Thursday, January 31, 2013

Puzzle Patterns

Here is what happens when you are working a jigsaw puzzle on a glass top table at night using a desk lamp. The light from the lamp throws shadows of the pieces onto the floor which, in this case, happens to be ceramic tile.

The mysterious, yet familiar, puzzle shapes form inlaid patterns on the floor, thanks to the lighting above.

Arizona's rainy nights have been perfect for puzzles -- and for catching up on reading and knitting.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cold Sunset

The evening temperatures were dropping even as streaks of lavender and salmon painted the western horizon. I'm not used to the desert cold. It comes quickly and efficiently, bringing a bite to the air even before darkness is settled and the sky has deepened.

It makes the January sunset seem cold.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mitten Motivation

I get motivated to knit different things at various seasons of the year. January and February are mitten months. My knitting brain starts planning mittens for Valentine's Day gifts. Gee, Hannah could use a pair, and her little sister, too. And maybe I can get mittens finished for the grandboys, too.

This week I pulled out the balls and skeins of mitten yarn, searched for the journal entries on previous mittens, and got busy planning new mittens.

The rainbow mittens in this photo are "cousins" to the mittens that I knit for Max when he was four. My notes  say that the mittens were big, so Mr. Finn, who is five, will get a pair of rainbow mittens.

Little girl mittens need to be purple and pink and turquoise and white, according to their winter jacket colors. I wound new yarn into balls for their mittens just this morning.

I call this my "mitten mess," this rummaging through the past leftover yarn, finding appropriate needles, searching for pattern ideas. By tonight the thumb will be installed in the second rainbow mitten and their will be pink stitches cast on for another set.

It is mitten motivation time.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, January 28, 2013

Drive By Photo

"Oh look at the sun on the mountains," Ed exclaimed as we were driving up Twin Peaks Road this weekend. I pulled my camera out, adjusted the settings and started shooting.

When the shutter speed is really fast (1/1600 at f / 4.5), then the camera can pick up objects that are flying by. That's what happened here as the artwork on the roadside walls (very close to the camera in the car) appears in focus.

Once again, what we are seeing in this image is pure serendipity -- not really planned, just happened. We get to see leaves etched in a concrete wall by the Arizona Department of Highways, a massive cloud formation and the mountains outlined by the setting sun.

It's a drive by photo that works.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Desert Rain

Temperatures hovered in the 50's yesterday as swath after swath of rain hit the Tucson area. Desert gray becomes green; water disappears into the rocky soil structure.

By late in the day, the National Weather Service out of Tucson was reporting record rainfall for many reporting stations around the area.

Desert Jim says that Ed brings the rain with him from Michigan. Whenever Ed arrives, the rain can't be too far behind!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Arctic Moon

The almost full moon rose over an Arctic looking White Rock Shoal on Thursday afternoon. Shadows cast cold fingers across the shoal while snow squalls advance toward the Canadian shore.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fire In The Snow

There's an ironic sort of serendipity in this photo taken through a window. The glow of the fireplace shines unmistakenly in the cedars, yet the snow covered branches are not burning.

I love it when this sort of stuff pops up in my digital photography.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rose Wreath

The lake effect snow sweeping across Michigan brought a new coat of snow to the Thumb overnight. Outside my kitchen window there is a very thorny Seven Sisters climbing rose that is trained up a post and over the pergola.

I hung a wreath in the rose bush this winter. This morning the wreath and the rose branches are snow frosted and waving in the wind. The parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are frosted too, as the kitchen herb garden hibernates (hmm, do plants hibernate?)  for the winter season.

By summer this rose is covered with hundreds of pink blooms that wind their fragrant way up the post and bid a rosey welcome at the doorway. Today Mother Nature has painted it frosty white and the winds toss the branches in a playful celebration of winter.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

With My Dad

I'm a little out of focus in this image that Ed took on Sunday while we were visiting in Wisconsin, but I just thought that my blog readers might like to see a photo of me with my Dad. Stan will be 92 in April and I turn 65 in February.

