On Tuesday morning, before getting started on my workday, I had a bit of indecision about what sort of image to put on my digital art display. The weather was cloudy and the forecast called for thunderstorms, so I considered a painting of a Florida scene with clouds looming over bright greenery before deciding that it didn’t quite fit a chilly Ohio morning.

Painting of Florida wetlands on a cloudy day

(Image credit: Georgrpe Buckner)

After a while I decided on a picture of empty gondolas parked in Venice with a bit of sun coming through the clouds. That didn’t work too well either because the sky just got darker in real life, and thunderstorms did indeed start rolling through. I wasn’t looking at the art display anyway because I was just sitting at my desk focused on the computer, so it didn’t really matter. My husband had been planning to row with some friends, but that didn’t work out because it was raining at the boathouse too.

Still, it was a mostly good day. I got a very nice surprise when a coworker sent me an email saying that the charity committee had chosen me as the featured volunteer and will post an entry about me on the internal website. It’s always good to be appreciated at work, especially when I hadn’t known that I was being considered for any special recognition. That left me feeling pretty cheerful.

This week has been cold and blustery here. Even if it had been good weather for rowing, which it definitely was not, the river has been high. So I decided to go on a virtual rowing vacation by putting an image of the Banana River in Melbourne, Florida, on my digital art display. I got the idea from a sculling video showing that river on a beautiful sunny day.

When I looked for photos of the Banana River online, though, I couldn’t find anything with the great sunny weather I was imagining. Instead, I found a lot of high-water photos. Apparently the Melbourne area can be prone to flooding. The author of this photo captioned it “Rainy Florida.”

Photo of dock on river with high water.

(Photo credit: Rusty Clark)

I put it on my art display anyway, as a reminder to be grateful for where I am at the moment. The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence—but sometimes it is underwater.

Like everyone else, I had to cancel spring break plans and have been staying indoors, except for taking occasional walks in my neighborhood. I am very thankful for the digital art display on my dining room wall. I’ve been using it as a virtual window onto hiking trails and other nature scenes, like this one:

Photo of a hiking trail in springtime.

(Photo credit: Guilhem Vellut)

Even though it’s not as good as actually being there, it does go a long way toward reminding myself that the world hasn’t come to an end yet. Wishing my readers happiness in small everyday things—and stay strong, we’ll get back to our normal lives before too much longer.

Because this season is so full of busy indoor activities, while often neglecting the need to spend time in the natural world, I try to balance things a little by putting autumn landscapes on my digital art display. I found this one to be very refreshing today:

Photo of bare trees and fallen red leaves with a frozen river in the background.

I could easily imagine walking through those crackling, brightly colored fallen leaves and breathing the cool, crisp air of a peaceful day in late autumn. Although a virtual walk may not be as healthy as a real one, it is calming nonetheless; and when I looked at my heart rate on the Fitbit app, it was in fact lower. Wishing my readers a peaceful evening, as well.

Addendum: My husband got home just as I was finishing this post, and he asked me to come out and walk around the neighborhood with him. So I spent some time in the fresh air taking a real walk too!

Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I did not go on an exciting vacation. Instead, we spent much of the weekend doing yard work. Even though I wrote a blog post last year about why it would be good to think of gardening as play, like a child would, there was so much to do that I wasn’t having any success whatsoever in not thinking of it as work.

My poor sad backyard willows, which do best in cool rainy weather and have been dying back for the past few years because of hot and dry summers, had a lot more dead branches this summer. That was kind of depressing, and I didn’t even want to look at them anymore. Usually it’s my chore to do the pruning with a hand saw, but it felt like too much to deal with, and I didn’t get to it over the summer.

Thankfully, my husband came to the rescue and bought a pole-saw attachment for his trimmer, which made short work of the dead branches on Saturday. We stacked them in the side yard, rented a big utility trailer on Sunday afternoon, and piled it full of dead branches to take to the county dump, which had holiday hours on Monday morning. We had time to go rowing afterward, though we made no effort to row fast.

The backyard looks much better now, and I’m glad that we took the time to clean things up, even though it wasn’t fun. Because the long weekend was so notably lacking in adventures, I put a colorful image of waterfalls on my art display today.

Waterfalls under colorful clouds.

I have no idea where that picture came from or if it’s a real place, but it does look like somewhere that would be fun to explore while on vacation.

The late-summer heat wave finally seems to have broken in my area. Today was much cooler, overcast with light showers passing through. Although the lawn definitely needed the rain (it just got aerated and overseeded), there’s always something melancholy about the sunny, hot days ending and the dark days of autumn and winter approaching.

So I decided this would be a good time to perk myself up by going on an imaginary adventure. I chose a picture for my digital art display showing the Great Wall of China on a rainy day, complete with a tourist walking under an umbrella.

The Great Wall of China on a rainy day.

