Shades of Autumn (photo heavy again!)

IMG_8189

This has been an autumn of incomparable beauty in these parts!

Do I say that every year?

I believe I do and, yet, this year seems special. It might be because I have taken more than the normal number of opportunities to get out and enjoy this fall. I’ve taken multiple leaf-peeping drives with my mom, made that trip to the Wild Center with Don, and had a bracing walk in the woods with a friend.

I’ve sought out autumn color, in panoramic views.

And up close.

In the mountains.

And by the lake.

Bright.

And subtler.

In my own yard.

The best thing about autumn here, maybe, is that it shows up everywhere. Even on the ugliest commercial highway, I’ll see one glorious tree. Or in a muddy patch, one bright leaf. At every turn of the road, is a new reason to gasp out loud and stop and admire.

This year I’ve made a point to drive rural roads where there’s so little traffic I can hit the brakes, put the car in reverse, and go back to take a good look at a view I glimpsed out of the corner of my eye.

And try to capture it in a photo, or ten, to share with you.

And still, I never, ever, feel like the photos do justice to the scenes. The colors don’t sparkle, the leaves don’t shimmer in the crisp breeze, and photos can’t convey the glory of it all.

And yet every year I try.

So here you have Autumn 2019. It was all an autumn should be.

The big rains and wind came a couple days ago and took most of the leaves down.

And we are reminded again of the evanescence of beauty, the moment that passes too quickly, that “nothing gold can stay.”  We must appreciate the gold, and the good, while we can.

IMG_8665

Adirondack Extravaganza: The Wild Center (photo heavy!)

Nothing lights a fire under a lapsed blogger like a blog-worthy outing!

And we took a quintessential autumn outing this week—to the Wild Center of the Adirondacks.

I’ve written elsewhere about this region of upstate New York I call home. The Adirondack Park is “the biggest natural park in the lower 48 states. It can hold Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks inside its borders.” 

About 20 years ago, the idea surfaced to build a natural history museum in the ADK Park.

Does that sound boring? It is anything but!

From that initial germ of an idea came the Wild Center, an amazing outdoor/indoor set of experiences that explains, informs, and celebrates the environment in these mountains.

Making the trip in autumn gave us the bonus of a glorious drive.

IMG_8297.jpg

The Center is in the town of Tupper Lake, about 1.5 hours by car from our house.

I could relay all kinds of facts and figures but the website does that better.

I’ll just show you some photos.

Planet Adirondack, a huge globe in a darkened hall, allows visitors to see storms across the earth in real time.

The animal inhabitants of the region, some living, some still informative in their preserved states.

Art of the indigenous peoples of the region and a place to make your own art

And a display to warm the heart of a weaver.

The Wild Center opened in 2006 but just a few years ago they added the Wild Walk. And what a wild and wonderful walk it is!

The attention to deal is amazing

IMG_8321

Lots of information

IMG_8320

. . . and inventive ways to bring it alive

IMG_8319

A small vignette along the way

IMG_8317

The seat of the swing says “Soar from tree to tree”

IMG_8345

Every inch of concrete walkway is imprinted with twigs and pine needles

The Wild Walk rises gradually from the forest floor to the level of the treetops.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I can’t imagine a better place to teach about and honor the wonders of this region. And, even better, it’s all accessible to people of all generations and abilities!

We have many reasons to return:

  • to see the otters playing in their waterfall. They were shy the day we were there;
  • to see the place without marauding hordes of 12-year-olds. We arrived just as many buses unloaded kids on field trips;
  • to get a photo of me on the spider web! I really, really wanted that photo  . . . but not with hordes of 12-year-olds;
  • and to absorb more of the vast amount of information and experiences offered.

The lovely news is that we were given free passes to return! When we were leaving, I asked at the main desk for a phone number so, next time, we can call ahead to ask about the school trips (and avoid them!) The admissions manager overheard me and gave us passes to come back, as well as that phone number.

If you were visiting me and wanted to understand this part of our world, I would take you to The Wild Center.

And I would show you a moose:

IMG_3270

So soon . . . autumn

Imagine my surprise when, last week, on August 15, I saw this.

IMG_3018

Embers where there will be flames of color soon

The signs of autumn approaching are creeping in everywhere.

Apple boxes are appearing in orchards, with harvest beginning.

IMG_3024

Apples are even falling from some trees.

IMG_3021

The reeds in the bay start to grow brown, from the bottom up, as do corn stalks.

IMG_7297

What’s more fun about the photos of the bay, are the herons. We see them all summer but they’re solitary birds so it was exciting to see four at one time.

Version 2

They nest very near.

IMG_7336

The geraniums, bottom right, are on our seawall.

Late summer on the lake . . . it’s getting quieter already.

Are you seeing signs of autumn? Or maybe spring?!

Summer is a delicate balance

IMG_0239Remember when you were a little kid, when summer was unalloyed gold, just hours and days and weeks of playing and lazing about?

And then, eventually you had to get a summer job, but there was still plenty of time to ride bikes and do big splashy cannonballs into the water?

But then you grew up and bought a house, with a big yard. You became an adult. It seemed like such a good idea at the time . . .

At that point, summers changed irrevocably.

Now, summer is the best time, in this region where winters are long and fine days may be few, to do outside chores and upkeep.

We have been working like dogs!

IMG_6858

We have been sanding the deck and the steps and all the other outside wood, sanding it and filling cracks and repainting. We need to seal the cedar siding on the house and paint the trim and deal with the gardens and so many other tasks that can really only be done in the summer months.

But summer is also the best time to enjoy our lovely lakeside location, in the beautiful region where we live.

IMG_1895

It’s the prime time to bask in rare perfect days.

So, we work for the delicate balance that is summer.

