gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Category Archives: Nature

Time Out

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Man coming back from vacation is the WORST. It almost makes me wonder if it’s worth going on vacation because going back to your daily routine is just too hard. But I think it’s a reminder of how important it is to take time off and, if anything, we need to take more time off. What constitutes ample time off is relative to who you ask or where you live. In the U.S., if we compare our time off to most of Europe, it pales. Their standard seems to be 4-6+ weeks off, while we get 2 weeks off in the U.S (if that). But, if we compare the U.S. and Japan, a country that doesn’t seem to have much of a work/life balance at all, 2 weeks might sound like a luxury. In any case, I live in the U.S. and I wish I lived in Europe! If, for no other reason (which of course there are many), for their generous vacation time.

I went to Michigan for a week with my boyfriend over the summer and it was my first week off of work in a year and a half. I realize that complaining about not having enough time off is a luxury these days when I should simply be grateful to have a job. And I am VERY grateful to have a job (for the moment at least). But I think we still need to uphold the importance of time off for one’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being, if one’s job is labor-intensive.

The week in Michigan was very much needed, and fun and relaxing and all of the things that a vacation should be. We went to Traverse City, Beaver Island, and Mackinac Island. We drove to Traverse City and took ferries to the two islands. It felt quite safe, as everyone wore masks and all of the places we went to provided hand sanitizer. Each place was different and we stopped at some unexpected places along the way, which were lovely surprises!

The setting of Traverse City is beautiful, on a bay of Lake Michigan. It’s a great place if you like water activities – sailing, kayaking, etc., and maybe an even better place if you like wine! There are several vineyards and wineries where you can sample the fruits of the land. We also stumbled upon a cider place called Sutton Bay Ciders that has an incredible view of the bay! Back on track, we went to a winery called Mawby, which specializes in sparkling wine and is nestled in a rolling vineyard. Next stop was Hop Lot, a brewery in a forest-like setting. The beer and pretzel we got were delicious. We explored Leland, a small historic fishing town, and got some amazing smoked whitefish at Carlson’s Fishery.

Back in Traverse City, we grabbed dinner at The Little Fleet, which is a parking lot full of food trucks and a bar that serves very tasty cocktails. The food trucks offer a variety of good eats and it was a fun spot to people watch. There were also lots of dogs all getting up close and personal to get to know each other. We checked out Grand Traverse Commons, which is an old mental hospital that has been converted into shops, restaurants, and apartments. Trattoria Stella was a real treat – Italian fine dining in a wine cellar in the basement of the former mental hospital, with a high quality menu and excellent service.

If you like biking, kayaking, and beer, Kayak, Bike, & Brew is the activity for you! It’s a four hour tour to four breweries and you get to each one by bike and kayak. You get some exercise, try some beers, and meet people on the tour. It’s a fun time!

We stayed at a goat farm Air B&B one night just outside of Traverse City, which was my favorite place that we stayed at. It’s no secret to those who know me that I LOVE goats and that I dream of having a little goat farm of my own someday. So it was really cool to get to spend some time with the goats and run around in the pasture with them. I even got up at the crack of dawn in the morning to watch the milking! The guest suite in the farmhouse was modern, minimal, and clearly Scandinavian-inspired. It was perfect – the kind of place I’d like to call home in my future. The farm also had a couple cows, chickens, and vegetables. Oh, and we were greeted by amazing goat cheese, crackers and jam.

Beaver Island was an experience. It was quite remote, which we knew before going, but I think it was even more remote than we had anticipated. There are a few main roads that are paved and lit, but most of the island is made up of a forest with dirt roads throughout that are not lit at all. Driving on these dirt roads at night felt like we were driving towards our death in a scary movie. We had a very interesting and hospitable Air B&B host who gave us a tour of the island and told us about the island’s history, including its spiritual nature. He even made us breakfast one morning! I don’t know if I would have taken notice of the island’s spiritual presence had he not told us about it, but there clearly seems to be an energy of sorts there. I am not a spiritual person so I can’t say much about it, but there was a special feeling on the island. Our host owns a meadow, Tara’s Meadow, which, after discovering it, is what drew him to stay on the island after visiting out of curiosity for its history and spiritual nature.

