landscapes


On a brilliant summer’s day we took a drive west of the Twin Cities to Swenson Gardens in Howard Lake, Minnesota.  Their gardens were open for their annual Peony Field Days, and the timing was perfect.  With warmer temperatures and bright sunshine many of the peonies had come into full bloom.  It was a chance to wander and dream and plan for places in our own garden for more of these lovely plants.  I especially liked these America peonies –  their bright red was a wonderful contract to the green foliage and the blue sky with its puffy clouds.

The Minnesota fishing opener was this past Saturday, and unlike some previous years the weather was lovely.  We headed north to our favorite fishing lake and found an abundance of blue –  the sky, and its reflection in the water surrounded us with this beautiful color of spring.  Uncharacteristically calm and warm, the boat created the only ripples in the water.  It was wonderful to soak in the warmth and the beauty of the day, while we caught our limit of large Northern pike.  Saturday became even more perfect as we also headed out on the lake Sunday morning, but this was a much different day.  The sky was filled with high clouds, and there was a serious wind from the east.  There was no still and calm, no quiet reflection in the water, but rather a heavy chop and even some whitecaps.  Sunday merely helped us appreciate even more that blue sky, blue lake day from 24 hours earlier.

I was headed somewhere else, took a detour on a gravel road, came to a high point and my eye caught a tall white steeple looming over the farmlands.  A u-turn put me in the right direction, and as I pulled into the churchyard another car was pulling in behind me.  Ken had just arrived to clean the oldest of the churches, and he graciously told me the history of the site near Nerstrand, Minnesota.  The Norwegian community built the original limestone church in 1862, and the white wooden frame church was finished in 1894.  Complete with a beautiful pipe organ, it is a simple, sun-drenched sanctuary.  The church was decommissioned in 1973, but the Valley Grove Preservation Society has worked tirelessly to restore both churches and acquire many of the acres of land surrounding the site for prairie and oak savanna restoration.  The haze of the sky in the photo was from the prairie that was being burned just to the west of the white church.  I was delighted to have happened upon this site at the same time that Ken arrived, otherwise I would have missed the inside view and the stories he shared of the history and the efforts by the Preservation Society.  I was even able to ring the old church bell and hear it resonate from its old tower.  I am looking forward to sharing in the community’s country social in September, and hopefully attending their Christmas Eve service.  It was my lucky day for having taken that winding road off my original path to follow the white steeple.

Yesterday I drove south from the Twin Cities with a photographer friend in search of pasque flowers.  The weather was unusually warm, the sunshine was bright, and it was good to catch up with my friend.  We arrived at this gravel prairie area and were at first disappointed thinking the flowers were not in bloom yet.  But as we looked more closely we could see peeks of flowers amidst the dry prairie grasses.  The pasque flowers are only three to four inches tall, so they can easily hide.  They start out as little fuzz balls (of which we saw many) and gradually open their petals to the warmth of the sun.  Although there will be a larger and showier display with more flowers blooming in the days ahead, it was a delightful evening and a reminder of all the good things that come with spring.

Webster’s dictionary defines hope as wanting something to happen or be true.  So it is with spring this year.  We “hope” for sunshine, warmer temperatures, the bright colors of flowers.  We “hope” that the passing days bring longer hours of sunshine.  And yet Mother Nature has alternative plans.  This week we rode a roller coaster through snow and strong winds, rain, and the promise of warmer air.  Through it all we strive to embrace what it is, just as these runners ran through a deserted Como Park having the trails and snow to themselves in this once-again wintry landscape.

winter-trees-on-the-hill-7d15809_staatsThe temperature dropped and winter came back to Minnesota during the past mid-week.  The blue skies and hope of spring were delayed and side tracked by a fast-moving front that dropped snow and brought back winter’s cold winds.  The gray sky that accompanied this snow seemed gloomier than usual, perhaps because of the desire for spring.  But as I wandered the hills, listening to the rattling of the oak leaves in the wind, I saw a brief opening in the clouds – just long enough for a shaft of light to come through and give hope again for an eventual departure of winter.

springs-thaw-on-the-mississippi-river_cp1965c_staatsWith our spring thaw in full force, I wandered along the banks of the Mississippi River yesterday.  Where normally the river is ice-covered, there was only a thin layer of ice that lined the shoreline.  The wind was brisk causing the clouds to hurry quickly across the sky.  Fishermen were active on the river, launching boats and heading out to their favorite areas with nary a thought of ice.  The scene was more like one from early April, but we’ll embrace and welcome spring at any time it makes its appearance.

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