Minnesota


As our temperatures rushed into summer highs yesterday, people were resorting to the tried and true ways of staying cool.  Mid 90’s and high humidity cause some Minnesotans to shelter in air conditioning, while the majority choose to embrace the weather but cool off by a lake.  Whatever wind that’s blowing across the lake surface cools and becomes a delightful and welcome breeze.  People were out at Lake Como canoeing, kayaking, walking, relaxing and savoring the warmth of summer; winter’s cold seemed a long way away!

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.

All within a few days the clematis have burst forth.  A delicate pale yellow bloom with a yellow center, this lemon chiffon clematis has climbed up the trellis and  bloomed all at once.  The cooler temperatures and bright sunshine of the past week coaxed the buds to open in profusion.  Soon the other clematis will follow, but it will be hard to top the beauty and fullness of this one.

The lilac bushes has blossomed out, and their sweet smell lingers in the air.  We’re fortunate to have both white and purple lilacs.  Throughout the neighborhood there are lilac bushes and hedges, and some are over 10 feet tall.  Their colors and delicateness are noticeable.  After the heavy rain from a day ago, the alley was littered with white and purple petals scattered on the ground.  As short-lived as their blooming season is, it makes me appreciate their beauty and their scent even more.

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.

Like the flip of a switch, spring blew into the Twin Cities this past week.  Last Monday, May 1st, brought us snow flurries in abundance – it looked and felt more like November than May.  But as the week wore on, the temperatures rebounded, the sun appeared, and the leaves started opening.  The tulips and daffodils became riots of color, the crabapple trees were awash in pinks and whites, and the once-barren, brown grass became green again.  This weekend found people outside – gardening, walking, running, biking, having parties on their patios and decks – anything to soak up the warmth and the return of spring.

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.

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