Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

Mile Marker ZeroBeginning: Mile ZeroI love when a trail has mile markers. I seem to lack the innate ability to know how far I’ve walked (or, frankly, how far I should walk). I’m sure it’s because I’m distracted by the scenery or even my own thoughts, so I appreciate when the trail keeps track for me.

I walked the entire 20.1 mile Old Plank Road Trail at the beginning of last year. I did it haphazardly, walking a short section at a time, there and back. I snapped pictures of the mile markers with my phone to help me keep track of where I’d walked.

It seemed an appropriate time to go back to the beginning.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy

Joy on the Trail

Joy!

When I read The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge this week, I pictured walking behind my son when we first set out on a quiet trail. As I’ve written before, this daily walk resolution of mine has been such a blessing: we’ve found something enjoyable that we can do with our youngest son, fourteen and on the autism spectrum.

He is so happy to be outside walking that he often takes off skipping for the first few hundred yards. He eventually slows down and we catch up, but I loved to capture those first joyful steps throughout this year of walking.

It is this joy that will keep us walking beyond 2013.

My son, joyfully swinging off in the distance, while I continued walking the loop at a local park in July.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Community

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Walking through Chicago history at Graceland Cemetery

Historic Community

I learned about Graceland Cemetery in the Notes section of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, where he noted that Graceland is “an utterly charming haven where, paradoxically, history comes alive.” (394) I could not agree more. I took a walk there on a sunny day in early September and loved it. It’s gorgeous and so interesting.

Many of the figures in Chicago history are buried at Graceland on Chicago’s north side. I cannot name them all, but architects like Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, and Mies van der Rohe are buried at Graceland. Marshall Field and Potter Palmer, both famous Chicago businessmen, and the inventors, Cyrus McCormick and George Pullman, are at Graceland too.

Graceland is a different type of community to be sure, but it is a community of people that have accomplished great things, and even though these people were not all contemporaries, their stories are all together at Graceland Cemetery.

Graceland Monuments

Graceland Cemetary Graceland VaultsThanks, Daily Post, for the chance to post again about one of my favorite walks this year as I complete my resolution.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light!

American Kestrel on a Streetlamp

I took the following pictures at dusk in a new housing development. I was trying to figure out what kind of bird this is while walking on Day Three Hundred Thirty-five of my “Walk Every Day in 2013” resolution. I kept shooting as I got closer and closer to the bird, until he had enough of me and flew away. Thankfully, because of the light from this streetlamp, I was able to determine that it is an American Kestrel.

My bird book states that it’s a fairly common bird, but I’ve never seen one before tonight. So even though these are not the crispest, clearest photos in the world, I do get to add the American Kestrel to my list of new birds that I’ve seen while out walking in 2013!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

The Best Layers are at the Bottom (of this Post)

While out walking this week, I kept on the lookout for “layers,” so that I could participate in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. I snapped a picture of a pine cone that first day, but wasn’t thrilled and had trouble finding any other ideas.

Today, while out walking in my neighborhood, I decided to settle and simply look for more pine cones. It was harder than I thought it would be. Pine cones, I determined, are one of those things that you see all of the time, but can’t find when you’re looking for them.

(It would probably have helped too if I knew something about pine cones before I left–like not every pine tree has cones every year. I also learned, after some research, that there are male and female pine cones, but I’m not sure at all how that relates to my photographing layers.)

Finally, I found and photographed a few pine cones. The layers are pretty cool. (I have a good friend who would animatedly bring up her favorite mathematician, Fibonacci at this point.) Most of the cones I left untouched but did “stage” one picture in order to get a more interesting photo. I’m not saying which one; feel free to guess.

The strangest thing of all is that upon returning home, I found the coolest layers right outside my door.

This fungus has been growing all summer and fall on the stump of a maple tree that we had cut down because it was just too close to the house. I love how there are both physical layers and layers of color, and I think this picture shows it best:

IMG_2023Fun walking, fun (fungus?) challenge!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie

Eerie Twisted Trees and a Graveyard Bonus

For the Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie, I’m offering photos of some of the dead or dying trees that I’ve seen on my walks this year. Their twisted trunks and branches feel even more sinister in black and white.

As a bonus, I’m adding the following picture at the Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois. This monument was eerie enough in color; in black and white, it downright gives me the creeps.

 "Eternal Silence" by Lorado Taft at the gravesite of Dexter Graves

“Eternal Silence” by Lorado Taft at the gravesite of Dexter Graves

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

The Horizon, Vastness, and Memories

The Daily Post, in this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon, asks the question, “Is there a particular horizon that speaks to you?” I would have to answer that question, “not really”, but as someone who grew up spending many a summer day in western Michigan along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, I first thought of that horizon. The lake seems more like an ocean than a lake, especially to a child, and the sharp line where water meets sky has always intrigued me.

Back then, the water always seemed so infinite, until the day a brisk east wind took my new beach ball “to Milwaukee” (as my Dad said), and I realized that the lake, although great, was finite. Later, when my dad gave me an old camera of his, it was the lake and the horizon that were my favorite subjects, and I took plenty of overly dark and blurry sunset pictures. My dad took better pictures of us too with that horizon as a backdrop, and those pictures bring back great memories. As an adult, I realize that it’s the people and the memories that I cherish, not just the scenery behind us.

When I thought about taking this challenge, I set some parameters for myself. My gallery of pictures includes only pictures from my walks in 2013. As an ode to the horizon of my childhood, the first group includes pictures taken along the shores of Lake Michigan, from three of the four states that border it: Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

It’s the “things” in these pictures that makes them interesting: the things in front of the horizon, the things that break up the horizon, and the natural wonders like clouds and waves. I’ve enjoyed looking again at these pictures with a new eye and remember those walks well. It brought to mind other, different walks that I also remembered and enjoyed.

One of the things that surprised me most through these past ten months of walking is just how beautiful the flat grasslands of Illinois are. The interaction between prairie and sky is different than the sharp horizon line between water and sky, but has an infinite beauty of its own.

As I look back at the pictures from these walks, I remember the beauty of creation: the colorful fields of flowers, the waves of the grasses, and the vastness of the sky. But, I also remember who was with me on each walk and that we had a nice time, and that’s what speaks to me.

Those memories are as important as the scenery.

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My son, enjoying the vast quietness of a closed road, at the Midewin National Prairie.