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Hello reader! First of all, these photos were taken yesterday. I felt suddenly silently called to visit Lake Superior’s shore, filled with a desire to photograph ice-forming pictures. Imagine my surprise to discover the ice extravaganza which coated benches, gates and poles.
Walking out the boardwalk-pier proved very very challenging. It required tip-toeing. The entire boardwalk lay coated with a covering of ice. One did not want to walk too quickly, slip and enjoy a polar plunge in the bay. I wondered which recent day furiously frosted this lake-side world with thick ice.
Much of the beach looked clean-swept with only dustings of snow. Stones and snow slumbered together, bedmates for the winter.
The ice is forming along the edges of the lake. Many predict an early ice-fishing season. (I actually witnessed a surveyor/architect fellow walking on river ice today. What craziness! Was he nuts? River ice is so fragile, so delicate, so thin. I wanted to leap from the car and photograph his insane behavior. Yet, did not want to embarrass the fellow. My own brand of quiet insanity, you think?)
Today’s outdoor adventure involved an insanity of its own. Heading out into the woods without snowshoes. (You see now how the river-walker and I have something in common…although it still seems his venture might be a little more dangerous.) I followed the ridge behind the house, the snow almost cresting the top of the boots. It was a work-out trudge. Kind of like going to the gym.
I emerged on the road awhile later, nicely sweating, after communing with a woodpecker. I caught a photo of him in flight, which perhaps you shall see on Sunday. He pecked away on a dead tree. I begged him to come closer, closer, just a little closer, but he looked down his long beak at me and said, “You are close enough, madam” and flew away to the next dead tree stump.
Our temperature turned so mild today and crested above the freezing mark. The ice in downtown L’Anse will undoubtedly have melted today. Perhaps folks can amble down the boardwalk toward Lake Superior without slipping.
As we approach the darkest day of the year, let us remember to walk carefully if we live in northern climes. Ice is silently forming, preparing to transform our Great Lakes.
…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:
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.
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.)
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?
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:
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?
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?
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.)
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?
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…)
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.
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.
Hi Santa! We’re so excited to see you around here! Did you have a good ride down from the North Pole? Did you ride in that fire truck all the way? Did you put out any fires along the way?
Santa scurried inside the Arvon Town Hall to deliver gifts to eager children. I stood around in sixteen layers of clothing (NOT Grandma’s 1970’s snowmobile suit. We do NOT bring that out in public) waiting for the hayride. We had to wait until Santa passed out all his goodies. Yep. The Fire Department puts on a bona fide hayride every year for all the kids, parents and outdoor bloggers who want to hop aboard. It’s a wagon pulled by your standard four-wheel drive pickup truck. Complete with hay bales for all of us hayride-participants to sit atop.
Oh the kids were so cute! Really adorable, every single one of them. Some of them had blue lips from sucking on blue and white candy canes. Not from the cold, mind you! Maybe twenty of us piled on the wagon for the short ride down to the township park and back. (I had been forewarned to wear lots of heavy clothing. It looked like not everyone received the memo. Without hats and gloves, it looked like some riders might have been a tad bit uncomfortable…)
However, the weather was lovely today. Truly lovely. I can’t begin to share how 25 degrees seems like a heat wave after a freezing cold previous day where the temperature barely rose to 10 degrees and the wind whipped around trees with a potent fury. Today felt balmy. At least for those of us with snow pants, hooded sweatshirt, heavy coat, two pair of mittens, warm hat and toasty Sorel boots.
How many of you are thinking the beautiful snow-covered trees were spotted during our hayride? Ha ha, fooled you big time! The tree-photos were taken yesterday down a side road near our house. I was leaning out the window of the car, snapping away. The mailman followed in his car. You could tell he couldn’t figure out what I was doing on this road. I flagged him to drive past. He kind of frowned as he went around. It was a puzzlement. What was I doing on this road? (This is one of the joys of rural living! Everyone knows who you are and wonders when you’re not doing something predictable.)
After the hayride, it was time to finish shoveling the deck. I love shoveling very slowly. When Barry shovels, it’s all done in one session. When I shovel, it may be two or three days. That’s because one must ENJOY one’s shoveling. One must only shovel until it’s time to quit. Which might be in five minutes or fifteen minutes. Never a half hour.
Hope everyone a) gets to see Santa coming down from the North Pole on a fire truck and b) gets to see a little snow for Christmas. That is, if one lives in a snow-prone area of the world. Also hoping c) that you all get to go on a hayride this year. Really! And remember, if you can’t find a hayride pulled by a good old-fashioned horse, a pickup truck will do.
Everyone around here is waiting for that blizzard. First it was a winter storm watch. Then it morphed into a winter storm warning. Now it’s a blizzard warning.
