There was a Fall-like feel in the air.

The road trip was long (for me anyway) … it was 20 miles from my house  to Oakwoods Metropark in Flat Rock, Michigan.  I had been leery of visiting there as so many of our parks are still flooded or swampy from May and June’s incessant rainfall.  I figured I’d take a chance and try and make a day of it, so I took my red vinyl boots in case I needed them.  It was beautiful weather, with low humidity and refreshingly cool for a late August day.  I aimed to take a long hike, then settle in to learn some sketching techniques and implement them on the nearby trail.

Because I sometimes get lost when driving, as I am definitely directionally challenged, I left extra early.  Oakwoods Metropark has been on my Trek Bucket List for over a year, so when I spotted this sketching class called “Walk, Talk & Sketch” … well, I was all in.  I figured I could also fulfill something on my future Retirement Bucket List, i.e. learning to sketch or paint as a hobby in my golden years.  Not only did I treat myself to the event (a mere $5.00), but  I bought a sketch pad and some number two pencils too.  I thought it would fun, and believe me, I was not ready to quit my day job and become an artist at the end of the day.  If you read my most-recent post, you’ll see why.  You can click here if you missed it. 

I found a place to park near the Nature Center where we were to meet, so I left the art supplies in the car and went off to explore.  Outside the building I checked out the enclosures and discovered an Owl and a Red-Tailed Hawk.  I’ve never seen an owl before and this one preferred the darkest corner of its enclosure, so mostly all I could see were glowing eyes and tufted ears.  I am going to ID it as a “long-eared owl” (no surprise there), but there was no name on its enclosure.  I later learned it was injured, then rehabbed and this is its permanent home, since it cannot survive on its own in the wild.

The Red-Tailed Hawk was singing me a song here … it has a rather evil grin, doesn’t it? 

I only knew this raptor’s name and ID because I passed its permanent home in the woods earlier that day.  Because enquiring minds want to know, I asked Paula, our interpretive guide, if this was indeed “Hawkeye” and yes it is.

I meandered down the pathway where I saw a hut made entirely out of tree bark.  I don’t know if it serves a purpose, but, as you can see it was roped off. I peered inside but there was nothing to see.

So what might be awaiting me in those woods  anyway?

The preliminary exploration over, it was time to hit the Long Bark Trail.  I had researched about Oakwoods Metropark in the past.  There are three trails and reviews stated that it was a haven for critters. 

So, I started on this trail which links up with the Sky Come Down Trail (one mile long) and the Big Tree Trail (3/4s of a mile long)  depending on which fork in the road, er … trail you pick.   I wondered what critters would cross my path?  Furry, feathered?  Perhaps a deer – now that would be nice.  What about a friendly raccoon?  That would make a great photo op.  Maybe a cute squirrel?  Metropark rules forbid feeding the wildlife, so I always leave the peanuts at home.

The Long Bark Trail had an overlook at a portion of the Huron River and watershed area. 

At this wooden overlook, I could see a marshy lagoon and some pond lilies.  Unlike Lake Erie Metropark which has several water lotus beds where the water lotuses rise high above the elephant-ear-sized leaves, these were just large lily pads floating on top of the water and there were no lilies blooming and since the pond lilies and reeds created an all-green and almost blah background in the marsh, it was very easy to see the stark white color of a pair of Mute Swans and a Great Egret who were companionably fishing in the lagoon.  They were quite far away, so I was lucky to get this photo.

There were many benches dotting the River’s edge, but seating was also found throughout the woodsy areas.  I found it interesting that every one of the wooden benches had a weathered look with splotches due perhaps to lack of sunshine as the wood never completely dries out.

Soon I was back onto a more defined path in a woodsier area.  There were mushrooms in many areas where sunlight was scarce.

There was a definite Fall feel in the air and the leaves and acorns scattered about looked more like a September scenario.

The breeze made it seem a mite chilly so at mile marker #2, the sun felt good.

It was quiet and peaceful and the only critters around were the mosquitoes occasionally attacking my bare arms and hands, or buzzing around my ears.  Sometimes I’d be startled by an acorn plopping to the ground from one of the many oak trees.  It was very still and I saw just a handful of hikers or Saturday strollers as I meandered along, likewise on the Sky Come Down Trail  and the Big Tree Trail. 

Here is a view of some of the trees on the latter trail.

I lost count of the amount of trees that had fallen in the forest and I noted they were left as if they had just toppled to the ground.  In many cases, those old logs presented an interesting pattern of decay …

…. or mysterious-looking holes …

… and sometimes branches or twigs looked like an over-sized game of Pick-up Sticks.

