Waiting for my friends to walk on

This Christmas tide has been a time of watchful waiting. It’s been a time of intentional candles and tearful remembrances of two strong women who have been angels surrounding me. About a month ago, I had the undeniable calling to write about one of my elder friends. I felt driven to write as if it were urgent and I had to capture the essence. I had to pay attention.

This friend is a writer. I wanted to talk about our friendship and how her quiet love was like having an angel surrounding me. I had photos of Kay and her land that she shared with me when I visited her home. I knew what inspired her to write about a tree that she loved. Writing comes in the middle of the night now with this post.

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Kay Karras lives in Solon Springs, Wisconsin. We have spent many happy hours together over the years. She is a life long friend and poet with several chat books. Her latest work Bits of Birch, was published in 2008 by Belle Ink, LLC. At the time of publication, she was 90 years old, a remarkably strong spirited woman. Kay was chosen as Poet Laureate of Solon Springs a few years back.Back then, my friend would visit her elderly sister every week, driving at least 80 miles round trip from Solon Springs to Spooner and back. She would stop mid way at my house in Minong on many of these trips. We would sit outside in good weather and I would make her a cup of tea, or we would sit and chat in the house. She is such a loving friend who took the time to visit. Kay made me feel like a chosen one. I often felt she was looking out for me like an angel on your shoulder.I miss her and her wit. Oh Kay has wit. I have never known anyone before who could recite poetry from the top of her head like she can. She has sent me prayer cards and greeting cards over the years with angels as a theme. Kay Karras is an angel to me and I love her very much.

Photo Gallery

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Kay Karras I love poets
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Kay with book cover by Kathy Maas
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Kay’s favorite tree where poem was dedicated
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Kay’s heirloom rose
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Life before on the farm
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A dirt road on property
Always
by Kay Karras
I think of you
When the day is ending
My dreams hold the memory of you
Always.

Wintergreen

by Kay Karras

By Way of the Wintergreen Tree

Your little bare feet brought you to me

A lad so young – so happy, so free

To hunt wintergreens by

the wintergreen tree.

You take me back to the days when I was

A bare foot girl ‘neath an azure sky

Came to hunt in the cooling breeze

The wintergreen berries

and wintergreen leaves

I see in your happy eyes the smile

Making me wonder all the while

As the years fly by and I cease to be

Will you look for me, here?

by the wintergreen tree?

Kay gave so much to so many women. She was a member of the St. Croix Writers Group in Solon Spring, WI. What tribute can I give her, but a response to her love. She was a mantle for many. We can feel the same love now even when she no longer lives here.

Her daughter Maryann sent me a poem that she wrote for her mother. I knew she had one daughter in California. She’s a dark haired beauty of native descent. Kay sent her bear paws years ago that never made it to their destination; she was heartsick about it. She was a woodlands woman familiar with hunting, fishing and gardening. Kay was of the earth and a survivalist. She taught her children well.

My other friend lived in a different world. Dorothy was from the city. Years ago, when I was a young woman, we worked in publishing in Washington, DC. Another strong woman Dorothy Hill befriended me. We worked for a Jewish family who treated their employees well, like family. Our work was investigative and we worked on the Hill. The publishing house dealt with chemicals in food and cosmetics, Food Chemical News and Pesticide and Chemical News.

It was an informative time. It was here I learned that all that came in packages was not well, including food and cosmetics. This was my first exposure to the world  that was not as safe as I once believed. Madison Avenue is effective in what they do. Everything in society is about marketing and selling.

Dorothy came to my wedding at St. Dominic’s Church, in DC in 1985. She was suffering a terrible tooth ache from an abscess tooth and was immediately going to the dentist after the wedding. I knew then that she would do anything to show that she loved me. I trusted her. I didn’t trust my own mother and Dorothy taught me that she loved me unconditionally. What a beautiful friend. We both came from alcoholic families. She was married to a drinker and I was born into a family of alcoholism. I have trust issues when it comes to letting people get close to me. Dorothy broke that shell as did Kay.

We have been friends for what seems like forever. Now she is no longer here, but ascended to where love abides blissfully and showers us here the Earth. I am not alone even though I have said goodbye to many things. I am amused of course and dedicated to my work, but my own family of a husband, Tia the dog, and three cats don’t live here anymore. I don’t live on the land anymore that I loved in northwest Wisconsin. I had to leave my northern retreat for health reasons. Now I live on the east coast near family. This is a new chapter in my life. I have been gallivanting around the world for most of my adult life. Now I am spending these precious days with family as I age.

