Archive for the ‘Seasons changing’ category

(REPEAT) SEPTEMBER’S NEW YEARS

September 10, 2018

 

New beginnings for me – and for you!

I was reminded of the “glories of September” by a recent news article reporting a “study” that found that – in general – people  are intellectually brighter in the month of September.  It was one of those click-bait articles, I think, because it didn’t have much substance in it, nor did it tell exactly how the study was done to reach such a conclusion.

Nevertheless,    September has always been a time of New Beginnings for me.   I thought I’d just re-post most of what I had written a couple years ago – because it’s still all true!

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SEPTEMBER !!!!!

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September !    September is a reward for being alive!!!     (Around this household.)

We made it through the worst of summer!    The annoying heat and humidity is lifting,  promising the cool, crisp air soon to come;  the skies are blue,  the stars in the night are easily visible again now that the veil of humidity  is thinning.  Some of us become more active in this clean, cooler air!

Here in the Far North we begin once again to share our little city with its Big Ten university with 40,000 “foreigners” – students from every part of this country and others.    Once you’re resigned to the influx of students,  you can accept their  arrival  and all that it brings;  and their attempts to navigate our traffic patterns, lanes, and signals, frequently    passing from the far right lanes diagonally across traffic to make a suddenly necessary left-hand turn.

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As long as you’re not in their pathway,   you can just smile fondly at the newcomers.       “Here they are again.”

You remember that you must suddenly share stores and restaurants with 40,000 more people,  many of which cannot speak English.    It’s kind of interesting to hear a small, polite, and rather timid voice coming from somewhere beneath shoulder level, asking you to reach something from a top shelf,  or to find some item on their list – which seems to mystify them anyway.   And the request mystifies you too,  because they may or may not be speaking English.

So:  new weather patterns. more easily endured;  new students arriving;   and, of course –  a new football season!       I’ve seen our Spartans back-to-back with da Bears — what a glorious weekend on television!       A new season with the promise of many more games to come.

(Update from this past weekend:  BOTH my teams lost in the last moments of their games.   Sheeeesh.)

It’s a whole new year!

Anyone who has ever gone to school feels the promise of a whole new school year coming up.    We advance one new higher grade in school.    In the university we advance one year closer to our professional goal.

For Hubbie and me who were teachers,    our professional careers wouldn’t let us forget that  “this is another brand-new year.”       There is an eagerness and a thrill upon seeing your new students in September.    (No mistakes yet!  No frustrations yet!   It’s good.    I’m good.  Everyone’s good!)

As a matter of fact,  although contemporary calendars  tell us that the new year begins in January,  “September”  reminds us that other civilizations begin their year at other times:  the Romans, for instance began their year in March, giving the seventh month its name:  Sept-ember.

poms  And in the Jewish calendar  THIS month,  September,  contains the beginning of a whole new year before God,  Rosh Hashanah.      Of course,  they begin it a little more seriously than we begin our new calendar year soon-to-be seven days of solemn soul-searching,  forgiveness, and restitution where possible.   A whole new year’s worth of time is, after all,  a gift from God.     And then they’re ready!

I have plans for my own personal new year too.  I’m a little shy about telling them to you,  but I can just say that it involves increasing my intellectual and artistic skills.    Some very serious self-discipline involved here.   But it IS    “my new year.”   My birthday is sometime this month.

Morning Glory

I enter a whole new decade of uncharted territory with this birthday.       “I’ve never been this old before!!!!”

But someone reminded me that right now today I’m still as young as I’m ever going to be. (I hope that helps)      And I can say that on  each day of my life, as long as God gives me heartbeats for my body to use.

 

Stay tuned.     There are a lot of other wonderful things in September!

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I heard recently that of the trillions of cells we have in our body,  all of them die off and replace themselves in the space of a hundred days.    Three months – and you have  a new body ( depending on what you’ve been putting into your body for those hundred days).   I’ll let you know more about this in  November!

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ADVENT-TIME AT OUR HOUSE

December 6, 2017

We all experience it –  at least up here in the Far North –  that transition from Fall to Winter.  From morning to night – So beautiful!

I woke up one morning . . .  opened my eyes . . . and this is what I saw out of my window:

Morning Leaves

I wanted to close my eyes again  (as usual)  but the trees were so pretty, I had to get up to get my camera  just to hold on to what I was seeing.

Well, it was nice,  but “nice” comes with a price.  As always.

When I finally did get up, I confronted my front window and  realized there were more leaves.   I must unconsciously like leaves.

Leaves on curtains

Later in the day,  outside:

Daytime leaves

More leaves.  It’s  a problem this year.    We’re all trying to keep our lawns raked, but the leaves are stubbornly staying up on the trees this December, coming down a few at a time, enough to keep our lawns . . .  unraked.

Lawn and Leaves

It looked nice like that for one day.   Then it looked like under the rake, as though no one even owned a rake.

A lot of time spent on hard work,  only to have your work “disappear.”     You have to keep doing it!

Clip Advent 1     Advent:   Christ is coming – Winter is coming.    Work and preparation  for both.    Spiritual and physical preparation.

Son has helped to get me ready for the coming of winter,  here –

Woodpile 1

Handy right outside my front door;  and plenty of back-up –

Woodpile 2

Looks neat and ready,  right?    But it got that way with hard, physical work:  chainsaw; wedge and sledge hammer;  splitter thing; saw, maybe;  lots of lifting, dragging, carrying, hauling, and stacking.

(Gee –  do you think “feeding him”  was thanks enough?)

I want to make this about having an Advent Attitude,  but all I can show you is that preparation is worth it:

Woodpile burning

Chilly nights;  cozy fire.