But what I found fascinating was the abundance of moss.  It was everywhere, on old logs, and on the pathway.  I’m guessing it was because only dappled sunlight was able to filter through the trees so there was moisture in abundance, especially given all our rainfall this year.

Moss was even on one of the walking paths.  The sunlight made all the moss look almost emerald green.

A grasshopper caught my eye when it hopped onto some gravel.  Once it saw the hulking human looming over it, that grasshopper went airborne but landed against my leg.  A faint fluttering against my shin seemed to stun it and it landed on the gravel and scrambled off for good this time.

Just a gal and her butterfly.

The highlight of my Saturday morning meander was the butterfly which alighted on the ground next to my foot.  I’ve never seen a blue butterfly, so I’m guessing, based on my research, that it is a Red-Spotted Purple.  Yep, you and I know it is blue, but that is its name.  It first alighted near a dried-up oak leaf, as you saw pictured above. That butterfly stayed in place for the longest time and I watched it opening and closing its wings.  It was as if it was rejoicing to bask on the warm gravel in that patch of sun.  Back when I had my butterfly garden, the experts advised to place large flat rocks around the garden so butterflies visiting your garden can bask in the sun.  It was a chilly morning, by August standards, and this was the only area of the trail that was not moss covered or mulched up and in the direct sun.  So Mr. (or Ms.) Butterfly was enjoying those sunbeams that were streaming down.  It stretched leisurely, opening and closing its wings, then leaving the wings spread out,  its beautiful colors displayed.  It was during this display of colors that I noticed this poor creature’s wings were tattered in many places.  However, when it finally flitted away, it did so by delicately landing on a wildflower without any hint of wing impairment. 

I insisted on taking a selfie with my fluttery friend, albeit a shadow selfie.

The butterfly had his/her own shadow magic going on.

I found the most human activity at the paved bike pathway which winds around the Park.  There were many bicyclists out and I walked along that bike pathway when I was done with the rustic trails.  The flowers interspersed with cattails blowing in the breeze was picturesque considering it was a ditch.

It was a large park, 350 acres altogether, and I would have explored it more, but I didn’t want to get lost or be late for the sketching event at 2:00 p.m.  I would have liked to visit the Butterfly viewing area and Monarch waystation on the other side of the Park, but I was lucky enough to see the blue butterfly so no need to stop there.

Meanwhile back at the Nature Center

Had I arrived just a few minutes earlier to the Nature Center, I would have witnessed the release of four Monarch Butterflies into the woods behind the Center.  I entered the building and saw the back door open and a few people gathered at the doorway.  A Monarch butterfly was sitting on a woman’s hand and as I reached for my camera, she said “here, let him sit on your hand and I’ll take a picture of it.”  Remembering what happened with the last friendly butterfly, I jumped at this chance and extended my hand only to have to fly up into the air.  Maybe next time.  The butterfly exhibit inside the Nature Center still had one Monarch that had just emerged and several chrysalises where caterpillars hung in their pale green sacs and will soon emerge as Monarch butterflies and be released just as these were.

I took pictures of the snakes and turtles inside the Nature Center, but this post is way too long already, so I’ll write about them my next time to this venue. We had a very rainy morning today – not lucky for racking up steps, but with a stormy day ahead, at least I was able to wrap up and put a bow on this post.

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“Walk, Talk & Sketch”

Prior to publishing last Sunday’s post about creativity, where I introduced you to Brian and his paintings and a few of the vendors at the “Art in the Park” event, I was perusing my Metroparks  newsletter to see if anything captured my interest.

One event, which name I used for this post title, drew me like a magnet:  “Walk, Talk & Sketch – Take your art outdoors.  Learn some of the basics of field sketching; then hit the meadows and woods of Oakwoods Metropark for inspiration.”

Michigan’s Metroparks are comprised of nine separate venues, with a total of 84 miles (135 kms) of rustic and paved hiking and biking trails.  The adjoining waterways make it perfect for fishing or boating activities.  I bought my first park pass last July, and sadly, I’ve only been to one of their venues (Lake Erie Metropark).   Since I wanted to try out Oakwoods Metropark and Summer is slipping by, I signed up for this event.

I’ll do a separate post about the six-mile long hike I took after arriving there around 9:15 a.m.  I wasn’t sure how long we’d walk while sketching, so I cut myself off after walking six miles.  The woodsy areas were not so dense that you’d worry about getting lost, or being alone in the middle of nowhere, so I walked all of the trails, taking a lot of pictures.  I found it amusing that the reviews about Oakwoods Metropark mentioned lots of critter activity.  I found a grasshopper and a butterfly and took their photos.  Then I saw a Great Egret breaking bread, er … fish with a couple of Mute Swans in the distance, all which will be fodder for a Part II post about this jaunt.

