Hey, I’m Still Alive!

Hello, Dear Readers!  — Happy May Day!

I know it has been a long time since I’ve written a blog entry and it is hard to know just where to begin.  —  First and foremost I have to start with I hope all of you are HEALTHY, staying safe and being smart.  No matter which end of the opinion spectrum you are on regarding COVID-19, the world is in troubling times.

Due to long-standing health issues, I am considered a severely at-risk individual.  Among other problems, I have breathing issues that makes breathing through a mask difficult.  However, I’d rather put up with difficult than risk ending up six feet under.  That being said, I do not understand why some people insist their rights are being violated by the thought of wearing a mask.  If you could care less about you getting Covid-19, I guess it would be outrageous to consider the lives of others.  Even your own children.  To those who say, “I feel fine.” – let’s hope that does not end up your epitaph.

I have gotten out of the house a total of four times in the last two months, each time to my land.  Safe social distancing in the privacy of my forest.  This past week has seen Nature in all it’s springtime glory!  LOL even if some toads and frogs did find themselves singing Frozen Balls (think to the tune of Jingle Bells) the other night.  The list of birds I have sat enjoying around me is too long to write out, suffice it to say everyone has returned to the great Northwoods.

The four-leggeds have all been quite active also – including a recent visit from a Black Bear … always a great treat to have!  There was a real surprise to have a Woodchuck scoping out my dock.  I had hopes he or she was planning on setting up residence nearby.  But the little one has not been seen since and was most likely just passing through.

The decimation of most Balsam trees here ala the nasty little Spruce Budworm has changed landscapes all over the Northwoods.  Winter brought down a couple of Aspens that was kind of a surprise, but now look at the view of my two old Jack Pines!  At least until that one Aspen leaves out.  Some of the Aspens have already broke bud, so it won’t be long.

There is another visitor I had out at home last week, but I have yet to determine their identity.  The photo I have included is…really bad, I know – but it is the best I could get.  The light speck in the middle of that bright green circle is much bigger in-person.  It is a down feather from a large bird.  The feather measures approximately an inch & a half by four inches long.  Primarily it is white, with a tiny bit of faint rust & grey/blue tones.  It has itself firmly anchored on the very tip end of a very flimsy Paper Birch branch.  My best guess is that it is from a Great Blue Heron that got too close as it flew past.  A fun puzzle to be sure.

Before I bring this edition to a close, I want you to know I haven’t really been ignoring you.  I have been working on two manuscripts at once … a sixteen chapter novel and a screenplay of the same story.  It has been a lot of hard work and is far from over with.  My health has been rather limiting in how much work I can do any more, so this story that means everything to me does have most of my attention.  I look forward to the day that I can tell you all about the project.

Please take care of yourselves —  Healthy!  Safe!  Smart!

Health, Passings & Holidays

I know I have missed several issues this year, something I never thought would happen.  2019 has been quite a turbulent ride.  Between traumatic health issues of loved ones, my own multitude of serious health problems, and the passing of some loved ones … it has been difficult to focus on anything else.

Most recent -this week, in fact- has been the passing of my father-in-law … one of the best people I have ever known; a wonderful man.  He almost made it to 100, although the last year was a struggle for him and he is no longer suffering.  While he will be greatly missed, I am celebrating his life.  A newly acquired philosophy from one of my characters.  A trait that I hope will stay with me from now on.

Three blizzards hitting the state of Wisconsin in one week is delaying the trip for the funeral, but I will say my own words over the grave.  Seeing the family members there is what matters the most now.

If you have loved ones who are not doing well, please tell them what they mean to you.  Embrace the time you have left together.  And try to be happy for them when they pass, that they are no longer suffering and can move on.

Which brings us to the end of the year almost upon us.  Let us all have a much better year during 2020 – may it bring a wealth of blessings!  Happy Holidays to one and all!

Grab A Little Magic

     It never hurts to grab a little magic in your life here and there whenever you can.  That is most especially true if you suffer from depression, in fact – let’s then call those times vital to survival.  The thing is about magic, that often it is imbued with such a subtle nuance, it could go unnoticed altogether.  Therefore, one should try to always have their radar open to such possibilities.

