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Archive for the 'Outdoors' Category

Violet and Green St. Pat’s Yard

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Oh, I love my violets so! They grow in our small slice of a side yard. We have a small microclimate there, where the snow thaws faster than in any other yard on the street. The violets get more beautiful every year.

We have not had a full week without one flower or another peeking out this year. It’s been very warm. Our typical winters for the last 20 years or so have been a cycle of snow, melt, snow, melt, snow. Last year it felt as if it would never melt- it was mean. This year has been gentle and pleasant for the most part.

This week we are on our 4th day in a row of open-the-door weather. During the day, I turn the furnace off and open the windows. I have been able to wear my African clothes as I love to do in the summer. I’ve been working on the hammock on the porch (never take the miracle of laptops and wireless internet for granted).

Welcome Color

But back to the violets. I’m told that they are weeds. I’m warned that they are “invasive.”

This is a corner lot, it’s not as though a neighbor is getting invaded. As for me, let the lawn-chemical-spraying trucks stay far away! If I have a full yard of myrtle/periwinkle and violets, it’s more beautiful and less work. I’m all for it!

Brian and I (The Fabulous Heftones) sing a lot of songs about flowers and springtime. If you’d like to be serenaded today, you can
listen to “April Showers” by clicking here.

Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that come in May (March?).
So if it’s raining, have no regrets,
Because it isn’t raining rain, you know, it’s raining violets.

And when you see clouds upon the hills,
You really see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a bluebird,  and listening for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

I hope my photo brings you some ColorJoy, no matter what the weather is in your corner of the world.

Color Passion

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

I cannot pretend to feel impartial about colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.
—Winston Churchill

At last, I find someone who understands my own biases…

Thanks to Knitting Daily (from Interweave Press) for finding this quote and passing it along to my inbox.

Summertime! Heat, Clothing as Art, and Music

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Even Hot for Me, and I Love Summer

It’s been hot enough here in Lansing, Michigan this week to slow us down a good deal. There were a few days when the City offered “cooling centers” where folks without air conditioning at home, could go so they would not overheat.

On Thursday, I took this photograph of the thermometer in my kitchen. To be fair, when the sun shines it gives a falsely-high outdoor temperature, but it was pushing 100F anyway. (For non-US readers, this is equivalent to 32C indoors /44C out.)

Clothing as Art

A few days earlier, it was warmer than most like it (but I love heat, as a general rule). I hand washed a lot of my African dresses. They are so beautiful, and so colorful! I just had to take a photo.

Notice that most of them have some sort of handwork on them. Some are hand-dyed, some hand-embroidered (or embroidered with a machine that is hand controlled).

If you have read my blog much, you know that I believe that art is everywhere. You can see artful expression in the funky old kitchen items above, and particularly in the textiles shown below.

Practicality does not minimize the artfulness in my mind! It just means that these items will wear out faster than a painting on a wall.

Roll call from front to back:

  1. Purple/blue Kenyan tunic, purchased in Nairobi, Kenya. Hand-dyed fabric, hand-controlled machine embroidery.
  2. Green/Pink Kenyan long tunic, purchased in Mombasa, Kenya. hand-dyed, hand-controlled machine embroidery.
  3. Moroccan-style dress, made in Canada, purchased on Ebay. Hand-controlled embroidery, machine-made braid.
  4. Dress of unknown African origin. Purchased in Lansing at a wonderful Mideast/African/Indian clothing store on the corner of East Michigan Avenue and Foster, half a block from Foster Community Center, same corner as Quality Dairy and Blimpies. Commercially printed commercial fabric, machine sewn.
  5. Dress from “Democratic Republic of” Congo. Purchased from an American woman born in Congo (parents were missionaries) but living here, who imports items here to sell and help loved ones make a living there, fair trade. High quality factory-made printed cotton, machine sewn, machine embroidered. One piece of the embroidery looks as if it was generated by a computer-programmed sewing machine.
  6. Long dress from Kenya, purchased same place in Nairobi, with same attributes as Tunic #1.
  7. Two Ethiopian dresses, purchased on Ebay from the same seller, last fall. The dresses include white cotton which is hand-spun, and the fabric is hand woven. The side seams usually are machine sewn although this white one is hand stitched. They typically use synthetic threads for colors so that color does not run in the wash. The embroidery in Ethiopia, at least all that I have, is hand-worked.I feel so honored to own textiles of this type! I must say, though… the writing is on the wall that it will be less available over the years. Also, the quality of the dresses I bought in Ethiopia in 2004-2005 (and gift dresses I’ve received from Ethiopian friends more recently) is better than that I can find online.