One more set  of preparations.   Here’s that front window again.

Front window leaves

Advent becomes Christmas.     We’re slowly getting ready.     The manger scene is mostly empty,  but the blue-green light shows the way.

It’s there, a light in all of us,  waiting.

He comes.

.

 

 

LEAVING SUMMER FEELINGS

September 23, 2016

Well, I had a camera fail –  a Samsung 7 camera fail, just so that’s out there.    For the past five days,  all the photos I’ve taken come out . . .   gray.   And even the ones I can see on my camera won’t “send.”    

It’s righted itself now,  apparently,  but you don’t want to see a Test Shot of my kitchen table.

But I didn’t want to miss the passing from Summer to Fall.     That’s always a Big Marker for me because I have a birthday coming up in a few days –  just a little into Fall.   But this birthday is a new kind of a one for me –  I’ve never been THIS old before!  I think I’m feeling a little shaky.

And I’m thinking of all the things I’m leaving behind at this stage of my life.

But I’ll talk about seasons of the year instead.   Here’s one of the nicest things that I will be saying good-bye to — our recorder music in the summer outdoors:

gaz-recorder-angel

Well,  we think we make lovely music.  Angelic music!    Beautiful baroque.

Our music setting was certainly beautiful –

gax-beautiful-grounds

Greens and greens and greens,  lawns, shadows, and forest.    I walk across that little area and on into my friend’s lovely gazebo –

gaz-itself

That little   white roundish (octagonal?)  structure is where we play our music.

 A light summer refreshment after we’ve tired ourselves out  –

gaz-lunch-table

I think my friend won’t mind if I place her on this page.   She’s pretty,   the gazebo is pretty,   the forest outside is pretty,   the summer days were pretty –

gaz-vicki

Our music in the gazebo was the “prettiest” memory of this whole summer – passing now.   I’m sure I’ll be remembering the tranquility our summer music at times during the coming ice and snow and freezing winds.

   early-fall

   Early signs.     Many of our trees now are part yellow and part green;  part orange and part green;   part red and part green.

  We’ve got some beauty of a different kind coming.

 

AN UNGENTLE SPRING

May 23, 2016

Spring might be nice where you are,  but here in The Spruce Tunnel,  it is proceeding with much difficulty and many demands.   Only a few more weeks of Spring left.   

What I’m doing here tonight is “backing up” into my own domestic affairs before I take on some  horrendous current issues.   I’m  pausing to take a deep breath, so to speak.  One last look at the home front before I do some serious Reporting Duty.

It’s beautiful, of course;   Spring things:

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It’s just another . . .  tree.  Or maybe bush.    In full spring bloom.  I walk by  it three times a week on my way into the church office.   It reminds me to be aware of all the other trees and bushes that are flowering now,  each in its own time.  One week the whites;  next few days the pinks come out;  then those bright yellow bushes;  then the purples and the deep purples.  Lilacs are in bloom now too.

I’m not much of a botanist.

But this year –  in  addition to the “spring”  garage sale which took so much effort and strength these last two weeks;  in addition to all the repairmen who’ve had to come to the house (four? in the last week?);  in addition to “spring weather”  toppling trees onto our power lines, so that we’ve had three power outages in the last eight days;  in addition to mowing a thick, enthusiastic lawn – frequently ! – making the lawn mower seem extra heavy;   in addition to an abundance of hearty weeds that are on the attack;  and in addition to my bi-annual spring septic tank maintenance which requires shovel and muscles (only one of which I have enough of) . .  .  in addition to all that,  I get THIS:

Yellow rain

Yellow Rain!     It’s coming from the trees above and landing on my cars that have to be parked out in the driveway, temporarily.   I’m not even going to flatter those overhanging trees with their dainty spring-green leaves  looking so pretty by posting a photo of them.  You’d think they were, oh, so nice with fresh young leaves. . . .

But during these two weeks they’ve been dripping yellowish something on every object down below.

Yellow side view

Can’t see out of that windshield unless I scrub it first.

Yellow blue car top

That’s the roof of the blue car, also thickly coated.

So to weeding and shoveling and mowing,  add washing two cars.

Only a few more weeks of Spring left.   

Then comes my least favorite season of the year.

MAY THE 4TH. BE WITH YOU.

May 4, 2016

….  and other May Timing.

(May the Fourth be with you;    and of course, a greeting like that from me would mean the Force that is that inexorable and constant force of Grace from your Creator,  calling us all back to Him, and to a life lived well, in His will, and with the help of His Grace.)

But I like Star Was too.

May is a month of many significant occurrences.    Let’s see if I can do them in order.

May First is the day Christendom remembers St. Joseph,  the foster father of Jesus,  spouse of Mary, who watched over the Holy Family,  guiding them through danger  and   providing for them.   It is necessary for a (Jewish) father to train his sons in some skill so that they can make a living and in turn provide for their own families.

Hence, we can say that Jesus, too, was a carpenter,  as St. Joseph was.   (a  “technon”  in Greek:  a builder, a general contractor, perhaps, as well as carpentry skills.)   Joseph’s trade skills and his labors are part and parcel of his dignity.   Our work, our labors, our jobs,  give us pride and dignity.   ( If you have a job,  you are not being “oppressed.”)

And so on May First we honor the dignity of workers through the example of St. Joseph.  It is said of Joseph that he was a Just man.   Learn from him,  learn fatherly skills from him; learn to respect the man in your house,  the father of your children, the head of your household.

