A Wintry Rut . . .

•February 15, 2014 • 8 Comments


Polar Vortex, severe wind chill (go to school anyway), endless piles of papers to correct, seriously ill family members, sadness (death of an uncle and a former student – so very young), five days out with the flu, snow shoveling, dog hair everywhere from my new roommate Ike, did I mention the Polar Vortex?  Back pain, physical therapy, hospital visits, lesson plans (and more papers to correct), helping sick family member with daily stuff, staff meetings that last too long after school, icy roads, high heating bills, short daylight hours (no sun), falling asleep in the lazy boy (@8pm) with a lap full of papers to correct, more snow and no one to plow, a never-ending pot of soup (why these seem to grow in the refrigerator overnight has always been a mystery), car window stuck in the down position (during polar vortex), unable to sit for periods of time (back), dishes piled up in the sink, … and more school work to catch up on.

And, the winter rut I am in continues … pulled in all directions by people and events and nothing in the direction I would prefer to go (ie:  wandering in nature, taking pictures, sleeping in, blogging, etc…).

Pictures of a wintry sunset from this week can be seen at my photo blog (bear in sight)

Oh, to be a bear and be perfectly happy to hibernate through the winter ruts … ;-)

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ~Anne Bradstreet

Hunker Down . . .

•January 5, 2014 • 8 Comments

What’s Coming Tonight?
Frigid Cold Blast, Deathly Cold, Record Lows, Massive Winter Freeze, Temperatures taking a tumble, Brutal Temps (exposed flesh freezes in under 5 minutes!), Polar Vortex, Fargo television “COLDEST, NASTIEST, BRUTALIST ARCTIC AIR IN YEARS”

Advice for Surviving:
Hunker Down, Snuggle Up, Batten Down the Hatches, Get Cozy, Brace Yourself, Hang on, Stay Warm, Cover Up, Don’t Venture Out … If you have to, have a winter survival kit in your car.


Keeping Feet Tucked In

The news makes this cold blast sound like it is the worst and first time all winter we have suffered with these temperature. It is the first time in the southern half of the State (including the Twin Cities), but it is not the first time we have hit temps on the lower extreme of the thermometer up here in the northern part of the State.

On Thursday my thermometer read -42º F until about 10 am (yes, seriously) throw in some wind to calculate windchill and I have no idea what the “real feel” was. I just know we still had school and the world continued to flow like normal except for a few cars that just could not handle it. When temps similar to these are going to hit the Twin Cities, though .. everything shuts down, people stay home and schools are cancelled Statewide.


Waiting Patiently and taking a Bow
(or warming one paw at a time?)

Honestly, I don’t think we should have started school on time Thursday .. it was dangerous out there. And, during the worst of this current deep freeze, I am limiting my travels and will stay indoors where it is warm as much as possible. What sort of annoys me is that our extremely low temps up here in the woods do not even make the news .. it is like we don’t matter or it is just expected to be that cold here. The Twin Cities will only be about -25 below tonight, we will probably be able to add 15 – 20 degrees more lower … but, that will not be a news headline.

People are looking on the bright side: “a week of this and will kill an invasive beetle”, “40 below keeps the riff-raff out”, “just a few more days and we will be above zero”, “the sun is shining”, etc…


My Fuzzy Weekend Guest

The bitter coldness has begun.  It was 37 below this morning and made its way up to 20 below this afternoon.  The critters are sharing the bird feeders politely (and are not very afraid of my and my camera), free time at home with no school stress feels great, the fireplace and warm sweaters are very enjoyable, the days are gradually getting longer, the sunsets have been glorious (see Bear In Sight post) and the best part has been spending time with my fuzzy weekend guest (as you can see, he likes the snow and makes the cold woods more “bear”able)

Bits and Pieces . . .

•December 4, 2013 • 13 Comments
Made with a Love for Bears

Made with a Love for Bears

Bits and pieces, odds and ends, scattered thoughts, a little of this and a little of that …

The first bit … I would like you to take a look at the cutest, most life-like teddy bear I have ever seen. (It is being sold on Ebay this week as a fundraiser – link). It is designed after Hope the bear cub that was born on the internet from Ely, MN. (I have had many posts about the Ely Bear Center and Hope in the past).

