Category Archives: Nature

Spring is Closer

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!” – Robin Williams

With the time change last night, I’m feeling that spring is finally coming. It’s been really cold where I live for quite some time. But, just the extra hour of daylight today makes it feel like spring. I have also noticed crocus bulbs starting to break the ground with some preliminary flowers. Most of the snow melted over the weekend with the balmy temperatures of 55oF.

It’s like the entire planet, well at least in my immediate area, is yawning and waking up from a long sleep. Erica and I took a long walk along the harbor today. There were loads of people out. I think everyone is feeling the same thing around here. Having a little bit of sun and warmth is like medicine. You start to feel thawed out.

Just because I’m ready for spring doesn’t mean I don’t like the winter. I like all the seasons. I especially like the changes between the seasons. There’s something about that. It’s being a part of a great cycle of nature. Plus I find there are fun activities no matter what the season or weather might be.

Very soon. It’s almost here. The waiting will soon be over.

Ahhhh!

Michael

Mole Day

After the Storm

After the Storm

Today was mole day. I stayed indoors almost all day due to the snow storm during the night. There was still snow coming down when I woke up. I actually like days like this. Not all the time but every now and then.

In the photo on the left, I’ve already cleaned my car off. It had almost a foot of snow on top of it. When the driveway was cleared, we created 2 – 3 foot banks of snow on either side. It was surprisingly a lot for half a night of snowfall.

I was able to work from home which is always a treat to me. No need to dress up. Pajamas can stay on. ­čÖé

One nice thing is that I actually get more work done and can focus more. There are no distractions. No meetings to attend. No one calling you. No one asking questions. It helps to get caught up on projects you may be working on.

I use these days to recharge, clear my head and relax while getting stuff done. I’m not one to complain about the weather, so when storms come I take advantage and catch up on my home to-do list. Days like this make me appreciate having a warm home to stay in.

I am getting thoughts of spring in my head. I’m looking forward to it this year. No one is sure when the weather will break and start warming up, but next week I travel to New Orleans. I’m hoping for some warmer weather just to get the chill out of my bones.

But, I’ll never regret the snowfall. It is always novel for me.

Have a great day!

Michael

Thinking of Spring

I’m ready for spring! I don’t really have a problem with the winter. I’m just ready for a change. Lots of thoughts of spring were running through my head while driving home in snow showers today.

I thought about the freedom I would feel by not having to wear a heavy winter coat.

I thought about the earthy smell while walking the a forest in the with the trees budding out.

I thought about all of the flowers that will start to break open.

I thought about sitting in the sun feeling the warmth enter my skin.

I thought about the feeling of renewal and birth that comes with the world waking up from the winter.

I thought about hiking and geocaching without wearing winter gear.

All these thoughts just make me feel good, not sad. But, I do look forward to that moment when I know spring has arrived.

Michael

Snow Eating Ducks

Snow Eating Ducks

Snow Eating Ducks

Several inches of snow fell yesterday and last night. I was in the mood for taking photographs. In fact, today was the first set of photos for the 2009 year. The landscape was beautiful with the recent snowfall.

I decided to drive out to Roger Williams Park and Zoo near Providence, RI. Wow, it was quite lovely. All the lakes were frozen and a lot of snow had fallen over the frozen surfaces.

I rode around checking everything out and taking numerous photos. You can see some of them here. The most interesting moment came after I had taken some photos in the Japanese Garden.

I walked down the road a bit and saw dozens of ducks, many seagulls and one goose. But, strangely, the ducks were munching on the snow. By munching, I mean frantically eating the snow as fast as they could get it down. I had never seen anything like this before, though, I’m sure this is normal behavior for them. I guess that is how they drink when the lakes and streams are covered with ice.

Regardless, it was fascinating to watch. They allowed me to get quite close as long as I moved very slowly. Any sudden movements sent them flying. The photo link above shows a larger wide angle view of the ducks you see to the left.

I’m so glad I decided to venture outside today. I would have missed this wonderful natural phenomenon.

