Signs of change ahead…

White clouds, dark clouds and blue skies along Chicago’s Lake Michigan this morning are accompanied by a blowing red warning flag (don’t go swimming) and a mostly bare tree AND row of SNOW fences!! Yep, winter is coming now that it’s November in Chicago. For Southerners, the snow fences help keep the blowing snow from drifting too much (in theory) onto Lake Shore Drive. (There’s a bit of reflection in the image because this was captured through the window during my morning busride!) Copyright 2018 Pamela Breitberg

Change of pace

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Playtime on Lauderdale by the Sea’s beach in Florida. Copyrght 2017 Pamela Breitberg

Who knew?

January

Here is SUN and SAND and SALTWATER.

Who knew?

January

doesn’t have to mean SNOW and COLD.

Here a beach tractor raking the sand

Replaces the snow plows in the streets of Chicago.

Here families and couples wear light clothing as they play at the ocean’s edge

Forgetting the boots, coats, mittens and hats required for snowmen building and sledding.

Who knew?

January

Here is SUN and SAND and SALTWATER.

Beach is raked each morning, as an ecologically friendly way to "pretty" up last night's high tide's treasures. My goal is to walk the beach to treasure hunt for shells and coral before they are hidden under the sand.

The beach is raked each morning, as an ecologically friendly way to “pretty” up last night’s high tide’s treasures. My goal is to walk the beach to treasure hunt for shells and coral before they are hidden under the sand. Copyright 2017 Pamela Breitberg

 

Early morning family play while a couple take a selfie to remember their date on the beach. Copyright 2017 Pamela Breitberg

Breaking through…

Fresh snow and newly arrived sunshine in Harms Woods, Skokie, Illinois. Copyright 2016, Pamela Breitberg

Yesterday was all grey as the we received the first measurable snowfall of this winter, 7.5 inches. Today, as I drove past my old Forest Preserve stomping grounds I saw the sun peaking in and out of the clouds. Look closely and you can see a round disk in the sky that at first appears to be the moon; but it’s the sun bringing an array of color to the monochrome scene.

Hardy resilience…

Tough and strong are not the usual adjectives used to describe Daffodils, yet they perfectly describe their nature. Their bulbs are considered lasting in the garden because they are ignored by squirrels who prefer to dig up tulip bulbs. My focus on these spring beauties is on their stem and flowers’ resilience. Warm days followed by snow are typical of Chicago’s springtime weather. This can test both the heartiest Midwesterner as well as spring blooming plants who all seek the warmth and cheer of springtime sunshine.

Over the years I have learned to resist running outside to rescue daffodils lying on the ground frozen in a coat of white. It seemed a kindness to cut them, place them in a vase filled with warm water, and set them nearby to ensure their beauty would last a few more days. I underestimated their resilience.

These images show their falling blooms under the weight of fresh snow and ice followed by their return to upright stance and brilliance the following storm-free day. This analogy serves me well when I feel that trials are weighing me down. They may melt away in time if I stay strong. This spring these blooms have survived three consecutive rounds of sun and snow followed by more sun. Wow!

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Snow toppled Daffodils. Copyright 2016 Pamela Breitberg

White Daffodil under frosted snow. Copyright 2016 Pamela Breitberg

White Daffodil in the sunshine after the storm. Copyright 2016 Pamela Breitberg

Yellow Daffodil weighed down with snow. Copyright 2016 Pamela Breitberg

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Hardy return of Daffodil’s blossoms. Copyright 2016 Pamela Breitberg

Glory of the spring…

Chipmunk enjoying spring's warming. copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Chipmunk enjoying spring’s warming. copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

I’m thinking “glory of no snow” as temperatures reach the 60s today. This morning a chipmunk peaked its head outside its hole and surveyed springtime. The ground level perspective of Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae)
yields a feeling of strength for these dainty blooms. These bulbs are hardy, surviving many northern winters. They rise through the yet-to-recover, evergreen Pachysandra groundcover. In a month, snow and the Glory of the Snow will be faint memories as perennial growths elevate summer’s arrival.

Glory of the Snow rises from the warming Earth. copyright 2015, Pamela Breitberg

Glory of the Snow rises from the warming Earth. copyright 2015, Pamela Breitberg

Midwestern stamina…

And winter returns with 5 plus inches of snow this week. The crocus reflects our Midwestern, optimistic perseverance nature. I look at it and remind myself to stay strong and patient.

And winter returns with 5 plus inches of snow this week. The crocus reflects our Midwestern, optimistic persevering nature. I look at it and remind myself to stay strong and patient. copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Upright Crocus in spite of winter's refusal to retreat. copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Upright Crocus in spite of winter’s refusal to retreat. copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Spring’s varied habitats…

Two micro habitats on forest floor. copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Two micro habitats on forest floor. copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Two very different habitats though inches away in location. In the first image, the forest floor still has some un-melted snow while the top side of a decaying log resting on the same floor hosts a warmer habitat’s greening moss. The second image shows more green moss atop two logs resting in a typical vernal pool. Vernal pools are temporary springtime micro-habitats created when the still frozen ground has not yet absorbed the melted snows of winter.

Vernal spring pond with moss laden logs, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Vernal spring pond with moss laden logs, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Bitter fruit…

Barberry berries hanging on throughout winter's storms, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Barberry berries hanging on throughout winter’s storms, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Uneaten fruits, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Uneaten fruits, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) berries always take me by surprise when I spot their appearance in my otherwise barren winter garden. At times like our recent 19 inches of fresh snow, I expect our wintering, non-hibernating wildlife to be eating remaining food sources. The deer are frequent visitors to our yew shrub; no need for spring trimming by our hands. Yet, the bright red, attention grabbing berries of the Barberry bush remain abundantly intact on the branches. It turns out that their bitter taste; along with the thorny branches repel even the hungriest wild appetites. Us, humans, however have been known to eat them and use them medicinally.

Deer enjoying our Yew, copyright 2015 Steven Breitberg

Deer enjoying our Yew, copyright 2015 Steven Breitberg

Cheery blues…

Blue skies invited me to venture out after last week’s record setting snowstorm. The large clumps of snow clinging to branches were fresh evidence of the day-before’s blizzard conditions. The color blue is used to represent sadness and gloom. For me, nothing is cheerier in January than the brightness of snow against a clear blue sky. A stroll in the crisp air cures cabin fever quickly; after donning multiple layers of attire. No room for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) here! Tip: Hot cocoa goes well with winter’s blue skies.

Heavy laden branches, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Heavy laden branches, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Fresh snow stuck on highest limbs, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Fresh snow stuck on highest limbs, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Even the shade is bright and inviting, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Even the shade is bright and inviting, copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Meanwhile, back up north…What

What more needs to be said!! copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

What more needs to be said. This weather’s only for the hardy northerner.   copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Chicago's 5th worst single-storm snowfall last week. copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg

Chicago’s 5th worst single-storm snowfall last week. copyright 2015 Pamela Breitberg