In the meantime, the weather has been rather mild. Although this morning it was snowing cats and dogs. You had to drive very slowly. You thought the blizzard had arrived early. But no. It was simply a precursor to the actual blizzard which is reputedly supposed to start…in twenty five minutes. Somewhere around 7 p.m. Tuesday night.
They say we’re going to get lots of snow. The question is: do we believe them? The National Weather Service gravely warns: up to twelve inches of snow will befall us. The way the radar loop is turning a swirl of blue from Iowa north, it may be true. We’ll see.
My mother just called. “What’s the weather like up there?” she wondered. They have a winter storm watch down in Michigan’s Thumb. They are hoping to get snow, rather than treacherous ice. I think I would agree that would be preferable.
People usually go to town the day before a blizzard. They try to stock up on supplies. Get groceries for tomorrow night. Maybe some hot chocolate or a bottle of wine or maybe some popcorn. They fill up the car with gas. Perhaps they buy an extra jug of water in case the electricity goes out. If they remember they buy batteries for the flashlight. They try to think of what they might need if the blizzard keeps them home-bound for a while. The stores always seem busier when the National Weather Service puts out a Blizzard Warning.
I walked in the woods this afternoon. It is a pleasure to walk in the woods in the beginning of December before the snow gets too deep. After this blizzard, if we get a foot or more, it will be impossible to walk without snowshoes. Then it can be harder work to navigate amongst the trees. So are we all ready for blizzard? Ready to cuddle up on the couch tomorrow and read a book? Ready to snuggle in the warm house as the snow comes down outside the window? And in my case…ready to open the door, walk outside into the great and snowy white blizzard? Anyone experiencing a blizzard want to join me? Yep…it’s that time of year again!
The Anishinabe (Ojibway) call this November moon “The Freezing Moon”. We all know why. As the angle of the earth tilts away from the sun, our northern hemisphere begins to cool. Winter whispers in the ear of autumn, “You’re outa here!” Autumn waves the last of her vibrant leaves, recognizing that it’s here time to go.
I’ve had a challenging day or so. I feel overwhelmed; spread too thin. The precious silence and simplicity that I love has been eaten away by too-much-busyness. It’s not just the new novel-writing commitment for the month of November. It’s simply that I am not making enough room for quiet space if my life. My soul is begging for me to listen and I simply brush it away, “Oh, do be quiet now, I’m busy!” It feels as if an inner voice keeps whispering, “It’s time to let go of a few things in your life right now. Let go of a few of those autumn leaves that are ready to release into the wind.”
People often move to the woods or country desiring a less hectic lifestyle. They want simplicity, quiet, ease of life. That can happen if one cultivates it. But more often than not, Life and Busy-ness have a way of finding you even in the backwoods. Busy-ness can take over your life, wherever you go.
When Busy-ness starts getting overwhelming, we need to have a talk with her.
“This is what must go,” we might say to Ms. Busy-ness. “This and this and this. You might like all these things, but are they really necessary?”
And we know what is simply wasting precious minutes and hours in our day. We know. But it’s often challenging to let that autumn leaf fall off the branch. To simply let go of that which is not serving us, in order to give more quality time to that which nourishes our souls.
Snow fell on the morning of the full moon. Less than an inch draped our car, scattering on the fallen leaves. In town, at the top of the hill, as I drove to get my hair trimmed, I noticed at least two or three inches of white. Amazing how one area has no snow; three miles away you almost need boots.
Every person is different. Some of us need huge vistas of silence, of space, of walking in the woods with the companionship of the sun and moon. Another person is satisfied with much less. The snow falls in different proportions everywhere; we must listen to our inner guidance and follow the quiet direction which prompts us.
Too often if we refuse to heed our wise inner voice, our body speaks up instead and suggests a nice vacation with the flu or perhaps some other illness.
I’m going to try, starting today, to make room in the midst of busy-ness. Perhaps the busy-ness will sit back and relax. Perhaps she and I will share a cup of jasmine tea and some silence.
Perhaps the leaves will effortlessly release from the trees and drift in the autumn wind, beneath The Freezing Moon.
Outdoors today: helped Barry move and cover the wood splitter. Then we carried long heavy boards for his garage edition. Later we covered the woodpile. More checks off our “to do list” before winter arrives.
Guess who came back for a visit? Guess who is taking a curtain call? You’ve got it– Old Man Winter. He stole in during the night under the guise of a “Winter Storm Warning” with a possible four to twelve inches through Tuesday.
Oh my. We weren’t expecting Him again. Or were we? He sneaks back repeatedly many years in April (and sometimes May) just to see if we’ve missed Him and want Him to stay. While no one here is voting “yes” He doesn’t seem to get the hint.
