Thursday, March 24, 2016

Snow Dog

Meteorologists warned about a severe winter storm hitting our area for days now. Since I have a long commute to work, I told my boss on Tuesday that I wasn't going to plan on coming in today due to the weather. So knowing that I had the day off, we slept in a little this morning and had leisure time to sip coffee on our window seat overlooking the snowy city streets below. FYI... on the picture above, that "gray area" at the bottom of the windowsill is snow. Yep, we got about a foot of snow overnight.

When I let Charlie outside to go potty this morning, she turned to look at me and her face lit up! She couldn't believe that the backyard was covered in snow!

This is the most snow we've gotten all at one time this entire season, so this was really special for Charlie. The winter has been pretty boring to her in regards to playing in snow. And with the early spring, I kinda figured we were done with snow. I guess Mother Nature had other plans, and honestly I'm happy about it. Not only do I get a "free" day to play with Charlie but Charlie finally gets to have her fun in the snow.

And Charlie is definitely a snow dog. She was born in late fall and her very first memories are of December and January - cold and snow. She absolutely LOVES snow.

She immediately dug up her frisbee and ball out of the deep snow and demanded to play a game of fetch. I couldn't help but smile and laugh at her antics.

In reality, she spends most of the time playing by herself. "Losing" the ball in the snow and then digging it up over and over. I typically just stand there watching her and am available to throw the ball if she so chooses to bring it to me. But she seems quite content to just play by herself.


However, the minute I get bored and decide to go back inside, she loses all interest in playing and wants to come in with me. It's almost like she needs me out there to keep her company, even if I'm not actively participating in her games.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring Equinox

Normally I remember important dates like the first day of spring. I mark my calendar and make kind of a big deal out of those events. But my mind was so wrapped up in celebrating my younger sister's 40th birthday on Saturday that I totally forgot about the first day of spring, until my smart phone reminded me! So after a leisurely morning sipping coffee and watching the sun rise, Charlie and I finally headed out to our hiking destination on this very special day.

Although the sun was shining brightly and the sky was a brilliant shade of blue, the temps and windy conditions did not feel like spring today. Despite the chill, Charlie and I spent a large portion of our afternoon hiking and exploring at one of our favorite parks.

Birds and squirrels were as abundant as the sunshine today, but we haven't seen any deer in quite a while. The ice sheet across the lake is almost completely gone now and the trickling snow-melt streams running down the hillsides were more pronounced today than last week.

The angle of the sun in the sky during the spring equinox produces such a beautiful and dazzling shade of blue only seen during the months of March and September. I often refer to this color as "September Blue" although it could just as easily be called "March Blue."

Since the landscape is still a sea of browns, my eyes were constantly drawn to the sky to take in this fleeting color and revel in the newness of the season.

Trees are beginning to bud and ferns that had been preserved under snow have turned a stunning shade of green. Moisture from snow melt combined with sunshine have regenerated mosses and the forest floor is beginning to come alive again.

Charlie was running at full speed chasing squirrels and leaping over logs as she careened about the woods, her happiness radiating all around. We both had smiles pasted on our faces as we breathed in the cool, crisp air and stretched our legs on a long hike.

Afterwards, we stopped at the local ice cream place to celebrate the first day of spring and get Charlie her first Pup Cone of the season. It was a good day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring Thaw @ Eau Claire River

Most of the trails are clear of snow and ice now at the Eau Claire River, aside from some of the less-traveled areas deeper in the woods and the huge sheets of ice along shore.

The woods are alive with birds singing and the invigorating scent of pine and wet earth. It was a great day to explore the newly uncovered trail and take in the roar of the river flowing free again.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Naptime (WARNING: Extreme Cuteness Alert)

We spent most of the day outdoors on Saturday... both hiking and just hanging out in the backyard. Even Sally has a harness that she wears on a runner in the backyard so she can be an outside kitty for a little bit with no worries that she'll run off and get hit by a car.

So after spending all this time soaking up sunshine and fresh air, we all took naps in the late afternoon. Although I had a hard time falling asleep since Sally's purring was so loud and the extreme cuteness going on with her and Charlie kept distracting me!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spring Has Arrived! And so have ticks...

