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You might not want to sit here.

 

 Hello reader!  First of all, these photos were taken yesterday.  I felt suddenly silently called to visit Lake Superior’s shore, filled with a desire to photograph ice-forming pictures.  Imagine my surprise to discover the ice extravaganza which coated benches, gates and poles.  

The Keweenaw Bay, December 2009

 

 Walking out the boardwalk-pier proved very very challenging.  It required tip-toeing.  The entire boardwalk lay coated with a covering of ice.  One did not want to walk too quickly, slip and enjoy a polar plunge in the bay.  I wondered which recent day furiously frosted this lake-side world with thick ice.  

Swirl of sand and snow

 

 Much of the beach looked clean-swept with only dustings of snow.  Stones and snow slumbered together, bedmates for the winter.   

The way ice forms along the edge of Lake Superior

 

 The ice is forming along the edges of the lake.  Many predict an early ice-fishing season.  (I actually witnessed a surveyor/architect fellow walking on river ice today.  What craziness!  Was he nuts?  River ice is so fragile, so delicate, so thin.  I wanted to leap from the car and photograph his insane behavior.  Yet, did not want to embarrass the fellow.  My own brand of quiet insanity, you think?) 

And the wind bent the icicles backwards

 

 Today’s outdoor adventure involved an insanity of its own.  Heading out into the woods without snowshoes.  (You see now how the river-walker and I have something in common…although it still seems his venture might be a little more dangerous.)  I followed the ridge behind the house, the snow almost cresting the top of the boots.  It was a work-out trudge.  Kind of like going to the gym.   

Up close ice

 

I emerged on the road awhile later, nicely sweating, after communing with a woodpecker.  I caught a photo of him in flight, which perhaps you shall see on Sunday.  He pecked away on a dead tree.  I begged him to come closer, closer, just a little closer, but he looked down his long beak at me and said, “You are close enough, madam” and flew away to the next dead tree stump.  

Four ice-enshrouded posts overlook bay

 

Our temperature turned so mild today and crested above the freezing mark.  The ice in downtown L’Anse will undoubtedly have melted today.  Perhaps folks can amble down the boardwalk toward Lake Superior without slipping. 

As we approach the darkest day of the year, let us remember to walk carefully if we live in northern climes.  Ice is silently forming, preparing to transform our Great Lakes.

The Silver River freezes

 

I’ve been fascinated by the patterns of the freezing rivers lately.  The rivers have been donning their winter garb of ice and snow, settling in for the long freezing days and nights. 

The Silver River with long shadows on the other side of the bridge

 

Yesterday I photographed the Silver River as it passed under Townline Road, but today drove a little distance up Skanee Road to wander along the river through the woods.  How it meanders!  How the river dances around this bend and those rapids, never stopping, always moving.  Until ice renders it deceptively silent and still.  Don’t walk on it yet!  In fact, I have never walked on river ice.  The currents still run beneath the silent frozen surface.

Years ago I dreamed of falling through the ice on the Silver River, sucked down beneath the hard glass surface, unable to find a way to the hole, unable to find a way back up.  It was not a happy dream.

Slurry of brown water, white snow and ice

 

In some places the river looks muddy and brown.  If you walk around the curve, it suddenly struts its beauty in stark white.  Fascinating patterns swirl everywhere.  Rivers of ice exist within rivers of sparkling water.  

Magical swirls, magical rivers of ice

 

The camera uploaded more than fifty photos by the time it finished shooting the patterns and swirls.  It seemed impossible to pick eight photos to show you.  Each one looks so unique, so different.  In the end, I just closed my eyes and picked.  (Well, not really!  But you get the idea…) 

An angel of ice

 

We are surrounded by such beauty that we do not notice.  I have never before thought of wandering by the riverside documenting the freezing of river ice.  Why don’t we think to do such things?  

Patterned curves as the ice forms

 

There are rumors that a big snow storm is headed for the Upper Peninsula.  Maybe tomorrow?  Maybe the next day?  Some areas may get ten to fifteen inches.  Baraga County is part of that warning.  You can read about it here if you like.  Sigh…winter seems to be starting awfully early this year. 

Oh beautiful river!

 

It’s lovely to sit inside when the snow falls.  You feel so cozy and peaceful and snug.  It’s even fun to put on your warm winter clothes and go outside.  What is challenging is when loved ones (or one’s self) need to be on the road.  Driving in a snowstorm is no fun.  The snow loses its appeal very rapidly. 