I even have more African dresses than this. I love them in summer. If you must go out in heat, they create your own shade. In addition, they don’t fit tightly so allow breezes to blow and cool you down.

They are an excellent design! Trust me, shorts and a tank top wrap you like a blanket and don’t protect you from the sun. These are the best, ever. And a woman walking down the street in flowing fabric? Fabulous.

Music and Video as Art

If you have read this far, I want to offer you a musical send-off. This video appears to be mid-1970’s (before MTV and the proliferation of videos). We looked like this when I was in High School… yup. We did.

It’s Mungo Jerry singing “In the Summertime” which is a sticky tune… it may stay in your head all day, and I expect you won’t mind at all! When you click on this, it will take you to a YouTube page. Happy humming!

Becoming Ourselves, Blooming

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

I always get nice feedback to photos of our garden (such as it is). These flowering plants all came with the house, though some of them we moved around from here to there and back.

Most years I also plant geraniums and tomatoes in pots. This year I have two tomato plants and a few herbs, but no annual/flower pots. We do what we can fit into our lives, and it works fine. I’ll try those again next year.

I took these photos around June 28. The climbing roses are just plain weeds for 11 months of the year. They grow a foot in a week at times.

They grow toward the south side (sunshine) which means they reach across the back steps where we enter/leave the house. They have been known to do scary damage to my handknit shawls on far too many occasions.

However, this time of year they are SO beautiful! We picked some from the garden to wear at our July 29 performance. I forgive all, when the flowers bloom.

The one on our back mud room/entry is extra crazy. Somehow it pushed itself through a crack in the siding, and grew straight up… INSIDE the siding. Then it pushed itself back out at the very top corner.

I love the metaphor here. I think I can imagine myself as that tall bundle of blooms… pushing through rough stuff (maybe unneccessary in part) and coming out tall, colorful and glowing.

Yes, it’s late and I’m generally poetic anyway. But really… it’s like my gray hair. I love EVERY ONE of my gray strands. I earned each one the hard way and came out stronger… and more beautiful.

May you have moments when you feel like the triumphant rose, emerging from behind the rough journey… beautiful and whole.

Individuality: Carl Jung

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Here’s another quick but thoughtful quote. It’s infinitely appropriate to a blog which asserts creativity and artfulness in all of life.

The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.
— Carl (Gustav) Jung (1875-1961)

Have a lovely Summer weekend!

Image: Beautiful maple tree in friend’s yard, Lake Leelanau, Michigan.

LoveLansing Walk Home (Purple Paint, Plus)

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

I had the last repair done on my JoyBug two weeks ago. I decided to walk to the bus stop and go home for a few hours.

I had such a nice time on the way to the bus stop that I decided to keep walking. In the end, I walked the full three miles home. Here are some photos I took on my walk.

Images: 1) Street art… magazine page (?) cut out with a silhouette and pasted on painted utility pole. 2) Purple trim on house, Kalamazoo Street, Lansing, Michigan, USA. 3) Purple painted stairway on same house (notice the other colored spots of paint). 4) Purple-trimmed house a few blocks from my home.


Walking/Singing/Knitting in the Rain

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

What a crazy weather day it has been in Lansing! I went for a walk at 1pm, and it was so sunny I chose the shady side of the street. By the time I got home at 1:35, it was misting. By 1:40 we had buckets of rain coming down. Since then we’ve had sun, then more downpours, then sun again.

I had planned to ride my bike to dance rehearsal tonight. I think I’m officially not bold enough to chance getting that wet. I’m a fair-weather bicyclist, though I do enjoy a walk in snow and rain.

