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Flying away

I can’t believe this is the last night.

The last night to sit here at this computer and tell you stories about the day’s outdoor adventures. 

How quickly a year passes!

One minute you’re dancing around a bonfire mouthing the words “I’m going to go outside every day for 365 days and write a blog every day about what happens!” and the next minute you’re sitting weepy-eyed at your computer thinking back on the entire year.

I don’t even know how to adequately wrap it up into a nice little package.  How to end it.  How to thank all of you readers enough.  I don’t even know how I’m going to get up tomorrow and not have one to three hours of outdoor commitment and blogging.  It’s going to be a new doorway, a new chapter in life.  And it’s hard…because this chapter has been so precious.

Immature bald eagle on our road yesterday

A friend asked: What did you learn this year?  How has your outdoor commitment changed you?

This is a hard question to answer.  I will try my best to answer it here.

I learned that succeeding in a commitment involves something stronger than one’s thoughts and feelings.  Our thoughts and feelings are like weather.  One minute we want to do something; the next minute we don’t.  If we want to succeed in a commitment, we must follow something deeper and stronger than our surface thoughts and emotions.  In my case, I challenged myself  to go outside everyday.  Since that wasn’t the easiest or more natural path (although during the warm months I already probably went outside as much or more than most people) I linked it to something I loved–blogging.  When you want to change a behavior, connect it to something you love.  It will help you. Also, for me, publically announcing this intent proved paramount.  There was no way I could go back on my commitment after all you folks knew about it!

Little waterfall near the Eagle Pond

I learned how to see better this year through the lens of the camera.  To capture the miracles of nature, to see deeper, to view wider vistas.  The camera has become a second eye, always sweeping the landscape, always searching for new and interesting sights.  Before this year, I belittled the camera.  (Oh, shame, Kathy!) Belittled folks who would spend hours hidden behind the camera lens instead of experiencing the world directly.  (Beware what you scorn!  You, too, may be soon be in the same position.)  I am wondering what this next week will bring.  Will I drop the camera, forget about it, return to pre-photography days?  Or will it stay a second eye, a second skin, another way of viewing the world?

The Huron Bay through leaves

The two biggest challenges proved:  1)  going outside and staying outside when I didn’t want to be outside and 2) relaxing enough to be confident that there would be something to write about each evening.   My husband writes a weekly column for the local newspaper.  He struggles to come up with enough inspiration to write something every week; he said he can’t imagine how one could write something every day for a year.  It WAS challenging.  But, funny thing, something always presented itself.  Something always came forth.  So often I would empty my mind and sit at the computer and simply watch something larger than myself writing the story.  Even on the one day when nothing came to mind (and no photographs presented themselves) a story came forth about not having anything to write.  It was amazing!

Underwater green in December!

The most amazing thing, to me, has been the support and love of friends and family.  (Darn, crying again…)  You readers have enriched my life so very much.  I can’t even begin to thank you enough for stopping by, for commenting, for sending emails, for cheerleading.  For the family members with whom we have deepened our love and connection, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I have also made friends across the world, special friends who send Christmas cards and books and emails and other gifts.  You don’t know how much your simple presence and accompaniment has meant.  YOU are all so special and unique and wonderful….thank you from my whole being.

Single dried wildflower over icy bay

Here’s a quick story (see!  I’m having trouble finishing today’s blog) to illustrate something that I’ve learned this year.  Today I walked through deep snow down to the bay.  On the way back, two choices presented themselves. Either I walk the “easy” way along the established path…or wade down to a little creek, jump across, and view the back of the pond.

Most of me wanted to just continue on the easy path, but it looked like there were new and interesting places to explore on the other side of the creek.  So I slid down the snowy hill and leapt across the creek. 

That is my wish for all of you:  when faced with the easy paths, choose to jump across more creeks.  Choose to try something a little difficult, to venture off the beaten path, to risk getting your feet wet.  You can do it.  And your rewards will be…more than you ever suspected. 

If  I decide to start another blog, I will link it on this WordPress page. Blessings to all of you as we approach the Winter Solstice tomorrow.  May you feel inspired to listen to the Earth’s teachings.  Thank you again for everything you have contributed to the outdoor commitment.  One person doesn’t make a commitment alone–we are all enriched by the support of our family and friends.

Day 364 of the outdoor commitment.

