And just like that, Mother Nature has flipped a switch and we’re at the end of fall. It’s been a glorious and unusually long season this year in the upper Midwest but like all good things it has come to an end. Five days ago the wind was still, the sun was shining, and the only colors remaining were from the oaks with their remaining rusty leaves. Today the temperatures have fallen, the wind has removed any remaining leaves from the trees, and we have a forecast of snow.
Sometimes the change of seasons can be disconcerting to me, especially the ones where the days become shorter and the darkness becomes longer. But I’m reminded that just like the leaves that have fallen from the trees, it is all temporary. There will still be beauty in the coming season and days but it will be in a different palette – one of white – and the landscape will take on a new cloak of loveliness.
We’ve recently returned from a three-week road trip to visit family and explore new places. We experienced sun and heat, smoke-filled days and nights, a full moon, and a sky filled with countless stars. We traveled through miles of corn, soybeans, sunflowers, grasslands, badlands, prairies, mountains, and black hills. The diversity and beauty of our country is truly amazing.
On our return to Minnesota we stayed one night at Lake Shetek State Park in the southwestern part of the state. As we explored the park and lake we walked across a causeway connecting the lake shoreline to Loon Island. The causeway was constructed as part of a WPA program. Earlier in the day I had seen a family swimming and relaxing at the end of the causeway. But as I walked again in the calm of late evening my attention was drawn to these rocks that extended from the sandy beach into the lake. Their pattern seemed to be welcoming me back to the land of 10,000 lakes and asking me to come along, follow each one, into the coolness of the lake.
With the heat of summer we often have storms develop in the late afternoon after the high temperatures have built up throughout the day. One early evening I walked south to Como Park but noticed a large and dark cloud to the northwest. It was threatening but there was clearing after it. When I reached the McNeely Conservatory the sun was just sliding below the cloud, it’s rays streaming and illuminating the sky above and the sun itself lit up the dome of the conservatory. It was a beautiful albeit fleeting moment. Sometimes we are put in just the right spot to see and appreciate the beauty around us, if we will only look for it and take it all in.
It’s been peak bloom for peonies this past week. With our hot temperatures and gusty winds I can walk outside and immediately smell the scent of peonies in the air. It’s a short-lived bloom season, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons I savor every day. We’ve added additional peony bushes over the years, but I continue to favor the ones that I transplanted from my mother and father’s house in Kansas. These are the ones that were on the side of their house, sometimes neglected, but they continued to blossom. Each year my parents would gather and cut the blooms to take to the cemeteries on Memorial Day and lay on the graves of relatives. Fast forward to now, with both my parents having passed on, I’m filled with wonderful memories and see these Kansas peonies blooming in honor of my mom and dad.
Spring has been announced by the bright green leaves that are emerging and by the ephemerals that are popping up before the tree canopy is full. The white trillium have pushed through the carpet of leaves and winter’s debris to open up to the bright sunshine. Each flower has three white petals that bloom above the three broad leaves. For a very brief time the woodlands of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin are brighter with a carpet of white trillium.