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Archive for the ‘Nature/animals’ Category

Wild Kingdom

It started when I opened the back door to go into the house. A frog hopped boldly in front me, over the threshold and headed toward my purse, which was on the floor inside. Silly frog. I didn’t have any money.

Pictured is our newly acquired “weed whacker”. As long as it stays out of the potted plants, it will be a peaceable kingdom here – or so I thought just as I turned and saw the hanging pot of fuchsia suddenly swinging a bit too fast.

Out the front door, wheezing as I went, just as a chipmunk scurried down into the pot, staring at me behind a leaf – in defiance. “Outofthere” (which became one word as I rapped on the pot, causing the chipmunk to literally bounce up in the air, out of the pot and into the weeds, er, hosta, whilst the crew of construction workers next door stopped to stare at me. (Chippy the Chipmunk was fine – just momentarily dazed.)

All’s well that ends well.

 

Just as the chipmunk scurried out of our little kingdom, a hummingbird arrived and proceeded to sip from the blossoms adorning the hostas then flitted over to the fuchsia flowers. I love these little moments in life.

 

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. . . in which the beginning of visits to three Japanese gardens that I began suddenly posted before it should have. It can be found here¬† My apologies if it was confusing (I’m confused ūüôā )

It is what it is, so,  let us walk together across this stone bridge from the Charlotte Pardridge Ordway Japanese Garden at the end of the previous post and travel together to the first of the Japanese gardens I visited.

 Watch your step.

One more bridge and then we will be . . .

. . .  at the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois.

As with many of my adventures in gardens and parks and forests, this was an excursion organized by the Elmhurst Garden Club’s Conservation and Education Committee. This committee, along with the Horticulture Committee, organize most of our trips. I have been wanting to go this garden in ever-so-long, so was as excited to go as these koi were to see us.

I have been to Japanese gardens before, but, this one seemed to be special – and it was.

We had a docent led tour, which made the experience more meaningful and insightful. We had two docents. One of the docents offered to take those who wished on a slightly less strenuous path with fewer steps to climb and places to stumble. Both were knowledgeable and engaging. We were asked to silence our phones, but, encouraged to take photos and to keep our voices low.

Our docent spoke of the elements of Japanese gardens; moving water, placement of living materials, paths, bridges, tranquil spots to sit and reflect, master craftsmanship and reverence for nature.

 

 

The garden was imagined by John Anderson as a young student and grew over the years. It was when he returned home from a trip to the Portland Japanese Garden in 1978 that he was inspired to turn his swampy back yard into a Japanese garden. Hoichi Kurisu, who directed the Portland garden, designed the Anderson garden. It grew over the subsequent years and was donated to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association in 1998.

 

 

 

 

This was a most delightful tour, followed by a most delicious lunch in the restaurant on the grounds and good conversation with kindred spirits. The food, our next project or trip, books Рeverything that women talk about with laughter in the traveling sisterhood of gardeners,  followed by the restroom, the gift shop and then the return ride home.

As I left the Rotary Botanical Gardens, mentioned in my previous post, I thought of the other two Japanese gardens. Each was designed in the Japanese tradition, each unique yet distinctive of this honored form of gardening. They were all tranquil and gently led me to a bench or large rock where I sat for spell and listened to the water, the birds, the whisper of leaves.

The gardens shared some facts. Benevolent gifts of land and of funds made them possible. Swamps, dumps and land used for other purposes were artfully developed into what we see today. Two were eventually donated to Rotary clubs. One (at the Como conservatory) was a gift of the people Nagasaki. These Japanese gardens were all close to industrial areas and all provide tranquility and peace for a small donation – or free. Two of them were conceived in the late 1970’s, the Anderson garden just a decade later. I visited two of them as the opportunity arose while traveling through three midwestern states.

They all gifted me a sense of peace in a troubled world – and I gladly accepted it.

Have you visited a Japanese garden – near you, while traveling?

Is there a Japanese garden near you?

 

 

 

 

 

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The art of stone in a Japanese garden is that of placement. Its ideal does not deviate from that of nature –¬†Isamu Noguchi

Homeward bound with much of the long road behind me, I needed to stretch my legs. It was a pleasant day, I had been in the car for several hours, and I knew that the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin was a perfect place to stop for a break in my journey.

I exited the interstate, went the mile or so to the road leading to the gardens, and soon found myself marveling at the early summer blooms and lush greenery, the art installation and statues, the formal gardens, woodlands, vegetable gardens, and other botanical delights.

I was, as I often am, drawn to the entryway of the Japanese gardens . . .

. . . and I am always drawn to this bridge. Another of my photos of this bridge was the header for this blog quite a long time.

The Rotary Garden was a calming place to stop. I felt renewed for the last leg of my journey home.

