Cannon Falls_13763 StaatsWe wandered south of the Twin Cities yesterday on a dreary, rainy Saturday.  August has been unusually wet with heavy downpours occurring frequently, resulting in high rivers and standing water in many fields.  All this was noticeable as we drove through the countryside, but it became more apparent on a stop in the town of Cannon Falls.  Here, the Little Cannon River flows alongside and through the town.  In a “normal” August, average rainfall for Cannon Falls is four inches.  To date this month they have had close to double that – almost eight inches.  And with yesterday’s rain continuing to fall, it was obvious as the river stretched out of its banks.  The falls were roaring and tossing the brown, sediment-filled water into the air as it tumbled toward the Cannon River which then flows on to the Mississippi River.

County road sunrise7D_13742_StaatsI awoke this morning before the sunrise, grabbed my camera, and headed out the door.  We were in Kansas for a family wedding.  The weather had been as perfect as is possible for August in Kansas – low humidity, sunshine, and temps in the 80’s.  But this morning the air was fresh and cooled, and the fog hung low in the valleys.  As I drove down gravel roads, the dust hung in the golden air and the sunlight glistened off the telephone lines and the grasses.  My nephew and his lovely bride were married in a garden setting yesterday, surrounded by family and friends.  It was lovely and it was just as they had hoped – a true expression of who they are individually and who they are as a couple.  As I was greeting the morning with an appreciation of the scenery and a new day, I was hoping that this first day of their life as husband and wife would be a beautiful omen of their future together.  Congrats to them; and I’m so proud of their family that has showered them with love.

Cat in the morning_062146_627_StaatsThis past week started out with unusually hot temperatures and high humidity.  Everyone was staying inside and trying to keep cool in whatever way we could.  After about four or five days of heat, a storm moved through with heavy rain and wind, followed by a cool front behind it.  The next morning I was out for a walk in our neighborhood.  The lighter, cooler, fresher air was a welcome relief.  I walked over to Como Golf Course and spent a few minutes watching the sun clear the hills and trees.  People were out and about walking their dogs, running, and bicycling.  It was as if everyone was anxious to enjoy the cool of the morning and the promise of a new day.  I turned a corner and found this cat precariously seated on the house railing – as if he too was enjoying the morning and waiting to welcome the sunrise.

Yellow of summer 13640_StaatsToday we are on the cusp of the last month of our meteorological summer.  As I’m getting ready to turn the page of the calendar to August, it’s not something I want to do, but yet it is reality.  These yellows of summer will soon be fading, much as our daylight hours are already diminishing.  Yet, I remind myself that change is good and often we must go through change to get to something better.  Without the cold and snow of winter, we would not have the beautiful forests and trees that grace our state.  Ten years ago I moved to Minnesota – truly a huge change after living 30 years in Washington state.  I am amazed at the things I’ve seen and learned, and humbled by the changes in my life.  I’ve learned that a mid-west winter can be survived (and embraced) with temperatures that remain below zero; that frozen lakes can be driven on; that hockey can be played on those same frozen lakes; that there are small little “houses” that spring up on those frozen lakes where people ice fish; that a horizon line that goes off into the distance as far as I can see holds immense beauty and openness; that thunderstorms can be as beautiful as they are sometimes destructive; and that the colors of autumn are intense and beautiful, yet they can’t be timed to the calendar each year.  But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that life continues and we adjust – we can chose to adapt and embrace those changes and live our lives fully.  My life has become bigger with all those changes and new experiences, and I know that there will be more in the future ahead, just like the inevitable change in the seasons.

Storm clouds_ps2447_StaatsThe weather forecast last Saturday morning was for thunderstorms and one to two inches of rain; not what you want to hear when setting out on a two-day, 120-mile bike trip.  As we were driving to our starting point the skies darkened, the clouds billowed and rolled, and we saw lightning around us.  Soon the rain started.  We arrived in Osakis, Minnesota planning to ride the Central Lakes Trail.  The rain continued while we wandered the antique stores in town and enjoyed a leisurely brunch, all the while watching the radar.  Finally the summer storm moved through the area and the rain stopped.  We packed our lightly-loaded gear and started on the trail.  The clouds kept the ride cool and the tail winds helped push us through the countryside.  We marveled at the scenery of farmland, barns, lakes, marshlands, and prairie, not to mention the birds, deer, turkeys, and gophers.  Sixty miles and hours later, we arrived at Fergus Falls.  In dire need of a warm shower, liquids, and food, our motel with its bar and grill was the perfect answer.  We enjoyed watching the Twins win their baseball game while outside another storm was moving through, with heavy downpours accompanied with lightning and thunder.  Sunday dawned with cooler temps and sunshine, and our luck held as the winds had changed direction after the storm and would once again be at our backs for the return trip.  We toured through Fergus Falls, stopping at the dam and falls in downtown and at the world’s largest otter, Otto (this is Otter Tail County, after all).  Then it was another 60 mile ride back to our awaiting car.  We arrived tired and sweaty, but found a perfect antidote with a dip in Lake Osakis and root beer floats at the Tip Top Dairy in town.  We had weathered the weather, explored a new trail, enjoyed the scenery, and had a great adventure in a short 36-hours.

Rudbeckia and coneflowers_13614_StaatsThe landscape is filled with the bright colors of summer now.  Everywhere I look I see deep greens accented with yellows, pinks, reds, blues, and whites.  The contrasts are clear and glorious.  Where once the scenery was mono or duo-tone, we now have an array of shades and hues to rest our eyes on.  In our backyard, the coneflowers and rudbeckia are in full flower.  They are similar, yet so different in their patterns and petals and I never tire of studying them.  It’s a delightful time to get lost and absorb all the wonders that Mother Nature provides during our short-lived summer months in Minnesota.

Horses and barn_Staats PS2436We spent the morning on a bicycle ride through  the countryside of central Minnesota.  The Tour of Saints is billed as a “heavenly little ride” and today it lived up to its billing.  The thunderstorms that moved through prior to dawn cleared by the start of the ride, and the clouds and cooler temps made for comfortable conditions.  We opted for the 50-mile ride and enjoyed every uphill and downhill along the route.  Starting at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, we wandered the back roads until the rest stop in Cold Spring where we were treated to delicious (and ride-hearty) cinnamon rolls and baked goods.  Another 13 miles and a stop near St. John’s University for bananas and cookies.  Then it was 15 miles for a stop of candy bars and Gatorade in Avon (when you ride 50 miles you need to eat and stay hydrated, and rest stops are much appreciated!).  The countryside was green and verdant, with wildflowers in bloom, fields of soybeans and corn, and wonderful old barns.  These horses seemed quite intrigued by our mode of transportation as we rode by.  We ended back in St. Joseph, tired but appreciative of a morning spent in a beautiful countryside.

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