     Of course, magic can be all in the eye of the individual beholder, as well.  For example, even though I rationally know there is a wide assortment of wildlife that traverses my land all the time, it always strikes me as magical when one of my trail cams reveals a visitor whose tracks I haven’t seen.  A new visitor to get caught on camera almost always results in a sharp intake of breath, while filling my heart with delight.  And naturally making me smile.

     My trail cams are not the best quality, yet the pics from them still make me happy to better see the coming & going of the wildlife who calls my land home.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if Santa were to bring me a top-notch camera that could take clear nighttime shots?!  Gray Lady, as I refer to this small Wolf, has been here before but I wouldn’t grow tired of seeing her even if she showed up every single day.   

Digital Camera

     As you can see, she is very aware of the camera … which I am certain adds to her shyness.  Certainly not like the old days when the big alpha male of the pack followed me all around, like what one would expect more of a pet.

     Even though I have always had the presence of Black Bears crossing my land, a few days ago was the first time to be recorded on one of my cams.     

Digital Camera

Due to the path it was taking, it should have been caught on both cams, but that probably points out the need for much better equipment.  It must have just been travelling thru at a steady rate … no hazelnuts left for it to snack on.

     Last week was time between a constant barrage of rain cells to run to the landfill, in hopes of getting there during a dry moment.  Although the odds didn’t look good as I was approaching the turn to the landfill … two curves into the driveway was when magic hit.  Against a backdrop of trees clearly stating it is autumn and dark, threatening skies behind that — the wind suddenly changed direction.  A large wave of Aspen leaves blew out of the trees and in a spray to my left.  As the spray started, the sun broke through, illuminating the road with a dazzling exhibition of bright golden flakes … Aspen leaves.  There was the magic, soft and gentle, yet as loud in a way as a sudden siren.  One of those moments that lasted maybe twenty seconds but will live on forever in my mind’s eye.

     I managed to get out to my land today to check the SD cards in the trail cams after quite a bit of rain.  A very poor-quality shot at night and in the rain … but seeing a new wolf on camera is AWESOME!    

Digital Camera

     Always keep yourself open to what is right in front of you.  Never hesitate to grab a little magic to hold in your heart forever.  May autumn bring you untold blessings, my friends!

Rough Spots

Happy August, Everyone!  Human Nature is the main topic this month, along with apologies for my lack of normal presence.  Summer has been really rough this year between overwhelming heat (for me), difficulties breathing during those hot days, physical aspects of my health, plus depression on top of all that.

It is important to recognize how you feel, but everybody knows that…right?  Then why does society want to brush us away when people are not at the top of their game?  Almost as if our bad health -whatever it might be- is something we choose or need to be ashamed of.  There is a difference about not being happy about it and being ashamed.  Never be ashamed of your bad health.  Hopefully you are doing the best you can to deal with it – give yourself a pat on the back.  Here’s hugs to all who face health struggles!

As I’m sure all of you are aware by now, when I’m not at the top of my game, getting out into nature is often the best possible medicine for me.  Just a couple weeks ago I received help from an unexpected and less reliable source – inspiration for my writing by a celebrity.  The celebrity has no idea who I am and that is not the point.  The inspiration came about through videos, television shows and music of his.

The compiled work lifted me up.  An unfinished manuscript that has been sitting on the shelf for years due to being stuck…is now clearly defined where the ending is going.  Working on it again is stimulating.  That in-turn has helped even further, since mental attitude towards your troubles can make a total difference in how you are doing.

I fervently hope none of you are having difficulties … if you are, please remember not to expect huge fixes.  Sometimes it’s the little things which give us a huge boost and help with all the other things.

Have a great rest of your summer!  As always, I would love to hear from you.  What things work for helping you through rough spots?  Oh – and don’t forget to SMILE whenever you can!