After hiking the rustic trails from about 9:30 to 12:30 and reaching my six-mile, self-imposed  steps cutoff, I realized I still had 90 minutes to kill before the sketching event began.  So, I took out my sketch pad and pencil and parked myself on a picnic bench under a tree while the breeze stirred the wispy tendrils around my face and a cacophony of insect noises, (maybe cicadas), were music to my ears.

I didn’t sketch a thing, but instead began writing a post in longhand that memorialized my hike to hopefully publish it last night.

In the past I’ve written about a sketching class I took as a teen.  It was sponsored by our city and every Wednesday, the bus took us to different historical or scenic locations in nearby Wyandotte, Michigan.  Maybe it was free, but likely my parents ponied up for the lessons; we just needed to show up with a sketchbook and charcoal pencils or pastel crayons, whatever was our preferred medium.  I was sorry to see the class end at Labor Day, and my parents, eager to foster my interest in art, bought some sketching how-to books and more art materials, but schoolwork often intruded on free time and the class was not offered the following Summer.  I began sewing as a hobby shortly thereafter, so there was just no time for artwork.  On occasion I’d think about reviving the sketching but  the pastel crayons weren’t good anymore and we used the sketchbooks  to make diagrams where to hang the pictures and knickknacks in the same location as before the house was painted and wallpapered.

Back when there were bird feeders in the backyard and we watched the beautiful jays and cardinals feasting on sunflower seeds in the Winter, Mom suggested that I get interested in sketching again.  As an incentive she bought me this book for Christmas. 

It has been on the coffee table since 2005, and occasionally I’d pick it up and page through it, marveling at the beautiful sketches of birds and waterfowl. 

I promised Mom that birds would be my first subject to tackle when I began sketching again, but I would wait until I retired.  Back in 2005, that was a promise that was easy to make.

So, fast forward a few years … I registered for this event, figuring that even if the $5.00 fee was a waste of money, I wanted to visit Oakwoods Metropark anyway.  I even invested in a sketchbook and some number two pencils.  Woo hoo – I was all in.

While on that 20-mile drive to Oakwoods Metropark yesterday morning, I envisioned sketching a pair of mallard ducks or a Canada goose, the likes of what I’d seen in A Sketchbook of Birds.  I even kicked it up a notch and fancied myself being one of those women painters who sit on a short stool, watercolor paints at the ready, their sketchbook balanced on their knees, as they sketch and paint one of the many flower gardens in the historical area of Heritage Park.  Every time I’ve seen those women I am envious, while thinking “I want to be that girl” … even if being “that girl” will be in my retirement years. 

So I went to this gig with that mindset ….

My first mistake was assuming “Walk, Talk & Sketch” was a class, combined with a follow-up interpretive walk.  I’ve gone on several interpretive walks at Lake Erie Metropark and they are enjoyable programs to learn about the Park’s natural resources. 

We assembled in a room where paper, clipboards, number two pencils and erasers were available; however, we all arrived with our own sketchbooks and pencils.  Then Paula, our interpretive guide, showed us a few of her sketches she’d done in the past. 

She then announced “we’re off to explore and sketch!”  (What?  Wait a minute – with no tutorial, or no sketching instructions first?)  Logically, I next assumed the sketching instructions would be at each point we paused on the walking trail – ah, yes … that made sense.  So the six of trailed behind Paula as she picked a place for us to sketch, then chitchatted about the park. 

(Note to self:  next time re-read the program and reach out with questions beforehand.)  I chastised myself inwardly … “well, silly me for thinking instructions may be Paula peeking over our respective shoulders and offering some guidance.”

Nope, that didn’t happen either.

Only one person in our group had any drawing experience and that was a preteen who’d taken some art classes in middle school and dabbled in pen-and-ink drawings as a hobby.  Her mom was eager to show pictures on her phone of her young prodigy’s artwork.  The rest of us, another mother/daughter combo, plus a woman my age, obediently stood where Paula stopped, making quick sketches of what we saw.  We learned what tree or berries we were sketching.  My eyes glanced over to the others’ sketches which looked about the same as what I’d accomplished.

My sketches are pretty simple, but I am putting them here anyway to go with the post.  I made sure to label them as you’d likely never guess what they are – we had about seven minutes to sketch each one. 