The sky in the photo matched the natural light in my house well enough on this cloudy day to give the impression of looking out a window while traveling.

By the time my husband got home in the evening, the sky had started to clear, and we went out for a walk around the neighborhood. Not as much fun as going on an extravagant vacation abroad, perhaps, but we enjoyed getting outdoors anyway.

I didn’t really go for a walk in the woods today because it was very cold and icy here. I can tell when I’m getting cabin fever this time of year, though, because I spend more time browsing through outdoor photos. Over the weekend I downloaded some Creative Commons landscape photos from Flickr and put them into the library for my digital art display. This is the one I chose yesterday, after a snowstorm.

Snowy path between tall conifers.

Seeing a snowy path through my imaginary “window” makes me feel as if I could get bundled up in warm clothes and go play in the snow, like when I was a kid. I haven’t actually gone exploring in a winter wood in a very long time, and I must confess that I don’t even own a pair of sturdy winter boots anymore. The snowblower is my husband’s domain. When we have a winter storm I’m usually sitting at the computer, or maybe reading a book on the couch.

Still, it puts me in a cheerful mood to see something that looks like a window onto a vast wild forest where I could spend many hours happily wandering around, even if it’s only an illusion.

My daughter and her husband came to visit for a friend’s gender reveal party. The friend has two daughters and was kind of hoping for a boy. As the designated revealer, my daughter picked up the ultrasound photo from the doctor’s office and was the only one to know until the party a few hours later (which was at a pizza restaurant yesterday).

Although I’d heard of such parties, I had no idea how they went, so it was fun to watch. My daughter decorated a clipboard with cute drawings, and everyone voted on it with tally marks for “girl” or “boy.” Then the reveal was done by putting a little toy duck into a bowl of water; it had a chemical that made the water change color. The ducks are sold online in packs of two, with a “boy” duck that turns the water blue and a “girl” duck that turns it pink. The revealer brings the appropriate one to the party after taking off the identifying sticker.

The water turned pink, so there will be a third girl, much to the delight of her sisters. My mother-in-law came to the party too; she adores the little girls. We had a good time, except for getting sideswiped by a careless driver on the way to the restaurant, which left my husband with the unwanted chore of buffing the scraped fender and applying touch-up paint. Could have been worse, though.

This morning my daughter, her husband, and their dogs packed up and left, and the house seemed very quiet again. After an unseasonably warm day, it had gotten much colder overnight, with snow flurries and howling winds. I put this image of a lonely canyon on my digital art display.

Dry, lonely canyon under an orange sunset.

Even though it’s not a real window, changing the landscape to match the feeling of a particular day seems to improve my mood by making clear how quickly everything changes. Just like the image on the display, a lonely house and the winter blues won’t stay too long.

When I browse through the online library for my digital art display, I sometimes come across interesting photos that have nothing in the caption to identify where in the world they were taken. That’s okay, though, because it can be more fun to create stories about them when I have no clue what they really are. Here’s the image that I am displaying today—where would you guess it might have come from?

Narrow cobblestone street between stone and wood buildings.

(Photo credit: Millie Walker)

The narrow street paved with cobblestones between buildings made of stone and wood has a timeless feeling to it, as if an unsuspecting traveler might go for a stroll and end up several hundred years in the past. As for the little pointed orange rooftops, they look like something exotic from a far distant kingdom out of a child’s storybook. I can imagine them at the entrance to a medieval castle, with archers posted there to keep watch from those little windows.

On a sunny morning, the street might be full of merchants in long robes driving their donkeys and mules to market, with wooden carts heaped high. Children would dodge between the carts, laughing and playing. Women carrying baskets of food or buckets of water would make their way through the crowds on the sidewalk. Maybe a small group of monks on a pilgrimage would pass by, intent on seeing a saint’s relics in a nearby cathedral.

And just maybe, looking out my imaginary window at that scene, I might see a tiny fairy with shimmering blue wings and strands of diamonds woven into her hair, invisible to all but those who believe in her.

As summer comes to an end, the shorter days generally mean less time spent outdoors. Although the weather may still be hot and muggy, like it has been around here for the past week, the angle of the sun makes clear that it’s not July anymore. Still, I enjoy the peace and calm of September evenings. Even on days when I don’t go down to the river to row, I like to post sunset photos on my digital art display and imagine that I’m looking out over the water in some new and exciting place.

Sunset over water with tree branches.

I suppose the peaceful feelings that people get from pictures of calm rivers and lakes must go back to prehistoric times, when such landscapes usually meant that all was well—plenty of water to drink, along with fish and other food to hunt and gather. Probably there’s something deep down in the primitive parts of our brains telling us that we need to spend time in such places.

Wherever it may come from, I definitely feel refreshed when I walk by the river—or imagine myself looking out the window of a beautiful lakefront vacation home—as the evenings come earlier.