Question to various relatives:  which blogs did you like best?  

Various relatives:  Oh no!  Which ones…?  We don’t know.  Ummm, let us think.  We’ll get back to you. 

Tonight’s entry involves reporting to you all the answers thus far received.  We’ll start with my husband, Barry.  He voted for every single “action” blog.  He liked the outdoor adventures where we did things together, where we explored Baraga County and the surrounding area (he loved Duluth back in July!)  This commitment has really been precious because we spent so much time together in the Great Outdoors, visiting places we have ignored in the past 20-30 years since we became so “busy” with everyday life. 

His votes:  The Slate Quarry blog (also known as The blog has had a big day today), Backwoods Adventure to the “Million Dollar railroad” and all the fishing adventures including Hey I caught a fish!  (Please click on any of the links to view the old posts.) 

Yep, caught a fish.

 Christopher, our son, voted for the crazed robin blogs, the ones where they pecked incessantly at our windows for months, including Crazed robin and stalking the first wildflower and The danger of philandering husbands.  He also liked This blog is going to the dogs where those neighborhood dogs hounded in on my walk.  And, finally, his sociologist side really enjoyed Horizon Envy, written in late November. 

The robin that made US crazy!

 Kiah, our daughter, liked the very first Solstice blog (because she was there when we lit the bonfire and stated our yearly intentions!)  She also voted for all the travel blogs, which included trips to New York City (see 5/19-5/22 including Opening the door, going down 15 floors in the elevator, saying goodbye to the doorman and walking outside, Fort Myers Beach, Florida, Duluth, my hometown of Yale, Georgia and San Diego.  Did I remember them all?  Another favorite of hers:  What is nature anyway?  (I liked that, too.) 

Sad Panda in Manhattan (didn't we love this Sad Panda, Kiah?)

 My parents didn’t want to list any particular blogs but my mom wrote this:  ” My favorite blogs were all of them that had you with family members across the nation and the related pictures.  A snapshot (pun) look back at your blogs in general is a kaleidoscope of exceptionally beautiful pictures which run through my mind all the time!” 

My mother-in-law liked the Duluth series (7/12 – 7/14 including “We go Duluth” and Duluth: Take Two.  You may not want to swim there quite yet) She also really liked the Pow Wow blogs If you listen to the Pow Wow drums you will never be the same and Farewell Pow Wow.  Until next year.  She (and Kiah) also voted for the more recent one about the Santas and Snowmen:  Dear Kids, The Santas and Snowmen opened the door and walked outside! 

Beautiful little girls in pink at the Pow Wow

And now, you might be wondering which blogs I liked.  Oh, that is a dangerous question.  A very dangerous question indeed.  How can a mother choose one child over another?  How can we choose one blog over another?  Each was special in its own way.  Some caused laughter, some caused tears.  Some proved easy to write; others hard.  They were all so unique. 

Nonetheless, because this blog has forced me to review many of the 365 days…I will offer you a FEW of my favorite ones.  (All you other blogs, please do not pout.  I love you, too.)  

OK, here’s my secret.  I have a special fondness for the philosophical/spiritual blogs.  The ones that perhaps questioned a little deeper.  The ones which prodded below the surface a little bit. Such as Asking nature for advice and What is beautiful and what is not?  However, having stated that, the one that made me laugh for days and days was:  Let the Vegetables Speak!  I laughed so hard about that one that Barry thought I was perhaps a little loco… 

And then there was the blog  Three gunshots at dawn which stirred my heart with its simplicity, making me want to write simple blogs from that day forward. (Which probably didn’t happen again.) And then there was Skin which seemed to elicit a visceral sense of connection with tree bark. But I think my all-time favorite may have been the sweat lodge blog:  Sweat lodge memories: fire, rock, lodge, medicine. 

The skin of white birch

Upon uploading this photo, I was amazed to discover the silhouette of a woman in this stone...

Phew!  This was a LOT of work looking for these old blogs, copying, pasting, hyperlinking.  I really could keep adding more and more.  But now I’m all weepy-eyed and nostalgic and already missing this most incredible year.  And it’s not over until tomorrow… Sniff…

…you know what we’ll be doing.

Winter chores.  Which usually involves a lot of Snow.

Here’s a synopsis of our outdoor life from November through April or May each year:

Early early in the morning--time to go to work. Boots are preferred for dry feet at work.

