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.

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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.

Roses and petals_Staats-9986We’re in the height of rose season – their colors and scents abound.  We have a wonderful John Cabot climbing rose that blossoms out in profusion mid-June,  becoming engulfed in a riot of color.  I’ve had cuttings in almost every room of the house, and yet the bush itself remains full too.  The blooms hold for many days and then they drop their petals all around – a reminder of their beauty even as they move past their prime.