God Bless you all who have walked with me through these writings. May you know the value of family and friends surrounding you.

Be well Insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

This county story starts under a plant – Spooner Advocate: Arts & Crafts: spooner advocate, monarch, mary ellen ryall, shell lake, washburn county

For those looking for a Christmas gift inspired by a Washburn

County story, one idea is My Name is Butterfly, a book written by

Mary Ellen Rya…

via This county story starts under a plant – Spooner Advocate: Arts & Crafts: spooner advocate, monarch, mary ellen ryall, shell lake, washburn county.

This county story starts under a plant

  • test4Writer and butterfly fan

Frank Zufall

Writer and butterfly fan

Mary Ellen Ryall is surrounded by photos and her journal used to document the emergence of a monarch butterfly in her garden in 2003, which eventually became the story for My Name is Butterfly.

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 8:31 am | Updated: 11:51 am, Thu Dec 22, 2011.

BY FRANK ZUFALL | 0 comments

For those looking for a Christmas gift inspired by a Washburn County story, one idea is My Name is Butterfly, a book written by Mary Ellen Ryall, director of Happy Tonics, the organization behind the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake.

Ryall wrote the story based on personal observations in her Minong garden in 2003.

“I saw this chrysalis under a bean plant, attached to the bottom of the bean leaf,” she said. “I thought, ‘What in heaven’s name is this?'”

She took a photo of the chrysalis and sent it to a friend in Ohio. “She said, ‘Mary-Ellen, do you realize you have a monarch butterfly chrysalis there?'”

From ground level, Ryall studied and observed the chrysalis change to adult butterfly.

“While I was there I had my bottle of water and this notepad,” she said. “I kept wondering, ‘What is she trying to teach me?’ I had no idea why I was having this experience, and I wrote down even about that.”

Ryall said a rabbit had eaten part of the leaf where the chrysalis was anchored, so she constructed a little fence around the bean plant.

“If that rabbit had come back one more day, I wouldn’t even have a chrysalis left.”

When the chrysalis turned dark, Ryall knew the butterfly was about to emerge.

“This is the very first time the butterfly comes out. Her wings were completely wet,” she said, “and I was with her for three hours. That’s how long it takes for a butterfly’s wings to dry out. They try to climb higher and higher to reach the sun, to get their wings dried. They pump fluids from abdomen to wings to do that.”

Ryall recalls the butterfly’s journey toward the sun: “And then the butterfly tried to climb up the bean pole, but the top of the plant had been eaten by the rabbit. She climbed to another plant and she went to a sunflower. She almost fell down. She had to right herself.”

During the climb, Ryall saw the male butterfly fold its wings back to let the underside dry.

“I’ve never seen a shot like that before,” Ryall said about the photograph she took of the butterfly.

“Then he gets up tall on this sunflower, and that’s when he flew away.”

From her Minong garden, Ryall shared her journal observations and photos with Patrick Shields, an English professor at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College.

“He said, ‘Knowing you, that butterfly will be immortal,'” she said.

The journal notes were transformed in what Ryall calls a “creative, non-fiction” story – her experience but with other characters: a young girl and her mother.

Publishing

After the story was written, Ryall looked for a publisher. In a twist of fate, a publisher’s granddaughter volunteered at the Happy Tonics office

“Her grandmother came in one day and said, ‘I heard you wrote a story about a butterfly, about a monarch.’ I said, ‘I did,’ and she said, ‘Can I see it?'”

The publisher was Lindy Casey of Salt of the Earth Press, a small publisher from Northern Wisconsin focusing on books for children, the environment, organic gardening, recipes.

Ryall left Casey alone in the Happy Tonics office with the manuscript while Ryall visited the Shell Lake library.

“When I came back, she said, ‘This is important work. I’m going to publish it.'”

After a deal was struck, Stevie Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza of Las Vegas, Nev., was chosen to illustrate the book.

To help the illustrator, Ryall asked Minong’s Cassie Thompson and her mother, Tanya, to recreate scenes from the story which Ryall photographed.

