Walking in Peace…

Hi Friends!

A quiet walk in nature always soothes my soul. Especially during these uncertain, often frightening times in our world, it helps to seek out an oasis of peace, calm, and beauty. Just one hour of walking amidst the blessings of Springtime on a Sunday afternoon really lifted my spirits! I hope it will lighten your heart as well, as you walk along with us…

As we left home, we didn’t have a definite plan about where we might walk yesterday. April showers during the past week have made many of our favorite walking places very muddy. As we drove, it suddenly dawned on both of us ~ a beautiful place of quiet and peace where we have walked in the past ~ the 40-acre grounds of the National Center of the Theosophical Society in America.  Although the Theosophical Society is closed on Sundays, the grounds are open during daylight hours and visitors are always welcome to enjoy a quiet walk.

So, we set off on our peaceful walk…

We wandered past the historic library building,

under the willow trees, across a tiny creek,

to the Perkins Pond at the south end of the campus.

A few feathered friends entertained us as we watched families of Canadian geese and ducks enjoying a relaxing, afternoon swim. Benches along the quiet pond invite visitors to pause and meditate, or sit and reflect upon the quiet beauty.

As we walked under the tall pines, following moss-covered stone paths,

we meandered from patch to patch of colorful Spring flowers,

deep in thought…

A bright patch of yellow

led us to our next peaceful place.

As we looked up, beyond the daffodils,

tucked in amongst the tall trees,

a sight stopped us in our tracks…

Our hearts smiled, as we carefully stepped

between the Spring blossoms

for a closer look.

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We lingered in this peaceful spot for a few moments,

speaking very softly,

not wanting to disturb the stillness.

Then we continued on our walk,

past an area filled with busy bee hives,

a prairie garden restoration underway,

across the squishy, rain-soaked grass,

and past a peaceful shrine

with candles aglow.

In the distance, I could see

the quiet oasis

where we have walked before.

In the middle of the peaceful, grassy area is a Cretan labyrinth. The large stepping stones set upon a field of pebbles is unicursal in design. Entering from the bottom of the labyrinth, visitors can walk its single, winding path from the circumference to the center and back out again.

Many years ago, we walked this labyrinth with a large, meditation group. I have also walked this labyrinth in quiet, private meditation. Since there is only one path to the center of the labyrinth and back out, it helps to quiet the mind while walking.

On Sunday afternoon we walked the labyrinth

peacefully,

on our own,

following the long, winding stone path.

While walking,

we lost track of direction,

of the outside world,

and although our feet were moving

our minds felt still.

Before leaving the grounds, we enjoyed a stop at the Quest Book Shop. It is a fascinating place to linger and explore, filled with books and other resources for meditation, yoga, health, metaphysics, psychology, and science encompassing beliefs from around the world.

 

Love.

Hope.

Nature.

Friendship.

Understanding.

Harmony.

Stillness.

Peace.

Namaste,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Thank you so much for stopping to visit today. ♥ Where do you enjoy walking in nature?

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Gathered Sunshine

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Hi Friends!

January is typically our snowiest month here in the Midwest. However, January 2017 has been one of the least snowiest months on record. In addition to our snow drought, we have also been lacking much-needed sunshine all month long. In January, we only enjoyed six sunny days. Few and far between… those days were glorious indeed!

So, throughout this month I often called upon the wisdom of

a teeny, tiny kindred spirit for inspiration…

Have you met Frederick?

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This wise, little field mouse is the heartwarming hero of the wonderful children’s book,

Frederick, by Leo Lionni.

During the long, cold, difficult, winter days,

Frederick helped his little field mice friends feel warmth as he lifted their spirits.

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For you see, Frederick was a gatherer.

He gathered bright sun rays

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Frederick gathered breathtaking colors from nature…

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… and Frederick gathered wise words when the days were warm,

and held them until the days grew cold .

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Over the years, I have always felt a strong connection to our little Frederick, the poet-mouse.

