Today was the first day in nine days that it hasn’t reached 90 degrees in Minnesota. Though I’m usually no fan of hot weather, this hasn’t felt like a heat wave. It’s felt like July. Summer in Minnesota.
We were at a music festival (though it was about so much more than the music) all weekend and spent a lot of time under the sun. As I sat on the hillside listening to T Model Ford on Saturday afternoon, there was a pause in the music. I heard a woman behind me say to her friend, “On the coldest, nastiest day in January, I’m going to think back to sitting on this hill with Jerry.”
I tried to think about the coldest, nastiest day in January but couldn’t call up even the faintest feeling of it.
Earlier that morning, Katie and I had walked up from the shady, fern-carpeted campground. I got a delicious iced coffee from the good folks at Peace Coffee and we went and sat in the tent where maybe 100 people were watching Charlie Parr perform. He plays Piedmont-style blues. I don’t know exactly what Piedmont-style blues is, but I know I like whatever Charlie Parr plays. In a style all northwoods, he played songs about “drinkin’ and killin’” on a guitar, making good use of the slide. At one point inbetween songs, a five-year-old boy came charging up through the people sitting on the ground and went right up to the stage. He said to the musician, “Daddy, it’s too loud.” They talked for a second and his dad smiled gently and said, “It’s too loud?” The little boy got self-conscious then and turned to walk back but as he walked away he said, “Yeah. Waaaay too loud.”
Parr smiled and then said, “This song is also for my dad.” He put his chin down to his guitar and was silent for a beat, then lit into another tune.
The next day was the hottest day of the weekend and I couldn’t bring myself to go back out on that shadeless hill. All eight of us that had camped together hopped in a couple cars and drove down to take a swim in Lake Superior. I had never swam in the big lake before. The heat of mid-July is about the only good time to swim in its waters, by all reports, and it felt great. We found a miles-long stretch of beach that seemed like it would have fit in better in Florida than northern Minnesota and swam for a good long while. The sand sloped gradually out so we could stand off-shore quite some ways and throw the ball around and wash away the layers of sweat and sunscreen and dirt.
When we got back to the festival grounds everyone else headed up to see local folker Mason Jennings play. I still couldn’t stand the thought of that heat so Katie and I stayed in camp, where we could luckily still hear his set pretty well, and eventually we decided to pack up and head home. Packing up after a party weekend and then dragging it all back up to the car was no small
chore, but soon we were on our way. I had felt some strange calling to drive down Skyline Parkway all weekend so we did that. Skyline winds along on top of the ridge over Duluth and is both a fun road to drive and freely offers amazing views of the port and the lake.
Finally, it was time to really put Duluth behind us and head back. Interstate 35, the main corridor from northern Minnesota to the Twin Cities, is a hellish drive on a summer Sunday with everyone returning home from weekends at the cabin apparently much angrier than they left on Friday. We were just about to commit to I-35 when we recalled Deb’s advice to take Highway 23 through her neck of the woods. It didn’t take a lot of debate before we’d exited and headed down this new road.
Thank you, Deb. Highway 23 was beautiful and very quiet. We saw few cars on the wide, two-lane highway. The road was lined with tall pines, we saw some lakes and rivers, and then, when we were maybe within 15 miles of rejoining I-35, I saw an Adopt-a-Highway sign that told us that this mile was under the care of “Deb’s Brunofarm” or something of the like. I can only assume that that was the homestead of my esteemed blogger and steward friend and I want to say “thank you” and that the road looked great.
We returned home exhausted. The past month has been one whirlwind after another. It’s been hard to complain because it’s all been quite wonderful, but nonetheless, I think it’s safe to say we’re both “partied out.” Work today was a story in survival and this evening was one of recovery. Nonetheless, though I probably should be sleeping right now, it seems that writing is more important.
Was more important.