driving to Marquette, and those leaves along the way usually turn color before our closer-to-the-lake variety.

Last night Nancy called with suggestions to capture the dozens upon dozens of bees buzzing in her gardens.  That sounded like a good assignment!  So on the way home from work, I paused to meander throughout her flower gardens, praising bees.  Since word of the honeybee scarcity hit the news, many of us have become more appreciative of the buzzing humming creatures.  Except when they sting.  Then we’re a little less appreciative!

Two bees

Two bees

It is very challenging to photograph bees.  I have been trying for two months.  This is the problem:  the lens on the camera thinks you want to photograph the flower.  So it focuses on the flower.  It usually refuses to focus on the smaller bees.  So the bee ends up looking blurry against the flower.  Then there’s another problem.  The bee almost always refuses to show its face.  (That’s because its face is burrowed in the flower, drunk on pollen.)

Bee on pink

Bee on pink

I enjoyed a lovely half-hour in Nancy’s gardens.  What a delightful stop!  So soothing, so relaxing.  There is this certain chair where you sit overlooking a small pond.  It’s mesmerizing.  Lulling.  The bees buzz and lull you almost to sleep.  Perchance to dream with the fragrance of hundreds of perfumed flowers mingling in the breeze.

The biggest fattest bee of the day

The biggest fattest bee of the day

So, you may be wondering where I’m going now.  It’s time for another trip!  This time I’m flying out real early Friday morning (that would be 6 a.m.) and winging down to Detroit and then on to Atlanta, Georgia.  Once there, I find the shuttle and ride two hours to the Holiday Inn in Athens, Georgia, where my in-laws will be waiting.  It’s going to be a wonderful vacation on red Georgia clay, exploring the outdoors and spending hours talking, reconnecting and just plain having fun.  My brother-in-law lives nearby too, and he’s an avid reader of this blog (along with my mother-in-law) so he’s coming up with ideas for outdoor sights.  I’m trusting that he’ll come up with some good ideas.  Some of you may remember the Craig came up here ice fishing this winter.  Check out this blog if you’ve never seen the fun we had.

Looking through the garden fence

Looking through the garden fence

And here’s the best part!  I am taking Miss Ellie along.  Any one know who Miss Ellie is?  I have just named this little laptop.  Someone asked a few weeks ago (when she was brand new) “Are you going to name your computer?” and I replied, “No!  You have to be kidding!”  But guess what?  A name just presentd itself tonight.  This computer is now Miss Ellie and she’s coming traveling.  How exciting!  You can go online in airports when you’re drinking Starbucks and sitting around.  You can post a blog anywhere!  I am way excited.  Even bought Miss Ellie a sporty maroon traveling sleeve to fit in the backpack last week. 

She’ll match the Georgia soil.  Stay tuned starting Friday for some southern outdoor adventures.  Bet I even beat the geese!

The Huron Bay at dusk

The Huron Bay at dusk

Well.  It’s time to report back to you today about Day # 221 of the outdoor commitment.  Yes.  And, truly, there’s not much to say.

Here’s what happened outside:  after work and running errands in town and having lunch with a friend, I came home and lugged the new laptop out on the desk and wrote a blog for another site.  About (and I suppose this does not surprise any of you) “Did you remember to meditate while brushing your teeth?”  Then Barry and I picked pea pods in the garden for a Szechuan tofu pea pod stir-fry.  Later we leisurely ate outside on the deck, enjoying good garden food.  Ahhh…the joys of a simple times outside. 

I didn’t even pick up the camera today, so there are no new photos.  The above photo of dusk along the Huron Bay occurred during a visit two nights ago with our company.  The following photo (taken yesterday morning on the way to Little Mountain) has a small story attached.

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Sandhill Crane

Amy, Daniel and I were driving leisurely through Aura in our separate vehicles.  First we witnessed a partridge couple crossing the road.  Then…what could they be?  Wild turkeys?  Or…could it be?…sandhill cranes?  Yes!

