Category Archives: Nature

“Ode to the West Wind” in Autumn

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave,until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

~excerpt from "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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In the Midst of Autumn

The colors are lovely this time of year.  It’s bittersweet to me.  I covet the hours that I will no longer spend outside, drenched in sunshine and warm air.  I will miss the few fleeting days of shorts and bare feet.  It takes so much longer to put carhartts and boots on, then a coat, glove liners and gloves, an ear band, hat, and muffler.  And even if it is crystalline and beautiful – even magical, one isn’t tempted to linger terribly long when it is only ten degrees outside.  Yes, there will be cross-country skiing, ring hockey, snowball fights.  And lots and lots of shoveling.  And warm weather will seem interminably far off.

But for now the short-lived weeks of orange and gold and red mingled with the dying pale green of the few remaining leaves pull a lump to my throat.  This beauty is unmatched, perhaps because of the very swiftness with which it passes before the trees are bare and lifeless once more.

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Glacier Bay, Alaska

Twenty years ago my not-yet-husband Jesse spent the summer working in Glacier Bay, Alaska.  He fell deeply in love with it, and has longed to go back ever since then.  When you live in the midwest, Alaska is no weekend car trip.  It’s a big deal!  Hence, we have never made it there since he returned.  Until now, that is.  We knew a full-fledged family vacation, complete with lodgings and meals, airplane tickets for six and the other trimmings, wasn’t likely to happen.  Unless maybe we sold the house.  Or one of the kids.  Not gonna happen.

So after some daydreaming on his part and urging on mine, he eschewed the idea of taking the whole family, and modestly packed our oldest daughter off for a ten day wilderness camping expedition in Glacier Bay National Park.  Camping, youth hostels and dried beans and rice were doable!

Cecily at Bartlett Cove

I get to retrieve them from the airport late tonight.  They will have good stories and good memories to share, and I’m sure they won’t let me sleep a wink on the drive home.

My wandering hero at Blackwater Pond. I seem to remember another photograph, twenty years before, in the same spot.

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The Golden Hour

This is the front porch of the Cooperstown Bed and Breakfast in Cooperstown, NY. If I could wave my hand and make it so, everyone would have a lovely spot somewhere to sit and renew mind, spirit, and body whenever they needed it.

I have asked some of my friends what their favorite rituals are.  Sadly, many of them can’t answer that question.  Is this world so fast paced that we have lost our ability even to recharge ourselves?  To take in the beauty of the moment?  It is important for people to have signposts in their lives, I think.  We do have some spread out throughout the year – holidays, birthdays, special events such as weddings.

But what about in the day-to-day?  How many todays have flown by, running one into the next until each day becomes a nearly indistinguishable yesterday from any other?

It was near dinnertime yesterday on the long drive home from the Holland/Saugatuck, Michigan area where I had taken my two youngest children tent camping.  I was driving, looking forward with anticipation to this morning when I would once again  take part in my own daily ritual.  I was actually a bit distressed that here I was, again, thinking about coffee on the porch in the morning.  Is it even healthy to think about it so much?  It seems that I actually start looking forward to this ritual by midafternoon about every day, and my thoughts continue to come back to it throughout the rest of the day.  For me, it is a beautiful, necessary start to my day.

I wake earlier than my children, but after my early-rising husband, who has already headed downstairs to his office most days.  I put either tea or coffee on and I steam my milk on the stove.  Every step to preparing my coffee is calculated, though not necessarily important of itself.  But it must be done to get to the good part!  Then, weather permitting, I take my coffee to the front porch, spread a throw across my lap, and look out over my flower beds and across the lawn at the orchard and the woodland trees.  There are always birds about – many times woodpeckers and hummingbirds.  Bees and dragonflies flit busily around the flowers.  The fresh air, the morning light… it is all part of the experience.  I can nurse my coffee there for an hour, and I often do, alone with my thoughts, the sights, sounds, smells, and breezes of the morning.

My own front porch, with the periwinkle blue door that makes me smile. If I could, I would capture the essence of my mornings for you … the flowers, the trees, the sunshine, the flying creatures, the birdsong. You must conjure it up in your own mind, and add the loveliness to it.

Oh, there are variations, of course.  If the black flies or mosquitos are bad, I zip myself into the screened in canopy tent on the back deck.  If it is too cold I will cocoon myself up in the club chair in my bedroom or out on the back sunporch with the kerosene heater burning.  If I am traveling, I will seek a hot drink that makes me happy, and search out a quiet spot to enjoy it.  But it is the time that is valuable.  The sipping, the reflecting, the slow start to my day.

My Grandpa used to wake at 6 am and sit at the kitchen table for an hour or more with his black coffee and a newspaper.  At the tender age of eight, or ten, or even twenty, it sounded like madness!  But I am his grandchild, there is no doubt, with a bit of my Dad thrown in.  Dad has an appreciation for the outdoors I never saw in Grandpa.  But you put the two together and there is nothing finer, nothing more rejuvenating to me than a slow, savory drinking of hot tea or coffee smack dab in the middle of nature in the morning!

I have asked my friends.  Now I ask you.  What are your favorite rituals?

Do you have any?  Would it do your spirit good to create one that is uniquely you?  Mine is a beautiful, invigorating, reflective, creative, altogether necessary part of living a beautiful life.  I hope you can enjoy such frequent stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of moments in your own life.


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Dreaming of Summer …

Feeling the need for some flowers today…

This was Betsy when she was about three years old ... we had a great back yard then with lots of big trees and lilac bushes for the kids to make "houses" out of! LOL! Kids are great! If you don't have any, rent some!

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March Thaw

A March thaw at twilight is not a hopeful thing.  Particularly when it arrives only a week after a doozy of a snowstorm that left, literally, dozens of broken trees and branches littering the farm.  It is the bearer of news, revealing how much work will be required to put the place to rights this spring.  Half the garden lays bare of snow, looking dismal with heaps of wet roughage and displaced mulch.  The chicken fencing sags ominously.  I don’t know really if it will even stay up until the ground has thawed enough to pull old posts, re-space them and add a few more for reinforcement.

An owl calls. The dusky green-blue horizon lays behind the treetops. Rivers of snowmelt carve miniature canyons from the big barn at the top of the slope to the horse barn down by the gate at our wooded road.  It is the ending to an absolutely glorious, blue-sky, sun-drenched day of clearing out the undergrowth and popples beyond our paddocks.  It was sixty degrees and sunny.  Now the temperature has dropped and the last bit of light makes the work yet to be done look heavy and hard.  A good night’s sleep is a must.

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Winter Twilight, AuSable River Valley


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