Winter’s Artwork

One reason I like winter is the beautiful natural artwork created by weather. When the sun’s out, the sky’s cloudless, and the foliage and outdoor objects receive “brushstrokes” from an unexpected snowfall, the results are nature’s perfect art.

Despite the frigid temps, shock to the budding spring foliage and nest-building squirrels, and the traditional packing away of winter coats and gloves, the handful of days we get in Michigan during April’s (and May’s sometimes) late-winter white stuff bursts can be beautiful to admire. By afternoon, as typical, little evidence of this Winter Rockwell “painting” will remain.

To view larger photos, click on any to start a slideshow.

Fairy Landing Pads

I posted some Instagram images yesterday of mayapple plants that come up each spring, and how to me, they resemble fairy army tents in an encampment of some sort.

Today, on a typical April Michigan day, it was cold and showed! But the magical moment came after the perfect alignment of newly spun forest spider webs, the right temperature, and a snowfall of very tiny snowflakes.

So extending my metaphor from yesterday, seems to me like the fairy air force is setting up landing pads throughout the forest. Wonder if something’s afoot in the fairy world? (Click to open larger images.)

Sallymander

On today’s forest walk, I happened upon a mother and her two young kids. I’d seen them a couple times on different parts of the path, always stooped over with the mother explaining fungi on a fallen log or a footprint in the mud. The last time I walked past them was over by the pond, where the little girl was carrying a small green plastic box with something dark inside.

“Whatcha got there?” I asked.

“A sallymander!” the little girl said proudly.

“Where’d you find it?”

“Over there by the pond under a log!”

“What are you going to do with it?”

The girl paused, looked down at the salamander when her mother interjected, “We’re going to return it to the log where it lives.”

The little girl looked up at her mother, then down at the box, and finally saying (but not happily), “Yes, we’re going to put it back in the mud.”

I think the little girl hoped to take it home as a pet, and I’d asked the question hoping for Mom’s answer. Nature’s cool but its denizens belong in nature, not in a home container. Besides, I think salamanders are getting less common, so all the more reason to let it go.

We talked a bit more and I asked how easy it was to find these. “Pretty easy” mom said, as she lifted a few logs on the forest floor, with the second log having the other salamander above.

These particular woods by my house are ones I use for walking, rarely stopping to examine anything. Instead, I’m always moving forward to keep my pace up and hit my distance goals. When I visit other forests, I’m more apt to meander, or sit quietly and listen to nature’s sounds. I’ll often stop to meditate or journal, but there’s always time to stop and explore interesting things.

Today’s stop in the walking routine was a pleasant break, catching sight of a couple of salamanders and two kids excited about nature. A good day, all in all.

Resonate

Photo by Pille Kirsi from Pexels

(Modern alternate definition): to produce a positive feeling, emotional response, or opinion

Urban dictionary: a long-winded and fancy way to over dramatize, “I agree.”

This first usage is fairly recent (the second just tongue-in-cheek). The first is also a hijack example creating an interesting and evocative new meaning from a word whose older definition is metaphorical to the new one. My older dictionaries (OED, big 60s Random House, Webster’s Collegiate 11th) don’t define “resonate” with any definitions appropriate to this usage, but the current online dictionaries do.

I’ve always loved this word when trying to explain something that connects in deeper and emotional ways. In the hierarchy of words for expressing such a communication connection, I think they rank in this order:

  • Hear: A surface-level value, meaning I recognize your words.
  • Understand: I get what your words mean.
  • Agree: I hear, understand, and agree with what you’re saying.
  • Align: I not only agree with what you’re saying, but my thinking runs parallel to yours.
  • Resonate: All the above, but now I connect with your thoughts on a deeper, emotional and profound level, as though your words are touching my soul and spirit, and nesting into my psyche.

Unfortunately, “resonate” has drifted to where some see it as pretentious or hip to use, and thus dilutes it a bit and can elicit a raised eyebrow from the one you’re communicating with. Still, it remains a special word that best explains something deeply connecting or affecting.

Despite the potential stigma of pretension (what a great punk rock band name – Potential Stigma of Pretension), there’s nothing else out there (yet) that fits and conveys as well as “resonate.”

Opsimath

Nasjonalbiblioteket from Norway, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some of us spent our youth studying good works and exited college with a degree or two. Others instead bloomed later in life, becoming opsimaths in their pursuit of more learning.

Opsimath: one who begins to learn or study late in life.

Not exactly a well-known Greek word, but there it is. And I’m guilty as charged.

I did not do well in college, except for those courses that interested me. Sound familiar? It’s the bane of many kids who went to college automatically after high school, more because it was expected than they knew what they wanted to study or clear about a calling or intended vocation.

Not sure exactly when I earned my opsimath merit badge, but it was after years of reading and writing, two things I always enjoyed (provided I could pick the what of each). Back in corporate days, I often used the imagery of a three-legged stool, the lesson being if you could only pick two out of three things, you could still sit, albeit a bit wobbly. But if you can manage to have all three things working for you, it’s stability and chances for success improve. Being a lifelong learner to me is one of the legs, the other two being yoga/walking and a vegetarian diet. At least I started early on one out of three, but eventually came around to all three touching the ground.

The adage “You’re never too old to learn” is absolutely true, whether you’re a child of the 60s and thought 30 was old, or a thirty-something fearing it’s too late to be on track as the next great author, or a modern when in your 50s you start feeling aged. The same adage extends to being a creative, too: “You’re never too old to write,” (or paint, or sing, or dance, or sculpt, or… you get the point).

So if you’ve bloomed later in life, and now want to sprout forth in a beautiful flowery display of some pursuit you’ve held back on all these years… don’t use age as an excuse: just get out there and do it.

Hemingway

If you’re a writer, a dedicated fiction reader, or have otherwise enjoyed the work from one of America’s finest writers, then you’ll probably really enjoy watching Ken Burns’ latest documentary, Hemingway.

I felt I knew his work and life fairly well (one of my favorite books on authors in my library is Hemingway In Cuba). Ken Burns’ style and extensive research, however, showed a LOT that was new to me.

(click to view the full post…)