I have developed the habit of hiking along the Lowland trail in Waterloo State Park in early spring. So convenient to my home, the trail always delivers on the first distinct signs of spring with the rising of hardy gold-speckled burgundy claws in the wetlands. Oftentimes, I see this skunk cabbage peaking through early-spring snow. A big thanks to the skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) for the reassurance that spring has truly arrived. Soon, the forest bed will be sprinkled with dainty Trilliums and the outstretched green foliage of the skunk cabbage will be overlooked. Not its smell, though! It is a stinker once its leaves unfurl. Even so, I’m a fan because its a harbinger of spring in the woods and the stinky fragrance attracts certain insect pollinators. Learn more here.
No signs of snow here. It’s spring and International Day of Happiness. It’s easy to be happy on the first official day of spring. (Big cozy hugs to those still in the snow.) For me, with the official spring calendar day, I cheerfully say, “Adios, winter!”
The streams are bubbling — bubbles sighted! — along the trail. The brave spring flora are emerging.
A harbinger of spring, my garden alliums have been a longtime favorite; their statuesque beauty always ignites joy. I was so worried their relocation last fall to another garden bed would disrupt their cycle. Worries, begone. Bring on the happy!
This sweet doggy is 10 today. Moose came into our lives after our previous rescue dog, Libby, passed away from old age. Never in doubt that we would rescue another dog, we kept our eyes out for adoption day opportunities. We found Moose at an adoption event in downtown Pinckney. She was the only rust haired puppy in a litter of mutts, most of which resembled German Shepherds. (We learned mamma was likely a party girl with two suitors.) Her given name of Ginger was apropos, of course. There was something about her sweet eyes and shaky little body that drew us in. She was petrified. We decided to give her a big name of Moose, named for the tiny village amid the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a favorite family destination. Truthfully, we call her Moosie 99% of the time.
Ten years later, and she still has some anxiety around people coming into our home, though she is deeply loyal, loving, vocal, and protective. She loves kids and popcorn. She has no fear of hiking in below freezing temperatures, but has a hard time walking in the heat. Tug of war is her game of choice.
A morning hike after breakfast and a birthday treat from The Brown Basset Baker started her day. Another treat later today, some tug of war, of course, and an off leash run around the yard will wrap up her birthday fun.
I left my hiking boots in Holland (MI) this weekend, so I had to resort to an old pair that took a beating during my plantar fasciitis days. A bit discouraged, I almost skipped my planned hike. Fortunately, I was determined to walk Moose this morning. The sun was vibrantly beckoning, the morning was a toasty 23 degrees requiring less layers and the doggy and I needed exercise after an indulgent weekend. (Who can resist homemade bread???) We went to our easy access trail system at the Discovery Center and found ourselves the only adventurers this morning. Quickly heading to the Lowland trail, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the trail of ice. Not discouraged, I headed to another trail entry… and another. Unfortunately, the ice was prevalent. Determined to never have another injury in my life, I realized today was not going to be a trail day after all. The lower lip started to fatten and a frown started settling in, but damn that sun was bright and the air’s purity quickly flipped that hint of a frown.
I’ve learned a trick over the years: when I feel discouraged or sad for whatever reason, I quickly say, “I am grateful.” I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful I can walk. I am grateful for nature that surrounds me. I am grateful. Moose and I walked the ice-free drive through the park and basked in the sun’s glow as it shimmered through the trees. I am grateful.
Years ago, I committed to the gym with a zealous passion. Aerobics, Zumba, strength and spin classes, pilates and floor routines were tackled with verve. One solid year. I enjoyed the vibe, the social interactions and the variety. And then I was done. I thought, “What the heck?” I could be inhaling fresh air and feeling that soulful deep cleanse after a hike in the woods. Bye bye gym, back to nature. For me, being outside is the best mental and physical workout. While I greatly admire those who commit to early morning swims and spins within four walls, I have not missed the gym at all. So last night, when I stumbled upon an outdoor gym at a park near my daughter’s evening activity, I thought, “Hey, now this I can do.” After squats, arm presses and some rowing, I walked through crunchy snow toward the sunset. Thanks, Hamburg Township!
During the early hours of November 9, the winds blew in the first snow of the season. The snowfall was surprising; waking up to the chilly billowy blanket prompted spontaneous glee. A native “up north” Michigander, I can never hold back celebrating the first snow.
Quickly, though, the date sank in. This day was supposed to be the 55th wedding anniversary for mom and dad. Dad’s passing on September 11 is very fresh. Though he was 88, he died as a result of head trauma after a fall, so his sudden death was unexpected. As the day progressed, I wavered between joy for the snow and sadness for mom and dad. Additionally, my California family and friends were under wildfire siege after the tragic Thousand Oaks shootings. The wickedly warm Santa Ana winds prodded Southern California fires to spread quickly while NoCal suffered deeply from its own firestorm. The day was a tough one. Memories of dad, fear for my loved ones and concern for mom kept my stomach in knots all day… except when I walked the trails around my house or caught a glimpse of the pretty snowscape from my windows throughout the day. I am thankful the snow stayed through the night.
Today, we’re back to November brown; the shade between the last of autumn’s pretty palette and Aslan’s Narnia. My California loved ones are safe and the fires are somewhat contained. I am hopeful the brave teams of firefighters will be able to rest soon.
I am very thankful for our Great Lakes. The five giant bodies of fresh water provide protection from major weather catastrophes. As long as the snow keeps falling and nature keeps sharing its comfort, I have hope.
There’s something about hiking in the woods on a just-below freezing fall morning. The wool layers go on and the cozy hat and mittens are a must, but after a few brisk moves, the chill is utterly refreshing and the bod is toasty. Moose and I were in need of a good hour hike and Mill Lake always delivers. Sun beams sprinkled the trail today with dancing light bursting through the trees dressed in late season foliage. The breathtaking beauty required a few moments of gratitude and deep breaths of fresh air at one of my favorite stops along the lake loop on the Oak Woods trail.
The Mill Lake loop is a favorite four-season hike just minutes from downtown Chelsea. I highly recommend it after you explore the Discovery Center trails and feel confident in your whereabouts. I like to park off Mclure to hop on the trail. Let intuition guide you; just keep following the trail closest to the lake. (If you start walking away from the lake… alert, alert!) To make the loop, hike on the Lakeview trail, portions of the Waterloo-Pinckney trail system, Oak Woods trail and through Mill Lake campground. Once out of the campground, walk a brief moment on Mclure to complete the loop back to the boat launch lot. The instinctive loop is counterclockwise, though the reverse is a fun outing as well. Just stick to the trails closest to the lake. Get outside and take a hike!
Taking a page from my lovely friend Angela Berent, I thought I would reflect on three favorite moments of my 40s. Angie wrote List Your Life: A Modern-Day Memoir, a journal-like book that provides thoughtful prompts for you to write down three related life experiences. With just a few more days before I turn 50, this pause to appreciate happy moments of the last decade fills me with gratitude.
Travel. Thanks to my husband’s work travels, the frequent flier miles pile up. It is because of those miles — which means he is away often during the year — that my family and I have enjoyed several amazing adventures in the last decade. I am grateful for travel, a necessity to me for my mental well being. Even though I am quite the homebody, I love frequent immersions in varied settings and cultures. Travel — lumped under one favorite moment — over the last decade included two trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary five years ago and, more recently, to celebrate my 15th anniversary with Kris. The Wild West calls to our family thanks to my dad’s western foray in the 1950s that prompted his baby sister, Rosemary, to move to Wyoming at 18 where she fell in love with a cowboy.
Travel also included two adventures to Europe, one in 2012 and the other this past summer. Our travels in 2012 took us to Paris; Champéry, Switzerland, and Villanova, Spain. This summer, as an early celebration for my 50th, we ventured to the Dalmatian Coast and Plitvice National Park of Croatia; Ljubljana, and the mountains and Soca River of Slovenia; Venice and the Amalfi Coast of Italy. More on all these adventures later. Travel was big in my 40s. I am sure hoping to experience more in my 50s.
Parenting. Another huge moment, I witnessed my eldest daughter graduate high school (2014) and college (2018). I am astounded at her passion for learning and for her life goals after she wraps up a second major this December. I am in awe of her ability to juggle multiple, impressive work experiences, volunteer work and school work. I cannot wait to see her launch her career in the new year. My youngest just entered high school and I can see her blossoming. The next few years will be exciting to see her passions evolve.
Writing. Lastly, one of my most rewarding writing experiences was earning a Michigan Notable Book award in 2008 with my writing partner, Lorri. Our book (now out of print), From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries, was an experience I cherish. It was a blast to write and photograph for the book and the award put us on the road meeting people during numerous presentations in small and large communities throughout Michigan.
My top three memories of my 40s encompass a lot of subtopics, which I promise to delve into more deeply in future posts. For now, though, I’ll just feel grateful.
There is something about the sight of cattails. The soft, buoyant “hotdogs on a stick” remind me of my childhood in northern Michigan. These spongy plants were used for many make-believe moments with my siblings that typically involved roasting hotdogs over a fire. Even the simple joy of the buttery fur between my fingertips made a lazy autumn afternoon seem magical.
Since those days, I have learned about all the marvelous uses of the cattail. The dense flower provided bedding comfort for Native Americans and pioneers, and helped ignite fires for cooking and warmth. During World War II, the flower was used to stuff life vests. Experts at the Outdoor Channel say we can forage the “shoots, flowers and pollen” for eating and enjoy similar tastes to “corn and cucumber.” So, the charming cattail does not taste like a hotdog after all.
On my weekly autumn hikes, I will continue to keep my eye out for cattails. And, as the frosty breath of winter settles in, the frozen stalks amid the wetlands will provide a welcome reminder of home.