The sale of this teddy bear is going to help improve the Bear Center which is in the process of building a learning center. (When you visit the Ebay link, be sure to scroll to the bottom and see all the terrific pictures of this special teddy bear and how it was made by hand.) I would love to bid on this one of a kind – gorgeous teddy, but the price is already up into the thousands of dollars.  I wonder if this will turn out to be the most expensive teddy bear ever?  Anyone know the record?

Snowy day

The start of today’s snow

Another piece … There are no worries here in northern MN about having a white Christmas this year … we have received lots and lots of snow the past few days with many more inches (10-15) to come today.  The worst part has been the stress of driving in this winter mess.  Well, the shoveling has not been much fun, either (who needs a gym membership :-)).  Today turned out to be our first “partial” school snow day of the year .. which allowed me to do something fun – catch up on my blogging world.  This big snow event (something the weather people like to call it) is taking place way too soon in the season for me, basically because the snows life here seems to be never-ending come Spring .  It could be here for another 5 months (or more, like it did last year).  But, it is beautiful to see … the snow fall today goes great with a fire in the fireplace and a steaming hot cup of special coffee.

Scattered thought … I see that I just presented a conflicted view of winter … however, I am not going to rewrite it .. I am conflicted about winter and snow.  I have a fluctuating love/hate relationship with it.  Like the picture I took of the snow today .. gray, blurry … rather dismal.  As opposed to the snow pictures I posted a few days ago on my photo blog (Wasn’t it Just Yesterday?).

An odd piece … Lately, this consumerism season we are in has become irritating for me.  On NPR today, that was the topic of discussion that caught my ear on the drive home (in a foot of blowing snow).  Why is it “Giving Tuesday” is put off until after all the manic shopping days?  Maybe it is a way of paying for the guilt of all the self-indulgences Black Friday and Cyber Monday invoke? It is sad that Christmas seems to get lost in the “sales” and “special deals”.   I am not a big shopper and I am definitely not a “Black Friday shopper”. There is absolutely nothing in this world I need (or want) that badly to fight my way through that shopping battle … Cyber Monday is more my style but, only for very special deals and things I may have had my eye on for a while.

The end piece … another frustrating shopping issue that popped up this month has to do with various companies.  For instance, the companies who have shrunk their products and charge the same amount or even a little bit more … (Specifically .. shame on you Charmin for taking 1/2″ off the width of the roll of tp and on Kashi who has removed a whole serving of cereal out of my favorite box of Cinnamon Harvest.)  What happened to the days of companies offering generous perks to us for choosing their products?  The competition to provide the best product for the best price?  I dislike how they get sneaky and hide the fact that they are raising their prices. (I will stop now before it turns into a rant :-))

A little of this …  a little bit of snow, tiny dust like snowflakes sure pile up fast and blow around in a fury.  Similarly, a cup of comfort food this time of year sure goes a long way to adding warmth and peace to your soul.  The holidays are filled with special foods and treats that are traditional and awaken many memories.  However, there are many ordinary foods that provide much comfort during these cold winter days … like potato chowder soup, homemade bread, fresh-baked pie, warm cookies out of the oven, a hot cup of cinnamon apple tea, a bowl of popcorn, etc … it does not take much to make you forget all about the cold outside.  What is your favorite winter comfort food?

Snowy day2

Snowy afternoon in the woods

Thinking fragments reality – it cuts it up into conceptual bits and pieces.  ~  Eckhart Tolle

Strange Skylines . . .

•November 17, 2013 • 5 Comments

Last month, I spent a lot of time in Fargo/Moorhead where the skyline is quite different from my woodsy one.  The flatness of the area, more buildings than trees … are not the normal daily sights for me.


Being in nature keeps me sane and somewhat at peace inside.  Therefore, with all the family medical and life stresses taking place while I was there and hours sitting in hospital rooms, I needed to find nature to de-stress more than ever. I went to a nearby river park in search of the peace I find in my woodsy home.

At first glance, I was really disappointed.  I could see nothing that was going to be a natural place I could relate to. Dry, browned grass and flowers, a few small trees without leaves, a brown cold rushing river with dead tree trunks floating in it … as well as the sounds of traffic and trains.  I could easily picture this park engulfed in water during the Spring floods that take place in Fargo every year. It had the “death” side of Fall look to it.  However, like most things in life, you have to take the time to look more closely to find the bright side of things.


