Gratitude and the Grass River


That’s the Grass River at the end of October. I don’t get over there very often, but I am immensely grateful that it’s there. It’s one of the many, many natural places in which I am happiest. Without its public trails and boardwalks, I would not have access to these wetlands that are beautiful year-round, and that bring serenity to my soul.

Perhaps because tomorrow is Thanksgiving – or perhaps because it’s the low-light time of year when negativity tries to creep into my mind – I’ve been more mindful of being grateful.

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. -Oprah Winfrey

So tonight I am grateful for access to wilderness, and a husband who likes to explore it with me.

I am grateful for clothing that allows me to venture out into otherwise inhospitable conditions.

I am grateful for a warm home to return to.

I am grateful for my pets, who constantly make life interesting – and a dog who is more tolerant of my cats than they are him.

I am grateful that I have such a wonderful family, including my immediate siblings and parents, my in-laws, my extended family, and our friends (who are the family we choose). We are so fortunate to share our lives with so many good people.

And I am grateful for you, dear reader, for joining me on this journey. Thank you – for reading, liking, and commenting. I appreciate your accompaniment.

What are you grateful for? Please feel free to comment, and spread the gratitude 🙂

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful. -Buddha

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Snowy Hike and a Surprise Thanksgiving

With our family 500 miles south, Tony and I planned to spend our Thanksgiving day together, with our fuzzies. Giving consideration to weekend busy-ness (What a joke – like trails up here are busy in the winter!), we opted to re-visit the Dune Drive on Thanksgiving rather than the official weekend. With our recent lake effect pummeling, we figured the trek would paint quite a different picture that it did at the beginning of the month.

We awoke this morning to a bit more snow than we had yesterday, with a couple more inches forecast through the evening. Where we were headed was expecting four to six additional inches. Interesting. Off we went 🙂
driving in a snowstorm

The roads weren’t great, but not terrible either – just typical roads for winter Up North. In due time, we parked at the trailhead and packed on our gear: ski pants, coats, gloves, hats, boots, and camera. I had a scarf, too, but I ditched it shortly after we started walking.

We followed in another hiker’s tracks from earlier in the day, beside some cross-country ski tracks. The snow fell lightly at times, and poured down at others – typical for winter Up North.

The hush as we walked was palpable, broken only by the occasional chattering of the naked trees, and the swish of our pants. We made good time, and drew upon the first stop in our tour quicker than we’d expected. As predicted, it looked a bit different than it did on November 3.
North Bar overlook

With not much besides a whole bunch of snow to look at, we didn’t linger long. But we also weren’t undeterred. Even if the next overlook was buried under falling snow (likely, but there are also unexpected breaks in lake effect bands sometimes, so you never know), it would be worth the visit.

Okay, so no break in the clouds, but there’s something awe-inspiring knowing what’s just over the precipice…and not being able to see it for the wall of falling flakes.
sweeping Lake Michigan overlook-2
I’m still gobsmacked that we had this place to ourselves – twice in one month!

We meandered in the snow and sand long enough for my fingers to freeze, and then continued along the drive. Previously, we hiked the trip in an out-and-back fashion, but decided to make a loop of it yesterday. Fortunately, enough snow topped the steep icy road, about which we had been a tad trepidatious, that it was no longer slippery. Down we trekked, and then turned off on a short-cut through the woods.

Back at the car, we munched on almond butter and dried mangoes (which will result in me getting diabetes if I don’t rein it in!) while Petey chowed kibble. Tummies sated, we piled into the car, and aimed homeward.

A quick stop in Traverse City on our way back

Which is almost the end of the story, but not quite. You see, we had planned to be alone on Thanksgiving, and we were okay with that. We had already shared loving messages with friends and family, and were prepped for a happy day. But our neighbors. We have the best, kindest neighbors who knew we were going to be alone, and so they invited us to their family Thanksgiving celebration. I won’t lie and say I didn’t get a little weepy at their consideration; I did. We joined their gathering after we returned from our snowy hike, rounding out our day in the most appropriate way possible – full of gratitude and love (and wonderful food!).

