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Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Following a rather busy June and early July, I decided to make the most of some much appreciated down time to just be me.

This, of course, translates easily into me wandering off to explore nature.

So it was on an overcast Saturday afternoon that the I opted for a walk at the Dean Nature Sanctuary in Oak Brook.

The sanctuary is a wildlife habitat – hidden in plain view. It was through the generous endowment of one of the early founding residents of Oak Brook, Dorothy Dean. With the assistance of the Conservation Foundation, Dorothy Dean generously donated this expanse of land to the Oak Brook Park District.

The story of this sanctuary is an interesting history lesson as well as a unique example of land preservation and stewardship. It also provides insight into the personality and foresight of Dorothy Dean, who used the advance of the Illinois Tollway system to her – and now our – advantage and resulted in the large pond at the site which is a refuge to waterfowl and wildlife. The story is rendered with more perfection than I can do here on my little blog. I encourage you to click on the link below to learn more.

Under the threat of rain, I parked the car, and scurried to one of the paths to make a quick loop around the pond and to rejoice in midst of a riot of prairie bloom! Cone flowers and bergamot, Culver’s root and brown-eyed Susan were bending in the breeze – or stretching toward sunlight, while a

 pair of mourning doves shared a branch high atop of tree.

As I walked, I noticed plant stems bending ever-so-slowly to the will of pollinators; bees and wasps and butterflies spreading the secrets of summer. From stem-to-stem they worked their way among the blooms of the sanctuary, while a heron stalked the edge of the pond and red-winged blackbirds taunted each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I often walk the paths of the Dean Nature Sanctuary, it seemed particularly special for me on Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed getting some exercise, clearing my mind, and observing the living things surrounding me. A dog was walking its master while a gaggle of pre-teen girls passed by, giggling at something on one of their phones. Something splashed loudly in the pond and a hawk circled overhead, looking for dinner, I supposed. I needed to head home to do the same so headed to my car feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Later, at home, checking out the website for the Dean Nature Sanctuary, a visual caught my eye. Oh! Bee Parks Honey. The Oak Brook Park District was selling honey harvested from the Dean Nature Sanctuary! I prefer to use local honey whenever I can, as you may recall, and dug a little deeper into the site. I sent an email to the Park District, and promptly received a very nice response thanking me for my inquiry and informing me that I could buy the honey at the park district office. All honey money (my term) will be used to support their universal playground project. I wish them well in this endeavor. Parks that are accessible to everyone benefit all of us.

Guess where I went the next afternoon?


https://www.obparks.org/history

 

 

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There we were, two pilgrims, on the southbound side of a narrow road, looking to catch the sunset. We were stopped at a cross road at a red light. There was a cemetery and Long John Slough to the right. Cook County Forest Preserves and Crawdad Slough hung to the road on the left. All but the cemetery are a part of the vast acreage of the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

I was first in line when the light changed, with several cars lined up behind me. I accelerated at a good clip as I crossed the road, only to see something in the middle of it. We both let out a verbal volley of “what’s that” as I swerved into the northbound lane, grateful no cars were coming from that direction, and slowed to just shy of a stop.

“Is that a turtle” and “Yes, I think it is” was exchanged while backed-up motorists were wondering what was going on.

Slowly, ever-so-slowly, I crept past, propelled by a stanza of “ohnoohnoohno“. Turning the car around, I parked close to the embankment. We each tumbled out of the car, waving our hands in a universal gesture of “stop”.

As if on cue from Central Casting, a marked vehicle pulled up. “It’s a turtle” said I while my other half, a patch on one eye from a medical procedure, assessed the slow moving situation. “I think I can pick it up from behind.

Is it a snapping turtle?” came from the marked vehicle, which I thought was a police car.  “Ummmm” and then “Yeah. It’s a snapper” as we watched the now angry turtle snapping and turning, round and around, in super slo-mo. Mr. Turtle was smack dab in the middle of here to there, with cars come from everywhere, an anxious granny and her antler man and some sort of officer, armed with a shovel and didn’t seem to know what to do anymore than we did.

Should we contact a forest ranger?” said the granny.  “I AM a ranger” piped the shovel brandishing, rather indignant one.

(Well, really, how was I to know? We seemed to know more about rounding up turtles than HE did.”  This tale at this point is one almost worthy of Aesop.)

I emptied a box from the trunk of the car and put it gently atop the turtle, who thrashed and pushed and did what turtles do, relieved himself just missing my foot.

Just then, a motorcycle zoomed past – and then came to a stop. In one snappy motion, the young man was off of his bike, handing his helmet to his riding companion, and crossing the road. “What’s the problem?” said he, staring calmly at a box toting granny, a man with an eye patch, and a ranger with a shovel standing at attention.  It was almost, not quite, American Gothic.

