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A Summer Walk

Last week I decided to take advantage of some slightly cooler weather to take a summer walk at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.  Ever since they built the beautiful new children’s play area here the place is always busy and it’s good to see that parents are also walking further afield in order to introduce their families to the fascinating world of nature. And Spring Valley is just the place to do it.

As well as seeing all the flowers that are still blooming among the grasses on the prairie, I was interested to see this growth spiraling around the stems of some of the larger plants. I have no idea what it is even though I tried Googling it later with no success. If anyone has any suggestions I’d be glad to hear from you.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this before.

Meanwhile, over at the pond,  waterlily pads cover the surface of the water and the frogs take advantage of these comfy seats while a family of ducks look on from a slightly less comfy place on the shore.

Also at the water’s edge are signs that a beaver has been at work, and when I say signs I mean literally as there is a notice nearby pointing out that beaver have been spotted at the lake.

I sit for a while along the woodland trail and watch chipmunks scurrying about finding food, and then, walking back down the path towards the parking lot, I see reminders that it won’t be too long before autumn is upon us once more.

 

From The Window

I spent much of yesterday birdwatching from the kitchen window.  A family of grey catbirds had become resident in the garden but although we could plainly hear them, they proved rather elusive to spot, so I figured the only way I was going to stand any chance of capturing them on camera was to sit and wait patiently by the window. Any kind of bird that isn’t a sparrow is a welcome sight in our garden, we usually see little else, although we do get quite a few goldfinches at this time of year.

Now don’t get me wrong. Sparrows are fun to watch. They are a rowdy bunch and quite resourceful when it comes to finding food. There are a lot of young sparrow families out there right now so there is quite a bit of activity around the birdbath and surrounding area.

Naturally, the birds are very cautious as there is always the threat of attack from the local hawk who is constantly keeping an eye on what’s going on down below.

So I wait to see what develops and, wouldn’t you know it, my old friend the rabbit shows up, followed closely by a squirrel.

 

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever catch a glimpse of the catbird when all of a sudden, there it is! Gotcha!

Then two more show up!  I think they are nesting in the tangle of shrubs that have grown rampant following earlier rains. Anything could be living in there! I half-expect to see Big Foot step out of the undergrowth first thing in the morning, or at the very least a stray cougar.

Getting one catbird in the frame was great but two was even better. They loved the birdbath and were even willing to share it with the sparrows.

Then, just when everything seemed to be going along splendidly, a shadow swooped overhead and the hawk made a pass across the rooftops. I don’t think he was successful but every creature in the garden scattered, putting paid to any further activity and I had to be content with what I had.

Summer And The God Of Honeybees

Summer has produced an abundance of flowers in our garden and I am finally coming to grips with all the weeds that have also been flourishing thanks to earlier rains. Here are just a few of the blooms that we have enjoyed over the past couple of months.

The only place you will find appropriately grouped colors is in these pictures. The garden itself is a jumble of colors, some of which complement each other and others that clash with little regard for text-book color palettes.

The place has been alive with bugs of all kinds, from the most unwelcome such as Japanese beetles to some of our favorites like brilliant dragonflies, butterflies and bees. Naturally, the minute I walk out there with the camera they all take off but I did manage to capture a few shots.

Which leads me very nicely to a topic close to my heart. My eldest grandson is currently promoting his podcast ” God of Honeybees ” the content of which I find thought-provoking and insightful. I do hope that you will be able to find time to visit his website as I’m sure you’ll find it interesting and well-worth delving into. I’ve written about this young man on several occasions and cannot say enough about his sincerity and kindness of heart. His thoughts on meditation, spirituality and consciousness come as welcome words particularly in this time of uncertainty and violence.

The Power Of Family

 

Last November, my 92-year-old mother-in-law was admitted to hospital with a serious medical condition. Let’s face it, at that age any medical condition is serious and we were becoming accustomed to receiving calls to come to the hospital, but this time things really didn’t look good.

After several tests to determine the problem, it was clear that surgery was definitely not an option so the plan was to stabilize her, treat her with various medications and hope for the best.

Normally mother-in-law lived at home with one son, and at least three more of us visited her regularly every week so it wasn’t surprising that once the word got around, everyone showed up at the hospital.

I hate to sound the alarm unless things are really dire but eventually there came a point where we really believed that she wasn’t going to survive this latest crisis, and I sent the message out to our three daughters, two of whom live quite a distance away, that now might be the time to gather round. Other family members had done the same and before long there were sons, daughters, in-laws, grandchildren and their husbands and even a great-grandchild at her bedside.

