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Fire

Fire

Today rain wept from the leaden sky.  Rain pounded sideways, drenching.  The great Lake Superior roared.  Waves splashed with fury against the rocks along the Keweenaw Bay.  A walker needed to step oh-so-carefully on slippery rocks.  Place feet consciously, pause, take step, place foot again.  It was a treacherous rain-sodden walk.

Sweat lodge memories have been nudging the back of my mind recently, memories kindled a couple of decades ago.  When I was invited to attend sweat lodges with local Anishinabe people here in the Upper Peninsula.  It’s a long story which involved a lot of strange dreaming in my life.  At one point I dreamed a voice said, “I want you to learn about the Native American people.”  The story took a lot of twists and turns but eventually I was invited to attend sweat lodges and ceremonies.  This lasted about seven years back in the ’80’s and ’90’s.

Rock and waves

Rock and waves

The first time I entered the lodge and sat in the darkened womb of Mother Earth, I almost wept.  It was a feeling of remembrance, of returning, of being completely safe, of being held in the embrace of an ancient culture and spirit.  Something deep in my soul remembered this sacred ceremony.  It was a ceremony of prayer, of steam, of connection with the Infinite.  It helped me to remember who I was in a deeper sense than just a little white girl who only understood white culture.  It was as if the spirit of my great-great grandmother from a native tribe in New York whispered in my ear, “Wake up, Kathy, and learn to be truly alive.”

Sweat lodge rock

Any one else see the spirit-woman on this sweat lodge rock?

In the following years I probably attended two or three dozen lodges (a handful of these were conducted by respectful non-natives).  Hot lodges, cool lodges, challenging lodges, easy lodges.  They were all deep ceremonies of prayer and healing.  We witnessed prayers come true, healings happen, mystical occurences, quiet prayers, deep connections.  I cannot share what happens in lodges, because I promised to keep that sacred, but each experience offered a spiritual gift to the participants.  Some of the gifts involved learning how to grow up, learning how to let go of ego’s relentless attachments (um, still working on that!) and learning how to surrender.  It was like the church of my childhood in many ways, although in other ways in was very different.

Cedar over water

Cedar over water

Three people died in a sweat lodge in Arizona recently.  My heart breaks thinking about this.  Immediately I imagined that lodge, imagined the heat, imagined the suffering.  So many of us want to know more…how could this happen?  You feel perhaps the terror and disorientation of the weakened fasting participants and your heart clenches in sorrow.  I, too, have fasted before a sweat lodge. This feels very close to the marrow.

And yet, another feeling also comes in. Some people hear of this horrific incident and condemn all sweat lodges.  Thinking perhaps they shouldn’t exist; not understanding.  Not understanding the sacred nature of this, a ceremony which has existed for hundreds or thousands of years.  Perhaps thinking of limiting or restricting the ceremony.  And that also makes me sad.

Stone for fire

Stone for fire

I think of how all religious and spiritual ceremonies and groups and churches can be fraught with challenges, how good-meaning folks can screw up, how some folk aren’t perhaps so well-meaning.  How we need to be alert and aware with both our mind and our heart.  How we must be careful.  How we must listen to our deepest heart.  There are no easy answers. 

Another reflection in another mud puddle

Another reflection in another mud puddle

Today I stood in the pouring rain, stared out over a churning lake, and thought about fire, rock, lodge and medicine.  Said a prayer for the people who died.  Said another prayer for the sacred sweat lodge.  Asked permission of the ancestors to write this blog.  The rocks said, “yes.”

Exhibit A:  Droplets of rain on leaf

Exhibit A: Droplets of rain on leaf

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

Exhibit B:  Droples of rain on yellow-green leaf

Exhibit B: droplets of rain on yellow-green leaf

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

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

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

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

Exhibit D:  Leaf veins of rain

Exhibit D: Leaf veins of rain

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

Exhibit E:  Studies in White Leaf

Exhibit E: Studies in White Leaf

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

Exhibit F:  Sappy brown rain droplets on leaf

Exhibit F: Sappy brown rain droplets on leaf

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

Exhibit G:  And Two shall join together...

Exhibit G: And Two shall join together...

