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Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

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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It sounded like a raindrop.

Plop.

The rusty colored grasses and spent blooms danced in the sun-dried breeze.

Plop.

The cloudless sky’s likeness reflected on the water of the expansive slough which had receded considerably from its banks during the long dry spell.

Plop.

The distinctive smell of rain, petrichor, was non-existent; the earth dry as a bone. We needed rain.

Plop.

 Then there it was,  the gentle folding of a stem, a leaf, a flower gone to seed.

Plop.

It was the weight of grasshoppers landing on the leaves and stems and faded flower past their prime that were making the sound; a prelude to Autumn’s splendor.

I sat on a bench for a bit, listening to this primal sound of nature. I never heard it before – or had I forgotten what I heard? I remembered catching grasshoppers as a child, wondering if it was really tar that grasshoppers ejected, but, not this sound. The simple pleasure of discovery on an October afternoon.

As I rested on the bench, I continued to hear the plop, plop, plop of grasshoppers. I thought of the plague of grasshoppers that wiped out all of Pa’s wheat in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, “By the Shores of Plum Creek”.  The grasshoppers, which were actually Rocky Mountain locusts, first appeared as a black cloud on the horizon. They dropped down and decimated the Ingalls’ crops and neighbors’ crops, destroying all of that year’s wheat harvest. Then, they laid eggs which meant more grasshoppers the next spring. They destroyed the following year’s crops. To make matters worse, the grasshoppers flew into the little house, down the chimney, through cracks in the chinking, covering the floor, clothing, everything. A natural disaster, for certain, and one I would not want to experience.

I arose and continued on my walk. Yellow finch flitted past, here and there with their distinctive, dipping flight pattern, darts of golden energy. Bees hummed on their nectar finding missions and a flock of geese came in for a landing, honking like harried cab drivers in the Loop. Geese never arrive unannounced, unlike the great blue heron that swooped in without a sound and landed on the reedy shore.

My walk ended, but not my amazement as I noticed that the maples were starting to turn color. I held the hope in my heart that we just might have a colorful fall after all.

Plop!

 

 

 

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I

have been

chasing sunsets.

Ever since August’s solar eclipse, which cast its spell on random groups of strangers, I have been wandering off our little acreage just before to sunset to bid farewell to the day.

While we reside in a semi-rural area nestled underneath a generous canopy of trees, the windy city’s skyscrapers loom to the east and suburban development rises to the west. We are not in the best of spots for capturing the rising or setting sun.

So it was the other day, with nary a ray of sunshine shining upon on our little prairie, that the Antler Man encouraged me to head down the road in search of the sunset. He reminded me of the many times we’ve driven up the hill only to be blinded by the setting sun as we reached the apex.

Thus encouraged and energized, off I went and sure enough, I was startled by sunlight before making my way around the bend in the road.

I headed over to an unlikely spot on a well-traveled road that the locals frequent. My cell phone app conveniently told me the hour and minute the sun would set, giving me an ETA with ten or fifteen minutes to spare.

There were several cars already parked in the narrow wayside at the Saganashkee Slough. A few fishermen set their lines over the rail while two teenaged girls were having fun with what appeared to be carpool karaoke. I could see them mouthing words, gesticulating and bouncing to music, which I could barely hear (thank goodness) as they politely closed the car’s windows. A serious photographer had what looked like an intricate camera perched on a tripod and other sunset-seekers were sitting on portable directors’ chairs while a few children did what children do – they ran around laughing and shouting and bickering and hugging.

Two boys, around the ages of eight and ten, darted to and fro, stopping to ask “Papa, did you start it?”. “Yes” said Papa, patiently, while another child, a girl, a few years older than the oldest boy read a book in a nearby chair.

I found a spot along the rail, looking toward the descending sun, then turned my back while I engaged my cell phone’s camera.

“Did you set your camera to time-lapse?” a younger voice asked me.

Well, no, I had not, and told the older boy I was just taking photos. He thought I needed to do a time-lapse. I had a few minutes, Papa indicated it was okay, and I was given a mini-lesson in time-lapse photography by a ten year old boy!

I looked across the slough, really a big lake, and told my two new friends that it was time.

“Papa, are you ready?”  He was and I said “There goes the sun. Let’s start counting down from 3, 2, 1!” The sun disappeared as we exclaimed our collective delight. The children’s father thanked me for being nice to his sons and I thanked them all for showing me how to work my camera in a new way. Cars were started, the karaoke kids stopped performing, fishing poles and tripods were dismantled and another day was done.