We were having a chuckle together at the soup lunch at Lomira Trinity United Methodist Church. Not bad for two "seniors" (Oh, how I hate that word. But that is another blog post.)

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

One Today

One Today
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.

Poet Richard Blanco read these lines yesterday, at the second inauguration of President Obama. Blanco's  words invoke the image of the vast and wondrous landscape that we, the people, share.

Early on a frigid January morning, on the day after the inauguration of another American president, I watch a ship plowing north through the icy Great Lakes. The sight of that single ship propels me into the one today that the poet writes about.

I just have this one day. It's really all any of us have.

Let it be a good day and let it begin.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, January 21, 2013

Light The Way

Our parents light the way for us.

Returning from a weekend spent with my Dad, I am reminded of my Mother, who died six years ago today. Her memory lights my life as does my Dad's presence in my life.

I can't describe their influence without an entire essay, maybe even a biographical remembrance.

For now, on this day, looking at this image of the lighthouse at Manistique, I am remembering. On the sometimes solo trips to be with my mother during her declining years, I made a ritual stop at this place to walk the boardwalk and photograph the lighthouse. Those times out of the car brought the world closer to me, even as my mother was slipping away.

So, stopping by the lighthouse, I see my Mother and am thankful again for her presence in my life.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ice Crystals

Ice crystals trace snowflake trails along the outside of a window in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin where the early morning temperatures were in the single digits. This image, taken with my Sony point-and-shoot Cybershot camera, was digitally altered in my "darkroom," otherwise known as Photoshop.

The morning dawned very clear and very cold -- a typical winter day in the north.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Temperature Change

Crossing Big Mac Bridge around 11 am Eastern Time
Yesterday's travel started at Mackinac City. We drove across the Mackinac Bridge and drove in snow all the way across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. U.S. 2 was snow covered all the way.

Ed walks toward snow covered Chevy Volt at Manistique
We saw snowplows and salt trucks. Stopping to have lunch at Manistique, we realized that the entire back end of the Chevy Volt was covered with an inch thick layer of packed snow. The temperature hovered around 15 degrees and it was cold.

Sunset along U. S. 41 north of Oshkosh
By the time we reached Escanaba and headed south, the snow had stopped. The roads were clear and the temperature began to rise. We reached Lomira, just south of Fond du Lac, by suppertime. It was a balmy 40 degrees outside and the car's snow covering had totally melted.

So, in one day's drive, we came through a 25 degree temperature change. That's like experiencing a summer storm where the temperature starts out at 90 and drops to 65 when a cold front arrives.

One wonders if the temperature changes were that extreme in years past. Or, is this kind of weather an indicator of climate change? 

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, January 18, 2013

Snow Scenes Around Pigeon

Looking north along Notter Road -- light snow falling
Swartzendruber Farm south of Pigeon
Graywood Designs building at 40 South Main, Pigeon Co-op Elevator in background

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fairy Garden

The creative people at The Flower Farm near Bad Axe sponsored a make-and-take class this week. I signed up for the class where we made a fairy garden.

Josh Roggenbuck and his staff ordered miniature ferns and other tiny plants to be assembled into a landscape scene. The fairy garden that I assembled is in the photo above. A bench, some ferns, a tiny snake plant, a patio stone and some landscape stones complete the scene. Reindeer moss covers the landscape.

The fairy, who might be as tall as two inches, is waiting for someone to come and sit on her garden bench. Maybe she is Tinkerbell and she is waiting for Peter Pan!

I took my fairy garden over to Country Gardens as a January gift for my mom-in-law. I know that she will enjoy the little scene. It's not quite like a secret garden, but almost.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Last Lion and New Knitting

I started a new reading project and a new knitting project this month. I'm on page 153 of the 1000 plus pages in William Manchester and Paul Reid's "The Last Lion," the last book in the series of three that Manchester wrote about Churchill. William Manchester died in 2004 and Paul Reid, with Manchester's blessing, took the research notes and finished this marvelous set of biography.

