Friday, August 13, 2010



Summer 2010 has been wicked for North Dakota. In August alone, we've had many days of temperatures in the low to mid 90s accompanied by very high humidity. This combination makes for an extremely unsettled atmosphere, and we have had numerous thunderstorms. This summer the weather service has issued twice as many severe T-storms warnings as it did last summer  - over 300.

We've had a number of nasty tornadoes across the state too. Just in the past week or so, we've had three F-4 tornadoes (F-5 is the highest on the Fujita scale) that destroyed farmsteads in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. Here in our TV viewing area, we've had three deaths from tornadoes this summer. That's almost unheard of.

We've also had many severe hailstorms with large hail. I mean, very large hail! A storm this summer in South Dakota produced the world's largest hail stone ever! (Link here:


Our meterologists tell us this violent weather is due to a devilishly capricious La Nina. All this steamy weather, more suited for Louisiana than North Dakota, has led many of our residents to wish summer was over already. But I would never wish such a thing. Really high temps and high humidity - leading to "The Sticky Factor" - those I can definitely do without. I can't sleep at night, I feel sick to my stomach and my knees hurt. But wish summer over? Never!

What is the rush to usher summer out so quickly? We Nodaks pined, we ached for summer last January and February. We greeted it with enthusiasm when it arrived in June, delayed as it often is. Aside from storms, July was heavenly. And now, in August, people want to boot summer out the door. It's as if we anticipated getting together with a warm, carefree, tender, casual lover for months. But now we're already tired of her and want to get replace her with autumn. Sure, summer was tempestuous at times, but what sensuous, voluptuous, passionate female isn't?

Although she is a vibrant and glamorous seducer, autumn is more austere, way cooler in demeanor and sometimes quite harsh in aspect.

"SUMMER VACATION" by Edward Potthost

So here we are in August, which people (mostly advertisers) have conspired to turn into a lame duck month. It's as if August can't be a summer month any more. The newspapers and TV bombard us with back-to-school ads. There are already football games on TV. We have to endure yet another silly season of Bret Favre toying with the Minnesota Vikings.

The stores are jammed with fall and Halloween merchandise.  You can't find any summer clothes on the racks - they're full of jackets and sweaters. Ads for air conditioners have been replaced by ads for furnace checkups, ads for lawn mowers by ads for snow blowers. I really feel as if I am being bashed over the head by the harbingers of fall.

Yes, there are signs that fall is on the way, but they are more natural, and subtle.

There are a few yellow leaves scattered across the lawns.
The evenings are cooler.
Darkness descends sooner.
You can't eat outdoors without being bothered by yellow jackets and flies.
There is mist on the car windows some early mornings.
The cricket orchestra tuned up about the first of August.
Apples and grapes are ripening.
The zucchini - like kudzu vines in the South - are taking over the world.
The goldenrod and asters are in bloom.


But like I said, these are subtle signs, and I wish they were the only signs being transmitted to us.

I say it's time to rebel against the fabricated onslaught of autumn! There is still time for summer, still time to let August to be August.

There is still time to:

Bring your sand pails along to the lake.
Enjoy an inexpensive smoothie at Mickey D's. It won't sound so appealing in November!
Go to the beach a few more weekends.
Find a shady nook in the back yard and read a book.
Fix up a little table with a colorful tablecloth and set out lemonade, cookies and fancy sandwiches (the kind you usually never make).
Cut an ice cold watermelon into semicircles, dive in up to your nose and chomp away, letting the sticky juices run down your chin.
Slice some lush, ripe peaches and drizzle them with cream and sugar.
Take your kids fishing for crappies. It doesn't matter to them what they catch, it just matters that they catch something.
Attend a craft fair or summer festival.
Go out into the country and pick a big bouquet of wildflowers. (See Re: goldenrod and asters.)
Visit a farmer's market or fruit stand and buy as much as you can comfortably afford. Make a meal entirely out of fresh fruit and veggies!
Give your tired flowers some fertilizer and the tender loving care they deserved ALL SUMMER LONG.
Go to a state fair (ND's is over but the huge Minnesota State Fair is over Labor Day Weekend). It's the best picture of Americana you can find these days. Have a deep fried Snickers on a stick - or anything on a stick - on me!
Take a drive through the countryside and just inhale the scent of crops being harvested.
Find a pool of water and immerse yourself in it.

"SUMMER STORIES" by Carol Arnold

Don't let August be a lame duck. The Victorians used to rent beach cottages for the entire month, with the wife and children staying there the whole time and the busy husband relaxing there on the weekends. As far as I know, France still practically shuts down for vacation in August.

Ironically, I have been unemployed most of the year but am now working this month. But I am still finding time to savor the gifts of summer before they fade away. Because I know that it won't be all that long now before I'm gazing out my patio door at a world made entirely white, and dreaming of that same view when it was a wall of green.

by Sally Swatland

Sunday, August 1, 2010


"LUGHNASADH" by Ruthie Redden

Having written three posts about Lughnasadh already, it's hard to come up with something new to celebrate this August 1 holiday. (One of the eight Celtic holidays of the year, Lughnasadh - or Lammas - celebrates the beginning of the harvest.) I was especially greedy with using Internet images in my posts and haven't been able to find any new images that I liked for Lughnasadh 2010.

That is, until I came across this "Lughnasadh" portrait by my Scottish blogging friend, Ruthie Redden. Ruthie paints "tales of folklore and myth, traditions and custom steeped in the Scottish and the Celtic". And, she has just opened her own website through which to sell her art! I am so pleased to use this Lughnasadh Day post to introduce you to her site, "Ruthie Redden": http:

Ruthie offers prints and originals of paintings in these themes: Celtic, Fantasy and Fairy, Folklore and Myth, Nature, Creatures and Bits and Pieces, and also offers prints of her fine photography. She also has a "bespoke" design service, for which she does portraits, calligraphy and stationery, including birth and wedding announcements.

Ruthie hasn't added a dollars-to-currency conversion to her site yet, but a British pound is approximately $1.57.


Ruthie paints beautiful red- and auburn-haired ladies, and this mermaid is no exception. The painting was inspired by "dusky, evening walks along Carrick shore, Kirkcudbrightshire, when sunsets glinting on swirling sea set imagination alight."


My witch's purse seems to be unexpectedly empty right now, but as soon as it refills itself again, I'm ordering this print. A Celtic totem (hare), Scottish thistles and a castle - What more could a Scottish lass ask for? "Cardoness Castle, Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway, is the 15th century ruined tower house of the McCulloch family".


Ruthie's paintings speak to my love for Celtic fantasy art. This one was inspired by "walks in the ancient Castramont Wood, Gatehouse of Fleet, listening to the music of the trees."


This painting makes me think of the Scottish tinkers and travelers (sometimes also called gypsies) that I have written about in this blog and my book blog. In fact, it was through Ruthie's blog that I first found some information I had been searching for on the subject of tinkers. This is a portrait of "A gypsy girl amongst the Galloway Hills."

Ruthie's blog, "5 Precious Things" is also delightful. Here is the link:

Here are my Lammas posts for 2007, 2008 and 2009:

And here is a Lammas poem: