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The morning was bright and clear with dashes of sunshine stroking my life. Decorations were scattered about our rambling abode; angels rested on high, books stacked within reach, and there were even a few batches of cookies stored in decorative tins. A rare December day with no meetings on the calendar, a tank full of gas and a list of wonders that I wanted to see, so, off I went with a purpose in mind.

My first stop was to see an exhibit about one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life,  at the Elmhurst History Museum. Alas and alack, I arrived to discover it would not open for several more hours, so . . . I promptly reversed my plans and headed, first, to the Wilder Park Conservatory. The Conservatory is an oasis of growth and warmth, history and soulful nourishment nestled into an award-winning park in the western suburbs.

Opening the door, a couple I have known were exiting, two charming grandsons toddling out with them. These two youngsters informed me that there were “fishes” and “elves” inside.

Well, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but, elves here and there and everywhere in the conservatory, along with this poinsettia tree and a cheerful display of the plants all around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In need of a “cuppa” of something warm and a bit of bite to eat, I headed to the north end of town and Brewpoint Coffee and Roastery where I had a tasty blueberry scone and a hot mocha (called Sacagawea).

As luck would have it, on a day filled with good luck, a perfect parking spot awaited me smack dab in the center of town. Like many suburbs around Chicago, parking is at a premium, so I quickly signaled my intent to park, claiming my curbside cradle. My first stop was The Pink Elephant, a well stocked charity shop. I chatted for quite sometime with a woman I did not know as we good-naturedly tried to talk each other into buying something we did not need. Do you ever do that? As a result, this caroler sang her way into my arms and followed me home.

I stopped at a new store, Bread and Butter, where I had purchased a darling pair of earrings a few weeks earlier. It is such a cute shop and the owner, a enterprising young woman, is as delightful as her products. I left with these cute stocking caps meant for bottles that Rudolf absconded with to keep his antlers warm.

My final stop, which was my first on what became a delightful circuitous route, was a tour of the exhibit at the Elmhurst History MuseumIt’s a Wonderful Life. Posters and “stills” from the movie lined the museum’s wall with informative narratives describing scenes, props, biographical information and other tidbits of knowledge about a beloved movie.

Included in this exhibition are photos and information about Elmhurst’s own Christmas traditions and photos of the city around the time depicted in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I did not take many photos, in part to maintain the integrity of the exhibition, and in part to lure you into the museum if you live in the area or are visiting. It is truly worth the visit and is within a short walking distance of not only the conservatory, but, of the renowned Elmhurst Art Museum.

Here are two characters from the movie, the original Bert and Ernie, and another character you might recall, Toots, with her earrings dangling and her infamous red coat.

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“Gratitude can transform common days into
thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change
ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

 William Arthur Ward

I rolled over, checked the clock, and wished for a few more moments of sleep and a dozen or so more degrees in temperature.  At an unseasonably cold 17 degrees (F), I was signed up for a guided walk with a friend that I had not seen in quite a while. A nature enthusiast and photographer extraordinaire, I didn’t want to let Peggy down – nor myself – so, a mantra of “up and at ’em”  pushed me forward and into the frigid early November morn. After a cup of tea, an English muffin and then a shower, I layered warm clothes on: a hooded fleece jacket, my blue winter coat, and a red shawl to brace myself against the wind, and headed out to the Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Peggy greeted me as I got out of my car and we headed in to the mansion where other attendees had gathered. We  met our docent, signed in and chatted while waiting for others to arrive before hearing an overview of our morning’s walk with a focus on gratitude.

I can not say enough good things about our docent. She was knowledgable about the mansion, the property, and the history of the area, while having a calming aura about her, encouraging us to observe what was around us while being mindful of the beauty and sense of place. At several locations, taking from the indigenous people who once lived here, we had moments of instruction and then moments quiet solitude.

As we were guided through the grounds, we were encouraged to feel the pull of the land we stood on and to feel the encouragement of those who may have helped us or lifted us up in our lives. While this wasn’t the intent of my participation, I none-the-less felt the overwhelming sadness of this past year as well as the abiding appreciation of those who helped in the caring of my sister, Dottie, as she entered into the final stages of her journey with pancreatic cancer. There were many who lifted us up and in so many ways eased the load of caring for someone at end-stage cancer. Unintentional in my choice to participate in this walk, I was quite mindful of a cathartic elements this walk afforded me.


We spent some time around the chapel, used by the monks who inhabited the estate after Mr. Peabody suddenly passed away and the property was sold to them. A few walkers remembered the youthful legends of Peabody’s Tomb and the monks who lived there; teenaged adventures of the fearless and those who dared to trespass on the property. We walked around, admiring the chapel and the site, some of us writing thoughts down, others taking photos, talking or just being present in the moment.

 

We walked the restored prairie amid native grasses and plants. My shawl helped keep me warm, however, I may never get all of the seeds I brushed against off of it. I wondered if the owl found me to be a foolish human!