I've been reading Douglas Brinkley's "Cronkite" off and on. Brinkley chronicles the time that Walter Cronkite spent as a war correspondent in London during World War II's later days. The account in "Cronkite," while clearly serious and at a later time in London, has a carefree hint that is not present in the Churchill biography. In comparing the two accounts, I can see that Cronkite was chronicling while Churchill was governing.

"Last Lion" begins in the desperate days of 1940, before America entered the war. My admiration for Britain's tenacious will to survive has grown as I read the month by month account of the bombing of London and southern England. Churchill's strength of character rubbed off on the whole country. It was a desperate and remarkable time.

On to the knitting. It is the toe of a sock that you see atop the book.

I have never started knitting a sock from the toe up, but that's what I've learned to do this week. By means of a clever cast on process that loops yarn around two needles to create a starting point for both the underside (the sole) and the top (the instep), a sock is emerging from my needle.

I'm constantly amazed at the ingenuity of knitting. With two sticks and a strand of string, a very sculptural, practical fabric is built. Clever, clever.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Verona Road Sunset

I drove Verona Road south of M-142 in Huron County last night, just after sunset, and the sky was a watercolor wash of color. A distant blue floated behind soft lines of mauve and puffy pinks.

Verona Road is one of my favorite roads in Huron County. It has a scenic, hilly quality that makes me long to drive the hills of Wisconsin in Kettle Moraine country, near the farms where my Mom and Dad grew up.

The days are finally getting longer. It's nice to get in a car after work and be able to enjoy such beauty at the end of the day.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, January 14, 2013

Things I've Learned Since the Newtown Massacre

1. Gun enthusiasts know the difference between magazines and clips and automatic action and all such weaponry nomenclature. I don't, but I am learning. I did not know that the curved thing sticking out of the movie guns is a magazine. I learned that when David Gregory of NBC's Meet The Press held one up during his interview with the N.R.A.'s Wayne LaPierre a few weeks ago. Those curved pieces of plastic make a gun deadly in seconds. We need to ban them.

2. Nobody talked about what happened to the bodies of those children. In movies, things come apart when an automatic weapon is fired. The media spared the public details of the carnage. It is no wonder our president cried as he addressed the nation right after the Newtown massacre. It is no wonder that there was a look of horror on the faces of the law enforcement people at the school.

3. There is no one definition of a semi-automatic weapon. There are many, many kinds of these guns. There are many brands of guns. Guns are a bigger business than pet food or diapers, I'm guessing. And the business of guns is deeply embedded in American culture.

4. I have never set foot in a Walmart because I did not agree with their tactics on how they moved mega stores into rural America. We lost a lot of small businesses in our small towns when Walmart moved in. My non-presence in Walmart is not a big deal. Obviously, they get along without me or my dollars.

The recently revealed fact that Walmart is the nation's largest, and probably most accessible, seller of guns and ammunition gives me yet another reason to avoid their aisles.

5. The background check system is broken. Some reports say that the records that show that a background check was performed are destroyed by the gun seller within 48 hours of the check.  40% of gun sales are at gun shows, or occur between two private individuals. There are no background checks required for these sales.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Boxed In

This is my End of The Year filebox. I spent the better part of last week looking for it. Was it under a desk? Tucked in a closet? At the office? In my studio? My brain stumbled over the various places that I could see the filebox.

Well, it finally showed up yesterday, under one of the four foot plastic tables that I use for computer and crafting work. It wasn't under the studio table where I pictured it. It wasn't in the basement. It was in the sunroom and, yes, it was under a four foot table. Whew. I got something right.

So, the lost is found and I can continue with my paperwork for the end of 2012. In a way it is a relief to know where the box is. But while the box was gone, I was free to plot alternative and somewhat creative strategies for completing the tasks represented by the files in the box.

Now, I am back to Square One with the first deadline ahead. Tomorrow.

Oh well. That's life. I'm back to being boxed in, for now.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, January 12, 2013


A snow shovel stands guard at the mudroom door while parsley clumps lift their weary leaves in delight at seeing the sun again. It is the Time Of The January Thaw. The damp air is clammy, but warm.