Long Bark Trail: Raggedy Tree and Pond Lilies
Long Bark Trail: Buckthorn Bush
Long Bark Trail: Oak Tree
Long Bark Trail: Split Rail Fence with Knothole
Long Bark Trail: Black-eyed Susan
Long Bark Trail: Mushroom and Dead Oak Leaf
Long Bark Trail: Old Tree Stump

My next “real” stab at drawing will have to wait until I take an organized class, or even after watching some videos like this on YouTube on sketching basics and that’s because I still aspire to be “that girl” … (using the moniker “girl” loosely here), but when I have more time to play.

What the hay,  it was a beautiful day, a trek to a new venue and I added more miles to my tally.  I had a really early evening as I was worn out from the long walk and all the fresh air and kept nodding off when I finally got online. 🙂

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Purposeful strides.

Look at this Canada Goose go!  You’d think he had a walking goal with all those purposeful goose steps he’s taking. 

He was pretty funny to watch while he was stomping along and it reminded me of being a kid and going to the shoe store just prior to heading back to school.  I’d be parading back and forth in those uncomfortable shoes to ensure they fit properly, hoping to avoid blisters once the socks were on and slipped into those new Mary Janes, after a summer of easing my bare feet into running shoes or flip flops. 

Watching this goose and his brethren, including a mess o’ mallards at Coan Lake, gave me the “waterfowl fix” that I needed.  I’d already been at Heritage Park for several hours checking out the Taylor Conservatory & Botanical Gardens and that City’s Community Garden.  Then I decided to meander over to lovely Coan Lake and check out the “wildlife” there.

As you may recall from prior posts, once our Canada Geese at Council Point Park begin moulting, they lose their flight feathers, so they must find a safe haven to stay until they are able to fly and escape land predators once again.  They are absent from this venue for many months, as our City dissuades their return to graze and live on site by applying a distasteful substance on the fields where they graze.  This is so Park patrons may enjoy amenities like the soccer field, baseball diamonds, inline skating, playscape and walking paths because people are either fearful, or even resentful, of the often-fractious Canada Geese that wander about.  The geese hiss and flap their wings, especially when their goslings are in tow, but as long as you don’t feed them, they’ll often simply glare at you, and it is up to humans to take the high road here, and just give them wide berth and move on.  They’ll return in September. 

The mallards in the Creek are similarly missing as they are moulting as well.  But don’t fret, all this Park’s fine-feathered friends are enjoying their Summer vacation at larger lakeshore locales where they gather in abundance.  Even man-made and fish-stocked ponds, like Coan Lake at Heritage Park, provide a safe haven for these waterfowl during this annual moulting process which takes from four to six weeks.

These are some of the mallards I saw that day.  They were in “eclipse phase” which happens during moulting, because they, just like the geese, lose their wing or flight feathers.  The eclipse phase plumage means while moulting, the male and female mallards look alike.  The usually beautiful drake, (or male mallard), with its elegant, teal-colored head, white neck ring and striking plumage, now looks like the drab-colored female mallard (sorry girls, I don’t mean to diss you).  It was quite peaceful at Coan Lake since the seagulls, which are usually squawking and disturbing the peace, were absent and the heron who has quite a screechy call himself, was also MIA.  The barn swallows flitted about and the mallards either snoozed or paddled in this lake.  

So, it’s been forever since I reported on how I’m progressing toward my ultimate goal of 1,242 miles/2,000 kilometers walked in 2019 … May 31st to be exact.  I usually do mention my end-of-month tallies, but early June began ten weeks of mishaps and mayhem here at this house and at work.  Then, when my primary computer had a disk issue and I could not remote into work, I had to abandon it and its contents and have finally retrieved my walking miles document to merge with my handwritten daily steps tally I’ve been keeping the past month.  Sigh.  This Summer’s been full of fits and starts; don’t even get me started on the weather, but all these events hampered my progress and I am hopeful to still reach my ultimate goal by December 31st.

One month from tomorrow is the first day of Autumn – well, that makes me think that I’d better hustle a little more because I have walked 732 miles (1,178 kilometers), but still have 510 more miles (821 kilometers) to walk before yearend; the sun is rising later, so soon I’ll decreasing my daily miles from five to four miles, but will keep the longer treks for the weekends or holidays, weather permitting.  We’ll see how it goes, but once we get to late October, there is often black ice on the perimeter path and last year we had our first snowfall in early November.  I’ll keep walking my socks off and report again by the end of this quarter.

I also want to update you on Mike Posner’s progress.  You may remember I profiled Mike’s ambitious walk across America earlier this year.  Click here if you missed it. 

