Posts Tagged ‘Morton Arboretum’

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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Situated atop a steep rise, high above all else in the arboreal vicinity, stands a mighty troll with a shingled body and hair made out of twigs. He seems to be shouting “who’s that tripping over my bridge!“, though there is not one Billy goat to be seen. Driving past, at a rapid clip, he is easy to miss, but, one of his kin stands guard as drivers exit the interstate and enter the grounds of the Morton Arboretum.

This one looks as if he is about to toss a boulder, but, I suspect he is just pitching a troll-sized baseball. He is one of six such trolls that are emerging in the woods and meadows of the Arb. They are sure to delight youngsters and oldsters and in-between-ers for many months to come.


I happened upon my very first troll just this past Sunday when I impulsively turned into the Morton Arboretum. My hastily made intentions were to take a short ride around under the canopy of trees before heading home from church, but, well – you know me. There I was, already in line to show my membership card. The parking lot was full, so I started trolling around the paths, looking for a spot to park . . .

. . . and I found one, around a bend, approaching a meadow covered in clover. Cars were parked where cars usually are not, but I found a spot amongst them, sensing a happening! There, across Bobolink Meadow, through a grassy path peppered with daisies, was a troll. A great big wooden troll, lounging in the summer sun.

Several days later, here is my own gentle giant and woodcrafter extraordinaire, also named Thomas, spending some time talking shop with the trolls’ creator (dressed in the green shirt). We took a ride out to the Arb yesterday, with much fewer visitors, and were quite fortunate to come upon workers –  and the artist –  well into the installation of the troll I first came upon on Sunday.

These magnificent creations of Danish artist, Thomas Dambo, are currently being installed on the Morton Arboretum’s grounds. The trolls are already drawing inquisitive crowds and are sure to be a summer highlight for many around the Chicagoland area and beyond. It is quite exciting to watch his trolls emerge.

Parts previously constructed were shipped from Denmark, while other elements repurposed from pallets are crafted into shingles to be used on the trolls,  as well as organic material such as fallen limbs from nearby trees. Who knew a trollish hairdo could come from branches and leaves?


Creator, Thomas Dambo,  is the current artist-in-residence at the Morton Arboretum. Tom had the pleasure of spending some time talking shop with him, learning about the process of building trolls. A talented artist with far-reaching vision, Thomas Dambo is also a very nice chap.

Further into the maple woods, we found several other workers perched atop long ladders, armed with drills and screws and various tools of the trade, constructing this lofty giant.

Uh oh, I spy someone hiding under the protection of trees. He’d best be careful and not anger this troll, who looks like he is being positioned to take down a tree!

What fun this exhibit is and how much more so it will be once all the trolls are fully installed. These creatures are up to 15 feet tall and fashioned to hold inquisitive humans –  from toddlers to grandpas to Billy Goats Gruff. Even though this troll seems to be huffing and puffing, he is really a rather tame troll. .




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You know I am a tree hugger, right? Well, not really a tree hugger (unless the tree really needs to be hugged), more of a tree lover. We both are; the Antler Man and Penelope Pitstop.

We plant trees whenever and wherever we can. We have moved trees, visit the Morton Arboretum and wander the trails of the many forest preserves around us. We are sad when a tree dies, but we truly mourn those trees that are clear-cut for no good reason other than expediency and convenience in getting construction equipment in and out. Some trees may need to be removed to make room for a house, but, not two acres worth on large lots, or those on parkways.  Ah, well . .  these are stories and conversations for other times.

This post is of a milling operation, just outside the City of Chicago. Horigan Urban Forest Products, and a small but impressive exhibit of artists who resurrect wood and bring them back to a purposeful life.

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The Hidden Art of Trees is currently on exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and it seemed to be a fitting venue for the artistic man of the house on Father’s Day.


We had the pleasure of seeing and speaking to the millers from Horigan at the Morton Arboretum a few years ago. Tom was especially impressed with this company, their milling operation and portable mill and the product they extrude from trees.



The Chicago Botanic Garden, in conjunction with Horigan, has on display a remarkable exhibit of the art of wood; slabs of woods, bowls from burl, tables, chairs, cabinets all made from wood. Much, if not all, of the wood came from trees that were either diseased or otherwise needed to be felled.

I am amazed at the wooden implements, functional furniture and implements that have arisen from the death of trees, such as ash, that have been obliterated in the past several years by the emerald ash borer, as well other hardwood trees, such as walnut and chestnut.  I am in awe of the talented artists who recognize the beauty hidden in wood and who use their phenomenal craftsmanship and artistic gifts to make furniture, bowls, frames and many other items.


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Take some time to check out The Hidden Art of Trees here and see what Horigan Urban Forest Products does here.


Better yet, visit the Chicago Botanic Garden, or a similar art display somewhere near you and encourage respect of trees and thoughtful use of those trees that are felled.