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

Exhibit H:  Family of leaves in rain

Exhibit H: Family of leaves in rain

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

Rainy impenetrable world

Rainy impenetrable world

Sometimes it seems to rain, and rain, and rain.  Wherever you walk, you’re soaked.  The wet soaks into sneakers, socks, jeans.  Droplets pour off rain jackets.  It’s a Wet World.  Wet sky, wet foliage, wet branch, wet life, wet river. 

Is Mother Nature crying at times like these?  Or is that too much of a projection of human attributes on nature? 

I pondered crying today.  Not because I was feeling persoanlly sad.  But simply because many folks in our Upper Peninsula county may be suffering right now.  Struggling.  Trying to figure out what to do next.

Stumbling upon a hidden boat

Stumbling upon a hidden boat

Here is why people in our community may be crying in the rain this weekend, lamenting the passing of summer.  Approximately 24 percent of  Baraga County’s population is unemployed right now.  Up to 90 more folks just lost their job recently at Terex, a local employer, when the company decided to pull out and close its plant.

We’ve always had high unemployment figures in this area.  Our numbers traditionally top the state’s statistics.  On a good year, our unemployment hovers around 7-8%, and during slow seasons (like winter break-up when the loggers can no longer operate their heavy equipment on the roads) the unemployment tops around 9-11%.

It’s not a job-laden area.  People make a living in the woods, the state maximum-security prison, the casino, a few companies and shops, the mines over toward Marquette.  You might work in the hospital, the school systems, the county, the stores.  But it’s not like there are infinite choices. 

Often tensions have sparked between those desiring more jobs for our people, and those trying to protect the environment from companies without sustainable nurturing practices.  It’s a fine line which brings out tension on both sides.  How do we care for the earth, but not at the expense of the people?  How do we care for the people, but not at the expense of the earth? 

Dried flower merry-go-round

Dried flower merry-go-round

In July we made national news.  Our county had the third highest unemployment in the whole country, unless you added Puerto Rico. If you toss in that little island, we were number four. 

Strangely enough, shop owners have complained that they can’t hire enough skilled workers from our area.  They insist they advertise for workers–perhaps welders–and must hire out of the area to get enough skilled employees.  Many folks do not want to work and find ways to minimize their time on the job.  Yet, for every person who doesn’t want to work, there is a person who does.  They just want a job.  A way to put food on the table.  To educate their children.  To buy gas for the car and heating propane for the house.  To realize the “American dream”.

Splash of autumn reflects in the Silver River

Splash of autumn reflects in the Silver River

As the rain pours from the heavens and autumn temperatures dip down, how is the man feeling across the bay who doesn’t know where to work next?  How is the woman feeling who is pregnant with her third child and no longer has a job?  Can you imagine the panicked thoughts which might play in your mind?  What to do next?  How do we survive?  Is our world falling apart?

Shiny leaf suspended

Shiny leaf suspended

I try to imagine what this must feel like.  What about the people who love the land, and don’t want to leave to find work in the larger cities?  What about the people to whom family ties and closeness mean everything?  How do you learn to live with the pressure of not having a job, of not feeling the safety net of employment?  What if your skills are minimal and you have no time or money to go back to school?  How do you survive?

Cedar tucked away in a stump

Cedar tucked away in a stump

The Anishnabe people who have lived on this land for centuries often turned toward nature in times of need.  Cedar and sweet grass were burned, kindled with flame, the prayers of the people wafting upwards on smoke toward the heavens.  “Help your people,” the smoke whispered to the Great Spirit, “Help us.  Help all of us to survive and thrive during time when the rains come.”

Fallen tree ~ roots exposed

Fallen tree ~ roots exposed

Blessings to those who are scared today.  Who hunger.  Who worry.  Who wonder:  what next?  May those of us with jobs keep our eyes wide open to see what help we might share, if the opportunity arises.

Please.  Use your outdoor voice!

Please. Use your outdoor voice!

You would think by looking at that photo that the sky is blue and the temperature is maybe 70 degrees and we’re enjoying a lazy Indian Summer day.  Well, you would be wrong.  That photo was taken yesterday (was it only yesterday?) before the weather changed and drenched us all into autumn. 

We had to start a fire in the woodstove this morning, for goodness sake.  Sigh.  Fall must be here, for sure.  We’ve been so spoiled this September.  We’ve rarely experienced a September so balmy, so tepid, so delicious.  Let’s stiffen our backs and upper lips and tighten our resolve and remember to…open the door and walk outside!

