Category Archives: Weather

The Siren Mists

We’ve been experiencing very unseasonable weather here in the Midwest.  Last year on this day we were dealing with severe ice storms, power outages and dangerous roads.  Yesterday (and today, most likely) there were joggers in shorts and reports of crocus breaching through the surface of the soil.  The earthy moist smell of Spring has been in the air and it takes a moment to remember this is supposed to be the worst of the winter months.

This morning after the usual runabout in the pre-morning darkness of school buses and shuttling the blessed spouse to work, I came home and began my usual email and internet surf over a cup of coffee.   Glancing out my window I realized a heavy and thick fog had enshrouded our nearby woods.

In seconds I had bolted from my chair, grabbed the camera, the tripod and thrown on my shoes.  I was outside in a blur and had managed to forget my jacket.  This happens to artistic folk, even more so with photographers, who understand the fragile and delicate mix of light, environment and time.

Why are misty woods so magical?  Is it the constriction on the senses?  The softness?  The quiet?  Sitting quietly in gray woods it is not hard to feel connected to something, to feel a gentle peace swirl around you.  It can be a time of mysterious, magical peace.

It is said that when mists are thick it is a sign nature spirits are about.   Obscured in the gray, they can move more easily, drifting just on the edge of eyesight, gliding on dampened leaves.  I believe such a thing is possible.  I asked the crows who flew by but could not understand their answer.

Mists form pocket domains and much like life, it is difficult to see where you are going.  If you decide to move forward you can see only your next few steps.  In looking back you may know where you have been but you can no longer see it.  Your world is only that which either you move to see or the mist allows you to see.  Perhaps this is the magic of fog and mist?

A physical reminder that we are simply walking in the middle between the past and the future.

All Boxed Out

The big move in 100+ degree heat is finally over.  The walkthrough of the old place is done and we’ve been given a thumbs-up.  Boxes are piled around us and the new challenge of re-organizing is before us.  We’re into our new place and we cannot get over how wonderfully peaceful it is here; no loud car noises, no yapping dog across the road.  Only the roaring of the summer cicadas to lull us into a nice meditative stupor.

We’re also exhausted.

I spent most of the week being outside and carrying large cardboard boxes full of items that were not mine.  (Oh, don’t get me wrong, my wife will happily explain how several of those crates were mine as well!)  It’s a sneaky thing the heat will do to you.  I was fine for the first few days but as we wrapped up and the week came to a close I became absolutely exhausted.

Sitting with the dawn
exquisite touch of a breeze.
Cicadas and crows.

Today, we’re resting and we’re doing so with all the passion and zeal in which we performed the move.  Part of that has been catching up on email and Twitter.  I was really pleased to see my post “On The Simple Haiku” made it onto the The Weekly World Haiku News page from Paper.li on the 24th!

It made my peaceful morning all the more sweet.

Summertime Haiku

I crafted these over the past few days as I was out in the heatwave, packing, moving and doing some grounds keeping.

Merciless heat,
treetops the only movement.
Grey clouds boil above.

Stifling Summer wind,
brown leaves skitterdance past.
The cicadas sing.

Morning Bluetime Walk

I tumbled out of sleep a quarter after four in the morning due to stress.  It was the usual things you would expect for an unemployed father; finances, self-worth, simple and typical night time gremlins.  No matter how simple those imps they always work their skill at stealing sleep.

To add to the anxiety, we’ve been ramping up for a full move to another apartment in the same neighborhood by the end of the month.  It is a good move as we’re moving closer to the nearby woods and away from the constant sound of traffic from the all-to-near city street turned into major thoroughfare.  Even though a good move, it still brings it’s share of chaotic influence.  All food for the early morning gremlins.

When I wake like this I often turn to the internet or a computer game to calm me along with a glass of milk.  It’s a tried and true fix.  It’s usually a nice distraction, a silent hour staring at the screen, trying to shovel the dirt of the conscious over my subconscious dragons.  It’s a fine remedy most times.  However, this time, there was a restlessness hovering on me.  Even after finishing a modest snack of a breakfast, it persisted and coaxed me with a need to have fresh air and to be outside.  Barefoot,  I walked out my front door and into the early morning night.