Now, I’m in no way religious, but I have to say that the effect of seeing all those caring faces surrounding her was nothing short of miraculous! The joy of knowing that there were so many people who truly cared about her well-being was unmistakable. Some people may have frowned at our numbers and the sometimes-raucous joviality no doubt engendered by a nervous concern for the patient, but I truly believe that the power of family brought her back from the brink.

Over the course of the next couple of days she perked up! She sat up and started eating. She made jokes and even managed a few steps with the physical therapist. However, this progress was short-lived and over the course of the next few weeks she was shuttled between ICU and a standard hospital room with startling regularity. It was like being on a roller coaster ride, for her and us.

Eventually it was determined that nothing more could be done and the decision to send her home under hospice care was taken. Once again, everyone came to grips with the fact that this probably was the end. But this tough old bird was not going to go down without a fight, almost literally as it turned out.

Winter came and went and spring brought hopes that once again things might be looking up. Mother-in law rallied to the point where she was able to walk a few steps with some assistance. And then the unthinkable happened.

Answering a summons from the doorbell one morning, my brother-in-law was lured out of the house by a man claiming to be there to cut down some branches that were overhanging a neighbor’s yard. While he was outside, another man entered the house and started rummaging through drawers and cupboards. Mom called out for her son and when he didn’t answer she knew there was something wrong. She managed to get out of the hospital bed that had been set up in the living room and, filled with righteous indignation, came steaming out of the room unaided and without her walker, shouting at the intruder to “clear off!” And he did, along with his partner in crime. He must have got the fright of his life when she came at him shaking her fist.

We laughed about it afterwards but things could have turned out a lot differently. Despite her claims that she “wasn’t afraid,” this by now 93-year-old, who also relied on a pacemaker to keep her heart functioning, could have suffered a fatal fall, or even been attacked by someone who could have quite easily knocked her down. But neither of these things happened and the episode became the topic of conversation for several weeks thereafter.

Summer arrived and things settled down. Although she wasn’t in great shape, Mom continued to show signs of improvement. I suppose, realistically, we shouldn’t have expected this trend to last and it didn’t.

Last week she took another turn for the worse and once again family arrived from different parts of the country to be by her bedside. This time, rather than rallying her will to live, I think she took comfort in everyone’s presence, knowing that now she could finally let go of life and eventually, on Monday morning, she slipped away.

We didn’t always see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues and I certainly found her infuriating at times but her loss has certainly left a void in our lives and, for some, her leaving will be a difficult thing with which to come to terms. Still, the power of family will keep us strong and together we’ll face the future with some fond memories of a woman with an indomitable spirit.

Note; – The rose images were captured at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It became increasingly difficult to coax mother-in-law out of the house when she got older but one of the last places we visited together was the Garden.

I’m still catching up with posts and replies but be assured, I will get to all of them eventually.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Butterfly Kisses

This week, Amy has chosen something Unique as the subject for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with the butterflies at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and, rather like snowflakes, it seems as though every one is slightly different.  And they feel like snowflakes too, whispering past my arms and neck, giving me those butterfly kisses just like my mother used to brush against my cheeks with her eyelashes when I was a child.

And there is definitely some butterfly hanky panky going on in here. What I at first take to be one very large, oddly-shaped butterfly turns out to be two having a good time in the afternoon sun. And there are more of them at it a little further along the path.

I wonder if it’s the rotting fruit that is driving them sex mad? There seems to be a constant flow of visitors to these colorful trays of tempting delicacies, including a butterfly that looks strangely like an autumn leaf.

Whatever the reason, the butterflies are extremely active, the air is full of them fluttering around. It’s a strange thing but although moths usually send me running for the exits or screaming for assistance in the house, butterflies are welcome to land on my shoulder or, like this one, catch a ride on my camera bag.

Each one of these little gems is a unique creation of nature, living a brief, gaudy life, distributing butterfly kisses and filling the hearts of young and old alike, with joy.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Delicate

Pick almost any adjective that you would care to mention and you could probably pair it with ‘nature.’  Nature can be many things; spectacular, colorful, harsh, unforgiving, picturesque and so much more. This week Ann-Christine has chosen Delicate as the subject for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge and that can most definitely be applied to nature.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Ruffled Feathers

When I was a young child, even the sight of a feather from a pillow sent me into screaming fits.  More than seventy years later I’m still very much afraid of birds although I have come to terms with holding a feather (still not very comfortable with that.) But even though this phobia has limited my ability to enjoy avian encounters which, at close quarters leave me decidedly ruffled, it has certainly not stopped me from taking pictures.

 

For more on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge go to Feathers