The Solitude of a Minnesota Winter

“Solitude is the soul’s holiday, an opportunity to stop doing for others and to surprise and delight ourselves instead”. – Katrina Kenison

As I opened my inbox this morning and saw that the topic for the Weekly Photo Challenge was solitude, I could hardly believe my eyes. Ironically, solitude is something I have been spending a great deal of time thinking about the past couple of weeks as the depths of winter carries on.

As I run around my favorite urban lake or walk the dog upon its frozen ice, I am aware of how alone I am as Minnesotans go into their traditional winter hibernation. Only the real diehards like me are out every single day in the cold, and at times it feels bittersweet.

A morning walk on the frozen ice of Lake Harriet with our aptly named dog, Winter.

A morning walk on the frozen ice of Lake Harriet with our aptly named dog, Winter.

Winter is our dog Winter's favorite season. The colder the better!

Winter is our dog Winter’s favorite season. The colder the better!

I miss the movement of people, the voices, and the noise. At times I feel lonely wishing more people would be out like they are on a beautiful summer day. But then I snap out of it and realize there is beauty and strength in solitude. I just need to embrace it. I remember my favorite quote and think of winter solitude differently.

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer”. –  Albert Camus

The bench Lake Harriet

The bench overlooking the lake on a sunny day.

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Ely, Minnesota

The Shine of Fall

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” –  George Eliot

This morning I took a run around my favorite urban lake and was amazed to see how fast the leaves were falling. We had just returned from a week away in the heat and sun of Florida and in that week it feels as if autumn has come and gone. Despite the warm weather, the leaves are past their prime and falling like rain throughout the air. Swirling colors or red, orange and yellow fly through the sky like birds and land piled up on the sidewalk.

The shine of fall is on its way out and there are only a few more weeks left until we reach the barren browns of November. Fall is always one of my favorite seasons in Minnesota as the light is so intense and the colors are truly a testament of the magic of Mother Nature. The air is pure and I feel so alive with energy. I try to take as much of it as I can possibly can, and store it inside me to help get me through the cold, colorless days of winter that lie ahead.

Sometimes it works. But usually I have to fly south at least once during the winter months for a break. I am lucky I can otherwise I would find it very difficult to survive a long Minnesota winter without walking barefoot in the sand or feeling the wind against my legs.

As for now, I reflect on the gorgeous colors of the shine of fall and what remains. Here are some of my favorite photos from fall in Minnesota.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”. –  Albert Camus

 

Minnesota Fall Leaves

“Now Autumn’s fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt”. –  William Allingham

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Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Have Water Dog, Will Travel

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water”. – Rabindranath Tagore

All of my life I have lived near water. Except for a nine month stint in Paris, I have never been more than a couple blocks away from a lake. Water is a part of who I am. The smell of fresh lake water fills me with warmth and nostalgia of a childhood growing up in Minnesota, the land of over 10,000 lakes. It also reminds me of my college years spent living near Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin and my blissful twenties living near Lake Michigan in Chicago. For the past sixteen years living in Southwest Minneapolis, I have continued to live very close to a lake and it is no coincidence given my love for the water that when we finally decided to get a family dog, he would be a true water dog.

Our seven-month old puppy, Winter, is half golden retriever half lab and gravitates towards the water every time he is near it. He first jumped into Lake Harriet when he was four months old and we haven’t been able to keep him out of it since. Summer was easy for entertaining him as long as we let him go in the water. However, when it came time to plan our first family vacation with a dog, we found that our options were a bit limited. First, we couldn’t go too far away from home because we would have to drive and our dog gets carsick. Second, we needed to find a place that would actually take dogs and would be fun for the entire family.

Fortuitously a timely article came out in the travel section of our local newspaper listing resources for finding pet-friendly resorts in Minnesota. We did a search and found the perfect place called the Northernair Lodge in Ely, about a five-hour drive north of Minneapolis and near the Canadian border. Better yet, it was right on a lake! We tried it out this past July and had such an amazing time that we decided to go again for the fall colors. We went this past weekend at the peak of fall colors, and Winter was in puppy paradise.

Bass Lake Trail, Ely, MN

Winter swimming in the pool of water

Our mornings were spent leisurely at the beach where Winter dug in the sand and retrieved sticks in the lake. He also enjoyed watching the ducks in the distance. Our afternoons were spent hiking on nearby trails and our evenings were spent once again at the lake.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

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Bass Lake Trail, Ely, MN

Superior National Forest: Hike to Bass and Dry Lake

There is something truly magical about taking a hike in the heart of fall. The light is so intense, the colors are so brilliant and the air is so pure and fresh, that your lungs are filled with an amazing feeling of abundance and joy. In my opinion, fall is the best time of year to hike and unfortunately the season does not last very long in northern Minnesota. Only a mere two months if lucky.

There are several magnificent places to hike near the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe area in Ely, Minnesota, and one of my favorites by far is along the Superior National Forest trail to Bass and Dry Lake. We discovered this little treasure last summer when we went to Ely for vacation and instantly fell in love with its magical pristine blue lakes, dramatic views, waterfalls and forests.