We clean the house and plan meals and enjoy time with family and with friends but we balance that with time for just us two, alone, where we find ease and contentment.

We balance the time our cats spend outside, on the roof, in the gardens, lurking in the bushes, with our annual trips to the vet with each of them.

We turn our attention to the details of our surroundings, how the color of that purple iris is nothing like the color of this one.

And wonder whether frogs are like snowflakes, every one unique.

IMG_1202

And the first buds of the first flowers, ever, on the climbing hydrangea.

IMG_6504

We have flowers on the climbing hydrangea!  And they said it couldn’t be done . . .

But we also look to the wider view, the sky that seems bluer in the Adirondacks on Lake Champlain than anywhere else ever. And the dancing white sails of boats, finally set free from winter.

We balance trips to the local ice cream shop, for Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie and Chocolate Moosetrack ice cream, with brisk walks and weeding and more sanding and painting. It is, after all, bikini season (bwahahahaha!) and the best time to be outside, moving one’s muscles.

Summer is the only time, in my purveyor-of-vintage-linens persona, when I can take decent photos of larger vintage items, like blankets and big tablecloths, so I balance ironing and picture taking on sunny days with making new listings and other Etsyfying on days of gray.

Through it all, we kind of lose the idea of a lazy, hazy summer. We’re never bored.

Summer can be hard work. It can be physically exhausting. It can feel stressful, trying to fit everything in.

We balance all that with strict rules about quitting time. We meet at the fire pit, out by the lake, at 5. I might do some hand sewing but no other work is allowed.

We put our feet up. We chat. We plan the heavy lifting for the next day, we have a cocktail, we listen to the foolish kingfishers chatter, and watch the cats snack on the catnip plants.

IMG_8402

IMG_2696

And these really quiet moments are all the sweeter because our bodies are tired and hands are sore.

There will be time to be lazy and hazy during the winter . . .

It’s summer now.

IMG_0288

 

Lessons from My Garden

 

IMG_2877

I ache all over.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately, and the better part of the last two two days, outside trying to bring some sense of order to our yard and gardens.

The temperature has been in the 60s (call it 18 celsius) and it’s been sunny, so it’s been a delight to be outdoors. But it’s hard work, is yard work. And since my husband had yet another ankle surgery last month, a lot of it is falling to me.

I learn, or re-learn, many lessons in these days of April.

  • This isn’t yet a lovely time of year. It has its moments and, all in all, it’s better than February, but April is pretty chilly, quite windy, and way too wet.
  • Living on a lake has its downside. Ever since we had to leave our home for 6 weeks several years ago, when Lake Champlain flooded and we could only get in the house by wearing chest waders, we have had a healthy, nervous respect for the lake in April. It’s high right now, into flood stage, but not yet really a problem . . . knock wood.
  • I now know where I planted my mother’s irises. We sold her place late last fall and I had to rush to dig up the irises and bring them here. And I had no idea where I put them! Now I know and I’m thrilled to see them. It’s good to have something new, and old, to look forward to.
  • All the leaves from upstate New York, most from Vermont, and quite a few from Canada blow in every late fall and form dense, thick mats on our lawn. The tops look dry but underneath they’re soaked and in spots still frozen. The Canadian encroachers bother me most and I think maybe we should build a wall.
  • The gym didn’t do me much good at all. I dutifully went, all winter long, and sweated on the treadmill and that elliptical thingy, and am still knackered after two hours raking.
  • The corollary to which is: the best overall way to stay fit is to do yard work.
  • I did a wretchedly bad job, just really lazy, of cleaning up the gardens last autumn, which is proof of another pivotal lesson of life: You can pay now or you can pay later.
  • I’ve been reminded that little things offer huge rewards after winter—that one golden crocus, the old cats that act like kittens again and zoom up trees, the bits of chartreuse that are thriving under the frozen mat of dead leaves—it’s that color that happens only in early spring and is so fleeting and perfect.
  • And I’ve learned, again, the pleasure of the bone-deep tiredness that comes from working outside, to care for our bit of Earth.

What lessons does your garden have to teach?

Building Your Word Power: Sastruga

Over the years, I’ve posted photos of one of my favorite winter phenomena and a couple of years ago, blogger Sandra, from A Corner of Cornwall, told me there was a fancy name for it!

Sastruga (pl. sastrugi) It means: “ridges of snow formed on a snowfield by the action of the wind.”

When the wind screams off the lake, it sculpts the snow into constantly changing shapes . . . sastrugi.

Some are subtle.

IMG_5392

Some are gorgeous, sinuous, and flashy.IMG_3303

It may look like striations in rock

IMG_5397

Or waves of water, breaking

img_6444

img_6458

Or just plain peculiar . . .

img_2757

This was from earlier this week. Those “duck bills” have an overhang of at least a foot!

Sastruga–A new word for you–you’ll need to use it three times, in a sentence, to make it your own . . .

Would you ever have a need for such a word, in your neck of the woods?

Winter’s Silver Lining

At this point of winter, we Northerners look for silver linings.

Many are the reasons to pity the poor Southerners, but one presented its silver self this morning.

Freezing fog and the delicate, sparkling rime it leaves behind.

I’m no meteorologist and I would have to look up the specific conditions that give us freezing fog, but Northerners know it is distinct from garden-variety frost.

In its wake, freezing fog leaves the most delicate fuzz of crystals on the entire outdoors. Every tree and twig and dried weed and fence post is enrobed so they all appear a bit softened, muted, as if behind a scrim.

(If you click on the photos, you can count the little spikes of ice!)

The temperature rises a degree or two, the sun comes out, and it’s gone. Winter is cold and a little bleak and hard-edged again. 

But we had our silver lining for a moment . . . and that counts for a lot during winter.