As I walked back through the Visitors Center (and the restroom and the gift shop, of course) I realized that this was the third time in ten days that I had visited a Japanese garden. I wondered again at the coincidence as I merged back onto the interstate. I would pass Rockford (Illinois) on the next leg of my trip. It was the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford that the first of my trio of Japanese gardens was.

My son-in-law, Tom, knows me well. While visiting with my Up North family, Yia Yia was unsupervised for several hours while everyone else was at school or work. Just before she left the house, Katy remembered that her Tom (as opposed to my Tom) thought I might like the conservatory at St. Paul’s conservatory in Como Park. Katy gave me the necessary information, my GPS was soon loaded, and off I went.

This was my destination. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park. It is an amazing structure and home to tropical and exotic plants, as well as well  as as roses, lilies, and flowers you many have blooming in your own garden. The Conservatory is worthy of a post on its own, which I will endeavor to compose soon. I want to show you the sunken garden in particular.

I roamed the conservatory’s lush garden rooms, then turned a corner and found myself in what I believe is a newer wing.

Saint Paul and Nagasaki are sister cities.

The Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden was a gift from the people of Nagasaki. The garden opened in 1979. It has been renovated several times. This bright, airy passageway leads to a remarkable collection of Bonsai plants. In a rare moment for me, I did not take any photos of them. I wish I had. They were amazing, calming in their peaceful way.

I wandered outdoors, taking my time, enjoying the warm weather, the soft breeze, the stone lantern along the path and the soft chorus of waterfall. 

My visit over, I headed back having enjoyed a very sweet few hours.

Now, dear reader, something has happened with my wordpress account as I was writing this, so . . . I will do another post about the the third Japanese garden and hope that this update posts and in some way makes sense.

 

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The door is an unmistakable shade of Campbell’s tomato soup. It is as unremarkable as it is dependable, keeping the big, bad wolf without and us safe and sound within.

There is little reason to open the front door except to water the planters, shoo deer, chipmunks, and squirrels away, or to meet the occasional pizza delivery van. The business end of the house is in the back and most folks visiting know to go to the back door.

So it was that, on a mission to check the fuchsia Tom had given me for Mother’s Day, out the front door I went.

Something swished past as I stepped onto the porch. I paused, looked around and realized an awfully agitated robin was flitting about, expressing her displeasure at my sudden presence, just as the Antler Man meandered down the driveway to the check the mailbox and unaware that I was out on the front porch.

I said I could hear a disgruntled bird but wasn’t seeing it. I looked around then turned to straighten some twigs, leaves and raffia on the wreath hanging on the wall. Tom’s mom made the wreath from grapevines many years ago. We hung it up front a few year’s ago. I usually add a big, seasonal ribbon and put dried flowers, twigs, string, acorns and walnuts – items to keep it attractive and, at the same time, provide nesting material for birds.I hadn’t gotten to it yet this spring.

Just as my hand was setting to rearrange some errant raffia and dried plant material from last fall, the protective mama swooped past me, chattering away. My hand stopped midair. A mother’s intuition, perhaps, or just my own curiosity, ¬†I moved closer, slowly upon my tippy-toes, and looked closer inside to the wreath.

There it was!

The reason for this engagement in my own version of Angry Birds.

How do you like my spring wreath, just outside the front door?

Meanwhile, this was already established at the back door.

Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm

 John Muir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,

The maddest noise that grows, –

The birds, they make it in the spring,

At night’s delicious close.

– Emily Dickinson

 

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Then . . .

. . . there were chunks of ice, falling en masse, individually, randomly, sporadically. The racket would stop; a calm, silent, pregnant pause that would last a few minutes or an hour, then a fresh volley of frozen winter “fruit”. ¬†Born from an ice storm, the chunks of ice would frazzle the steadiest of nerves as they hit the roof of the house, the skylights, the pavement, the arbor and more.

With frost quakes and frozen cannonballs, we have been experiencing a rather raucous winter,

a winter with tree “fruit” sparkling amid uplifting sunrises and spectacular sunsets.

Snow can be peaceful, pristine and startlingly beautiful. It is a great equalizer; a coverlet, in equal measure on all that it touches, with indifference to income level or social status – at least at first snowfall, before the snowplows work time-and-half or double-time to clear the roads.

Ice, in all its glittering glory, is a lethal weapon when falling from above. It is challenging to walk upon. Its weight bears down on wires, creating outages which can become emergencies for medical needs, heating, communication. We have been fortunate. Our power has remained on, though our cable connections (which include landline, television, and internet) went out the other day. Thankfully, service resumed in a few hours. We really cannot complain.

We are coping, grateful for a warm house, food, cars that start and roads that plowed and are salted.

We have, however, entered into that 5th season Р pothole season. Rough winters and heavy vehicular traffic conspire to create amazing crevices Рpotholes Р in the pavement. This year, for some reason I have yet to discover, the potholes are harder to see. They are smaller, deeper, closer together and reveal themselves upon impact! I am wondering if the frost quakes have something to do with this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it goes, here on the cutoff. Stews and soups, hot tea and books are good for the winter-weary soul (not that I need a reason). More often than not, I can be found near the front window, a blanket on my lap, tea on the table and a book in hand.

