December 29, 2014

Twelve of My Favorite Things (2014)

At the end of last year, I started a personal tradition. I've always had a habit of "wishing away" the winter and a bit of trouble adjusting to some seasonal transitions.

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:

January

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!

February

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.

March

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.

April

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!

May

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

June is a prime hiking month in Wisconsin. I enjoy discovering native plants along the trails, like Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta).

July

Wildflowers at the cottage are plentiful in July. Shown here: Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus) and Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata). Both are pollinator favorites.

August

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.

September

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.

October

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.

November

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!

December

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!

58 comments:

  1. Very pretty images Beth. I really love November and I agree with what you wrote. Nice yearly tradition too.

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    1. Thank you, Donna! I think part of the downer about November here is that October is so stunning. When I think of it that way, November is a little easier to take. At least it's still comfortable (with a warm coat) to be outside. Happy New Year!

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  2. Beth I love this tradition and the photos are exquisite with your special memories...thanks for sharing and reminding us to savor each moment!

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    1. Thanks, Donna. This exercise seemed to help me cope with winter last year, and what a winter it was! So, I thought I'd give it a try again--for my own peace of mind and to share the idea. Happy New Year1

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  3. Dear Beth, creating a list of favorite things for each month is really a cool idea! Autumn and Winter are very lovely months here in San Diego, so no problem there. But in my case I have trouble embracing the really hot months of August and September. So maybe I should make a list of favorite things at least for these months as well :-)! Wishing you a healthy, happy and peaceful New Year 2015! Hope it will be a good year for the gardens and nature as well! Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Thank you, Christina! It's so interesting that you think of summer in San Diego as hot. Your summers (on average) are cooler than ours here in the Madison area, and those are the days I love the most. ;-) But I would trade winters, for sure! Blessings and happy gardening in the months ahead!

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  4. We should all do like you. It is funny how hard it is to appreciate the moment. We somehow always seem to be looking forward or backward but rarely at the moment. Your method should help.
    Have a very good 2015.

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    1. Yes, Alain, even when I'm in the moment, I find myself straying to the past or future sometimes. It's those rare, crystal clear moments of joy that I remember with clarity, however, and I find they're the most fulfilling. All the best to you and yours in the New Year!

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  5. This is a very beautiful way to wrap up the year, I cannot chose which image I alike most, every season has its wonders and nature brings us the possibilities to enjoy life at its best. Have a wonderful and healthy new year 2015!!!

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    1. Thank you, Lula. I feel blessed to live in a place that has four distinct seasons (even if the cold one lasts too long). As much as I bemoan the winter, it helps me to pause and take stock. A blessed New Year to you, too!

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  6. Beautifully you showed in the pictures a year that passes. I hope that the new was lucky for you

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    1. Hi Giga: I hope 2015 will be a great year for you, as well. I so enjoy learning about Poland and Central European plants and gardening practices through your blog. Thank you for your kind comments!

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  7. What a great idea! January and February tend to be dismal winter months for me, and by the time of the end of last winter's long winter, it was hard to conjure up memories of spring! This winter seems to be more mild so far, thankfully, though by February I might need to start searching for my own favorites :) Some lovely photos and memories!

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    1. Thanks, Indie. I agree: In a northern garden, winter is simply too long. It's stunning and restful, but it drags on ... We are having a milder winter so far, too--especially compared with last year. But I'm hoping January and February won't throw too many surprise cold snaps/snowstorms our way. If so, we'll find ways to cope, and maybe even to enjoy the moments. ;-) Happy New Year!

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  8. My oh my....December's image is stunning, with each fiber so clearly seized. Don't you just love celebrating month by month? It is a poetic challenge to try to fit into a few sentences how each month enthralls us. You have done such a beautiful job here! It was a splendid year, and I wish you a fabulous 2015. We are neighbors, as I recall? I'm in Minnesota, you in Wisconsin? HAPPY WINTER! Anita

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    1. Yes, you are my neighbor, Anita. :) I have family and friends in Minnesota, and my daughter goes to school in your lovely state. So, it almost feels like home. Thank you for your very kind comments. The "big picture" of the "little moments" helps me to see what a joy it is to be alive. All the best to you and yours in the New Year!