But not before donning lots of rain gear.

One wet and soggy and puddle-filled driveway

One wet and soggy and puddle-filled driveway

So on go the rain pants and rain jacket and…the heavy winter boots.  I don’t have a pair of rain boots, and the thought of soaking a pair of sneakers in two minutes did not sound appealing.  Put the rain hood over you head and out you go.  Come on now, don’t be hesitant!  You snooze, you lose.  Get on out that door.

What a shock!  Rain pouring from the heavens, the sky a deep shade of lead.  What in the world should one do?  This suddenly reminded me of the freezing cold days last winter when I would (confession time) bring a clock outside to ensure that I stay out there for long enough.  Because the thoughts would cajole and beg, “Haven’t we been outside long enough?  Can’t we go in?”  So one must be firm with them. “No, we can not go in.  Keep walking.  Keep looking.  It’s only been ten minutes  Don’t let a little rain or cold stifle your experience.  C’mon now, quit whining.  Is it really that cold (or that rainy?  or that miserable?)”

Puddle action

Puddle action

You might think the camera would capture images of the downpour.  But no.  Every digitally-uploaded photo of rain against the garage or trees looks like it’s not raining at all.  Go figure.

Soggy leaves on soggy log

Soggy leaves on soggy log

Smiling suddenly, because I just wrote the above cutline about the leaves on the soggy log and mis-read it to say “Soggy blog”.  Which, I suppose, it is.  🙂

One of the useful things I accomplished outside was picking a) tomatoes, b) cucumbers, c) peppers and d) basil for tonight’s dinner.  Can you guess what dinner was?  Never mind, I shall tell you.  It was a garden pizza with salad and leftover corn.  The reason for mentioning the picking-venture was this (and didn’t I warn you about it?):  the fingers so quickly become frozen ice-cold appendages at the end of soggy hands.  How quickly that happens.  Even when it’s 46 degrees and not…oh what a daunting thought…32 degrees.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  The temperature is still in the 40’s.

One slender bleeding heart root

One slender bleeding heart root

Besides gardening, and walking to the mailbox, and wandering in the ravine behind the house, I tossed some scraps into the woods.  One of these scraps was a bleeding heart root.  We pulled up one of our overgrown bleeding heart plants yesterday and said, “Fare thee well!” The roots looked so interesting and almost mystical.  It seems like they might be medicine for some malady; who knows?  Perhaps we should Google it.  Here we have it from a possibly reliable or unreliable site (and for heavens sake, never try to use a bleeding heart root medicinally without extensive research!)  It is apparently known as the “nerve root”.

 Nerve root is  used orally for insomnia; emotional tension; hysteria; anxiety states; agitation; nervousness; and specifically, anxiety states associated with insomnia.

Nope, I’m not that agitated about the rain or cold weather.  In fact it’s kind of cozy sitting inside the house tonight listening to the rain pitter-patter on the roof and trees in our woods.  But that’s because I opened the door and walked inside.  Thank goodness that was an option today!

P.S.  for anyone else experiencing rainy weather, here’s an entertainment suggestion. Listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition.  Click here.  There are at least six stories (or more) about our beloved Upper Peninsula.  Go listen if you’d like!

Stuffed 'coon behind glass window in park ranger office

Stuffed 'coon behind glass window in park ranger office

My favorite brother-in-law Craig (my only brother-in-law…but I’m sure he would be my favorite one, anyway) took me on today’s outdoor adventure.  We started out in the rain in his pickup truck, headed for Watson Mill Bridge State Park.  He even stopped at Jittery Joe’s Coffee Shop so I could buy a latte for the road.  He’s a good brother-in-law.

This particular state park contains the largest original-site covered bridge in the state, spanning 229 feet across the South Fork River.  Built in 1885, the bridge is supported by a town lattice truce system held firmly together with wooden pins. (Who can tell I’m typing word-for-word from the brochure?)  At one time, Georgia had more than 200 covered bridges; today, less than 20 remain.

We ambled through the covered bridge, siding up along the edges when cars crept through next to us.  We remembered what the park ranger said to us.  “Look up in the rafters,” he said, “if you want to see plenty of bats.”  Then he paused.  Looked us straight in the eye and added, “A Boy Scout troop went through earlier this week.  Guess what was up in the rafters with the bats?  A pine snake, having lunch.”