As I opened the door to my car, the older boy ran up to me and asked if I would come back another time. I told him I would and that I hoped we could all watch another sunset.

There have been other sunsets to chase since then, and there will be more in days to come, but this one sunset gave me a just a few extra rays of hope in this troubled and turbulent world we live it.

 

 

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Eclipse Day

 I had a meeting to attend, which was held in a local library.  The library has rooms that can be reserved for groups to gather in. The library was also hosting a live-stream viewing of the eclipse. Libraries do so much more than share books. They bring people together for good causes, information, lectures, workshops – and unique observations of this small planet we live on.

Our meeting commenced with facts and figures, observances and suggestions – and the increased “ping” of cell phones, alerting this one or that of where the moon and sun were in their celestial dance.

Citizen scientists and nature lovers, there are also several retired teachers who were itching to see Mother Nature in full solar force. One-by-one the chairs were vacated, business was concluded, and off we went to check out the live-stream or exit out onto the library’s outdoor grounds to experience this rare and unique phenomenon – a solar eclipse.

 

Here I am, my friends, expressing my own partial eclipse of the sun and the moon and my hair! (No, I did not look up with my bare eyes.)

Garden club members, who had been in attendance at the meeting, mingled with small children, library patrons, curious passers-by and library staff. Our dear friend Marilyn had eclipse glasses and shared them, as did the library’s director and others, passing the special spectacles around, sharing this special moment in time. I think I was as much in awe of those gathered as I was of the eclipse. A gaggle of dissimilar folks of all ages and backgrounds, abilities and interests, gathered on a walkway experiencing an eclipse of the sun.

I tried to imagine how our ancestors experienced an eclipse. They would not have had the big “build-up” we have experienced with scientific information, medical warnings, long lines waiting for free glasses – or the despicable scammers who sold glasses that were not what they claimed. Many of us remember altering boxes with pinholes, set upon our heads, class projects and spending time outdoors trying to catch images of the eclipse.

A few viewers were checking the weather on their cell phones, announcing a drop or two in degrees, which really is not unusual in Chicagoland.

We chatted and continued to share the sun glasses, a small consortium of curious folks following the sun and earnestly engaged in the moment. A chorus of crickets and locusts were strumming their music usually heard at dusk, though it was only midday. Their premature chorus was a call and response as we. in turn,  oohed and ahhhed and wowed and expressed our emotions at the awesome show in the cloudy sky on a hot summer day.

How about you? Did the eclipse’s path cross yours on August 21?

Have you ever experienced a solar eclipse?

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It was surprisingly busy for a Sunday afternoon. Long lines at the counters and dressing room. I was in a high-end store in a high-end shopping center in need of a specific item I’ve needed that Nordstrom’s carried. Sunday was the last day of their semi-annual sale and a good deal was to be had!

I queued up for a dressing room, then to make my purchase. I thought about grabbing a quick bite in the restaurant, realized I was all queued out and just needed to head home. I walked toward the escalator, following another flow of shoppers navigating more lines, and approached the rolling staircase.

There I was, a smallish bag in one hand, a largish purse in the other, not well-balanced at all, with the optical illusion of steps before me oscillating downward in a “Now you see me, now you don’t” pattern.

I don’t do steps well. You can imagine my expertise on escalators.

I waited, a second longer than socially acceptable, then dipped my toes onto the outgoing step, grabbing the sliding rail, aware of the growing line-up behind me. I am the pain in the butt you do not want to follow on escalators, but, I am what I am (or is it I yam what I yam?) and stepped on, turning slightly  to see who was on the step behind me.

No one!

No one was behind me – then someone was. Detecting my slight turn of the head, a soft voice said, “You are fine. I’ve got your back.” Someone had my back! Wow! My protector said “I’m a rehab nurse. I saw your hesitation. I do not want you to be hurt and don’t want to have to take care of you on the bottom of the escalator”. We both chuckled, I told her I appreciated her kindness, and disembarked from the disappearing steps as they folded into wherever it is that escalator steps escape to. I tilted my head back toward my rear guard and said “Thank you, dear angel, for having my back”. “You’re welcome”. 

It is comforting to know that someone has your back now-and-then, especially on an escalator.

Has anyone had your back lately?