I took a 26-second video of one of our downpours this afternoon. The Flickr upload made it a bit grainy, but just about at the middle of the video (14 seconds in) a guy down the far end of our side street is bolting across the street to close the windows of his truck. Good thing people are drip dry!

(Click to be taken to the video’s page on my Flickr account. Click the “back” button to return here.)

A better video (this has the potential to make anyone smile)… Gene Kelly dancing in the rain, from the movie “Singing in the Rain.”


How Hot WAS it?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Does anyone remember the Johnny Carson Tonight Show? Johnny would say “It was SO hot today…” and Ed McMahon would dutifully ask “How hot WAS it, Johnny?” Then would come a punch line.

Here is my punch line, in the form of a photo:

For my metric friends, this translates to 30.2C inside and 40C outside. To be fair, this thermometer tends to read about 2 degrees high most of the time. I do know that it was 91F (32.7C) according to the National Weather Service, at around 7pm.

I walk with friend Cynthia many weeks, and today we decided walking was unwise. The sun was fierce, there were no clouds and no wind. I brought us both iced tea to drink and we sat on the bank of the Grand River not far from the dam and the Fish Ladder.

We had been at that same spot last week. It looks as though the river has dropped from 1-2 feet since last week, just an amazing change in water level.

On the way to the park, we saw a blue heron overhead. They are so amazing, so prehistoric and noble.

On the bank of the river, I heard something splash as we sat down. I guessed it was a turtle choosing to hide from us. Once upon a time I learned a lot about turtles, and this turned out useful today.

As we were chatting, I saw this tiny bit of brown stick out of the water. It looked like a branch, but it was not. May I introduce my wild friend?

Can you see him? Here’s a close up.

Another prehistoric-looking natural being, a snapping turtle (and a big one, at that). There was one more turtle we saw peek out very briefly. It had a long, skinny tube-like nose. It certainly was a soft-shelled turtle of some sort. I was excited because I saw it, and because I knew what it was.

There was a time when my life was so chaotic that I did not notice nature. Now I’m seeing birds of prey sitting still in trees by the side of the highway. It is wonderful to relax into my surroundings enough to observe.

We felt as though our hot day on the bank of the river, was a tiny vacation. I am SO excited I actually got a good photo of the one beast… cool, huh? Nature is its own art, and a chance snapshot of a moving, wild target is a very exciting find.

Spring finally Sprung?

Saturday, April 9th, 2011


Usually in Lansing, we get some early-spring flowers blooming in March. This year I saw a few very sickly violets, but I could only see them if I went looking in my yard. They were not hardy enough to be seen from the sidewalk.


The first day I saw proper spring flowers was last Thursday, April 7. This is a few weeks later than usual. We were starving for spring color here, or at least a few of us were.


Friend Cynthia and I went for a walk around Old Town Lansing and on the River Trail Thursday. I took all these photos on that walk (except for the final one which is my own south yard).


You can see that things are not yet fully “popped” out, and the grass is still mostly dormant in many places. However, the first few glimpses of growth are a source of joy for me. I hope these images give you a smile, as well.


Tomorrow/Sunday, we expect summer-warm temperatures along with thunderstorms. I am determined to put on one of my African dresses/caftans, hang up my hammock, and sit on the porch drinking tea… for at least a bit of that time. Thunderstorms or not, the first porch day of the year is a very big deal to me. Bring it on!

March 1: Fly a Kite/In Like a Lamb

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

One of the premises of this ColorJoy blog, is that artfulness and creativity can be found in many places. Art is not just a drawing or painting hung on a wall. I find beauty and inspiration in all sorts of places, in my normal life.

On Tuesday, Friend Cynthia and I went for a walk from Old Town Lansing to the City Market and back. There is never a dull day with Cynthia. If I don’t see something interesting, she will.

We walked through the campus of Lansing Community College this time, rather than taking the Riverwalk. It was a bit windy and the buildings protected us a bit. Somewhere near the center of campus, I spotted this:


LCC has a good art program, I have to think someone got inspired in that department. The sewer steam vent was turned into a volcano sculpture. Good job, whoever you are!!!

