What was the best part of your day?

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JB read an article a couple of weeks ago that suggested identifying the best part of each day as a way of improving outlook and mental health. We had been on the Keweenaw Peninsula at the far northwest corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, camping with friends. JB and I wanted to go to a place northwest of Houghton where there is a covered drive that we have visited before and wanted to see again – along with some other sights that needed a little more exploring. Our friends didn’t want to drive that far, and probably didn’t want to ride in our truck that far, and golf was on their agenda so we struck out alone. This was good for my introverted personality that needed some alone time to recharge.

That night JB asked what the best part of the day was for me… I thought a minute or two and then we both said, “The picnic lunch on the covered drive.” It is a narrow road, just wide enough for two cars but only where there are narrow pull-offs. This works fine as we only passed four or five vehicles on the four (give or take a little) mile drive. Nothing on this drive except trees, up close to the road, and no picnic tables. We pulled over on one of the little bulges in the road and had a picnic in the truck. Just the two of us.

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Outside my window was a beautiful woods with a floor of sun-dappled ferns – and quiet and calm. I had packed crackers and humus and fig preserves. I also put in the cheese ball, an apple, and some trail mix I made from ingredients from our home-town health food store. And some of my home-made molasses cookies that have raw sugar on top that crunches when we bite into the soft cookie. What good eating as we sat and talked or didn’t say anything for long periods of time. Just sitting, knowing each other was there and being content with that.

Note: If you are ever in this area and want to get to the covered road, it is marked on the tourist information obtained at most retailers on the Keweenaw Peninsula. My directions are to turn onto the Portage Canal Road off highway 26 going south out of Houghton. The covered road goes between the Portage Canal Road and the road that goes to Redridge and Freda (old company towns for the mines). It isn’t far but make sure you have gas and a lunch because there isn’t anything out that way since the mines closed down many years ago.

A June Journey Down Dirt Roads

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It is officially summer in Michigan – because it is after Memorial Day. By the tourist calendar summer is June, July and August but my sensory calendar feels a bit off kilter, maybe more in line with the lunar calendar. I feel like I am in a sort of time warp where we are past the flush of spring blooms but not quite into the full summer blooming course.

This week we decided to once again go down dirt roads, finding some to the west that we haven’t traversed before – excited to find new territory. There weren’t many wildflowers and the landscape was very green, lots of green. It got me thinking about the landscape when we returned to Michigan just two months ago. In mid April we still had barren trees within a monochromatic brown landscape. The major transformations that takes place between winter and summer, and summer and winter still feels miraculous to me after witnessing it many, many times. Unlike me, this story of nature never grows old.

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There is a sense of peace that comes from looking over a green landscape that just a month ago was being worked with tractor and plow and is now growing, in various shades of green under a clear blue sky (with a few clouds stretching along the horizon with the sole purpose of providing interest for my landscape photos.)

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It is time for the first mowing of the hay fields, and they seem to provide a sneak preview of the harvesting that will take place within the next few months. Julie and I each bought a quart of fresh-picked strawberries at an Amish grocery that we frequently visit. Michigan strawberries are so flavorful but the season is so short. This is the last week so we are picking up a few quarts so I can make freezer jam for us and some to share with daughter-in-law Natalia. She shares so much food with us, so it is fun giving something back to her. I still feel a sense of joy when I preserve food fresh from the fields for our enjoyment throughout the year. I have done some adjusting, however, in the foods I preserve and the ways I do it now that there are just two of us eating and I have less energy.

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I really miss the old barns when we are in Florida so I’ve been yearning to find some barns that have some architectural or historic beauty. We have been down our local dirt roads so many times that we talk about when we stopped to photograph this or that barn, but don’t stop again. This week I found a new one. I love the curved roof-line of the front extension on this barn and the doors are a beautiful color. Does this farmer have a few artistic genes? Did he pick the color from the Better Homes and Gardens modern barn colors at the local hardware store?

I have been enjoying the fields where the corn is just sprouting, a pleasure that will quickly come to an end because many of the fields have corn that is close to a foot high. There is a special moving pattern formed by these fields when passed in a fast-moving car. Because of our gently rolling hills the plows create gently-curving patterns. It feels very artistic to me, but I image it has more of a scientific or practical bent for the farmer.

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It was a very good morning that soothed my soul, allowed me to spend time in conversation with a very special friend, and stimulated my thinking about the beauty I enjoy as I ride dirt roads in the middle of June in lower Michigan. Life is happening at a gentle pace here – and I like it like that.

 

Not so Tidy

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We went down dirt roads this past week, Julie and I. I was hoping to see a barn that excited my senses but that didn’t happen – although we did comment on the barns we have photographed before. We’ve been down most of the dirt roads several times, in this bit of Michigan. And we will keep going down them because we never know what we will stumble across as we putter along at a very slow, relaxing speed.

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We stop frequently, usually when we see something in a particularly good light or just because we need to check it out. In the car we talk about this and that – we have built up a trust that allows us to bring up sensitive topics and share the mundane. When we stop, we become engrossed in settings and composition and light and things like that. We have an unspoken rule that we don’t speak when we are poking around dirt roads.

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Dark is closing in tonight and I’m glad to see this day ending – not something this aging self says very often as my days may be numbered. I’ve been in a black mood, no other way to describe it. I think I slept good last night, so my low energy perplexed me. I tried to nap this afternoon but couldn’t go to sleep. It wasn’t the bad-body day that I sometimes have. It was a sunny day, not particularly humid but hot enough (90 f) that we had to turn the air conditioner on late afternoon. I returned to piecing the summer quilt I’m making for our bed, but not with the joy I thought I would have after finishing my granddaughter’s pink quilt. I puttered with a few other household tasks but didn’t finish any of them. I’m into a good book but didn’t feel like reading. I even ruminated about how I would cope if one of my children died, a very unproductive exercise that I quickly ended.

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I have a really hard time converting color photographs to black and white. It is like a wound to the soul to take color out of nature. Maybe I need a black day every once in a while so I can “see” the world in black and white. Maybe a black (and white) day is good motivation to lighten up and move back into the laughter and smiles and color.

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Aaaah, that’s better. These poppies stopped us. They once had been planted and cultivated but have been left to go wild. They are growing among the grasses and weren’t in any mood to pose for us. We didn’t complain because this is what we were going down dirt roads for. When you go down dirt roads the car gets dirty and you find beauty in the messiness of nature.

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I was drawn to the simplicity and sublime order of this late spring day in Michigan. Everything I looked at was beautiful and I sought to capture the beauty with my lens. Maybe all those little scenes weren’t as beautiful as they seemed, or maybe my photography skills need some honing because when I uploaded the photos to my laptop I deleted a whole lot of them.

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The clock on the bookshelf is telling me it is 10:00 so I think I’ll start my bedtime routine. I might even fold the basket of clean clothes I didn’t get to earlier today – or maybe I’ll leave it for tomorrow. The black mood is now just a pressure on the back of my head so maybe one of my adagio CD’s will move it on out as I do what I need to do to lull myself into a happy sleep.

May we all have good sleep and a bright tomorrow.

Texture

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Textures: Brought to you by Nature and a “Down Dirt Roads” photographer.

In response to The Daily Post prompt for photographers.