Photo Monday – Summer Light

Today’s post is all about peaceful images. We need them. Enjoy.

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Our next-door neighbor’s old tree is housing a family of woodpeckers.

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Early morning light at the St. Paul Farmers Market makes the vegetables look magical.

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Truffles surveys her domain. You may kiss her paw now.

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A Sunday morning bike ride through Minneapolis.

 

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A slideshow of the osprey nest in Roseville’s Victoria Ball Fields.

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And the Father’s Day man of the hour, my partner Mick

Have a good week, everyone.

 

All photos by kcmickelson 2017.

 

 

 

Monday Can Be Delightful

Monday has a bad reputation – back to work, back to the grind, back to waking up with the alarm clock, back to dressing to please someone else perhaps.

But catching delight can shift perspectives in a second. This morning, for example, I came to my desk early to sift through slush at Gyroscope Review, where I’m a co-editor. Our reading period for our summer issue ends this week and things are piling up. Authors need answers on their submissions, we need contracts for publication acknowledged, artwork for the front cover still has to be done, editorials must be written, and layouts must be done within the next couple of  weeks. When I’m working, I’m not playing with our dog and my occasional office companion, the indomitable miniature dachshund Truffles, and she let me know her displeasure today by peeing on the dog bed in my office. Even though this wasn’t as bad as the time she ate an entire leg from the pantyhose my daughter left hanging over the side of her laundry basket, I was still mad. Damn dog, I thought at the same time as she slunk away to hide under our dining room table, no doubt thinking, I showed you.

Well. Her misbehaving landed her in her crate for a minute while I stepped outside for one of those aforementioned perspective shifts. I had my cellphone with me, since I was waiting for a callback. And there it was, waiting for me: a swallowtail butterfly, its yellow and black wings in high definition against the purple blooms of meadow sage in our garden. I stood still, watched, and the butterfly fluttered upward and around my head, back and forth, until it landed on the flowers again. I was enchanted. It had done its job.

I captured a tiny bit of its magic with my iPhone. Maybe it’ll make your Monday a little bit more delightful, too.

And Truffles? She’ll get an extra walk today. Clearly she needs something more to do.

A Little Extra About Delight:

My fellow blogger and photographer, Audrey over at Minnesota Prairie Roots, had a post today about finding delight in small moments, which is just what I’m talking about. Go have a look: https://mnprairieroots.com/2017/06/12/patio-art/.

For more about shifting your focus, you might be interested in my series, 52 Ways to Shift Your Focus, which ran on this blog in 2012-13.

 

Want Some Fun Summer Reading?

My friend and colleague, Oonah Joslin, recently shared this with me:

Twisted Tales 2016 cover

Twisted Tales 2016, published by Australian indie publisher Raging Aardvark Publishing, is a flash fiction anthology that will infuse your summer with oddball glee. The authors, who hail from Australia, Britain, North America, and elsewhere, are winners of a competition in support of International Flash Fiction Day. This collection is Raging Aardvark’s fifth in the Twisted Tales series. Raging Aardvark is big fan of short stories, as they say on their website:

Champion of the short story and its derivatives, Raging Aardvark Publishing aims to provide a space for emerging writers to demonstrate their talents to a wider community. Totally passionate about the short story form and ways to support the creative process it’s our goal to foster positive growth within the international writers community for these authors.

And, for this new publication, just what is meant by twisted? Swift tales of people who may or may not be unhinged, wicked storms that may or may not unleash spirits in need of innocents, crowds gone mad, jack-o-lanterns of a different sort, alien fiancés, and more. And that’s just in the first half-dozen stories. These are stories that leave you wondering, will make you laugh, will make you think.

Most of all, they’ll make you want to read more.

Have I finished this collection? Nope. I’m saving some for my own summer fun.

Thanks for the share, Oonah! And congrats on on the inclusion of your work, What Comes Round Goes Round.

 

The above image links to a pdf from the publisher for your reading pleasure. If you would like to purchase a copy of Twisted Tales 2016, click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Monday

Some Mondays are better left wordless. Let your mind wander. Click on the photos that inspire you to see a larger version.

 

All photos by KCMickelson.

 

 

Post-Mother’s Day, Post-Graduation, Summer Mode

It was one of those weekends in which multiple things collided: Mother’ Day. Granddaughter’s birthday. Daughter’s graduation. Family and friends coming together. The realization that time is both fierce in its forward progression and the greatest teacher of all.

