R & R Part III: The Wave of Life

Wherever the wave of life transports me, I always seek natural beauty. Back home it was easy to find untouched nature and to feel its ‘spirit’.  Even when people help nature to produce fruits, vegetables and berries it happens in harmony with the wild. Lettuce grows not far from lingonberries.

garden Finland Aug16 UD75

lingon berries Finland Aug16 UD75In my dad’s garden, the apples were still growing, getting more colorful every day. And the healthy buckthorn berries were almost ripe to pick.

two apples Finland Aug16 UD75

buckthorn Finland Aug16 UD75On our daily walks, of which at least one went all the way around the lake, I noticed and enjoyed the small things in nature. Like the butterflies, the Peacock and the Mourning Cloak we found around our trail.

Peacock butterfly 2 Finland Aug16 UD75

mourning cloak butterfly Finland Aug16 UD75I heard the hum of the universe in the Finnish forests, mighty green with stately firs, pines and birches. And rowan trees full of red berries for the birds to enjoy.

Finnish forest UD75

rowan 2 Finland Aug16 UD75And I admired the great variety of wildflowers we encountered on our walks: wild roses, blue bells, clover, dandelions, heather and floating beds of water lilies.

wild rose 2 Finland Aug16 UD75

Heather Finland Aug16 UD75

water Lily 6 Finland Aug16 UD75I stopped to take pictures of them and then had to run to reach the others. Great exercise…some days over 12,000 steps. Not that I’m counting  :-).  Although in fairness, our awesome guide would stop and wait for me if I disappeared from sight. He always made sure nobody was left behind in the woods.

Baby on the walk Finland Aug16 UD75Whether it was morning, late afternoon or evening, the lake always spoiled us with gorgeous views.

reflections on the lake Finland Aug16 UD75

sunset on the lake Finland 2 Aug16 UD75

evening on the lake Finland Aug16 UD75One evening we spotted a couple of Whooper Swans very close to the shore, but of course that time I didn’t carry my camera. The next evening I could only find one of them at the far end of the lake.

swan Finland Aug16 UD75We often came back from our explorations around the magical ‘blue hour’ after sunset. Then, soon after night fall around 10 p.m., the moon climbed up onto the sky painting the lake in magical colors.

blue hour 2 at lake Finland Aug16 UD75

Moon Finland Aug16 UD75

moon lake Finland Aug16 ud75My last evening ‘back home’ I went out to the lake and got a surprising goodbye gift. A Loon swam quietly out through the reeds fairly close to me. What a treat!

Finnish Loon ud75The next morning I had to leave at 3 am to make my early flight to London and further to the US. The archipelago outside Helsinki was just waking up to a new day.  I felt deep gratitude for having had this wonderful time with my dad, my sister, my niece, aunts and cousins.

archipelago Finland UD75The next morning after coming home, I found a welcome committee from the salt marsh right here in our garden. Snowy Egrets, White Ibis and a Northern Mockingbird had gathered to welcome me home.

snowy egret ud75

white ibis ud64

northern mockingbird ud75That was wonderful, but nothing compared to the reception I got on my first walk at the salt marsh this morning. Can’t wait to tell you all about the welcome back party.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a great new week.

R & R Part II: On the Creative Side

This rare Finnish crocodile made me smile. I knew he had not crawled up from the nearby lake. In Finland crocodiles can only be found in the world of art, or perhaps in a zoo. This big fellow was guarding the lawn sprinkled with water lilies at Leporanta Art Center, not far from my childhood home. And he was not alone. There was the familiar man with the horse, whom I first met several years ago.

man and a horse Leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75And an impressive bronze bird, an eagle perhaps, who had settled in the yard more recently.

Leporanta Eagle Finland Aug16 UD75On the only rainy day during my visit ‘back home’, we decided to visit the annual art exhibition just before it would close for the fall. At Leporanta, paintings are shown in traditional log houses and old barns, but sculptures made of iron, copper, wood, glass and composite materials are exhibited all over the vibrantly green grounds. Here a friend, my niece and my sister are examining handmade glass decorations at one of the log  buildings.

admiring the sculpture Leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75

sculpture and flower arrangement Leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75I was smiling at the cute family swinging happily in front of the main house: mother, father and son. Family fun rarely seen.

swing 1 leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75

swing 2 leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75

swing 3 leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75Inside the exhibition buildings we found smaller sculptures and paintings by both professional artists and amateurs. Many different materials, styles and price tags. To my delight I found lots of bird motives. Like this painting on wood boards by artist Marianne Kantanen.

A Moment of Reflection by Marianne Kantanen Leporanta 2 Finland Aug16 UD75
“A Moment of Reflection”

I thoroughly enjoyed a series of playful lithographs of birds – here two of them. And I also liked the painting of a fantasy bird on hammered copper. I thought it was unique and colorful.