“In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks.” ~ John Muir

I have never been disappointed when I have taken the time to really look and I wasn’t this time, either.
**  My unexpected find in this brown park .. natural words of inspiration  (click for larger images)

Reconcilable Love?

•November 2, 2013 • 5 Comments

“Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There’s a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don’t reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.” ~ Orson Welles


Folklore says (or was it the Farmer’s Almanac?) the brown stripe on the wooly bear caterpillars predict the severity of the winter. According to my found caterpillar, winter is going to be extreme because there is very little brown. I wonder, if I would search a bit harder, could I find a weather predicting caterpillar more to my liking … with lots of brown? Or, is it better to just reconcile myself to the fact that winter will be cold and snowy and way too long for my liking no matter what the caterpillars say?

Reconcile .. always felt like a defeatist word to me, shouting “I give up”. However, the older I get, I realize that “giving up” is not always a bad thing. Sometimes we need to give up .. let go to find a better place within us.

Love has always been the hardest thing for me to reconcile myself to. Love is supposed to be this warm, fuzzy feeling that we can not live without, love makes us stronger … “it is all we need” according to the Beatles. Once I allow myself to love someone or something, I can easily recognize the fact that love has a dark side, too … it has prickles, hurts and deep pains that come with it. Love is strength, yet, it also makes us vulnerable to that same person .. it can only exist with trust. The people we love the most, have the power to hurt us the most deeply .. but, we trust that they won’t.

Like the wooly bear caterpillar, we want that warm fuzzy brown part of love to be really thick and the cold, black prickly ends to be small.

There are many black prickles in my life that I guess I finally allowed myself to recognize .. I was living with them, accepting them .. ignoring them (isn’t that what you are supposed to learn to do?). Then, life threw a big rock at my head and woke me up (my mother surprised us with becoming deathly ill recently – reason for my blogging absence). It’s amazing how a single life incident can turn your world upside-down, shake it up and change perspective on so many things. The death of a loved one and the loss of a friendship are the blackest prickles for me (like most people), but the recent crisis brought out others.  The black prickles of sibling disagreements, arguments and past hurts no longer tucked away … but awakened.   The reshaping and changing of what family looks like.  Added responsibilities not asked for that are tough to deal with.

Lovingly, crisis also brings back the warm brown fuzzy parts, too.  The memories, shared experiences, laughs, and love are seen again, too.  Supportive friends and co-workers shining bright for me … and lots of prayers and so much more.  Reconciling myself to the fact that the warm/brown parts of love must co-exist with the black/prickly parts is the healthiest way to reconcile … it is not giving up, it is not closing your eyes, it is working with love.

“Distance either of time or place is sufficient to reconcile weak minds to wonderful relations” ~  Samuel Johnson

Allowing yourself to love someone means … you will hurt deeply when they die or leave your life in some other way. Loving someone means that you have opened yourself up to the possibility that they will hurt you sometimes or maybe even turn their back on you and walk away. Love means there will be arguments, disagreements and words that hurt you deeply. However, with truly loving people, those black prickles of love never outshine or out-warm the deeply warm, brown fuzzy part of allowing yourself to love someone and to be loved in return.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”  ~  C S Lewis

In October, I saw life and love hang on a very fine thread … I saw the threads break and come back together in a new pattern … life and love are a tangled and very fragile web we weave.  It is essential to build strong supports of love to survive this life we live.


In all the October turmoil, I did take myself away for short periods of time to get out into the fall colors with my camera.  I will be posting my Fall Colors at my photo blog “Bear in Sight” soon.  I have a month’s worth of life to catch up on ….

Surprise? . . .

•September 21, 2013 • 7 Comments

Surprise is not probably the most precise title for this post, even though the accompanying photo demonstrate that word pretty good.  Can you help me out?  What do you call it when you are expecting surprises to pop up everywhere in your daily life?  If you are expecting a surprise, is it really a surprise?  Unable to find the right word, I am calling it “the first days of school”.  If you could provide a more universal descriptive word for it in the English language please share it.  (help me out English majors)

surpriseraccoonI am back to school and “surprise” plus the knowledge that I will be “surprised” at every turn is how my days are.  We have 14 full-days of classes under our belts (not that any of us are counting to the end of the year, yet ;-)).  Instead, we are counting the “get to know you”, honeymoon, breaking-in period.  The first part of school when everything is new and different.  When some things don’t work and still other things are missing or disorganized.  (replace the word “thing” with .. schedules, books, students, locker combinations, techie equipment, lessons, etc…).  We are far from entering a routine although that is the (goal?) result we will achieve in a few more weeks.  For school life, finding “routine” means we are finding sanity again.  The trick is finding it without losing the excitement, “surprise” factor that makes learning fun.

