Archive for the ‘Nature/animals’ Category

Well, not really on bended knee; just a short while before my knee wouldn’t bend. It sounded like a catchy title, so, here you have it. I blame it on the pain medication.

DSCN7478We often stop in the Ginkgo Restaurant and Cafe at the Morton Arboretum for a cup of coffee or chocolate, sometimes breakfast or lunch, depending on what’s on the docket for the day, and we’ll sit at one of the tables, looking out the long expanse of windows that afford a view of Meadow Lake, with its mile or so walking path.

In summer, there are baby strollers – and those who stroll – taking the footpath around the lake, looking for sunning turtles and enjoying the lush colors of the season as the prairie plants reach a crescendo.

In spring, grackles may be nesting. They dive-bomb those walking along the path, especially those wearing red. I always want to jump up at shout “take cover” and bang on the windows, warning walkers of eminent attacks. I don’t, of course, and the birds are just warning passers-by.

In fall, there are the magnificent colors that remind me of why we must suffer the cold of winter, in a “to every season” sort of way. The Morton is ablaze in the brilliance of nature come fall, and the cafe is just the place to stop and catch one’s breath.

In winter, there is a coating of snow and a sheet of ice on Meadow Lake. Whiteness and quiet and the hush-a-bye beauty of snow in its more peaceful mood lend a perfect hand to reflect on through the windows.

DSCN7467 - Version 2

On Sunday, with a pocket of time in our schedule, an unplanned moment, we decided to drive out to the Arboretum after church. I needed to be home by noon in order to meet up with a friend to see her young granddaughter’s art in an exhibit. As we drove through the Piney Woods, all dusted in snow with the ascending trunks reaching toward heaven, it felt like a cathedral. My unsung prayers drifted upward as we slowly drove about.

You know the rest of the story, from my previous post, so, I won’t repeat it here. I am relieved to say that my knee seems to be healing, I’ve made progress in mastering the cane, and am hoping to slowly resume activities and begin to look to what more I made need to do. All that knee jerking activity is what it is and what will be will be. Thank you all for you kind words, thoughts, and prayers.


Before I turned on a dime (so to speak), while enjoying refreshments in the Cafe, the world outside seemed to glow in possibilities, large and small. The lake before us, just outside the glass. A couple, one with cane and the other helping him along, slowly made their way around. A premonition?

Between the lake, the glass, and me, was the back of a chair with the signature cutout of a ginkgo leaf, just waiting for me to gaze through it, to share a different view of the world.



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I’m dreaming in green; lush, mossy, magnificent green and longing for those first, tentative tips of spring bulbs and pussy willow blossoms.

Soon. Very soon.DSCN7326

While the sun hasn’t shown her rays very often lately, here along the Cutoff the days ARE growing longer and the seed catalogues are tempting us with old reliables and new introductions.

There is a dream of buds swelling here and there. With a hope that is buried and waiting in this long winter, the daffodils and hyacinths are waiting, their tips of buttery yellow and grape are the epitome of patience under the ice and snow.

With our heads bent to the wind, we will brave the gusts and the cold and the snow and whatever else this season may still throw at us. We will layer on extra clothing as the car warms up. Once home again a cup of freshly brewed coffee or a piping pot of tea. Soup is often simmering on the stove, and now that it is Lent, pepper and egg sandwiches are the fare of choice on a Friday afternoon.

I’ve been enjoying tall cups of hot, Mexican chocolate now and again, with my dear friend Kathryn or with my daughter 9781444730302-1-4Jennifer, at a new coffee house that recently opened not far from here. Tom and went there for an afternoon treat on Valentine’s Day. La Fortuna’s owners are third generation coffee producers. Isn’t it amazing how fast a new establishment can become a favorite?

Books, of course, are always at my side. I’ve been reading “The House on an Irish Hillside” by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, and I’ve been pulling out old issues of Victoria Magazine for inspiration . . .

. . .  and I have ben hopping about, chasing sunbeams with my camera – whenever the sun pokes through.


What are you reading these days?

What are you sipping on?

Where are you going – or where did you just come from?