For I am a gatherer, too!

I gathered these photo memories last April, while visiting dear family in Arizona.

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Tohono Chul Park, located in northwest Tucson

near the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains,

is a true gem!

Their mission is to enrich people’s lives

by connecting them with the wonders of

nature, art, and culture

in the beautiful Sonoran Desert,

while inspiring wise stewardship of nature’s gifts.

Tohono Chul Park is truly one of the loveliest places we have visited in Arizona.

It’s the perfect place to gather warm sun rays, breathtaking colors, and wise words!

I’m sure that Frederick would agree.

♥♥♥

If you haven’t read Frederick lately, do take a peek…

Frederick is celebrating

its 50th Anniversary this year.

He just might be your teeny, tiny kindred spirit, too!

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

Scatter kindness and gather sunshine!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you have a favorite place to gather bright sunshine, beautiful colors, or wise words? Hope you will share with us!

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A Sense of Wonder

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Hi Friends!

New beginnings ~ I have always loved them! Whether it is the beginning of a new school year or a brand new calendar year, I am always excited by 365 new opportunities to learn and grow! Sometimes, all of this newness can feel a bit scary or intimidating. Having a thoughtful plan, though, can help new beginnings feel joyful!

For each of the past five years, I have chosen ‘One Little Word’ to guide me along this path of learning and growing. What a difference it has made for me each year! In late November, I began listening closely to my heart so that I could choose OLW for 2017.  Within a few weeks, my word ‘chose’ me.  As I was reading, one word jumped right off the page and into my heart! At that very moment, I knew that this was the word to guide me through the new year. I didn’t tell anyone… I just let this word settle into my soul. It felt perfect! As we rang in the New Year, I celebrated my new ‘One Little Word’ 2017! With paper and ink, I created bunting, a card, a bookmark, and a magnet to keep my word visible each day. Now it’s finally time to share… 🙂

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Family and friends have watched and encouraged as I have followed my creative heart during my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for my Retirement). So, now it’s time to take the next step ~ one that feels so important to me. My ‘One Little Word’ will help me in so many ways…

nourish

   1.   to sustain with food or nutrient;

                                           supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth

     2.   to cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.

          3.   to strengthen, build up, or promote

Source: Dictionary.com

Throughout my entire life, I have always been a “Work before play” kind of person. This philosophy served me very well throughout my career. A few years into my Renaissance now, it is time to make a change.  It is my intention to prioritize my creative time, downstairs in my Paper Garden studio. Rather than taking care of our home and garden first, often feeling uninspired to be creative later in the day, I am planning to take time in the morning to be creative! Mornings were just made for paper, inks, stamps, paints, brushes, and being messy in my little Paper Garden studio! 

Fortunately, I have found the most wonderful book to guide me as I nourish my creative side!

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The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, has been inspiring creative souls for twenty-five years. It has been on my reading list for a very long time. As I shopped for the book last Fall, I discovered that the author has a newly published version of The Artist’s Way Program for Retirees and Other Creative Souls, called It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.  It holds so much inspiration to nourish my creative path! I’m already on my way…

It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again is

a step-by-step, twelve-week program with four basic tools:

Morning Pages (daily)

Artist Dates (once a week)

Memoir (weekly, with five tasks)

Walking (twice a week)

So, I’m excited to share a bit about the ways I have been nourishing my creative side this week…

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I’ve always loved writing, so Morning Pages are becoming a part of my early morning routine. Filling three pages, in longhand, with my morning thoughts has been quite pleasurable ~ and powerful!  For quite a while, I have been thinking about ways to bring more creative time into my day. While writing my thoughts on January 1st, I actually formulated a real plan. The slow, thoughtful process of writing can be a beneficial way of problem-solving, setting intentions, voicing worries, and putting dreams into action.

