As I said a few days ago, I recently lost a friend. We had been friends since we were 14 and she walked into my school wearing a big green Girl Scout uniform. SO not cool. We had all given up Scouts in the 7th grade. But, similar passions for hiking, canoeing, bird watching, cycling, camping, and travel won out and we became lifetime friends.
Louise never married so she was always generous with my children, enjoyed them immensely, encouraged them, and considered them family. She had the loudest laugh of anyone I ever knew, and she used it often. She also had exuberance and appreciation that knew no bounds. We loved it when Louise came to stay, but, when Louise left, we needed a rest from her energy, volume, and enthusiasm.
Louise retired from a lifetime of teaching just a few months ago. She wasn't nearly done living. She had plans, oh, my she had plans, and was just waiting for spring weather to get them underway.
I can't believe she is gone. It's a cliche, but it is also true as can be. I can't find the place to settle that thought in my mind. How can someone with such a huge energy field just not be there anymore?
Life is drawn up short for some time, and then it goes on. My reaction, and my tribute, is to renew my intent to fill every moment of my own life and savor every experience.
So I booked my flights for September. I began making plans and room reservations. And I ordered something I have wanted for years:
A bike that folds up and fits in my car.Now all I need is a bell, a wicker basket, and a straw hat with daisies on it!
The first apple blossoms opened this morning. They are so lovely against the blue sky.
That means it's time to fertilize. I use a mixture of bone meal, kelp, and blood meal, spread at the dripline and watered in.
Somebody has been busy, a chickadee, or maybe a mouse over the winter. The white stuff hanging out is a piece of the remay cloth I use to cover the strawberry bed to keep out the birds. (Not that I mind sharing, but they take a peck out of every berry and leave only mush for me!) There is a variety of other soft natural materials inside.
These are the only plants still waiting to go in the ground, except for the pepper plants I'll buy at the farmer's market tomorrow. Otherwise, the garden is planted, hooray!
My daughter lives in an apartment in the big city, no place for a garden. She is quite an accomplished cook so I potted up some herbs for her in these giant teacups. Both my daughters love tea, like their mama.
It's a long holiday weekend in the US, with Memorial Day on Monday. And it looks like we will be having some really nice weather for this start to the summer season. I will be especially remembering my friend Louise that day for the Memorial Day weekend camping trips we took my kids on. Louise passed away suddenly a few weeks ago. I still can't believe she is gone.
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According to the sign, this room on exhibit in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was discovered intact during a recent renovation. It was the office of curator Barton Kestle who disappeared mysteriously in 1954, just the way he had left it.
Mr. Kestle was summoned to Washington because he refused to "sign a loyalty oath" and disappeared without a trace enroute. He was never found and his office was sealed up and forgotten about in some dark corner of the museum.
There are so many details in this room, right down to the stains on the carpet, a stopped clock, dust on the desk, coat, hat, and scarf hanging on a coat tree, a painting on an easel awaiting his attention.
My daughter and I were intrigued by this mystery, me because I had never heard of it which kind of surprised me.
Alas, WE HAD BEEN "HAD"!
Apparently we are in good company. According to the Star Tribune, when the exhibit opened, museum employees believed the ruse and one person called the newspaper demanding an investigation.
Ha ha ha. A museum with a sense of humor!
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I sit in the back garden with a fragrant cup of something new, green tea with coconut, in a Surround Sound of birdsong, contemplating all the work that needs to be done here. It's so easy to focus on the weeds, the potatoes by my feet waiting to be planted, the grass that needs to be mowed.
Plum blossoms against the sky
But today, for maybe an hour, I will try to settle my mind, ignore the "shoulds", and let in only the perfection of every new baby leaf, every candy-colored feather, every miracle of spring that has slowly lit up the North Country. It is what I waited for all the long, cold winter, what I longed for when I worked 50 and 60 hour weeks -- time to relax and enjoy the garden.
So come sit with me, in the old wicker chair that has made it through another winter. It's still a little chilly so you'll need a jacket and a cup of tea to warm your hands.
An urgent-sounding house wren is checking out the three available housing choices, two of them made by my dad before he died. Soon he will put a few sticks inside one and set about winning a lady wren, convincing her that this house is indeed the best real estate.
Blue jays, goldfinches, mourning doves, chickadees, white throated sparrows, house finches, rose- breasted grosbeaks, and a single indigo bunting shuck seeds at the hanging feeders.