How ice forms when you're looking up close

 

Back to our discussion of freezing rivers.  It’s interesting to get right up close to the edge of the ice.  Not too close!  You don’t want to fall in.  But close enough to linger at the edge of something brand new.  Something beautiful.  Something we’re going to get to know very intimately during the next four or five months…

Snow on spruce

Happy Thanksgiving all you blog readers!  

Even if you don’t celebrate thanksgiving, I am thankful for YOU.

Today (besides being the once or twice a year our mostly-vegetarian lips touch meat…that’s if you don’t count fish) we ate Thomas Turkey. He tasted quite good.  Baked to that fall-apart perfection.  Add some mashed potatoes, gravy and homemade stuffing and you’ve got a dinner to be grateful for.  We said our words of thanks.  I read a poem by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez entitled Grace.  We included our family and friends, near and far, into the heart of our prayers.  We ate.

It was snowing this morning.  A very light snow, dusting the ground and then melting into it.  Flakes danced from the sky and melted in odd patterns everywhere.

Snow melting on car

I was truly fascinated with the way the snow melted on the car.  How interesting!  What loops, what hieroglyphs, what symmetry!  One has a lot to be grateful for when the snow melting on one’s car is more entertaining than a movie or a Macy’s parade, don’t you think?

More melting snow on car

Barry put up the bird feeder a couple days ago.  We’ve been waiting breathlessly for the arrival of the chickadees and nuthatches.  They have been calling and chirping all around us in the past few days.  They kept singing, “Where is our bird feeder? Where is our bird feeder?”  but when we finally put it up, they were nowhere around.  Until this afternoon when we put the turkey in the oven.  Then there were a dozen of them pecking away in the feeder.  I was too busy to photograph their majesties.

Green moss on stump yesterday

Excuse the insertion of this green moss photo.  It was taken yesterday, before the world turned white.  Isn’t it a stunning color of bright green against the autumn leaves? 

Another interjection:  Remember when I told you about the NaNoWriMo commitment of writing a 50,000 page novel during the month of November?  How many of you placed bets it couldn’t be done?  Well, I am here to tell you that 51,214 words have been sprawled across 96 pages and I now have the official “prize”.  You want to know what the prize is?  I will upload it for you:

There you go

 However, of course, the novel is not done.  Nowhere near done.  The characters are still deep involved in their drama, romance and historical fiction.  Who knows when it will be finished. This month?  Next?  I do vow to finish it.  Some of the writing is so raw I’m sure you could scrub countertops with it (ha ha, how’s that for a metaphor?) but other passages are almost…almost…fairly decent.  The editor would have to utilize an eraser and thesaurus before anyone could ever read it.

Just wanted to let you know the status of this secondary commitment.  Which didn’t really interfere with the outdoor commitment at all, did it?

Icy snow crystal up close

What else can I tell you about this Thanksgiving night?  How about the bald eagle which landed in the tree over the garage and sat there a long time?  Barry said he’s seen it there two or three times lately.  I tried to grab the camera and capture his majestic wings in flight but he flapped away with his broad wingsweep the very moment the front door opened.  Like all good trackers, I followed him up the road.  He landed in a tree.  I approached; he flew away.  I shook my head and wandered back home, photographing ice crystals instead.

Watch your step! Ice on front porch!

As for the front porch:  oh my!  Very dangerous.  An unsuspecting walker, say, someone with birdseed in his hands, could take a sliding dive on the icy steps.  Luckily, we maintained our wits.  We walked oh-so-carefully.  No one tumbled.  No one fell. 

We were truly thankful as we said our Thanksgiving prayer this year. 

Sending you all Thanksgiving blessings, as well.

****Darn!  Darn!  I almost forgot to tell you THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.  Phew.  Memory is not always the best.  Dawn, Sahlah, had a great suggestion for Black Friday.  I will paste her idea here:  

I have an idea – we can all give virtual rocks/feathers/twigs/puddles whatever to each other in our blogs!

We could spend Black Friday searching for those “just right” images…

So that’s going to be MY Black Friday shopping.  I’m going to officially shop for rocks.  And a few other goodies from the woods. Virtual presents for all of YOU!