We ate at Seif Foods in the market (Egyptian food, excellent), and talked briefly to Magda who owns the restaurant. The food was wonderful, as usual. (One more sort of artfulness, is cooking with flavor…)

On our way out of the building, we saw a beautiful kite flying. It was shaped like a fish with long tail, and flew as if it might be swimming. We spent quite a long time watching, there was a lot of hope in seeing this on March 1. The man flying the kite took it down for a moment and then put it up again. Can you see how big the kite is?


Unfortunately, most of the videos I took did not turn out too well. This one very short bit shows how pretty it was in the air.

I’ve never linked to a video of my own here, but let’s see if this works. Click the photo to see my short flying-fish kite, OK? It will take you to my Flickr site. If you want to return to this page, use the Back button to return.


Water the Stick… Some Things Take Time

Friday, February 25th, 2011

One year, we moved a decades-old peony bush to a more sunny spot. Peonies thrive in sun, and pine for more light when they don’t get it.

So we moved the bush maybe 4 feet. And it just flipped out.

Leaves shriveled and fell. I pruned away as many as seemed prudent, to help it deal with the shock of a move.

The leaves continued to shrivel and die. Until one night I clipped back all but one single cluster of leaves on a single stem.

I could not take the broken heart I would have felt, had that last leaf not made it. I babied it like no other plant in my history. (I have never been a big plant nurturer, but I love gardens.)


Every morning, I would water that peony leaf. When I started, that leaf was always actually flat on the ground, as if it had already given up.

It felt like watering a stick. There was no promise in that leaf at all.

In an hour or so after I watered the stick, I would notice that it had gained enough strength to come an inch or so off the ground. I have never been so happy to see such subtle change!

Of course, I had to leave the garden during the daytime. I would get back home around dark, and again that poor leaf was flat and lifeless against the dirt. Once more, I would water the stick.

Nothing happened that year to indicate that my watering was worth the time. The leaf did not improve at all, though I kept at my routine.

The snow covered my stick along with the rest of the garden. I held no hope that I would see a peony plant come up the next spring.

Amazingly, it did come back, with a few other leaves to keep it company. It took about 3 years to really look healthy, and now perhaps 7 years later it is huge and bold.

The moral: Water the stick. Keep the faith; keep doing your part when it feels uncertain.

Photo: See the flamingo lost in the midst of dark green leaves? Those leaves are the very plant which was once a mere stick. It is even stronger and larger now.

Snow Day… I Mean, Week

Monday, February 7th, 2011

On Wednesday, Lansing slowed down to a crawl. It looks in our neighborhood as though we had about 10″ (25 cm) of accumulated snow.

The cities of Lansing and East Lansing required motorists to not park on any street so that snow removal could be efficient. Lansing opened parking ramps for folks who normally park on the street, and every school in town was closed. Even Michigan State University canceled classes, for the first time since the blizzard of 1978. (It was much worse in 1978, I remember.)


Although I work from home much of the time, my two appointments of the day were canceled as well. I settled into the lovely feel of a snow day. I did work, but I was able to work in my jammies. I also made a full pot of tea rather than a single cup at a time. The day just felt more relaxed for some reason.


The first three photos in this post were taken on Wednesday. The storm had actually started coming down on Tuesday night, around 6:30 or 7:00pm. By sunset on Wednesday it had stopped and most folks had their sidewalks cleared pretty well.

The city did a great job of getting those streets cleared off. The street where our driveway exits is only 2 blocks long, and they got here about 24 hours after the initial snowfall started. Lansing is facing major budget issues, but they sure handled this well.


The photo below is my car in the driveway, on Thursday afternoon. Brian had shoveled around the car but you can see how high it was, those tires barely  had a chance! Thank goodness I got new tires the last week of 2010.


Below is a photo of my car in the East Side city lot, behind Rae’s Yarn Boutique. This was taken Thursday around 4:15pm. This is only 20 blocks due east of our Capitol building. As you can see, the piles of snow at the edges of that lot were remarkably tall!