What are the signs of your season beginning to change?

Will you watch Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey, the Oscars, or both? Neither?

Are any of you watching in Grantchester?


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2-blizzard-of-1888-nyc-grangerimage from here

I awoke to another gray morn here on the Cutoff.

 I bit my tongue, tried not to complain about the cold, felt mightily for the folks on the east coast; especially Boston.

I remember our winter of ’78/’79, with snow piled so high it bested Tom’s 6’4″ frame. Having “dibs” on parking space even floated out to the burbs that year with folks shoveling snow off their rooftops and the deepening worry of flooding if snow melts too fast.

I will admit to laughing out loud with weatherman, Jim Cantore, who jumped around with unbridled glee at the thundersnow in Boston. Alison of Apple Pie and Napalm recently remarked about weather, that “I never worry until Cantore shows up” in a comment on a recent post. It took me a moment to figure “Cantore” out. I finally remembered.  He is the meteorologist from the Weather Channel who comes out in the worst of storms.

Jim Cantore was enjoying the thundersnow, which is a rare and potentially dangerous phenomenon not often witnessed.  I experienced it for the first time in 2011, and wrote about it here.

But, I digress. . .

. . . as I tickle the keyboard,  snow is sneaking around, barely visible. I knew it was snowing before looking outside, for the room darkened as gathering flakes shaded the skylights; white upon gray upon winter.

I turn to Billy Collins to bring some smiles on yet another colorless, wintry day, where he, too, writes about the sound of snow – and other things.

Snow Day

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.
Billy Collins, “Snow Day” from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems

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Very early Sunday morning, not quite dawn, something woke me up. A sound. I glanced around, peaked out of the bedroom windows, went down the stairs, looked out the door. Nothing was amiss. All I saw were snowflakes, dancing in the air. I knew what had awakened me.

It was the sound of snow.

Snow has a tune of its own, with notes that form a melody that is as hard to explain as each different, downy flake. It was the sound of snow that woke me.

Awake, I put the teakettle on, set out a cup and saucer, swirled some local honey in the cup, and waited for the pot to boil. As I waited for the water  to boil, I remembered a poem by Wallace Stevens.

The Snow Man by Wallace StevensDSCN7152

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

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We like to name our snowstorms here in Chicagoland. We stack them up like snow shovels at the back door, waiting for the next big one to come drifting down and then we recall their names in our collective memories.

The Big Snow.  New Year’s Eve Storm. 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard. The Valentine’s Day Storm. The Blizzard of ’79. This weekend’s snowstorm has been christened The Super Bowl Blizzard.

From late Saturday night to early Monday morning, snow swirled and twirled and sleeted  – and it edged out a previous March snow record, my father’s blizzard, knocking it down by an inch in its ranking, making The Super Bowl Blizzard the 5th highest accumulation of snow in Chicago’s history, measuring in at officially 19.3 inches.

My father and his sister, Christina, aged 12 and 10 at the time, had their tonsils removed on March 25, 1930 at the Presbyterian Hospital. It was just two blocks from their house. They walked to the hospital and would have walked back home the next day if nature had not made a call with what was, at the time, the greatest recorded snowfall in the history of the City of Chicago; a record that held until 1967.  *

The Presbyterian Hospital was one of the first of its kind in Chicago. It was affiliated with Rush University, and today is part of the Rush Medical Center, one of the finest in the world. Renamed Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Hospital, it also claimed the tonsils of my sister and me in 1962. I call it the “two for one sale”; siblings who have tonsillectomies at the same time. My father and aunt. Tom and his sister, Maura. Dottie and Penny. You?

I remember both snowstorms well, even though I was not yet born in 1930. I was not even a “twinkle in my father’s eye” in 1930. My memories are family folklore, for that storm and it’s events were retold, each and every winter, after big snowfalls, and every March of my childhood.

On March 25 and 26, 1930, snow fell as Daddy and Aunt Christina were having their tonsils snipped. By the time they were sufficiently recovered,  Chicago was blanketed in deep snow. No streetcars were moving. No cabs. Nothing was moving. It was too cold and dangerous for Pete and Christina to walk home and they were too big to be safely carried.  Biting winds swept in off the Lake. Not many drove cars back then; well, no one but Bill, a cousin.