There were numerous beautiful oils, acrylics and watercolors. In particular, my eye was caught by two delicate, moody paintings by artist Vappu Kiili.

I would have loved to buy a few paintings to take home, but since I always travel light with only one carry-on bag and my wallet was fairly light too, I had to settle for two hand-painted watercolor cards by artist Seija Laukkanen.

After a couple of hours we had seen it all, a great variety of beautiful works. This exhibition never disappoints. When we finally came out again the rain had stopped. On our way home we passed another lake, one of thousands in Finland, and I thought it was pretty serene. Almost like a painting.

last days of summer Finland Aug16 UD75Thank you for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the tour. My last post in this R & R series will bring us back into the nature around our lake ‘back home’.

R & R Part I: The Nostalgic Journey

The close to 26 hour travel from Florida Gulf Coast to my R & R destination in Finland was remarkably comfortable. Much thanks to my habit of paying practically everything on one airline card. Quite enjoyable indeed from the colorful, Africa-inspired sendoff in Philly to the delicious Money Monster accompanied dining onboard. Points still work.

airport entertainment UD75

my suite UD75

cheese plate UD75After actually sleeping quite a bit over the Atlantic, and everything running on time in London, I arrived in Finland surprisingly intact. For someone who gets to see family ‘back home’ only about once a year these trips are always nostalgic. Many kinds of pictures from the past suddenly surface. Me as a toddler moving into our new home with mom, dad and baby sister. A home built by our dad. A home that still stands tall, here pictured on a moonlit night the week before last.

Mikkos house at night 2 Finland Aug16 UD75Me in elementary school. And the memory of laying down on this very school yard bleeding profusely after being hit right on the nose with a baseball bat by a fellow student in the PE class. A ring of worried people bending over me when I wake up. This eight year old’s Miss Universe dreams brutally smashed.  But at least she got a few days off school while her eyes couldn’t see anything but the humongous nose.

my primary school 2 UD75Me in high school, and then as an undergraduate and graduate student in the big city of Tampere about 45 miles away from home. That was a wild time. Initially. But then we all mature and somehow life finds its intended path. I pass familiar places, but they are not the same. Like this old Orthodox Church next to my university. It used to reach for the blue skies all alone, but now has a backdrop of a brand new hotel tower. Progress.

Tampere Orthodox Church and Hotel Torni UD75When I pass my high school, I notice the Lutheran Church completed while I was a junior. Very modern architecture at the time, and in my eyes it still holds lots of appeal. I find comfort in the fact that at least a few places look like I remember them.

Kaleva Church 2 Tampere Finland UD75On the 3.5-hour journey from the capital to my childhood home, more familiar places fly by the window. Now illuminated by the late afternoon sun. And my early years come back to me with a profound sense of gratitude.

Lake view Finland Aug16 UD75And soon I was there. At the lake that belongs to my childhood more than anything. And one that still symbolizes peace and tranquility in my life.

rainbow Finland Aug16 UD75That first night I couldn’t resist going out to the backyard after the late dinner. I was marveling at the fact that dusk arrived only around 10 p.m. And the fact that my dear dad still kept a thriving garden.

lake and dads garden Finland Aug16 UD75

evening light on the lake Finland Aug16 UD75That moonlit night I felt the peace of this wonderful spot on earth. And I knew those precious, long-awaited moments with family had arrived.

moon light on the lake Finland 2 Aug16 2 UD75The toddler, teenager and adult merged into a surprisingly balanced whole and let out a long exhale into the cool night air.

Immersed

Hello friends! Just a little mobile greeting from the deep green Finnish woods, where I’ve been immersed in nature and family in equal parts lately. To experience summer temperatures in high 60s (close to 20 C) has been refreshing!


I will tell you more about my adventures once back home. I hope your summer has been wonderful, and your winter mild if in the Southern Hemisphere.

“See” you soon.

Summer at the Salt Marsh. Beach Party. Rivalry. And Construction Plans.

Hello friends! I’m still on my summer break, but since I’m at home right now I want to give you an update on the affairs at the salt marsh. H.J’s visit early this month brought in the regular thunderstorms with downpours that belong to our summer. At the salt marsh, water levels are up and everything is fresh green.

salt marsh ud73

salt marsh ud73A couple of days ago I took a walk on the beach and was invited to a beach party attended by hundreds of feathered guests. It was a jolly event with Black Skimmers, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Laughing Gulls, Herring Gulls, including juveniles, enjoying the freshwater ‘lake’ formed on the beach by the frequent torrential downpours. The ‘lake’ occupied almost the whole beach, leaving only a wet, narrow strip of sand next to the salt marsh.

