Sunday, December 28, 2008

Slick City Streets

The other night was warm and the streets were slick with snow melt.

It seemed like a false Spring, teasing the senses with tender caresses of warm air.

Today, the cold snapped and the slick, wet streets have iced over, making the walk more suitable for ice skates. It's a frigid reminder of the harsh reality of winter.
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Stepping off the trail

It was a foggy day in the park today. I have no idea how long the trail is. We wind around in each area of the park, on and off the paved path, sometimes right on the ponds, sometimes along the edges depending on the season. We are usually there for an hour with occasional stops at the benches along the way.

The park has so many different personalities. We see a different trail each day. Today there was a thick blanket of fog, diffusing the shapes and colors of the distant trees.

The air temperature was very warm, soaring into the middle thirties. Believe me, the mid-thirties feel like a heat wave after two weeks of sub zero arctic freeze. I was reminded of the water below as we crossed the softening ice over the pond.

The paths were much easier to walk through on the flat ground. But as we moved into the hills, the trekking through deep snow uphill was more of a challenge.

The treasure spots today were off the path, risking the sink into 5 feet of snow. But the threat of wet feet was worth it to get up close to these winter mushrooms. The shelf like shapes remind me of lit votives offered in prayer.

Stepping off the trail reveals things pretty to look at, but these things are often not suitable for foraging. Why is it that whenever I spot something in nature, be it a berry or a mushroom, my thoughts first go to whether or not I can eat it? I have gathered raspberries, blackberries, grapes, and ramps growing in the wild, but collecting mushrooms is an entirely more complicated process.

Who would have thought I would find such a vibrant red in late December? Not me. Just these four little leaves, and another three on a nearby branch are all that remain of autumn colors.

And then, of course, there was the raindrops on the pine needles.

I hadn't realized what a blessing it is to have this warm air in the middle of December. Usually the cold takes hold of the area, making all movement outside a bit crunchy, a constant crush of snow and ice. The body gets weary as the winter seems to drag on month after month, even in this decade which has been considerably less cold and less snowy than most. This warm burst of air that pushed up from the south was truly a respite from the long drag. The rain and fog lifted my spirits so much so that I don't feel the bone-chilling weight of winter. I look forward to more of what this winter has to offer. More snow, more cross country skiing, more lit fireplaces on a saturday night. And, technically winter has just begun. Embrace the season. OK, I'm trying, and so far, it's fun.

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Xmas lights on the winter pine

The day after christmas, we got a welcome respite from the sub zero temperatures that gripped the region for more than two weeks. Strange to have rain at the end of a Minnesota december.

The rain drops clung to the ends of the pine needles.

They filled the park with natural xmas lights, reflecting the meager light bouncing off the snow covered ground.

An unexpected festive dazzle.

May the season be bright.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The First Trail of the Season

The day was graced with above zero temperatures. The temps soared up into the twenties today, and it sure felt like a heat wave. So the D and I took off from the city, headed north to a state park situated along a scenic river. Although we arrived later than in the afternoon then we had planned, it seemed our timing was lucky as they had just finished grooming the cross country trails.

This year, they had two tracks groomed side-by-side. Skiing through the old oak trees is especially nice because many of them retain their leaves through the winter. They make a wonderful rustling sound as the wind picks up. This part of the trail is about a mile long, then there is a cut down to the river, stretching for another mile right alongside the river and ending with a steep climb back up the riverside cliffs.

Although we were a mere hour north of the city, it felt like we were the only ones in the woods. There were no sounds but the swish of our skis and the sound of the trees. As we got closer to the river, there was the occasional sound of the rush of water through the open areas of the frozen river. We saw no wildlife or birds today. Last year we saw some eagles, and unexpectedly, a flock of swans. So many shades of white in this winter landscape. Solitude and tranquility in every direction you look.

I encourage readers who live in areas where there is snow to go out and cross country ski. Skis and boots can be obtained gently used, and fees are relatively low (especially in comparison to downhill skiing). It is a great opportunity to explore state parks in the winter months, and a great way to get outdoors in a time when it is too easy to stay snuggled up indoors. The moderate exertion of cross country skiing keeps me warm, and of course, I dress in layers to I can take off as I get hot and sweaty, and bundle up when the wind starts to blow along the river. We are lucky in that our city grooms ski trails through city parks and public golf courses. This is primarily how I get my cardio exercise in the winter.

D and I have spent time in this park in every season this state has to offer. It is interesting going by those landmarks on the trails now covered in snow and ice, when previously there was an abundance of green leafy trees and loads of wildflowers. Like I said, we got to the ski trail later than we had planned, and I was hoping we could make it back to the Jeep before the sun set for the day. We had a steep climb up a slope and I didn't want to be caught there as the temperatures dropped. D is able to climb the slope on his skis. I don't know how he does it. I just keep sliding backwards, so I try for a while, but then eventually I kick off my skis and walk up the slope.

On the way up the air seemed less gray, then suddenly it seemed like all the tree trunks and the blanket of snow was glowing pink. As we started on the last bit of the ski trail, the setting sun broke through the clouds,and it blazed a bright fiery orange. We greeted the return of the sun and the beginning of a new year.

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the return of the sun

And the beginning of a new year.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

the remains of the year

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Orange Berries

I never realized that I liked shooting berries so much. I guess this time of year, these are one of the few splashes of color outdoors. These orange ones were a real surprise: The bright color, the sole tree, the perfection of their form. I wonder how long they will last.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

by the pond

Expecting to see the area covered in a big drop of snow,
my disappointment was overturned by the surprising colors
adorning the edges of the pond...

the contrast of the red sumac against the dried yellow grasses....

The dried remains of the pond rise high and sharp...

at times, dipping gracefully to the ground...

attesting to the colorful brilliance of growing wild in the city.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Lion in the Snow

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

UFA - Unidentified Flying Airstream

She is nearly 30 years old. She has a huge dent on the front left side. She stinks sometime. But she's ours. And her personality turns to the eerie under the light of a bright full moon.
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Monday, December 1, 2008

Autumn Garden

As the snow flies in and covers the ground, I am thankful for these last images of Autumn. I got one last day to capture the various bits of what remains in the garden. The next day the snow came and changed the color of everything, finally drenching the last splashes of the bright shades in the purple cabbage and green vinca. Fleeting, for it only caught my attention for a day, now gone until next season.

There was one last twirl of the buds on this browned bush, lined up in the wind like a row of ballet dancers...

The vinca vines peek out through the brown leaves...

still poking its head up, greening in the sun...

The echinacea never loses it grace...

And the chimnea continues to provide warmth in these days. That and a means to joyfully clean up all the branches dropped by a 90-year old elm tree...

Like a prayer to the dying warmth of the sun, the colors of the Autumn garden seek to hold on to their fading colors, before the blanket of snow that will stay with me for several more months.

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