the sky in transition

3 Mashiyyat 166 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Dif Juz, “Croswinds”

I first noticed the dark clouds as I was walking from a restaurant on Park Street to the Washington Hotel Coffee Room on Lakeside Street.  The clouds were a deep grey-blue-black and I was glad they weren’t over me.  I got a good view of them as I walked along South Shore Drive at the bottom of Monona Bay, and I could feel it.  Change was in the air.

I felt a few raindrops on the last block of my walk, and as I walked into the coffeehouse I could see that it was getting darker out.  Apparently, my sense of timing was immaculate.  Shortly after I got my drink and sat down to my journal it began to pour, with a few rumbles of thunder. The screen door to the patio was open, and the raindrops falling on it were making quite a racket. 

A little bit later I felt a cool breeze come in through the screen off the patio.  Then it became clear that things were changing.  I knew that this was the last day of summer weather.  It was in the seventies when I left my house, and I knew the high temperature the next day would be in the fifties.  The autumn weather was finally beginning to assert itself. 

It continued to rain for most of the two hours I was there, but when it came time for me to go to the Feast of Mashiyyat at the Baha’i Center a few doors down, amazingly, the rain had stopped.  I walked outside, but even though my walk was barely more than 100 feet, I could see that a drama was playing out in the sky above me.  Different clouds of differing shades rolled through and constantly changed shape, casting a slightly eerie glow on the street around me.  I wish I could stay and watch, but the Feast was going to start in a few minutes.

The nineteen months of the Baha’i Calendar are named for nineteen attributes of God, and this month, Mashiyyat, means “Will.”  The prayers at the beginning of the Baha’i Feast–known as the devotional part of the Feast–were focused on God’s Will.  They were beautiful and inspiring prayers.  Then we began the meeting portion of the Feast where we would discuss community affairs. 

Suddenly, a strange noise outside brought the meeting to a halt. At first we heard the wind pick up suddenly and dramatically, but shortly thereafter, it began to sound like thousands of pins and needles were falling from the sky.  One person said, “That doesn’t sound right.”  Everyone looked out the window and saw pea-sized hail falling outside.  People immediately began worrying about their cars, and about the roof at our Baha’i Center.  But just as quickly as it began, it ended. 

We continued our meeting, had a nice social gathering afterwards, and then I got a ride home.  As we were driving home, the gusts of wind continued.  I got home, went to bed, and as I lay in my bed, I could here the wind howling outside. I found it strangely peaceful.

The high winds have continued throughout the day today–sometimes with clouds, sometimes with rain, and sometimes with sunshine.  A lot of people feel gloomy about the weather. But to me, the change of seasons always brings a sense of freshness.  I feel like celebrating it–just as I would celebrate every new season…

a morning walk in the fog

18 ‘Izzat 166 B.E.  (Baha’i Calendar)
Drumbeat in my head:  Dif Juz, “No Motion”

This morning I woke up to find that relatively thick fog had enshrouded my neighborhood.  I decided to forgo making breakfast in favor of buying it at work,  and spend my early morning time going for a walk around the neighborhood to take in the newly eerie scenery.  

There was something peaceful about this scenery as I walked through the neighborhood.  There was something very clean and soothing about it.  There are a number of Victorian and century-old houses in my neighborhood, and they seemed to feel right at home in the fog-blurred air.  (I should have taken pictures!)

Two blocks from me is a tiny little park with a lakefront view.  This time I couldn’t see out more than about ten or twenty feet–I felt like I was staring into a cloud.  What little water I could see, however, had a beautiful reflection.

The fog stuck around well into the late morning.  I was conversing with someone who said she sensed that the fog was bringing people’s moods down.  I told her that my mood was actually lifted by this. 

I lived in Los Angeles for the better part of a year and I must say, I got tired of sunny days every day and having to put on sunglasses every time I walked outside.  I missed the the seasons when I was out there.  I like variety in my weather.   A sunny day can lift my mood, but a cloudy day relaxes me and makes me more reflective and meditative.  Too much of either can become draining for me

The fog lifted by the afternoon but it remained cloudy and humid.  It has stayed warm into the evening, almost summer-like.  I ran an errand just a little while ago, and the neighborhood still feels quite alive as it usually does during the summer.  But the summer noises are joined by the crackle and rustle of leaves on the ground, even though the trees are still mostly green. 