Then there is the challenge of scraping the car.  Seems like I even wrote a blog about it back last winter.  Let’s see if it can be found.  Yes, here  it is if you would vicariously like to experience the thrill.

A very kind husband sometimes offers to scrape & brush the car!

This morning proved a very lucky morning.  My dear husband offered to open the door and walk outside to take pre-dawn photography shots.  Wasn’t he kind?  (HE didn’t have to go to work this morning…)  He even scraped and brushed the car after the photo shoot.  Of course, I do believe I scraped HIS car yesterday morning, so perhaps now we’re even. 

As of the last daylight check, it seems like it gets light around here somewhere around 8:15 a.m.  Dark around 5:45 p.m.  Our daylight hours are a little skewed compared to most folks on Eastern time because we’re so close to the Central Time Zone. (Morning observation:  forget the specifics.  It’s hard to determine when it gets light.  Let’s revise to say anywhere between 7:45-8:15 a.m. in the morning.  Or you can click here to get the official time.)

Yours truly shoveling the wood pile

In the afternoon we opted to fill the wood room.  You need to get the wood inside for a couple days before you burn it in the woodstove for prime burning.  Even though we have our wood pile nicely tarped, it still needs to dry out completely.  First, you have to shovel the snow off the tarps.  (This is usually not my job.)  Then one of us stands inside in the wood room while the other hauls logs to the door.  The inside-worker stacks the logs in nice even rows in the woodroom.  Because the inside worker has a cushier job (unless they are putting the logs up high) one must trade off.  I let Barry stack the higher logs and then jump inside to stack the lower logs while he carries the wood in.  Got that convoluted lesson in wood hauling and stacking?

Nothing like building a new garage addition in the snow!

This winter looks extra-challenging for chores because a certain Garage Addition Builder has not yet finished his project.  In fact, it looks like February might be the finishing date.  You never know.  The metal roof is in at the lumber yard.  He’ll drive his ’49 Studebaker in to pick up supplies on Friday.  Before he begins to work on his daily building project, he must shovel the snow off the rafters.  It makes building a garage addition in the summertime look like a piece of cake!

Another very important winter chore involves plowing the driveway with our tractor.  I suggested today that he uncover the tractor and re-plow the driveway for a photo shoot.  He declined.  So you will have to imagine what the tractor and plowing job looks like.  Or, if you’re really bored and missing this blog during the winter, re-read all the entries.  Somewhere in the archives there is a picture or two of the tractor.  I promise you.

My jobs are shoveling the deck and sometimes the front porch.  And…oh yes…we mustn’t forget…emptying the ash buckets.  After you burn enough wood in the woodstove, it fills up with ash which must then be dumped out in the woods.  And now you can visualize this exciting chore:

Emptying the ash buckets

Yep, that’s our winter chores.  I’ve probably forgotten at least ten of them.  So you can see, even if I decide to shut the door and stay inside all winter, it’s not going to happen!  Those outdoor chores will simply have to be done…

By the way, if I eventually start another blog, I am looking forward to being able to post indoor photographs.  For example…looking around furtively…no one is noticing this isn’t an outdoor photograph, are they?…don’t you think this statue of Abraham Lincoln with the cactus growing out of his head looks cool?  (Barry just raised his eyes and did not seem to agree…)  I did not even position that cactus.  Life is amazing, isn’t it?

Mr. Lincoln with a Christmas cactus growing out of his head.

Snow on white pine branch

Julie, Julie, Julie!  You decided to do what?  Write a blog for 365 days making Julia Child’s recipes?  And someone thought this worthy of a million dollar movie?

Julie, please share your secret with us.  We truly want to know.  Because, my dear, YOU had it easy.  All you had to do was read a recipe book and follow directions.  How challenging could this be?

Snowy path in woods

The rest of us bloggers (well, some of us bloggers) who chose to blog for all those 365 days DON’T HAVE ANY RECIPE BOOKS TO FOLLOW!!  We have to make up the blogs out of thin air.  We have to pray to blog-god to help us come up with new entertaining material.  We have to figure it out, day in and day out, day out and day in.

And what did you have to do?  FOLLOW A RECIPE BOOK!  If there was a recipe book to follow, a 365 day blog commitment would be a piece of cake.  (Get it?  A piece of cake?  Well, probably in Julia Child’s case it’s something like a bon-bon.)