Snow, once piled in banks and drifts, has melted. Vast ponds form on the fields. Even the dust that catches on the icy surface of roadside banks has disappeared, carried off by winter rains that beat the dirt into the ground.

The lawns turn green even as weather people forecast cold fronts and freezing nights. For now, patches of blue sky and an almost balmy midday bring thoughts of March and melt.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, January 11, 2013

Trim That Wick

Number One Son Will taught me how to trim the wick on a candle. You just grab the bendy part of the burnt wick (not while it is burning) and pinch it off.

Then a match will light the candle swiftly and cleanly. The candle burns with an upright flame and the pool of wax stays clear.

Trimming a wick is sort of like pruning an apple tree. The old is removed so that the new will be better.

It's a lesson, this wick trimming. Get rid of the burnt off stuff. Start fresh. It is a good thing to think about at the end of a work week and the start of the weekend.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January Salad

I served a spinach salad in my new pottery bowl from Liesl the other night. The bowl is a deep cobalt blue with brown glaze and it holds enough salad for 2-4 servings.

I tossed baby spinach in a vinaigrette made with maple sugar, olive oil and rice vinegar. I usually whisk in a bit of mustard for some flavor depth. Chunks of gala apple mixed with sunflower seeds were tossed with the spinach leaves. The salad was finished with a grind of black pepper. It was served with a bowl of chili mac and a slice of toast to mop up the extra vinaigrette.

It was a simple meal, but very yummy, perfect for a January day when food should be less complicated and still be satisfying.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter Skies and White Wind

The wind turbines just north of the corner of M-142 and Parisville Road stand as white giants against the blue winter sky. These turbines, on the east side of Huron County, started turning at the close of 2012 and are a part of the many new windmills in Michigan's Thumb.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Winter Engine

An engine surprised me on the little used spur of the Huron and Eastern Railroad north of Bad Axe yesterday. Here's the Learman Road crossing, one that does not have flashing lights or gates. I was headed west and saw the engine before it entered the row of evergreen trees that hides the track from view.

I know that the spur is used and I usually scan both north and south as I approach this crossing, but this engine was a bit of a surprise for me. There is a scene in the movie "Doctor Zhivago" where a train crosses the winter landscape. This encounter had a Zhivagoesque feel to it.

Now, why in the world did she take a photo, you will ask. I travel with my point-and-shoot Sony on the seat beside me. That's how I could capture an image like this from the driver side of my Chevy Volt. I can turn that camera on in a second or two. It is my ever handy companion.

As to the why of this photo, I guess it was the opportunity to catch this engine in action that made me grab for the camera.

Ephemera note: When you click on the photo and enlarge it, you will see that the engineer is facing backwards since the engine is backing into Bad Axe. The engineer's window is right above the "X" of the crossing sign.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, January 7, 2013

Little Owl

See the little owl sitting in this blue spruce tree? Ed took this photo last Friday out by our barn on Graywood Farm. The bird sat still as Ed approached him.

"He blinked his eyes," Ed said, when I commented that the owl almost looked like a toy. We perused the bird books last night and came to the tentative conclusion that the owl might be a screech owl. He appears to be 10-12" high and marked with a striped feather pattern.

It has been a number of years since we have seen or heard owls on the farm. Could this owl be a migrating visitor, or a local resident who has been upset by work in the barn, or a newcomer whose habitat has been altered by global warming? Whatever the cause of his visit, we're glad to welcome an owl to the farm and will keep a watchful eye out for further appearances.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Maple Bones

The big maple trees north of the lake house have good bones. By bones, I mean the structure of the tree -- trunk, limbs, branches.

Winter's bareness reveals more in the north land. You can see houses set back in wooded areas. In the summer, leaves hide buildings from view.

In winter, the outline of a tree's structure is readily apparent. We have been watching several lower limbs on this tree, thinking that there is some decay and that the tree might need pruning.

Another post about this tree: Maple Panorama

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Arctic Look

The temperature this morning hovered around 20 degrees when I stepped outside to take this image of White Rock Shoal on Lake Huron's Michigan shore. The ice and snow extend almost to the edge of the shoal.