On a recent late afternoon, I pulled out an old friend, “An American Year; Country Life and Landscapes Through the Seasons” by Hal Borland. It is a journal of sorts, filled with Borland’s¬†seasonal essays and accompanied by illustrations from a host of “Distinguished Contemporary Artists”. ¬†These are Hal Borland’s words from February, page 179.

The temperature still falls and the wind still roars, but there is smugness here and comfort and companionship. The night draws us all closer together. Surely it was not by chance alone that hearth and heart came so near to being the same word.

 

 

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OR

How We Survived the Polar Vortex

From significant snowfall and frost quakes, to plummeting temperatures, cancelled airplane flights, school closings, business closings and even suspended mail delivery, we have been held captive by biting winds and subzero temperatures the likes of which will be long remembered in the annals of recorded weather Р and in the memories of those who endured it.

Let me begin by letting you know that we are quite fine, our electricity stayed on, we had contact with family and friends, enough food and water (and coffee and tea) and we remained safe and sound throughout. We are grateful.

I hope that those of you impacted by the Polar Vortex were warm and safe during it and are doing well now.

Predictions for snow, strong winds, and dropping temperatures came with ample warning days before the onset of sleet and snow. By Sunday afternoon, weather forecasts sounded more urgent with a bleak outlook for the week ahead. Early cancellations of meetings on Monday were prudent and appreciated, especially as the snow began to accumulate mid-afternoon.

Talking with a dear friend on the phone, we commiserated over the hardy souls who work in all ¬†kinds weather; crossing guards, those who plough the roads and put out fires, law enforcement and mail carriers. It seemed that we no sooner mentioned mail carriers than I saw ours coming up the road. Tom was using the snow blower out front, clearing our long driveway. I noticed the mail truck wasn’t moving, then the Antler Man pushing the snow blower to the back. I, of course, in the comfort of our living room, kept talking. The mail carrier wasn’t moving, but, Tom was, shovel in hand he headed back down the drive and was soon working at getting the mail truck out of a ditch created by snow plows that had earlier made a pass down the Cutoff.

It was the last mail delivery for several days, not only for our town, but, for a large part of Illinois as well. It was dangerously cold to be outdoors. Even with several layers of clothing and coverings, frostbite is a serious condition and happens quickly in sub-zero temperatures.

 

 

The first “boom” I heard occurred at 5 am on Tuesday. It was loud and shook the house just a bit. I padded down the stairs to have a look, thinking one of the neighbors had slammed a car door. Sounds are different, louder, more pronounced in extreme cold and heavy snowfall. A car was idling in a neighbor’s drive, so I assumed that was the source of sound, even when another one followed and the walls trembled a tad. On Wednesday, we both heard more “booms” – an oddity hereabouts – but it was extremely cold temperatures that had our attention.

Registering at -23 degrees (F), it became the coldest temperature for Chicago on record for that day.

(photo from WGNTV.COM)

BOOM!

In between the falling temperatures, the draft slipping in through the windows and doors, and the furnace that never stopped running, I kept apprised of family and friends through phone calls, emails, and social media. It was on social media that a news item appeared from out local television station, WGN. The sounds we were hearing were actually a weather-related phenomenon called cryoseism  Рalso called frost quakes or ice quakes!  The ground was quite sodden from warmer temperatures and rain, followed by snow and then rapidly falling temperatures. Suddenly, all news sources and social media were a buzz (or a boom) with this unusual weather related occurrence.

(photo from WGNTV.COM)

We are a hardy bunch, we Midwesterners. We adjust to the variable temperatures, the heat and humidity, the freezing cold and snow. We experience appreciable temperature variations often enough, especially here near one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. I think, however, that we will all remember the Polar Vortex of 2019 as we remember the Chicago Blizzard of 1967, Mother’s Day snow and more.

As I write this, Saturday night, it is 40 degrees (F). It was -21 degrees (F) on Friday morning! The groundhog saw his shadow, a yearly ritual to predict an early or late spring. Who knows? Maybe spring will be early this year. Predictions are for 50 degrees in a few days. As for me, I’ll wait and see.

Spring will come when it will and I will rejoice in all it brings, but, for now we are still n the heart of winter and February has just begun. I am a few days late in wishing Rabbit! Rabbit! to all, which is a greeting come the first day of the month. I blame it on the Polar Vortex – as did the bunnies when Tom came down the stairs on February 1 to discover this mayhem pictured below. Neither of us heard the crash, and the bunnies aren’t talking. I’m pretty sure it was the vibrations from a frost quake that jostled the glass top just enough to create this little scene.

THAT was the week that was!

(Do any of you, on both sides of the pond, remember that television show?)

 

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