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  9. These photos are incredible! This is such a good idea. :) I love the mindfulness of it.

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    1. Thanks, Tammy. This all started last year when I said to myself, "Enough! Enough of your wishing away all those days between Jan. 1 and mid-March!" There's so much living and so much joy to be found even when the weather is challenging. With that said, I will never choose to live further north than I do right now. ;-)

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  10. Great photos & idea Beth. I am also guilty of wishing away the winter which is terrible since it also is a part of life. I need to adopt your attitude. Happy New Year to you and thanks for being such a wonderful blogger. You are the best commenter around.

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    1. Thank you, Kathleen! Speaking of kind comments! I hope someday that we can meet. I have the impression that we would be fast friends--virtually or in person. :-) Plus, we share a struggle with acceptance of winter. Happy New Year, and I can't wait to visit your blog many times in the months ahead!

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  11. Great post and images! But could you send some of your Cedar Waxwings to our garden? We have lots of plants for them.

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    1. Thanks, Jason. You bet! I'll mention to them when they show up that some of them should split off toward Evanston for some tasty berries and insects. ;-)

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  12. Beautiful photos and posts -- I love the pussytoes and dotted horsemint. So strange to find ourselves actually wishing for a little snow when we've wished for less the past few Decembers.

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    1. Thank you, Heather. Yes, it is a bit odd to have snow in November and no snow in December. I can't say I miss it much, but a little at Christmas time would have been nice. I just hope we don't all of a sudden have tons of it! Happy New Year!

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  13. Wisconsin and southern California are so different. Maybe I should try this with the summer months of August and September? I'll take some cedar waxwings, too. Tell them I have plenty of cotoneaster berries for them. I like the bud in stems for February.

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    1. Actually, I think our summer temps are very similar--we tend to have highs in the 80s and 90s in June, July, and August. The only difference is that it can be quite humid here. But I'd much prefer your winters to ours! Love your Cotoneasters! I have one Cotoneaster shrub and it's one of my favorites. :)

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  14. Nice to see Antennaria neglecta, a favorite! There's no getting around it ... winters are harsh and long in places like Madison and Laramie. So it's really important to find things to appreciate! How about the beautiful low light of winter? and the sparkles of snow and ice?

    best wishes for 2015!

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    1. Yes, we do have brutal winters here in the mid-section of the country. The sparkles of snow and ice -- stunning, for sure! The low light -- not a favorite thing for me. I have a touch of seasonal affective disorder, so I need light! The dark days just make me want to hibernate. ;-) But there are definitely benefits to slowing the pace of life down a bit. Happy New Year, Hollis!

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  15. Once again, you lead the way in finding ways to appreciate the moment.

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    1. Why, thank you! I'm still working on it myself. That's why I needed to write the first one of these posts last year, and why I needed to remind myself again this year. Blogging is a wonderful way to notice these things at a deeper level, isn't it? Cheers, Ricki!

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  16. pussytoes I'd love to grow in my garden.

    Cautiously adjusting to the summer Southeaster, while we, people cats and plants, enjoy a summer that is mid to high twenties, instead of flirting with 40C (104F). No longer do my plants whimper, it's HOT here ...

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    1. Yes, the Pussytoes are interesting--especially when coming across them during a hike. Ah, so happy for you to have a comfortable summer! High 20sC (80sF) is just about perfect weather in my book! Enjoy!

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  17. What a lovely idea and I have to agree with a number of your favorites like oak shadows and bloodroots.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, the Oak shadows are pretty amazing, aren't they? The same thing happened today, except we don't have any snow so the effect wasn't quite as dramatic. My heart skips a beat when I see the Bloodroots blooming in May. They don't last long, but they mean spring is really here. Happy New Year!

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  18. Your photos really do capture the spirit of each month! It would take a lot to make me love winter, especially the English one which is so dull and damp.But if I look very hard, even today at the end of December I can find signs of new growth out there. That keeps me going!

