Lake como dawn 13853_StaatsYesterday’s cool rain cleared overnight, but left pockets of fog in some of the low-lying areas.  The stars came out with the promise of sunshine today.  I was up before dawn this morning and went to Lake Como.  The air was still — no wind to form ripples or waves across the lake, and the fog that was expected hadn’t settled in over the water.  Gradually the dawn sky was growing lighter.  The canoes and kayaks that are available for rent rested in place on the dock, waiting for today’s patrons.  The peace and quiet were a welcome relief from the busyness and crowds that are a short mile away converging on the Minnesota State fairgrounds.

Spring tulips aglow 12770_StaatsIn my longing for the colors of spring, I wandered into the McNeely Conservatory at Como Park.  My spirits rose as I took in the colors and smells of our long-awaited season of spring – an array of lilies, tulips, ranunculus, and daffodils.  Flowers the colors of the sun — the light of spring that we crave so much after the cold and white of winter.  From underneath these tulips the light from above made them glow and shimmer – an ephemeral hint at their fragility and short-lived life in the transition between winter and summer.

Dusting on Como Golf Course 12634_StaatsSpring is not known for its consistency.  After tulips had broken through the ground, ice has been off the lakes, and everyone’s thoughts were turning to warmer temperatures, we got a slap of snow.  The temperatures dropped, the winds picked up, and winter came sweeping back into Minnesota.  I headed out before dawn to the Como Golf Course.  The white dusting left some wonderful patterns and allowed the shapes of the trees to stand out in the landscape.  It was still dark enough that the street lights around the lake were lit and glowed a beautiful golden yellow to contrast with the white landscape.  And on the green, the red flag fluttered in defiance of the winter weather.  Undettered, spring will try again this week to get its foothold on our landscape.

Sunset Como Lake 12536_StaatsA couple of days with temperatures in the 30s and 40s makes Minnesotans think of spring.  I was at Como Lake last night and the evidence was everywhere –  people walking, running, biking the perimeter path; cars driving by and splashing all the snow melt water that was standing in the road; and an outdoor event at the Pavilion across the lake – complete with music and cheering.  The temperature was 42, but it was easy to imagine a warm(er) spring day.  There is open water on the lake, and what ice remains is becoming thinner and slushier.  Ducks and geese were flying overhead, coming into the lake, swimming, and then taking flight again.  The sunset lit up the clouds in the western sky, and the thin ice allowed the sky’s reflection and beauty to be repeated below.  Eventually spring will come, and stay, but it’s a bit too early just yet.

McNelly Conservatory after fresh snowfall_Staats12062Friday morning we awoke to a fresh snowfall.  The dingy remnants of the earlier snow were whitened, the snow that fell overnight lay coating the trees, the wind was still, and the temperature was hovering around freezing –  all the elements of a perfect snowfall.  As I headed out the door to work, I made a “scheduled” detour to Como Park and the McNeely Conservatory.  The lights inside the conservatory gave off a warm glow to the glass in contrast to the blue and white of the snow.  And the snow-covered trees were sentinels of the beauty of this winter morning.  In the stillness and beauty of the early morning it was just me photographing, and the snowplow driver clearing the roads and paths in the park.

McNeely Conservatory 100th anniversaryYesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the McNeely Conservatory in Como Park.  I’ve been fortunate to enjoy it in my neighborhood for the past 10 years, and even in that time there have been many changes.  Throughout the seasons the conservatory has welcomed people to its warmth and its plethora of beautiful flowers.  In a state where we have a definitive four seasons, it’s been delightful to have an oasis of green and color during the wintertime when our landscape is reduced to black and white.  This weekend the Conservatory was filled with the music of 1915 including Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Muddy Waters.  The changes I’ve seen in 10 years can’t begin to compare to the changes in a century.  I trust that the conservatory will be around in another 100 years, and that people will continue to marvel at the Victorian glass houses that have attracted visitors for all these years.

Ordway Japanese garden fall 11379_StaatsThere are so many lovely “hidden gems” in the Twin Cities, and one just happens to be in my neighborhood.  Como Park, which includes a conservatory, zoo, carousel, golf course, lake, swimming pool, picnic areas, and many trails, also holds a lovely Japanese garden tucked away down a winding path.  In the early morning hours with the colors of autumn on display, I found myself humbled and amazed at the quiet and the beauty in the garden.  The fallen leaves seemed to have a purpose in their random display, as if saying that all is right in this changing landscape.  The colors spoke to me, begging to be remembered as they will be quickly replaced with the white of snow.  This year’s change of seasons has been hurried, yet here in the Japanese garden there was a stillness and quiet reminding me that each season holds its own purpose and to trust in the changes of fall prior to the long nights of winter.