beach party after the rain UD73Some partygoers were flying back and forth looking for the perfect spot, others were catching up on the latest, bathing or preening. It was lively indeed.

birds on the beach 2 ud73

royal tern UD73

juvenile gull ud73Some guests were resting, and yet others had partied enough and fallen asleep on the sand. But in such a crowd you’d better sleep with your eyes open, like this Black Skimmer.

black skimmer sleeping ud73Despite being attired with my newly acquired cheerful rain boots, I decided not to test the water depth in the ‘lake’, but instead to walk to the salt marsh through the bay side.

my new rain boots ud73.jpgThat was a great decision. I was rewarded with a pleasant discovery. Papa Stanley had returned from his 4-week vacation!

papa osprey ud73He was perching on the wind measurement device at the Sailing Center, obviously planning his next fishing trip. I could hardly see him as the sun was right in my eyes, but looking at my photos I realized he had definitely recognized me. From there I went to see Mama Sandy. She was ‘babysitting’ the nest again, and greeted me with a friendly nod. And I thought she tried to tell me about the dismal condition of the nest. We both agree that the nest will not make it through the nesting season starting in December.

mama osprey ud73I was happy to let her know that I’ve finally started the process of getting the nest repaired – or perhaps replaced. This will involve several steps: evaluating the nest pole to see if it has hollowed and will need to be replaced, and if that is the case, evaluating the ground to see if it can carry the heavy equipment needed to replace the whole structure with a new, more durable one. If the answer is yes, then I’ll have to get busy approaching sponsors to get help with the fairly high cost of this project. If the answer is no, then we’ll need to come up with plan B and only replace the nest platform that is falling apart. I hope to have these answers in the next few weeks through the Clearwater Audubon Society. While they don’t have the money to pay for this project right now, they have the required permits and the connections to suitable contractors, and have kindly agreed to help. Wonderful news for our Osprey family.

mama osprey at the nest ud73I promised to keep Mama Sandy updated. As I walked around the marsh, I observed something quite interesting. Both the younger Great Blue Heron and the Mayor were present. Staring at each other from opposite ends of the marsh. Measuring strength. As many of you know, the young one is a colorful character. He is still much smaller than the Mayor, but clearly has the desire to be the king of the hill, so to speak. He has been frequenting the marsh over the last three months, while the Mayor has taken care of his family on the ‘bird island’ in the bay. Last spring the Mayor told us ‘I’ll be back’ – and he has kept his promise.

young great blue heron ud73
Young GBH
great blue heron Mayor ud73
Older GBH, the Mayor

A Great Egret was following the developments with keen interest from a tree in the middle of the marsh.

great Egret ud73And a female Cowbird was excitedly cheering on the Mayor from a nearby tree.

female brown-headed cowbird ud73Miss Rosa was seeking shelter from the sun at her usual spot, but kept an eye on the two rivals as well. Particularly the youngster. She didn’t cheer.

roseate spoonbill ud73The Snowy Egret was staring at the young heron too, and he didn’t cheer either.

snowy egret UD73A family of White Ibis was foraging in the grass close by, probably hoping their youngster wouldn’t need to witness any brouhaha on such a beautiful day.

Juvenile ibis ud73Their wish was granted. The truce lasted, and each heron held on to its end of the marsh. I walked home and shot some pictures of flowers in our garden on my way in. Pink flowers. Just to celebrate summer.

I look forward to visiting my family in northern Europe early August. I may do a short mobile post from there. Otherwise I’ll see you after mid August. Lots to catch up on by then.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you are enjoying your summer too. Much love.

News from the Salt Marsh. Good. News. Only.

My friend and a great bird photographer, H.J. at Avian 101, and his lovely family came for a short visit earlier this week. H.J. and I walked around the salt marsh talking and snapping pictures. Despite the very dry conditions that had lasted for several weeks, we spotted a few familiar faces. The Mayor was honoring H.J’s visit with his presence for the first time in a month!

Great blue heron Mayor ud71And Mama Osprey flew over the marsh a couple of times. She looked at us, but didn’t stop at the nest.

Mama osprey flies by UD72And Miss Rosa was demonstrating her now famous beauty routine to her friends, the White Ibis.

roeate spoonbill and white ibis ud72.jpgWe also found a few Snowy Egrets playing at a little mud pool amidst tall grass.

snowy egret ud72They had a little friend with them too, a Tri-colored Heron. But it was obvious there were some sandbox issues as he was playing more by himself.

Tricolored heron ud71 (2)

It was difficult to get any picture of him…that is, until he peeked out from the grass, his long neck completely stretched out. Peek-a-boo!

Clouds started to gather and we heard distant rumble when we left the salt marsh to have lunch. As soon as we sat down in the Cuban/Spanish restaurant on the bay side, the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour with all the trimmings. We enjoyed a nice lunch while nature got a much needed soaking.