May the First is also the world’s celebration of  burdensome and murderous  forms of governments that oppress “Workers”   by using and ruling over the Working Class.  A celebration that is sometimes called “May Day,”   and ironic cry for help.

May 2nd is the day we celebrate the life of St. Athanasius,  who fought tirelessly for the Truth of Church teachings,   in spite of almost universal opposition, several exiles,  excommunications from weak Church leaders. . .  and still he persisted –for the sake of succeeding generations.

May 3rd we celebrate the Finding of the True Cross – an interesting event, but hardly recognized as significant in today’s busy, distracted, and skeptical  world. (and, no,  the Emperor Constantine was not quite a Christian at this time, and he did NOT force the Roman world to become Christian, nor did he change Church teachings by mixing them with pagan religions.  If you want to refute “history,”   start there.)

May the Fourth . . .  is fun.   But it is also deadly serious for me, personally.   Today is the day we remember St. Monica.    Mother of unceasing prayers and tears.   Mother of Augustine,  saint eventually.    For those of you who know me,  enough said.

Yes, each day in May has some significance.   The whole month is the Month of Mary.    Dedicated to her and her attractive attributes.     Last year I did a series of  flowers, one for each day for her,  each one exemplifying a lovely attribute of the Mother of Jesus.   When the series was over,  I discovered a month was not long enough.   If you’d like to be charmed by some loveliness,  you can check out the archives:  2015, May.

We have Mother’s Day this month.   I hope some sentimental tears are shed by sons and daughters.

There are several birthdays in my  immediate family.

May 13th will be the next really huge Remembrance.    It may have utmost significance for our world.   This year is the 99th anniversary of a strange and important visitation from Heavenly beings to the three children in Fatima, Portugal.   These “beings”  were St. Michael,  the head of the Armies of Heaven who fight against the enemies of God;  Mary,  herself, with most important information;  and then a glimpse of Jesus and of St. Joseph.

99 years ago.    Next year will be 100, a significant and common grouping of years marked out by humans to signify a discreet and identifiable period of time.    Instructions were given 99 years ago.  Prophecies were made.   Proofs were given, witnessed in the end by 70,000 people,  photographed, and not all in the immediate vicinity.   And then Warnings were given if instructions weren’t carried out, individually and by the Church.

As far as I can see, in these past 99 years,   few have heeded the Instructions . .  . and warnings.

So what comes next year when the 100-year period has ended?

Finally, and appropriately,  the month ends with Memorial Day, where we remember those who have died defending our country in times of War.  Most likely we will not be in a world war in this year’s May.

I hope this won’t be the last peacetime Memorial Day.

Just . . . plant some flowers and vegetables somewhere on your property.    It’s time for that here in the Far North.      Plant some Beauty and Joy and Peace and, above all:   Hope in God, that He is in charge of things.

 

AN OUTDOOR INTERLUDE – CARIBBEAN BLUE

April 21, 2016

Springtime in the Far North – finally –  and with it comes some annual chores:

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Kind of a messy overview of my annual spring task,  which is to add some kind of blue dye to the water to prevent an overgrowth of algae —  which uses up the oxygen that the fish need.   The dye prevents some of the  sunlight from penetrating the water, thus preventing the overgrowth growth of plants that shouldn’t be there.

I always worry about putting the dye into the home of the goldfish.   I know it mixes in after a while, and dilutes itself,   but I didn’t want to dump the dye onto the goldfish.       Little critters saw me at the edge of the pond and kept following me,  though.

It takes a while for the dye to spread out into the pond.    That’s not “sky,”  that’s just the reflection of the trees in the different colors.

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But then the pond becomes a beautiful blue in the sunlight:

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Blotchy blue at first,  then a nice Caribbean blue:

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Blue  +  gold = green?    Every year I fear I’m going to change the color of the goldfish.   But it never happens.   They just swim around looking like exotic tropical fish in their  newly “decorated”  habitat:

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They’re doing fine.

Deo gratias.

And thanks also for  this backyard pond which produces a sense of natural serenity for us here.

I’m the caretaker; the pond can be a lot of work,  but I don’t mind.

A LITTLE WEATHER HUMOR

April 6, 2016

Weather humor:  as in “this must be a joke.”

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Every Spring  the ducks come back and  bring such  a sense of serenity to my back yard.     When they’re swimming in the pond or resting on the bank it seems that everything must be all right;  no problems;   peace and safety.  Nature  at its nicest.

But . . .   they’re usually not resting on snow.   Sometimes they are.     I’ve seen snow on their backs as they swim in a surprise spring snowstorm.    But not usually.

The weatherman has a big job here in the Far North at this time of the year:

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He’s got to be prepared for everything.   It’s kind of fun.

We had sunshine yesterday,  and it rained too;  and snowed;  and I think there was a little ice storm or sleet after midnight.    Same thing a couple of other days last week:  rain, snow, sleety stuff,  sunshine for a while …  and the weatherman threw some hail in there too on one of those days.      The days are windy – and not windy.

No,  it’s not “climate change.”  It’s not “extreme” weather.   It’s just typical.

And it’s fun.    You might as well give up planning what to wear.   If you go outside you’re going to get rained on, then you’ll get hot;  and you’ll have to hold your winter scarf around your neck when the wind blows the snow around.

If you don’t mind all that,   it really is a funny sort of weather joke.

Seasons changing;   the world is fully alive.   And fun!

 

JANUARY 6 – BEGINNING THE END

January 6, 2016

The “end of Christmas,”  that is.

Good-bye reindeer in my front yard.  Hope you haven’t kept too many neighbors up in the night with your bright lights.