Scary snow creature!

Truly, Julie, I have not yet watched your blogging movie.  It’s in my Netflix queue, truly it is.  People (well, two people anyway) have suggested that I watch this movie, thinking that we have something in common with our year-long commitment.  And I will probably love it.  You and Meryl Streep are in it, right?  Of course it will be a lovely movie.  I already have some organic popcorn ready for the occasion.  We’ll do that girl-thing together.  You, me and Julia.  We’ll celebrate year-long blogs together.  How does that sound? 

Sleeping snow dragon. Shhh....

Interjection:  my daughter just called on her way home from work.  I told her I was writing a blog sniffing at Julie’s audacity to FOLLOW RECIPES for a year and blog about it  Hmmmph!  I said.  Can you imagine?

She just happened to have watched the movie last weekend.  And guess what she does?  DEFENDS Julie.  May I quote exactly what she said?

“Mom, this was hard stuff.  You would have to de-bone a turkey or a duck!  She made 524 recipes during that year.  You couldn’t even DO the recipes where you live–you couldn’t even get half the ingredients!”

Hmmmpphh!  (I am thinking de-boning a turkey would be a cinch!  As for finding the ingredients, yep, she’s probably right…)

Slithering snow snake up there

So, OK, maybe the recipe-following blog adventure was a little teeny-weeny bit challenging.  Maybe we’ll give her that.  Maybe her souffles fell.  Maybe she burned her roast duck.  Maybe the Beef Bourguigon didn’t simmer long enough. 

I guess I’ll have to wait to see the movie and find out. 

A snow dragon of a different sort. Or perhaps you know what it is?

But, anyway, if any of the producers happen to Google Julie/Julia and find this blog…I’m open for a movie deal.  Just sayin’.  Give me a call.

**P.S.  oh yes, back to the “real” commitment.  Today I walked in the snow and took snow pictures.  It’s really all Gerry’s fault over at Torch Lake Views.  Gerry wrote a blog called “Imagine” in which we were suppose to spot iguanas, a dancer, bells, cats and ghosts in her snow photos.  I couldn’t spot anything (It was probably attention deficit disorder because it was time to go outside, or maybe because I was talking to Julie/Julia in my head.)  However, immediately upon entering Snow Country at least ten different snow-shapes presented themselves.

If we were simply following recipes, would we have seen snow creatures?  I think not.

Snow on the apple trees

So which Christmas song would you use to describe today?  I’m voting for “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.  That is, if we even consider that song a Christmas song.  Seems like they have been putting it on Christmas CDs lately, so it probably applies, even though some might think it really doesn’t have much to do with the holidays…but it DOES have lots to do about the cold.

It seems to be freezing all around the United States.  I’ve heard complaints from New York City and Nebraska and Georgia and even California (although that western complaint came last week, so they’re probably back to mild and sunny already…)

Red apple balls on white trees

I didn’t didn’t didn’t want to go outside this afternoon.  And, once outside, didn’t didn’t didn’t want to stay outside.  It felt too cold at 10 degrees.  Even though I was dressed very warmly.  I counted the remaining days of the outdoor adventure on both hands.  After today, only nine more days to go.

Would you like a little snow with your apples?

Today’s outdoor adventure involved a) taking pics of apple trees, b) taking lots and lots of snow pics which you’ll have to see later, c) walking around L’Anse and photographing decorated Christmas trees (I know you’ll be holding your breath waiting to see those!), d) walking down and up the road for maybe ten minutes and e) shoveling more snow off the back deck.

Camera goes berserk! Oh NO!!

A slight emergency ensued during the snowy-tree photography session.  OH NO!  The edges of camera suddenly seemed to go…black…and I got quite confused.  What was happening?  The camera wouldn’t dare break now would it?  Please, Camera, I need you to work for ten more days, I begged.  Do not die now.  You’re too new to die.  What in the heck is wrong with you?

Fortunately, upon arrival home, with some closer inspection, I discovered that the shutter had somehow become stuck.  Ahhh… a simple matter to gently touch it and the shutter quietly closed its gaping mouth.  That was what created the black side walls of the photos.  Phew…  Now let’s just hope it was a random event and not a precursor of anything more serious.  (Barry’s assessment after reading this blog:  the camera was frozen!)

Look closely. What do you see in that ball of sunlight?