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Since this whole process feels like a wonderful gift to myself, I am writing Morning Pages in my nice handwriting (just as I do when I write cards to loved ones). Soft music and a cup of tea accompany me as I write. It takes time and my hand feels tired, but so far I am enjoying it immensely! Julia Cameron reminds us not to share our Morning Pages with anyone, so my husband understands that he cannot peek.  🙂

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On Wednesday morning, I planned my very first Artist Date.  I bundled in layers to protect me from the -8 F windchill and headed off to a tropical paradise ~ a very large Orchid grower’s greenhouses! It is one of my favorite places to visit each winter. Since we are having such a frigid week here, it was the perfect way to combine my Walking in nature with an Artist Date.

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At first, my focus was on Walking throughout the 150,000 square feet of greenhouses. Julia Cameron encourages two 20-minute walks each week, without a companion, phone, or even a pet. It is a time for quiet thinking and observing.

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Then it was time to begin my first Artist Date (and take out my camera). Rather than focusing on the names of each variety of Orchid, my attention was drawn to the colors and patterns in the blossoms and foliage. As I meandered, I found colors just like the inks on my studio desk ~ Spiced Marmalade, Picked Raspberry, Scattered Straw, and Worn Lipstick distress inks, and Blushing Bride, Daffodil Delight, Wild Wasabi, Elegant Eggplant, and Gumball Green dye inks.

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These graceful orchid forms will truly inspire my stamped and watercolor floral designs and layouts.

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Julia Cameron encourages each Artist Date to be thoughtfully planned in advance. One must go alone, rather than invite a friend. This intentional, mindful tool benefits our creativity and independence as we visit inspiring places of interest. I have a growing list of places for my weekly Artist Date ~ old favorites and new adventures!

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I have always wanted to write Memoir and have even participated in a Memoir workshop in the past. So, I am really looking forward to filling my new Memoir Journal with treasured memories! Each week, Julia Cameron assigns five different writing tasks around a weekly theme. Our first week’s theme for our writing prompts is “A Sense of Wonder.” 

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Each week, my Memoir writing will focus on a five-year span of my life. In our first week, we are writing about discoveries, cherished memories, and surprising connections from birth through age five. What fun to read through my Baby Book (Thanks, Mom!!) and reminisce with old photo albums! I’m going to love, love, love this walk down memory lane… and can’t wait to see what connections and discoveries are made! It’s just exactly the inspiration I need as I nourish and rekindle my love of scrapbooking!

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Adding The Artist’s Way tools to my very busy life will be both challenging and exciting. It will most certainly nourish my creative heart and soul in unknown ways! Since my days are so full already, I plan to stretch out The Artist’s Way a bit longer than twelve weeks. I truly want to savor each weekly theme (Purpose, Joy, Vitality, Connection, Motion, Adventure,…) as I learn and grow on my creative path this year.  I will be enjoying mornings in my Paper Garden studio, too! ♥♥

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Do any of The Artist’s Way tools sound interesting to you?

If any of our kindred spirits would also like to take this creative journey this year,

I would love to connect and quietly share our discoveries! (Just contact me through ‘Say Hello’ on the blog.)

Please let me know, in the comments, if you would like to read a few blog updates

as I travel along The Artist’s Way!

⚙⚙⚙

Thanks so much for being a part of my creative journey!

Warmest hugs!

♡ Dawn

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A Fascinating Walk!

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Hi Friends!

It’s a wonderful tradition that began early on, when my husband and I were just getting to know one another! Very often, we found ourselves walking near water, with moments of peaceful silence and interesting conversations about anything and everything. Oh the beautiful places we have walked together! Not the types to sit on a beach, we have strolled along Lake Michigan beaches, the beaches of Waikiki, and along the North Shore of Kauai. Walks along the River Seine, the River Rhein, the Lower Salt River in the Sonoran desert, and the Illinois River hold so many dear memories. Over the years, we have enjoyed walking along rushing waterfalls, meandering creeks, and a quiet marsh. Yet, there has always been another watery destination on our long list of places to walk ~  a bog!