The young cycling chap approached Mr. Turtle, escaped from under the box and snapping away. “Well now, I’ll just pick him up from behind and walk him over there to the shore” – and he did! He grabbed the turtle and held him out far enough to escape the turtle’s aim. Slowly, but surely, the easy rider and the turtle crossed the road, went down the slope of Long John’s slough, and snip, snap, snout – this tale is told out!

THE END

 

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Rescuer of Once Loved Things:

The Art of Donna Castellanos

Dressed to the 9’s’

On a blustery Sunday, half past high noon, heading home from church, I found myself annoyed at the inclement weather which seemed bent on bending me away from my walks in the woods. On the spot (well, actually behind the wheel) I decided to take advantage of the time on my hands. I wrote Tom a text so he wouldn’t worry, and headed over to the Elmhurst Art Museum to see Donna Castellanos’ acclaimed exhibit.

The Elmhurst Art Museum sits steps away from the Elmhurst Public Library in Wilder Park. It is a small but remarkable gem in the western suburbs and hosts exciting, innovative artwork, community programs, experiential teaching, gatherings and more. The museum also houses one of only three remaining homes designed by Mies van der Rohe.

Using rescued items as varied as train tracks and typewriter keys, encyclopedia covers to sheet music, brass rings and old musical instruments, Donna Castellanos’s work invites visitors to not only enjoy her artistry, but, to imagine new ways to employ old things.

I wandered this small museum, amazed at the spectrum of Donna’s work and in awe of her vision. I felt the challenge of her art that implores the viewer to see everyday items in imaginative, fresh ways and dare to envision a renewed look in the “things” we have, we find, we toss away.

Rather than ramble on with my words, I invite you to click onto the photos – once, maybe twice – and look at the mixture of media employed by this remarkable woman. Her masterful marriage of  encyclopedia pages, old lace and Lionel train tracks, acrylic paint, fibers and tattered lace all make for a happily ever after in the innovative exhibit. This is a mere sampling of what this exciting exhibition holds.

I also invite you to head over to the Elmhurst Art Museum to experience Donna’s artwork on a personal level. Bring your kids or grandkid. The exhibit has several experiential areas for children to make artwork of their own.

 

 

https://www.elmhurstartmuseum.org/exhibitions/rescuer-once-loved-things-art-donna-castellanos

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When not in the kitchen baking with Kezzie, or stuck in the computer’s photo booth with this young man, we have been off on mini-adventures to familiar places with our Up North family who came for a visit.

Ezra has grown so much since we last saw him. He amazes me with his burgeoning intellect, eagerness and inquisitiveness. His attention to detail astounds me as he carefully builds tracks for his Thomas engines and shows signs of reading readiness. He’s a charmer, for certain, and knows he “has me” with just a pleading look in his sky blue eyes. Life is full speed ahead with Ezra.

I remain smitten.

We visited the Morton Arboretum’s children’s garden on a sunny but brisk March afternoon.  Kez & Ez explored the many features, including this rope challenge. I find it quite wonderful that places like the Arboretum have developed areas of their acreage for youngsters. Child-friendly, fun environments that bring children out into nature, developing respect for trees, flowers, animals, and all that our good earth provides.

Our adorable tree hugger,  this bundle of energy brings so much joy to our lives.

 

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February can be a heartless month to those living in a cold climate. Positioned at half-past winter and a quarter to spring, February’s single digit temperatures and snow might swirl in the wind one day and be followed by 60 degrees (F) the next. Warm temperatures bring fast melting snow – over a foot in our neck of the woods – followed by rain, rain, and more rain. We tire of winter in February and we long for green instead of gray.

A bright spot in winter comes, hereabouts, on the last weekend in February and the first in March when Orchids by Hausermann hold their annual open house. I went last Friday; a dour day with leaden skies and a muddy parking lot. As I was directed by employees to a parking spot, visitors leaned into the wind with boxes of greenery, long arching stems of glorious orchids peeking out. Inside the doors was a feast for famished senses, attracting orchid lovers, gardeners, and winter weary wanderers.

Oh, what a glorious adventure on a grim afternoon!

Aisle upon aisle of orchids were displayed in the Hausermann greenhouses. Every color imaginable, scents and textures, potted plants and air plants: splendor as far as the eye could see.

The yellows were radiant,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as were the reds.

Moustaches, whiskers, and other accoutrements- pretty in pink!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a joy it was roaming Hausermann’s, chatting with orchid lovers, photography buffs and even running into a few Elmhurst Garden Club friends.