Mike had an ambitious agenda when he set out from the Jersey shore on April 15th, as he aimed to plunge into the ocean in California before year end.  I’ve followed Mike’s daily progress on Twitter since his journey began.  He was averaging 24 miles a day and already walked a whopping 1,797 of his 2,833-mile goal when he crossed into the state of Colorado.  Each time Mike crossed a state line, he launched a new song for his Twitter and Instagram viewers.  But the joy of that latest song released became a distant memory after he was bitten by a baby rattlesnake on August 7th.  Mike was airlifted from that rural road and received the anti-venom in time but was forced to recuperate at the hospital and released on a rolling walker one week later.  Mike is progressing nicely and plans to resume his walk once he can manage six to seven miles a day.  What a guy, and I’m complaining about walking in this Summer’s heat and humidity where I have often felt wilted before I even left the house.

Onward and upward to both of us!

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A tale about my nutty friend.

Hi, it’s Parker the Squirrel here. 

I’m hijacking my nutty friend Linda’s blog today to tell you what she did.  She won’t mind – she loves me.  Trust me on that. 

So, the other day I saw Linda coming around the corner, getting ready to cross River Drive to enter Council Point Park.  Linda had a white plastic grocery store bag hanging off her fanny pack.  “Yippee” I thought – lots of peanuts and probably Nutter Butters too.  So, I hurried over to greet Linda before the other squirrels reached her first.  I must ‘fess up, that I thought I should slow down a wee bit because of my sore foot.  It’s way better now, but I hurt my left hind foot a few weeks ago.  I was up in a mulberry tree chowing down on those sweet berries and I turned around to reach some more and saw a groundhog!  Yikes!  I made a misstep and landed on a lower branch and twisted my foot at an awkward angle.  It hurt!  A lot!  So, I spent a few days up in the nest with the wife and kids and when I was back on ground level again, Linda saw me and asked where I’d been.  She noticed I was limping a little in the parking lot.  Of course she said “poor baby” and cooed and clucked her tongue and told me about how she smashed her finger in the garage door, so she was sharing my pain.  I was lovin’ it – all the attention and extra peanuts, so I’m gonna play the “sore foot card” a little longer. 

Anyway, Linda spied me and called out “Parker – you’re still limping a little, poor kid.  I’ll meet you halfway, stay there!”  See, I told you – Linda’s nice like that.  I’ll just hold that foot in the air a little longer – after all, Fall is coming and I must stash away peanuts for Winter. 

So anyway, I waited, just like Linda told me to, and when she got closer, I slowly walked over, swishing my tail a little, then sat on my haunches, ready to receive peanuts.  Linda was talking away to me and said “Parker, I left in such a hurry this morning, I didn’t have time to pour the peanuts into a Ziploc bag, so I’m bringing the original peanut bag instead and I stuffed that bag in here, in case I want to take pictures of you.” 

So, I just sat there patiently waiting, thinking “c’mon already!”  Sometimes I wish Linda wouldn’t talk so darn much – I mean, I like the attention and all, but my tummy was growling and there she was talking away.  Talk after you feed me!  So, she opened the Meijer plastic bag and cried out “OMG!”  Hmm – was something wrong?  Maybe she saw a spider?  Then Linda gave me the bad news.  She said “Parker honey, Linda grabbed the wrong bag – I bought myself a couple more pair of garden gloves the other day when I went shopping and hung them in a bag to take downstairs.  The bag with peanuts is still hanging on the cellarway railing.  What a dummy I am, and there you are, waiting patiently and looking so darn cute.” 

Well, what could I say?  Flattery will get you everywhere, but I gotta admit, that was dumb.  On the other hand, falling out of a tree when you’re a squirrel is not so smart either.  I know she felt badly, and truly, if I could have patted her on the shoulder with my paw and said “there, there … I understand” I would have, but I’m only about one foot tall and Linda is about five feet taller than me.  She said “I have to leave before anyone sees me and asks why I’m here, but not walking.”  She decided to save face (with them, not me) and she left. 

So, I went back to eating pinecones … they’re kinda growing on me.  I eat them when Linda goes to the big parks and doesn’t show up here.  I don’t know if she’s friends with the squirrels there.  I don’t ask her because jealousy is not my style.

I’ll forgive Linda this time because she loads me up with extra treats, like peanuts and lots of Nutter Butters, and the time she gave me the whole bag of peanut M&Ms just for me.  When she brings apples for all of us squirrels, she always gives me the biggest and shiniest one and sometimes she’ll slip me an extra baby pumpkin too.  That Linda – she’s okay in my book.  ~~~ Parker

P.S. – Linda has been here every day since her peanut faux pas – guess she really feels badly, huh?