So, Sunday morning, we packed a picnic lunch and drove north quite a distance to the Volo Bog State Natural Area. Our walk was filled with unexpected surprises, lovely views, and new learning. We both agreed that it was one of our more fascinating walks… and I couldn’t wait to share our walk with you!

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With our first glimpse of the Volo Bog, we were very curious about the large patches of pink in the distance. It was time to explore!

This bog originated about 12,000 years ago as the Wisconsin glacier crept into northeastern Illinois. As the climate warmed, the ice melted and glacial lakes formed. The trees (in the photo above) mark the edges of the old glacial lake. 

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Volo Bog has a floating boardwalk, allowing visitors to view various parts of the bog while walking just above the bog’s surface.

This was our chance to walk just inches above the surface of a bog! We could feel the floating walkway moving gently underfoot with each step. We walked very slowly, as dragonflies and butterflies floated overhead and a chorus of nearby crickets and frogs sang for us. Below the boardwalk, the 50-foot deep bog was filled with plants growing in this unique wetland.

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From time to time as we walked, there were views of peaceful, open water, surrounded by cattails and sedges. However, most of the bog is now lush with plant growth.

A bog is a very unique type of wetland. It forms in a glacial lake that has very poor drainage and no inflow of water from streams. Rain water and melting snow fill the bog. A floating mat of peat, which is partially decayed plant matter, began to form long ago at the Volo Bog.  The roots of living plants support this thickening peat layer.

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Volo Bog is the only ‘Quaking Bog’ with an open water center in Illinois. Its floating mat of sphagnum moss and other plants is so thick in some places that a person could actually stand on it. However, this would not only damage the bog, but would be incredibly dangerous. The floating boardwalk allows visitors to safely explore the bog.

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Cattails turn to seed in mid-August at Volo Bog.

As early as 10,000 years ago, the Native Americans settled in northeastern Illinois. The Volo Bog, a distance from large waterways, would have provided good hunting grounds and places to gather arrowhead roots, cattails, blueberries, and other edible plants.

BogFloraColorful wildflowers were in full bloom throughout the bog and the pollinators were very active on this mid-August day.

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The wooden boardwalk leads visitors through four different plant communities at Volo Bog. As we made our way, the changing plant species seemed to take us back through time. Winterberry Holly, Dogwood, and Poison Sumac were among the tall shrubs in this part of the bog. During times of high water from rain and melting snow, some of the Tamarack trees in this area drowned. Ancient ferns also grow in this shady area of the bog.

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This diagram shows the different plant zones we observed as we followed the boardwalk (yellow dotted trail) to the ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog.

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The ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog is not an ordinary pond. It is 50 feet deep and everything you see is floating… even the Tamarack pine trees in the distance! As the plant layers in the bog continue to grow and decay, scientists predict the open water at the ‘eye’ will be overgrown with vegetation in the next 100-150 years.

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Tamarack pine trees grow in this part of the plant community. These unusual pines are deciduous! In Autumn, their needles turn golden yellow and fall onto the peat soil below. The Tamarack trees, with their shallow, spreading roots, float up and down as the water levels change in the bog.

Sphagnum moss carpets the ground in this area of the bog. Native American mothers gathered and dried this moss to line their cradle boards, as a sort of diaper. Early soldiers used dried sphagnum to cover their wounds in the battlefields, since this moss produces acids with antibacterial properties.

BogFaunaThe bog is a wetland habitat for so many animal species.

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This circa 1900 dairy barn was renovated to create a wonderful, educational Visitor Center at the Volo Bog.

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As a result of our rainy summer, water levels seemed high in this open water area of the bog.

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Waterbirds searched for food in the moss-covered water, while a family of turtles took turns sunning on a floating log.

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The bog is a beautiful, fragile ecosystem that we must carefully preserve.

