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See the deer on the red earth?

See the deer on the red earth?

Hello.  Yawn…  OK, I’m in Georgia.  Yawn again.  3:30 a.m. came mighty early.  But what an uneventful two flights through the friendly skies.  First we landed in Detroit.  Then Atlanta.  Then a shuttle transported three of us to the Holiday Inn in Athens.  Where my father and mother-in-law waited in their car with hugs all around.  Here!  What a delight.

Twisty vine

Twisty vine

After a cup of tea and short nap (I fell asleep for forty minutes like a dead person) I scurried outside for the day’s outdoor adventure.  Headed out their back door and ventured into the woods.

It’s hard going in unfamiliar woods.  You need a compass, or a keen eye on the sun’s angle.  You don’t want to venture too far from the house.  And you certain don’t want to step on any Georgia rattlesnakes.  Oh no.  Not any southern lazy rattlesnakes lazing on the earth. So you keep your eye trained very carefully where your feet want to travel.  You will not step on a rattlesnake unwittingly.  You will not.

About five years ago, on another visit to Georgia, a long sleek black snake decided to crawl up near the house.  My father-in-law and I spotted it.  We shooed it off, promising not to share this particular information with the rest of the family who might be more nervous about long black snakes.  My daughter lay her beach towel in the sun near where the rat snake previously slithered, and I stood watch during the time she lay innocently basking.  No snake would get her! 

"Farmer Brown" with Crepe Myrtle tree

"Farmer Brown" with Crepe Myrtle tree

Deer pranced in the back, looking a bit different from Michigan deer.  There was black by their tails.  Squirrels played.  The woods sounded with insects and August trills. 

Encore azalea

Encore azalea

I toured around the house, letting the camera capture the flowers and bushes and trees.  When I arrived earlier today it was raining.  This area has been experiencing a drought for about four years, and it started raining this week.  The ground is eagerly soaking it all in.  The weather forecast for the next ten days looks like this:  Scattered Thunderstorms, Scattered Thunderstorms, Scattered Thunderstorms.  We’ll see if it does anything but rain during my time here.

Magnolia bud and leaves

Magnolia bud and leaves

Two family members called/emailed to say:  “We heard it was a flood zone in Atlanta!”  It may have been, but somehow I avoided it.  The shuttle drove through some rain, but by 5 p.m. my mother and father-in-law and I were sitting out on their patio sipping a glass of wine and swapping family stories.  It is so nice to see them again!  They are the best in-laws in the world, hands down.

My in-laws Marion and Jim

My in-laws Marion and Jim

I told them right away:  we need a pic of you guys for the outdoor blog.  They didn’t look too enthusiastic.  “But didn’t you like seeing photos of my mom and dad and brothers and nieces and nephews and kids?”  Ha!  What could they say?  Of course they liked that.  So their picture was taken so you all can see what lovely folks they are.

What else?  It’s 8:34 p.m so bedtime must be approaching within a couple hours.  I wish the rest of the family could be here, too.  But am grateful for this opportunity to spend a few days in Georgia.

P.S.  Guess what?  You’ll never believe it!  I hooked up to FREE wireless Internet up there in the friendly skies somewhere straight above Tennessee.  How fun!  It was a little restrictive with Miss Ellie (the laptop) on that tiny shelf and me yawning and really wanting to snooze.  But I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to explore cyberspace from “almost” outer space.

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Oh it’s summertime and the livin’ is easy…

How wonderful is it to lazily walk barefoot into the garden and harvest most of tonight’s dinner?

What is on the menu, you ask?  How about Greek Salad?

First, let’s pick some lettuce.

Sunlight on freshly-picked lettuce in salad spinner

Sunlight on freshly-picked lettuce in salad spinner

The lettuce is getting just a tiny tad bitter at this time of year.  You can’t eat any of the bottom leaves.  Toss them under the oak tree to share with the deer!  (And it really doesn’t matter in your salad, especially if you add other tasty vegetables and salad dressing.)

Now, pull up those beets! 

Boil the beets for 20-30 minutes until their skins slip off easily under cold water

Boil the beets for 20-30 minutes until their skins slip off easily under cold water

While you’re out in the garden, don’t forget to pick the cucumbers.  No whining that they don’t look like slender sophisticated cucumbers from former years!  Snap them off the vine and give thanks.  Remember how much it costs to buy vegetables at the grocery story.  Marvel that you can make dinner from fresh ingredients outside the front door.

One fat seedy cucumber

One fat seedy cucumber

If you don’t particularly love the cucumbers this year, salt them for about a half hour before dinner.  They moisten up and shrink up and add pizzazz to the salad.  Throw them in with the torn lettuce, sliced beets, tomatoes, and purple onions.  Now you’ll have to add some store-bought ingredients like feta cheese (unless you’ve made some yourself), olives and salad dressing. 

In the meantime, get a large pot of water boiling.  Add the fresh corn and simmer for maybe five minutes. 

Corn on the cob (ok, it didn't really come from our garden.  Instead from a local farmer.)

Corn on the cob (ok, it didn't really come from our garden. Instead from a local farmer.)

Oh, and there’s green beans picked fresh off the vines yesterday, and perhaps we should also eat the beet greens for nutritional punch.  Are we all set?  Let’s look at the garden one more time to see if there’s anything else we might like for dinner.

A sideways view of our squash and beans and lots of other veggies

A sideways view of our squash and beans and lots of other veggies

Nothing else?  Then it’s time to gather all the food and settle down on the deck for dinner and conversation.  Isn’t the corn so sweet and succulent and magnificent?  The beans so crisp and tasty?  The Greek salad divine?  The beet greens…well, aren’t they…green?

Dinner on the deck!

Dinner on the deck!

Who wants seconds?

Reflection of "Third Bridge" in water

Reflection of "Third Bridge" in water

You know how you travel the same roads, day after day, or month after month, or year after year?  And how many times do you actually stop the car, open the door, and go outside to explore? 

We travel “up the road” to the Houghton-Hancock area maybe 40 times a year.  Two weeks rarely pass without one of us traveling  north on US-41.  We’re headed for the Keweenaw Co-op to buy our organic vegetables or other natural foods.  Maybe we’re aimed for Walmart to purchase something we can’t find easily in Baraga County.  Or perhaps to a coffee shop (that would be me) or a restaurant (that would be both of us) or someplace else.  This year, thanks to this blog, we’ve explored more interesting places than in the previous ten years.

But we rarely simply stop several times along the way.

The problem is this:  when you see an interesting sight, you’re already past it by the time the brain registers.  You’re 50 or 100 feet down the road thinking, “Hey, that would make a great photograph!”

Today I decided to turn around at least four times, back up, get out of the car and actually take the pictures and, sometimes, explore.

The first stop:  Third Bridge.  I never knew that was the name of the bridge at the Head of the Bay, but Barry insists.  I was acting like a tourist, trying to capture the bridge reflected in the water (have wanted to do this at least a dozen times this summer but never mustered the energy to actually stop the car.)   While moving around and changing the angle of the shot, a car whizzing by on the road started honking.   So who was that person?  Which friend was it? 

Now close your eyes or scroll down the page really fast if you don’t want to see a dead coyote.  That was the next stop.  It was lying in the road across from Carla’s Restaurant.  I did a huge backing-up maneuver and walked over to the animal.  It was really sad.  It was probably just crossing the road last night and a fast-moving car clipped it and killed it.  It could have been any of us drivers.  The animals sometimes move so quickly it’s hard to see them.   However, it’s unusual to see a dead coyote on the road.

Dead coyote

Dead coyote

Next I drove by a beautiful garden filled with sunflowers waving in the breeze.  However, just kept on driving, not wanting to tun around.  So I vowed to stop on the way home, and did.  And the gardener-lady herself was working in the hot sun.  We enjoyed a lovely conversation.  She moved here seven years ago from her former residence in Ohio and is amazed about how many people appreciate her garden alongside the highway. 

Sunflowers!

Sunflowers!

A bit farther down the road, the eyes spotted a turnoff near the Keweenaw Bay which I have never explored.  Ever.  Hard to believe you can live in an area for thirty years and there’s still new places to explore!  The eyes had never seen this particular view of Lake Superior.

Fallen tree in Keweenaw Bay

Fallen tree in Keweenaw Bay

Red and brown and yellow and gray rocks littered the shore everywhere.  But the find that seemed the most interested today was green beach glass.  Don’t you love how glass looks when it’s been in the lake for a very long time?  No longer sharp and cutting, it now shines like a jewel in the sunlight.

