Wisconsin


We’d met up with friends and family in the early evening and headed out for some fishing.  As my line and lure were not garnering any attention, I started watching the evening light.  The sun moved lower on the horizon, the bright blue of the sky toned down, and the white clouds soaked up the lovely pink of twilight.  Even the wind that had been blowing eventually stopped and the lake became like glass.  The island ahead of us was reflected in the lake, but the clouds seemed to surround us, above and below.  The light was fleeting, the colors left the sky, and dark settled in quickly.  (And yes, my line remained uninteresting to the fish, but I left the lake thankful for the twilight’s beauty and the company of family and good friends.)

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Summer seems to be associated with activities — the longer days give us more time to play and enjoy the sun, warmth, and water.  But sometimes we’re reminded that quiet and peacefulness are just as important during the summer.  We’d had heavy rains the previous day and the temperatures were moderate.  In the morning we woke to a thick fog that initially covered the entire lake and blocked the trees on the opposite shore.  As the sun feebly tried to break through the fog, the shoreline became more visible.  There was no wind –  only stillness.  It was a quiet and tranquil time.  The fog was in no hurry to burn off, and the morning was taking its own sweet time.  It seemed to be a reminder to slow down and enjoy all the moods of summer as it will soon fade into autumn.

The bee balm is in full bloom right now; its bright deep red petals attracting all sorts of pollinators and other visitors.  In full sunshine the blooms take on an iridescent shade, and in gloomy cloudy situations the colors pop out of the otherwise green landscape.  I watched the bee balm garden as the butterflies came and went, followed by the hummingbirds.  Their activity was tireless, moving from one blossom to the next to the next.  Then they would retire to the pine tree as if to rest, and later return back to the blossoms.

One of the mantras taught to photographers is patience.  Sometimes what you are expecting may not appear possible, but a little patience can lead to some grand results.  Such was the case earlier this week.  The afternoon was cloudy, warm, and humid, and the sky was nondescript.  Even the lake looked dull.  We headed out for a ride around the lake and 30 minutes before sunset the clouds started to clear.  As the sun started to go behind the trees on the western shore, they cast a shadow on the eastern shoreline.  The water became calm, and the clearing sky filled with pink and white clouds was reflected in the lake surface below, along with the gold of the trees on the shoreline.  It lasted for a few minutes and then was gone; my patience rewarded.

There’s something very simple and abstract to an image when you remove the surrounding landscape.  Lines become more pronounced.  Colors, or the lack of colors in some areas, takes on a different significance.  This scene caught my eye when we were out boating.  The golds and greens at the top of the image are the reflection of the far side of the lake as the late evening sun is illuminating it.  Some of the water ripples pick up those colors too.  The lines of the wake are interrupted by the lily pads which are now starting to appear throughout the lake; they contribute their own tension to the image.  And the entire photo shifts from the warmth of the sun-lit trees to the cool blues and whites of the reflected sky.  It’s truly an abstract image yet it pulls together all the things we cherish about summer in the North.

This past week there was a full moonrise – the strawberry moon, as it’s called.  Although I can’t attest to seeing a strawberry tint where I was, the moonrise was beautiful.  The sun had set, the wind had stilled, and the night air held the warmth and humidity of the day.  Slowly the moon rose above the trees on the opposite shore, clearing them and throwing its reflection into the lake below.  If you listened for awhile you could hear the cry of a loon.  And in the grasses by the side of the lake, the fireflies started to blink.  It was a beautiful night — just the kind we dream of during the bitter cold of winter.

We just got back from a 425 mile ride along the Wisconsin River, starting in the northeast corner of Wisconsin in Eagle River and ending in Prairie du Chien.  For seven days, we got to experience the beauty of the state –  from the lakes and woods in the north, to the agriculture and dairies, to the bluffs and the hills of the southwest.  What none of us were ready for was six days of riding in the rain.  Although it didn’t rain entire days, each day necessitated rain jackets and rain gear.  And after five consecutive wet days, this was the scene overnight in Baraboo –  shoes and clothes lined up on a gym floor hoping to dry out before morning.  But as luck would have it, it wasn’t really necessary because we woke to rain again on the sixth day.  Because of all the rain and storms, the Wisconsin River was over its banks and was roaring downstream –  an amazing sight to see.  The seventh day, our final day of riding, dawned with sunshine and blue sky.  Needless to say,  it was a treat to finish our ride without rain.

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