My green thumb does not extend to orchids, so, I did not purchase a plant. I did, however, buy a small cut orchid arrangement, eager to bring a bit of Hausermann’s beauty home. The arrangement was small, as was the price, with an orchid and ferns nestled into a small container. The sun managed to come out and kiss my little arrangement, which is perched prominently on the kitchen counter.

 On Saturday, I noticed a small puddle of water on the countertop, under the arrangement. I wiped it off and went about my chores. A short while later, there was another puddle. On closer look, there was a teardrop on the tip of a fern leaf. I watched it. Really!  Who watches tear drops on ferns? 🙂  Soon, the swollen droplet let loose and filled the formica lake.

Click onto the photos for a closer look. I don’t want to be alone in watching a fern weep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Come to the church in the Wildwood . . .

As often happens while gadding about, I was looking for one thing and  ended up finding something else, instead.

Zooming past on a wooded by-way at about 50 mph, I saw a sign for the Wayside Chapel. I caught a glimpse of the entrance before I had a chance to signal and made a silent vow to check it out soon.

Soon came a few days later. It was after a heavy snowfall had blanketed our little corner of earth. All things considered, the weather was stable, the roads cleared, and I had been itching to check the Wayside Chapel out.

The Antler Man and I bundled up and set off to see what was to be seen. We were both surprised at this newfound treasure not far from our home.

We didn’t walk far for it was close to dusk, but, there was a paved path that was shoveled clear of ice and snow and we were curious.

The air hung still and silent. There was a downy comfort of over a foot of snow which brought a measure of serenity and peace that we both needed – and it was there for the taking at the Wayside Center in Palos .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked the short path to the Wayside Chapel enjoying the panoramic view and catching glimpses of the farm below. The Children’s Farm, across the road and accessible via a bridge further along the Chapel path, is part of the Center and somewhere I look forward to exploring. I was excited to see that the visitor’s center sells eggs from the farm as well as honey from the farm’s hives and many crafted items made at the Center.

There is a scattering of buildings for all sorts of activities from yoga to painting, meditation to work carving, social services to exploration.

As we explored the center, I felt a sense of tranquility come over me and the words come to the church in the Wildwood started playing in my head. An old version of the song by the Carter family is below and was found on YouTube. Do you have a favorite rendition of the song?

 

Information on the Wayside Chapel at the Center can be found here.

 

 

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How fortunate I was to have had these trusty engines stowed safely behind the driver’s seat. They kept me company and pushed me forward as I chug, chug, chugged along on my long ride home past farmland and forests, mists and moisture, sunshine and shadows in the peaks and valleys of landscape. At times it felt as if I had been dropped into a bowl of candy corn, the panorama of fall colors following me with views I never tire of.

While our Up North family has graciously travelled down several times in the past year, I have not had the opportunity to visit them until recently. Packed with pumpkin muffins and assorted granny goodies, I was anxious for a few precious days. I wasn’t disappointed.

One fine day, we spent a delightful afternoon on an island.

Nicolette Island is located on the Mississippi River which flows through Minneapolis. The island houses restored Victorian dwellings, De Lasalle High School, the Nicolette Island Park, an impressive pavilion, the Bell of Two Friends, the Nicolette Island Inn, and winding paths that afford amazing scenery and opportunities for young ones to explore, pretend, and appreciate nature. Our daughter and son-in-law, Katy and Tom, have instilled a healthy appreciation and respect for nature in their children and are to be commended for their efforts and example.

 

As we approached the Bell of Two Friends, we giggled a bit as the backside looked a bit like, well, like a backside. Once we went under and around the sculpture we were amazed at this stunning monument of peace.

Fall had come to Nicolette Island on what was a crisp, overcast day, displaying colorful splendor on this lovely island.

 

 

We walked and wandered, St. Anthony Falls and industry sharing the space, before crossing back into downtown Minneapolis and Penny’s Cafe.

 


The chef made our crepes on a large, heated wheel, across from the table we chose to sit. We all watched in awe as he balanced the orders, spreading crepe batter on the wheel, filling and folding, making sandwiches and other delectables on another slab to his right.

I chose a crepe fromage, which exceeded expectations! It was outstanding. Ezra, who chose what the woman who took our orders described as special, wholeheartedly agreed, saying it was special, as he energetically tackled his grilled cheese sandwich. Kezzie’s little stuffed fawn, stuffed in his special way, snuggled for warmth next to Katy’s coffee as we all enjoyed the food and the ambiance of Penny’s Cafe.

What a balm for the soul this little adventure was, with an attentive and caring mommy, two darling, inquisitive grandkids, nature and even nourishment in an establishment bearing my name. There were so many other moments of joy during my brief  trip; too many to mention in an already long post. I was grateful for my time with our Up North family and appreciate Ezra’s sharing of his engines as I wended my way home.

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