The island’s shores are very pretty and serene. The water is crystal clear! The beaches are rocky though. There was plenty of social distancing on the beaches – two to five other people besides us at most. Having a beautiful beach to ourselves was amazing. We made our way from one beach to another around the island’s perimeter, and each one was more beautiful than the last. We went on a couple hikes, and visited Protar’s Home and tomb. Feodor Protar was an Estonian immigrant who became a healer on the island and is highly revered there even now long after his death.  The temperature was a little chilly, despite it being the first week of August, but our Air B&B host told us that it was unusual for it to be on the chillier side at that time of year. So unfortunately the water was cold, but the Beaver Island locals didn’t seem bothered by it. We watched the most beautiful sunset at Donegal Bay, and it was just so colorful and picturesque.

The ferry ride back to the mainland is a little over two hours, but it’s a nice and comfortable ferry. Charlevoix is home base for the ferry, which is a cute town on the harbor, if a bit touristy.

The charms of Mackinac Island stand the test of time. I had been there once before as a kid with my family, and it was mostly as I remembered it. If you haven’t been, or don’t know about it, there are no motorized vehicles on the island. So you have to get around on foot, bike, or horse & carriage! There is something refreshing and endearing about seeing everyone ride around on bicycles and ‘parking’ them to go into shops. I will say that seeing the horses truck along with a carriage full of people or luggage made me sad, but hopefully they are strong enough to handle it. We rented bikes and rode all the way around the island (which is 8 miles), as well as on smaller trails throughout the island. One thing I noticed this time that I hadn’t noticed when I was there the first time was the variety of the island’s landscape and vegetation. I didn’t realize how wooded and hilly it is! It’s beautiful. I wish we would have had more time to explore the island and take some hikes because the trails looked really dreamy. We visited a couple historic forts and Arch Rock.

We stayed at a bed & breakfast that apparently is quite haunted. My boyfriend likes scary movies and stories, so we bought a book about the hauntings of Mackinac Island. It turns out that our B&B is one of the most haunted on the island! Just my luck…I don’t like spooky stories and I couldn’t sleep. We played a really fun and beautiful game of mini golf right on the water at sunset with glow in the dark golf balls. The island was crowded with tourists, but not as much as it normally is. The crowds can be unpleasant, so I’m glad that it wasn’t to full capacity.

On our last day we stopped at Sleeping Bear Dunes as we were leaving northern Michigan. It was a rainy day, but we still hiked up to Pyramid Point through a beautiful forest full of birch trees (my favorite). Seeing them in all of their glory made me so happy. The rain and the fog made it all the more magical. The view of the lake from Pyramid Point is also quite stunning, with the vastness of Lake Michigan sprawling out before you. We were really lucky with the weather all week and the last day of the trip was our only rainy day.

Please remind yourself of how important it is to take time off, and unplug and recharge and adventure! I know that I’ll need to continue to remind myself of this.

My Collection of Plants

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I remember feeling indifferent a few years ago when I noticed that some of my friends began collecting plants for their apartments and actually seemed to enjoy taking care of them. Like actually felt a sense of joy in the company of their new friends and prided themselves on their accomplishment as they watched them grow. Well, over the past year or so I’ve gotten a taste of the plant bug. These are just a few of my plants, as not all of them are photogenic. But we can work on that together. Not only do I find pleasure in taking care of my plants – watering them, deadheading them, repotting them when necessary, turning them to even out their sun exposure, etc. – looking at them and feeling them around me simply makes me happy. It must be that air purification getting to me.

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I’m very grateful that my cat (who I picked up off the street, not knowing anything about him) doesn’t bother my plants. He’s never tried to eat any of them, so I don’t have to worry about bringing a toxic plant into the apartment (hallelujah because so many beautiful plants are toxic to cats). Instead of being taunted by my plants, he enjoys sunbathing and napping in his favorite cat tree, complete with a view of much larger plants outside.

My sweet alley cat, Ollie

Colorado dreamin’

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Although I live in a big city now, I grew up in a small city and have always had an affinity for the outdoors, nature, and that country feeling. This is what drew me to live in a small town in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, and it’s something I long for now that I’m in the big city.