Autumn has been my favorite season for a very long time.  But I always forget why until autumn actually arrives.  It’s like I’m discovering autumn for the first time again each September and October. 


exploring southwest wisconsin

13 ‘Izzat 166 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Drumbeat in my head: Alison Krauss and Union Station, “Restless”

After my visit to the Baha’i House of Worship last Tuesday, I returned home to Madison Tuesday night.  Then Wednesday morning I set out to explore Southwest Wisconsin.  I had brunch in a small cafe in Belleville, then took WI Highway 39 and drove through New Glarus and Mineral Point.

Then from Mineral Point I picked up US Highway 151 and took it to Dubuque.  I’d always wanted to see that stretch of 151, but honestly it didn’t show me much.  At one point I stopped near Belmont to look at the site of the original capitol of the Wisconsin Territory, but I hadn’t realized that I’d be looking at a historic marker in the middle of nowhere.

I stopped in Dubuque for about two hours. The city has some high bluffs overlooking the downtown area and the river valley.  I discovered an elevator that could take me up to the top of a bluff.  This elevator consists of two stairstep elevator cars on very steep rails going up the bluff.  You pull the cord to alert the elevator operator and she starts the elevator, sending you up the bluff.  It costs $2 for a round-trip ride.  Neato.

From Dubuque I turned around and took US Highway 151 to Highway 35, which is supposed to be scenic.  It is scenic, but not between 151 and Prairie du Chien.  That stretch of the highway was disappointing, at least until it merged with US Highway 18 and went through some valleys to get to Prairie du Chien.  I stopped at the Brisbois Motor Lodge in downtown Prairie du Chien for the night.

The next morning I got back onto Highway 35 and traveled north to La Crosse.  This time, the scenery was wonderful.  The highway was located between the bluffs and the Mississippi River and I got great views of both.  

In La Crosse I stopped at Grandad’s Bluff.  One little secret–the banner of this website is taken from a older sunset photo taken from the top of Grandad’s Bluff.  From there I took Highway 35 to Trempealeau and Perrot State Park.  I did a little hiking there and took in the view of Trempealeau Mountain. 

The village of Trempealeau is a cute little river town, and I ate lunch at the Trempealeau Hotel, which had nice views of the Mississippi River.

From there I turned around and headed back to La Crosse, and from there I picked up US Highway 14 to head back home to Madison.  Highway 14 has some spectacular views of its own.

Southwest Wisconsin always has had a special place in my heart.  It is an area unaffected by the glaciers which covered the land tens of thousands of years ago, and there are a lot of bluffs and valleys covering that corner of the state. During this trip, I could see patches of fall color amidst the green.  I would like to see the area again when it has more fall colors. 

september is a great time for a vacation

8 ‘Izzat 166 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)

Drumbeat in my head: Glenn Yarborough, “Sunshine Fields of Love”

I am on vacation this week.  After weeklong vacations in March and June, I felt September would be a good time for another vacation. 

With this one, I get to relax more than I did the previous two.  The last two involved visits with a potential significant other, which ultimately didn’t work out.  This vacation is just for myself to enjoy, so I’ve been really looking forward to it.

On Saturday I went to Devil’s Lake with some friends, and did some hiking and canoeing.  Yesterday, I did my normal Sunday morning routine of going to the Washington Hotel Coffee Room and the devotionals at the Baha’i Center, but most of the rest of the day yesterday and today was spent running errands and hanging around the house.  Tomorrow, however, I rent a car and go to the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois.  I almost always find a vist there to be spiritually grounding.

Then on Wednesday and Thursday, I will be traveling around Southwest Wisconsin along Highway 35, which has beautiful views of the Mississippi River. 

It’s nice to be able to focus on relaxing, and nothing else but relaxing.  In some ways, though, that’s easier said than done.  Sometimes we are so focused on the things we need to do, it’s hard to just relax…