The drive to work was not pleasant! Neither was the drive home! Come to think of it, the person who struck the utility pole and knocked out our electricity for an hour probably didn’t enjoy the commute either. (At least that was the rumor as to why our power went out this morning.)
If you look at the Intellicast radar loop, a strong storm system is swirling counter-clockwise throughout the Great Lakes Region. And swirling. And swirling. Places south of us are getting rain, but we’re apparently cold enough to remember what winter is all about.
After surviving the trip home from work, I wandered outside for awhile. All the local schools dismissed about 12:30 p.m., so the kids probably enjoyed outdoor exploration as well. I don’t recommend walking underneath loaded spruce trees. After about three minutes outside, I accidentally brushed against an evergreen…about a bucketful of snow poured down the back of my coat and neck. Yikes! Very shocking, indeed.
Hard to believe our book club sat around that table in 72 degree weather only three nights ago, isn’t it? Difficult to imagine that Barry and I were dining on a picnic dinner of Army rations four nights ago? Well, this is Life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the springtime. We all get used to this schizophrenic weather. Or would the correct term be bipolar weather?
As for the yellow snow photo…any savvy forest folk know what that is? Hint: there’s no dogs around here. It’s sap. So many of the tree-bases are surrounded by a foot or more of yellow snow. I was tempted to see if it tasted like a sap Popsicle, but NO. There are limits to what a human should do it the woods. (But if anyone wants to guarantee it tastes like maple syrup ice cream…?)
Barry has been diligently chainsawing up our wood pile for next year. He intended to work on it tonight, but the snow interfered. We’re also in the process of buying/making a new wood splitter. He found a steal of an old splitter for $250 and now he’s fixing it up. After all, Winter is only a couple of short seasons a way… Perish the thought!!
The Annishnabe (Ojibway) of this Lake Superior region call the April moon “Broken Snowshoe Moon”. I’m imagining this is because Winter is in fast retreat, or slow retreat, and the natives look at their worn snowshoes and think, “wow, these need to be fixed before next winter”.
I could be wrong, but it seems like a good time to look at our snowshoes and skis and determine what needs to be repaired before the next heavy snows settle upon the land.
The natives of North America called this moon of April by many names, depending on their locales. Here’s a handful: Sugar-Maker Moon, When They Set Indian Corn, Moon of the Big Leaves (obviously not around here), Ice Breaking in the River, Frog Moon, Flower Moon, Moon when the Geese Lay Eggs. You can study them for yourselves at http://www.americanindian.net/moons.html
If I named this month’s moon it might be: Mud Moon, Moon of Spring Dreams, Moon of Melting Lakes, Snow Melting Moon, Moon of Pussywillows, Moon of the First Green. Just think! All around the country and world, we’re sitting under the same full moon, but our conditions and weather patterns and details are all different.
I have no idea how to take a stunning photo of the moon. What you see is what you get. She’s overhead about 9 p.m. these days, a little to the south and east. Out the bathroom window. Here’s my plan tonight. I am going outside a little after dark (9- 9:30 p.m.) and confer with the moon. We’re going to have a little pow wow. Discuss things. Get serious. I suppose, get thankful about life.
So today’s outdoor adventure will be AFTER the publication of this blog. You guys must simply have faith that the outdoor commitment will happen. (It’s happened already, really, when Barry and I sipped drinks on the deck in the 40 degree weather this afternoon. I was wrapped in a blanket donned with hat and jacket on our lawn chair. One of enjoyed a hot bouillon cube and the other a glass of wine, but I’m not telling who enjoyed what. When the sun shone through the clouds, it felt actually pleasant.)
Because it’s impossible to photograph the full moon in its shining glory, the maple trees decided to offer an imitation of the April moon.
I’m happy to think we’re all sitting beneath the same moon. For all our differences, for all the ways we call things different names and tell different stories…we still sit under the same April moon. Maybe that knowing can bring us closer together as people. It’s all the same moon… (And maybe I’ll tell this same story, except for different names, every full moon for the rest of this year!)
You people who live in spring-country. You people who are enjoying 40 degree or 50 degree or 60 degree days. We’re all envious of you now. Because do you know what the weather was like today in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan?
The thermometer barely nudged 30 degrees. A cold biting wind nipped in from the northwest. And the skies stayed leaden gray all day. (Well, make me a liar. My husband said the temperature has inched up to 33 degrees as evening settles in…and the sun is poking through the clouds. Go figure. Just when you start stating facts, things change…)
Anyway, you get the drift about the weather most of the day. It was so gray it settled into everyone’s spirits. People here are ready for spring. They’re ready for sunshine. They’re ready for green. This is the season where we wait it out. We are prepared for spring, but we settle for this in-between season. Sometimes cheerfully. Sometimes with gritted teeth.