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I woke up sometime in the middle of the night last night;  opened my eyes;  and my vision was filled with  Christmas tree lights.  I don’t know where my “consciousness” was as I was sleeping there near the tree,  but when I opened my eyes,  it was as though I was coming into this world and seeing these lights for the very first time.   They were utterly beautiful!  Each little light bulb was a separate brightly colored gem.

(No photo would do justice to the deepness of the more-than-beautiful lights….)

I think I told myself,  “Oh,  it’s so pretty!”    Like I had never seen them before.   The sensation of delight lasted for a very long time (until I fell asleep again.)   How lucky to have been sleeping just about ten feet away from the lighted Christmas tree!

I was aware that I must take it all down, now, on January 6th.   Epiphany.   the Wise Men have arrived.

I took a walk last night too –  freezing cold.   Our winter weather is here.  I saw the same neighborhood Christmas lights as before,  but this time the snow surface was frozen hard and shiny.

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Looked like Santa was on a lake.   Last chance to see him.

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My hands were getting numb from the cold,  but it was worth it —  kind of sad to think the season is over;  last chance to see the snowmen until next year — at least I hope this family decorates so well again.

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Time to put away nearly all of my own Christmas decorations.   It is the “twelfth day of Christmas”  now.

Twelve official days to think about the Incarnation of the Son of God.   (He made the Light.   He turned the Light into physical, material atoms.  Could He not visit us by making use of His own physical world?  Sure He could.)

Incarnation –   In-carnated.     Enfleshed.    With a fleshly, carnal body, like we have.   So we could see with our own eyes what God is like;  what He says;  what he does;   what He wants Love to be;  and coming with a job to do for us.    Hope!     And a smile on our faces.

With the One God like that,  with so much effort to show Himself to us,  wise people respond with gratitude and gift-giving.

Giving gifts

But I’m not that wise;  not wise enough to “make a list”  of things that I could give to show my dim understanding of the Incarnation . . .    That’s why we’re told the only thing we can do is to give Him our “all” — give to Him all that we are.

I don’t even quite know how to bring that about,  but I know He is pleased with our efforts.   Twelve Days of Christmas?     That’s hardly enough time for a proper show of joy and gratitude!

And now it’s over.

The Church doesn’t end the season completely until February 2nd, of course,  but this first phase is ending.

It’s the beginning of the end of this year’s Christmas.   Time to look forward,now, into this unknown New Year.

 

FALL – TO THE END

November 18, 2015

Now comes a period of some heavy introspection.

Seen through the eyes of autumn duties of a homeowner —

This is the story of my home:

Sandstone house

Home:     A man.   Or a woman.  Or a man and a woman.   Man and woman and children.    Later,  man and woman, children moved out.   Then . . .  woman.

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One day this summer Son “gifted me” with this beautiful lawn — or rather the nice, even stripes on the lawn.   I was having trouble doing the whole yard by myself (for a while this summer)  and he took over the hard outdoor work, setting up a nice lawn for me to enjoy.

I’ve learned that,  for anything valuable,  there is a lot of work to do, not just to set it up,  but to maintain . . .

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I like using this kind.   It’s quieter and the lawn seems to like it,  if you’re sensitive to “outcomes.”     Our marriage was rather easy to “set up” but required constant, sometimes costly maintenance,  and you had to always be sensitive to the results of what you were doing.

Eventually,  sunset comes.

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And the leaves fall off the trees.

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And it’s time to pick up the pieces.    You know?

 

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One of my favorite photos of Hubbie is of him, several  years ago,  raking leaves.   He shouldn’t have been doing it because he was already struggling with his heart condition,  but I think he was enjoying a beautiful Fall day as much as I enjoy this season too.  Besides,  he was wearing my favorite shirt that I liked to see him in:  a soft, light tan and brown flannel shirt.  I could hardly keep my hands off of it!      He liked it too, probably because of all the hugs he got!  But I ran in and got my camera because I wanted to remember him like that,  that day,  raking leaves.

Last night’s work was just the light “cleaning up.”  I had done a lot of the more serious, heavy leaf-raking in the weeks before.    I enjoyed working in the evening.  It was somewhat warm, a little windy.  Good surroundings to do some thinking and sorting things out while I raked the leaves.

If felt like “clearing away” the last debris lying on the lawn,  also lying around in my mind.

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But I never rake leaves, now, without thinking of Hubbie, and the last Fall season of his life.

I had made an enormous leaf pile as things were getting darker.    I love to rake leaves.   Strange, huh?  Good honest exercise, fresh air,  and the repetitive work that is so good for thinking.

But Hubbie had a different idea.   For some reason,  he liked to use the very loud,  very heavy . .  . leaf blower!     He bought it.  He liked it.  And that was okay until five years plus two weeks ago.

Beginning of November, 2010.    His heart was so weak.  He had so little strength yet, and he knew something that none of us knew, or wanted to know.     I had become very protective of him, or of his heart.   I told him that at this stage, “exercising your heart”  doesn’t make it stronger, like other muscles;  it makes it weaker,  using up what function is left there.

And so that day, five years and two weeks ago,  I went  outside and  got him to stop using that heavy, noisy,  irritating thing;  and he agreed to come in and “take a rest.”

I fed him —  my “secret weapon”  to make him sleep for a while.   Oh, yes, I was all crafty ulterior motives back then,  anything to protect that heart of his.

And a couple hours later, while I was busy somewhere else in the house,  I heard a familiar sound.

The leaf blower again.

This time I rushed outside and actually grabbed the leaf blower out of his hands.  I had never done anything so bold before;  so decisive;  so certain.   I didn’t act that way around him.    (Sensitive to the outcomes,  remember? I know what my “lawn” likes.)