On the way to town, I saw something really cool.  Two really cool things.  Here is your “Where’s Waldo” question of the Day.  Or rather your “What’s Waldo” question.  Can you spot two interesting things in the above photo?  And what might they be?

Now, if you would like to listen to It’s Beginning to Look a LOT like Christmas with our dear Bing Crosby, here’s your link.  If you prefer Baby It’s Cold Outside with Willie Nelson and Norah Jones click here.  I guarantee you will sing this second song all day.  Once you’ve heard it, it never goes away…

Yep, that's our house in the blizzard

 
Whipping blowing wild snow and wind

Welcome to our little blizzard.  Yep, parts of the Midwest of this United States of America have been hit hard.  We have…how many inches?  I brought the yardstick outside to try and gauge the exact amount.  Twelve inches?  Fourteen inches?  And the storm has not stopped yet. 

Through the window at dawn

 I awoke at 5:45 a.m. and blearily logged onto the Internet to see if school/work had been cancelled.  No announcements.  But I was pretty sure that we would not be having school.  The wind rushed and screamed outside the window at maybe 40 miles per hour.  The snow blew sideways.  I predicted:  no school.  But settled down beneath blankets on the couch to wait.  I admired the way our little ceramic Christmas tree reflected in the window as dawn approached. 

Looking out the living room window

The call came at 6:30.  Our principal announced “No School”.  Hurray!  A day off work. 

Brrrr.....

Most of my day was spent inside with the front door securely latched.  But, never fear!, I remembered the outdoor commitment.  Divided it into three mini-portions.  The first involved a meandering to the mailbox.  One truly must meander very slowly during a blizzard.  The foot goes up in the air, sinks down in the heavy snow.  Slowly one makes her way through the leaden snow drifts.  The wind blows snow sideways in your face.  You persevere. You get the mail.  You head back to the house. 

Car buried

The second trip outdoors…what did I do?  I don’t remember.  Maybe I just stood around hoping to catch the wind whipping up blizzard-like snow.  My eyelashes turned snowy.  It didn’t feel too cold, though.  

Looking up the road

The third trip outside, after dark, involved digging out buried cars.  This was truly a job.  A snow scraper isn’t enough.  One must find a push broom in the garage, and then broom off the foot or more of snow.  It helps to blare Christmas music from the car’s speakers.  It helps to have one’s husband atop his tractor, fitted with a snowplow, beaming light around the driveway.  

Looking into the woods

On the bright side, I accomplished much indoors today.  (Shhh…this is suppose to be an outdoor blog.  I’m not suppose to tell you about indoor activities.)  I finished the novel that I’ve been writing for NaNoWriMo since November 1st.  It’s somewhere between 60,000-63,000 words.  It all ended rather well.  The heroine did not die, although she almost did.  She married the hero and we hope they are going to live happily ever after.  The novel combined a true historical setting from around our area…and some of my favorite things, spirituality and dreaming.  I am happy.  The characters in the novel are happy.  Now, with a little editing, it might someday be possible to actually SHOW the novel to someone!  Excuse me.  I mean a LOT of editing. 

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…

Catherine's little sauna

First things first.  How many of you know how to properly pronounce the word “sauna”?  Show of hands!  Looks like a lot of you think you know how, but some of you are unsure.  Let’s practice for a moment.  I hear some of you saying “saw-na”.  No, that is not the way the true Finnish folk in this area pronounce the word.  Let’s try again.  “Sow-na.”  Yes!  Now you’ve got it!

 I was fortunate enough to be invited to a sauna today at my friend Catherine’s house.  Yes, indeed.  It was time to sweat.  Time for a little steam and purification.  Before she crumpled up the newspaper, placed the kindling inside the stove and struck the match, I was fortunate enough to meet her friend, John.  Luckily, they agreed to pose for a photograph for the little Sony Cybershot.

Catherine and John

We said goodbye to John and got serious about our sauna preparations.  (Well, mostly Catherine got serious about our sauna preparations.  I stood around and looked helpful.)  Soon she had a roaring fire going in the tiny sauna stove. 

Loading the sauna stove

While the fire is heating up, let’s talk about some sauna facts. Here is what our good friend Wikipedia has to say about the first saunas:   The oldest known saunas were pits dug in a slope in the ground and primarily used as dwellings in winter. The sauna featured a fireplace where stones were heated to a high temperature. Water was thrown over the hot stones to produce steam and to give a sensation of increased heat. This would raise the apparent temperature so high that people could take off their clothes.