“Oh, neat!” I said enthusiastically.  Craig raised an eyebrow.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see either the bats or the snake.  But we did admire the covered bridge.

Craig and covered bridge

Craig and covered bridge

Craig urged me to photograph the dam, next to the bridge.  I walked carefully and slowly atop a high stone wall to capture the following image.  Tried not to imagine falling in.

Dam and waterfall

Dam and waterfall

Chatting away, we drove on down the road.  I mentioned casually a passing desire to photograph cows.  Craig, apparently, decided I was serious and parked the car in front of a field of black and white cows lying down, looking relaxed and comfortable in the drizzling rain.

I sighed and hurried through wet whipping hip-high grasses toward the fence to capture the snoozing cows. 

Yeah, right!

Cows running away...

Cows running away...

They moved a short distance away and turned to observe the soaking photographer with briar cuts on her legs.  It almost looks like they were judging the situation quite intelligently, doesn’t it?  Thinking the photographer probably should have stayed safe and dry in her truck.  Yep.

Cows turn to stare at a safe distance

Cows turn to stare at a safe distance

Once at home, we all enjoyed a cook-out.  Craig and my father-in-law manned the grill, cooking shish-ka-bobs and shrimp.  (All outdoor activities have been accomplished in between raindrops during the last few days.  We’ve had about five inches since my arrival on Friday, with more expected tonight and tomorrow.)

Father-in-law, Jim, and Craig

Father-in-law, Jim, and Craig

After dinner I walked down to the creek, admiring a few moments of sunlight.  Even though it was still sprinkling.  All the creeks are running red and fierce after so much rain.

Sunlight on creek

Sunlight on creek

Walking home, I saw the most lovely red flower.  It’s a mystery what kind it might be.  However, I loved this nameless flower instantly.  Don’t you, as well?

Mystery red flower

Mystery red flower

Rain gauge fills up

Rain gauge fills up

Today it was pouring rain, then drizzling rain, then weeping rain, then soaking rain.  You get the picture.  It was raining.

I haven’t had to fulfill the outdoor commitment in the rain for some time.  Today is the eight month anniversary of going outside every single day since the Winter Solstice.  Four more months to go.

The first necessity:  find the umbrella.  We country folks aren’t necessarily like city folks.  We country folks don’t use umbrellas too much.  You either wear rain gear with a big hood or hat, or stay inside, or run from the house to the car through the raindrops.  You don’t usually wander casually around beneath the comfort of a large umbrella.

Unless you’re doing an outdoor commitment and need to take photos in the rain.  Then you undertake the search for an umbrella and finally find it in the back of the car.  You then check it to see if it works, having some vague memory of an umbrella failure during the pouring rain in Munising in June. 

That was not an enjoyable saunter in the rain.  If I remember correctly, my fingers were frozen numb against the umbrella handle on that trip downstate.  Never mind that it was June.  It was a Upper Peninsula night in June.  Which meant barely past frost.

A field of mint from beneath the umbrella

A field of mint from beneath the umbrella

Today’s rain felt almost balmy.  Although it was in the 50’s, so it wasn’t that balmy.  But I did enjoy sauntering around the yard, twirling the umbrella and humming.

Looking at all the puddles and drizzly leaves and getting my shoes and pant legs soaking wet.

Shadow of spruce in a puddle

Shadow of spruce in a puddle

Suddenly it became clear that the rain had momentarily ceased.  Why carry around the umbrella?  I tossed it on the lawn and headed out to the road for further exploration.

Umbrella abandoned in grass near cattail pond

Umbrella abandoned in grass near cattail pond

Umbrella-less (and hoping another downpour might be postponed) I ventured down the road and then veered off unto a logging road to further look at nature’s offerings.

Down the road toward the lake...shimmery rain drizzling

Down the road toward the lake...shimmery rain drizzling

So many of the plants and flowers lay beaten down by the rains, tumbled over from the downpours.  Rain water collected everywhere:  on the path, in flowers, against leaves.  You could tell the soil felt appreciative.  The roots beneath the surface sighed in collective relief.  We’ve had too many years of drought not to appreciate this summer’s gift of rain.