The Forest and The Trees

Yesterday morning started with more snow. Not a lot, just an inch or a bit more – enough to add a little light to this darkening landscape.

Before the day had a chance to warm and disperse those lovely white crystals, I darted out the door and down the road with my camera. Within five minutes, I would arrive back at the Seven Bridges Natural Area, with a chance to recreate that bridge photo, hopefully in a more successful black-and-white.

However, while snow lightly covered our yard, the same was not true just over the hill. See the hill in the photo below? We live just on the other side of it.
no snow

In less than two miles, the bright snow dissipated into bleak damp. Undeterred, I set out in search of the little things. When this is the big picture, you have to focus on the details.
dreary forest

After wandering around the paths, retracing my footsteps from the other day in case there was a shot I’d miss, I hiked back to the pasture beyond the many forks of the Rapid River. There, lacy water drops hung from the reedy branches of naked trees.

I spent an inordinate amount of time photographing tiny upside-down worlds, and then I took a moment just to enjoy the open space before it dissolved back into woods further on. I gathered my belongings, and headed slowly back toward the car. I had already realized that grand landscapes wouldn’t materialize, so I was determined to see the trees for the forest.

And literally, over my right shoulder, I spotted a lovely, gnarly paper birch. These quick-growing trees shoot up, often in bunches, and then topple over when they are just a few inches across, victims of their own success. This group, though, contained a shaggy, lichen-loving grandpa. How glorious!

While documenting the old man’s wonderous charm, I ruminated on the application of the lesson to my life. Often, we’re told to take a step back, and look at the big picture. I think we sometimes need to zoom in, though, and look at the little things. Like the fact that my sister can share Halloween photos of my nephews with me, and we can giggle together when we’re really 500 miles apart. Or how I can ask my mom how long to cook stuffed peppers, and she can pass off her cooking wisdom in moments in a text message. Or even how a fuzzy pair of wool socks embraces my toes and protects them from our cold floors.

Our lives are brimming with little bits of happiness. Where do you find it in yours?
birch curls

birch curls

Little Hikes and a Word about Gratitude

We’re getting our payback for late July/early August in northern Michigan. We endured about three weeks of cold temperatures then, but we’ve enjoyed truly wonderful fall weather so far this season. Today, it’s sunny, windy, and warm. Perfect for a walk later 🙂

spotlit shroom

Over the weekend, we had hoped to kayak the Platte River. The salmon are scrambling up the rivers on their annual spawning run, and we like to float above and watch the foray. Alas, though it was exceptionally pleasant, it was also windier than we’d have liked, so we opted for some local hikes instead.

Pyatt Lake

We meandered around the short trail at the Pyatt Lake natural area. It’s a decent place to wander around, but aside from the lake (pond?), there’s nothing too spectacular here. Well, except for that spot-lit mushroom above 😉

Next we headed on up the Old Mission Peninsula for the trails beyond Haserot Beach. The wild grapes have ripened, decorating the trail’s edge in gold, and the ivy and sumac are resplendent in red.

Click any image to embiggen. I’m partial to the bench.

All the normal early fall specimens dotted the pathside: yellow-veined red maple leaves, golden beech leaves, ochre grasses, wildflowers in a few hues of purple, and of course – an array of toadstools.

We only hiked a couple of miles (it was 80 degrees in the shade, and we were overdressed!), but I am so glad we have these areas around to explore. They don’t have to be anything special for me to find them special. Just that they exist for folks to unwind and renew is enough, because I use them for exactly that. And I am grateful that others – namely those who use and keep up the trails – value them, too.

Into the woods, and outta the woods…and home before dark!

My blogging friend Kathy (okay, so she’s a real person, too; we’ve met and I could just call her my friend now) recently posted a blog about being thankful for things. I figure I can’t ignore the serendipity of the timing – I had also just learned of a study supporting the idea that people who are appreciative are happier. Thus my moment of gratitude. I’m not going to set a schedule for my moments of appreciation/thankfulness, but I am going to try to pay it forward a bit, and be more consciously aware of the little things for which I ought to be happy. Feel free to join me. It should make you happy. 🙂