We rose to a glorious fall day at our cabin on Mitchell Lake outside of Ely. There was not a cloud in the sky and the lake was so smooth it looked like glass. We knew it would be a fabulous day for our hike to Bass and Dry Lake.

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Morning on the stunning Mitchell Lake at the Northernair Lodge

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

The leaves were magnificent

We spent the morning taking a kayak ride over to the beaver dam at the edge of the lake. What I love so much about staying at the Northernair Lodge is that it is the only resort on the entire lake and the cabins are small, secluded and tucked away inside the woods. The shoreline of Lake Mitchell is pristine and much of the forest around the lake is protected and undeveloped. It is also only a five minute drive into nearby Ely where there are shops, restaurants and canoe outfitters.

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Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Nostalgic for Fall

The colors have come alive with magic this weekend in Northern Minnesota reminding me of all the fall weekend trips I did as a child up north. It was a family tradition that was so special that I’ve continued it with my own children.

This weekend we drove about five hours north of Minneapolis to Ely, one of the launching off points to the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe Area. The pristine air, lakes and forests is breathtaking and reminds me so much of my youth growing up in Minnesota.

Fall is the time of year I feel so alive with energy as the light graces the changing colors of the leaves and the deep blue sky is vibrant and pure. The fresh scent of the air or even the smoke of a campfire fills me with warmth and nostalgia.

Here are a few photos from our weekend up north. Many more will come soon. It is way too beautiful here not to share.


“Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower” -Albert Camus

My daughter and I went paddling to the beaver dam at the end of the lake. It was so incredibly serene. All we heard was the sound of the birds. 




And the sunsets were mesmerizing. 



This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic.

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Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

A Summer of Minnesota Sunsets

There is something about summer that is truly fun. It is a time of year that I always feel once again like I am sixteen. The warm summer skies and sun make me come alive with energy and a sense of utter freedom that I only feel this time of year. Perhaps it is because after months of being trapped indoors, I can finally be outside for hours and hours every day. Or else it is the warm humid air or the feeling of the silky cool lake upon my skin that bring me back to my amazingly fun days of youth. The smell of lake water a constant reminder of my childhood growing up surrounded by lakes. The fragrance of roses, watermelon, sunscreen and an evening fire.

Summer is the one time I allow myself to truly let go, to dive in and embrace life. To not be stuck inside on my computer but to be outside running, biking, walking, swimming and reading under a big shade tree. To drive with the windows down letting my long hair blow wild, singing to the radio at the top of my lungs.

This summer I took on a new adventure and tried my best to head down to the lake every night and catch the sunset. As long as there were some clouds to add color and it wasn’t raining, I either jumped on my bike or took the dog down to the lake to capture the stunning views of summer’s ultimate gift: Her extraordinary sunsets. For me, this has been a summer of sunsets and here are some of my absolute favorites from my lovely neighborhood lake.

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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sunset on Lake Harriet, Minneapolis MN

Pure Minnesota

“When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator”. –  Mahatma Gandhi

There is nothing more spectacular than a Minnesota summer. After a long, snowy and cold winter when the sun sets before five summer arrives and the world comes to life again. The birds sing, the air smells of flowering trees, and the sunsets that grace our 10,000 lakes are out of this world.

I am fortunate to live in a large city that is filled with culture, fantastic restaurants and tons to do but is also blessed with nature. Minneapolis is nicknamed the “city of lakes” and right outside my door is one of four urban lakes that flows through the heart of the city. I spend time here almost every single day, year round, running, biking and walking. They even plow the snow off the running and biking trail in the winter.

I’ve seen bald eagles, loons, muskrats, red foxes, turtles, blue herons, white egrets and even wild turkeys, all along my most favorite urban Lake Harriet. It never ceases to amaze me that in the heart of a city you can see so much nature.

My most favorite time to enjoy the lake is in the summer when the sun doesn’t set until almost ten o’clock and it is warm, humid and inviting. Last night, I took a walk before bed to catch a glimpse of the dramatic sunset. It had been hot, humid and stormy yesterday so I know I’d get a purely sensational sunset and I was right. Here is pure Minnesota in all its glory. It is not fly-over land like some east and west coasters like to call it. It is beautiful and I sometimes have to pinch myself how lucky I am to live in such a wonderful place.

sunset on Lake Harriet, Minneapolis MN

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Minnesota Spring Flower

The Rebirth of Spring

“May the sun bring you energy by day, may the moon softly restore you at night. May the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength onto your being. May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.” – Apache blessing

Spring has finally arrived full force in Minnesota and has washed away the barren brown and dirt, and sprung new life. All around, trees are bursting in electrifying green and the fragrant blossoming trees delight not only the eyes but their scent beckons the soul.

I always feel utterly alive and reborn once spring arrives here after a long, cold and often dreary winter. The energy of life and rebirth captivate my soul, as Mother Nature stuns us with her beauty.