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“Creativity is contagious, …

… pass it on.”  ~Albert Einstein

Did you know the official name of Woodstock was The Woodstock Music and Art Fair?

I didn’t deliberately set out to publish three posts in a row that reminisced about the 1960s and the Woodstock era … it just kind of fell into place.  Especially this weekend’s posts.  I have a ton of photos collected from my Summer treks that have languished in my computer pictures files, as I struggled to get any posts published the last six weeks.  So, I decided to parlay some of those photos into today’s 1960s art theme.

Although I don’t have a photo of a garment I created back in the 60s when tie-dying was an artsy-fartsy way to show your creativity with colorful tee-shirts, or long, gauzy dresses that nearly swept the floor, I can churn out a post with an arty creative theme, so here goes.

Tie-dye was all the rage – just a few simple steps and a little messy, but it was your time to shine and show just how creative you really were by simply dying material, then twisting it to form one-of-kind, dyed creations. When I asked my mother if we could make a tie-dye shirt for me, it was an emphatic “no, you’re not making a mess in my washing machine.”  My father backed up her answer by chiming in with “no Linda, we are not raising a hippie here!” … so that was the end of that topic.

Thus, there was some teenage angst as I was denied showing off my creative side, except for a brief foray into charcoal sketching in the late 60s and then after the sewing bug bit me.  More about that later.

Art exhibit in the ‘hood.

On a Friday morning, three weeks ago, I was headed home after a five-mile walk at Council Point Park, having secured some close-up photos of a groundhog munching on leaves.  A post was already bubbling around in my brain about Mr. Groundhog, and, as I rounded the corner at the cross-street, I stopped in my tracks.  Whoa!  A sign advertised “Original Art 4 Sale” and a row of brightly colored canvases were either propped up against the chain-link fence, or hanging along it.

Now, I had passed that same house, about 90 minutes before and there was nothing out there – I would have noticed.  So, as your roving reporter, I had to dig out the camera and take some photos and that was when I met the artist of those colorful canvases, Brian Spicer. 

We made our introductions and I asked if I could take some pictures of Brian and some of his artwork and he was happy to oblige.

I perused those paintings, then asked Brian which was his favorite.  He didn’t hesitate and said “wait a minute – it’s inside in my studio” so he was off in a flash and when he returned, this was what he produced. 

I told him the painting reminded me of the marshy lagoon areas with all the cattails and endless reeds at Lake Erie Metropark.  All that was missing was the invasive, frothy Phragmites that are everywhere at that venue.

While visiting with Brian I just had to mention that I always look at this house when I pass enroute to Council Point Park, because I like the chalk art that is often displayed there.  I told him that I had just used the cute chalk art bunny with the ice-cream message the weekend before, then slipped him a card with my blog name on it so he could check out that post.  Brian told me he had drawn that bunny and I remarked that I’d been photographing the chalk art at their house in recent years for my blog, and was impressed that the chalk artist had gone from childish scrawls to ramping up their drawing skills this Summer.  He laughed and said “no, that was me this time; before it was my niece!”  He also decorates rocks and hides them at the local parks, just a small part of this painted rock craze, which, in year #3, continues to enthrall those who paint, hide and find those stone treasures.

Now, as a general rule, Brian does not line up his paintings on the fence, but did so that day because our City was having its annual, two-day “Art in the Park” event at Memorial Park and he thought he just might snag a few passersby who would be parking on the side streets to attend the event, which featured art, crafts and also local bands.  Brian had tried to register for a vendor booth at the Park, but he had just missed the registration cutoff.  They didn’t promote this event unless you happen to follow our City’s Facebook site.

So, Brian said he displayed some of his paintings on his Facebook page from time to time and I encouraged him to start a blog at WordPress.  Since it took me so long to get this post done, Brian has already created and posted in his new blog entitled “Blue Dog Creations”.

Art in the Park.

The next day I headed to Lake Erie Metropark and after a morning of walking and taking photos, I came home and headed over to the “Art in the Park” event at Memorial Park. 

There appeared to be a lot of vendors’ tents outside and a sign said crafters were inside the Kennedy Memorial Center as well. 

Now, I don’t consider myself hard to please, but nothing really struck my fancy, so that I was willing to part with some money.  I strolled the grounds where there were food trucks and bounce houses and it was more of an arts and crafts show as you see below.

What did intrigue me a little was a vendor who sold vintage-style aprons, so it was here that I lingered the longest. 

