March Madness Sets In

March is my least favorite month of the year. It’s at this point that the beautiful white snow turns into what I refer to as “dirty winter” and the season loses its luster. Our lovely city looks its worst during this time as spring struggles to gain a foothold against a winter that does not want to end. This is the time that one begins feeling the madness creep in, certain that the winter will never go away.

The forecast for the week is predicting freezing rain, snow and colder temps. The angry red temperature icon has returned to my phone, alerting me to the winter weather advisory in affect. Not only does this week mark St. Patrick’s Day but also the first day of spring and I felt a theme brewing for my blog posts. I’m not a St. Patty’s celebrant, but I do love green, so get ready for a week focused on “All Things Green While I Search for Spring” because we can’t let ourselves succumb to the March Madness!

Before the sleet and snow hit, here are some of the signs that I’ve seen so far that spring is just around the corner:

1) The ice has melted enough that Danny can safely walk the streets again while he continues healing from his injury last fall:

2) You need your rain boots instead of your snow boots (wish I’d worn warmer socks!):
rain boots

3 & 4) Two of the biggest signs for Minnesotans that spring is here:

5) My strawberries are showing, how can they still be green?

6) The biggest sign of spring? This was everywhere:

Nature Studies: Birds

This is my final post in my photo series from the Minnesota Valley Nature Preserve, and it’s for the birds!

I don’t remember when my fascination with birds began, but I do remember watching David Attenborough’s LIFE OF BIRDS on PBS 15 years ago, eyes wide with wonder. Each week, I tuned in for the next episode of the nine-part series. That was before television had its digital transition, there was no such thing as TiVo or Netflix, and my internet connection was via dial-up. It’s hard to imagine that world anymore.

At the time, I was shocked by what I watched. Those amazing birds could be some nasty little buggers. But there is also beauty and endurance that you can’t imagine.

Now I look for birds all the time. Living in Minneapolis, I feel fortunate that there is such a wide variety – you just have to watch for them. Earlier this week, I saw an eagle roosting in a tree on my way home from work. Red-Tailed Hawks are a regular fixture on light poles along the freeway and the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds went right through my yard on their migration last fall. I’m an equal opportunity observer with birds, the Black-Capped Chickadee is one of my favorites and Nuthatches make me laugh with the weird little sound they make. I hadn’t realized how many birds were in my urban backyard until I started to look, I encourage you to take some time to look yourself.

Here are some of my shots from the nature preserve:


We guessed that this was a juvenile bald eagle, are we right?


Incognito. (Black-Capped Chickadee)


Crow (and fish casualty)


Red-Bellied Woodpecker

chickadee (1)

Black-Capped Chickadee


Brotherly love. (Male cardinals)



Wild Turkeys

And my personal favorite, the squirrel photo bomb:

Nature Studies: Trees

One of my favorite things about Minnesota is that everything changes from season to season. The quiet of winter is coming to an end, you can feel the buzz of spring in the air. Welcome to the second post in my series from our weekend hike through the Minnesota Valley Nature Preserve.

I love trees and the lines their bare branches form against the winter landscape:







Frozen Waterfalls and Winter Hikes

When a friend from Atlanta asked if we could go to “that frozen waterfall,” I jumped at the chance. The “Real Feel” temperature was -12, but we bundled up and headed out.

Minnehaha Falls is one of the oldest and most popular parks in Minneapolis. It became one of the first state parks in the United States when it was purchased by Minneapolis in 1889, only New York had created a state park at that time. The name Minnehaha comes from the words in the Dakota language which mean waterfall and the park is listed on the National Register of Historic places. If you haven’t been there, you should – and consider doing it in the middle of winter. The views from the top were striking:minnehaha falls

minnehaha falls

We braved the stairs (more like snow slides) and started hiking in to get a closer view. It looks like we aren’t the only ones who have a hard winter:
fallen trees

With the cold, I was amazed to find pockets of open water along the way:

The view from the ground was amazing too:
minnehaha falls

We didn’t risk the terrain to get any closer, but decided to head towards the Mississippi River instead. It was overcast and the landscape seemed so black and white:
frozen stream

bridge and woods


There was no movement on the Mississippi River:
mississippi river

Up river, the Lock and Dam was frozen:
lock and dam

We started the walk back and I was happy to see signs of life:
animal tracks

frozen stream

And just in case you’re wondering, this is how one prepares for frigid hikes in Minnesota winters:
dressed for winter

A Symbol of Survival

I admit it, I’m sick of the cold. I’m tired of the tiny red number on my cell phone mocking me with the temperature and weather advisory associated with it. I’m tired of worrying that I’ve gotten exposure from not being bundled to the max on a quick jaunt outside. I’m really tired of having to rescue poor Danny who rushes outside jubilantly and then suddenly freezes up, unable to take a step when he realizes how cold the pavement is.

What I needed was a symbol. Something to focus on that would send me the reminder that I am a hardy Minnesotan. While this has been the coldest winter I’ve known, it would not get the best of me. It will become the winter of legends and I will be the victor. But what could that symbol be?

As my car slid into yet another intersection, I saw it out of the corner of my eye. The subtle statement of the snow dweller, the gesture that we can all identify with:


Yes, the shovel jammed triumphantly in the snow bank after the snow removal. Anyone who has shoveled a walk knows the satisfaction of jamming that shovel in a snowbank when complete. As I crept down icy streets, I started to see more and more of them, a symbol of our solidarity as we pushed through the seemingly endless weeks of wind chills and subzero temperatures. We would see the end of this, we would be the victors – we were Minnesotans, hear us roar!

Now. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you the dismay I felt when I got home to find my own snow shovel laying on the sidewalk, blown out of the snowbank I myself had jammed it into. I stood staring, it laid at my feet… but then the cold wind started creeping through my mittens, icy snow bits blew in my face and I knew what I had to do. Chin up and shoulders back, I picked that shovel up and jammed it right back into the snowbank.