Have a great day!

Michael

Deep Freeze!

It’s easy to complain about the cold (we’ve been down to -18F in Chicago today). But, I just read in the New York Times that the canals have frozen in the Netherlands for the first time in 12 years. This is a very big deal for the Dutch, who think of skating, according to the story, as “part of our soul.”

I’m thrilled for the Dutch, who have rushed out by the hundreds of thousands to skate on the canals, an old national tradition. Older Dutch are euphoric to relive their childhood memories. For many children, of course, this is a new experience. I imagine how happy, how full of wonder and surprise they must be to see their parents and their grandparents bursting with childlike excitement. How great to learn to be a child from your elders.

Just this morning I told friends that I have never really minded the bitter cold, at least on a sunny day, but that I don’t love it as much since I stopped having the chance to skate outside. And now I’m reading about a country able to skate outside, in spite of water pollution, in spite of global warming.

Can’t you imagine it, the wind pushing freezing tears from the corners of your eyes, your skates ripping into the hard, rough ice, the warmth returning to your feet in your skates as you work your legs and arms. If you are lucky, you hold a small child in front of you with both hands, feeling him feel the ice, the startling lack of friction and weight, as you glide untethered away from shore.

God bless winter.

Avery Island

TA BASS CO Statue

TA BASS CO Statue

Around mid-morning we left Baton Rouge for Avery Island, the home and birthplace of Tabasco┬«. It’s about 85 miles southwest from where my parents live. It’s a fascinating area full of history.

Avery Island (Wikipedia link) is one of five salt domes that can be found in Louisiana. It is approximately 5 miles (3 km) long and 2 ┬Ż miles wide. Our guide told us that that the dome is deeper than Mt. Everest is high. Wow! It has one of the largest salt mines in the world. The indigenous American Indians were probably the first humans to extract the salt from the dome through evaporation of brine water.

Today, the island (it really is an island), in addition to the salt mine, houses the manufacturing facilities for Tabasco® brand products (Wikipedia link), has a rich botanical garden and a bird sanctuary.

Buddha

Buddha

We toured the Tabasco plant first. I grew up with Tabasco. It’s a staple in Louisiana and is typically found with the salt and pepper on every table. The ingredients are simple: Tabasco peppers (Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco), salt and vinegar. The peppers and salt are ground up into a mash and aged in white oak barrels for up to 3 years. The vinegar is added and stirred for about a month. The sauce is strained and then bottled. That wonderful flavor comes from three ingredients!

After the tour, we tried many of the Tabasco products in the country store. We also shared some crawfish etouffee, hot link sausage, boudin, Tabasco ice cream and Tabasco soda. Hmmmmm! All were very good.

We toured the Jungle Gardens which is a huge botanical garden built up with exotic plants and local species by E. A. McIlenny (Mr. Ned for short). The best time of the year to go is March as many of the species are blooming at this time. Today we saw multiple species of camellias, bamboo forest, very old live oaks covered in Spanish moss, cypress forests and many palm varieties. Unfortunately, the alligators that live there were buried in the mud because the sun wasn’t out.

Bridge Near Buddha

Bridge Near Buddha

In 1936, friends of Mr. Ned gave him a Buddha statue from China that is centuries old. It now stands in a beautiful area of Jungle Gardens surrounded by water on three sides. Very unusual. It must stand 8 feet high.

Another amazing part of the gardens is Bird City. Mr. Ned found this bird colony around 1895 to save the white egret which had been hunted to near extinction for its plumage. He raised 8 birds here and then released them for the fall migration across the Gulf of Mexico. They returned the next year and brought some of their friends. The colony now hosts numerous bird species that return in the early spring to roost.

I highly recommend this unusual place. It’s close to New Orleans and Baton Rouge and makes for an excellent day trip. Try to visit during March or April.