Baby lupine grows out of a spider web covered with droplets of rain

Baby lupine grows out of a spider web covered with droplets of rain

The rain began to drizzle more gustily again and I turned back toward the house.   Scooped up the umbrella and listened to the raindrops beat their dance atop it for awhile.  Looked at our cozy little home in the woods with its warm and dry interior and headed in for a cup of tea.

Time to go inside and set the kettle a'boiling for tea.

Time to go inside and set the kettle a'boiling for tea.

Question of the evening:  What are those five white plastic chairs doing sitting out in front of the house?  Any guesses? 

Interesting fact of the evening:  You’ll never imagine what ran in front of our car tonight on the way home from Houghton!  Yes, you’re right.  It was a black bear.  The first one we’ve seen in a long time.  It scampered across the road never the Silver River Hill and then ducked into the woods.  I was swatting around for the camera in vain, only finding the cell phone.  The camera, of course, was buried in my purse.  Just when it was needed.  However, the likelihood of actually getting a shot of that fast-moving bear was not a lot.  Better luck next time!

Fawn nursing

Fawn nursing

 The above photo comes to you from inside the house, before opening the door, before walking outside.  If I would have cracked the basement door even an inch the spotted fawn and its mama would have leaped off into the woods.  This particular fawn is a rather active jumpy fellow.  It leaps on long legs and prances around mama with a particular spazziness.  We glimpsed it ambling about a dozen feet away behind the garage the other day.  What courage!  What daring!  Then it scurried back to Mama begging to stand beneath her and nurse.

Today is Day 193 of the Outdoor Commitment.  Yes, another day of rain.  Another day of cold in the 50’s.  People are getting snarly in town.  It is suppose to be July 1st, isn’t it?  Isn’t this suppose to be our warm weather for the year?  (I suppose it’s because we complained a week or two ago about it being too hot.  We’ll try to behave for the rest of the summer if it just warms up a little.)  We had to start two fires in the woodstove today.  In July!

Soaked leaf

Soaked leaf

Our official rain tally:  3.9 inches since Monday.  The last count measured 1.5 inches in the rain gauge.  That’s a lot of rain. 

Spiderweb capturing raindrops

Spiderweb capturing raindrops

We split another load of wood this afternoon.  Guess what.  I am suddenly really truly enjoying this wood splitting.  You get in a rhythm of hoisting, pulling the lever, tossing the split logs in the truck.  Honestly, it sometimes feels like a dance.  Very satisfying.  Remember when I was not anticipating this task?  How many times do our thoughts try to convince us that we’re not going to like something?  When, in actuality, we discover that we do!

Fallen impatiens flower settles gently on a rock

Fallen impatiens flower settles gently on a rock

The relentless rain has tossed around some flowers, toppled some garden plants and sprouted mushrooms on the lawn.  Slugs crawl up the trees and on logs.  I tried to photograph the mighty slug but he ended up looking fuzzy and out-of-focus at least three times.  Perhaps tomorrow you’ll be entertained by slugs and mushrooms, but not today.

Garden spinach already bolting!

Garden spinach already bolting!

Everybody knows when to pick spinach and lettuce, right?  Before it bolts, or flowers.  Our spinach has just barely grown to an appropriate height when I noticed that it was already bolting.  Shame.  It seems too early.  I brought the colander out in the drizzly rain and pinched the flowers off (after photographing) and then harvested a mess for a salad.

Nothing better than eating food fresh from the earth.  Supermarket food rarely compares.  Our taste buds explode upon munching into fresh vegetables.  You can almost feel the nutrients soaring into the cells, deeply nourishing the body.  If you don’t have a garden, try to find a farmer’s market.  It’s worth any extra effort.

Picture this scene.  It’s still fairly dark outside.  You’re sleeping in bed, covered only with a sheet, due to the steamy summer night.  In the distance thunder begins to rumble.  And rumble.  And rumble.

Closer it comes!  Lightening streaks through the bedroom window.  Flashes of silvery light illuminate everything.  The thunder now claps resoundingly, almost urging you to get up, even though it’s barely 5:30 a.m.

Then you hear the whooosh of rain falling.  All around, outside.  The rain pours so hard you can imagine the wildflowers and garden lettuces shivering with the intensity.  Suddenly…the dreaded sound…icy pellets of hail spitting against the house.  Clink, clink, clink.  You try not to think of the garden vegetables, but your husband is already groaning about the possible hail damage.