The first Finnish saunas are what nowadays are called savusaunas, or smoke saunas. These differed from present-day saunas in that they were heated by heating a pile of rocks called kiuas by burning large amounts of wood about 6 to 8 hours, and then letting the smoke out before enjoying the löyly, or sauna heat. A properly heated “savusauna” gives heat up to 12 hours. These are still used in present-day Finland by some enthusiasts, but usually only on special occasions such as Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and juhannus (Midsummer’s Day).

 

Stained glass window in sauna

There will be a quiz at the end, so study hard.  I suppose many of you astute readers will notice the phrase “This would raise the apparent temperature so high that people could take off their clothes.”  So you astute readers are wondering what people wear when they take a sauna together?  My acute observations over the years point to three possibilities: A)  towels B) bathing suits or C) nothing.  It seems to depend on the group with whom you’re choosing to sauna, your modesty and the sex of your fellow sweaters.  Catherine and I chose the first two options. 

Protector of the Sauna

 We enjoyed a rather mild sauna today. Catherine did not even pour icy cold water over the hot rocks resulting in a potent steam bath.  No.  We sat on the top bench and chatted and yes, eventually sweated.  It has been almost FOUR months since we last saw one another in the raspberry patch.  How could so much time pass?  It is amazing that we can be so busy that we don’t take time to visit our closest friends.  

After the sauna...a beautiful sunset

 We also took a short hike down to the beaver pond before our sauna and was it COLD!  Only eighteen freezing degrees.  I was thoroughly icy-frozen for the first time since last winter.  It didn’t help that I had forgotten my warm boots and had to borrow John’s too-big sized boots, even though they were stuffed with nice warm socks.  Tomorrow I will how you some photos of the snow-covered pond and other exciting winter photos. 

After the sauna we lingered over dinner (until I abruptly announced it was time to go home and write the blog) slowly savouring delicious oven-roasted root vegetables over quinoa.  Oh Heaven!  Food and sauna and outdoor adventures are so wondermous when shared with friends.

P.S.  I have decided to forgo the quiz. I’m sure you all memorized all the facts anyway.  Instead I will paste in some more sauna history for those of you who are interested.  The rest of you can go about your day plotting about when you can enjoy your next sauna. 

As a result of the industrial revolution, the sauna evolved to use a metal woodstove, or kiuas [ˈkiu.ɑs], with a chimney. Air temperatures averaged around 70–80 degrees Celsius (160–180 degrees Fahrenheit) but sometimes exceeded 90 °C (200 °F) in a traditional Finnish sauna. Steam vapor, also called löyly [ˈløyly], was created by splashing water on the heated rocks. 

The steam and high heat caused bathers to perspire. The Finns also used a vihta [ˈvihtɑ] (Western dialect, or vasta [ˈvɑstɑ] in Eastern dialect), which is a bundle of birch twigs with fresh leaves, to gently slap the skin and create further stimulation of the pores and cells. 

The Finns also used the sauna as a place to cleanse the mind, rejuvenate and refresh the spirit, and prepare the dead for burial. The sauna was (and still is) an important part of daily life, and families bathed together in the home sauna. Because the sauna was often the cleanest structure and had water readily available, Finnish women also gave birth in the sauna. 

Although the culture of sauna nowadays is more or less related to Finnish culture, it’s important to note that the evolution of sauna has happened around the same time both in Finland and the Baltic countries sharing the same meaning and importance of sauna in daily life. The same sauna culture is shared in both places still to this day. 

When the Finns migrated to other areas of the globe they brought their sauna designs and traditions with them, introducing other cultures to the enjoyment and health benefits of sauna. This led to further evolution of the sauna, including the electric sauna stove, which was introduced in the 1950s and far infrared saunas, which have become popular in the last several decades. 

In Tibetan, there is a word Shokhang,wich means Sauna.

Full moon dances with clouds last night

The Anishinabe People (Ojibway) who live in our area call this December moon the Little Spirit Moon.  Some refer to it the Small Spirits Moon.  January’s moon is called the Great Spirit Moon. 