It was great to see this lovely family again. Thanks H.J., Lucy and Tyler for stopping by here and for a wonderful lunch! And thank you for bringing the much needed rains🙂

I trust H.J.  got some great captures of the Major, Miss Rosa and some of the other residents despite the quiet mood at the time.

columbia restaurant ud72After much more rain overnight, I walked by the marsh the next morning with Dylan and snapped an iPhone picture. What a difference! The water level was up 5-6 inches and  many birds (the white dots are Great and Snowy Egrets) were enjoying the newly acquired freshness.

salt marsh w iphone ud72Around lunch time I went for a walk again. The marsh was still brimming with birds, but many of them had now sought shelter from the sun in the trees and bushes. It was very difficult to get pictures of them, demonstrated by the Little Blue Heron here. She had now turned almost blue from her very white juvenile appearance just a few weeks ago.

Little Blue Heron UD72She had lots of company in the trees close by. Several Night Herons were sleeping nearby, like this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.

Juvenile Black-cowned Night HeronI had to almost crawl on the slippery grass to get a glimpse of Miss Rosa between the branches.

Miss Rosa ud72Snowy Egrets were flying back and forth, competing for the best view over the water.

Egret landing ud72

two snowy egrets ud72And the loser was not always happy having to leave the best spot. But who would be?

snowy egret not happy ud72Mama Sandy was back at the nest directing the traffic at and over the marsh. It’s obvious from the disarray of the feathers on her back that she’s still molting. Papa Stanley has not been around lately, I am assuming he took a solo vacation after Lady Cawcaw left the nest. Or a long fishing trip with his pal Steve.

mama osprey at the nest ud72.jpgAfter a while, Miss Rosa got enough of the crowded trees, or maybe she got hungry. She flew down and started looking for food.

Miss Rosa flies away ud72

Miss Rosa roseate spoonbill ud72I left the salt marsh happy for the birds, who now have lots of food in the previously dry mud flats. In the midst of all the distressing news, it is a privilege to be able to lift up one’s spirit in nature. We cannot allow ourselves to get stuck in the darkness.

snowy egret 2 UD72Last, I have some other good news as well. My net shop, Nature Bound Art, is now open at Fine Art America. Unique and hopefully inspiring gifts based on my photos and digital art are now available in many parts of the world. Please check it out.

I hope you will lift your spirits in nature too. Peace.

 

Summer Menu. Or What’s Cooking?

I’m a fairly good cook. Not entirely self-proclaimed. Being a decent cook certainly has its plusses. Friends will happily accept dinner invitations, and nobody orders delivery just before meal time. But it also has its minuses. You see, I love eating out. Hubby might say It’s your birthday, let’s go out. Or maybe it’s Mother’s Day. Or a special meetup with out-of-town friends. That’s about it.

So what does a girl do? She develops an array of effective strategies to get out anyway. This week, for example, I have two lunch appointments in reputable restaurants. Cheers to that.

Happy hour 3 ud71To tell you the truth, deep inside I love cooking. But I’m not into following recipes. I find it boring. Following a recipe leaves no room for creativity. It also requires all kinds of measuring devices and detailed mathematical conversion skills. And I’m a big picture person. So that’s not for me. But don’t get me wrong, I love reading recipes from all over the world. They give me ideas.

flounder fillets ud71Anyway, last night I invented a new dish, suitably light for hot summer evenings. Filet de Flet à crabe. Or flounder fillets topped with a crab meat concoction (a heap of crab meat, one egg, olive oil mayonnaise, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs, one poblano pepper, one shallot, black pepper and salt). To be served with spicy baked zucchini, tomatoes and if preferred, some cheese-lemon sauce on the side. After 35 minutes in 400F/200C oven – bon appetite.

filet de flet UD71Everyone will survive and accolades will follow. I know.

Tonight it might be pizza. I like the artistic freedom to throw tasty toppings on a super thin crust. After so many years in Africa, my favorite is the Kilimanjaro. BBQ-alfredo-mustard sauce and extra cheese to remind us of the yellow grass on the surrounding savannah, then small heaps of thinly sliced beef fillet for mini-mountains, topped with snow of feta cheese. A few chopped green bell peppers for bushes and some pineapple chunks for lions lurking around. And mushrooms for other animals. So yummy it requires a long after-dinner walk on the savannah….or at the salt marsh.

So that’s what’s cooking at my place.

island in the bay ud71Figuratively speaking, more things are cooking in the summer heat. Like a meetup with a bird photographer/blogging friend and his family early this week, family visits, photo hikes and overseas travel to cooler latitudes. And also on the summer menu: just relaxing. Recharging mind, body and soul.

What’s cooking at your place? Literally or figuratively.

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