As quickly as the hail starts, it stops.  The rain continues to fall outside, but you drift (almost) back toward sleep.  Except you really can’t return to the depths of sleep.  So instead you enjoy the lulling patters of rain and thank the Universe for the moisture.

Raindrops on lupine leaf

Raindrops on lupine leaf

OK, let’s now move into awake day-time mode.  I checked the rain gauge and we received over 1.5 inches of rain during that early-morning excitement!  Very nice. 

Lots of plants lay sprawled tipped over on their sides.  The garden lettuce and spinach look a little flattened, but they are perking up as the day progresses.  They seem to be shimmering in the hot sun.  It’s 85 degrees just past mid-day.

Perennials drooped over the hose (sorry, don't remember their name)

Perennials drooped over the hose (sorry, don't remember their name)

The kids–although should one be calling those near the age of thirty “kids”?–picked some wild strawberries last night out by the road.  Christopher’s girlfriend had never seen strawberries that tiny.  They are the sweetest taste, though, the wild berries growing in between the daisies and the buttercups.

Wild strawberries on a leaf

Wild strawberries on a leaf

I was going to put another flower photo in next, a picture of an orange hawk-weed.  However, Chris just examined the photo selection and requested a viewing of the summer sky.  He, perhaps, is getting bored with flower shots.  I told him straight, though.  How in winter all there is…is snow.  Then in early summer…blooms.  Later, we’ll get in the fruit & vegetable mode.  Finally, we’ll get bored by autumn leaves before returning to the vigilance of snow.  Everything in their season, you know.  I’m sure he was impressed by the explanation.  He still wanted to see the sky rather than flowers.

The blue, blue sky sandwiched in between the green, green trees

The blue, blue sky sandwiched in between the green, green trees

We’re taking the kids out to dinner up in Houghton within a few hours.  We may wander along the boardwalk near Chassell once again.  We shall assuredly enjoy this sultry late June evening.  We will not be thinking about our long winter.  And if anyone complains, “It’s too hot!”  we will reminisce about the brave hardy souls who jumped into the Portage Canal for a Polar Plunge on that 4 degree afternoon in January!  Click here if you want to read that story!

The rain gauge tells its story:  almost an inch!

The rain gauge tells its story: almost an inch!

The earth is happy today.  Last night it drank long and sweet from the rain falling from thunder-clouds.  The parched grasses and plants and flowers heaved a sigh of relief and this morning they’re waving and dancing in the breeze.  And growing toward the sun with more zeal, already perhaps forgetting the drought-like conditions of the past weeks.

I was drinking outside today, as well.  No, not rain.  No, not anything too celebratory.  Just sipping a cup of hot tea on the lounge chair on the deck, reading a book.  Ahhh…one of the best kinds of outdoor experiences.

It is humid.  Near 80 degrees.  Perhaps hot tea wasn’t the greatest idea.  Perhaps lemonade or ice tea might have prevented the sweat. 

Out in the driveway, a handful of mud puddles almost block the path to the mailbox.

Mud puddles

Mud puddles

One of these years we’ll need to invest in some more gravel for the driveway.  To fill up these holes.  They’re still not that deep, so we hardly notice them except when it rains. 

Mud puddles always bring to mind a childhood trauma.  Seriously.  I suppose you might not call it a trauma, but it was to two second grade girls.  Carol and I scurried outside for recess in our galoshes.  Anyone remember galoshes?  They were slip-on rubber boots that you pulled over your shoes to keep them dry in the rain. 

A mud puddle lay outside the classroom.  We splashed our galoshes in the puddle and smiled and played and laughed and giggled.  Until… (here’s the trauma part)…our teacher opened the door and YELLED at us.  “GET OUT OF THE MUD PUDDLE!”  Because we were both so terribly shy, this nearly destroyed us.  I can remember feeling horror and shame for years afterward.  Anyone else ever traumatized by a mud puddle?

Of course, to be fair, I think I traumatized my own kids the same way.  You kids correct me if I have the story all wrong.  Seems like I remember them splashing and practically swimming in the frog pond one autumn day.  (Or was it in the middle of winter…?)  With my memory, I shouldn’t be telling stories at all.  And yelling, “YOU KIDS GET OUT OF THE POND!!”  They probably were not traumatized.  They probably don’t even remember.