Minnesota Spring Flower

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Mural of Prince in Uptown by Artist Rock Martinez.

Minnesota rains purple mourning the death of Prince

“There’s a few legends left and he was one of them…The mural helps with the grieving process.” – Rock Martinez, artist of mural below located at 26th St and Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis. (Star Tribune)

Mural of Prince in Uptown by Artist Rock Martinez.

Mural of Prince in Uptown by Artist Rock Martinez.

There has never been any public figure so dearly beloved by Minnesotans as Prince. The shocking news of his death last week has brought my hometown to its knees, raining purple tears and bursting into all night dance celebrations in remembrance of the enigmatic super star that put our amazing state on the world map.

Since his death, thousands of Minnesotans have been flocking to Prince’s fortress Paisley Park in the western suburb of Chanhassen to what has been called “Ground Zero” for remembering and honoring Prince. All night dance parties have continued outside the famous First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis where he first found his fame in the early 80s playing at the club and filmed much of his 1984 hit movie “Purple Rain”.

A sea of purple yesterday at Paisley Park. 

As a born and bred Minnesotan, his loss and the ongoing celebration of his remembrance has been stunning. I have never in all my years living here witnessed anything like it. Even our bridges and buildings downtown glow at night in purple light, and it feels like our entire town has been raining purple.

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Minnesota Flowers

The Vivid Colors of Summer

Summer has arrived in Minnesota! Well, at least in my book. Today is the last day of school and the kids will be off for three whole months. Vivid memories of summer fun during my childhood captivate my soul as do the gorgeous, vivid colors of summer flowers.

Walking barefoot across the silky green grass. Eating popsicles on a balmy hot and humid day. Watching the sunset well past nine o’clock over one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Barbecuing bratwursts, burgers and corn for friends and family. Enjoying a gooey s’more surrounded by a mosquito-infested campfire on a cloudless night. All these delightful things I get too look forward! The adventure and feeling of being a child again all come back to me at the onset of summer.

Just in time for school break, the weather has suddenly improved and has finally stopped raining, leaving behind sensational, vividly-colored early summer flowers. The peonies, day lilies and irises are all in brilliant bloom, making my heart sing. It is a lovely time of year! A time of adventure, fun, and being alive. Let’s embrace it!

Minnesota Flowers Minnesota Flowers Minnesota Flowers

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Lighthouse at Duluth Harbor MN

Reflections on the meaning of Memorial Day

For me, the long weekend for Memorial Day will always symbolize the onset of summer. It is a time when everyone packs up their cars and heads to the cabin “up north” or visits one of Minnesota’s numerous state parks or lakes. It represents freedom in more ways than one. The freedom of summer and of course the freedom that we are so lucky to have living in this country. A freedom that so many brave souls have fought for and died for.

My grandfather, father and two uncles were both in the US Navy. For my dad, it was a life-changing experience. At the tender age of 19, he set sail and saw the world. He told me that he will never forget the time the ship pulled into a harbor in Italy. It was the early ’60s and his young eyes had never left the United States before. He noticed that there was a large mob of Italians waiting for the ship to pull into port. Was it a welcome? he thought surprised.

Slowly the ship moored and once it was fully secure, the desperately awaiting crowd did something that stunned my dad. They ate. What on earth are they doing? my father asked an older, more experienced shipmate. Eating dinner he replied with a deep, shameful look in his eyes. The locals were so hungry that they feasted off the ships garbage for their meal. It was that moment in which my dad realized how truly fortunate he was, and moment that would be passed on to his children over the years.

His three year service in the Navy began a life long passion of travel and seeing the world. A passion that passed on to me and has never left my soul.

Lighthouse at Duluth Harbor MN

A holiday weekend away from home, along the North Shore of Lake Superior got me thinking. What does Memorial Day truly mean? And what does it mean to me?

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Flowers at Macy's Secret Garden

A Burst of Color at Macy’s Secret Garden Show

This has been a very long winter. It has been known as the coldest winter in 30 years with 50 days below zero degrees (our average is 20). Even our local weatherman Paul Douglas made fun of our unbearable winter with a badge we could wear that said “I survived the worst winter ever”. Although it is technically spring, sadly our winter is long from over.

Yesterday feeling the effects of a long, harsh winter on a whim I drove to downtown Minneapolis and headed to some much needed color and inspiration at the Macy’s Secret Garden Show. As I rode up the escalator to the eighth floor auditorium, I could smell the delicious fragrance of flowers that became happily overpowering as I headed to the entrance. I was entranced by that long forgotten smell.

As soon as I stepped inside The Secret Garden I was in heaven. My pure white world exploded into vibrant hues of pinks, reds, yellows and orange. Those long forgotten pleasures to the eyes that brought a smile to my tired soul.

Come, take a walk with me through Macy’s Secret Garden. Close your eyes after and inhale the sweet fragrance of a million flowers.

Flowers at Macy's Secret Garden

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