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Sunday the temps climbed into the 60’s (farenheit). Then Monday they crashed into the 20’s. Sometimes nature plays cruel jokes on us. But the reality is that winters along the Great Lakes are usually unpredictable and brutal. A planned trip to the reservation for hiking was scrapped because I just wasn’t ready for the bitter cold. But Rich and I wanted to do something–anything–to get out of the house. I don’t know when we hit on the idea of going to the Cleveland Zoo, specifically the Rainforest, but remembering that Monday’s are free we took five minutes to grab camera, bundle up, and head out the door. And what better place to visit on a bitter cold Cleveland day than the tropical rainforest! When we entered the building we encountered steamy warmth, a waterfall, and lush foliage. Ahhhh. What a treat. As we walked through the forest, the colors and sounds of animals from faraway lands in recreated habitats piqued our interests and sated our curiosity. This was more than an entertaining excursion to ward off winter-time blues however, it also proved to be a learning expedition as we discovered the ways animals and plants of every kind create an ecosystem across the globe, and how a rainforest in South America is crucial to life in Cleveland, OH and everywhere else. Fascinating. We also saw sobering displays of how we humans are destroying this ecosystem. By the time we departed the rainforest and headed back into the cold cold north country, our spirits were not only lifted, but we were more committed than ever to supporting conservation efforts. It was a good day of learning and enjoyment. I am grateful for the Cleveland Zoo Rainforest and all zoos that treat animals humanely while also educating the public about the quantum world of which we are a part.

 

Several things went wrong during the day. I was experiencing a bad case of the doldrums and feeling rather cross. The temperature outside was cold, and I don’t care for cold weather. My husband was preoccupied with the business of paying bills, making phone calls, etc. Blech…. not the best of days for me. I tried to be cheerful and chirpy but it kept coming off as snippy and persnickety. I kept telling myself that I should be grateful for being alive, living in a warm apartment with someone who loves me, and on and on, but to no avail. I was in a rotten mood! When that happens, oftentimes I need only change the environment or activity to eradicate the “blues.” Richard, recognizing what was happening, suggested a drive out to the country. So we bundled up, I grabbed my camera and we headed out the door. We drove to Chagrin Falls, OH, parked the car and started walking. The briskly cold air, holiday bunting still strung everywhere, cheerful crowds (Chagrin Falls is somewhat of a touristy quaint village near Cleveland), and late afternoon sun still shining lifted my spirits almost immediately. Strolling through the village, along the stream and even down to the falls, helped me to realize how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful world. If one is “stuck” in a bad place, change the place to lift the mood. That is not to say one doesn’t experience life changing tragedies and losses. Just that for me, on this particular day, a simple stroll along a stream that meanders through a quaint village was enough to clear the fog in my brain and remind me of the benefits of living a grateful life. I am grateful for the ability to change my perceptions by doing something as simple as taking an afternoon stroll along a beautiful stream.

 

Visiting my daughters in Chicago has always proven to be problematic. The main reason rarely  visit is because the cost of getting there is prohibitive. Well, not anymore! When we moved to Cleveland, I was introduced to the Megabus! These two-decker beauties are fun to travel in. They stop in major cities and run express lines throughout the northeastern part of the US. Rides are comfortable, and the buses are wired for electricity so you can plug in your phones or computers. They advertise free wi-fi, however you will be lucky if you are able to pick up a server. I was able to do coursework off-line for the seven hour trip, so I’m not complaining. In fact, I am already planning a return to the windy city in March! The Megabus is extremely economical, too. I booked round-trip tickets two weeks in advance for a TOTAL of $35.50. If you plan far enough in advance, you might even luck out and get a $1 ticket!  Another couple on the bus with me got $10 round-trip tickets when they reserved six weeks in advance. In case you haven’t figured out, I am sold on Megabus. They have provided a way for me to visit my daughters three or four times a year as opposed to once every two or three years.  I am extremely grateful for the Megabus!

 

 

Late yesterday afternoon Richard suggested that we drive to the lake to watch the sunset. I’ve mentioned several times since moving here that Cleveland is located at a point on the lake where we would be able to watch both sunrises and sunsets ~ if we made the effort, a not-too-veiled hint. We left the apartment while still broad daylight so I had no clue if we would catch a pretty sunset or not. Regardless, Richard and I would enjoy the lake for a few minutes together this evening. When we first arrived I was taken with the beautiful pastel colors and the almost impressionistic scene before me (for another blog.) Hand-in-hand, we strolled down a quay where a few fishermen lingered, took deep breaths and watched the sky become increasingly brilliant. After a while we drove to another point a mile or two further west where we witnessed even more profuse reds, yellows and oranges as the sun continued to sink in the sky . Both places offered up stunningly beautiful sights even as clouds obscured the sun. Yet. not to be deterred, the sun’s rays still lighted the sky in  a dazzling display of color. This photo is straight out of the camera ~ no editing, no enhancement. We watched. We breathed deeply. We stayed until almost dark, yet as we walked back to our car, the profusion of color continued to impress. I am grateful for the opportunity of watching the sun set over Lake Erie.

 

 

My friends all know that I love spring and summer. Spring is my favorite time of year because everything is coming back to life. I’m usually not so keen on autumn and winter. How sad because we are now living in Cleveland where there is a lot of the colder months! Having said all that however, it occurred to me earlier this week that autumn is a beautiful month. Yes, it is the harbinger of colder days ahead, but autumn itself is beautiful. Colors are more rustic, but they are brilliant none-the-less, as the photos attest. From what I’m told, the colors will continue to intensify as the season progresses so I have a lot to look forward to. Autumn is a transitional season as the earth prepares for its winter hibernation. I thought about how life is like that, too. I once dreaded the middle-age and old years. Not so much anymore. I’m discovering that life is as colorful and joyful as ever. I’ve really come into my own and I’m far more optimistic than I was in my youth. I can’t do all the things I use to do; I do other things, more meaningful things instead. Young folks look at me and see the added wrinkles — and pounds — and dread this stage much as I once did. But I’m discovering it is a grand stage in life. Autumn mirrors life. I have dreaded its arrival, but this past weekend as Richard and I were exploring new trails to hike, I was struck with the beauty of the coming autumnal season, and I smiled. I can honestly say that I am grateful for autumn.

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