“I told her [Cassie] to wear a baseball cap and she said, ‘I don’t wear a baseball cap.’ I said, ‘In this story she does wear a baseball cap.'”

Cassie takes on the character Sara Reynolds who goes out to the garden and finds a butterfly egg and then a caterpillar.

In the story, Mom cautions Sara to leave the new life alone and also teaches Sara new terms, like pupae.

“Her mother teaches her [Sara] while the butterfly teaches her the actual life cycle, so it’s the butterfly telling the story, basically, and getting more information from her mother.”

Coloring book

Following My Name is Butterfly, Ryall and a graphic designer from Alexandria, Va. created a publishing house called Butterfly Women Publishing.

The first publishing project, due out this spring for Earth Day, is a coloring book of Monarch butterflies illustrated by Gordon artist Mora McCusker.

“There are so many people I can reach locally. If I want the greater message to get out there, I have to get it published,” said Ryall. “That’s why we created the publishing house, so we could get some of my essays and manuscripts out there. If my life is short and sweet, this will be something of me to leave on this planet.”

Book

My Name is Butterfly is available at Amazon.com or by visiting www.happytonics.org.

Exciting Findings Monarch Survival: An Amazing Feat

Source: News from Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) – University of Minneapolis.

Butterfly followers may find this article of interest considering that Karen Oberhauser, Director of Monarch in the Classroom, wrote. Karen is a leading scientist and teacher in the field of monarch biology and migration. She wrote, “Mary Ellen Ryall from Shell Lake, WI, has established and dedicated a native remnant tall grass prairie as monarch habitat on 1/2 acre of city land. After a tremendous storm, she has shared an amazing story of monarch survival.”

On July 1, 2011 a straight line wind at 100 mph struck Minong, WI. It blew down 11 red pine trees on my property in the village. In the process of storm cleanup, the trees were cut and taken to the local saw mill to be turned into board foot. There was an Aldo Leopold Bench that was crushed beneath one tree. The logger brought his big equipment in and lifted the tree so that his son could save the bench.

Chrysalis after the storm. On underside of Aldo Leopold bench copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

Chrysalis after the storm. On underside of Aldo Leopold bench copyright Mary Ellen Ryall

Lo and behold a monarch chrysalis was on the bench. I thought about how the butterfly was a form of transformation and knew it would adapt to the landscape changes.  I marveled that I saw a few monarch butterflies flying about the day after the storm. How could winds of 100 mph wreck such havoc in the village and yet allow the butterflies to survive? How did the same wind that caused birds in maple trees to lose their lives allow a butterfly, the weight of a single maple leaf, to survive? It is a beautiful wonder.

“While monarchs have amazing tenacity, many individuals are not as lucky as those in Mary Ellen’s habitat. MLMP volunteer Diane Rock captured some incredible photos of monarch predation last summer…[monarch butterfly faces threats], especially as eggs and larvae, but also as adults. Several studies have shown that only 5-10% of monarchs survive to adulthood in the wild. In strong winds and other extreme climate conditions, individual monarchs stand a fighting chance, but they are often no match for the spiders, ants, stink bugs, wasps and other invertebrates that attack monarch larvae on milkweed plants. Black-beaked orioles and black-headed grosbeaks are common predators of adult monarchs in their overwintering sites, and in their breeding grounds, the adults may fall prey to spiders.

Monarch survival is an amazing feat, considering all the dangers that they face throughout the course of their lives. They appeal to all of us because of the astounding things they are able to accomplish. Research and monitoring through MLMP help us to understand the hardship that monarchs face, and areas where improvements can help support monarch populations.”

Monarch tasting my fingers and walks across to Valerian flower for nectar

Monarch tasting my fingers and walks across to Valerian flower for nectar

Source: After the Storm by Mary Ellen Ryall

http://www.mlmp.org/Newsletters/monthly/2011/mlmp_update_201110.pdf

Butterfly Corner, June 8, 2011

Butterfly Corner

by Mary Ellen Ryall

Happy Tonics in collaboration with Indianhead Action Agency was invited to speak at Ruby’s Kitchen, Spooner, in May. I visited the food distribution site and spoke to the public. Free vegetable seed was available from Indianhead Action Agency in Spooner. The only requirement was that a participant be below a certain income level to qualify for free garden seed. At least 30-40 people showed an interest and many more said they were going to plant a garden. Some stated they would be first time gardeners. Rising food prices impact pocketbooks and can change a person’s behavior.