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I went to Colorado a few weeks ago for a bachelorette party and to visit a friend who moved there from Chicago a year ago. We went on a couple hikes at Garden of Gods in Colorado Springs and Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. The magnitude of the Rocky Mountains is hard to grasp, and while beautiful and majestic, the rockiness and brown tone makes them feel a bit cold. They don’t, at least for me, elicit a warm welcoming feeling. They’re big and intimidating, and I tend to prefer a greener aesthetic. It makes me realize that what I like about the Berkshires is that because they are smaller they feel cozier, more approachable, and they envelope you with a kind of protective embrace. The distinct change of seasons in the northeast takes the hills on a journey from beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow in the fall, to green in the spring and summer, and snow-covered in the winter. But enough about the Berkshires…I don’t mean to take away from the Rocky Mountains, which are magnificent in their own right.

Garden of Gods was interesting because of the beautiful and bizarre rock formations that are a bright burnt orange/red color. It’s fascinating to think about how these rocks formed over time and what gave them the color they so gracefully wear. Prior to going to Colorado I didn’t know that it had some desert characteristics, and not having been to a desert before I was quite in awe of the colors.

Our hike was about five and a half miles long, and while not difficult, we were all feeling the altitude. Although relieved that we didn’t have to fight off any predators, I was a little bit disappointed that the only wildlife we saw included a lizard and a rabbit.

The hike at Rocky Mountain National Park felt much more intimate than the one at Garden of Gods because there were hardly any people on the trail that we chose, which was both peaceful and a bit scary because my mind wandered to the bears that might be lurking around and the fact that it would probably take a while for anyone to find us. Little did I know, the Rocky Mountains are only home to black bears, not brown bears, although there are mountain lions (which didn’t even cross my mind, thankfully!). This hike was only a couple miles long, and while I had adjusted to the altitude by this point, even though we were quite a bit higher than at Garden of the Gods (11,000 feet!), it was a bit more up and down and the trail was much more wooded and felt more secluded. The trail brought us to a beautiful and unexpected valley with a creek, offering the perfect spot for our picnic lunches. The only wildlife spotted on this hike was some kind of small beaver in the creek and it was cute! But I was constantly scared of seeing a bear! The drive to the trail was spectacular on a one way dirt road. We were committed and there was no going back.

My short time in Colorado doing a couple hikes has definitely given me the hiking bug. It made me sad to think that I hardly did any hiking when I lived in the Berkshires, especially since there were various trails a 10-15 minute drive from my house; whereas the Rocky Mountain National Park was an hour and half drive from Denver. Until the Berkshires and I meet again… 🙂

“Great Wide Open” – Brennan Kilbane

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I went to Williamstown, MA a couple weeks ago (one of my favorite places on earth). On my way there, during the 14 hour Amtrak train ride, I was flipping through Allure magazine and came across an article by Brennan Kilbane entitled “Great Wide Open” about the great outdoors and how we should be spending more time out in it. How fitting considering I was on my way to the beautiful Berkshires. I love being surrounded by inspiring landscape and I feel happiest when there is space to breathe around me, rather than crowded by a city. There’s definitely something therapeutic about the freedom to listen to the birds, smell the manure (call me crazy, I don’t care!), and look up at the sky and admire the stars.

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Kilbane brings to light the staggering statistic that more than half of us spend less than five hours a week outside. He points out the incongruity between how drawn we are to natural products and the aura of the outdoors, and the effort we make to actually spend time outside, which is very little. Research shows that being outside is good for us in every way, from our skin to our brain and our emotional well-being. I guess this explains why I love the Berkshires so much. So let’s get outside!

“If the Great Outdoors had a LinkedIn account, it would be highly connected (happy to introduce you to the most epic sunsets and hiking trails), it would get ringing endorsements from the world’s top scientists (lifts mood! lowers cortisol!), and its stunning profile would be viewed my millions.” – Brennan Kilbane 

“I wish to belong to it…”

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This is perfect.

