In a Northern Neighborhood

At the end of October my neighborhood was ablaze with color. This isn’t unusual – what is unusual is that this year I was in Michigan to experience it for the first time… once again. For the past 11 years we have been in Florida from the middle of October to the middle of November. We leave our northern neighborhood just as a few branches of color are showing here and there. Every year I eagerly watch for these small patches of color just as in the spring I eagerly watch for the gentle green of new leaves. We return to Michigan about this time in November to bare trees and the only fallen leaves to be seen are on the floor of wooded areas and on the edges of country roads. We return to Michigan to see what I see outside my windows now as we move close to our Thanksgiving celebration. Skeleton trees bare of leaves.

But I am still thinking about the past three weeks and am so thankful for being able to experience them. We had a really warm early November so I spent a lot of time outdoors taking photos and raking (well, more time photographing than raking). I was seeing autumn in my neighborhood through the eyes of someone living in the southern United States. I was seeing autumn from a macro perspective because it felt so exotic.

I noticed how the tree full of golden orange leave (first photo) in our side yard had a few bare limbs, exposing seedpods that are hanging on long after thousands of them dropped in early summer. When I was a child we called them whirly-gigs and would toss them in the air to watch them twirl to the ground. One of the wonders of nature. Next spring I will be pulling up small maple tree seedlings from my garden beds.

It is so amazing how many leaves are on a full-grown tree. The tree can be covered with brilliant leaves and still, underneath the ground is covered.

We needed to rake these up because the grass had grown during the warm days and the man who mows our lawn was coming the next day. We also went for a walk and both Jim and I moved to the east side of the street so we could walk through the dry, fallen oak leaves blown there by the wind. Oak leaves are the most fun to walk through because they are big and make lots of crinkling sounds when we do that special kind of shuffle-walk that we learned as children walking to school.

In a few days the weather turned colder, more seasonal, and the wind blew hard. As I drove down the country road on my way to somewhere, the leaves were whirling in circles on the road and leaves were falling so heavily that it sometimes made me wonder if I would have to turn on the wipers to see. Then I laughed at myself. What joy.

And then they needed raking again.

My inspiration for writing about living in my northern neighborhood this autumn came from the Lens-Artists Challenge # 123: Found in the Neighborhood.

Old Barns

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I’ve noticed a pattern when I stop to photograph an old barn. I stay on the road because owners get angry, or at least really nervous, when people walk around their property with a camera. Still, I frequently have the owner come out asking what I’m doing. I tell them what I”m doing, but also tell them how beautiful I think their barn is. They melt and we stand a while talking about the barn. They give me a history of the barn and tell me to take as many photos as I want. This is what happened when I was photographing the barn above.

I am noticing a lot of old barns are getting new roofs and having siding boards replaced, or new metal siding put on. What is really sad is when owners tell me that the grand old beautiful barns they own can’t be maintained because of structural or foundation problems. The cost is prohibitive.

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My cousin’s husband owns the next barn and he was telling me that it was built in the late 1800’s and he recently had the foundation fixed. Being a small barn it worked well and he continues to use it to store some of the antique tractors he owns.

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This post was inspired by Nancy Merrill Photography, who calls for photographs of things over 100 years old this week.

Patterns

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The normal landscape of Michigan provides beautiful patterns – patterns that touch my soul because I have been enjoying their beauty for many, many years. They whisper my history as the wind blows through and over and around the gently rolling hills.

I took the above photo on a frosty December morning when everything was touched by frost and the weak, soft light of a sun sitting low in the southern sky. There was a brisk breeze blowing the plumbs of grass seeds so I looked for a composition that would not only show the pattern of the seed heads, but also the pattern of the wind. The pattern of the rolling hills made a pleasant background and a wood lot provided balance on the right.

As I drive down country roads, I love the patterns of newly plowed fields, rows of crops…

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and especially the pattern of rows of corn stubble broken by gently rolling fields – on a misty fall morning as the sun is coming up. The hard part is finding a safe place to pull over to find the perfect composition of patterns and then to have enough height to see over the first hill to the second and third.

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I created this post in response to the 2020 Photo Challenge. The February theme is focused on the technique of using patterns.

 

Getting Ready

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Spring dune flowers in Upper Michigan

It is August and today the weather has that late summer feel, when I start thinking of Fall and our annual 5-week camping trip from mid-August to mid-September. I am so eager to go as we are returning to the Canadian Rockies, the western side of Glacier International Park, and down to Oregon to see our grandson’s family. I have menu items planned, our bed made up for warmer nights, have started stocking the cupboards with staples, and have meals in the freezer so we don’t have to do much grocery shopping while on the road. Next week I’ll be able to start packing in earnest as we will need both warm weather and cold weather bedding and clothes. I really want to get this show on the road.

At the same time as I am eager to move on into Fall and our travelling home, I have been spending time looking at the photos from our last camping trip with friends to the very upper portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Not surprising because both involve quiet, easy living. My request for a day trip was to go to Wilderness State Park that is situated where Lake Michigan narrows into the Straits of Mackinaw between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Our friend was asking if we would be able to see the Big Mac so I told him to pull over at a turn-off.

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I remember camping at Wilderness when our kids were young but the campground didn’t look familiar. That has happened several places because the shorelines change as sands shift resulting in the campgrounds needing to be redesigned and enlarged. What was the same was the sense of wildness and quiet. We were far away from towns.

It is a place where the kids learned how to entertain themselves with simple activities using nature’s toys. Maybe we don’t outgrow this pleasure.

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The vastness of each of the five Great Lakes pulls me into thinking about the greater questions of life as I gaze into the horizon. Sometimes we engage in small talk, but most of the time we just enjoy quiet time together.

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This is a beautiful wilderness in the summer months with warm sun and cool breezes off the water. In the winter the weather can be brutal although a lot of people enjoy the outdoor winter sports that are available. When I think of winter in northern Michigan, I think of Florida.

But before I think of Florida, I’m thinking of driving across Canada and down the Rocky Mountains into the northwest states. I’m thinking of traveling with our cozy little home behind us, spending time exploring the changing landscapes, eating healthy meals we cook ourselves, finding small pleasures along the way, and taking lots of photographs.