Wisconsin


Winter made its comeback this week with colder temperatures and snow.  The St. Croix River, which creates the border between northern Wisconsin and Minnesota was showing the results of the weather change.  Just last week the river was flowing freely, cascading southward to join up with the Mississippi River.  This week was another story.  The shoreline was filled with thin and uneven ice pushed up against the banks, yet the river flowed freely in the middle, carrying smaller sections of ice with the current.  If the cold temperatures continue the river will freeze completely and will remain frozen until the warmer temps of spring.

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The sun had just set, and the twilight was slowly diminishing.  On the opposite shore of the lake, the full moon rose quietly.  It gracefully cleared the trees and its light sent a column of brightness across the ice.  The weather has been unusually warm so the ice was not solid and clear.  The moon’s light showed the imperfections of the ice, along with the leaves that have been embedded during the colder nights.  It was a beautiful study of light, patterns, hardness and softness.

Last weekend was especially cold.  Temperatures dropped and the wind blew.  The snow that had fallen remained, and the lake was frozen.  Walking along the shoreline, I saw this leaf resting on the ice.  As the time went by I saw frost forming all along its edges, outlining it carefully as if Mother Nature was painting each crystal in its place –  so delicate, and yet so very temporary too.

When autumn is as brilliant as it’s been this year, we want it to continue.  A crisp but not cold day, blue sky with some clouds, the changing colors with their deep hues, and a country road that winds through the woods with leaves crinkling under the tires and the deeper smell of fall in the air –  the very best way to soak up a prime day of this most beautiful season.

I sat on the opposite side of the lake watching the shoreline come alive in the sunshine.  The clouds had lingered throughout the day, but an hour before sunset they parted giving the light a truly golden color.  And as the clouds parted, the lake calmed to a sheet of glass; everything on the shoreline was reflected in the mirror-like water.  It was a magical few minutes, long enough to absorb the colors of a brilliant fall evening and to wish the season would linger much longer before we head into winter.

We spent yesterday exploring the backroads and lakes of western Wisconsin.  It was a beautiful summer’s day and the countryside was verdantly green due to recent rains.  As we were traveling down a county road I saw a large field of yellow.  As I ventured out in the waist-tall grasses and flowers I realized the field was filled with wildflowers.  These prairie coneflowers were high above the others, and they swayed in the wind.  Scattered around them were ox-eye flowers and bee balm.  I was in the middle of a sea of color and beauty.  The bees were busy moving amongst the blossoms and the wind rustled the flowers enough to make they appear to be dancing across the field.  It was a true representation of summer in all her glory.

Hudson hot air balloons_StaatsAcross the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wisconsin is a celebration of hot air balloons called the Hudson Hot Air Affair.  Begun in 1970, the festival brings pilots, hot air balloon enthusiasts, and lots of spectators out into the wintry morning air.  This morning’s temperatures were around 25 degrees –  mild for early February, but the winds were too strong and the cloud deck was too low to allow the balloons to launch into the sky.  When the weather conditions do not cooperate, the balloons are instead filled with air and up righted.  Some were tethered to vans and trucks, others were held down by multiple people at the ends of long ropes (at times trying to keep their footing as the balloons pulled and tugged and their feet slid over the compact snow and ice).  The balloons were plentiful and colorful, and the spectators were many and all seemed adept at keeping warm on a cold winter morning.  It was all a bright delight in the gray midst of winter.

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