So, at the end of December 2013, I created a list of favorite things for each month to help me live in the present and appreciate each season in its time. Did the list help?
Yes! As the days rolled along, I found myself thinking about my "favorites" and enjoying simple magical moments.
I've decided to make it an annual tradition. For each month, I've identified a favorite nature-related "thing." Here are my reminders for the year ahead:
The long shadows of the Oak trees on the back garden can be mesmerizing. This effect is particularly dramatic on bright, sunny days after fresh snowfalls. I don't even have to go outside in the cold to see this!
New buds on the Cyclamen are almost as pretty as the blooms, themselves. This photo is from last February. I'll be curious to see if, and when, it blooms again this year.
Like any gardener, I'm thrilled to see the first shoots of spring-flowering bulb plants as welcome signs of new life. Some years these appear earlier, so mulch and snow help to protect them from the cold.
Some Cedar Waxwings are with us year-round, but they seem to gather in great groups and sing their high-pitched songs in great exuberance during the first mild days of spring. They're always a joy to see and hear!
There are so many plants and events to enjoy in May. My problem is less about finding a favorite thing than narrowing it down to one. But finding spring ephemerals, like Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) shown here, is an all-time favorite activity.
June is a prime hiking month in Wisconsin. I enjoy discovering native plants along the trails, like Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta).
Wildflowers at the cottage are plentiful in July. Shown here: Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus) and Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata). Both are pollinator favorites.
If I'm lucky, I'll find a Monarch caterpillar in my garden. Luckier still--to see it transform into an adult butterfly and nectar on my garden's flowers.
Nothing says "September" like regal Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.). When I saw these blooms reaching for the hazy sun during a late-summer hike, I knew this memory would supply warmth during the cold winter months. I believe this plant is either H. decapetalus or H. tuberosus.
Maple leaves in warm reds, oranges, and yellows make October in Wisconsin a truly stunning place. If you enjoy autumn foliage, this is a great destination for an October trip.
Most years, November is a grey, brown, misty month here. But it's still a great time for hiking. The temperatures aren't too cold (usually) and the leaves form a soft cushion on the trails. Several new trails are opening near my home, and I can't wait to explore them!
What's more fascinating than a simple seed head? (Said the plant nerd.) This one, from Clematis 'Nelly Moser,' looks soft enough for a bird's nest and pretty enough for a decorative pin. I enjoy photographing seed heads on milder December days.
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When I think of these simple pleasures, and many more, the year ahead looks bright and hopeful. Each month carries its own unique blessings.
My wish for you in the year ahead is that you'll find many simple "favorite things" and gifts that will bring you much joy.
Happy New Year!