A Backdrop of Wondrous Feathers

Happy June to Everyone out there around our Mother Earth.  May this month’s issue of my blog find all of you enjoying the Nature that surrounds you!  The birds here in the Superior National Forest of northeastern Minnesota (& elsewhere also) seem ready for a bumper year and I have my fingers crossed that turns out to be the case.

The return of many avian friends that depart for warmer climes during the winter has been phenomenal, which is always good for a birder’s heart!  The Swans are back (in what seems like larger numbers each year) and they were here early, pushing the season on what small amount of open water they could find at the time.  Loons were also packing it in early with a lot of ice to contend with at first.  I saw four pairs of Swans all at the same time on one small lake.  All those white feathers -compared to other white stuff- on the water was quite a sight!

I am not the only one who has spotted female Cardinals out and about already this year here in the Northwoods.  Seeing a male here, where they never used to be seen at all, is exciting enough…but seeing females means nesting.  That in turn means a new generation of Cardinals who will be returning here as their home each spring.  The only downside to seeing Cardinals is the undeniable proof of climate change, as they and other species continue to expand their range further north.  Pushing boreal species further north into Canada, chasing the receding boreal forest.

Sitting in my yard out in the woods to enjoy the greening has been a great delight.  Due to the smorgasbord of choices in the feeders for the birds I’ve been rewarded with a backdrop of wondrous feathers I never could have imagined a month ago.  The list varies from day to day of course, but there was one particularly glorious day so far, where all these visitors were there:

  Cardinal                                             Black-Capped Chickadee

          Rose-Breasted Grosbeak                     White-Crowned Sparrow

          Blackburnian Warbler                        Red-breasted Nuthatch

          Downy Woodpecker                             Tennessee Warbler

          White-Throated Sparrow                    White-Breasted Nuthatch

           Hairy Woodpecker                               Chestnut-Sided Warbler

           Common Redstart                                 Pine Siskin

           Indigo Bunting                                       Slate-Colored Junco

           Ovenbird                                                 Veery

            American Goldfinch                             Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

            Pileated Woodpecker*                          Raven*

            Bald Eagle*                                              Turkey Vulture*

Now, not all of these were at the feeders per se, especially the four larger species*, but all of them were easily visible from where I sat just six to 8 feet away from the feeders.  There are also some that I’m forgetting, but I (my BAD!) was not equipped for taking notes. 

Almost all of those have been seen since, but not all together within a 90-minute span like the one day.  An exquisite new resident on my land, or one I have never seen there before at any rate, faced me down the other day to determine who I was or my right to be there.  Thrilled beyond belief, I froze like a statue as a male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird appeared in front of me and hovered in one space to check me out for over thirty seconds.  I most definitely need to get some Scarlet Climber and other flowers planted for the Hummers now that I have proof they are there!

Do you watch birds where you live?  Do you go out birdwatching?  I would love to hear about some of your experiences or to have you share your favorite birds to see.  Just day one of June and such a promising start to summer.  Get out and enjoy Nature if you can … even if it is right from your own yard or in front of your window!

Protecting Nature

What does protecting Nature mean to you?  What are you willing to do to protect Nature? 

There are people who don’t like questions like those.  Part of them see no relevance to it in their lives.  There are those who don’t know what to do.  And there are individuals who simply do not care in the slightest…. Because after all, humans are not a part of Nature – are they?

If you are among plenty of good people who simply do not have the ability to get outside and address the issue from numerous different physical means … that’s okay.  We all have limitations of some kind and can only do the best we can.

If you have medical issues that prevent you from any type of getting outside to work on things, maybe you can sign petitions.  Or make phone calls to your representatives.  Maybe a friend or loved one could put a window box of flowers together for you.  Or possibly put up a bird feeder . . . for some of our friends in Nature, even a little thing can be a really big thing.

If being an environmental activist, lobbyist, or other large-scale work just isn’t your thing … that’s okay too.  Find a way that does work for you.  At the end of the day, we each answer to ourselves regarding our work.  Besides, as your own boss in the matter, you can always switch it up some -or- tone it down until it better fits what is right for you. 

