Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chasing Shadows

Here’s our Mack.  He has the self-appointed job of hunting down all the shadows.  He spent entire exhausting sunny days in the outfitting yard when the dragon flies first hatched.  Luckily the shadows also travel to the lake, so he follows them right in and cools off.  It’s all very serious and important so he cannot be distracted.

It’s funny what his antics will stir up in people.  The futility of it all is irresistibly endearing  Plus, for me who lost her best Denali a couple of months ago---he simply lightens my load in all kinds of ways.

But then, his antics also make me reflect on  the way I’m living.  This time of year, there is so much stuff.   There are sump pumps and bunkhouses, punctured canoes and a cute little black bear down the road who hasn’t found his meandering way to us….yet.   There are sprained ankles and ice cream shortages.   The phone rings, the food truck pulls up, and the wheel on the trailer needs to be tightened.  All at the same time.  It can be really fun, but it also can turn me into the Mack of the video.    It’s all very serious and important, so I run around and cannot be distracted.

Sometimes, I really wish I could back up and see the whole video of my life….before I make my choices about what is very serious and important.   Every once in awhile, I stop running around for a minute.  It happened yesterday when I paddled across a clear calm Missing Link to deliver Grant and Anna to the Tuscarora portage for a gear-rescuing mission.   It happens some evenings in my favorite blueberry patch, where there is only one focus: find ‘em, and pick ‘em. 

It’s only when pause that  I remember that I might want to be deliberate about my time….I want to be right with the people around me, ,  I want to be satisfied, I want to be grateful, I want to finish what I start, I want to walk in a focused line.

As for Mack, the truth is that he often makes folks stop and smile. That’s value right there.  He adores the guests, especially the littlest ones.   His course is charted one day at a time….sleep, eat, play, practice hunting by chasing shadows…greet people.

Wouldn’t it be great if life were always so straightforward?  Then again, maybe I should just stop racing around  and remember that it really is.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Tribute to Denali

You know, it has been a huge honor and responsibility to have another being devote her whole life to our family.  This weekend we had a chance to reflect on Denali's life.  She was a great woods companion for Daniel.

She accompanied Shelby on all her workouts.

She kept Andy company.

She was tireless retriever.

And she was my faithful girl.

She was so devoted to figuring out what we wanted her to do, and then doing it.  
This morning, she was mighty uncomfortable--but when I asked her to follow me into the vet's office, of course she did her best to comply.  I whispered into her ear---I thanked her for watching out for us, for being such good company, for her absolute loyalty.  I told her we loved her, and that she was a good dog, the best dog.  And then I said goodbye.

 She took a little chunk out of each of our hearts with her, that's for sure.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Savoring Life

I went for a walk yesterday morning.   It was about 40 degrees, so the fog was on everything, but lifting in the sunrise.  I don’t know how we got so lucky to have September weather the first week in August, but it’s golden.  

My heart and head were both swelling, with the details of the day, and with the enormousness of life.  Usually they don’t both hit at the same time.  But on this particular morning they did.

photo by Rachel
And in the afternoon, a worn out young man trudged up the outfitting steps.  I knew he was coming back early, I had already spoken with a deputy. 
 Because I’m a mom, I opened my arms to him, and ….probably because  I am  a mom, he stepped into them and started to sob.  I think I could feel the grieving brother's heart breaking right through his chest.

In another story--one of our Gunflint Trail neighbors who has been picking blueberries around here all his life, went out a week ago, and hasn’t come back.  His truck, parked in his favorite picking spot, is still the only clue.

You know, usually, I’m all about figuring how to minimize risk, avoid death at all costs.   And while that’s a really good point (and I’ll continue to make it….remember, I am a mother to the core)…… that is not THE point. 

Here I am on the periphery of all this grief, and it strikes me that the main point has to do with the way we live.  Those fine young men were in the boundary waters because they have always shared a profound love for this place.   And when I’m 82, I hope I still have the spunk and independence to drive my truck up to the BEST spot in the woods, and pick my own blueberries.

 As a witness to this incredible sadness,  I  feel a strange combination of melancholy and reverence which isn’t completely comfortable, but it does feel like my heart is running at full capacity.   I cannot control all of life and death. It's simpler than that.  I can look around, I can be kind, I can feel grateful for where I live and who I am with, I can vow to savor it all for this lovely day.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Our Blog is Moving!