I leaped from the car, and conferred with the visitors.  Should I try to get a photo?  Even without the zoom lens?  Someone must have said “yes” because I proceeded to scurry through the mostly-open field dotted with trees, attempting to photograph the four majestic birds.  Forget the fact it was private property.  Forget the fact that the birds were backing away rather quickly, alarmed at the human apparition attempting to reach them. 

I never got close enough to get a really good photo.  The photo below is what the actual picture looked like before the computer’s crop function accomplished its good deed:

See that sandhill crane?  Anybody see it?

See that sandhill crane? Anybody see it?

My friend Catherine could tell you lots of information about sandhill cranes.  They nest in her fields each spring.  She knows so much about these birds.  I only know that they look beautiful, and seem elusive.  And would like to see them up close.  Perhaps you have to earn that honor.

This is probably enough for tonight.  Will leave you with a photo taken near the strawberry fields a week or two ago.  I believe they’re fireweed which grow abundantly around here.  If we could get a little closer up (for example, perhaps cropping the photo) we could determine if they are actually fireweed or purple loosestrife, which has a bad reputation.  Loosestrife is an invasive plant, so they say, and should be rooted and disowned and scorned.  I don’t like the sounds of that.  How ’bout we appreciate all the plants on this planet, even the invasive ones?  Why declare war on plants? 

On that note, a peaceful goodnight to all.

Pure beauty

Pure beauty

Daniel, Amy and myself on the deck (Barry so kindly takes our picture)

Daniel, Amy and myself on the deck (Barry so kindly takes our picture)

Guess what?  We have company!  My dear friend Amy Carr is visiting with her partner, Daniel.  We hardly ever have company.  It’s such a delight.

Amy is actually doing dishes right now, while I sit and leisurely write a blog.  What kind of friend is that?  Maybe she should come and live here…

We’ve had quite a day.

Amy picking blueberries near the Mouth of the Huron

Amy picking blueberries near the Mouth of the Huron

Amy and I left Daniel at home playing his guitar (before Barry got home from work) and drove slowly out to the Mouth of the Huron, talking all the way, catching up on this and that.  We had a mission:  see if the blueberries were ripe.  The chances of the wild blueberries being ripe were 25%.  I swear.  It’s been a cold summer, and the blueberries were probably still yearning for sunlight and hot to ripen themselves into a deep rich blue color, sweet enough to add to pancake mix or eat by the mouthfuls.

Do you think they were ripe?  Do you think we had a chance to pick a handful or container-full or bucket-full?

Blueberries!

Blueberries!

It was indeed a miracle.  The blueberries and huckleberries teased blue through the green leaves.  We knelt in the sandy soil and found handfuls.  Each of us secured a plastic container and began to fill it with shiny dark berries and shimmering lighter blue berries.  I can’t remember which ones are huckleberries and which ones are blueberries.  They taste equally good!

We stopped with enough for our pancakes tomorrow morning.  Plus enough for Amy to munch before bed.

Blueberry bowl

Blueberry bowl

After our blueberry picking stop, we drove out to the beach.  The Mouth of the Huron is one of the most beautiful undeveloped places in our “neck of the woods”.  We used to camp there every summer, which is another story, for another day.  Amy and I had not seen one another for two years, so we had lots of catching up to do.

The beautiful "Mouth of the Huron"

The beautiful "Mouth of the Huron"

There is something special about pausing by the lake, perhaps reaching out to touch the cool waves lapping at the shore, to squish your bare feet into the sand.  We sat for a long while on the sandy beach, allowing our hands to move through the sand in a semi-circular motion.  Amy grew up near Lake Superior’s beaches, and it’s a homecoming for her to feel the sand, admire the rocks, squint against the horizon to see Point Abbeye, the Huron Islands and the misty distant Keweenaw Peninsula.

Stones meander along the shore

Stones meander along the shore

Time to get back to our delightful company!  It is such a pleasure to spend time with old friends.  (Amy and I met each other when she was but 16 years old and I was an “old” woman of 26.  She was reading William Blake in the church foyer and I was so impressed we became fast friends.)

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