“It was the morning of the sixth of May,
And May had painted with her soft showers
A garden full of leaves and flowers.
And man’s hand had arranged it with such sweet craft
There never was a garden of such price
But if it were the very Paradise.”
— Geoffrey Chaucer, from The Canterbury Tales

A man’s hand crafted the lovely grounds of the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, and it has become one of our city’s paradises.  The city of Seattle hired the Olmstead Brothers (successors to Frederick Olmstead, who designed New York City’s Central Park among other famous commissions) to develop the landscaping plans for the Arboretum.  The Olmsteads were proponents of connecting urban dwellers to wild and natural spaces.

Here are some photos of my Spring visit to the park:

Signpost for Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum

The paths are perfect for strolling, jogging, and walking the dog.

Magnificent trees and wild spaces

Mushroom along the path

Bottle-brush plants in a low spot

A bed of ferns



Bench along the path, Washington Park Arboretum


Green foliage





Path with bench, Washington Park Arboretum (photo with Lomo-ish effect)

Spring is a rewarding time to meander the paths of Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum.  It’s too early yet for the blooming of the azaleas along Azalea Way, but other plants were in blossom.


Maple leaves and flowers

Walkers on one of the Arboretum's trails

One of my favorite finds on this visit -- a fern glade

Elegantly furled ferns

Ferns, Washington Park Arboretum

This fern reminded me of a peacock feather.

Minnesota woods after the winter storm, before the thaw

“March. I am beginning
to anticipate a thaw. Early mornings
the earth, old unbeliever, is still crusted with frost
where the moles have nosed up their
cold castings, and the ground cover
in shadow under the cedars hasn’t softened
for months, fogs layering their slow, complicated ice
around foliage and stem
night by night . . . ”
— Luci Shaw, from “Revival,” posted on The Writer’s Almanac

The morning after Minnesota’s snowstorm gave me my only taste of the icy and snowy winters of my childhood.  I went out into the woods, while it was still cold, to see the frosty wonderland before it thawed.

Following the groomed trail through our woods

A light touch of frosty ice on the distant trees

Ice-coated branches

An icy wonderland

Young tree against the trunk of an old one

Red oak leaves encrusted in ice

The ice added a bit of sparkle to an otherwise gray and brown woods.

Heavy with ice

The trail through the back woods

A bit of red

Sloppy footprints through the slushy snow



Hoar Frosted World

January 29, 2012

“The frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Frosty flowers in a winter garden

“Thick blows my frosty
breath abroad;
and tree and house,
and hill and lake,
are frosted like
a wedding cake.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson

The frost-gilded world is magical.  It’s amazing that a gray palette can be so varied and interesting!  Here are some photos from a cold winter morning in Seattle:

Our bushes

Frosty paths at Green Lake

Delicate leaf skeleton in the grass

Frosted purple cabbage

Green cabbage rimed in white

Frosted seed head

Frosted flowers in a winter garden

Another view, new focus

Single frosted flower

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Footpath at Green Lake in Seattle

Gravel footpath -- an alternative to the paved path around Green Lake

A crow on the beaten path, Green Lake

The less-travelled route, a footpath at Green Lake

“To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
— Henry David Thoreau

“Every thought that passes through the mind helps to wear and tear it and to deepen the ruts which as in the streets of Pompeii evince how much it has been used.”
— Henry David Thoreau, July 7, 1851 journal entry

Today’s quotes are not from Walden, but from Thoreau’s other writings. His observations seem timely, as we look forward to the New Year and think about resolutions for the year ahead.

Habits are interesting.  Sometimes you feel like you are in a rut and want to make a change, to feel energized by bringing something new into your life.  Other habits make life efficient — so efficient, in fact, that we breeze through our days without stopping for conscious thought.  That’s the opposite of awareness, really living and appreciating each moment.  I have a few “bad” habits that I’d like to change — eating too-large portions, eating on the run, eating a sweet treat with coffee, etc.

Like anything, you can outgrow your habits.  It may be time to make some changes, to adopt some new habits, to carve new pathways in your brain.

I like what Leo Babauta says about how to become successful making lasting changes in life.  He’s narrowed it down to four steps:

1. Start very small.
2. Do only one change at a time.
3. Be present and enjoy the activity (don’t focus on results).
4. Be grateful for every step you take.

Happy New Year, and I wish you success with your resolutions!



“Consider what a vast crop is thus annually shed on the earth!  This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of the year.  The trees are now repaying the earth with interest what they have taken from it.  They are discounting.  They are about to add a leaf’s thickness to the depth of the soil. . . . We are all the richer for their decay. . . . It prepares the virgin mould for future corn-fields and forests, on which the earth fattens.  It keeps our homestead in good heart.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “Harvest”

The maintained trail through our woods

My family’s farm is bordered on the south by a small woods.  When I was young, our dairy herd had free run of the woods and adjoining pasture, and it kept the ground well cleared of brush.  It’s been many years since cows have trod through our woods, and the wilderness is taking over.  The woods are brushy with tangled undergrowth, which makes walking more difficult.

My Dad and brothers do maintain a groomed trail that loops around and through the woods so that we can enjoy our walks there.  The cleared path is quiet and sheltered.  This time of year, the path was blanketed with fallen leaves, mostly brown.  The threadbare trees have their own kind of beauty.

“The woods now going threadbare show us the forest’s inner strength.”
— Allen M. Young, Small Creatures and Ordinary Places

I took this week’s Thoreau quote, not from Walden, but from another of his published writings because it reminded me of my walks through the woods at our Minnesota farm.  I invite you to accompany me on a virtual walk through the woods with these photos:

Stalks of goldenrod

The fall colors have muted to browns and greens

The woods are tangled with new growth and brush.

Looking up into the canopy

Looking down onto the leaf-strewn path

Pine cones amidst the pine needles

Fox squirrel

Stripped bark

My brother's hunting blind

“After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things.”
Wallace Stevens, from “The Plain Sense of Things”

Watercolor sketch of red oak leaves from Glenn's memorial tree

Watercolor sketch of white oak leaves

Another watercolor sketch of white oak, red oak leaves and acorns