As we walked along the boardwalk, observing the variety of plants and animals that make their homes in this habitat, my thoughts turned to my own garden. Years ago, as I added new flower beds, I would occasionally buy a large bag of peat moss to mix into the soil. Never again!!

Most of our commercially harvested (actually, it is ‘mined’) peat in North America comes from Canadian sphagnum moss. Our walk reminded me once again that bogs are fragile wetlands that must be preserved! There are much better (and cheaper) alternatives to amend the soil in our gardens ~ local leaf mold compost, wood chips, composted garden waste, and green kitchen compost. Continued use of these plant materials will keep my garden a healthier, more responsible little patch of nature for years to come!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

This is my 100th post at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes… 

and your visits and thoughtful comments are always such a treat for me!

♡♡♡♡♡♡

Enjoy your week!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you enjoy walking near water, too?  Please tell us about your favorite places to walk…

 

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Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

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Hi Friends!

Native plants are in full bloom here in Illinois, the ‘Prairie State.’ So, early Saturday morning, we decided to explore a very special prairie. It was a rare, cool, end-of-July day, with skies threatening rain one moment and offering bright sunshine the next. My husband dreamed of walking through the prairie in the rain observing the insects, while I wished for blue skies, just right for taking flower photos. Off we went… both of us watching the skies!

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is the first national tallgrass prairie in our country. Once native prairie, this area then developed into a community filled with homes. Years later, the land became the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant producing ammunition used in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War. In 1996, the Department of Defense transferred ownership of the 19,000 acres to the U.S. Forest Service to create Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. With the help of  local conservation groups and countless volunteers, the USDA Forest Service has been working to restore this land to native tallgrass prairie. Today more than 13,300 acres are open to the public.

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We stopped in the Welcome Center first to pick up trail maps and learn about the prairie restoration in progress. Restoring a prairie of this size will take decades. Much of what happens at Midewin is an ongoing experiment of trial and error as USDA staff study the small patches of native prairie that remain. Vast amounts of native plant seeds are being collected and spread each year by the dedicated volunteer workforce. Over time, Midewin staff continue to learn how the different parts of a prairie ecosystem work together.

Midewin, in the language of the Potawatomi People means 'healing.'

Midewin (pronounced ‘mih-DAY-win’) has made amazing progress toward its goal already. Friendly volunteer Rangers were eager to share the history and progress of Midewin with us.

We began our prairie hike at the Iron Bridge Trailhead. As we hiked along the winding trail, it was exciting to see the progress of  the largest prairie restoration underway in the United States.

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Our hot, rainy weather during July has helped the native plants put on a spectacular show of colors.

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Late July at the tallgrass prairie

Walking through the tallgrass prairie helps us to imagine the time when 60% of the landscape of Illinois was covered in prairies.  The grasses and native flowers often grew as tall as a horse and its rider. As covered wagons made their way through the prairies in the early days, only the tops of their canvas-covered wagons could be seen above the tallgrass prairie. They truly looked like ‘prairie schooners’ bobbing slowly through the waves of the tall prairie grasses.

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Left:  Prairie Sunflower; Right: Purple Coneflower, Blue Aster. Red Clover

While the prairie wildflowers and grasses grow to impressive heights, most of the plant is below the soil with its extremely long root system. In addition to the roots, microbes, insects, and burrowing animals also play a critical role in the underground ecosystem of the prairie. Over time, the tallgrass prairies created the deep, rich topsoil of the Midwest. Once the valuable soil beneath our prairies was discovered, the tallgrass prairies disappeared quickly. In just 50 years, the prairies were replaced by farm crops and pastures for livestock.

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Today, there are less than one hundredth of one percent of the tallgrass prairies remaining in Illinois.

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Yellow Coneflower

We are so fortunate that volunteers are working to restore Midewin. They carefully harvest the seeds of wildflowers and grasses, spread the seeds, remove invasive plants, maintain the trails, and teach visitors about this valuable prairie.

