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

The summer season is full of hardy flowers that can tolerate the heat of August.  We’ve had our share of high temps and humidity and some of the gardens are showing the stress of the late summer.  But the zinnias and sunflowers are still bright.  Their colors represent this season well and they flourish to remind us to enjoy the blooms and the time that remains before fall comes gliding in on those cool and longer nights.

I recently purchased a kayak – nothing fancy, just a hard plastic one that I can take out on the lake.  I don’t have to worry about beaching it or scratching the hull, but it allows me to explore and enjoy the lake and the shoreline at an up-close and leisurely pace.

I’ve enjoyed watching deer and small fawns along the bank of the lake, turtles that are quickly diving into the weeds, fish that are swimming in the clear and warm summer water, eagles overhead that swoop down into the lake and rise again with a fish in their talons, and loons that cruise the lake then disappear as they dive for their meals.  I’ve been mesmerized by the still lake surface in the early morning when the water is like a sheet of glass reflecting the clouds overhead, the whitecaps that ripple across the lake when the wind comes rushing through the channel, and the quietness of evening as the sun descends behind the trees to the west while the moon rises in the east.

I will never grow tired of nature and all that it offers up to us, no matter the season.

The nights have a bit of coolness to them now, and the sunshine isn’t quite as hot as it was earlier this month.  Our daylight is becoming noticeably shorter as we move closer to fall.  The skies are filled with Canada geese flying over, strengthening the wings of the young ones as they prepare for migrating south; their honking fills the air.  I noticed these sedum blossoms the other day with spots of color in them.  They too are responding to the fast approaching change in the seasons.

August began as it should, sunny and hot – the epitome of a Minnesota summer’s day.  The perfect ending to an August day is a lake and ice cream.  We were lucky enough to have both the lake and a DQ close by in the Cities.  As kids played in the water by the swimming beach, we noticed more and more people coming to the lake as the sunset approached.  A storm was developing to the northwest and the clouds began to move in, but luckily they held off long enough for the sun to give up a last hurrah, light up the sky and clouds, and reflect its brilliant colors in the surface of the lake.  A group cruised by on their pontoon boat as we sat on a bench and enjoyed our ice cream, the cool breeze coming off the lake, and the beauty of the day’s end.

Yellow of summer 13640_StaatsToday we are on the cusp of the last month of our meteorological summer.  As I’m getting ready to turn the page of the calendar to August, it’s not something I want to do, but yet it is reality.  These yellows of summer will soon be fading, much as our daylight hours are already diminishing.  Yet, I remind myself that change is good and often we must go through change to get to something better.  Without the cold and snow of winter, we would not have the beautiful forests and trees that grace our state.  Ten years ago I moved to Minnesota – truly a huge change after living 30 years in Washington state.  I am amazed at the things I’ve seen and learned, and humbled by the changes in my life.  I’ve learned that a mid-west winter can be survived (and embraced) with temperatures that remain below zero; that frozen lakes can be driven on; that hockey can be played on those same frozen lakes; that there are small little “houses” that spring up on those frozen lakes where people ice fish; that a horizon line that goes off into the distance as far as I can see holds immense beauty and openness; that thunderstorms can be as beautiful as they are sometimes destructive; and that the colors of autumn are intense and beautiful, yet they can’t be timed to the calendar each year.  But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that life continues and we adjust – we can chose to adapt and embrace those changes and live our lives fully.  My life has become bigger with all those changes and new experiences, and I know that there will be more in the future ahead, just like the inevitable change in the seasons.

Rudbeckia and coneflowers_13614_StaatsThe landscape is filled with the bright colors of summer now.  Everywhere I look I see deep greens accented with yellows, pinks, reds, blues, and whites.  The contrasts are clear and glorious.  Where once the scenery was mono or duo-tone, we now have an array of shades and hues to rest our eyes on.  In our backyard, the coneflowers and rudbeckia are in full flower.  They are similar, yet so different in their patterns and petals and I never tire of studying them.  It’s a delightful time to get lost and absorb all the wonders that Mother Nature provides during our short-lived summer months in Minnesota.

Sun and lake_10320 StaatsAs the calendar months get closer to turning from summer to fall, I’ve been thinking about the epitome of a Minnesota summer.  Although it’s many things to many people, to me it’s characterized by sun, water, and pines.  If you live in the urban Twin Cities, a summer highlight is a trip “up north” whether for a weekend or a week.  As the car noses northward the landscape changes, the sky gets bluer, the lakes become more numerous, and the smell of pines is evident.   It’s here that I relax and breathe deeply – the smells of summer.  When the cell phone is out of range and the days are marked by the sunrise and sunset, life becomes simpler and I am more concentrated.  Sure, I still try to rush to cram all the “things” I want to do into each day, but it’s a slower sense of urgency.  A sense that the day will be delightful no matter what activities take place (or what leisure and quiet is enjoyed).  A walk down the path to the lake, some quiet time sitting on the dock watching the sun reflect off the water, and listening to the sounds of the wind in the trees, the fish surfacing, and the loons calling — this, to me, is the epitome of summer in Minnesota.

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.

Kauffman Stadium Staats CP-294The Fourth of July is celebrated many ways, and this year for me that meant family.  We made a trip to the Kansas City area to spend the weekend with family and friends; that meant good barbeque, cold beers, a summer sunset over a field of wildflowers, an orange full moon rising in the east, catching up with friends, a boat ride on a local lake, and even a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium between the KC Royals and the Minnesota Twins.  The series is always a good one, and on this night we celebrated a Twins win followed by a huge fireworks show at the stadium.  So many things to be proud of on July 4th, and so many things and people to be thankful for too.