Beach glass

Beach glass

Then…be still my heart!…the absolute best gift of the day.  Two symetrically stacked piles of stones sitting upon a log.  Oh, enchanting!  I took photos from eight different views, but like this one best:

Just look at how high that pile of flat rocks is!

Just look at how high that pile of rocks is!

My question is: did Cindy (faithful blog reader, commenter and friend) stack those rocks?  Cindy, was it you?

The Fort Wilkins Fort

The Fort Wilkins Fort

Sigh. It’s sometimes hard to figure things out.  Especially when you come late to Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor and the guided tour has already started.  I had just enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the Harbor Haus overlooking Lake Superior.  Scribbled extensively in my journal on the blue tableclothed table, a party of one eating a succulent feast of seared grilled whitefish, wild rice and mixed vegetables. 

Our tour guide, returned from the nineteenth centure just to share tidbits of history with us

Our tour guide, returned from the nineteenth century just to share tidbits of history with us

Our tour guide had already led the small group through the first of the fort’s buildings.  It was 1:45, and the tour started at 1:30.  Obviously I should have finished the whitefish quicker.  Because then I would have known the date.

The fort was built ‘way back in 1844.  Oh dear.  You’re going to want real factual historical information, aren’t you?  Even though you know that’s my weak point…  Never mind, I’ll mutter through something and we can only hope it’s accurate.  The fort was only occupied for a few years after its construction in ’44.  I believe the nice costumed interpretive guide said it was built to help protect the mining interests which were just beginning to go full-steam ahead.  It closed after a stretch (mostly because it was so expensive to keep running ‘way up here on the peninsula!) and opened again somewhere after 1865 for a few post-Civil War years as a place to send some wounded soldiers.

The blacksmith's shop

The blacksmith's shop

The costumed interpreter, I believe, spoke to us from the year 1870.  But he also spoke as if he’d been stationed at the fort ‘way back in ’44.  He told us lots of entertaining stories as we wandered through the white painted buildings.  One of my favorites had to do with Fanny Hooe. 

Fanny Hooe was a beautiful seventeen year old relative of a camp commander back in one of those years.  Half of the fort fell in love with her on the spot.  When it came time for her to return to Virginia, apparently she didn’t say “fare-thee-well!” with enough muster.  So rumors began to surface.  The natives had stolen her away, a bear ate her…and so on.  To memorialize her beauty and presence, they named the adjoining lake after her.  Lake Fanny Hooe.

The enlisted men's quarters

The enlisted men's quarters

The above photo is where the enlisted men slept, probably dreaming of Miss Fanny Hooe.  Our guide told a fascinating yet terrible story about the way the wind and snow and ice and cold would blow through the fort buildings.  Men were even known to get frostbite while they slept!!  Can you just imagine how cold it must have been?  Even though it was one of the warmest afternoons of this summer, all of us shivered.  We could imagine.  We felt, for an instant, like we suffered along with the soldiers.

Checkers for those long freezing winter nights...

Checkers for those long freezing winter nights...

So they played checkers.  And cards.  And dreamed of their sweethearts far away.  Counted the days until they could return to their homes elsewhere.  Maybe a few of them fell in love with this farthest-most northern outreach post and decided to settle here.  Maybe some of their descendants live in Copper Harbor now.  Maybe they served me lunch at the Harbor Haus…

The ice house (lots of shadow play going on here!)

The ice house (lots of shadow play going on here!)

As the guide continued to regale us with stories, I saw the shadows playing on the ice house.  He had just shared yet another fascinating story about the delivery of maybe 25 sheep to the fort.  And how the pen was not built to hold the rather short-legged creatures and how they all immediately discovered that they could escape and…are you ready for this??…jumped in to Lake Fanny Hooe, all two dozen of them!  And how the soldiers dove in after them and the heroic rescue of all but…excuse me, facts are disappearing now…a handful.  And how one of the camp commanders was going to have to pay for the sheep out of his own salary (almost his entire year’s salary!) until officials determined it really wasn’t his fault.

Our guide said,  “I like mutton as well as the next fellow, but…”

They put the butchered sheep or cows or other animals in the ice house to keep the meat fresh.

All we are is just a feather in the wind...