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My family celebrated Abby’s graduation from the University of Minnesota with a degree in psychology on Sunday.

 

The thing about all these events is that the people who matter the most were here. We began the weekend on Friday night with a birthday party for the littlest family member, Camille,  who turned 6. Pizza and cake and soda, a warm night, and a tree-filled St. Paul park next to the Mississippi River set the stage. Saturday was the family party with sausages on the grill perfectly cooked by my brother-in-law. Everything was low-key and unfancy as we celebrated Abby’s graduation, hung out outside, shared ice cream floats scooped up by my friend Luann, and caught up with each other. Sunday was the big graduation ceremony at Mariucci Arena on the Minneapolis Campus of the University of Minnesota. This ceremony was only one of several that ushered in new graduates and there were still about 1100 students at this one. We ended the evening at my son Shawn’s choice of pub in Hopkins, just our immediate family around the table to share the last meal of the weekend. Camille was quiet and exhausted but still with us.

As I think about all these important things that happened and what they mean to us, I feel a little choked up. And we’re not quite done yet – we’ll celebrate my daughter-in-law Beka’s completion of her Master’s Degree next weekend at Hamline University.  I’m grateful we have a little breather between the two graduations so we can pay her the attention she deserves.

And I’m ready for summer. Ready to shift into an easier routine, stop wearing socks, work with the windows open.

But I’m still going to celebrate all these important people in my life every chance I get.

 

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University of Minnesota Class of 2017

May Flowers versus Speeding Ahead

It’s once again that time of year when sitting in front of my computer is excruciating. There is so much going on outside and it smells so much better out there than indoor air ever could (except when there’s some good cooking going on). My feet are restless, legs twitchy, attention scattered. This month’s weekends are devoted to being outside, digging in the dirt and planting and planning.

Especially planning. Not just the garden, but life. Our daughter is graduating from college (college!!) on May 14. She’s already been accepted into graduate school to continue her studies in the human resources field. Our son is starting graduate school to pursue his love of making art combined with his aptitude for teaching it. Our granddaughter is turning six and finishing up kindergarten. Our daughter-in-law has just finished a master’s degree in education.

All this accomplishment, this movement swirling around us makes me both proud of my family and so, so wistful. As I dig in our garden, clutch dirt between my fingers, I think about what kind of life I’ve grown for myself, what seeds have taken off. There is poetry, of course, and the opportunities I’ve taken to send out my own and publish that of others. There are collaborations, past and present, with other writers and artists. There is this family that I’ve been part of, children I’ve helped raise, dreams I’ve helped nurture, dreams yet to come to light.

And yet there is a sadness that time is careening along at such a rapid clip. It’s like being on a high-speed train, scenery racing by beyond the window, outlines of everything blurred. Sometimes, I can slow it all down by going outside and moving around in the garden, on a hiking trail, anywhere where there is no cell service. My restless feet are not restless for the desire to hurry up; they are restless for experience that is sharply in focus, experience into which I can simply sink.

May is for waking up to the newness that is still out there for all of us: the next job, the next bit of school, the next project. That, unlike our bodies, never gets old.

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images courtesy of Pixabay.com

Earth Science

Yesterday, I dug in the dirt. Warm April weather, sunshine, a Sunday in which there were no obligations – a perfect day to be outside, dirt yielding to spade, shovel, weed puller. I dug allium out of one of our gardens, its tangled roots an iron-clad mat that pushed back. But I am as stubborn as those roots. The allium eventually loosened its grasp, naked roots tossed in a pile later relocated to the yard waste bin.

Those strong roots, the way I cut them off, yanked them from their home, made me think of a list of other things: the strong women in my family who don’t let go of things, how people tear up the earth, refugees pulled and pushed from their homeland, the tenacity of life that does not want to leave the place that nurtures it. Transplanting is hard; eradication is cruel. Fear gets embedded in roots, insidious and perverse, a parasite that loves the soft, dark dirt.

I moved to the stonecrop, also overgrown. Its roots weren’t as tough as the allium; it gave up its spot as if to say, yes, we know – just thought we’d give it a shot. Two such different plants taking over the same area of the garden, side-by-side.

On Saturday, Mick and I and a few friends honored Earth Day by attending the March for Science in St. Paul. Ten thousand people were there, signs waving, lab coats flapping, heads covered with crocheted hats that looked like brains. The mood was fairly peaceful, with many older people and jubilant kids happy to be outside. These marchers included a lot of quiet, thoughtful people who wanted everyone to understand how science has contributed to all aspects of our lives. Pick anything and there is some scientific contribution behind it: the comfortable clothes we wear, the safe food we eat, the music we listen to on our iPods, the coffeemaker that gives us our morning elixir, the cars that get us to work or take us to the doctor, the bikes we pedal, the bus passes we swipe to pay for our rides, the very fact that we’ve survived childhood.

Everything I know about gardening comes from science. As I dug in the dirt yesterday, I also thought more about the march and what it stood for. I thought about the fears some have around scientific progress even though they know they’ve benefitted from past progress. Change is hard, even if it helps society. But fear is the hardest thing of all to eradicate.

And why is that such a powerful human trait – fear of change? I can understand caution, the value of getting all the facts before making change. But once something has shown its benefits, been proven to offer something good – like vaccinations, clean water, clean air, proper nutrition – how can we fail to support those changes? How can we ignore the fact that laws and government policies affect science and research and, in turn, our own well-being?

Pulling invasive plants from garden soil is therapeutic. Getting my hands dirty, plunging them into the earth while trying not to hurt the spiders who scurry out of the way or the earth worms who wriggle in the moist clumps of soil, is a form of prayer. This bit of ground under my care will not lie to me: it will shift with the seasons, offer bounty when well-tended and soothe my heart in return.

It is the map for everything.

March for Science Minnesota

 

All photos by KCMickelson 2017

 

 

Spring in Minnesota is Not a Smooth Path

I don’t mind that spring has fits and starts here. Last week, it looked like this around here:

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A fine coating of spring snow last Tuesday

And today there is this:

emerging lilies

Lilies pushing through soil

 

And over the weekend, there was this:

mallard on the roof in the rain

A mallard soaking up the rain on our neighbor’s roof

 

Yes, Minnesota is a land of unpredictability and that is one of the things I love about living here. Back in March, we had our first tornado warnings and a week later I drove through a snowstorm. This back-and-forth between cold weather and warm weather, snow and rain, keeps me from becoming too complacent, too comfortable.

Just like life in general. Don’t get too comfortable. Be ready for change at any moment.

Happy Monday! What’s new in your neighborhood?

sidewalk chalk drawings

Easter Sunday art by my granddaughter

 

All photos by kcmickelson 2017.

 

What Shall We Blow Up Today?

Boys blowing shit up. That phrase has been running through my head since last Thursday. It perfectly captures the way the world looks to me right now. I keep thinking of little boys so fascinated by explosives that they fail to see the consequences of their actions; they’re in it for the thrill, the power. Other kids get in the way? Too bad for them. And girls? Not allowed in. Mostly.

I have images of Trump, Putin, and Assad standing on the playground, hands filled with big exploding rocks. Kim Jong-un is off to the side somewhere, stomping his feet because they won’t let him play. And then there are the masses of other boys, who hate the guys who think they’re in charge and will do whatever it takes to knock them out. A few girls are trying to talk above the playground noise, but their words sail away on the wind.

And I’m losing my patience. I just want to send them all to their rooms until they calm down. I want them all to remember we share this planet.

Nice tidy ending? Don’t have one.

 

 

image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Happy Anniversary to Me! Happy April to You!

April is a glorious month, not a cruel one. First of all, today is my wedding anniversary; Mick and I have been married for 24 years. Wow! That looks much longer when I see it in print than it feels. We are both taking the day off to simply be together. Not bad for a Monday, huh?

But that’s not the only anniversary to celebrate around here. April 1 marked the second anniversary of working with my friend and fellow poet Constance Brewer to bring you our poetry journal, Gyroscope Review, and the release of the Spring 2017 issue, which is available in print as well as in digital form:

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To purchase a print copy for $8 plus shipping, click HERE.

If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you can purchase this for $8 with no shipping fees HERE.

If you are in the UK, you can find this on Amazon.uk HERE.

If you want to read the PDF on your device, it is free HERE.

 And you know what else? April brings us National Poetry Month, so what better time to check out not only Gyroscope Review, but consider the broad assortment of work out there that might lodge itself in your heart. Poets.org offers a pdf of the poster for National Poetry Month 2017 with links to assorted poetry HERE. Click on any of the images on the poster and you’ll be sent to a different poem for each image.

And here’s one of my favorite pieces that talks about why poetry makes any difference in the world:  Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames] by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Enjoy.

Happy Monday! Happy April!

Squirrel photo by KCMickelson 2017.