May 27 – Jim VanMoorleham and I did a walkabout at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake. We saw a queen bumblebee go into her ground nest. This is the first time either of us witnessed this. Queen bumblebees usually seek a clearing of soil that they can build a nest in. There is several water filtering areas in the habitat, which is the purpose of these sparse areas of non egetation.

May 28 – The Lakes and Pines Girl Scout Troop of Shell Lake visited Bashaw Farm and Nursery. Washburn County AODA Commission and Leopold Education and Pheasants Forever grants enabled the girls to create functional and fun container gardens at Shell Lake Friendship Commons. This year Youth Container Gardens consist of four whiskey barrels of vegetables, flowers, herbs and a pollinator garden. Garden flowers, herbs and produce will be part of the Summer Environmental Film Fest
on June 25, July 30 and August 20 at Friendship Commons. Lakes and Pines Girl Scout Troop will host the event, give a tour of their gardens and prepare refreshments.  Environmental films will focus on world water issues, monarch butterfly migration and bee colony collapse disorder.

Happy Tonics added plants to the retainer wall gardens at the Spooner Food Pantry. Herbs such as parsley, sage, thyme, ground cherries and cherry tomato plants were added to the fledgling garden. Sue Adams gave the nonprofit permission in 2010
but we were short handed last year. In 2011 we are rolling out the gardens for people to learn that food, herbs and flowers do not need to be planted in the ground for one to be sustainable. Grant money from Leopold Education and Pheasants Forever was shared with Fresh Start to install a fence around a Youth Garden in Shell Lake.

May 29 – Sophie Belisle called in the first sighting of two monarch butterflies in Springbrook. The young student reported that the butterflies came in after the storm. Sophie was very happy to see the monarch butterflies in the meadows where she lives. She
has already received a beaded butterfly pin made by Ojibwe children at St. Francis Mission in Reserve, WI. She also received a fabric art square of butterflies, by Mabel Perry.

June 1 – Happy Tonics opened a new Visitors Centert in Minong. The artist loft is adjacent to The Scoop and has the advantage of Wi-Fi access. Minong is progressing nicely with Wi-Fi friendly businesses that want tourists and residents to frequent
their establishments.

June 3 – Kris Fjelstad called in the first monarch sighting in Shell Lake. She mentioned the day was cloudy and windy. It was 77.6 degree Fahrenheit and the time was 2:25 p.m.

June 4 – Mary Ellen Ryall and Sandy Stein participated and walked with the Mother Earth Water Walkers close to Reserve, Hayward. The walkers of the southern direction have been walking since April 20th, carrying salt water of the Gulf of Mexico to Bad River, WI where it will meet with the other waters from the Atlantic, Hudson Bay and Pacific. The southern direction included Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin. The walk is ongoing until the water from the south reaches
Bad River, WI on June 12. The purpose of the walk is to raise awareness of loss of fresh drinking water in many countries around the world and to stop water privatization and pollution.

Bird blown on the winds of time

Today in Minong, Wisconsin, USA, the winds blew approximately 40 mph. It was enough to snatch a baby bird from its nest and hurl the small bird down in my back yard. From where the bird was carried is a mystery. I saw the baby bird on the lawn from my window and went out to investigate. The fledgling got scared and tried to fly. The bird could only make minute flights close to the ground. I kept my eye on the bird throughout the day.

Early this afternoon I went out and saw that the baby was not moving. The bird opened and blinked its eyes and I knew that it lived; however, I also knew that it could not fly now. Perhaps it suffered some internal injury. I sang the baby bird an honor song. Then I found a live worm and carried it to the bird on a straw strand. I thought the bird might be hungry and thirsty. At this point I also brought a small lid filled with water to tempt the bird.

baby bird

Farewell baby bird

  By 4 p.m. the baby bird had died. I bent down and kissed its tiny head the color of fall leaves. It felt warm. The body was black with tinges of blue and green.  The color could only be seen from a close position.  The bird with closed eyes blew over and I noticed one foot curled and the other straight. I dug a hole and gently placed the small bird in along with sacred tobacco that was used in earlier morning ceremony prayers.

I thought about the mother. She would never know what happened to her baby bird and my heart wept.