This month, on December 31st, another moon will rise in our night sky.  Many of us call the second moon in a month with two moons “The Blue Moon”.  Which is why you’ve probably heard the old-time saying, “once in a blue moon” implying something doesn’t happen very often.

I do not know what the Anishinabe call the Blue Moon.  I do not even know why they call this month the “Little Spirit Moon” although I could tell you some possible stories which may or may not be true.  Today it made me think of the small things in life, the little spirits, the precious gifts of life which are sometimes easy to overlook.

A small spirit: perhaps a coneflower or wild bergamot

Perhaps it’s because the sun keeps inching further and further away from our world.  As the darkness descends oh-so-early some people experience a feeling of despair or apathy or depression.  Perhaps “Small Spirits Moon” is meant to imply this is a time of year when our spirits sometimes flag or despair.  I’ve heard it said that our Christmas lights and candles burn in the darkness to help us through the bridge of the Winter Solstice.   That we share the light in this deepening darkness to help each other through these days.

As the earth in this northern hemisphere tilts away from the sun, the snows begin to fall.  The ice begins to freeze on our lakes and rivers.  We saw the first ice forming on a couple small lakes today. 

The sheen of new ice

Most of my outdoor commitment happened after dark today.  When one is planning to write a blog about the moon, one should go outside and look for it.  However, it wasn’t ready to rise in our sky at 7 p.m.  So I ambled in the dark.  How many of you have ambled in the dark in a forest?

It is a very interesting experience.

Can you see the ghostly images of trees?

You can see that it was snowing lightly this evening.  While it was dark, there seemed enough light to avoid falling in ditches, blindly running into trees or tripping over stumps.  I stayed fairly close to the house.  The wind rustled through the trees.  Suddenly–over there!–a great rustling ensued!  (My mind then began to wonder what that rustling might be.  Bears?  Deer?  Chipmunks?)  But the rustling stopped and the forest returned to silence punctuated with dog barks in the distance, perhaps the yip of a coyote, the low hoot of a faraway owl.

Our little house in the dark (with the moon in hiding)

Even though the snow fell gently down from the sky, it almost felt warm.  It’s nice to be bundled up in your warmest clothes when outside in December after dark. 

Goodnight, Little Spirit Moon.

P.S.  I just looked at the last two photos on a different computer and can not even SEE the ghostly images of trees and snow flakes and the soft etchings of our house against the darkness.  On this computer they basically look like two black photos.  Laughing…well I guess SOME of you can see the subtle ghostly images and the rest of you can enjoy the black night.   tee hee…

Trees and sky

Several times this year I wondered what would happen with the outdoor commitment if I got sick.  Here was the rough plan:  Barry would pull out the reclining lawn chair and I would snuggle on it for at least a half hour beneath dozens of blankets.  Or in Grandma’s 1970′s snowmobile suit if it was winter. 

Today I didn’t feel well.  Don’t worry.  It’s not a serious sickness.  You don’t need to hear all the details, but it involved intestinal disfortitude followed by chills followed by a headache which still exists twelve hours later.  Of course, the headache may be caused by caffeine withdrawal.  Because of the intestinal challenges, I am not drinking coffee or black tea…and that almost always results in a headache.

I lay on the couch almost all day,mostly napping and staring into space, except for a work-related trip into town.  Finally the Outdoor Adventure could be postponed no longer.  Barry was at work, so the reclining lawn chair was not a possibility without a lot of fuss. So I put on Grandma’s snowmobile suit and boots, hat, scarf and mittens and carried a small cushion out under the spruce tree (where I camped last winter.  Click here and here  if you want to read about that excitement.)

And then I looked at the sky.

Beautiful sky

It felt a little chilly.  It also felt invigorating in a good sort of way.  I closed my eyes and listened to the chickadees with the whhhhirrrr of their wings and the sounds of them cracking open the sunflower seeds with their beaks.  Little bits of sunflower shells fell on me.  The neighbor’s dog or rooster kept hollering.  (It’s quite pathetic when one cannot determine the difference between a dog and a rooster.  But sometimes you can’t…even when you ARE feeling well.)

For the last five minutes of the outdoor time, I sneaked inside, grabbed the phone and returned to lie on the front porch. Called my mama.  It’s always good to talk with your mother when you’re feeling a little under-the-weather.  You remember the times when she gently tended to you as a child.  (And probably also said, “And you can’t go outside until you’re feeling better!”)

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