We had a talk.   We were inexperienced and innocent about things like “terminal health.”

We decided to call his doctor the next day and ask for “a prescription for oxygen,”  like the oxygen which saved his life a few years before when we were up on a mountaintop, attending our daughter’s wedding.

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That’s us.  8,300 feet up, wedding site accessible only by ski lift.    It suited the young couple’s lifestyle.    But not Hubbie’s struggling heart.   He needed an oxygen tank.

It worked then . .  . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR FUTURE REFERENCE (Personal)

March 28, 2015

This really is just a personal note — for future reference.  

One of the “random thoughts”  that arises in The Spruce Tunnel is that springtime is not all bunnies and daffodils.   There is a lot of outdoor  work coming up and I need to start thinking about what has to be done.    I’ll refer back to these photos to help with the “central planning.”

It all looks good, at a quick glance.   The snow is gone here in the Far North.    The house survived.

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But this is the pretty little flower garden right out my front door:

SAMSUNGPretty little flower garden not.    Many trees were taken down last Fall,  right before the snow came.   Lots of debris revealed after the snow goes.

And all those tree-cutting trucks left their mark:

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Some of the tracks are six inches deep.     Near the top of our To Do List is smoothing out the surface . . .  somehow.

And those big machines left big holes:

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Those can be filled in and reseeded.

But what to do about the ground that is covered in wood chips? Finely chopped wood chips spread  all over:

SAMSUNGThat’s what it looked like after I raked today.     Outdoor vacuum cleaner?

So — I’ll have to come back to these pictures to remind myself that the work out there is really real.       I’ll have to study all those home improvement store catalogs.     I’m going to have a long To Do List.

And plenty of exercise.   Won’t have to join a gym this year again.

Spring flower banner

MAPLE SYRUP TIME!

March 21, 2015

(Post 2 of 3 for my new Reader who likes the “Food Part.”)

Come with me to a Maple Syrup Festival today!!     This will be a photographic tour,  so not too many words from me.

From the Website of  our local nature center:

SAMSUNG The trail map:

SAMSUNGI didn’t think I would need this map.   It had too many miles on it!!      But the parking lots were full to overflowing, and I found a place to park very far away from the syrup festival.

I walked through many parking lots but didn’t mind very much.   Good exercise,  good weather,  and interesting things to look at:

SAMSUNGThis looks like fun for some other day.

Walking on and on and on,  I finally came to a Do Not Enter road:

SAMSUNGSo of course I headed that way.

At last I saw a tent –  seemed like a good sign.

SAMSUNGIt turned out to be a place to eat —  What else?

SAMSUNGAnd what  do you eat at a  Maple Syrup Festival?     Flap jacks, sausage, and maple syrup.

Outdoor dining:

SAMSUNGOutdoor dining in winter jackets.   This is the Far  North, after all.    It smelled good, but I didn’t come to eat,  so I went on in search of those who were making the syrup.

SAMSUNGThe pathways through the woods were rather nice,   nice and long,  so you had to keep looking for the little yellow signs near the ground.

Ever watch that television series called “Grimm”  ?

SAMSUNGNever mind.

It wasn’t really that scary.    . . . In the daylight.

SAMSUNGThat red “house” up ahead was the educational headquarters for maple syrup making.     Earnest volunteers presented good information.

SAMSUNGWe were given the opportunity to try our hand at drilling tap holes.

Which is why there were many trees like this:

SAMSUNGYou make a hole (somehow)  and then choose a tap:

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Here’s a cross section of what happens when you insert a tap into a tree trunk:

SAMSUNGThose dark gray rectangles are the taps.  How do you know how many taps to use on a tree?

SAMSUNGThere are measurements and formulas based on those measurements…   Unfortunately, the young volunteer was not very good at math.    He was college-aged, I’d guess,  but he couldn’t explain to someone what  diameter or  radius meant, but he offered to the person that orange tape measure.  That’s okay.  He did clarify for me that the taps break into the phloem, which results in the “leakage” of the sap into the tap and out into the attached bucket.

SAMSUNGThese buckets are covered so no one has to stay there for a few days shooing away the bugs and flies.

SAMSUNGBuckets on many of the trees.

And here’s what you do with all the sap that you’ve collected:

SAMSUNGIf you don’t have fancy equipment or a big enough kitchen,  you boil the sap over a wood fire.

SAMSUNGOr you can use a modern “evaporator.”   Either way there is the wonderful smell of wood smoke and maple syrup in the air.

Although,  we were told,  one can tap into other kinds of trees,  even walnut,  the maples have the most sugar in their sap.   So here’s a good look at a maple stand in case you’d like to recognize when you’re in one:

SAMSUNG(I’m told it’s easier to recognize when the leaves are out!)

So – let’s eat!

SAMSUNG(Or let’s buy!)

Lots of maple products for sale.    Candy, syrup,  maple butter,  and even maple granulated sugar – with recipes for its use.

This table had maple syrup root beer:

SAMSUNGSomehow I came out with two bags full of maple stuff.      (This comes only once a year, right?)

Then it was time to find my way back to the car.

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It really was a lovely walk.

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It would have been so easy to have stayed home,  but it was very worthwhile to go to the Festival.

Sometimes I like the way our tax dollars are spent.

(Next time I’ll tell you why we have to work so hard to get our maple syrup from the trees.)

TRIPLE TREAT IN THE HEAVENS ABOVE

March 20, 2015

Just as yesterday was a special day in Christendom,   today is a special day for the astronomical world.