From YouTube

 

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Oddly enough, Tony Orlando and Dawn have been singing away in my head lately.

Knock three times, on the ceiling if you want me,

twice on the pipes, if the answer is no

There I was, water raining down, my hair all wet and lathered up, when the water pressure slowly diminished until it was but a mere dribble. It would have been easier to rinse with an eye dropper. I somehow managed to get the soap out – and then became shower-deprived, followed by  flusher deprived- if you know what I mean.

For awhile, we were able to wash dishes and hands and use water by tapping on a valve, in the basement, two flights down. This meant we both needed to be in the house. It was, shall I say, an interesting “tap” dance in marital harmony.

I hesitated to complain, but DID, quite vociferously, in fact, to my beloved Antler Man, who had been waiting to shower for a very long time as he recovered from a foot wound. Instead of a shower he was employed in fixing the flusher (which I just wrote for alliteration). We did, in the end, need a new pressure valve and then, a few days later, a new tank. Thank heaven for this dear man who meets many such challenges and for our neighbor Rick who lent a helping hand and some expertise.

All’s well that ends well and a few more horticultural posts are perking away.

Besides being in a flush, I’ve been busy with family, gardening, and life in general and apologize for being absent for such a long while. I hope you are all doing well. For now, while I take another shower, here’s a clip from a movie I enjoy viewing every-now-and-again. Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. It reminds me of our recent plumbing issues here on the Cutoff.

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It has been awhile since I’ve picked a book up and was unable to put it down. I have had a good run of audio books, but, one can only spend so much time “reading” in the car, so, I took my chances when “The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” called to me at one of the libraries I frequent.

The La Grange Library has several racks of new books, movies, and audio just beyond the entryway. Upon those racks, are a few select shelves of books with a bright yellow sticker proclaiming LUCKY DAY. These are often newer releases and popular books; books readers hope to get their hands on but haven’t been able to.

Michael Finkel’s “The Stranger in the Woods . . . ” stood there, looking directly at the door as if waiting just for me to enter. On my honor, it beckoned me, held my gaze, and what was I to do? I snatched it up and moseyed on down (well, actually on up) to a comfortable spot, sat down, peeked between the covers, and promptly checked the book out.

LUCKY DAY books are granted for one only one week. They can be renewed.

A shy, intelligent, twenty year old man from a peaceful Massachusetts childhood takes off one day, leaving his family, his job, his possessions and his new car and walks into an unfamiliar Maine woods where he remains, alone, for twenty-seven years.

Chris Knight survives brutal winters and never-ending solitude hidden in a small, well hidden clearing in the forest, amazingly close to others. He is content with his existence there. No one notices him. He lives by his wits – and by burglarizing the summer cabins nearby, as well as a summer camp. He takes only what he needs to survive, including canned goods, soap, National Geographic magazines, sleeping bags, propane tanks, mattresses and batteries. He steals almost exclusively on moonless, early winter nights, hopping across rocks in the dark, never leaving tracks behind. He takes only from summer residences and the camp, leaving year-round homes untouched. He has robbed some 1,000 times.

Community members are perplexed, terrified (especially those who are robbed repeatedly) and troubled. Some blame their children or neighbors for missing things while others wonder if they are just becoming forgetful.

Chris Knight manages to avoid or disarm alarm systems, motion detectors and sensors. He is masterful at picking locks, opening windows and otherwise finding ways to enter, always leaving homes in good if depleted condition. He takes only what he needs to survive and understands that stealing is wrong!

One night, after setting up silent alarms, Sargeant Terry Hugh’s’ beeper goes off. He catches the thief, demands he hit the ground, calls in reinforcements and thus begins the end of decades of robbery and the beginning of this story about the fabled hermit, now known as Chris Knight.

Michael Finkel, a journalist who lives in Montana, first hears on the news of the arrest of Chris Knight, a loner with a hermit-like existence. He is curious about a man who had not spoken or interacted with anyone in more than two decades. Mr. Finkel writes a letter, includes copies of some of his own stories and sends them to Knight in prison. They correspond and Finkel eventually visits him there, attends his trial, and eventually writes this captivating story. I suspect will one day be a movie.

“The Stranger in the Woods; The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit ” was an enthralling narrative of 200 or so pages – and it left me hoping that no hermits were living here along the Cutoff.

Have you read an “un-put-downable” recently?

 

 

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