We traveled up to Houghton today to buy organic vegetables, grains, beans and other supplies at the co-op. We drive there once every week or two to get supplies that can’t be found in our small town. We planned to stroll leisurely around town, maybe along the canal, snapping photos and enjoying an outdoor experience in the “real” city.
But no. It was too cold. We weren’t dressed properly in heavy winter coats. The thermometer up there mocked “24 degrees”. The wind whipped around buildings. Snow covered the path by the icy canal and we wore shoes rather than boots.
Instead, I walked through the woods after returning home. You’re sheltered in between all those trees. It’s almost pleasant. You have your boots and warm winter coat and mittens. Besides the gray skies attempting to envelop everything, it’s almost pleasant.
Yesterday we experienced sun. So don’t think it’s always gray here. I sat in the woods on a log and watched shadows play. Look at the balsam shadows dancing on this fallen tree:
But back to our gray discussion. Maybe if we experience a good rain the dust and dirty snow might disappear. In the meantime, we wait. It’s only April. One year, who knows what year, the temperature reached 90 degrees in late April. No fooling. It happened. (My husband just said it was April, 1980, and my parents came to visit with cross-country skis atop their car.)
Anything is possible!
The stream behind our house is running merrily with melted snow-water down toward the bay. Doesn’t it look cheerful? I’m guessing we’ll be warm soon. If we get beyond tomorrow’s possible lake-effect snow forecast, that is…
Ladies and gentlemen, I survived. Spent a full night sleeping beneath the spruce tree in mid-March, the coyotes barking in the distance, the evening temperature hovering in the mid-30’s. Not even below freezing.
A piece of cake, you think? An easy winter camping experience?
I think not. Please feel free to try this experience for yourselves. Let me know if you can sleep deeply throughout the night, dreaming beneath the almost-full moon, resting atop spruce roots.
Bedtime: 10 p.m. I carried out the quilt to cover the bottom of the tent, the thin Therm-a-rest mat and two sleeping bags. Plus one flashlight, one water bottle, one clock, one camera.
Settled in beneath the warm covers to listen to night-sounds. An odd unidentifiable soft cracking noise actually sounded like ice melting or shifting. Who knows what it might be? Suddenly I decided to take a flash photo to view the inside of the tent. Flash!
Immediately, outside the tent, from the spruce tree branches, burst the mourning doves, their wings squawking in protest. I scared them out of their night roost. Sorry, doves. Let’s try to get some sleep.
Try to get some sleep. Those are the key words. Try to get some sleep. I lay there…one hour…two hours…three hours…is it morning yet? When will morning come? Four hours… Truly, I’m sure I slept during that long night. But mostly I remember being awake.
Somewhere in the middle of that darkness, it started to feel cold. In a strange way. I was warm enough in the sleeping bags, with the head burrowed beneath the covers and a hat sheltering the ears. But wherever the hip touched the mattress, cold seeped upwards through that pressure point. The frost-filled earth sought to warm itself through my body, I’m sure. Thus the remainder of the night passed in fetal position, attempting to prevent the icy earth from taking over my body. The cold reverberated like a toothache, a dull ache.
I had asked the earth nicely for a Dream to share with you all. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the earth for sleep. Sorry! No Dream to report…
The last couple hours reminded me of a vision quest. It’s been years since I completed my last vision quest out in the woods, but the feeling never leaves you. One of my most memorable quests involved spending four days and four nights in prayer and fasting back in the early 1990’s. Everything in me wanted to leave that circle and return to the house and get warm, fed and comfortable. However, something deeper refused to budge. When I practically crawled home at the end, a deep feeling of accomplishment and joy filled my soul.
For some reason, this simple overnight outdoor camping experience contained the same fierce desire to run inside the house and dive beneath the bed covers. Yet something else insisted upon follow-through. Upon completion. Upon seeing this through, no matter what the surface feelings or thoughts attempted to say.
About 5:50 a.m. I finally fell asleep. I’m pretty sure that happened. Then Barry walked by and I groggily called, “good morning!” He insisted upon taking a photo with the flash on (as dawn had not yet decided to grace our neck of the woods.) I am not sharing the full-face photos he took. They look like I’m some creature of the woods with red face, matted hair and squinty eyes. You can just imagine, if you like. Or camp out yourself and have someone take your photo at 6 a.m.!
A final quick afterward. It’s in the 50’s today! I enjoyed the most lovely cup of tea out on the deck this afternoon, surrounded by fluttering camping equipment. Drinking the hot jasmine tea felt so warming and delicious, but do you know what felt better? Drinking in the sun. After a long winter, it’s like we’re drinking sunshine every chance we get.
Cold…and then warmth. Guess that’s life, isn’t it?