What a difference a week of warm temps makes! Almost all traces of snow are gone and there is a certain warmth in the air that makes you believe that spring is really here.

We hiked at the same park we were at last week and so much has changed since then. There are no more ice fishermen out on the lake, in fact there is open water now. We even saw an eagle diving down and catching fish!

The air was filled with bird songs from geese, ducks, woodpeckers, red-wing blackbirds and cranes! It's a sure sign of spring when the cranes return.

Unfortunately, with the warm weather also come bugs... including ticks. And I'm hearing several reports of people finding them all over the state already. If you're in search of a good tool for removing ticks, check out my review of the Tick Twister. I have a couple of these around the house and buy them as gifts for my dog-loving friends all the time - it's a must have!

After our hike, we spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the backyard and soaking up as much sunshine and fresh air as possible. It was an awesome day... refreshing both physically and spiritually. There is light at the end of this tunnel we call winter! And it's here.

Ahhh... spring.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Celestial Bodies

Image: Todd Young Art ~ A very talented man!

Charlie and I wound our way through shadow and light of sidewalks lined with houses, parks, museums, businesses, playgrounds and schools on our nighttime walk this evening. Remnants of snowbanks lured Charlie with lingering scents as her nose went to work taking in the last of winter's smells.

Our pace was light and quick tonight. Dry sidewalks beckoned us forward and we found a good rhythm in our steps, dangers of slipping in the not-so-distant past and the excitement of spring upon us.

With Charlie's nose focused on the ground, I was able to let my mind wander. And as thoughts flitted in and out of my head, my eyes continued to be drawn upward toward the moon. Its position in the sky tonight almost unreal, like something you'd see in a movie.

As I walked, it seemed to stay frozen in the same place on the horizon, never moving. Just suspended in the indigo blackness. Impossibly light and just... floating.

The sun, below the horizon, illuminated just a sliver of the bottom and right side of the moon but somehow cast a glow over the entire orb, giving it an extraordinary amount of depth and shape not normally seen. When I put my hand up to the sky, I could almost feel the weight and spherical shape of this celestial body we call... moon.

As we climbed the steep East Hill to gain a better view of the nighttime sky, I began to notice stars emerging. Bright punctuations of single stars stabbing through the blackness, misty galaxies and intricate patterns of constellations decorated the infinite vastness we call... sky.

And as we made our way back down the hill to our little neighborhood, I began to think about all the life happening around us... people making dinner, homework, chores, bath times, t.v. watching, bedtime stories and dog walking. Looking up at these ancient planets, stars and moon, I realize how infinitesimally small our lives are in relation to this glittering umbrella of celestial bodies that have been here longer than our minds can possibly fathom and will continue to exist long after we're gone.

I take a deep breath and all my little problems seem to melt away. My shoulders feel light and my mind is content. I'm peaceful in the knowledge that in the big scheme of things, I have a tiny blink of time to enjoy this magical and wondrous planet we call... home.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Final Snow Hike

This is the first day in a long string of days forecast to be above 40 degrees, with no end in sight to the warming trend. I have a feeling that today was our final "snow" hike. As we drove south to our favorite hiking spot, my hunch about the snow situation was confirmed by the amount of brown grass showing through patches of snow along the highway... the white stuff is almost completely gone.

Of course there's still a good amount of snow in the forest where it's shaded from sun and elements, but even in the woods, there were quiet trickles of rivulets running down hillsides and wet, glistening tops of rocks and logs as the snow slowly begins to recede.

Despite passing a parking lot full of vehicles unloading fat-tire bikes, there was no one on our trail today... not even tracks of recent hikers or bikers.

Instead, we were welcomed by a network of tiny animal prints consisting of squirrel, rabbit, fox and others as they raced from tree to tree and den to den, awakening from their winter sleep and becoming active participants in the forest again.

With the impending change of season, even the shadows look different. The sky is brighter, the sun at a higher angle, provides more warmth than before.

The strong breeze danced in the tops of the trees. Branches clacked against each other and tree trunks rubbed, making all kinds of noise. An awakening of sorts. It's as though they know their period of dormancy is almost over and they're coming alive again... a celebration of sound.