Tag Archives: life

Window washer

I wish I was a better blogger, but I’m not. I like corresponding with you via this vehicle, posting thoughts and observations about things which seem important in life right now. It is good to put the words together, for it forces me to find some structure to the seemingly random cycles and acyclical events of humanity and ecology.

Not even photos have ever proven able to capture memory like writing and the act of have. My “true evolution to writer” happened when the act of writing became equal to the product. Writing is a means to make sense, to make art of reality, to make sure certain things do not slip by unnoticed, unremarked, unappreciated, and thus it is something done, rather than something that is.

It is a narrow path to walk. At times I have found my inclination toward written record superseding the living of the life itself. Or even if that’s not true, one is led to believe that constant documenting is in opposition to doing. Or that the mark of true greatness is to be able to do both equally, but yet more fully than mere mortals. Or not. Like I was saying, it is a narrow path to keep one’s footing on.

This weekend brought winter. The air is now dry and frozen, the dark sudden and deep. Six o’ clock feels like the middle of the night and mornings it is an ordeal to extract one’s self from flannel sheets and down comforter. I spent Saturday afternoon washing the big windows in the back of our house. I removed the screens and scrubbed the glass inside and out. They needed it badly and as I cleaned them it was like rubbing fog out from sleepy eyes and I could see outside little pieces of snow wobbling down to Earth, scattered against the sky and the dark green of the white pine in the backyard.

This was not the snow of last week, a sloppy rain-like precipitation that was really a last autumn rain just a little late, moistening dead leaves and making puddles for Lola to slosh through on our morning walk. Saturday’s snow was dry winter snow, sparse and sparing, and I watched the flakes fall to the ground as I washed the windows.

I listened to the stereo quite loudly as I worked; I was all alone for the afternoon. The music sounded great, clear as the cleaned windows and an unequivocal joy to know that when all else is stripped away, there is always music. The afternoon went by as such. No morn nor eve considered, just the gray afternoon, the task at the hand, and the rock and roll on the stereo.

For Immediate Release

Friends of the Boundary Waters logoI have some news that I am very happy to finally share: I am joining the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness as their communications/engagement director. As anyone who reads this blog can imagine, I am very excited about this.

In that over the course of my brief life so far I have spent a bit of time weighing the different things I enjoy and have a relatively stable idea of my priorities, this literally could be my dream job.

It will demand writing about topics that are of great importance to me, working for something I deeply believe in. I will seek to engage young people, who are abandoning the outdoors at a frightening rate, finding ways to make an honored tradition of love for wild places relevant to natives of this crazy digital world today.

Basically, I will be doing the type of work I enjoy most to help protect one of the wildest and most beautiful places in the lower 48. And I will be doing so with a group of people I liked and respected from the moment I met them, and joining an organization that has a long history of fighting the good (and hard) fight.

And, oh yeah, I should also mention that wilderness canoeing will now be all in a day’s work. :D

Disappointment Lake, BWCAW

Housekeeping

I love home ownership. Today was scheduled as a chance to catch up on some of the little projects around we’ve been meaning to do for six months. It’s actually kind of fun to knock off these 15 minute chores. Hanging a rack in the camping gear room to hang our various packs from. Hanging art in the downstairs bathroom and the doorbell in the basement stairs. Organizing the workshop. I banged out several of these types of things and — impressed by my own productivity — decided I’d go upstairs to have a beer and some chips and salsa as a reward.

And the basement door broke when I try to close it after myself.

It’s OK to laugh.

Last night was really nice. I worked at home all day so I had a fire blazing in the fireplace when Rosie got home with fixings for dinner. We had some cheese and hummus while sitting in front of the fireplace, Katie enjoying some of Sterling Vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon and me with a big Flat Earth Brewing Element 115 (St. Paul’s newest brewery) that Scott gave me. I got a ton of new music from a friend the night before and we listened to Jolie Holland‘s Catalpa, Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Kaya and Tom Waits’ Mule Variations. We were both pretty wiped from the first five-day week since the holidays and it was nice to just enjoy the warmth, the food, the music and the quiet of the evening.

When we had sufficiently rested, we got to work on dinner, which was pheasant, thanks to my buddy Pete. Neither of us had ever had pheasant before, much less cooked it, so we had some fun. We used The Splendid Table’s Quail Roasted in Polenta recipe and it was delicious. I liked the bird a lot, though the polenta itself almost stole the show. Rosie had also splurged grocery shopping and bought some asparagus.