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    1. I agree--the signs of new growth make me optimistic, too. I think a gray, damp winter would be difficult for me, except that you have flowering plants all winter. That must be wonderful! We only see flowers outdoors about eight to nine (if we're lucky) months out of the year. All the best to you and yours in the year ahead!

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  19. What a wonderful idea, Beth! I've spent far too much time "wishing away" days; the older I get, the more I realize every one of those days is precious. I'm actually looking forward to the winter. Time to look through garden books, plan ahead, get some indoor projects done, and just curl up with a good book--all things I don't have much time for during busy gardening season. Beautiful photos--you make even November look lovely! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and sending you best wishes for the New Year!

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    1. Thanks, Rose. What you said is so true: Each day is precious! I just finished a book tonight, and enjoyed the luxury of the time to do so. :) The football games are keeping me busy, too. The photo I used for November was from December--because our December was so November-like! Actually, it was one of those foggy, misty days from early in December. A beautiful, magical day.

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  20. Lovely memories of a year gone by and some wonderful memories you've yet to make in 2015!
    All the very best to you and yours in 2015 Beth!

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    1. Thanks, Angie! Yes, I'm looking forward to the year ahead. Part of the reason is visiting blogs like yours. Happy New Year!

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  21. Your photos are beautiful and the thought behind them a really great idea, thank you for sharing them with us Beth!
    Sometimes we ned a little reminder of what to appreciate, although I can’t say I have any month I don’t like – here in London there is always something going on :-)
    Wishing you and your family the very best for 2015!

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    1. Thanks! You are fortunate, Helene. I always say the part of the country where I live is perfect ... except for winter. ;-) Last winter was especially hard, and I can't really complain this year. But, yeah, I'm always thrilled to get back out in the garden in the spring. All the best to you and yours in the New Year!

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  22. Wonderful tradition.... Love the photos to go with. I hope to raise some monarchs next year as they don't survive the European paper wasps.... Happy New Year Beth... Michelle

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. I enjoyed having many Monarchs in the garden this past summer, and one very hungry caterpillar (at least that was the only one I noticed). Hope it happens more next summer. :)

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  23. I love your idea. Even in the darkest of days, there is always something to be grateful for, isn't there? I'm planting more milkweed this year and praying I finally have a fluttery visitor that will raise her family here. We shall see. Happy New Year.

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    1. Thanks, Grace. Yes, there is always something to be thankful for. Pleasure in simple things keeps a person full of joy. :) Happy New Year!

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  24. Beautiful images Beth, and a timely reminder to enjoy the moment. So much to look forward to in the coming year, I hope it is a good one, for you and for your garden.

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    1. Thanks, Janet. I hope your year--in the garden, and your new endeavors--will be successful!

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  25. A beautiful calendar of images - have a lovely 2015, too :)

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    1. Thank you! It does seem to help me focus on the blessings. Looking forward to visiting your blog in the months ahead. :)

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  26. What a great idea. I love your favourite things pics round the year. Those waxwings are adorable.

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    1. Thanks, Chloris. Yes, the Cedar Waxwings are beautiful. I find them difficult to photograph because they're a little shy. But I usually hear them first, and then sometimes I'm lucky enough to get out with the camera before they disperse.

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  27. Much joy comes to those who appreciate the simple beauties in the garden. Your photos are wonderful. I especially love June's Pussytoes and December's seed head. Stay snug and warm, and enjoy every month to come. Happy New Year!

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    1. Thank you, Deb. I agree that appreciating simple pleasures makes for a joyful life. For now, crocheting, blogging, and reading are my winter pleasures. I hope you're having a relaxing January so far. :)

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  28. Beautiful images as usual. The last one of the seedhead is marvelous.

    So jealous on your cedar waxwings. I've planted a number of Eastern redcedar trees to lure some onto the property, but no dice yet. Perhaps if my newly planted wax myrtles thrive and produce some berries, that might do the trick?

    Happy 2015!

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    1. Thank you, Aaron! Most of the time I only hear the Cedar Waxwings, because they hide so well within the branches. It's thrilling to hear big flocks of them singing their high-pitched song. They do seem to like the berries. Good luck!

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  29. Replies
    1. Oh, yes, the spring ephemerals are so joyous. They make my heart sing! :)

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