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Top: Red Spotted Purple butterfly, Black Swallowtail butterfly  Bottom: dragonflies on native grasses

The prairie wildflowers and grasses attract many pollinators vital to the restoration process. As we hiked, we were entertained by the birds, bees, butterflies, and dragonflies. Cicadas were singing loudly in the afternoon sun.

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We hiked along the Iron Bridge trail in search of  bison grazing on the prairie. Chatting with other hikers, we learned that none of them had seen any bison and were returning to the trailhead. So, we decided to turn off on another trail. I stopped to admire the Queen Anne’s Lace blooming profusely, and something moving near the horizon caught my eye. Could it be?

 As we watched, we could just barely see a line of bison moving through the tallgrass and native flowers. We decided to quickly hike up to a higher place on the trail and stopped to watch the herd of bison moving. It was truly an unforgettable moment to see these huge, iconic creatures moving across the prairie!

Bison played a very important role in our history, as the Native American hunters followed them across the plains. Bison provided food, clothing, and shelter to the Native Americans.

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In the Fall of 2015, Midewin introduced bison to the prairie, in an experiment planned to last 20 years. Midewin prairie ecologists are studying the bison to see if their grazing patterns will benefit the ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie. Bison feed only on grasses, opening the prairie to more flowers and other plants. This attracts a variety of birds, insects, and other animals, increasing the biodiversity of the tallgrass prairie.

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The bison herd at Midewin, relocated from Colorado and South Dakota, includes 24 adults and 12 young bison. Just this week, two bison calves were born. As we watched them walking in a straight line, tails swishing, I was able to count 18 bison in this herd. Next time, we will bring binoculars!

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Hedge apples (Maclura pomifera), also known as Osage oranges and Bois d’arc

Turning off onto the Hedge Apple Trail, we passed a tree laden with this bumpy fruit. The Osage People used the strong, flexible wood from these trees to make their bows. These trees were often planted as wind breaks to prevent soil erosion. Their sharp thorns turned rows of Hedge Apple trees into cattle-deterring hedges, before the invention of barbed wire for fences.

As we walked along the trail, we were greeted by vast areas filled with Queen Anne’s Lace in bloom. We followed a smaller trail deeper into the prairie. I stopped and spun around very s-l-o-w-l-y taking in all of this natural beauty. It felt just like I was standing in the middle of a beautiful, watercolor painting!

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As we hiked, these Yellow Coneflowers, with their drooping yellow petals were among my very favorite prairie plants. It was fascinating to discover that so many plants from my cottage gardens at home are native wildflowers. Aster, Spiderwort, Beebalm, Purple Coneflower, ‘Blazing Star’ Liatris, Marsh Phlox, Obedient Plant, Allium, Black-Eyed Susan, and Anemones grow in the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and in the garden at our ‘Little House Near the Prairie.’  🙂

If you ever have the chance to walk through a tallgrass prairie, it is an experience that you will always remember! Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is a treasure… and one that will continue to teach us to care for the land in so many important ways!

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Thanks so much for walking through the tallgrass prairie with us today!

Have you ever visited a prairie?

Do you grow any native prairie plants in your garden?

Happy August days!

♡Dawn

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A Desert Dream-Come-True!

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Hi Friends!

What an amazing surprise we had on our recent visit to Arizona! Every year, in March or April, I love to spend  Spring Break visiting family in the Phoenix area. During my very first visit, over twenty-five years ago, I fell in love with the majestic Saguaro cactus. These beautiful giants only grow in the Sonoran Desert. Each time we hike in the desert, I always make the very same wish!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see my favorite cactus in bloom ~ just once in my lifetime?

The Saguaro typically blooms in May and June. Those are always busy months in my Midwest garden. I just love to be home tending my perennial and herb gardens in late Spring and early Summer. This Spring Break was a truly memorable one! Following a warmer Winter season in the desert, the Saguaro cacti are in bloom earlier than ever this year. So, we were able to enjoy these special blossoms for the very first time!