When we survey our world, we talk of beautiful things in the “heavens above and the earth  beneath.”    It’s poetic.     The “heavens above”  are filled with things we can see, like the birds (and the airplanes) and the clouds and the moon and the sun….

geese blueThe “highest heavens”  often refer to that region in space where there are things we can’t rightly see without the help of powerful telescopes and charts and diagrams, and it reaches way out to the edge of known space at the borders of the next dimension,  far beyond where this quarantined Earth exists.    It’s the realm that angels transverse — or maybe other unknown beings —  and is more a concept than a geographical “space.”

And Heaven . . .  that is a term used to describe where God is, and where we cannot be — in this life.    It is Other and Eternal and All-Good.

Today our triple treat comes from the nearest heavens, that which we can see.   This is where the moon revolves around the earth and the earth-moon system revolves around the sun.  Sometimes all three heavenly bodies line up in a straight line, and that’s called syzygy.   Cool word!

Here is a New Moon syszygy.    We would see a very dark moon in the sky.

syszygy today

During some times of syzygy,  the moon is directly in the way of our sun, we get a Full Moon,  and being the same apparent size as the sun,  the moon blocks our view.

eclipseThat happened today and could be seen in full in northern Europe, especially towards the Arctic Circle.    (Europe’s electrical grid relies on solar power for as much as 20% in some places.   Did the grid hold?    Did it flicker?)

So the first “treat” is this is the day of a total eclipse.

The second treat happens because the moon revolves around the earth, but not in a perfect circle.   It is  slightly off, a slightly flattened circle.    So sometimes the moon is just a little closer to the earth than at other times.   When the moon is as close to the earth as it can be, following its pathway,  we call that  perigee.

The second treat?      When syzygy and perigee happen on the same day  we have a Supermoon!

Supermoon

A syzygy can give us either a new moon (very dark)  or a full moon (the very brightest.     Unfortunately,  this unusually large, bright moon, called a Supermoon,  is best detected by astronomical instruments,  not our naked eye.     (Camera shots and atmospheric magnification notwithstanding.)

The third treat  is also best understood with instruments and maps and charts – that is,  it’s intellectually known.  Today is the day of the Vernal Equinox,  when the direct rays of the sun fall  on our equator.     There,  daytime and nighttime should be an equal amount of hours.   The equinox is a kind of astronomical halfway point between deepest winter and highest summer.

Well, here’s an uninspiring chart of the rays of the sun hitting directly perpendicular at various points on the earth.   Try to imagine that the earth is in motion, and the sun, relatively speaking, is not.   Because our planet is tilted at about a 23 1/2 degree angle,  the direct rays of the sun land perpendicularly in different places each day.

earth equinoxesSo there’s our Triple Treat for today,  March 20, 2015:

1.  Total Eclipse of the sun  

2.  A Supermoon

3.  The Vernal-Spring Equinox

Spring flower banner

Happy Spring!   

CLOSING A BOOK, OPENING ANOTHER

February 1, 2015

I threw away a book today.  It looked good, promising.  a historical saga interweaving a tale of the early settlers right off the Mayflower with a contemporary account of how the direct descendants of those first arrivals are doing now.    I tried hard to enjoy the historical details, but in the end the trashy mind of a 20th century author overcame the enjoyment.     Disappointing.

And so today, also,  it seems like we’re closing the book on this year’s football season.   I’m going to enjoy this last “super”  game,  but … Uh . . .

Bear down

You know.    The season was a little disappointing.

It’s a good day for football, though.    Big snowstorm to keep us in by the fireplace;  and some pretty good food:

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Although I’m getting a little BBQ’d out —  ribs and wings.    More south-of-the-border type meat coming later too.     (That avocado didn’t quite make it to the guacamole.)

I won’t tell you who I’m rooting for.   It won’t be the QB who purportedly makes mindless PSA’s on behalf of the man they put into our Wh*   it e Ho  use.     There’s the other QB.     I think his coach has the right idea:

belichick yeah

He’s going to be interesting to watch.    (“Don’t tread on me” on the back of his t-shirt.)

But all this will be Yesterday’s News, tomorrow.    Days pass, pages turn,  some pages get tossed out in the trash, never to be remembered again.

Some things have a short life cycle, and then it ends.

Some things come to us in cycles, over and over,  like an ever-deepening spiral,  and although it’s time to close some books,   all over Christendom today a new one is opening,   a new part of the cycle that will last as long as this world lasts.

We close the season of Christmastide today and open the penitential season.     Lent-Lite today.    Septuagesima.

More on that soon — after the football season finally comes to an end.

 

 

WHAT … MOON IS IT?

January 5, 2015

What time moon is it?    Well, it’s a Full Moon tonight.   Did you know each full moon has a name?    People before us who lived closer to nature often gave the full moon of each month a name appropriate to the season’s activities.

moon tonight

There are several traditions of naming,  but the most common and the one I like the most are the names that were used by the North American Indians, for a long, long time, before the Europeans  wrote about them in the 16th century.     I also have a great respect for and devotion to St. Isaac Jogues, who was martyred by some in the Huron Nation in the 17th century, and so these Indian names keep their memory and St. Isaac Jogues faith alive in my mind.  ( Hmmmm.  I thought I wrote more about him.   I plan a summer trip to the site of his martyrdom this year. . . .)

It’s extremely cold outside my house tonight,  and we’re having intermittent clouds;  Lake Effect snow from a Lake that is over a hundred miles away.    Most often I look out my window and see only this:

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Not much through a lens but it’s . . . nice.  Nice to see a full moon.    Tonight’s extreme cold reminds me why January’s full moon is called the Wolf Moon — everyone was hungry by now, so far from harvest, so deep into winter, so cold that game was scarce and even the wolves were hungry.    The howling packs of hungry wolves name this month’s full moon.