World Water Day – Water Blessing Ceremony

World Water Day – March 22, 2011

via World Water Day – Water Blessing Ceremony – World Water Day. Please view Water Ceremony tab at www.happytonics.org for description of Water Ceremony in Minong,WI, at the Hospitality House at 5 p.m.. 

Globally water is threatened in many ways: Pollution, lack of fresh drinking water, privatization, drought, Climate Change. As women we are the protectors of water.  There will be no life on the Earth if there is no fresh clean drinking water. All species depend upon water for life. Water needs to be respected and not taken for granted.

Squirrel in backyard is unintentially helping winter birds

This the second time I have seen a gray squirrel find his way around my squirrel trap feeder. A few day ago I caught him on the feeder and I tapped loudly on a window and he scattered off. Unfortunately, I scared two pigeons that were also feeding on dropped bird seeds exposed on frozen ground. We only have about a dozen pigeons in Minong, a  village of  521 people.  I have often wondered where they came from. Minong is  located in a valley in Northwest Wisconsin.

The squirrel was at it again this morning. No, I don’t really know if the squirrel was male; but I think of squirrels as male because they are such aggressive feeders. This morning when I saw the new snow fall, I knew that the birds would not be able to feed on the  now buried seed. This is where the squirrel came into play. By digging into the snow, he was able to expose seed and also able to feast on a nice breakfast himself.  

Without realizing it before, I now see the winter squirrel in a symbiotic relationship with winter birds. He gives a little and helps a lot when there is snow on bird seed. The birds are now able to land on the seed tray that the squirrel prepared for them.

Foxes Visit my Backyard in Minong, WI

Tonight two foxes came into my backyard. They both blended into the tree shadows and at first I didn’t know they were foxes until I saw their long tails. Late afternoon I had put out stale bread and dried fruit. It appears fox like these kind of treats. The treats were meant for tomorrow morning and the bird.

I wouldn’t take anything for the joy of having wild animals on my 1/2 acre property.

Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Holidays in Minong, WI

This is the first day that I can post from Minong, WI. I arrived on December 18th. There are two Wi-Fi sites in town. One is at The Scoop which was closing down for the winter. Oh oh! Next I tred Stony’s Hotel restaurant and still no connection.

I drove down to Shell Lake which is a 60 mile commute to test the Wi-Fi at my residence. It was supposed to be up and running because Centurytel was supposed to fix it. All I saw was a broken frame that had broken next to the computer. This was a Chinese silk painting. Oh well, easy come – easy go. The Wi-Fi is still not working.

Returned to Minong and tried again at Stony’s but no go. Then I drove to Hayward a 40 mile round trip. The laptop worked perfectly from the Hayward Library. What gives?

When I returned to Minong, I stopped back at Stony’s but still no access. I hopped back in the car drove past CenturyLinks office. The lights were on. Hurray! I turned the car around and parked outside their office.

I knocked on the combination locked door. Someone answered the door and let me speak to the techie who really didn’t want to be there. He only had a few minutes before they were locking the door up for the holiday. Don took a look at the computer and showed me how I needed to check for new Wi-Fi sites that were available. I HAD BEEN LOOKING AT LOCAL AREA NETWORKS PAGE instead of looking at the green or background bar at the bottom. I told Don that when he returned home he must tell this family that he was Santa’s Helper and how he helped a poor women in distress because she couldn’t get her laptop connected to the Internet.

Folks this is important to me. I am writing the text for a coloring book this winter. I need access to my computers. I plan to Blog the text so at least I will be able to paste and cut later when I return to Shell Lake. From there I should be able to paste and cut to Word Doc and print off. Minong is a little Village of 521 souls. We are in  remote location in Northwest Wisconsin and we are buried under snow. Yesterday the radio said that 12 inches of snow fell.

I am typing this on a notebook and it doesn’t work as nicely as a full size keyboard so it may be a bit rustic. I am thrilled because I have Wi-Fi access now from my little Redwood Retreat in the Great No North Woods. Being able to connect with no cost to me is a gift. I will be able to add photos after I am back in Shell Lake and have full technology acccess. Working from Minong is like working on the road. Gas for the vehicle is now $3.09 a gallon.  Commuting is not a sustainable solution in Northwest Wisconsin. 

Be well insectamonarca friends whereever you are.

Happy Holiday from the far reaches of Mother Earth.

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