Bill and his machine were dispatched. The children were bundled beyond recognition. They were settled into a 192o’s automobile which moved, inch by inch, home. My grandfather sat in the passenger seat. Pete and Christina were nestled in the back seat under an array of blankets.  It took them almost an hour to drive two blocks. Bill and my grandfather got them home safe and sound.

My family never forgot Bill’s kindness in bringing the children home that day. I was born in that very same hospital; my mother and father walking the two blocks to my birth. Bill would become my godfather.

The 1930 March blizzard would come out of the deep well of family lore each winter; a reminder of a big snowstorm that my father and aunt endured after their tonsillectomies and were driven home in a car. While I enjoyed hearing about the storm, as I did about all family stories, I was secretly, childishly, elated for The Big Snow of ’67.  That historical blizzard gave me and my generation of Chicago area kids a big snow of our own.

The Big Snow of 1967 holds a record which has never been broken. 23 inches of snow fell in that snowstorm. It brought the City of Chicago and the suburbs to a halt and is etched in the memories of my generation as much as the many other memories of that era.

That snowstorm of 1967 was the “perfect storm”, of Biblical proportions it seemed. It is still talked about around kitchen tables and by meteorologists, who pull it out of the archives of storms whenever another big snow falls. So it now, as we shovel out of the Super Bowl Blizzard of 2015, which just nudged my father’s 1930’s storm to 6th place . .

. . . and we still recall The Big Snow of 1967, a storm like no other.

It’s all in a name – or one tenth of an inch.


* There have been years with more snowfall in a season. These records are sustained snowfalls without stopping.

1. 23.0 inches January 26-27, 1967 The Big Snow

2. 21.6 inches January 1-3, 1999 The New Year’s Storm

3. 21.2 inches January 31-February 2, 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard

4. 20.3 inches January 12-14, 1979 Blizzard of 79

5. 19.3 inches January 31-February 2, 2015 The Super Bowl Blizzard

6. 19.2 inches March 25-26, 1930

7. 16.2 inches March 7-8, 1931

8. 14.9 inches January 30, 1939

9. 14.9 inches January 6-7, 1918

10. 14.8 inches December 17-19, 1929

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Looking for Inspiration, Part 2

Thinking about a walk about the grounds . . .

DSCN7156 DSCN7157 DSCN7158 DSCN7159. . .  well, maybe later.

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Looking for Inspiration

DSCN7135I took a bit of a stroll this morning, looking to clear my head, hoping to find inspiration.

I’ve been engrossed in several projects  this week, necessitating much time at the computer, writing and editing and playing with words for others. I found that when I went to write my own, the word well was rather dry.

DSCN7136 - Version 2

By mid-morning, the sun was out, the sky was cloudless, and temperatures hovered in the thirties. Since there are always scraps and peelings and coffee grounds to be composted, and my red rubber shoes were poised and ready to go for a romp, off I went, in search of inspiration.

The compost bin isn’t really a bin, though one day it will be. It is, rather, a spot where we put leaves and clippings and table scraps. We turn it and rotate and eventually have some rich organic material to use in the garden beds. It also gets a little help being tilled from the deer. They rummage in it and sleep on it, which compacts it quite nicely.

The deer also take refuge among the grasses, where they have made their bed and, as they saying goes, theyDSCN7107 - Version 2 lie in it.

I checked the bluebird box, which has never had any bluebirds. I never give up hope, however, and I’m banking on this being the year a family finally decides to moves in.

The deer were active, their white flags flipping and flapping as they leaped and ran amok, until my presence was known, when they stopped, dead still, staring at me. I wondered. Were they just playing red light, green light and someone called “red light”?

So it was that the sun shone through the plumes of the grasses and the peak of the arbor and I walked about, clearing my head and looking for inspiration.

DSCN7127 - Version 2

 Where do you go for inspiration?

How do you clear your head?

Does your word well ever run dry?


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