I saw this simple apron, just a square of fabric with two long ties.  I told him I made one of those for my mom for Mother’s Day in 8th grade Home Ec class, circa 1969.  Mom’s apron was pink-and-black-striped, which sounds a little gawdy now, but it was perky looking.  She saved it in her dresser drawer for decades.  I looked all over the house to see if I could find it for this post, as it resembled this simple apron which was going for $20.00.  Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found.  We had several assignments to be completed under the tutelage of the very patient Mrs. Baldwin and that apron was my first creation.

This crafter’s vintage aprons were interesting and I looked around at his collection. 

I told him I never made those frilly, old-fashioned cobbler’s aprons, but I did make no-frills cobbler’s aprons for my mom for years during my sewing hey day. Those I found and I’m able to include a picture of three of them and they were well worn. I figured I’d keep them to protect my clothing from whatever.

I sewed all my own clothes for years because I was always tall and I didn’t like my pants looking like I was waiting for the floods, or having my jackets appear that they belonged to a little sister.  He said he was self-taught and never used a pattern.  I said I was not good at hand sewing and finishing off my sewing projects and the joke in the family was that I did all the machine sewing and my mom did all the hand sewing, like basting in sleeves or gathers, sewing the buttons on, hemming the garment, yet I would crow about how I sewed the outfit all by myself. 

While walking home I reminisced a little about aprons in the Schaub household.  My grandmother and mother always wore a cobbler’s apron while cooking.  At an early age, because I was curious about everything, I asked each of them why they wore an apron while cooking.  My grandmother replied “Nanny doesn’t want to get splatters all over her clothing while she cooks” and my mother explained in better detail “Mommy has a big chest and she’s short – when she leans over the stove to reach the pots on the back burners, she drags the front of her clothes into the open pots.”  Since I’ve never had a big chest, and it seems I’ve been 5 feet nine inches tall forever, and, especially, since I don’t believe I have ever had four burners going at one time, I have never needed an apron.  Just sayin’. 🙂

I did the whole “Art in the Park” in about 20 minutes and didn’t hang around for any of the bands because I could hear them from my home several blocks away.

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Flower power.

“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.  If you’re going to San Francisco, you’re gonna meet some gentle people there.”  [“San Francisco” written by John Phillips, of The Mamas and the Papas fame.]

I’ve had that song playing in my head for a few weeks now.  Here it is and it can be your earworm as well just by clicking here.  I liked seeing the fashions in the video too.

It all began when fellow blogger Joni wrote a post about Summer beach reads and reviewed Erin Hilderbrand’s novel “The Summer of 1969”.  Joni’s review referenced music, circa 1969, and we chatted back and forth about music and discussed this popular song from the late 60s.  This song was a big part of the counter-culture movement, in an era of hippies, and phrases like “make peace not war” and “flower power” and, while I may not have remembered the Woodstock event, I sure remember those phrases and this song.

So, the 60s was the era of flower power

Though I was not wont to sport a ring of flowers on my mousey brown hair back in the late 60s, about as “rad” as I dared to be was signing my name with a fleurish, er … flowerish, er … make that a “flourish” okay?  You see my parents weren’t about to let me do my own thing, much as I tried to persuade them about the cool fads of the day,  so I had to find another way to be creative.  Back in the late 60s, if you had a name that included the letter “i” … well you were in luck, as instead of the dot over the “i” you’d make a little flower, a simple daisy with petals and that was how you signed your name.  Yes, small things amused small minds back in the day (they still do sometimes to be honest).

I originally intended to visit a sunflower farm today and had my heart set on it, but early morning thunderstorms, and the threat of funky weather throughout the day, not to mention all the heat and humidity, had me scurrying out the door to Council Point Park and then hunkering down to peruse my picture folder. I’ve amassed a ton of photos the last six weeks and hobbled by my hectic work schedule and household mishaps, I’ve not had a chance to use them.

So, this bloomin’ post is about a trip to Lake Erie Metropark taken on Saturday, August 3rd.  I already shared the pics of the groundhog, fawn and a beautiful butterfly on the actual day I made the trek.  It was a hot Saturday and I was a little disappointed how much lakeshore flooding had encroached into the walking paths.  It was disheartening to walk, then have to turn back countless times due to mud or flooding and the red vinyl boots are not made for walking long distances. 

I thought of just leaving, then noticed a paved path where I’d never strayed before.  I kept walking and in the distance, I could see something yellow.  If you squint, perhaps you can see it in the distance.

Eager to explore that area, I kept on going, though I’d  been walking for several hours already and by now it was the heat of the day.  The temps were searing and the humidity was high.  (I would return home with a sunburn and enough fly and mosquito bites from the swampy areas along the way that I could have played connect the dots on my arms and legs.)

