Friday, July 16, 2010

The pleasure of nature and family gardens

I recently returned from my annual summer trip to Minnesota, which offered a chance to relax away from the Bay Area, enjoy some new dining experiences, and, importantly, spend lots of quality time with my wife's family, both in the Twin Cities and Albert Lea.  I'm happy to report that the Upper Midwest summer rains have kept everything green and beautiful, and the temperatures, while warm (upper 70s to mid 80s), weren't too hot or humid to prevent enjoying the nature that surrounded me and the pleasure of family gardens.

During a family picnic my in-laws hosted in their backyard, I became fascinated by the sight of a small group of butterflies hovering over a bed of asters in their garden. I excused myself from the conversation for a few minutes, grabbed my camera, and stepped outside from the comfort of the enclosed patio to be an observer of nature.  Arriving at my destination about 10 yards away, I stood still and quiet and let the butterflies entertain and amuse me.  Fortunately, the shutter fly of my camera didn't disrupt the butterflies at play (or were they are work?), and, I'm happy to report, my reward for my time and patience was some amazing photographs.

In doing some simple research afterward, I learned the butterflies I observed last weekend are known as Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui).  They are also called the Thistle Butterfly and can be found throughout much of North America. Their wings are covered with orange and brown blotches and the tops of their fore wings are tipped in black and white spots. Their orange and black colors reminded me of the familiar colors worn by the San Francisco Giants, my favorite baseball team.

Throughout my Minnesota vacation, there were many opportunities for photographing nature at work and play, including: a mid-evening rainbow observed from the side of a southern Minnesota highway; a delightful sunset over Lake Minnetonka's Excelsior Bay following a wonderful dinner out; robins and cardinals visiting a backyard bird bath; and, finally, the aftermath of recent tornado damage that was as beautiful to see as it was heartbreaking to comprehend. Understand, the lifting from the earth, the upsetting of root systems, and the twisting and shattering of mature oak trees is no easy feat.

Often, we take nature for granted.  Sometimes, however, it's important to make time for nature.  Just take time ~ whether in moments, minutes or hours ~ and observe nature in all of its forms that is all around us. Simple pleasures are often the ones that leave us truly amazed, and ~ if we're lucky ~ rewarded for our time.

A Postscript:  Regular followers of "A Tuesday Night Memo" know that I enjoy blogging regularly about our backyard garden at home.  I am happy to report that all of our rose bushes are enjoying the moderate, Bay Area summer weather.  We came home from our summer vacation earlier this week to a warm welcome of several dozen blooms.  Although the Oranje of the Netherlands lost an exciting World Cup soccer final to Spain, our orange roses were still looking very festive as well as our Queen Elizabeth and Mr. Lincoln roses.

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