Recycling can help Nature immensely!  Believe it or not, there are still plenty of people who don’t recycle.  Repurposing items whenever possible is good!  There is always a way to do something.

There are folks who have yet to do anything for Nature because some of them don’t see a reason to be rushed into it.  Okay.  To that point I must ask WHEN is the right time?  Especially if you wait too long … which some say we have passed that point already.  Don’t wait until chemicals have killed all our pollinators and the world must resort to synthetic foods in order to eat.  Don’t wait until there is no potable water left anywhere on the planet.  Don’t wait until the air everywhere is to toxic to breathe at all and wearing protective gear becomes a necessity.

PLEASE do not wait too long.

A favorite spot to sit and ponder.

I would love to hear what you are doing in your way to help Nature.  Let’s keep Mother Earth alive – keep her green!

What’s Happening, World?!

As I was sitting here getting ready to write one month and one day late, I found myself wondering about all of you.  People are a part of Nature – never forget that!  So, I would truly love to hear from some of you.  Any of you!  C’mon and join me.  I’ll put on plenty of coffee, have snacks waiting and GREAT music playing…the wonderful sounds of Mother Nature.  What’s happening in your world – weather-wise or anything you’d like to share?!

It shouldn’t come as any big surprise to any of you that Climate Change is still wreaking havoc all over Mother Earth.  The steady decline of the boreal forest around me has been going at various rates, but even those who didn’t want to admit it find themselves acknowledging that things here will never be the same again.

If you cannot see the effects of Climate Change easily around you by the decline of your typical tree species, definite weather accounts, not having the usual birds at your feeders, etc. – then I am thrilled for you!  Not to mention all the flora and fauna that may be doing great wherever you may be located. 

Spring is just around the corner for many.  Try to keep an eye out for the bees and butterflies you normally have in your area.  Changes there are signs that should be documented.  I will try to make some easy suggestions next month for things you can do to help make life a little less stressful for our tiny friends.

The other day I was driving out of town early in the morning, that magic time before the sun is fully up.  The light stretches out as far as it can, but it is a low reach.  When the sun’s fingers touch something, kissing everything in golden beauty.  It always makes me gasp when I get the chance to witness it.

I’d like to wish that golden glow upon all of you in the hopes of the year going quite grand!  Blessings & Love!

New Year Reflections

Typically, I do not spend much time reflecting on the last annual unit of time when the calendar flips to the next one.  New Year’s Eve & the big countdown at midnight is generally the same as any other night.  But this year has had me thinking of 2018 big time.  It was a monumental year for so many…some good, some bad…some horrific, some blessings…and of course a mixture for others.

My forest, and the boreal forest for most of North America, has seen deeply profound changes that will continue occurring for many years.  Most areas of the boreal forest are dying, a fact many have been forced to come to terms with.  Climate change cannot reverse what it has already wrought within our lifetime…not even within the next seven generations.

2018 has seen me spending many hours reflecting on how my land and the wildlife around has changed.  Accepting what Mother Nature has dealt us and finding a new beauty with the changes has been a huge part of that.  Countless hours have been spent and will continue doing so, in developing a new land management plan that will accommodate the wildlife and provide the best possible for them.  Some of those new plans have already been implemented, others will happen during the oncoming year, and a great many will take many years to play out, but such is Nature’s way.

My health reached an all-time terrible low early in 2018, making me seriously wonder if I would see 2019.  I thought about the changes I felt forced to make for the benefit of my land and came to the decision why should I do any less for my life.  The healing and changes that have taken place just since June (when I enacted my new health plan) have been totally outstanding and occasionally I have to pinch myself to make certain I’m not dreaming.  That’s not to say I am now healthy, but I am so much better than I was in May of 2018.

Like with many paths that seem to be doing so well, I did hit a slight bump at the end of October, a whole new curve ball hurled at me.  Action is being taken and by the time I write the February issue of my blog, I hope to have incredible news to share with everyone.

Try some reflection for yourself this season.  May it bring you unexpected blessings.  May we all please share compassion, LOVE, and equality in 2019.

Happy December ~~ Happy Holidays!