All we are is just a feather in the wind...

So I went over to take a photo of the shadows playing against the ice house wall, and–the next thing you know, I was looking for beads and baubles in the dirt alongside the fort’s perimeter.  As the rest of the tour continued on its way. 

The feather says it all, doesn’t it?  We’re just feathers blowing in the wind.  One minute it’s 1844 and the next 1870 and suddenly it’s 2009 and who knows what is coming next?

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

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

So how would you answer that question?

The forest on a September afternoon

The forest on a September afternoon

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

The eye peers knowingly out from the tree

The eye peers knowingly out from the tree

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

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

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

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

Expanse of jutting stone

Expanse of jutting stone

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

Let there be fungus among us

Let there be fungus among us

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

A single rose hip hovers

A single rose hip hovers

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

Beyond the forest...

Beyond the forest...

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

Apples

Apples

Hey, what do you know, it’s the last day of August!

And you know what that means when you wander outside around these parts?

It means that apples are loaded upon the trees, apples upon apples, weighing heavy upon the branches, dragging them down toward the earth.

Two apples

Two apples

We don’t have any apple trees nearby our house in the woods.  We’re in a “new” part of the forest which hasn’t been inhabited by people too much.  The apple trees lie in orchards in “old” parts of this land, parts of the land settled by old-timers who have long since passed on.  They’ve left the shining orbs of apples behind; and this year they are hanging ripe and heavy on almost every gnarled tree.

Lil tiny green apple

Lil tiny green apple

I actually grew up among an apple orchard.  In the backyard of our house in Yale, Michigan, grew a dozen noble apple trees.  They were getting old even then, back in the 1960’s.  We built sandboxes and tire swings beneath their mighty branches and climbed high in their limbs, attempting to reach the skies.  (My brothers climbed higher than I did; I quaked in the lower branches closer to the safety of the ground while they dangled ‘way up there near the clouds.) 

I recently have been reading a book sent by a dear blog reader friend named Sahlah (or Dawn).  It’s called “Peace at Heart:  An Oregon Country Life” by Barbara Drake.  The author talks about how she samples dozens and dozens of wild apples.  She records the taste and look on a chart…I was in awe of this upon reading the way she discriminated between the hundreds of apples, noticing their differences and similarities, their sweet and sour, their tang and twist.  It made me want to begin sampling these apples today.  But no, it’s still too early.  The apple-juices are still coming ripe on their twigs; let’s wait til September or early October to sample their sweet fruit.

Swath of green apples covers the branches

Swath of green apples covers the branches

I wandered among the apple orchards for a half hour today, lost in the sound of singing cicadas (well, maybe that’s what they are), enjoying the last half-way warm day in August.  The ground lay littered with pine needles and the birds sang a quarter mile away.  There is a hush one hears and feels in woods like these; it silences you. 

The silence lies so enchanted you forget to dream of apple pie or apple crisp.

Instead your eyes notice a spider web spun perfectly between in a tree.  You marvel at its perfect symmetry, attempting to capture it gleaming in the sunlight.

Mystical light in the forest reveals the Spiderweb

Mystical light in the forest reveals the Spiderweb

Later will come a time for baking the earth’s offering of apples, for tasting the cinnamon and struesel.  For now, we wait.

The juices continue to ripen as our sun turns toward its equinox…

Keely and Scot on the trail

Keely and Scot on the trail

The things you sacrifice when you have to write a blog for 365 days.  Honestly.

The rest of the family is sitting around the table (except for Keely who is peering over my shoulder) laughing and sharing conversation.  I need to get back to them!  So you guys aren’t getting that many words tonight.  I am truly sorry.

The Sturgeon River

The Sturgeon River

So guess what we did today?  We headed out to the Canyon Falls on the Sturgeon River.  In the pouring rain. 

Luckily, just as we arrived, the rain began to drizzle.  We followed the trail along the river, ooohhing and ahhhhing about this and that.  We liked some of the red mushrooms.  One of them even looked like a Laughing Buddha, but it didn’t come out properly with the camera. 