Peering through old barbed wire to see Lake Superior

Peering through old barbed wire to see Lake Superior

What to do today?  A strong impulse arose to visit our Lake Superior and discover if the ice has melted.  More specifically:  to see what winter washed up upon the shore.  It’s like nature’s flea market or rummage sale.  You never know what treasures you’ll find!

I drove two roads up and one road over.  Slowly puttered down toward the Keweenaw Bay, meeting two women-walkers.  We arrived at the water’s edge (or shall I say the ice edge?) at the same time.  We briefly discussed the weather, photography and walking .  They lamented walking back up the hill, wondering if they’d make it.  I offered to pick them up on my way home if they didn’t.

Sacred view

Sacred view (I did not stack those rocks)

I tiptoed out on the ice and rocks.  Oh, watch it!  Those rocks are surprisingly slippery.  You think they’re dry, but some of them are coated with a fine layer of nearly-invisible ice.  Let’s not fall in.  Please.

A wave of pleasure, back here on the shore, hunting for treasures.  And what’s the usual abundant treasure?  Rocks.  Stones.  Lots of them.  In every shape and form.  In every style and texture.  What beauty!  Even on this gray early-spring day, the rocks were already telling stories of their wintering. 

Look at this one.  Just imagine the story it’s sharing with us.  (Doesn’t it look sort of like a lopsided heart?  Could it be telling us, “I love you?”)

Lake Superior stone

Lake Superior stone

It felt too chilly to simply sit on the shore and gaze dreamily into the Great Lake.  Besides being too cold, very few areas looked dry.  I stepped cautiously here and there, peering deeply, turning the camera angle to capture some of the shore’s delights. 

So here’s the scene, if you haven’t figured it out photographically.  As you approach the lake, you witness the layer of rocks.  They’re not everywhere, as snow still covers the majority of the “beach”.  Out further, between water and rocks, exists a layer of snow and ice.  It’s thinking about melting and disappearing.  It hasn’t decided.  It’s weighing its options.  “Should I stay or should I go?”  It didn’t ask my advice, but it probably knew I was opting for its departure.  That’s probably why it sprayed the rocks with ice and almost sent me sprawling…

Now, you want to know about the magical world which exists just upward from the exposed shore?  I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you.  But here goes.  This place is so beautiful it astounds the rock-hunter.  Greenery everywhere!  And this exists year-round.  Shhh…it’s a secret known only to the dedicated searcher.

Beautiful green hidden shoreline world

Beautiful green hidden shoreline world

But you can’t stay in the enchanted forest forever, so you find your way back to the rocks, wondering if you’ll stay upright.  You inch your way back toward the road and car, pausing to truly see Gitchee Gumee (the name for our cold deep-water Great Lake, as coined by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in The Song of Hiawatha.) The real Annishnabe name is Gichigami which means “big water”.  Close enough, I suppose. 

There’s still some iceberg remnants floating out there, but they declined being photographed.  A fallen and rotting birch tree, instead, asked to have its picture taken.

A downed birch fellow rests among the rocks and snow

A downed birch fellow rests among the rocks and snow

And finally, because so many photos are clamouring “include me!  include me!” shall we honor the rocks one more time?  We’ll be back later in the summer to see how they’re doing and what other treasures exists beneath all that snow and ice.  Summer? What am I talking about?  We’ll be back this spring!

Rocks and more rocks...waiting for the snow to melt

Rocks and more rocks...waiting for the snow to melt

Bald eagle bursts out of tree, flying up to the sky

Bald eagle bursts out of tree, flying up to the sky

I felt so excited to show you this photo yesterday, but the ice fishing expedition needed discussion first.  What do you think of this?  The Annishnabe (Ojibway) call this beautiful bird “Migisi”.  Once almost extinct and on the Endangered Species List, it has now made a comeback in the United States.  For more information about our national bird, follow this link to a Bald Eagle Fact and Information page.

Birds are notoriously hard to photograph.  They move so quickly.  You focus your camera and they’ve fluttered out of range.  You move too close, they fly away.  You snap their picture from far away and they look like tiny dots in the sky or tree. 

This fellow perched in a tall tree near Second Sand Beach yesterday afternoon.  I glimpsed it less than five minutes from our ice fishing rendezvous.  I thought, “Should I get out of the car?  Of course it will fly away.  Of course the camera won’t focus appropriately.  Of course….”

