Magic in Nature, Photography

Oak Tree Canopy

Oak tree paths twist and turn above our heads, on a walk in Stoughton, Wisconsin.

My son and I got up a plan to walk the whole town, since we were doing a couple blocks every day with the dog, and we’d walked every block near our house so many times it was boring. I searched online for a detailed map, printed it on several pieces of paper, taped them together and posted them on my bulletin board. When we walk somewhere new, we mark it with a highlighter. My son especially likes the mapping part of it. This means we may need to drive to our starting point, whether a couple blocks or a mile, and then walk our dog together on a few new blocks. It’s still houses and sidewalks, woods and lawns and driveways, but there is novelty in it, and in a lockdown, your brain needs novelty to keep alert and break the unbearable sameness of the day-to-day.

We have not completed our goal of walking every street in our small city, which only covers about 4 square miles, because some days we just go around the block to get the dog (and us) quick exercise without fuss. But whenever we do, we discover something new. Stoughton has a great number of Victorian houses, for instance, and the architectural details never bore me. Plus we observe chicken coops and gardens and all sorts of unique choices. One block had no less than three large houses painted a very similar pink of the “dusty rose” variety. The vast canopy of an oak tree was one of those finds.

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All the best,

Ella Arrow Author

Magic in Nature

October Snow

Snow on the ground this morning, the first of the season. And not a little snow – 2 or 3 inches. An impressive amount for October in southern Wisconsin.

Grr, said my son to the too-pretty trees.

I’d gone to bed in a foul mood after an up and down day. I got the first proof copies of my book, The Flight of The Starling, in the mail, which was thrilling, but I also spent half the day fighting with Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat over an embedded fonts problem. A stupid technical glitch that I have to fix in order to publish this book. So close and yet so far.

Plus the kids didn’t want to get out of bed, and for some reason, my son, who’s ten, decided that snow was the worst thing that could’ve happened to him. Oh what a hassle. We’ll have to find all our snow gear. (Nevermind that I did that while they ate breakfast.) Why oh why does the school make us put on snow pants to play outside?  On and on. His grumpiness infected me. By the time I was driving them to school – late out the door, plus extra minutes scraping the car – I was as pissed at the October snow as he was.

When I got back home, I realized I needed to reset. First snows are magical, and that is my quest: to seek out the magical aspects of life, to acknowledge that awe can be found every day if only we look. More troubleshooting is still ahead of me today, and I didn’t want to give in to the dark clouds so early in the day. I decided I would try my best to appreciate the first snow, to look with new eyes and see the wonder in it, dammit.

All it took was a walk around my block. The first thing I noticed was the sounds, a shushing and a plopping as the trees threw snowballs with their leaves. (Yes, I got hit, once. Yes, I shrieked.)

Octoplant creeps up toward the jacks.

The neighbors’ potted plant, long leaves thickened with snow, became a tentacled monster. Halloween decorations turned cartoonish, plastic skeletons grinning at their foolishness in the extra bright light. A huge rope spiderweb tied to porch rails sparkled with frost.

Now don’t you feel silly.

The trees dropped spontaneous snow-showers, flash flurries that glittered in the morning sun, silver and gold. The orange and red leaves on the sidewalk stood out more sharply, a last flame of fall before the black and white of winter.

It wasn’t just the snow itself that seemed beautiful – it was the autumn snow. The October snow. And of course, bare black trees outlined in clinging white are pretty hard to growl at. My cheeks grew pleasantly chilled in one block, and the warmth inside my front door was welcoming and soft.

The hardest part of finding the magic was deciding that I could.

All the best,

Ella Arrow Author