Our poor pooch has been a bit out of commission lately. After every hike we’ve taken her on for the past few months, she’s limped around the house for 24 hours, heavily favoring her right rear leg. Two trips to the vet convinced us it wasn’t some horrible knee or hip problem, but probably a strained muscle. The only prescription has been rest, so she’s gotten plenty bored with no hikes and very minimal daily walks.

But tomorrow, seeing how things go, we’re going to try a hike, as much for own sanity as anything, and perhaps bring her with. We’ll keep it short, and probably pick somewhere very flat so she’s not running up and down hills too much. But it’ll be awful good to get her back at it again.

I also ordered cross-country skis yesterday. I skied on Stillwater’s team in junior high and high school. I was never any good, but I loved getting out. I haven’t skied more than a few times in the intervening decade, though the past few years I’ve really been wanting to get back into it. The snowless winters have discouraged those ambitions, but when we finally got off to a snowy start to the season in December, I decided this was going to be the year. Of course, now half the snow melted during last week’s thaw, but I’m holding out hope that real winter will come back soon.

That’s all for now. I guess I have a door to fix…

Revival

New Year’s Day comes like a scene out of an old Western movie. You are unceremoniously thrown out of the doors of a saloon. You land in the street on your face. You stand up, brush yourself off, give one last look at the bar, decide it’s not worth the fight, and walk off down the street, a little bit happy to be evicted, even if it wasn’t on your terms.

At least, that’s how I feel now that the holidays are finally behind us. It was fun while it lasted, but now the long quiet of the depths of winter can work their wonders, restoring peace to the soul, even if it is sometimes accompanied by a little cabin fever and boredom.

The five or six weeks starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year’s were a full time for us. Events and obligations I had been looking forward to for months came at us steadily. From hosting a small Thanksgiving, to a full Christmas weekend of wandering to and fro, to hosting a cathartic New Year’s Eve party, life took on a different shape than the rest of the year.

That’s a good thing though. Traditions are as much a part of how we experience the change of the seasons as is the diminishing and expanding of daylight.

I found a site today that gives you sunrise and sunset information for wherever you live. Today, the sun rose in Minneapolis/St. Paul at 7:51 a.m. and will set at 4:41 p.m. By the end of the month, it will be 7:35 a.m. and 5:17 p.m., respectively.

Not a lot, but I’ll take it.

At the same time I’ve been shopping for new cross-country ski gear and reveling in the first snowy early winter in recent memory, I’ve also been doing plenty of daydreaming about canoeing rivers and fishing trout streams. Sometimes I’m reasonable, just wishing for a warm spring day when the foliage is sparse and things look a little bleak still, but it’s enough to get out paddling or fishing. But at other times, I let my mind drift to the height of summer, when you leave the waders in the car and wet wade in a cold spring-fed creek, or beach the canoe periodically to swim, or have a long evening to wander the woods.

But such activities are truthfully a ways off. Best to make the most of the moment. As I was falling asleep after the New Year’s Eve party, our house finally quiet after the departure or drifting off of old friends, I thought how a good party is a lot like a good life. As the host, you can put in the hours of cleaning and cooking and other preparations, but it’s not a party without the guests. And so is life not life without friends.

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope 2008 is full of adventure and happiness for one and all!

Of love and lakes

We found ourselves on top of this bluff, only a short hike from the car. Canada was just a couple miles to the north. Lake Superior 30 to the east. A BWCA lake stretched out before and below us.

It was quiet and lonely, surprisingly so, being just a couple hundred yards from a wide spot in the gravel road and a sign marking the trail. Truthfully I could have used a bit more of a walk for the physical distance and exertion that might have paralleled the mental distance admiring such a view brought on.

A Whiskey Jack spotted us from down by the lake and we watched him fly toward us, and then up to the top of the cliff, where he fluttered from tree to tree, waiting for us to drop or offer just a single morsel.

We didn’t stay long. This vista was just a stop on a leisurely morning of wandering the Gunflint Trail. And the only thing that we knew of our uncertain destination for the night was that it was many miles from here. But, catching me by surprise, this place seemed like somewhere I could stay forever and never tire of the view.