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We chose one of our favorite hiking places, the Usery Mountain Regional Park, to soak in all of the beauty of the Saguaros in bloom.  Ranger Brennan shared so much fascinating information about the Saguaros, along with great tips for the best hiking trails to see these long-awaited blossoms.  While the Saguaro flowers are usually very high on these tall cacti, Ranger B. told us to look for a Saguaro that had been touched by the frost, making one arm droop much lower.  If we could find one, we would have a chance to enjoy these special flowers at eye level. (Special thanks, Ranger B, for all the great tips!) Off we hiked, camera in hand, to make my dream come true!

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A Saguaro cactus must be at least 50 years old to make flowers. Production from bud to flower takes 10-14 days, depending upon the elevation and temperature in the desert. One Saguaro produces an average of 295 flowers, blooming two or three at a time, throughout May and June. Saguaros have a reproductive lifespan of over 100 years.

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The waxy, white, trumpet-shaped Saguaro flowers are about 3 inches (8cm) in diameter. Each flower lasts less than 24 hours. The flower blooms at night and closes by mid-afternoon. Since the pollen is large and heavy, the Saguaro flower cannot be pollinated by the wind. Saguaros have a very short time to attract pollinators!

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The Saguaros’ bloom time matches the northern migration time of their pollinators. The flowers are well-suited to the bats that come to pollinate the flowers at night. Rich in nectar, the strong flowers can withstand the bats’ weight. They bloom high above the ground near the bats’ flight path, and the blossoms emit a strong fragrance so that they are easy to locate in the dark.

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Saguaros continue to produce nectar in the morning and early afternoon. So, honey bees and birds come to pollinate the flowers during the day. The white-winged doves migrate from Mexico just in time for the Saguaro bloom in Arizona each year.

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As we hiked, we were overjoyed to find one Saguaro with a low-drooping arm. This was our chance to view the state flower of Arizona at eye level. What an amazing opportunity for a little ‘Morning Science’ lesson of our own!

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The droopy arm of the cactus was growing up toward the sun, with about 20 large buds. Earlier in the day, Ranger B. told us that he has even seen Saguaro cacti laying dead on the ground, with one arm still blooming prolifically! A dead cactus uses its stored moisture to nourish the flower blossoms. (Contrary to popular belief, the water stored in the Saguaro cactus is undrinkable and mildly toxic for humans.)

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Up close, the Saguaro flowers were all abuzz with pollinators. We had to wait in line for our chance to examine the blossom. It was such a thrill to touch the thick, waxy flower! We observed its center filled with yellow pollen. We could also see fruit beginning to form nearby.

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After the flowers are pollinated, they mature into ripe, red fruit. In June, a red ring first appears around the top of the growing Saguaro fruit. Soon the entire fruit ripens, splitting open to reveal its juicy, red pulp. Each Saguaro fruit contains up to 2,000 small, black seeds. This occurs during the driest time of the year, when rain has not fallen for over 100 days. So the ripe fruit will provide much-needed moisture and food for many desert creatures. Finches, woodpeckers, doves, and bats find nourishment from the fruits at the top of the Saguaro.  Javelinas, coyotes, and other desert mammals come to feed on the fallen fruit. Many people also enjoy eating the Saguaro fruit!

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The Native American, Tohono O’odham people have always harvested the Saguaro fruit. They continue this important tradition today. Using long poles, often made from Saguaro ribs, they pick the ripe fruit. June is the time when the Tohono O’odham people celebrate the beginning of summer and the new growing season. To bring rain, they drink a fermented juice, made from the bright, red fruit. (To watch a fascinating video about harvesting Saguaro fruit, click here.)

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What a wonderful, dream-come-true hike in the desert!

We feel so blessed to have experienced

this amazing bouquet of desert beauty up close.