Mushroom overlooks the Canyon Falls

Mushroom overlooks the Canyon Falls

Our nephew and his roommate, Gabe, were attending orientation at Michigan Tech this morning, so they didn’t join us on our hike.  We actually had a very exciting Treasure Hunt.  But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear the details.  There’s just too much to discuss.  I’ve actually gleaned three days worth of outdoor adventures from today’s explorations.  (It is not cheating.  I will still go outdoors every single day.  But will spread the fun out over three days of outdoor adventures…)

Autumn leaf near the river

Autumn leaf near the river

We stopped at the gas station and grabbed a cup of coffee (some of us wanted the flavored creamer) before our hike.  Just think!  Our small town of L’Anse will have its very own coffee shop by this autumn.  Truly.  Some of us are very excited to see if they have real espresso and lattes and cappuccinos.  We can only hope.  It’s time our small town had a real coffee shop!

Scot by the river

Scot by the river

It’s interesting to walk in the rain.  Especially when you’re getting wet, and there’s not enough rain jackets for everyone.  However, it was lovely that it began to drizzle rather than pour during our walk. 

River foaming between the trees

River foaming between the trees

Excuse me.  Doug and Gabe were just getting ready to leave, so we needed to hug and program phone numbers in his cell phone.  His mother just said, “See you at Thanksgiving!” and I got tears in my eyes, thinking about them not seeing one another until then.  (In the midst of all this laughter and talking, the phone rang and our son Chris called saying goodbye before going on a hiking trip with his girlfriend near Los Angeles.)  I am suddenly feeling very nostalgic and missing the kids very much…

Back to our hike:

The falls

The falls

We did have one small problem on the hike. Karen and I are moms.  You know what that means.  It means that we don’t want our loved ones to dangle too close to the edge.  We’re adamant about this.  Loved ones are often more adventuresome than moms.  We cajoled, “Please, stay back from the edge!”  The loved ones wanted to explore…

Scot ignores "Trail Ends" sign

Scot ignores "Trail Ends" sign

This has been a problem since I was a young mother.  The kids and husband always wanted to push the envelope.  In other words, they want to look over the edge.  I would get weak in the knees and queasy.  “GET AWAY FROM THE EDGE!!” I would insist, louder and louder.

Today really wasn’t too bad.  No one got THAT NEAR the edge. 

And that’s good, because last week someone fell off the edge.  They didn’t have a mother telling them to stay back.

One should always have a mother in that role.  Honest.

Ripening cultivated blueberries

Ripening cultivated blueberries

OK, here’s the local scoop:  when you’re born from this Upper Peninsula land, hatched from the soil, you’re considered a real “Yooper”.  If you’re from someplace else, and happen to settle here, you’re somewhat suspect.  And if you’re from downstate Michigan you’re likely to be called the dreaded “Berry Picker” or, worse yet, a “Troll”.  (A Troll is someone from beneath the Mackinac Bridge.)

So we’re Berry Pickers.  Even though we’ve been here these thirty long years.  We’ve raised two young ‘uns who are bona-fide Yoopers, even though they’re living elsewhere out there in San Diego and New York City.  THEY belong, even though they’re not here.  We’re fringe Berry Pickers or Trolls or heaven knows what other names…

Quart of delicious berries

Quart of delicious berries

Then again, I’ve decided I like the name.  Berry Pickers.  It has the ring of down-to-the-earth around it.  It has the ring of jams and jellies and berries on morning cereal.  It has the ring of sitting in the midst of blueberry bushes, or strawberry plants, or raspberry fields fingering the luscious ripe berries.  It has the smell of summer surrounding the title.  It feels of hot beating sun, tangy ripe aromas, afternoons spent outside.  We…I mean I, am definitely a berry picker.

The first ripe blackberry (or black raspberry) spotted anywhere around here

The first ripe blackberry (or black raspberry) spotted anywhere around here

Barry is a reluctant berry picker.  His back tends to hurt him, hunched over in the fields.  Sometimes he’ll accompany me.  (And maybe tomorrow we’ll head out to the Yellow Dog Plains for some wild blueberries to sprinkle over our grains and into pancakes, you never know.)  Most of these pictures were taken two or three days ago when I was invited to pick in a friend’s cultivated plot.  Oh, treat!  The berries look as large as grapes. 

I decided to make some jam.  Not just your regular jam.  I am experimenting, trying to create a no-sugar recipe, based on local Mennonite jam which advertises it’s sweetened with white juice concentrate.  So I bought some fruit pectin and some frozen white grape juice.  Time to try to create some jam, without an official recipe, as I’m mostly boycotting recipes these days in exchange for creativity.

