summer


This COVID year has seemed long and never-ending, and yet it hasn’t actually been a full year. Many of us say we’re tired of this and just want to get back to “normal.”  Yes we’ve been unable to do many of the things we usually do, and yes we’ve been unable to physically visit with the friends and family we usually do, and yes our lives have been changed.  But it has also given us the chance for many positive things.  IF we have looked with an open and accepting mind and attitude.  This year has given us the opportunity to try different and new things and experience things we might not have otherwise.  This may be a long list (20 items for the year 2020) but hang with me and think about these things I mention and then think of the things I have overlooked that you have done or experienced.  It has certainly not been a wasteful year.  And those of us that are alive and well can be thankful that we are here.

  1. Have you reached out to someone just to see if they’re okay? If there’s anything they need?  Do they need a package of toilet paper that you see is available at the store at this one very moment?
  2. Have you grasped this opportunity to be at home with your kids and taught your son how to ride a bike? And then joined him on numerous bike rides and seen his confidence grow with each one?
  3. Have you had friends or family make a mask for you? Someone that has taken their time to sew something so essential to all of us – someone that certainly cares for you and for your health?
  4. Have you been there when your young child falls and gets hurt, comes running to you for your hug and love? Normally you might have been at work, but with a shutdown your job has been remote so you’re at home with your child.
  5. Have you gone for a walk in your neighborhood or area? Maybe you’ve walked the same path you’ve taken before and maybe you’ve watched as the trees leafed out in the spring, threw their leafy shade over your path in the summer, turned a brilliant orange, yellow, or red in the fall, and then rattled through the air as they fell to the ground around your feet.
  6. Have you explored a new path? Perhaps you looked down a sidewalk, trail, or road and wondered “what’s down this way?”  Why not try it and see something new.
  7. Have you taken the time to read a book? Maybe it’s one you’ve always meant to read but never have.  Maybe it’s one that you like the cover and decided to jump in and see what it’s all about.  Or maybe it’s one that a friend has shared with you, and gotten you hooked on a series, and you’ve consumed the entire series by summer’s end.
  8. Have you made a meal for a friend or loved one and delivered it for them to enjoy? Maybe they were unable to cook or maybe they just needed some cheering up.  Maybe it was food that they normally wouldn’t make or maybe it was a pizza they picked up at a neighborhood restaurant.
  9. Have you binge-watched an old TV show that you didn’t see when it was first on? Or maybe you finally took the time to watch a movie that’s been on your list for longer than you remember?
  10. Have you learned a new technology? This seems to be the year of Zoom meetings and get-togethers.  Imagine what this year would have been like without the internet, cell phones, cable TV, streaming services and all those “techie” things we now take for granted in our everyday lives.  How amazing that so many young children are becoming adept at technology, especially with remote learning; they’re leaps and bounds beyond some of us.
  11. Have you tried something new in the kitchen? Maybe it’s a recipe that you’ve always looked at and thought was way too much trouble.  Maybe it’s that one dish you remember your grandmother always made and was so delicious.  Maybe it’s cupcakes and the fancy way to frost them so they look like they’ve come from the bakery…and they turn out better than you thought they would for a first attempt.
  12. Have you thanked the people closest to you for taking care of themselves and keeping healthy? They have showed you they care for you and your health by being careful themselves.
  13. Have you met a friend at an outside park to catch up and enjoy their company? Was it a sunny day and you could sit outside, or maybe it was a rainy and blustery day but you made the best of it by sitting under a shelter on opposite ends of a picnic table to keep your social distance from one another?
  14. Have you laid down in the grass (or on the dock) and looked up at that big blue sky overhead and watched the white billowing clouds float by? Maybe you saw the cloud shaped like a horse, riding on the wind.  Maybe you saw the fish-shaped cloud riding the waves.  Or maybe you found a cloud shaped like a bear, but remembered it’s only a cloud, and you’re safe where you are.
  15. Have you stepped out into that first snowy day and raised your head, opened your mouth, and caught those first big snowflakes on your tongue, just like you did when you were a child?
  16. Have you put up your Christmas/holiday lights early this year? The long and dark nights of winter have crept up on us again and sometimes seem to stretch into the distance for many months.  Maybe those lights are meant to cheer up your neighbors during their dark nights.  And maybe those lights are meant to cheer up yourself.
  17. Have you chosen to step away from the news and media, even for a short period of time? There’s a wonderful world of peace and quiet around and within each of us.  Sometimes it takes some real prodding to go there.  Sometimes we learn things about ourselves – the things that matter most to us, and the people that make our lives so much richer.
  18. Have you thanked a Veteran this year for their service to our country? And similar, have you thanked a health-care worker, a firefighter, an EMT, a law enforcement officer, a day-care worker, a scientist, a researcher, or a teacher for their work that has been so crucial this year?
  19. Have you stopped for a minute and taken a deep breath and smelled the air that surrounds you, listened for any sounds that are nearby, and with your eyes really looked at all the beauty that is within your sight?
  20. Have you made plans for things you want to do when all our restrictions are lifted and we’re “back to normal?” I hope that they include some of the new things we’ve taken the opportunity to experience this year – the new things that we now know are so crucial to our intersecting lives with the rest of our neighbors and humanity.

 

With gratitude, Linda

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.

We traveled south last week for a visit with family in Kansas.  Our route took us off the interstate and along two lane highways and county roads.  It was relaxing and much more interesting than the speed-view when traveling at 70+ miles per hour.  We stopped at small city parks and explored fields of corn and soybeans.  The temperatures were still summer-like but the days are certainly shorter.  The sunsets were beautiful like this one –  fields of flowers and a ball of fire going down over the horizon but still giving its glow and colors to the clouds above.  The field was full of dragonflies and grasshoppers, all in a feeding frenzy before fall and winter’s arrival.  It was a wonderful trip — not just for the scenery but more importantly for the time spent with family.

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