Oh, before I hit “publish”, Tom managed to salvage part of one of the felled trees in a neighboring lot that was clear-cut. Though the tree was felled, he did ask for permission to take it. Sealed now against the elements, it is a sturdy, useful, table in our arbor – and a fun place to put a pickle jar full of fireflies that our nephews caught.



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IMG_5463Do you ever feel that your core, your inner reserves, your oomph needs a charge?  I just needed an hour or two to reboot; to be in nature.

 Already halfway there, with a pocket of daylight before me, I steered the car westward to one of my places of renewal – the Morton Arboretum. The volunteer attendant cheerfully checked my membership card and we chatted ever-so-briefly; just enough to put a smile on both of our faces, before I rounded the bend into the grounds and veered toward the east side of the grounds.

I was looking for, and I found, strength.

I have written about this bench before. It has become somewhat a totem to me that I reach for in every season. I’m glad I don’t need to wear it around my neck, for the bench is really quite large. There is something about it that makes me smile and fills me with joy.

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Catching the bench at its best through my open car window, something caught my eye, high above, casting a shadow, dancing the dance of nature.

I turned the car off, crossed over the lane and stepped onto the frosty grass. I stopped and stared as this hawk overlooked his kingdom. What did he see? How far did his powerful vision telescope? What unsuspecting rabbit or vole was his prey? He was stolid and still, master of his dominion. Then, suddenly, he swooped and circled again and again before he drifted away on the waves of air until I could see him no more.

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These moments are such rewarding gifts.They remind me of how small I am and how much I have yet to learn. 

I did not stay long in this outdoor stadium of strength. Back in the car, I finished the loop, then I stopped at the Visitor Center where I checked out some displays. As I walked out the door, I looked, as I always do, for my favorite tree, the Copper Beech, and remembered one of you asked to see in it winter.

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I drove around the west side, then headed home, my oomph once more charged.

How do you regain your core, your strength, your groove?


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IMG_3633The main parking lot was filled. The first overflow lot on the west side was filled as well and a friendly worker was flagging me on to a third lot.

What was I thinking? Noon? On a glorious fall day, when schools were closed for Columbus Day?

I visit the Morton Arboretum regularly enough that I did not need to visit it on Monday – but, I did. I was really on a specific errand to pick an item up at the gift shop, but, soon realized I had chosen one of the busiest days possible to come.

I decided to by-pass the parking lot I was being directed to and drive to the lot at the Thorndale Education center; a good move. The lot was all but empty and the Joy Path was at my beck and call.

As I wound my way onto the footpath, a woman suddenly emerged out of the bushes. “Oh! Here it is. I’ve been looking for the Joy Path. Have I found it? “.  I assured her that she had and we walked companionably for a few minutes. Like myself, she had decided to depart from the “maddening crowd”. She asked me a few directional questions and said she was visiting from North Carolina. We chatted as we walked about the torrential weather in the Carolinas, the magnolias that grow in our respective states and I mentioned a favorite author of mine from Charleston,. My brief walking companion had heard of Andra Watkins and said she planned to read her book about the Natchez Trace, “Not Without My Father . . . “.

The proverbial fork in the road approached, she wended right while I stayed the course along the Joy Path, just as the sun poked out from under the clouds and spread a slice of buttery yellow across my path.


Eventually, the path led me to the Visitor Center, the long line to the ladies’ room, and a very busy gift shop. I stopped in my tracks for a moment, overwhelmed by the glorious colors that have begun to emerge.


I treated myself to a yogurt parfait and iced tea, then headed back  on the mile or so path to my car, the afternoon shadows already beginning to draw their shadows along the earth. As I crossed the road to my pathway back, who to my wondering eyes should appear? None other than my early North Carolinian walking companion. We exchanged pleasantries, then she returned to the Visitors Center while walked upon the footbridge; two strangers in the woods, one from down south, the other from up north, on a glorious September day.


It is amazing how quickly the leafs’ colors turn hereabouts. Where there was but a hint of gold yesterday, the first flicker of reds and oranges have entered the landscape today. This is what I was waiting for in dog days of August, and what I try to remember in snowy depths of winter.

It is the slant of the sun, the sparkle of jewels on the water, and chance meetings along the paths of life that warm the small moments and lighten our steps along the way.


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DSCN9317I have a new wheelbarrow.

This isn’t it.

My new wheelbarrow is gray with a cup holder and a little shelf for tools. It toddles along with me as I weed and snip and dig and tug and it was a surprise from the Antler Man, who thought it would help me in my gardening chores. He was right. It does.

It is not my new wheelbarrow that is the subject of this post, however. It is the one pictured here.

Let me start again and ask you first to click onto the wheelbarrow. Can you see the LEGO pieces that connect to make this a wheelbarrow? Isn’t it great? It sits in the entry of the Children’s Garden at the Morton Arboretum and is one of many items that pepper the arboretum grounds as part of NatureConnects. These phenomenal pieces, a baker’s dozen throughout the Arb, are the work of Sean Kenney and will be on display through November 1. You can find out more about the exhibit here.