Michael

Winter Storm

Snow Buddha

Snow Buddha

When snow falls, nature listens. – Antoinette van Kleeff

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? – J.B. Priestley

We had a good sized winter storm yesterday and it continued with snow showers and flurries for most of today. When we awoke this morning, the world had been transformed by the white powdery substance.

It was stunning to go outside and see how much snow had piled up. I especially like to find where the snow has concentrated. Sometimes it can be in the most unusual places and in many different ways. I love the snow that builds up in the crooks of trees where stems meet trunk. Something about that is quite beautiful to me.

We worked hard this morning to dig out 4 cars, part of a sidewalk and driveway. Strange as it may seem, I actually like it. It’s hard work but it’s an excuse to be out in the snow.

The most amazing site for me was the Buddha head in Erica’s backyard. I started watching it last night when the snow was falling very fast. This morning it was quite stunning.

I love the snow.

Check out 12 more photos from this morning.

Michael

Snow storm

The first major snow storm of the winter blew through southeastern Massachusetts this afternoon just before dark. Two inches had fallen by nightfall, which happens before 5:00 p.m. these days. Because her plans came together late in the afternoon, I agreed to take my stepdaughter to a friend’s house just as the storm hit its wildest point.

We probably should have turned around when I realized just how bad the roads were, but by that time we were halfway there, and it would have been disappointing to my child not to finish the trip. The drive was a little scary, but mostly because my imagination tends to kick in when things start to feel out of control. I tried to push out of my mind the idea that I might make a wrong turn in the dark on the way home and drive off the road.

It’s a good lesson to remember every once in awhile that we sometimes choose to think things are worse than they are. It’s easy to do with so many examples in the news and in our lives of things turning awful. How much better, though, to move the opposite direction and envision things being even better than they seem.

Our street lost power tonight after I ate dinner, so here I was alone in a house without lights or an internet connection. After complaining about it on the phone with my wife, I climbed into bed with my laptop and watched a silly romantic comedy with the last of my laptop battery.

I guess the point I’m making is that I can get carried away hoping things don’t take a turn for the worse, when it would be every bit as logical to hope that things will take a turn for the better. This sounds like a superficial kind of pretend game, but I mean it seriously. Where we have the chance to make things better through our determination, I think we have a duty to do it.

Nothing is more important.

The power has just come back on in time for me to finish this before bedtime.

First Snow

First Snow

First Snow (taken with iPhone)

We woke up this morning to the first snow of the season. I love the snow!!! It was only about a 1/2 to 1 inch but that’s okay by me.

Snow brings out the kid in me. Anytime you can find something to allow the child within to come out is a good thing.

Some people complain about the snow but not me. Never.

I was not raised in a a part of the country that got regular snowfall. I believe that until I moved to California I had only seen snow three times in my life.

So, living up here in the northeast part of the country is a completely different experience. I always wait with anticipation for the first snowfall. For me, it means winter is finally here in a serious way and there is nothing wrong with that.

Walking or hiking in the woods during a snowfall is an incredibly peaceful experience. The snowflakes seem to mute all sound so it is extremely quiet and everything is still.

Last year I was inspired to write a poem called Snow Sounds.

Have a great day!

Michael

Enjoying the Fall Color

Looking Out from Mt. Holyoke

Looking Out from Mt. Holyoke

I was up in Northamptom, MA today doing some geocaching, hiking and photography. It was a nice overcast day which meant that the colors were evenly lighted and the trails were cool.

Most of the morning was spent on Mt. Holyoke which is in Skinner State Park near Hadley, MA. The mountain itself is a little over 900 feet high but rises very quickly, so the trails to the summit are quite steep.

What a great day to be walking through the deciduous forests of New England. Color was everywhere. Squirrels were busily getting ready for the winter. Hawks circled looking for prey. The sound of leaves falling was everywhere.

Fall continues to be my favorite season. I typically start up in New Hampshire to see the color and then get to enjoy it for several weeks as it slowly moves down south as the cool air becomes the norm.

Please view my other photos for the day (4 photos).

Hope your day was nice!

Michael