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

Tuesday was a perfect spring day with white clouds, warm temperatures, and the smell of spring in the air.  There were hints of green in the lawns, buds were evident in the tree branches high above, and birds were singing their spring songs.  The white clouds danced in the brilliant blue sky as we softened ourselves to the warmth of the sun.  It was wonderful, and I was so thankful for getting outside and soaking it all up.  Because….the following day brought wet heavy snow, howling winds, and cold temperatures.  Winter has returned for a few days.

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.

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.

Greeting to the day_StaatsOur landscape is white and the skies have been quite gray and overcast – the gun-metal gray of winter.  The days are short and the darkness sometimes seems especially long.  This morning I got up before dawn and was drinking my coffee and reading the newspaper.  I eventually looked up and noticed the brightness of the morning had started to take over the black sky.  As I stepped out the front door, the blue of the sky and the white of the clouds caught my eye; it was a beautiful contrast and a welcome splash of color that we had been missing the past week.  The trees are leafless structures now, thrusting their branches up and out, and the cotton-like clouds seemed to be catching on the branches of the tree as they were moving by.

Wind and weather 7D_1628_StaatsI hit the road this past weekend for a quick trip to the Kansas City area.  It was a time for catching up with family and celebrating my niece’s high school graduation.  We were even able to fit in an evening of pond fishing – the winds were calm, the air was warm, the sunset over the farmland was beautiful, and even the fishing was successful.  I headed back home to Minnesota yesterday, leaving Kansas City in the morning after an early thunder-storm had passed.  The sun was out and the temperature was rising, as was the humidity.  I was watching dark and threatening clouds to the north, hoping they would move east before I got to that area.  As I arrived in northern Iowa, the weather intensified to the north and east with large clouds blossoming on the horizon right along the front line.  The radio station kept interrupting with severe weather and tornado warnings to the east and the south.  When the interstate merged to one-lane and the cars started to back up, I took the first exit.  This area of northern Iowa is filled with wind turbine farms, all working to harness the power of the winds that blow across these plains.  Their height and power seemed to compliment the weather that was building in the area.  My timing was perfect as I was west of this storm system, and my time photographing allowed me to miss the heavy downpours that were to the north.  I managed to arrive home in between the storms, but with an appreciation of the power (and randomness) of Mother Nature.

Staats_Clouds & water Bald Eagle Lake 50600One of the joys of living in the upper Midwest is the ability to see “forever.”  The sky is large and the vistas can go on forever.  And in Minnesota (land of 10,000+ lakes), we have the wonderful opportunity to see the sky reflected in our beautiful lakes.  Last week we put our canoe in one of the local lakes.  It had been a day of thunderstorms and rain, but the clouds seemed to part and go around the lake.   A warm summer’s evening, a bit of dinner, and a paddle on the lake is a great way to relax.  Then add to that a beautiful sky, and summer is wonderful!