landscapes


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.

A week ago there was a lovely full moonrise.  I stood by the lake and waited for the moon to clear the hill and the trees on the opposite shoreline.  The wind slowly settled down, and there was a lovely quiet that wrapped around me.  The waves calmed and the lake became still.  Then the moon appeared – large and pearl colored, and as it rose it seemed that the tops of the trees were supporting it and offering it up to the night sky.  I watched and then my ears picked up the haunting call of a loon at the other end of the lake.  It all seemed a perfect rite of spring, and I savored this respite from the many worries of the world right now.

Today is Easter – a day filled with promise, hope, and spring.  Yet this year is not like other years.  Many of us are celebrating the day without friends and family and without the many traditions that we have come to associate with Easter.

And usually Mother Nature is on board too, but that’s not the case in Minnesota today.  I’m looking out the window at snow coming down and collecting on the grass and trees.  When the temperature was 60 degrees yesterday I thought the 3-6 inches of predicted snow was wrong, but that just may hold true.  Somewhere there are lovely small pasque flowers that are keeping their blossoms closed to protect themselves from the snow.  They too know what’s necessary for survival.  And yet I know spring will turn the corner, and these flowers will open up again and be thankful for the moisture and the sun.  There is promise and hope.

 

Being home-bound inside, due to not only the directives on COVID-19 but also my broken leg, I have been looking at some of my earlier photos.  This image remains one of my all-time favorites and it seems to have much symbolism for our present times.  The old weathered barn has stood the ravages of time – peeling and faded paint, a hinge askew, a window missing.  What events has it been through?  What stories can it tell?  The sunlight streams from an angle across its faded front emphasizing it’s age.  The sun doesn’t reach the inside of the barn where it is dark and black.  And yet on the far side of the barn, through the opposite openings, there is a green field.  Grasses are blowing, a fence line and trees are visible.  There is renewal beyond the old barn.  There is sunshine and green grass ahead.

Stay safe and be well.  There are greener pastures and sunnier days ahead.  We will weather these times.

It was a cold day with a temperature of 16 degrees, but the sun was shining brilliantly and beckoned us outside.  We packed our snowshoes and went to Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary in northwest Wisconsin.  The wind was brisk, but if we could snowshoe along the tree line there was a welcome wind break.  There was even protection from the wind as we headed across the prairie, and in the valleys of the steep hills we could bask in the sun’s heat.  It was late afternoon so the sun threw its shadows across the landscape at a sharp angle.  We soaked up the sun and the crisp fresh air of the day and enjoyed the exercise.

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