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I couldn’t find a digital version of this article from Driftless magazine, so bear with my pictures. Driftless pays homage to the coziness of the Midwest, which I find delightful since I’m from Indiana. “Who We Are at the Edge” by Michele Popadich is an ode to the struggle between the city and the outdoors, which I can definitely relate to after moving to Chicago from a small town nestled in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts (which I absolutely loved)! It’s not that I don’t love Chicago, because I do for its diversity and cultural richness, but man I wish I could go for a drive in a beautiful, peaceful countryside sometimes…escape to a place that allows for reflection and renewal.

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Popadich points out an interesting conundrum of wanting to belong to nature, but feeling like an outsider looking in no matter how hard one tries to be fully immersed in it. I think this is especially true for those of us who live in a city and have to travel to nature for some respite. Perhaps those who live within nature feel more connected to it. Either way, how lovely is it to get away from the buildings and cars and people and pollution, and see some trees and cows and take in the fresh smells of the earth?? Trying to feel as one with nature as possible by absorbing all of its splendor 🙂

The photographs are by Isabel Fajardo. Check out her nature photos, but also all the rest because they are magnificent!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

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The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment, where is it to be found?

J.B. Priestley

In the most recent Winter issue of The Magnolia Journal, I came across this lovely quote and visual, and I have to say I think this is so true. I definitely get frustrated with the cold sometimes, but I do think snow is so pretty. I think this is true for any snowfall, but especially for the first of the season. There is something about the purity of the white fluffy stuff on the ground that brings peace and joy to my heart. It’s also fun to wake up in a world that looks different from what we’re used to. It’s a beautiful surprise and brings a sense of renewal with it.

The holiday season is such a happy and comforting time, but it always feels too short. I don’t love the cold, but I do love snow, and a white Christmas is better than a snow-less Christmas. Here’s to hoping we have a white Christmas in the Midwest this year!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen – Spring Green, WI

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My parents and I took a mini summer vacation a couple weeks ago to Spring Green, WI to see Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Taliesen. The complex consists of his home and studio, as well as some boarding residences for students in his architecture school. We like to see as many FLW houses as we can because my dad is an architect and teaches architecture, and my mom and I are art lovers. I also did an internship with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust in Chicago, so it’s always interesting for all of us. After having seen many of his homes in the Chicago area, what struck me about Taliesen was the beautiful setting in the hilly Wisconsin countryside. The integration between interior living space and the natural world that surrounds it outside, which is a central design concept for FLW, is very present at Taliesen. From the courtyard-like feel in front of the entrance to the house (perhaps inspired by his trip to Italy), to the wall of windows and doors opening out to a balcony on the other side of the house, which overlooks a series of hills, the beautiful Wisconsin countryside setting is very much felt both within and outside the house.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Asian influence also makes a statement in both the home and studio, as large Japanese silk tapestries take center stage on various walls. The room I liked the most was the living room because it felt so spacious with open space in the center of the room and built-in seating/benches along the walls around the periphery of the room. Apparently FLW had dinner parties every Friday night, complete with musical entertainment (for which he designed a music stand that could accommodate three musicians). He also designated a chair for his daughter who played the harp. His affinity for his daughter is also evident in her “little apartment” upstairs, which is accessed either through a lofty space above the bedroom he shared with his wife, or by its own separate staircase off the great room. The intention behind this was that she could perform puppet shows for him and his wife anytime she wanted.

There are different tours that one can take at Taliesen and the one we took was two hours long. Very comprehensive! We had a sweet and knowledgeable tour guide, but my favorite part may have been the resident cat who followed us around for part of the tour 🙂 I leave you with some wise words to live by from good ol’ FLW himself.

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Autumn in the Berkshires

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I truly believe that Autumn in the Berkshires is the most beautiful time of the year anywhere in the world. The Berkshires hold a special place in my heart after living there for only one year, which was far too short a time. Pictures definitely don’t capture its beauty, but here are just a few to make your heart melt (or at least they make mine melt)!

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Berkshire seasons

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The Berkshires take on different auras throughout the seasons. Autumn is arguably the most spectacular season and people travel to Berkshires just to see the fall foliage, but all of the seasons are endearing in their own way. These are pictures of the four seasons in all their glory.

Autumn

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Winter

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Spring

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Summer

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A Berkshire Sunset

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I was absolutely blown away by the sunset last night here in the Berkshires. A beautiful combination of yellows, blues and pinks. Breathtaking.

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