And if that isn’t like life and love, I don’t know what is.

How sweet the sound

B and Rainier

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need is here.
And we pray, not for new earth or heaven,
but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear.
What we need is here.

~ Wendell Berry

Congratulations again to B (Sleepy) and Rainier, who got married Saturday. It was a beautiful day of hymns and vows, laughter and food, friends and family. Even without such a happy event, it would have been a wonderful day to hang out at the park overlooking a lake and green hills, the temperature hovering at or under 80, and so much summer sun. That we got to be there celebrating with the lovely couple and their great friends was truly a blessing.

As the day wound on, the sore throat I had had all week disappeared. I felt fine, it was just that I was having a harder and harder time making sound come out of my mouth when I spoke. The social nature of the day encouraged me to ignore the warnings and keep chatting. Yelling out encouragement and other exclamations during a game of croquet and having the ubiquitous “so, how do you know the couple?” conversations.

We went back to the hotel where the couple and many of their friends were staying after things wound up at the park and we spent a couple hours in someone’s room, playing random games and laughing and talking. Yes, more talking, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

By the time we finally hit the road, I really could no longer talk. My voice was gone. I had lost it. The drive back across the Twin Cities was very quiet, I had to turn the radio down if I wanted Rosie to hear my whispers.

I had been toying with the idea of fishing the Trico hatch early the next morning and, though in ways it felt entirely foolish, I thought that if I was unable to speak, a few hours where there was no one to talk to might be just the thing. So I set my alarm for 5:15 the next morning and went to bed.

Those early mornings are generally unpleasant, but having done it a few times now, I know that the rewards are worth it and the only thing you can do is keep moving forward. This was the first time I had done such a thing since we got Lola last fall, so that was a fun addition to the routine. While she ate breakfast, I made coffee.

Early to the eastIt was just after 5:30 when I left the house, amazed at how light it already was. I sped east on I-94, enjoying the light traffic and the sun rising over the land ahead.

Listening to the public radio program “American Routes” is a pleasant tradition on those early morning treks, as the fine show is relegated to the 5 – 7 a.m. slot around here. But this day, after hearing just a little bit of a segment about the Neville Brothers, including a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” the radio went silent. I checked other stations, which were coming in fine, but nothing was airing on MPR. I decided that the silence might be a sign of some sort, or at least a coincidence worth considering in light of my own vocal troubles, so I kept the radio tuned into the nothingness.

Every five or 10 minutes, the show would restart and play a short bit, and then cut back out. It kept it up for the full half-hour it took me to get to the river.

There wasn’t anything happening when I walked down to the water. I wondered if the unseasonably cool (and beautiful) weather might have put off the hatch or something. So I stood on the bank above a hole that I had once come on boiling with fish devouring the tiny dawn mayflies (“A numbers game,” July 9, 2007) and just watched things.

The fly catchers and swallows were partying and my ears were filled with birdsong, my eyes with their swoops over the water and into the limestone cliff on the other side. That cliff kept the rising sun off the water and my spot on the bank the entire time I was there and I shoved my hands in my pockets against the chill of the morning and wished I had worn a long-sleeved shirt.

A quiet placeOccasionally I would look downriver and up into the air where the Tricos should have been doing their dance before descending to the water again and the first few times I didn’t see anything and then I did: the cloud of spinning and swirling bugs maybe 40 feet up against the backdrop of the bluffs downstream. This would happen.

I held my position on the bank, not bothering to fish. To do so would have been no small disrespect to just how good the imminent fishing could be and to the independent joys of the beautiful morning with the singing birds, the ascending sun, the lush mid-summer foliage. I let my mind wander, digesting the wedding the day before, the pre-wedding events the previous nights, and to all the things I only find time and energy to ponder streamside.

Then, a fish rose out in front of me. And a Trico flew by, heading upstream. And more fish rose and more bugs flew by and I figured it was probably time to start fishing, at least an hour after getting to the river.

So I fished and I caught a few good-sized trout on some very small flies. And, after a flurry of activity (literally, the small white-winged bugs were so thick flying past me at some points that it seemed like a snow flurry), it quieted and I fished a little longer and then reeled in and then decided to try one more pattern and I was glad I did because I caught another nice fish and then, tiring, left the river. I was back home by 11 a.m., exhausted and not well, but at peace and happy.

Streamside flowers