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The oak savanna helped shelter us from the wind and the rustle of leaves was a soothing sound. Soon, we arrived at Mayslake, which is manmade. It glistened in the sunlight and sparkled in its iciness.

 

One of the many gifts of this walk was the flocks of Sandhill cranes that gathered overhead. They were close enough for us to watch as they swooped and floated and joined together for their long migration south. I felt such gratitude for this sighting. These cranes are most often heard but are only seen as specks high up in the sky. The photo (below) does not do the migration justice, I am sorry to say. If you zoom in, you might be able to see the groups circling as they join together. It was only when I downloaded my photos that I noticed the hawk landing on the top of the tree.

Our docent encouraged us to keep a gratitude journal of small things and large that we have to be grateful for. She suggested that just writing a few words down each day is all we need to get started to trigger our memories. There is an action between writing something down that helps the brain remember. Hmmm . . . maybe that is why when I write down a grocery list then forget to bring it with, I do remember most things on the list.

Peggy and I warmed up a bit in the mansion, thanked the docent and decided to grab something warm to drink and lunch – and talk some more.

On my way home, I stopped at a newly opened home furnishings store. As I walked in, this journal caught my eye. I bought it and keep it near my bedside table, where I endeavor to write down words or phrases; things I am grateful for, starting with my very first entry.

 

https://www.dupageforest.org/places-to-go/forest-preserves/mayslake

For an interesting article of the history of Peabody and the tomb, here is an interesting article: http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-history-cop/2015/08/the-chicago-legend-of-peabody-s-tomb-and-the-masochistic-monks-turns-93-today/

 

 

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“Some single trees, wholly bright scarlet, seen against others of their kind still freshly green, or against evergreens, are more memorable than whole groves will be by-and-by. How beautiful, when a whole tree is like one great fruit full of ripe juices, every leaf from lowest limb to topmost spire, all aglow, especially if you look toward the sun! What more remarkable object can there be in the landscape? Visible for miles, too fair to be believed. If such a phenomenon occurred but once, it would be handed down by tradition to posterity, and get into the mythology at last.”

-From “Autumnal Tints” by Henry Thoreau; 1862

 

One of our most memorable moments was on a fine October day, ten or so years ago, at Walden Pond. You can read about it here. On that remarkable day, Tom and I walked and talked and didn’t talk, seeing the original site of Thoreau’s cabin and a reconstruction of it. The air was crisp and clear and the scenery mystical. The photo on top was taken on Walden Pond on that long ago day.

Across the pond, a singular tree accented the landscape and glowed like no other. When Thoreau’s quote popped up in my internet wandering, I immediately thought of the scarlet tree at Walden Pond.

Thoreau’s quote and our Walden Pond walk came to mind once more as Tom and I walked, much closer to home, at one of our favorite spots, Lake Katherine. It was the same sort of cool, crisp October day, with the sun shining, powder puff clouds sprinkled here and there, the soft crunch of fallen leaves at our feet  – and the brilliant mythology of Autumn before us.

Right red

 

Where do you go to find your own myths of nature?

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“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”  e.e. cummings

Yes!

We have enjoyed some amazing “blue dream” skies hereabouts as summer drifts into fall.

Autumn is a favorite time of year for me as warm days give way to cooler nights which bring about the vivid shades of reds and yellows and browns that dapple the many forests and the parkways of my existence. There are hints of Autumn splendor now, even as we mourn the wilting flowers that proclaim their weariness as they turn brown, set seed and die back.

While the woods transform, so do the prairies. They are a moveable feast for the birds and for the pollinators gathering from the plethora of seeds and the last of summer’s blooms. I love to watch the goldfinch, the chickadees and other feathered friends as they flit about gathering sustenance for their journeys on the long winter ahead.

These are, I believe, sawtooth sunflowers. They have brushed the prairie landscape in magnificent swathes of golden splendor and rise above their cousins to amazing heights, touching the sky and daring my beloved Antler Man to see how much taller they are than he is. These sunflowers rise more than 10 feet tall.

So, dear friends, off I go to see what I can see, in search of honey and treetops and all which I hope will remain infinite on this journey of life and for everything that is yes.

 

 

 

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. . . more precisely, three miles.

I was lost. I could hear voices and I knew “kinda sorta” where I was, but, lost none-the-less. Not-to-worry. I was safe, had my cell phone, and this gaping natural marker to lead me back to where I needed to be.

My proclivity to veering off-road once again steered me into an adventure – this time in Lyman Woods. In my defense, I was scoping out the location for a possible field trip for our garden club. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. These woods are in plain sight on a fairly well-traveled road. I had visited once before, discovering a charmed woods and a Little Free Library, which you can find more information about here.

So there I was, on my way home from church, when my car impulsively turned into the parking lot of Lyman Woods and onto the path to the William F. Sherman, Jr. Interpretive Center which has a green roof and is on a plot where one of thirty or so houses once stood. While visible from the street, it does not have the look of most nature centers in this area. I find it not only refreshing, but, forward thinking in its purpose and style.