Here are all the traditional names, for the use of your imagination:

January:  Wolf Moon,  for the common sound of howling, hungry wolves

February:  Full Snow Moon, named for the often heavy snowfalls experienced in the northern United States.

March:   Full Crow Moon,  because as the winter weather moderated a little bit,  crows were heard

April:  Full Pink Moon,  because in April the  herb moss pink ( wild ground phlox)  began to be seen as the snow melted

May:  Full Flower Moon  for the abundant Spring flowers.  What a happy sight that must have been!

June:  Full Rose Moon,  named after the color of the strawberries that grew during their short but important season

July:  Full Buck Moon   This is the month that antlers grew out from the heads of the bucks, soft and velvety,  itchy and irritating!

August:   Full Sturgeon Moon     The sturgeon became easier to catch during August in all the Great Lakes

September:   Full Harvest Moon,  because this is when the corn can be harvested, and the moon late at night extended the light for longer harvesting times.

October:    Full Hunter Moon  (also a European name) because now is the time to store up food for the coming winter

November:   Full Beaver Moon.  Time to set your beaver traps!   The beaver get busier now too to prepare for winter

December:   Full Long Nights Moon.      This is the Cold Moon or the Long Nights moon,  both describing the moon’s trajectory during undeniably winter nights

Usually there is one full moon for each month, but sometimes February doesn’t have time to have a full moon, and sometimes the dates fall just right so that there are two full moons in one month.  The second moon in the month is called the Blue Moon.    And because the Harvest Moon is tied to the autumnal equinox,  sometimes it has to occur in the month of October.

God grant that knowing the names of the full moons is just an interesting option for us and never becomes a helpful necessity.

 

 

COMING . . . COMING . . . COMING

December 1, 2014

And the second holiday in my foggy brain over this last week:  Thanksgiving . . .  and now Advent.    The Season of Advent began this Sunday; it is the First Sunday of Advent.   One candle lit.

Clip Advent 1

 

Advent means coming.   Coming of what?  to whom?   to where?    Coming of whom?  to what?

The answer is threefold.   

The coming of God into the world,   His birth at Bethlehem.   It is impossible for a man to be God;  but would you limit the power of God and say He could not take on our human nature and become a man . .  .  if He wanted to?     So during Advent, we in this part of the world, scurry around cleaning our homes, decorating,  writing out Christmas cards,  making lists,  shopping, baking.    Advent is preparation for our Christmas Day.

God is not satisfied with merely coming into this world, this dimension,  leaving Heaven to come to our world.    He comes to be able to dwell within us.    He comes to do the work He has to do, as a human,  to die as a human, in order to come in actuality and in reality into our hearts.   Deep inside us is where He wants to come to, as our Savior.      Deep inside us,  if we make room for Him.  And so there is inner preparation to do too.  That is private, individual, quiet, and profound.      It is like an inner housecleaning, making ourselves fit for our Creator’s notice.

And there will be one more coming of God to our world:  Advent tells us to remember that God will someday, probably soon,  come to us as our Judge, because He won’t have patience with us forever and ever.   As long as we’re alive,  the clock ticks.   The time that is ticking is very precious because it gives us the opportunity to prepare for our own judgment.     But the clock will be out of ticks someday.    Just as we all have so many heartbeats allotted to us,  so this world has so many “tick-tocks”  allotted to it.

 

Advent is a Coming.  

The Coming of Whom . . . to what?       Of the Son of God to His world.

The Coming of Whom . . . to whom?      Of the Savior to us humans.

The Coming of What . . . to what?      The Coming of Judgment to this World.

 

 

 

“IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. . .”

October 31, 2014

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“It was a dark and stormy night…” (*)  may be the opening words of the truly “worst novel ever written,”  but here in the Far North,   it really WAS a dark and stormy night.

Perfect!  for Halloween!

Dark.   Strong gusty winds.   Snow showers.   Leaves rustling and wind roaring through the trees.

Perfect!  for wrapping up in a nice cozy fleece blanket and reading a semi-interesting book about the settling of the old West.

Hallowe’en is for children, and it’s fun to help them have a good scary fun time. . .   Tomorrow is All Saints Day –  honoring the “all Hallowed” people whom we have this All Hallows Evening for.    Today was Friday, and we give thanks by remembering that Friday almost two thousand years ago when God made peace between Himself and mankind — so that one day, believing,  we can walk those hallowed streets of Heaven, hallowed ourselves,  with the Hallowed saints who came before us.

Life is good and full and filled with interesting holidays and holy days and seasons changing and duties to do and feelings to feel and pleasures to enjoy.   These “dark and stormy” nights remind us of all the variety that comes our way.   Do it ALL!            (Happy Halloween!)

Bar wavy

(*)  —  Opening lines of novel  Paul Clifford  by author  Edward Bulwer-Lytton  

SPRUCE TUNNEL OVERCOME – WALK WITH ME

October 11, 2014

There was something different in the Spruce Tunnel today:

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I haven’t forgotten to get to the “4-letter word”  in my posting here,    but after those last two, I needed a break.  I needed to get some grounding  today,  so I went out to the “real”  Spruce Tunnel to quiet my thoughts in a familiar place.

As soon as I drove into the park,  I could see something was going to be different.

SAMSUNGInstead of a quiet walk under the cool, dark giant  spruce trees,  I could see that sunlight!  and yellow!  were going to be dominant.  Here, the yellow maple announces its dominance over the Spruce Tunnel.