Canada geese, once loud and close to the lake house, squawked in the distance. A layer of fog drifted over the open water, several miles from shore. Later, toward noon, the fog came close and seemed like a storm front.

Now, in the middle of the afternoon, the fog hangs in a haze over the shoreline, masking the clear blue sky of the morning.

It is an Arctic looking day on the Lake Huron shoreline in Pure Michigan.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, January 4, 2013

Detroit to Beijing

On the way to baggage claim at DTW (Detroit Metropolitan Airport) last night, we saw Delta Flight #189 leaving for Beijing and got curious. The flight left on the 3rd of January at 9:39 pm EST and arrived on the 5th of January at 12:20 am. It is a fourteen hour trip from Detroit to Beijing, non stop.

When I checked the flight tracker on the Delta app on my smartphone around midnight, the plane was at 33,000 feet over Hudson Bay. Today it has arrived and, of course, it is now tomorrow in Beijing, since the plane would have crossed the International Date Line somewhere in its flight.

It is this kind of information that makes me realize what a great and wondrous world we live in. We were headed for the shore of Lake Huron, one of the world's large freshwater lakes, and the passengers on that plane were headed across the polar ice cap for Beijing, in China, on the other side of the planet.


Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Agave Pups

Yesterday I wrote about the century plant or agave, as it is called. Here is the giant (well, sort of a big one) agave that is outside the front of our Tucson area home. If you look carefully you can see some of the pups, or little shoots that this plant likes to send out.

Here's a closer look at the pups. The root can run underground for several feet and pop up near other plants. Troy and Sue who take care of the landscaping have been digging up the pups and saving them for me.
In the IKEA Agaves post from last spring you can see what these pups look like when they are potted. The agave containers are quite handsome. Very desert looking.
So, for my Dad, this is the foreshadowing of his next Priority Mail box that is in the mail. Beware the agave pup! It's in the box, along with some cactus soil to plant the baby agave.
The pup will bring some southern sunshine to Dad's northern winter. Onward and upward!
Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Century Plant

A desert plant that gets a huge asparagus-looking flowering stalk, the century plant is a botanical curiosity. This plant, also called agave, commands attention simply by its three to five foot in diameter size. I photographed this agave out at the Desert Museum near Tucson this week.

The leaves are edged with spikes and grow from the center of the plant in a rosette fashion. When the flower stalk appears, it grows fast and high. The stalk shown in the photo was at least twelve feet tall and will probably get taller yet. Notice the dates (you can read the dates of 10/24, 11/28 and 12/12) on the pole beside the flower stalk that indicate the rate of growth.

Photographed at the Desert Museum, this placard explains that the blossom stalk indicates that the plant is at the end of its life. These plants are fun to watch and even more exciting to photograph as the stalk develops and the blossoms appear.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Another Year

We drove out into the desert foothills of Tucson Mountain Park, in the area overlooking Avra Valley yesterday, to watch the sun setting on 2012. It had been a day of blue sky and fluffy white clouds that accentuated the inky dark fold lines of the mountains surrounding Tucson. By evening, the clouds turned gray and lavender and deep pink.

In the desert, with cold nipping at my jeans and gnawing on my hands, the old year faded majestically into the west. The sun dipped in and out of cloud banks whose edges flamed with the intensity of the departing year.

Here we go. Another year is upon us like another birthday. Ed always says that a birthday is just another day, and yet, it is so much more.

The new year is like the center line of the highway. It disciplines us. We know when to cross and when to stay on the advancing side. The year frames our comings and goings. This year will take us places we have never been and it will return us to the old and comfortable, maybe even to home.

I have made several resolutions, not necessarily for the new year. I have been eating less and feeling better. That I will continue to do. I want to hone in on the social injustice of violence in our society and learn more about how guns feed that violence.

And, I'm thinking that I will try to get in a round of golf in every month of 2013. If there is one thing that I have learned in the last few years, it is the value of play, even if that play means chasing little white balls.

Happy New Year, from under the Willow that shades us all.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler