Fistful of Summer Flowers
Magic in Nature, Photography

Wildflower Vagabond

Most people don’t need to be told to Go Play Outside as much as they can in the height of summer. My pre-teen son, maybe, when he’s eyebrow-deep in videogames and YouTubes of other people playing videogames. But otherwise, we all know July is a playground, don’t we?

Example: When you find yourself free for half an hour while your kid is in drum lessons (in person again, thank God and Goddess), walk up the hill so steep you have to zig-zag in switchbacks to spare your ankles.

Find an intriguing path through unfamiliar woods.

Follow the path as it loops around a park, empty but for an ancient swing set, made of wood and rusty metal, replete with one broken swing.

Count four varieties of butterflies. Pause at mossy trees, like twisted skeleton hands, among the riot of green life. Get scolded by a blue jay. Startle from an animal crashing through the woods, across your path and into the bushes on the other side, so suddenly and loudly that for a moment you aren’t sure what it was. A dog, surely, as you are surrounded by neighborhood and farmland. But those woods, that whip of a tail, that speed….

It was a dog, chasing a rabbit. Must have been a dog.

Stumble across daisies. Dare to pick a few, hoping no one in the neighborhood that is not yours will notice, or mind.

Find a complicated purple flower bubbling up on fountains of green leaves. Learn by a Google Lens search that this has the romantic name of “crown vetch”.

Wonder what a vetch is, and whether it’s some sort of curse or blessing.

More daisies, glorious daisies, all the daisies you could dream of picking. No neighbor would scold you for collecting them, for no handful could be missed in this vast galaxy of white and yellow stars.

With your fist gripping your bounty, recall that summer, and wildflowers, are free.

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