I could tell the golden yellow area was quite far, but I thought maybe it was a sunflower field, so that bright yellow drew me like a beacon and became my mecca.  I was still feeling fairly perky as I began in that direction.

There were so many wildflowers along the way, and the bees and butterflies were enjoying them, just like me.  I could only identify a handful of these pretty blooms.  I grew up thinking Queen Anne’s Lace was a weed, though many embrace it as a wildflower.

Finally I was getting closer to this bright-yellow patch of flowers …

… and then I was there.  I learned it was a “Grow Zone” geared to promote a natural habitat. 

A variety of wildflowers were nestled between the predominantly Black-eyed Susans.

After I meandered around the area and took a slew of pictures, I knew I had to head back to the car which was on the other side of Lake Erie Metropark at Cove Point. By then I was feeling just as wilted and bedraggled as these poor flowers.

I made it back to the car and turned on the A/C full blast, glad to sit down since my trek was seven miles (11 kilometers) altogether – whew, but what a wildflower extravaganza it was!  

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Reflecting on Woodstock 50 years later …

“By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong, and everywhere there was song and celebration.” [Excerpt from “Woodstock” written by Joni Mitchell]

You’ve probably heard them already – those news reports focusing on Woodstock attendees, or Woodstock attendee wannabees, reflecting on that music festival held August 15–18, 1969.  I heard a great radio station retrospective marking the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.  Click here if you would like to hear that audio. 

As for me, I really wasn’t groovin’ to the tunes that were the likes of the musicians and singers featured during that first-ever rock concert.  In fact, at the time, I’d not even heard of most of the line-up.

Like most teenagers, circa 1969, I walked around with a tiny transistor radio in my hand or tucked into a pocket.  Tethered to the radio was an earphone that snaked directly into my ear.  Unlike today’s earbuds that give you stereo music by fitting into both ears and tuning out the rest of the world, the earphone went into one ear only, so it was just a mono music experience.  The long, skinny, covered wire cord hooked from the radio and ended up as an uncomfortable hard plastic piece that fit into your ear; if you jiggled it the wrong way it fell out.  But you were able to play your favorite tunes without your parents complaining about “your music” … so what exactly was “my music” in the Woodstock era in the Summer of 1969?

I know I listened to radio station WKNR-Keener 13 and every Saturday I’d run down to the dime store to pick up a free Keener 13 top hits list, and, if my allowance permitted, a new 45 RPM record to spin on my portable record player.  I was not really into the music of the Beatles anymore as their music had ceased being the fun-loving stuff of the mid-60s and had become a little more controversial. 

No, this 13-year-old was more into the bubblegum music of the day,  like “Sugar Sugar” or “Build Me a Buttercup”  or, I was swooning with the other teenyboppers over Bobby Sherman and his hit “Little Woman” or lovin’ Elvis Presley’s snarl and hip swivels while he belted out hits like “Suspicious Minds” or “In the Ghetto”.  In fact, if I close my eyes, I can picture those 45 RPM records spinning ‘round and ‘round and listening to those songs over and over.  Today I remember songs from the 60s and 70s word for word and can sing along to those tunes, but if I go downstairs to fetch something, I may get to the bottom of the steps and won’t recall what I went there for – go figure.

Unlike the moon landing when I, (just like most of you of a certain age), was planted in front of the TV watching that memorable event, I had to read about this historical musical experience through the years.  I was not here to watch the news clips about the crowds, or the music, as I spent the month of August 1969 in Germany with my father, who returned there for the first time since moving to Canada in 1950.  My grandfather died in April of 1969 and my grandmother, who lived in Toronto, came to spend the Summer at our house, so my father and I went on a little jaunt over to his homeland. 

So, while 500,000 strong came to Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm near Woodstock, New York to enjoy the very first rock concert, I was with Max Schaub, at a bier garden sipping watered-down apfelwein and tapping my foot to German Oom-Pah music.  I have photos,  albeit somewhat blurry, that memorialize that trip where we were enjoying torte at an outside café, riding down the Rhine River on a day cruise, or there I was bopping around the Alpine flowers and petting bulls in the Austrian Alps.

It was my first trip abroad – the scenery was beautiful, but I spoke no German and thus felt a little left out of the total experience as my father visited with friends and relatives who spoke no English.

I hope you get a chance to reflect on the era of Woodstock and read about a generation of folks who lived in peace and harmony while they enjoyed their music, a sharp contrast to concert attendees who might enjoy such a large musical event today – nuff said.

[Photo of poster advertising Woodstock 1969 courtesy of  Pinterest]

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