The last photo here was taken at the Frandor Shopping area on Saturday. Even though they had the lot scraped well, and the sun had helped the main areas to evaporate… wowie, do they have major piles of snow.


Sometimes when the piles melt, you will see shopping carts frozen into the middle of the icy remnants of these snow mountains. I find that poetic in some way.

I have been able to go for walks Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in my neighborhood. I often walk in the dark. The echo of early video games comes back to me when walking down those sidewalks in the streetlights. Remember the first Star Wars movie? Scroll back and look at the sidewalk photo again. It’s amazing how close it feels while I’m out there.

Sidewalks are rather well cleared by my neighbors, although the intersections have snowplow piles left which makes it hard to access the sidewalk without a bit of climbing. I try to remember enjoying that climbing when I was young.

I hope you are warm and happy. We have been eating different sorts of home-made soup since things started canceling on Tuesday night. Soup is just the ticket in this sort of weather!!!

More Trees?

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Life in the Neighborhood
The neighbor across our street has a tiny lot, with a tinier house. The house is just a little bigger than his garage.

He’s a quiet neighbor and he is really into maintaining his yard. In fact, he’s the guy I photographed on a warm day a few years ago, using his snowblower on a dry sidewalk. The guy is not lazy!

Though he has lived across from us for several years, I don’t know him at all. He tends to wear something on his head outdoors which is either full-sized music headphones or industrial-quality ear protection. You can see them peeking out in the above photo behind a leaf, if you look carefully. The dark shadowy bit is not his hair, it’s his ear covers.

He has a very well-behaved dog. Even when he walked the dog past me on my sidewalk, he was wearing the ear covers so we didn’t chat (while my friend was petting his dog). I am guessing he likes quiet.

Quiet Neighbors are an Asset

I’m not judging him, just observing. He’s a great neighbor. The people in that house before him, over and over, were loud and difficult to ignore. He’s a great asset to the serenity of our corner. I’m glad he lives there.

I’m a bit eccentric myself (painted my house trim lavender and salmon in a neighborhood where you can find 5 or 6 white houses in a row). If you do not conform, nobody bothers you in this neighborhood. I love it that way. It is not true in all Lansing neighborhoods.

Trees, Abundant Trees!

Apparently living on a corner lot is a bit public for this gentleman. Either that, or he is really into planting things; perhaps trees are his passion.

tree house

For whatever reason, the lot now looks a bit like an immature forest. We were under the impression many months ago that it was impossible to fit more plants on his lot. Then in late summer, he added a large number of decorative grasses, between fence and sidewalk.

More Trees!

Last week I was on our porch. I spotted the green of landscaping plastic. He had purchased at least 6 more trees, all of them taller than me.

What an industrious guy he is! That sounds like back-breaking labor to me. (In the photo below, I’ve intensified the color of the green plastic root bags so you can see them in the forest.)


I do wonder how he will find places to plant them all.

Spring? Autumn? Color!

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

october riverwalk

Lately I have been october dandelionsreally taking in the beautiful colors of Autumn. The leaves on the trees are lovely, and the individual maple leaves on the ground hold just as much magic for me this year as they did when I was a child.

On my weekly walks with friend Cynthia, we notice each week how the colors and trees change. I took the photo above about 2 weeks ago, mid-October.

We have had frost a few days in the last week here in Lansing. In spite of that, I keep seeing signs of spring activity in nature. I even have seen two mosquitoes in the last week.

My two remaining tomato plants kept flowering until I brought them into the mud porch which is not heated. I finally cut off the blooms a week ago, to give the still-green fruit more plant energy. I was able to harvest 3 red fruits since then, and there is one more on its way to ripeness, thanks to that slightly-protected area.

october violetWe also are seeing wildflowers lately, types which we normally see in spring and summer. There has been a series of dandelions blossoming in my driveway. We have seen a good scattering of wild violets in the side yard as well, and a geranium has a few small pink bits peeking out. It is rather wonderful to see nature working like crazy at a last chance to reproduce before winter arrives.

I had to scrape frost off my car today. That was not the first frost, but the first I saw with my own eyes. I will celebrate the color I can find, as long as there is not snow covering it!

october leaves