These birds seem willing to take turns and share, but things are competivite at the grape jelly and sugar water feeders. The orchard and northern orioles, catbirds, ruby-throated hummingbirds, and robins shout and dive at each other, driving one another away, leaving the feeders swinging in the air.
A white-breasted nuthatch,formally dressed in his dapper blue and gray suit, scurries up and down the bark of the big ash tree searching for bugs, and a woodpecker drums in the distance. Yellow-rumpled warblers and yellow warblers bounce and weave through the new leaves after the earliest insects.
A crimson male cardinal feeds his mate sunflower seeds on the rim of the birdbath and as soon as they leave, a robin dives right in for a splashy bath.
Two squirrels chase each other up and down everything in their path, wrestling each other like my five year old twin grandsons when one catches up to the other, then both take off again in another direction. One has only the tiniest of tails. Easily recognizable, he rates a name: Stumpy.
The wind ruffles the red, orange, and yellow flowers in the big hanging basket my grandsons gave me for Mothers Day.
The asparagus and rhubarb grow inches overnight, and there will be roasted asparagus and something with rhubarb for dessert tonight.
There are two wool fairs held in Washington County, Minnesota, every spring. The first one, held over the weekend, is the alpaca and llama fair (with some miscellaneous animals sneaked in). I love the colors, textures, smells, sounds. Alpacas make the sweetest, saddest sounds, sort of a soft wistful moaning.
"Hello, everyone. Come on in the barn so I can get a look at you."
No two alpacas are the same. These have curly topknots and smiling faces.
I had never seen an alpaca being shorn. It certainly doesn't look very fun for the alpaca.
"Hey, don't look at me! I'm naked and feeling embarrassed." This baby alpaca, called a cria, has just been shorn.
Alpaca wool is expensive, $1.50/oz. and up. That's unwashed, uncarded, and there is always waste because some fibers are too short to spin. The wool is very desirable because it is so soft, luxurious, and warm. When you wear it, it is never itchy.
The fleece is washed and carded into roving. The colors at the front are natural and at the back are dyed.
The colors don't have to be boring, either!
The woman on the right was spinning on a homemade wheel.
And here is the finished product, soft and lovely skeins of wool ready to be knit.
Llamas are much bigger cousins of alpacas. Can you believe how many sweater's worth of fleece this guy is wearing???
This is not a llama or alpaca. A few fiber rabbits sneaked in. This guy's wool is the highest priced of all, $6 oz.
Someone always has a new idea for using wool. This one is for the birds! I think I will be making one for my birds with my grape vine prunings and trimmings from a fleece I bought last year. I can't imagine anything nicer for baby birds to snuggle in.
I usually spin my own homespun wool, but the colors and texture of this skein were too much to resist. The photo doesn't do it justice as the blues are darker than the camera shows and it has small bits of bleached Irish linen added.
Here are some of my favorites from the recent Matisse exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
(It was a complete surprise to be able to photograph this exhibit, so I didn't have my camera. All I had was my phone so the quality of the photos isn't the greatest.)
The Music Lesson I didn't know that Matisse studied violin, continued to practice and play throughout his life, and thought about pursuing a career as a violinist.
Interior, Flowers, and Parakeets This small painting is of Matisse's apartment in Nice. It looks like he surrounded his life with the same richness of color and texture that he showed in his paintings.
The Yellow Dress I was fascinated because Matisse painted and repainted it over a period of 10 years and the pentimenti of the earlier versions are part of the finished painting. (Look at her arms and shoulders where it is really obvious.)
I love art. Each piece gives me a glimpse into another interesting and eye-opening way to look at the world. If I lived closer, I'd visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts once a week!
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The sun came out today and I headed for the Cannon Valley Trail, a 20-mile path along the Cannon River through farmland and woods. I started at Welch, roughly half way between Cannon Falls and Redwing, headed toward Redwing. I hiked about 6 miles in a section I've not hiked before.
Very little color in the woods yet.
In fact, you can still see a bit of white on this small ski hill. We had snow on Thursday.
The trail follows the old railroad bed of the former Chicago Great Western Railroad.
Moss and lichens get a chance show off with no leaves or flowers to detract.
I don't now what kind of tree this is, but the flowers were both delicate and intricate.
And then finally, when I had just about given up on seeing them . . .
bloodroot, the earliest forest flowers to be seen in the spring! They take their name from the red-orange rizomes that grows under the surface.
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