Along with the wheelbarrow, we happened upon a vegetable garden being tended. I wish my garden looked as neat and productive as this one. DSCN9325


DSCN9327Aren’t they remarkable?

Have you been to see this at the Arb, or seen such exhibits elsewhere?



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DSCN8494The usually lusty month of May has turned its back on us. Today dawned cold and windy and wet as it splashes toward June.  We have been battered with rain and wind that has made May feel more like April and temperatures that are as fickle in spring as in winter.

As I walked on Saturday, from my car to the Visitor Center at the Morton Arboretum, without my coat but holding my lime green umbrella, the temperatures hovered in the sixties. An hour later, as I walked out of the iris show across the way, the mercury had plummeted at least ten degrees, the wind kicked up, and I was rueing my decision to leave my coat behind. This morning, we awoke to the lower forties; no, not in age but in degrees. ‘

Tis a Winnie-the-Pooh-ish blustery day hereabouts; soup weather on the last day of May.

Still-in-all, the cold front brought out dramatic punctuations of steam rising from waters warmer than the air and puddles of glorious reflections and slick lanes leading to splashes of color and new growth.

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It was while rounding a bend, the only car on the west side of the Morton, that I caught a glimpse of blue; a bluebird flitting past my windshield. It swooped swiftly to and fro and put on a show to my right, then flew off to greener pastures. I motored forward, not another car, nor walker or runner in sight, when to my left, I noticed these two fellows were checking me out.


In all my visits to the Morton Arboretum, I’ve never seen bucks roaming about. It was a thrilling surprise. As the one closest to the camera looked at me, I could see his new rack, a velvet promise of antlers as the season moves on. If you click onto the photo you can see it better, click again and you get a close-up of the rack.

He walked, rather cavalierly, in front of my car. His buddy then ran past, with me grateful my foot was still on the brakes.

Next time, dear friend, I will show you some photos of the reason I braved the elements, the Northern Illinois Iris Society’s flower show. Until then, here is a sneak peek.


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I find joy in ordinary days; days where the water slowly laps the shore and ancient tree roots step out to welcome it. The ordinary days that remind us to seek the sunshine and to tread softly on our good earth.

Though the air had warmed and the sun was shining, the ground on Saturday was still saturated from the recent rains. With the last of the Autumn leaves still on the flower beds, I need to bide my time before exposing the tender shoots emerging. The heartier plants are poking through, but, under the leafy cover are hostas and poppies, daisies and lilies-of-the-valley. They must be slowly unveiled, for frost can still nip their noses, while the wandering herd of deer consider them appetizers after the long, hard winter.

So, it is. My garden work grows slowly; a plot here, then there, the beds gently uncovered then sprayed to deter the deer.  I have tentatively started to rake winter away, but, on Saturday, it was slow going in the sodden garden. I just needed to be outdoors. My car seemed to know this and steered me toward the Morton Arboretum, which was busy but not overly crowded, especially for a Saturday morning in spring. Like Golidlock’s porridge, it was just right.

It was my lucky, ordinary day.

An ordinary day, for sunning on a log, watching shadows grow.


and preening on the shore after a dip in the cool lake.

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I saw the first bee looking for sweet nectar

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while a majestic lady, starting her bloom, wore a dress with white blossoms while her slip of Scilla reflected the pristine sky.


All once upon a time; on an ordinary day, looking for those angel rays of hope on the tips of daffodils.


Do you have ordinary days?

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DSCN7790Hey, Lady, come back here . . .”

On to my next project/event, I made a trip out to Glen Ellyn to meet my friend Joyce who was generously lending me props for an upcoming garden club event.

Joyce and I made a quick exchange, she headed on to her day’s work, and I toddled along my own route, which led me right past the Morton. Well, what is a gal to do on spring morn? I turned in, the entrance wide open with employees methodically planting rows upon rows of yellow pansies, which elicited a smile as I pulled up to one of the welcoming gatehouses. I whipped out my membership card to be scanned, was encouraged to “have a nice day”, and moved forward. As my window rolled up, a loud command was barked from behind me.

HeyLady, come back here!  Come back!”

Seeing no one behind me, I slowly reversed course and backed up to the window.

You can’t bring a dog . . .”

and then her hand went to her heart as she said

oh, I’m so sorry, I thought I saw a sheepdog in your car. Dogs aren’t allowed on the grounds“.

We had a good laugh, the gatekeeper, the sheepdog, and me, then I motored on down the paths to find the day’s emerging joys; crocus and daffodils and the slow, steady greening of our little corner of the world.

“Arf! “said the boas –

and I’ll just bet you are wondering what they will be used for, aren’t you?


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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.

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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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