Like many other people, I’ve been feeling the bombardment of so many things that are happening in our lives.  I’ve been kept awake at night thinking about the divisiveness that exists in my country, my state, and my city.  I’ve lost sleep over the strange happenings of weather – fires in the west that are too huge to imagine the destruction that’s being caused, feet of rain falling from hurricanes making landfall, and the vegetation changes happening here in Minnesota and Wisconsin that’s affecting our wildlife populations of moose, deer, and loons.  Then there are the worries of a continuing pandemic that has  killed hundreds of thousands here in the US – a number that has already surpassed the combined US combat deaths of World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War; the pain sometimes seems too much to fathom.

For me, turning to nature is a balm over these anxieties.  Each morning the earth has completed it’s turn, the darkness of night fades, and the sun returns again.  The leaves are now beginning their color change as the calendar approaches autumn.  I stand out on the dock where the lake temperature has cooled after the heat of summer but is now warmer than the outside air temperature in the early dawn.  The steam rises off the lake, the sun rises over the horizon, and in the distance I can hear the geese calling.  Soon they will be leaving this area and migrating south.  The air temperature will continue to fall as we slide into winter, and the lake will ice over as our days grow shorter and shorter.  And then slowly all these things will reverse.  These are the constants I’m trying to focus on and appreciate.

Although the day had been warm and windy, as evening was slipping away the wind was settling down.  I launched my kayak and paddled to the opposite shore where I could watch the sun set on another summer’s day.  By nestling the kayak back into the lily pads I could sit calmly and in place to enjoy the sun’s slow slide below the trees and the western horizon.

In the distance I could hear the sound of children splashing and swimming in the lake, and nearer was the call between the two resident loons.  The clouds were slowly drifting in from the northwest but the lake’s surface was smooth and mirror-like.  The sunlight swept across the blue lake and reflected off the lily pads.  It was the perfect end to this summer’s day.

The summer season is full of hardy flowers that can tolerate the heat of August.  We’ve had our share of high temps and humidity and some of the gardens are showing the stress of the late summer.  But the zinnias and sunflowers are still bright.  Their colors represent this season well and they flourish to remind us to enjoy the blooms and the time that remains before fall comes gliding in on those cool and longer nights.

There’s something mesmerizing about the approach of a storm.  During the summer in the upper Midwest we get waves of high humidity – the air is so filled with moisture it’s dense and thick.  The humidity and heat build until they set off storms.  Lately we seem to have weekly storms accompanied by thunder and lightning, hail, and strong winds.

There are so many unknowns with an approaching storm – will it be just rain, will it pass by quickly or stall overhead, will it create damage anywhere in its path, will it build and get worse or will it dissipate, and when will it be overhead.  I find the anticipation before a storm moves through fascinating and beautiful.  This storm was building for about a half-hour.  The white thunderclouds at the far end of the lake stayed to the south as the darker clouds rolled over the lake.  The wind quieted and the air was eerie with the stillness.  Within ten minutes the rain started, big drops at first and then a downpour.  And after another ten minutes the storm had moved out of the area, this time leaving only rain.

The storm brought wind, rain, and hail and it seemed to stop as quickly as it started.  This had been the third or fourth storm to roll through in as many days.  But as the dark clouds moved further east and the skies began to clear, there was a brilliant rainbow that arced across the sky and was reflected in the still lake surface below.  This was our “reward” for getting through the storms, and with all the uncertainties that are in our day-to-day lives this was truly the brighter side.

I recently purchased a kayak – nothing fancy, just a hard plastic one that I can take out on the lake.  I don’t have to worry about beaching it or scratching the hull, but it allows me to explore and enjoy the lake and the shoreline at an up-close and leisurely pace.

I’ve enjoyed watching deer and small fawns along the bank of the lake, turtles that are quickly diving into the weeds, fish that are swimming in the clear and warm summer water, eagles overhead that swoop down into the lake and rise again with a fish in their talons, and loons that cruise the lake then disappear as they dive for their meals.  I’ve been mesmerized by the still lake surface in the early morning when the water is like a sheet of glass reflecting the clouds overhead, the whitecaps that ripple across the lake when the wind comes rushing through the channel, and the quietness of evening as the sun descends behind the trees to the west while the moon rises in the east.

I will never grow tired of nature and all that it offers up to us, no matter the season.

It’s been a string of summer days here in Saint Paul – sunshine, blue skies, beautiful white puffy clouds, and warmth.  I took a walk to Como Park and followed the path all the way around Lake Como.  Near the pavilion there were people considering the rental of water crafts.  And they had many to choose from – kayaks, canoes, peddle boats, and paddle boards.  A tough decision, but any of those choices would bring a change of scenery and some cooler air out on the lake.

These are the long summer days we look forward to all winter.  It’s worth the snow and cold temperatures to finally turn the calendar to June and welcome the sun and the warmth of summer.

I was very fortunate to be at Como Park the other evening.  It had been a beautiful day and many people were enjoying the evening and the park.  There were people walking, biking, running, flying kites, setting up hammocks between trees, picnicking, and taking in all that our urban park offers, including a recent high school graduate celebrating his accomplishment.  The sun was fighting through the hazy clouds on the western horizon, but it threw a lovely light on the waterfall on the right side of the Frog Pond.  And that same light was streaming through the glass of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory.  How lucky I was to be there at this very moment.

I was contacted by a neighbor saying they had pink lady’s slippers blooming in their yard; oh, what a wonderful invitation!  Semi-hidden amidst some tall grasses,  she showed me multiple clumps of these lovely flowers.  Pink lady’s slippers are part of the orchid family, and are about 6 to 10 inches tall.  They are delicate and stand tall on a single leafless stem.  Like other ephemerals they bloom for only a few short days before the deciduous trees form their full canopy of leaves blocking sunlight to the ground.  I  sat on the ground and marveled at these beauties, thankful that I could enjoy them at their peak.

It’s a dark and sad time in Minnesota this week.  Tensions have risen, actions have been taken, people have been hurt, and everyone is in a state of shock.  Our state is filled with a wonderful diversity of people which adds to the richness of this place.  We are proud of our lakes, our rivers, our towns and cities.  We take on the challenge of hard winters that linger late into spring, snowfalls that bury is in feet of snow, and subzero temperatures that settle in for weeks.  Now we are facing the challenge of grieving losses – loss of life, loss of property, loss of respect.   Sadly there are business owners, apartment dwellers, and many people that have had their places burned and have been displaced through no fault of their own.  The losses are many and spread throughout our cities.  We are mourning and many of us are saddened that our state has been rocked by the extent and severity of this week’s events, and it will take time for us to mend.

Change is inevitable in life.  We will grieve and struggle, and we will get through this, and I sincerely hope that this week’s news gets replaced with hope and understanding, love and respect.