This is the walkway up to the Interpretive Center, from a parking lot that cautions visitors to not let their cars idle, a sign of caution and care for the environment and the preserve I was about to enter.

The roof is carpeted in prairie plants and serves several environmental purposes, including reducing storm water runoff. Here’s another look as well as the interpretive signage. The center hosts a variety of programs for children and adults throughout the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From beekeeping, to habitats for butterflies, hummingbirds and hummingbird moths, migratory birds, deer, coyote and more, these woods are a substantial refuge surrounded by well-travelled roads, a university, a large hospital complex, high-rising business buildings and luxurious home

Before I got lost in the woods, I was lost in this garden plot, packed with flowers and vegetables, beehives and scarecrows! I stood for quite some time, and I hopped about in my happy dance as goldfinch flitted about and a hummingbird rested upon a wire. The bee population was active, as were several hummingbird moths. I would love to try the honey harvested here and will go back and look for some in Autumn.

 


 

 

 I decided to take a short walk after a delightful couple and their small child showed me to way to the marsh telling me to “just follow the path then turn right and then left and there is the marsh where migrating birds come“.

I passed the tree with yawning stump, taking some photos  – just because – and wandered about, a leisurely stroll on a warm Sunday afternoon, the canopy of trees sheltering me and a soft breeze to keep me company.

I found a bench looking out toward the marsh, but, no pathway to it. No matter, I kept walking, and walking and walking. A stout rabbit watched me along the path, hopping into the brush when I got closer, surely wondering what this lady with a camera was doing. Well, taking photos, of course, along the prairie teeming with life and woods with their primal sounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I passed the back of the university and doubled around (or so I thought) past a wetland and then reaching the very end of the trail. Not THE END, of course, for I needed to work my way back to the beginning. Good thing I took so many photos. They became my Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs as I wandered past the wetland and university’s back yard, the bunny path and the prairie. I heard the wail of siren bringing someone to the nearby hospital and saw the lush view of the marsh, made a slow turn at a junction, walked a bit more and then, there it was, the stumpy foot of the tree that seemed to be spilling out words to me “oh, hey there, lady wanderer, here’s the way back” – and it was!

I love these simple moments of discovery and adventure and respect those who have found ways to save these living sanctuaries.

How about you? Have you wandered somewhere new lately – or somewhere familiar that rides the tides of time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The door opened and there they were!

It seemed like forever since we had been with our Up North family. Late at night from far away, they tumbled in with boxes and bags and suitcases, and with all the pent up energy that had been stowed away during their long car drive. Hugs and kisses and then they, and we, all bedded down for the night and a week of being blissfully busy.

I feel inordinately blessed that our grandchildren feel at home and comfortable with us and that they settle in swiftly while upping the ante of energy, at least as far as this granny is concerned.

Life is grand!

So it was, on that very first day, that breakfasts were eaten, the garden explored, bikes and scooters employed and impending adventures discussed, bringing us all to the Morton Arboretum to track down the infamous trolls guarding the grounds.

Wow! He’s big!

Uh, this one is going to eat Ezra!

Papa rescued Ezra, who found a rather large footrest to settle upon for a bit.

“Yia Yia, do you know that flowers look better in a picture when you show them with your hand?” said Kezzie. Our citizen scientist and budding photographer then proceeded to demonstrate how. .

 

Such a sweet boy, waiting for his treat to arrive.



Kezzie, the afore-mentioned citizen scientist, noticed something moving in the grasses at the pond just outside the large expanse of windows in the Visitors Center. What’s a gal to do when she sees such a thing? She takes her Yia Yia’s hand and leads her around the pond to find it – and we did! All markings lead to a Black Capped Night Heron. Searching for the heron mushroomed into an enjoyable walk, looking at flowers and for turtles, hearing crickets and spotting dragonflies. Eventually, a search party (Papa and Auntie Jenny) were expedited to search for us – and found us!

 

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It is significant business – the bustling and buzzing and brushing of pollen from one flower to the next, insuring seed production needed for plant species to survive. It is laborious and focused work with little rest for bees and moths and butterflies. For pollinators, danger is always lurking, yet, here they are, and here we hope they will remain – the movers and shakers of pollen.

In the garden and on my walks, I see them. I watch them. I hope I honor their presence by thanking them silently in my heart, these agents of pollination, as they visit my tomatoes and your cucumbers and all that surrounds us. These many pollinators manufacture the honey of the hives and they help bring forth all the flowers that we grow and arrange and appreciate. Whether the bumblebee on a warm summer’s day or a nocturnal moth when all else is dark, they are the link to our food supply and to all the beauty that surrounds us.

My collection of words is weak this day, but, I do have a packet of pollinator pictures. I hope you won’t mind if I share them here. Please click onto the photos, especially the bottom one, which has a variety of pollinators on it.

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, what pollinators are you seeing? My Southern Hemisphere friends, who are in winter now, what are you looking forward to with the renewal of spring?


 

 


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