I began my walk down the pathway —

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—  but the pathway, this time, led to shining yellow sunlight.      I wasn’t going to get my quiet, thoughtful walk through the dark Tunnel.

SAMSUNGI passed  the familiar mossy tree trunk, but it was guarded by yellow leaves.    Mostly I just looked upwards, 30, 40, 50,  75 feet up into the air.

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Good thing my ankles are strong because I kept walking off the pathway.     The whole Spruce Tunnel looked – different.

The forest of giants was filled with yellow air.

 

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I stood close up, right under the yellow.

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The yellow maples had just about overcome the giant spruce trees.   They were still there –

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Towering above even the tall maples,  the giant spruce are there, waiting for the colors to pass.

Change of seasons!   Color!   Football!         Cider and Donuts!    Cool, crisp air!       It’s hard to be somber and thoughtful in the Fall in the Far North.

And it’s going to get “worse” !

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The trees are beginning to change from yellow to red!

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It’s going to be very hard to take this beautiful world for granted for a while.

Deo gratias.

IT BEGINS — THE END OF THE YEAR

October 1, 2014

It’s been five days since I posted?  No, six?    It’s been six days of extreme Sleep Deprivation due to the most happy circumstances.

And meanwhile,  everything has become beautiful   — even the cracks of the sidewalks!

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At the center of this busy weekend was a trip to church on Sunday morning, and I remembered to take my camera with me.  So many beautiful photos, but I’ll show just a very few:

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“It” begins/ Fall begins.   The end of the year is beginning with  golden yellow colors this year.   This is on the campus of our Big Ten university, and yellow seems to be the color of choice.

Passing our minor league baseball stadium:

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The yellows vary in intensity depending upon the direction of the sunlight competing with the colors.

At last, I arrived at church…somewhere behind those yellow leaves:

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You didn’t have to wear yellow to go inside, though, as long as you were colorful!   —

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Fall begins with  beautiful yellows this year, but it is only beginning here in the Far North.

But for Full Disclosure, our leaves are only half changed:

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One side yellow, one side green.

It’s only the first half of the beginning of the end (of the year).     I hope I find some reds and oranges too.

More on this past weekend next post.   It was my birthday.    It’s a beautiful time of my life,  but it, too, is the beginning of the end….  Or maybe I’m only halfway into the ending.

 

 

 

THE CERTAINTY OF SPRING

April 14, 2014

Gee whiz.     Around here in the Far North  we’ve got “Spring forward and Fall backward”  to remind us about the change to and from Daylight Saving Time, and a third one:   “Fall in Spring” !

Our weather forecast map:

Fall in Spring weather map

And  here’s a photo-report from my cousin in the Far, Far North this week.  “Traffic”  on her street:

Traffic for Lois

Maybe that’s “Winter in  Spring.”

Her deer are diligently keeping watch over the maple sap,  which, I assume,  is diligently trying to run:

Maple watched by deer

All that area is covered up with snow right now.  Spring didn’t quite make it there yet.

Well, in spite of that weather map,  it really won’t be winter for us.   A few inches of snow?     That’s just Fall.

As in “falling leaves.”

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That photo was taken a week ago.  All our beautiful snow melted away and exposed the autumn leaves that had fallen after all that raking last…well, last time we had “Fall.”  There’s nothing to do but to do it all  over again.

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We’ve had some pretty,  sunny days to do the yardwork,  but sometimes I wonder if I’m just on the edge of possibly maybe beginning to feel that sustained yardwork is for younger people.    Like the teenagers down the street.

 

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I lost count after thirteen “barrowfulls”  of leaves and sticks,  but who’s counting anyway?   It’s not like I’m complaining.    I really do love the outdoor work – free exercise, you know,  without gym fees.

And yardwork is a good way to keep track of things.    Take inventory.  See what’s  going on in the lawn department:

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Swirly holes.  All over.

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Looking for last year’s acorns.   Going to have a good crop of squirrels this year.

Spring.    Anticipating new life.  Passover.   Anticipating the Messiah to the ones who brought us news of the Messiah.    Easter.   To the ones who acknowledge the Messiah –  and the certainty of New Life,  just as certain as Spring weather will come.

UH-OH – A HINT OF SPRING

March 8, 2014

I know I’m supposed to be appreciating our warm weather today.  For the second day in a row, our temperature reached somewhere over 40 degrees.   But, then,  if you had a pile of skis and ski poles, ice skates, and assorted jackets, scarves, and mittens just inside your front door,  you’d understand that “spring”  brings the end of a lot of nice things.

It’s too early to think “rose buds and robins”  but almost too late to get in more winter fun.

Here was Hubbie’s red car last Sunday, parked near little  snowbanks.

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Tomorrow I’ll be there  again,  climbing snow banks to get into church, because it takes more than a couple 40-degree days to turn winter into spring.

Sometimes winter on that red car  just inspires “photography.”   One freezing cold day the car door was covered  with beautiful little crystals,  not from ice but from the salt and sand plastered against the car.

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You’ve got to take time to find ‘beauty”  where it is!

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But in yesterday’s warmth I washed my cars and said a “good-bye soon”  to the ever-present grimy coating.    And then I remembered the other photo I took when I was walking back to my snowy parking place last Sunday.

Palm Trees in the Snow!

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The front license plate?    Ron-Jon’s.    My favorite tourist shop in Florida.  No robins yet, but, oddly enough, I began to remember some happy times in warm weather.

I love the change of seasons.   You try to hang on to the fun of the present season,  but then you can begin anticipating the pleasures of the next.   Surely, this is a beautiful Creation.

Deo gratias!