Photo a Week – The Great Outdoors

Nancy Merrill is hosting a photo challenge. The theme this week: A Photo a Week Challenge – The Great Outdoors

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO OR TWO OF NATURE.

 
For twenty years my young family and I packed up the station wagon to travel 90 minutes north for our annual week-long summer vacation…

…to the Great Outdoors.
A conference center/family camp on Lake Winnipesaukee. A fairly rustic setup, we roomed together in a small bedroom (until we outgrew it & also needed the room across the hall), ate together at a communal dining hall and spent the better part of every day playing together. The 2 of us. Then the 3 of us. Then the 4 of us.

No television. No phones. Long before the internet and cellular phones. No distractions.
And no cooking. No cleaning. No dishes to wash.

It was eat, sit, talk, explore, swim, dig in the sand, play cards, games, read, sing, sleep.
Repeat.

Lots of walking…especially through the woods surrounding us. Sometimes via the walking trails or sometimes blazing our own…collecting “natures” as in…leaves, acorns, pine cones, twigs, pebbles….

Several times each day we made the trek down the path to the lake…our feet crunching over the layer of finely crushed gravel. Breathing in the damp mossy air. Spotting little critters dashing through the brush on the forest floor. Looking up, squinting in the bright sun, trees standing high above our heads…branches spread as if protecting us, little and big alike. Slapping a few buzzing mosquitoes.

Eerily quiet. Peaceful.

When our children were small, the walking time depended on the amount of equipment we needed to bring with us. And how fast little feet could walk. Or needed to stop and rest from the weight of pails, shovels and sand toys. But it didn’t matter. We were in no hurry.

With just one 3 year old…it was only a swimming tube, towel and a chair for mom & dad.
A ten minute walk.

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Let’s go to the lake, oh daddy, let’s go to the lake

(35mm film)

Windows

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #30: Windows

It is interesting to note what it is you miss after it’s gone.
Not appreciating its significance while you had it.
As cliché as that may sound, it can still ring true.
Which brings me to the subject of windows.

Two years ago we moved from a house into a condo. I don’t miss much about the house…but one thing I do miss is the kitchen window. Over the sink…facing the backyard. Watching the sun as it hit the trees, the grass, the deck.

My hands deep in soapy water…cleaning dishes, washing pots. Rinsing vegetables for cooking. I was a loyal spectator to the changing seasons…which appeared with comforting regularity. From my window in the kitchen.

A robin would perch on the clothesline, pausing between flights. Squirrels and chipmunks raced across the deck railing…their own private balance beam.  Over the years the errant cat from next door would creep close, sit right below and stare at me, as if to say…what are you going to do about it lady? So what if I use your backyard as my litter box? I’d glare back, the window between us. This game continuing for years.

Winter brought icicles hanging down – eventually blocking and distorting the sight of blinding piles of snow beneath. Storms poured gallons of rain over the eaves past the sill. Hurricanes hurled wet leaves and twigs onto the glass and screen. Mother Nature everywhere. Putting on a show.

Warmer months showcased children throwing balls, making sand pies, swinging on the swings, climbing on the jungle gym. Eventually cutting grass and raking leaves. Opening the window swept in sounds of neighborhood life. The whine of distant lawnmowers. Splashing in a pool. Voices…young high pitched and older booming ones. Dogs barking. Car radio volume cranked, music a dull roar as it passed by. The faint hum of traffic down the hill. Smells of steaks on a grill. Next door neighbor burning brush. Every day a little different. Every hour just a bit changed from the one before.

That’s the thing about windows.
They give you a peek at your world. If you take a moment to notice. Not just quickly glance as you hurry by. But really look. Noticing the world outside. As young children do, with faces pressed against the glass taking note of…everything.

Sometimes the sight will stop you. And you put down the sponge. The pot. Turn off the water. Slip outside…maybe even sit on the back step and look around.
Listen.
Be grateful for this patch of earth.

One of the final things I did on that last October day – almost as an afterthought – was take a photo of my view out the kitchen window.
Through the screen, crooked shade and all.

It may be the only photo I ever took from that spot at the sink…following an intuitive hunch that it would be important to me.
Like I said, I took it for granted.

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Although we have plenty of windows in our over-55 condo, there is no window over the sink.
I miss it.
And sometimes the world I left behind there as well.

downsizing and stuff – part 4 – nature

Downsizing does not include nature. Except for a few small houseplants, you don’t take “nature stuff” with you…from a house to a condo. It usually doesn’t get donated or sold. For the most part, that’s okay. Some of the nature I don’t miss: weeds, massive wasp tree hotels, chipmunk holes, poop in the back yard from the cat next door, wasp nests behind the shutters, leaf piles, ants. Oh, right….and piles of snow that need to be moved. We left that “stuff” of nature behind.

The nature I do wish we could have taken with us? The flowers that came to life in our yard this time of year.  The little purple crocuses that sprouted up around the maple tree; sometimes so early they poked through the last of the melting snow. Purple irises that originated in my great-grandmother’s garden in Cincinnati – making it to my parents’ house in NJ and then to our home of almost 37 years. They multiplied over the years and we transplanted them from one side of the house to the other. And then next to the garage.  And later, we added trilliums, daffodils and black-eyed susans to the mix.

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2013
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2007

My husband and I moved to that house in early 1980. No kids yet. We were first time homeowners eager to start “decorating,” so we bought over a dozen tulip bulbs that fall.  We ceremoniously planted them in a small patch of dirt next to the house (alongside the iris); with 2 little girls who lived next door watching over our shoulders.  We didn’t know it at the time, but although tulips are “perennials,” they don’t last forever. Gradually fewer and fewer showed themselves every spring. Perhaps the salt runoff from the icy driveway killed them off.  I think there may have even been a few years with no tulips at all. However during the last few years before we moved out, one tulip showed up. Hooray! A welcome survivor and salute to our first attempt at landscaping.

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1981
tulips 2015
2015

Lilies of the valley. I miss them most of all. Transplanted from my in-law’s garden in the late 1990’s, they multiplied like crazy – gradually taking over the strip of dirt in front of the house. So delicate. So simple, green and white. Their sweet scent was like no other…when that huge patch was in full bloom, it took my breath away. Literally.

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2014

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I drove by our former home a few months ago and spotted the crocuses. Next to the tree by the road…same as always. I slowed down, but didn’t stop.

One of those peculiar sad happy moments….

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Front yard crocuses – 2012