Of course one must completely ignore when the Mind starts rambling about why things won’t work.  So I grabbed the camera (while backing up the car in good multi-tasking mode) and opened the door.  The eagle flapped upward and I snapped the picture.  And, miracle of miracle! the photo turned out. 

I couldn’t wait to show you.

Signs of spring near the garden

Signs of spring near the garden

You wouldn’t want to walk in our driveway today.  It’s not pleasant.  It resembles an ice skating rink.  You place your feet very carefully, one cautiously in front of the other.  You pause frequently.  You know you’re very close to slipping and sliding and tumbling down.  You wonder if you should return to the house and attach “creepers” over your boots.  Diligent blog readers remember the definition of creepers:  attachments one places over boots to assist when walking on ice. Mine have spiral metal coils which dig into the ice, hopefully keeping the walker more upright.  When Nancy and I pulled the tent out on Lake Superior’s ice yesterday, we both wore creepers on our boots.

Once you reach the end of the slippery driveway, the main roads look more navigable.  They’re mostly ice-free.  A few patches here and there.  It’s still warm, 42 degrees.  Our Georgia company has been blessed with some  nice weather.  He may come back to visit again in the winter time!

It rained or sleeted earlier this morning.  Which, along with the warm temperature,explains the ice skating rink in the driveway.  It’s not particularly fun to walk in the woods now, either, as the snow is heavy, wet and slushy.  The road is your best bet.  Except when you stand too close to the edge, in which case your boots cover rather quickly with a good layer of mud.

Dried stalk of the self-heal plant

Dried stalk of the self-heal plant

Yes, spring is slowly announcing her arrival.  Slowly.  She’s a leisurely lady around these parts.  We’re almost in that in-between season, halfway between Winter and Spring.  It usually stretches from March to April and (sigh) sometimes into May.  We call it “Mud Season”.  Bet you’re looking forward to those muddy pictures coming your way soon…

Cattail bursting open

Cattail bursting open

Because a reader wondered, I’ll tell you what day it is.  Out of 365 days I shall spend time outside, it’s Day 52.  It’s strange how easy it is to go outdoors now.  A friend said recently that it takes 40 days to form a habit, and although maybe she psychologically bamboozled me, this seemed about right.

Forty days into this spend-every-day-outside commitment and it began to get easy.  You just opened the door and went outside.  No resistance.  No second-guessing.  No yawning on the couch.  Just open the door and see what’s out there.

To be honest, maybe it’s easier because of the warm weather.  If the thermometer gasped “twenty below” maybe I’d still be whining.  But the thermometer is singing “fifty above” and all is well in the universe.  (except with my ice fishing husband, but that’s another story….)

Fifty above!  Did you hear me?  Fifty spectacular degrees above zero!  Do you know what this melt did to the driveway and secondary roads this morning?  Turned them into skating rinks.  You could hardly navigate without slipping, sliding and falling.  Lucky fellows with those ice-clampers you put on boots headed off to work without a hitch.  Those in shoes or boots danced atop the ice, attempting to balance.

We backed our cars tentatively, slowly, out the long driveway this morning.  Craned the neck almost backwards and attempted to keep the vehicle in the middle.  Not too close to the ravines or frog pond.  Once on the main roads, driving proceeded easily and ice-free.

I was afraid to walk up the road in the afternoon, but at 50 degrees the ice and snow slushed underfoot.  No problem.  Just watch those icy patches.  Rivers of muddy ice careened down the side of the road.  The wind whipped the tops of the trees.  Without wind, we might have considered shorts.  With wind, we zipped up our jackets and kept our hats on.

I am admiring dried plants and seed pods lately.  Above, look at the energy as the cattail releases its inner fluff.  Below, peer at that thistle.  Remember how sharp its violet prickers sting in mid-summer?  Doesn’t it look innocent?

Soft underbelly of thistle

Soft underbelly of thistle

Another amazing fact we sometimes forget.  We look around this white wintered world and do not imagine that there’s often still a lush green plant jungle beneath the drifts.  When melting unexpectedly reveals a mini-green world still existing steadfastly even under three or four feet of snow, we’re astounded.  To think that this green world remains vibrant and alive and we’re not aware of it!

Miniature world of vibrant green

Miniature world of vibrant green

Hope everyone’s enjoying the thaw.  It’s back to the 20’s by the weekend.  Don’t pack away your winter coats yet.  It’s many months until spring settles in and nudges those thistles and cattails to growing….

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