Homemade raspberry jam sits in pot on deck (posing for photo opportunity)

Homemade raspberry jam sits in pot on deck (posing for photo opportunity)

Here was the experiment.  Take two cups of raspberries, then add two tablespoons of white grape juice concentrate.  Stir and boil.  Then add 2 t. of pectin or sugarless sure gel.  Mix the pectin with some cold water before adding and stirring in the frothing boil.  Scrunch your brow, attempting to determine if it’s jelling.  Finally, remove from heat.  Stare at it for awhile longer.  Let it cool in two half-pint jars.  Finally, cap and put in the frig.  The next day, take it out and sample.  HURRAY!!  It jelled.  However…it’s not very sweet.  Next time, perhaps, I’ll add a little brown rice syrup or agave syrup or honey (you could add a tad bit of sugar if you’re not prejudiced).

The last of the raspberries prepare to leave us

The last of the raspberries prepare to leave us

Summer is waning now.  Autumn nips at our heels.  Someone suggested a possible photo for today’s blog (before the temperature soared to 62 degrees):  us in our winter coats and hats.  But, no.  We won’t go there yet.  The calendar still insists it’s August.

Here is a photo from last night, just as the sun descended beneath the horizon.  Not that we ever see the sun set.  When you live in the middle of the woods, it’s necessary to imagine it. 

Isn’t the cloud lovely?  It was a pink-tangerine evening…

Pink-tangerine evening cloud off our front porch

Pink-tangerine evening cloud off our front porch

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!

Look at Kitty out there in Lake Superior!

Look at Kitty out there in Lake Superior!

I believe some of my companions today uttered the word “wimp” because of my refusal to swim in The Big Lake last night.  They couldn’t understand.  They would not have hesitated.  They would have jumped in readily.

Today I joined Sue, Kitty and Mary up in the Copper Country.  After a leisurely breakfast in Laurium, we headed for the Calumet Waterworks for some beach time.  Specifically, rock hunting.  And swimming, for those with courage and fortitude.

Kitty proved to be the one with the most fortitude.  Look at her out there!  She gets the award of the day, hands down.  Sue and Mary were pretty soaked in their venture for the most beautiful and unusual rocks of the day, but I never saw them actually swimming.  Maybe after I left they dove in.

Sue and her underwater camera

Sue and her underwater camera

Sue had the craziest camera I had ever seen.  You could actually put it under water (no, that is not a mis-print) and take photos of rocks and underwater creatures and toes.  I wonder how the camera batteries and electronics survive when dunked. 

Mary hunting for just-the-right rock

Mary hunting for just-the-right rock

The above photo is how we looked during our stint on the beach.  Hunched over, eyes trained on the clear water, seeking the most fascinating stones we could find.

And the temperature.  It felt almost WARM.  Yes.  How could this be?  I mean, I wasn’t inspired to go swimming.  (Especially after last night’s failed attempt.)  Yet after you wandered up and down the stretch of beach, the calf-deep water felt lovely.  I have to eat my words about Lake Superior’s frigid temperature.  Today it almost…almost…qualified as not frigid.

Rocks

Rocks

I brought home maybe twenty rocks for strategic placement outside.  Sue kept eyeing my bucket.  You could tell she wanted it.  She’s a rock hound if you’ve ever seen one and could have easily filled the bucket with a hundred stones.  However, I couldn’t just give it to her.  It was Barry’s boating bucket. 

Would you have picked up this rock?

Would you have picked up this rock?

Or this one?

Or this one?

I admit to a small preference to green rocks.  They look so exotic.  Not your run-of-the-mill rocks.  I kept asking Sue “Is this an agate?  Is this an agate?”  She kept shaking her head and trying to explain what an agate looks like.  She said you would know if you found an agate.  You wouldn’t have to ask.  You would just know.

I didn’t find one.

Along the shores of Gitchee Gumee...

Along the shores of Gitchee Gumee...

It was indeed a lovely way to spend a few hours on an August Sunday afternoon with the temperature still near 80 degrees.  It was nice to visit with Sue again, and to meet her daughter and friend. 

And now I have a better attitude about Lake Superior.  Swimming may still happen this year.  It just might.

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