Garden lettuce and spinach delighted after the rain

Garden lettuce and spinach delighted after the rain

Well, I can’t be tarrying any more writing a blog today.  Our son and his girlfriend are flying in tomorrow night and it’s time to do some more housecleaning.  Clean the bathroom, kitchen, vacuum, dust…you know the whole story.  Thank goodness the windows are already washed.  And the basement vacuumed. 

I shall leave you with two tidbits.  1)  a friend just sent at least a half dozen animal pictures.  Yes!  She apparently felt very sorry for my whining blog yesterday about the lack of four-legged creatures.  She works out in the woods and has lots of opportunity to capture wildlife.  She actually recommended buying  a remote camera.  Suggested we would be amazed at the number of animals visiting beneath our deck.  Perhaps I could set up a fund.  Anyone wanting to donate to buy us a remote camera…for blog viewing….no!  I’m just kidding, really!

2)  The robin saga never ends.  The fellow who pecked our window mercilessly all spring has finally given up.  Mostly because we put a screen up over his window of choice.  But, there’s more robin news.  The nest on the windowsill of the garage now sports three new blue eggs.  A recycled nest!  And look at this shot of four more hungry robins with beaks wide open built near the top of the garage.  They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere…

Hungry robin babies

Hungry robin babies

First sighting of marsh marigolds

First sighting of marsh marigolds

Everywhere you go in the woods today there’s an explosion of color, of growth, of spring-time energy!

After months of white, white and more white (oh, add in some gray and black ) it’s FINALLY bursting!  You can’t walk two feet without seeing something new and interesting and sprouting and growing.

I could type for 3,000 words here and never cover half of what happened today outdoors.  I had an entirely different blog planned at 10 a.m.  But today took off on its own direction and revealed its own treasures.

My friend Michelle asked, “Good Morning Michigander!  Those morels out yet?”  and all the previous plans were immediately scrapped.  It was time to find out.  Were the morels poking through?  Pretty please, were the morels growing? 

Time to visit the Special Spot and see.  Unfortunately, the Special Spot was not-so-special last year.  It proved a disappointment.  We harvested, maybe, 20-30 small mushrooms last year.  We have eagerly been awaiting this May to saute those lovely ‘shrooms in olive oil and season with perhaps some thyme and marjoram along with a dash of sea salt. 

I probably need a new Special Spot.  But local people don’t share that information willingly.  Heck, I don’t share my information at all.  What comes around, goes around.  Therefore, you have to pray and search the woods for just the right conditions and maybe you’ll find a golden circle where the delectables are growing.

It looked like it might rain.  But the temperature lingered near 70 degrees and, hey, that’s the best hunting weather.  It’s suppose to drop into the 50’s by the weekend.  Time to hunt.

So you traipse through the woods with a camera, looking at all the interesting sights every two steps.  When suddenly, peering low, I saw:

What is that buried in the old rotting log?

What is that buried in the old rotting log?

Lean down close and scrape away the debris to figure it out.

Can you guess?

Can you guess?

You have to remember I’m walking way back in the woods, fifteen miles from the nearest real town, nowhere near a real house.

It's a golf ball!

It's a golf ball!

You have to wonder:  where in the heck did that golf ball come from?  How many years ago did someone knock it inside a tree?  Then the tree falls over, begins to rot, and eventually the golf ball begins to reveal itself once again.  Mom and Dad, do you want me to bring it home for you?  🙂

Back to the morel hunting expedition. With the thunderstorm coming in.  But wait, what’s that wiggling just ahead?  Could it be the season’s first snake?

Common garter snake.  Can you see it?

Common garter snake. Can you see it?

I tried to lean closer to that snake to get a good portrait pose, but it wiggled its body out of there fast as the lightening starting to crackle on the horizon.  The wind started blowing and the thunder rumbled ominously.  Oh no.  It was probably time to return home, morels or no morels.  But instead I sprinted forward toward the Special Spot.

And, lo and behold:

The first morel mushroom (may there be many more)

The first morel mushroom (may there be many more)

Total find for the day:  two morel mushrooms. They’re soaking in salt water right now.  Hoping for more in a couple days.  If not, we’re frying these two up and eating them anyway!  Two is better than zero morels.

P.S.  only nine wood ticks returned home from this trip.  Is it too personal information to share how many wood ticks one had crawling upon them after every woods-visit?  Should we have a daily count?

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