My assigned classes this year include four with 7th/8th grade students (double the classes of this age from past years).  For the most part,  I enjoy this age because they are still eager to learn and try new things.  However, this is also the group of students that have the most difficulties adjusting to all the changes moving up to the high school level brings (their first locker, first time moving from class to class, schedules that change day-to-day, etc). Throw in all the hormonal changes they are going through and you can understand the “surprise” factor of daily life I am working through.

As a teacher, I know that keeping the new middle-schoolers actively engaged all hour is extremely important.  Sitting  at my desk for any reason, is not going to happen.  I know all that, but was still “surprised” at how tired I was at the end of the day and frustrated that I had not been able to complete any grading or planning during the school day … dragging home a big bag of work every night can really take the fun out of it.

Not everything is a surprise.  I love planning classes and making materials new materials for my computer classes  (I often  think that I should get a job with an educational materials company).  However, it does take a lot of time at the computer in the off hours and is my excuse for neglecting my blog and not visiting your blogs as often as I would like.  The “surprises, the “newness”, and the need to be “flexible” and “quick-thinking” all day long are tiring me out (and the first student spread head cold of the year does not help).  All together,  it makes my job fun and interesting (and I enjoy a challenge) … I am just looking for a little less “surprise” to  find a bit more “routine” to bring back some sanity.  ;-)


An up-close look at that expression.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” ~  General George S. Patton

Another fall-out from the constant school surprises is that I don’t have few photos to share with you.  Finding time to get outside is really tough. However, my camera sits “shot-gun” on my way to and from school (that is how I got this surprised raccoon) and I try to leave a bit early just in case I need to stop for something spectacular to take a picture of.  Believe it or not, I am getting better at the one-handed, through the window shot as I slow down in a timely manner so that my subjects don’t get too spooked or blurred.  ;-)

Some recent photography subjects are right outside my door and stand perfectly still for hours at a time: Check out my Mush-a-rooms Post at Bear In Sight.

Need a “Bear” Fix? . . .

•September 2, 2013 • 11 Comments

For a bear lover, it is amazing that I have not written about bears for quite a long time.  Therefore, I would like to remedy that.

Unfortunately, I have not seen any bears this season to provide you with new pictures .. but, here is one from 2 years ago that I don’t think I have posted before.  That was the summer when I was entertained by numerous bear cubs at the Bear Sanctuary near Orr Minnesota.  There is a great new video on the home page about the sanctuary, the life of the wild bears there and how you can watch them … lots of bear footage in their natural environment.


On the news front, the Wildlife Research Institute in Ely Minnesota is facing significant legal issues with the DNR.  The DNR is trying to prevent Lynn Rogers, the Institutes head biologist from walking with the bears.  They want the GPS units that monitor the bears in the study removed (so they will lose track of the bears they have been following for 4 decades) and are forbidding the Institute from putting cameras in the bear dens this winter.  I find this extremely ridiculous … The bear den cams over the past 4 years has educated and entertained the world all about bears.  Remember the first live birth on cam?  It is amazing and I do not see how the cameras are disturbing or hurting the bears .. they don’t even know they are there.  (Okay … I am taking a deep breath).   If you would like to find out more about the Research Institutes battle with the DNR, start here.

Also in the news, bear hunting season started this weekend in northern Minnesota.  I have written about “bear baiting” before, so I will spare you a rerun.  Others are trying to help out in this area, especially in the bear study zone.  (See update)

Since I have not had the pleasure of watching the bears this summer in my area, I have been enjoying the grizzly bear photos and posts by Christopher Martin Photography.  The post with pictures of a mother grizzly playing with her cub on the beach is my absolute favorite … check it out (and the other grizzly bear posts he has from the last week or two), the bear photos are amazing!

I hope I have provided enough videos and links to photos to satisfy your current bear needs.  ;-)

Need a wild flower fix?  Check out my Fall Flowers post at Bear In Sight.


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