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.

Full moonrise 10917_StaatsLast weekend’s super moon and lunar eclipse was an event followed by many people.  I found myself in the agricultural fields of the Saint Paul campus of the University of Minnesota at the time of the moonrise.  The weather had been glorious with warm temperatures and a southerly breeze, and as the sun set the sky remained clear.  Slowly the full moon rose on the eastern horizon, clearing the corn fields that surrounded me, accompanied by the sound of the wind rattling through the dry corn stalks.  Although I was in the middle of the city, it seemed like I was distant and not in an urban area.  But what surprised me the most, were the number of people that had come out to do the same thing I was doing.  The gravel road between the fields was lined with cars.  People were sitting in chairs or sitting in their cars, and people were walking — all there to marvel in the size of this full moon and then to observe the lunar eclipse.  Another 18 years is a long time until the next event like this, hence the urgency for many of us to enjoy it this time.

Sunset conversation 7D-10285_StaatsOur weather has been warm and humid, leaving two options for coping.  First is to find some air conditioning and sequester yourself inside.  Second is to hunt out a nearby lake and take in the cool breeze that blows across the surface.  I sought out the second option one night this past week, as did others.  The wind blew across this urban lake, rustling through the trees and dropping the temps considerably.  A beautiful sunset was all that was needed to tell me that I’d chosen the better option.  This couple seemed to be thinking the same thing, and relishing the end of another midsummer’s day.

Bicycling the Gateway Trail cp074731_StaatsAfter an unusually long hibernation, our bicycles have come out of storage and onto the roads and trails again.  Although the bikes adjust quickly, it takes a bit longer for us to get our riding legs back in condition.  We enjoyed two rides this weekend on the Gateway Trail.  Minnesota has wonderful biking and recreation trails, and the Gateway is one of my favorites.  This trail wanders from downtown Saint Paul, through the city, into the suburbs, and then out into the countryside passing farms, fields, lakes, and wetlands.  The trail has numerous  bridges that go over the main streets and roads, making it much safer for riders and drivers.  Built on an old railroad bed, it was the perfect trail for us to help acclimate back to riding form.  The weekend was a great reminder of how much I enjoy being on a bike, taking in the sounds and smells around me, and reveling in the trail and the physical exercise.

Soft daffodils_Staats 8674The calendar turns to March, and our wishes turn to spring.  The cold and hardness of winter is still around us, but this is when we yearn for the softness of spring – for color, thawing, and green.  In Minnesota, the only place to find that now is at the McNeely Conservatory in Como Park – our very own oasis of spring.  These daffodils represent the hope and promise of spring to me.  The yellow of sunshine, the green of new beginnings, and the softness that starts the season of spring.  Soon……

Magnolia blossoms_Staats 8644_Our weather has been gloomy with days of gray. Our landscape has been transitional; warmer temperatures this past week caused some snow to melt, leaving patches of brown grass and piles of dirty snow.  But one place is an oasis of spring – the McNeely Conservatory at Como Park.  With a walk into the Sunken Garden, one is surrounded visually by spring.  Colors of pink and yellow, purple and blue – a wonderful sight to the eyes.  With encouragement like this, winter can’t last too much longer and we’ll savor the sights of spring when they arrive.

Free air and winter bikes 8488_StaatsAfter a “brown” Christmas with many Minnesotans grumbling about the lack of white, we awoke to a 6-inch snow on Saturday morning.  The landscape was once again white and clean.  I was wandering around the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota and found these bicycles and “Free Air.”  The snow had piled up precariously on top of the handlebars, tires, and bicycle seats – almost like frosting on a cake.  The colors of the bikes and the chains added a bright contrast to the white and brown scenery all around.  With the forecast of colder temperatures I doubt this snow will be melting anytime soon.