(Hmmm…  I wonder what the Saguaro fruit tastes like?

Perhaps we can taste it on our next visit to the Sonoran desert!)

⚛⚛⚛

Thanks so much for walking through the desert with us.

I have two other beautiful places to share soon.

Each time we visit Arizona, there are always exciting, new discoveries awaiting!

Sending sunshine!

♡Dawn

           P.S.   What interesting flower have you dreamed of seeing one day?

 

Desert Delights…

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Hi Friends!

One might think that having lunch with a Roadrunner would be the highlight of any day,

but our afternoon was even more memorable!

Recently, while exploring the Tonto National Forest, in southern Arizona,

we were drawn to so many beautiful oases in the desert.

I can’t wait to take you to two of my perennial favorites!

We seek out these breathtaking oases each time we visit our family nearby.

♥♥♥

Come join us!

For our afternoon hike, you will need:

sturdy shoes, a hat, water bottle, sunscreen,…

and you might want to bring your camera along, too.  ☺

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Follow me…. but watch your step!

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

Tonto National Forest, with Four Peaks in the background

Don’t worry. I have been here many times.

We won’t get lost.

Let’s begin our hike at the trail head, and walk down

to a beautiful oasis.

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The lower Salt River winds its way through the Tonto National Forest.

The Salt River provides a lush green oasis

in the midst of the harsh Sonoran desert.

People love to fish, canoe, and hike here.

Turn around, very s-l-o-w-l-y.

You will see the reason that I come

to this breathtaking oasis!

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These mountains bring tears to my eyes

every time I hike here.

I stand here in awe… fully mindful and present.

My worries seem small whenever I stand in this beautiful place.

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The Salt River is low at this time of year.

We can walk out onto the river bed.

I just love to look at the river rocks,

worn smooth over time.

During the summer months, when a nearby dam is opened,

the Salt River grows much wider and deeper.

The river flows over the

rocks where we are standing.

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Saguaro Lake, with 22 miles of shoreline, is actually a reservoir. It was created when the Stewart Mountain Dam was built on the Salt River in 1930.

Just a short drive brings us to our next

beautiful oasis.

Saguaro Lake is a sparkling gem in the desert!

It is very popular with boaters.

Visitors can cruise the lake on the Desert Belle tour boat,

and enjoy a wonderful meal on the patio of the marina,

overlooking Saguaro Lake.

It’s so hard to believe that this beautiful lake

is surrounded by the wild desert!

We love to come to the lake

for a picnic breakfast

at sunrise,

and we are not the only ones…  ☺

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It’s mid-afternoon already, but our hike continues.

The best is yet to come!

We can find the trail head for

my favorite place to hike

at Saguaro Lake,

 just past Butcher Jones Beach.

This trail is very uneven,

as it meanders along the water’s edge.

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Peregrine Point, along the trail at Butcher Jones Recreation Site

Be very careful, as we walk up along this narrow, winding trail.

I am always so amazed to see

these giant Saguaros

growing at the edge of this lovely lake,

named in their honor!

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I always stop to take in all of the unique beauty

of this special place,

where the water and the desert come together

side-by-side.

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We can hike quite a distance, before the trail becomes much too rugged for me.

Then we will just turn around and retrace our steps.

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Oh, how I love this very spot!   ↑

Calm.   Peace.    Solace.

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Looking across the lower Salt River to Red Mountain.  The mountain is on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Native American land.

Driving south along the lower Salt River,

we always stop here to admire Red Mountain.

Seeing this beautiful mountain

always means we are

very close

to

the dearest part

of the Arizona desert…

my parents!

We were here celebrating their birthdays,

 making wonderful family memories,

and counting our blessings.

♥♥♥

Thank you so much for hiking with us today!

I appreciate the time you spend visiting and truly love your comments.

Hoping you will find solace in nature this week…

Sending sunshine!

♡ Dawn