A farewell and a welcome

I have just lit a fire to honor the end of a lovely summer and to welcome the new autumn, which will officially begin at 10:21 tomorrow morning. This is always a melancholy moment, a mixture of sweet remembrance of warm days and anticipation of cool and colorful fall experiences on the near horizon. The changes in these northern Minnesota Alder & birch 1030361woods are now unmistakable. The hummingbirds have left on their migratory journey to warmer, more southern climes. The bracken ferns have gone through yellow and are reluctantly acquiescing to brown. A few sugar maples are starting to show their goodbye kisses to summer with their brilliant, flamboyant phycoerythrin pigments. The cattails (bulrushes) are puffing up, getting ready to disperse their seeds to the winds, and the Cattails-sumac 1030409sumacs are donning their deep-magenta cloaks. I haven’t seen any Canada geese in southbound chevron flight yet, but it won’t be long before they appear. The squirrels are as busy as can be, gathering and stowing whatever they can find for the long winter to come, even daring precarious perches to raid the sunflower seeds we’ve put out for the birds. Squirrel 2636The haunting songs of the loons that are such an integral part of the ambience here are now just memories. However, this is not only an end, but also a beginning.Fall harbingers 1030364 Autumn is very special for me, as my birthday falls in the first week of October, which usually coincides with the peak colors, and I use the opportunity to host a week of fun and music with some of my best friends in this world. Stay tuned—more about that soon!

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We’re back up at our cabin for another week. One of the first things we did was to refill the bird feeder with sunflower seeds. Within an hour or so they started to come and soon there was a literal flurry of activity. We’ve had nuthatches, goldfinches, and woodpeckers, but my personal favorites are the black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus). They are so Chickadee 2628cheeky, bold, and curious that by standing still and saying Dee-dee-dee in a medium-loud stage whisper, one can call them in so that they sometimes come within a few feet and perch for several seconds before zipping to another nearby perch. Love these little guys!

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Portraits of pets past: Remembering Limo

Three years ago today we said our final farewell to the last of our adopted canine companions. We had had at least one dog in the family for more than 40 years. limo-6067It is very hard to imagine a new dog in our foreseeable future, but we will always hold those who have been an integral part of our lives in high esteem. As Limo was the last, he will always have a special place in our hearts. We miss you very much, dear old friend.181-a-postBy the way, I really believe that the pets that we have taken into out hearts as family members and that have passed on are waiting for us and will be there to help to welcome us into the great beyond, when it’s our time to join them and the rest of all our loved ones.

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Tweaking Tuesday: Maymont

In the late autumn of 2013 I went on a delightful road trip from Omaha to North Carolina and southern Virginia with CD and her sister to visit my brother and attend a relative’s wedding. We had great fun and many adventures along the way, more of which I will be sharing with you in the future, but on this chilly, drizzly morning I’d like to present a warming offering. One of the most memorable places we visited was the Maymont estate in Richmond, Virginia. It started in 1886 when Major James H. Dooley acquired a former dairy farm on the James River and converted it to an opulent mansion, which they completed in 1893; the family then developed the gardens over the next 30 years. maymont-6421Major Dooley died in 1922 and upon the death of his wife in 1925, the estate was bequeathed to the city of Richmond.  There were no heirs to parcel the land or distribute the contents of the mansion, and it was opened as a public park and museum, virtually intact, only six months later.  My favorite part of the entire estate, by far, was the Japanese garden.  There was a light rain and the sky was overcast, providing conditions I love for photography. For this post, I’ve tone-mapped the original image with Nik software, applieded a Photoshop filter, and added some color adjustments in Adobe Lightroom.

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Silly Saturday: the French connection

I’ve been thinking all week about a suitable silly offering for today, and I’ve come up with a few possibilities, especially after having delved so deeply into my excursions to France. I had not considered this one until just very recently, but it has won out in the end. Although there’s really nothing actually silly about the content, in any sense of the word, let me hasten to assure you that the connection is—in my mind, at least—perfectly logical, so please bear with me.  When I drove by this place in the spring of 2003, saw it off to the side, stopped and backed up for a much closer look, and practically crawled my way through the flowers to this vantage point, made a few careful shots, withdrew back to my car, and consulted my trusty map, the closest place I could find (and I am not making this up) was Silly-en-Goffern. I have tried, several times since, to find the meaning of the Silly-en-gouvern 04-23-02 French word “Silly,” and I have so far been unsuccessful. It’s not in my Random House pocket French-English dictionary, and I just tried another Google search, without any success.  If, perchance, any of you French speakers out there can help me, I’d be grateful for your enabling me to close a long-standing gap in my humble polyglot education. If not, so be it—it will just have to remain one of the many great mysteries that life has to offer.

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Flashback Friday: Vaillac Brook

Two of my faithful followers (Ogee and Vicki) have requested some follow-up photos from my trip to France in April 2002. Very well, I’m happy to comply.  I made this one within a half-hour’s drive of the meadow that I posted earlier, and it maintains, I believe, the same Vaillac-brook-3 04-13-02air of  simple beauty and serenity that I hoped to convey in my earlier offering. I’m not able to offer any more location information, other than that the closest village I was able to find on my map was, again, Vaillac. Could I find this again, if I had to?  I dearly hope so!

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Webnesday (40)

It’s Webnesday again and I have a new one for you. I found this fine one in our basement just the other day and carefully eased a glass over it, slid a piece of cardboard under it, and carried it outside the next morning to what should almost certainly be a happier hunting ground.  I  released it onto a stump, where it stayed for a quarter of an hour or so. When I first saw it, its legs were spread wide, to a span of about an inch and a quarter (3 cm), and it adopted the same stance in the glass, but when on the stump, it hunkered down in this position,with its legs drawn way in. After some on-line searching, I believe we have a grass Grass Spider 2509spider here (genus Agelenopsis), but I have no idea what it was doing in the basement. I have done a bit of tone-mapping to bring out more of the shadow details and make it a bit more interesting. And yes, those of you with sharp eyes will have noticed that there’s a bonus bug on the leaf at upper left; I think it’s a probably a thrips (order Thysanoptera).

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