Winter Has Arrived

Yesterday afternoon I took a solo walk at Fenner Nature Center. There had been a lot of puns and Christopher Walken impressions and general noisiness in the morning, so after lunch I geared up for the colder weather, grabbed my camera, and headed south. As I stood by my car getting my camera over my neck, made extra puffy with scarf and goose down, a man started shouting in another language at his kids. I looked up to see seven or eight whitetail deer bounding by in a line, the sound of a far-off dog an indication of what may have disturbed them. I turned back to the man and shared one of those smiles you only get to share with a stranger when you’ve both witnessed something wonderful. He gathered his kids and piled them into the car. I set off into the grassland.

Fenner Nature Center, January 2016

Fenner Nature Center, January 2016

Fenner Nature Center, January 2016

Fenner Nature Center, January 2016

Fenner Nature Center, January 2016

I saw a very occasional person, heard a dog bark once or twice. But the principal sound I heard was the wind whistling through the bare treetops and the shuff, shuff sound of my own walking.

I never use a trail map when I’m there, which may explain why I made two new discoveries yesterday. I took a couple smaller side trails I’d not noticed or simply not taken in the past. One led me to an observation blind built of plywood. The other led me past this…

Totem Pole, Fenner Nature Center

I have no idea what the story is behind this totem pole, but it has lots of wonderful carvings of people and animals, including these guys…

Totems

A look at the map later shows that both of my discoveries are clearly marked. I guess that’s one reason to use a map.

Fenner Map

The woods were quiet and filled with the subtle colors of winter — white, grays, and browns — but without the leaves to distract and cast shadows on the tree trunks, their underlying yellows, reds, oranges, and greens were easier to discern.

Fenner Nature Center, January 2016

All in all a lovely, cold, windy day. It snowed overnight as well and now the trees are blanketed in white and the grass is finally buried and the windchill is near zero degrees Fahrenheit. Winter has finally come. And I couldn’t be happier.

Fenner Nature Center, January 2016

Late-Summer Love

It’s been hot and humid in the Great Lakes State.

We’re canning peaches, plums, and apricots and seeing the first apples harvested.

Birds, bees, and butterflies are at their busiest, storing away food and fat reserves for the coming cold.

It’s the time of yellow flowers.

And purple.

It’s the time of frogs.

And this year it also happens to be the time of floods.

The pond at Fenner Nature Center looks to be a foot higher than the last time I was there, and on our trip there Friday, the boy and I spied little schools of minnows swimming across the deck.

Frogs have taken to floating lazily at the surface rather than sitting on their customary rocks, which are now submerged.

In a few months the teasel will be brown and far less forgiving to the touch. Leaves that are currently melting will be crispy and skipping along the ground.

Already the international students are moving in at Michigan State University (and disregarding stop signs in the Meijer parking lot while I walk across with my seven-year-old). The rest of the college students will be back by next week. You know how people in the South blitz their grocery stores when the forecast is predicting an inch of snow? I kind of feel like I should be prepping before the U-Hauls start arriving in town.

As always, by this time I’m largely done with summer. But we have a couple very busy months coming up, so I’m trying to relish what’s left of it.

 

Goodbye, Glorious June

Sunday afternoon I took in the last bits of June at Fenner Nature Center’s restored native grassland area. I strolled among innumerable flowers, bees, butterflies, dragonflies, and a few mosquitoes (They’re finally here. Hooray.) and listened to birds trilling and wings buzzing. It was the perfect summer day — the one we remember from childhood — with blue skies and time stretched out in all directions.

Native wildflowers at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015

Butterfly weed

Milkweed at Fenner Nature Center

About to bud...

Native wildflowers and grasses at Fenner Nature Center

Wildflower gone to seed

Mourning Cloak butterfly on milkweed at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015

Coreopsis and butterfly weed

Coreopsis at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015

Native grasses against a dramatic summer sky

About halfway through the afternoon I was joined by a friend who seemed content with my company for a while.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015

We eventually went our separate ways, I to the pond to look for frogs and turtles, she to another patch of grass.

It was a lovely time away from people and the Internet, though I was disappointed that I could still hear traffic and some kids screaming in a nearby backyard. It has me looking forward to quiet July mornings on Lake Louise before the campers drag themselves out of bed and hiking through Pigeon River Country State Forest in October with my sister.

I asked my husband if he ever feels the pull to be completely away from people and all people-related things. He never has that he can recall. If I don’t get that kind of alone time in the natural world, I start getting anxious. We are both reluctant suburbanites. He would prefer to live in a high rise in New York or Chicago or Boston. I’d prefer to live in a log cabin on a remote island off the shore of Lake Superior. The day after I shot these pictures, he and our son spent an impromptu day in downtown Detroit, riding the People Mover and checking out the skyscrapers.

When I think about it, this is practically the only difference between us anymore. We’ll have been together 20 years this October (since I was fifteen), and in that time we’ve grown up and into one another so that we really are one, as we should be. Our culture so prizes individuality that I think this notion is rather quaint these days. But when it works, there’s nothing better.

Bee on coreopsis at Fenner Nature Center, June 2015