Forget Punxsutawney Phil, I say summer is around the corner…

Pigeon RiverForget Punxsutawney Phil, I say summer is around the corner… or at least in my mind, which seems fixated on warmer days filled with biking, hiking, and splashing in Lake Emma. Blame it on the dreadful weather forecast–rain: a word one never utters in a ski town. So, I’m allowing myself to drift away from the gloomy drizzle, which is turning my ski trails and slopes into mush, and remember a sun-smothered day surrounded by greenery and butterflies, a little like stepping into a children’s book.MTB

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A blue cloud hovered over the mud puddle. It burst apart as my mountain bike bounced, then splashed, through the water. Dozens of butterflies flitted around me. Their delicate wings sliced through the air, so close I imagined a soft caress. I pedaled past them and they rejoined, becoming a cloud once again and settling near the water.

I hesitated, straddling my bike, and turned around. A butterfly fluttered its wings and rose, but the others were still. They appeared as one being, a giant winged creature of a blue so extraordinary it seemed not of this earth.

The moment felt like a gift, as if I had tumbled into a favorite storybook: The Secret Garden mixed with a dash of The Wizard of Oz. Few creatures whisper magic like the butterfly and its winged friends. I had never thought much about these insects until we bought our house in northern Michigan. There, among the red pines and restless wind, they gather like welcome guests, friends returning after the brutality of winter.

SunsetKayakA few years ago, while paddling the headwaters of northeastern Michigan’s Ocqueoc River, I rounded a corner and encountered dozens of green damselflies. My paddle dangled in my fingers, and they descended upon my kayak. I drifted in the narrow river. Their wings vibrated in the sun, and they moved constantly, sensing what I was unable to see.

Last summer zebra-striped dragonflies zipped along while I paddled the Upper Peninsula’s Indian River. At times they crashed into me, their bodies feeling strangely powerful. And on northeastern Michigan’s Black River, butterflies flounced among white pom-pom flowers, the scene so perfect it belonged in a children’s picture book.

These winged creatures are nature’s showstoppers, never failing to entertain. Returning one evening from a hike, my headlamp caught a giant, brown moth gathered on our porch. Attracted to the light splashing from inside, it looked almost prehistoric. Petite pink-and-yellow moths rested nearby.

On another kayak trip, my paddle skimmed over northern Michigan’s Lake Emma. Drops flew in the air, and I noticed a black-and-white dragonfly playing in the spray. It flitted here and there, in and out of the moisture. I paused, captivated by the charm of a dragonfly’s water dance, another opportunity to see how magical, how astonishing the world really is.

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