The blast furnace heat from the previous day had subsided and it was pleasant outside.  The light of a waning half moon shone in the southern sky and a temperate evening breeze tussled the branches of the trees.  It was more than pleasant.  It was fantastic.  Not content to stay near the house, I took a longer walk around our neighborhood and the pond at it’s center, enjoying the feel of my bare feet on concrete, grass, dirt and pathway mulch.  Out here, in the air, under starlight, there was a connection in those quiet, dark hours and I floated with it.

There is a wondrous purity in these hours no matter the season or phase of the moon.  It’s one of my favorite times of the day and I wondered to myself as I stood in the middle of our parking lot gazing upwards at the stars, why don’t I do this more often?  Why do I opt instead to stare at a screen?  Because that’s the easy way out of it?  How little effort was involved in just stepping out my door!  I know it to be the better answer but somehow always do an excellent job of forgetting it.

Cold rice before dawn.
The summer bluetime stillness.
Half moon crowns a pine.

Dawn eased forward and birds began to call to one another.  I believe it was a cardinal that started things off.  People began to stir around me.  I sat on the steps outside our apartment and continued to enjoy the last remaining minutes before the day, and the heat, began.  I had passed through something,  a quietly hanging gossamer curtain, and once on the other side, life was calm, centered.  As I was about to move and stand to go inside, Universe offered me one final gift before I moved on with my day.

Warm summer morning.
From the tall pond weeds, a doe
and her two children.

A Morning Winter Wandering

I walked out the door at dawn.  A winter storm had blown throughout the night and I was anxious to get out and see what it had left.  About three inches of pure white snow covered the ground.  Coming in on the heels of a rain it had been a heavy snow and hung on the tree branches, blasted against the trunks by the wind.

Blowing wind was keeping the windchill temperature at around 10 degrees and there was still snow in the air.  I did not expect a lot of bird activity.  My only spotting upon leaving my door was a lone crow high up in the treeline to the south.  I was shown the error of my expectation when not more than thirty feet from my door two mourning doves zipped past and a sharp-shinned hawk shot in from a slight angle in pursuit.  Seeing me, the hawk banked a hard left and gave up the chase as he whipped between the houses and disappeared.  Seeing the hawk in flight, the crow took off from his perch and followed in pursuit of the raptor.  The pursuer became the pursued.

Things calmed after that and I enjoyed a quiet walk.  Amongst the buildings of where I live, the wind was blocked and not as harsh.  Traces of it moved neighborhood wind chimes and for awhile it was the only sound lilted above the sound of the wind and my heels in the snow.  Several bird feeders were active with cardinals, juncos, and titmice.  I made for the woods along the north and west side of the area and once on the north side of the ridge and away from the houses the wind came into its full effect.  It announced its approach with a growing roar that, at times, mimicked a jet engine while swaying the highest tree tops.  Even bundled up as I was I could feel it whip at my clothes and slice through any opening.  Several times I turned to face it just so I could feel it full on.

I worked without gloves.  I do this when I work my camera.  I need to feel it in my hands, even if they are red and numb from the cold.  I’ll invest in some nice skintight ones eventually.  My thumbnails are always the first to hurt and the last to recover.  I  jammed them up under my first layer and into the pockets of second layer fleece jacket to get them to stop aching.  When my hands get that cold it’s easier to drop the camera or a lens and with so much snow on the ground I don’t risk it.  While I let them warm, I simply stand and take in the small bit of nature I can get on this chilly winter’s morning.

The woods  line the steep ridge and the creek that has cut the ridge’s banks. They were quiet around me. No activity, no bird calls, no movement.  Just wind.

I stood there for probably fifteen minutes waiting to see anything.  Below, the valley flattened and gives way to a large elementary school playground.  I could hear and sometimes see a bladed truck uncovering the parking lot.  I wanted to go down to the open area but I don’t trust the snow covered ridge bank.  There’s a path there but it’s narrow, treacherous, and I just don’t feel like making my way down the sometimes 75 to 80 degree embankment.  I entertained myself by finding a few landscapes.  The sun is hidden behind a thick cloud layer so I work with the light I have.

