A challenge accepted and the benefits gained

Neighborhood walks have become my thing. And I’m only now realizing how important, and fun, they are for me. On Thanksgiving I read of a challenge for people to get outside for 30 minutes everyday for 101 days. That intrigued me and I realized that with my walking I cover a little less than two miles in 30 minutes. So I decided to challenge myself to walk two miles everyday until the end of the year. And then I saw that if I walked three or four miles for a dozen or so of those days I could reach 400 miles for the year of 2021. The goal was set and the challenge was on.

I started walking more regularly after I broke my leg in February 2020. My physical therapy was to get motion and movement to my ankle after the bones were pinned and screwed back together. Around the block was a challenge in those first months, but I stayed with it and went more blocks every few days. And with that increasing distance I learned and observed new things. This was near the beginning of our COVID-19 lockdown. I saw window signs of thanks to our front-line workers and I saw sidewalk chalk drawings of rainbows and better days. I walked through the months of signs about George Floyd and then election signs, both local and national. And I observed the Halloween decorations morph into Christmas lights and blowup Santas and snowmen, followed by the spring flowers, the green grass of summer, and the brilliance of fall leaves.

I don’t wear earbuds or headphones when I’m walking — I prefer to be open to the sounds and sights around me. I’ve heard the happy squeals of children out on the playground during recess and the honking of geese flying high overhead. I’ve seen eagles above me, the first spring crocus emerging from the snow, a nest full of robin’s eggs, and deer crossing the path ahead of me. I’ve learned how to dress for the different weather – a baseball hat for summer’s sun and a tightly knit fleece-lined beanie for winter’s cold; waterproof boots for rain and thickly lined heavy boots for snow. And I’ve used the time to think — to process things that are bothering me, to think of lessons learned from the past, and to dream of future adventures.

Yesterday was a busy and full day with a long list of things to be done. I was up early, shoveled the light snow that had fallen overnight, then made a quick trip to the grocery store. Things to be tidied up at home, a visit to a loved one in the hospital, and quickly the daylight was passing by and I hadn’t gone for my walk. A half hour before sunset and feeling a bit stressed I put on my boots, hat, gloves, and heavy coat and headed out the door. With each step I got out of my head and started to look around me. The fresh snow was still lovely on the ground, and as the sun was starting its descent to the horizon it spread its light all around. In the distance I could hear the wolves at the Como zoo howling and the squeals of children riding their sleds down the hills. As I walked near the golf course at Como Park I looked to the east and was greeted with a pale full moon rising over the snow covered hills. I saw a group of skiers that had stopped to take in the sight too. These are the moments of delight that get me out of the house on my walk each day. I returned home with a new attitude.

So I have 12 days remaining before year end and 19.9 miles to go. Plenty of time for more delight and joy and to think of new challenges for 2022.

After the summer storm

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.

A quiet morning at the lake

It was still early in the morning. The red sun had risen and managed to shine its light through the smoke and haze that has blanketed our area. There were swallows sweeping above and over the lake, gathering insects, resting on the pontoon cover, then continuing their aerial acrobatics. Occasionally I could hear a bird off in the distance. But as I sat at the end of the dock, my attention was focused about 20 yards in front of me. A loon was gracefully floating by, intent on things other than my presence. It went to the south, then to the north, and then it dove under the surface. After what seemed like an unusually long time, it reappeared…with a snail and some greenery that it found on the lake bottom. It floated by me, turned, dropped everything from its beak, dove down again, and disappeared for another long time, only to resurface way out in the center of the lake.

I treasure these simple moments – the quiet of the morning, the birds, fish, and animals doing what they do in the early hours of daylight, and the ritual that has played out for decades and eons. And I try to imagine someone sitting by this same lake shore observing a similar moment one hundred, two hundred, maybe three hundred years ago.

An unsettling summer sunrise

The other morning dawned cool and calm. There was steam coming off the lake surface, and the sun was a red ball rising into a hazy yellow and murky sky. It was quiet except for the sounds of geese and ducks calling off in the distance. On this day there was never much of a wind so the sky never cleared to it’s usual bright blue.

We’ve had numerous days like this one of hazy sunshine, partly due to increased humidity but also from the smoke of Canadian and northern Minnesota wildfires that have drifted into the area. The sunrises and sunsets have been unusual and unsettling, and yet quite beautiful.

Update to my website

Happy summer solstice and summer season! For all those days in the depths of winter when we grumbled about the cold and snow we now have the long days of sun and the heat of summer. It’s a time of blue skies, short sleeves, carefree shoes, lakes, fishing, and relaxation.

I have recently updated and combined my blog and website (https://lindastaatsphoto.com/) and I invite you to take a look around. You will see a menu ribbon or a dropdown option for navigation. There are three galleries with my photographic images – florals, architecture and designs, and landscapes and nature. These will help you understand the way I see the world around us. As we get closer to winter I will be adding a section for this year’s offering of holiday cards and 2022 (oh my!) desk calendars. And on my blog page is a place where you can sign up to receive emails anytime I have a new post (which is generally two to three times a month).

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. My blog continues to share the change of seasons and the scenes that I see, whether in the upper Midwest where I live or on the road with new adventures. Thanks for coming along on the ride with me; there’s still much to see, experience, and share!

And a credit to Greg Buzicky for the above photo, on a beautiful (and successful) evening of fishing!