No, I don’t often say Merry Christmas – not to discount anyone, but saying Happy Holidays is an all-inclusive for the many celebrations that take place this month.  Respect and Love to all! 

This is a short issue with my apologies.  I’m busy getting ready for a long list of things, not the least of which will be burning a Yule log near the end of the month.  I’m sure Everyone has plenty of things on your to-do list.

The California fires have been horrific for the people, properties, and even worse for the forest and the ANIMALS.  Domestic and especially the wild.  From the tiniest little creatures that most people never see, up to deer and other large forest residents.  The birds!  Not to mention the Forest, itself – yes, I know I’m repeating myself. 

The mudslides have already started and will continue where burned out areas cannot hold the soil together. It will also cause climate changes in the immediate vicinity of burn-outs, if not a much larger area. The areas will eventually recover in their own way, unfortunately there has also been a spread of radiation that occurred.  We can only wait and hope for the best.  Prayers are still with you, California.  

Maybe we should all send Donald Trump a rake.

Blessed Holidays, Everyone!

Winter Gales, Snow Squall & Bird Trails

My goodness … what a month October turned out to be!  One I will never forget.  The last few months have been filled with incredible winds – all trying to be mightier than the others.  Maybe I’m just getting old, but it has felt like this year has set a record for the assault of strong winds.

I think here in my neck of the woods we had a few days of Autumn, before it seemed to jump right into Winter – with a vengeance.  Wicked winds on Lake Superior gave Minnesota’s North Shore more gales for the record books, not to mention volumes of truly fantastic photo opportunities for the die-hard camera people risking their welfare to record it for the rest of us!  Please google it to see the outstanding stills and videos that documented the storm.


They were all superb – here is my favorite, captured by @tonecoughlinphotography.  Please visit their Facebook page and their website at tonecoughlin.com to better appreciate the quality of their work and maybe even purchase an outstanding piece to hang on your wall!

A couple days after the gales, I had to drive to the town of Virginia (50 miles away) and it felt like the fury from Lake Superior was still here, merely shifted fifty to one hundred miles inland.  Three particular images of the many from that day will stay with me for a long time.  The first one made me glad I wasn’t any closer or in the line of fire, so to speak.  The other two were the opposite and made me wish I could have been much closer to fully appreciate them.

The first was glancing down a side road as I passed it on the highway at just the right moment to see the wind tear a stop sign from it’s post, sending it flying down the road like an errant missile.  Second was a visitor from the North, sitting quietly on a tree stump … an Arctic Gyrfalcon appeared quite content in watching the world fly by.  The third was also a rarely seen visitor in these parts – a Golden Eagle who was being mobbed by Crows.  Each of the three were awesome sights I felt privileged to view.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention this was the same day I drove through a snow squall!  It was no more than a little over a mile wide, although it did stretch as far South to North as I could see and was almost white-out conditions in the center of it.

Last, but not least, was a quite unexpected delight I will always remember.  It was time to have more work done on my land, clearing all the dead Balsam trees from the front approach.  A definite requirement to cut down on the risk of forest fire fuel standing around.  It isn’t easy for an avowed tree-hugger to willingly have a mass amount of trees cut and removed.  However, it is a necessity at times for safe forest management.

Sitting there, watching as the work was being done, it slowly began to dawn on me I had some bird visitors that I have never seen on my land before.  Most notably were Common American Redstarts (both males and females), an absolutely adorable little bird!  More so even than the new species to my land’s bird list, was the THRONG of feathered friends there.  They descended in huge numbers out of nowhere.  They followed behind the forestry mulcher as it cut back and forth across the land, doing its job.  I swear it was as though all those birds knew this was where they had to be.  The dead trees had to have been packed with untold numbers of bugs and the birds kept flooding in, feasting on the bugs as the mulcher chewed up the trees.  As usual, I did not have a camera with me to catch it happening, but it is forever on my personal hard drive!   😉

You never know what is going to be out in Nature for you to observe.  So, get yourself outdoors and see whatever you can!     Thanks for reading!­­