I wander back out of the woods and walk around the neighborhood some more.  The bird activity has gone up even more.  The flock of robins which is roosted nearby has returned and they were everywhere, darting from tree to tree, winging through whirls of blowing snow from the roof edges and landing near some of the slushed snow along the plowed road.  Among them are the cedar waxwings again and I counted around seven in total.  Sparrows, chickadees, and two goldfinches joined them where some have gathered around on the ground near the slush.  The whole flock is moving fast and to the west obviously looking for a food source.  They check out a few crab apple trees but they are empty and the flock passed on.

As I watched them a  shape further up in the sky caught my eye.  I looked up and a gull, I believe a ring-necked, cut its way through the gray sky and blowing snow.  Perhaps a castaway from Monroe Reservoir or perhaps winging away from the nearby shopping area where a spare french fry could be found, it drifted in a few circles.   I got my binoculars on it but could only see a white belly and black tips on the sharp narrow wings.  It does not appear to know where it’s going.  There is no time to get the camera ready and the bird is already too far away.  In no time at all the bird is gone, disappearing behind the tree line.  I wondered what its story might be but I will never know.

The wind whipped me again and I’m only a handful of yards from a warm house and warmer coffee.  I’ve been out a little over an hour and I could stay out longer.  However, the promise of coffee and a warm breakfast called so I listened and pointed my feet home.

Winter on the Land

Winter is definitely upon us and it’s been a long time without solid sunlight.   One of the things I started this year was a diary where I  list the weather conditions of each day.  So,  I can say with authority that the previous post with the waxwings was the last time we had a good hour or so of bright sunlight in these parts..

Unfortunately, there’s no sun in the forecast either with rain and snow moving in after the weekend.  I  like the feeling of cold air on my face, biting into my fingers.  I guess I’m a bit off.   I’ve also found that as long as you have reliable gear you can relax into the cold.  Once you release the discomfort, let go of your perception of dislike, and sort of just “be” in the cold air it’s actually not so bad.  However, that being said, I’ve also been REAL cold for an extended time and, well, to be honest, it sucks.  It’s difficult.  There comes a point in it where it’s so hard to do anything close to relaxing.  All you can think about is getting warm.

It’s interesting how the gray weather can have an impact on a person’s mindset.  It’s subtle when it’s happening and a lot of people don’t realize how long it’s been.  When they’re reminded it’s actually been the entire month it’s always a surprise.  “Really?  It hasn’t been that long has it?”  It’s a survival mindset, I think, to be aware of what’s going on so you can guard against the effects.

Winter has the hushing effect on everything and there is something primeval when you walk through a still bare forest.  Your footsteps on frozen leaves become a crime against it.

My trips lately out and about have not been nearly as long as I would have liked.   I did get out with one of my kids to wander around a nearby nature sanctuary.  There were a few things moving that day but not much, mainly crows.  Crows are everywhere right now and I see them daily, sometimes a single corvid and other times hundreds flying over looking for a roost.

If you’re quiet and still though there ARE things moving around out there.  A few days ago I was delighted to find over 20 bluebirds on my daily bird walk.  I followed some coyote tracks that paralleled  the trail of my lunchtime nature walk.  I added a blue heron to my list of first seen birds in January just a few days ago.

Today, I added a new bird to my life list; a brown creeper.   Three of them, actually.  Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me.  It’s always a thrill to see a bird or a creature in an area where you don’t expect it.  This time I was simply taking another afternoon lunch visit to my park.  I parked my car and there it was just a few trees away   This will make my second life list bird in a month.

I have had my camera present for few mainstays around the house.  I’m always amazed by the tenacity of cardinals.  I’ve watched them sit motionless on an open branch in harsh weather while other birds have taken off for the thick bushes or the interior of a pine tree.

Because of the monotone weather I get to fully enjoy the splashes of color that are not only on their way in a few months but those that are still present, even now,  in the depth of winter.  There’s green out there.  Small islands of it against the slate gray, white, and brown.  If you look for it you can find it.  Miniature reminders that Spring will be here soon enough.

“Remember,” it whispers, “nothing lasts forever.”