We are excited to announce the launch of our new Tuscarora website.  Located at the same spot - - our new site is full of great info, pictures and features we think you will enjoy.  In addition,  the Tuscarora blog has found a new home here

We sure appreciate all of you who have followed Tuscarora through this blog.  We don't want to lose you! Please update your bookmarks, readers and whatnot to stay current with all the happenings at Tuscarora.  For those of you who have subscribed to receive email updates of new blogs, please navigate to our new site and enter your email address to join our new mailing list.  Look for the "Subscribe to Tuscarora News" field on the right side bar -

Friday, June 14, 2013

Family of Four

Last week the Kiecker family rented a canoe and headed out to Little Sag for the week.  Traveling from our dock on Round to Little Sag is no small day-trip.  But they assured me that they were up for it--their boys regularly backpack  the Appalachian Trail, last year they averaged 10 miles a day. I knew Mom and Dad loved the challenge--they'd been on trips here in the past, and could put on the miles.   I knew that their healthy boys were certainly capable of it, but was it going to be any fun?   Did they really want to travel that far?  How hard were these little kids going to be pushed on this "vacation?"

Well, I happened to be down at the dock with my camera when they were loading up, and I happened to witness the conversation.  Todd was a really kind dad, patiently coaching his two boys as they entered the boat.  And although he was excited, and raring to go (a little contagious for just imagine how his sons felt!)....he sat there and explained where the Missing Link portage was, and what they were going to do next.   And as they were paddling away, I could hear one of the boys asking  "Do you want me to paddle on this side, Dad, or on the other side?"....and Todd replied---"You go ahead and paddle on whichever side is comfortable, and Mom and I will adjust."   Nice.  They had a great trip, they proudly made it back from Little Sag in a little over 7 hours, ---and I'm going to venture that along with the fun, the guys got a healthy dose of actual self esteem and sense of belonging by accomplishing the trek as a family team.  Does it get any better than that?

Then...I got thinking about our family team....our family of four.   The thing is---Andy and I met on Seagull Lake, in a tandem canoe.  We were happy campers when we were first we briefly wondered if we wanted to actually transition out of that two person canoe..and make room for any more.   Did we really want to invite two curly blond heads on our canoe trips?  And then....well, it seemed like POOF, suddenly  we were a family of four.   We made room in our lives for two more.  We made  permanent room in our hearts..   And, somewhere along the line...although we knew we were preparing them to grow up, and go into the world,  I started assuming that we would ALWAYS be a family of four.  We'd always find our way back to the dinner table where we like to linger and talk about the high points and low was every day, it was years and years.

When they're this age...well, who expects it to ever be any different?
Last weekend, Shelby graduated from highschool.   She's set her standards high, we're really proud of who she's become.  She's working in the outfitting yard this summer, then heading to college next fall. She's so ready to go, and we couldn't be more pleased.  I always knew this day would come, but I never bothered to tell my heart about that. Of course, I wouldn't have it any other my head. Yet, in my heart, she'll always be part of my ordinary days...and next fall, she'll be missing. 

So, I felt a little wistful as I watched the nice Kiecker family paddle away together in their canoe.  They're in the "this will last forever"stage.    I just have to scrunch up my head around the fact that this transition we're in happens to every family eventually, it's just ordinary.  Graduation is a celebration of course, but who expects the grief that comes with it?  Can my heart really imagine the big gap?   Inviting Shelby and Daniel into our canoe has turned out to be the most significant thing we'll ever do in this life.....the best decision for sure...both my head and my heart can agree on that one.  And eventually, I supposed I'll convince my heart it's OK to let her go, and look forward to the times she's back at the table, telling us of her current adventures, paddling her own canoe.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cold Water and Hot Fishing

If you have not heard yet, the ice is finally out on all the lakes near us, even big Sag to the north.  It was a little challenging for a while there to get back to the good lake trout lakes like Tuscarora and Gillis.  For eager lake trout fishers that were willing to sit on smaller lakes and wait for the ice to go out, the reward was some good fishing and a lot of adventure. 

Mike Vogt and his guys found out first hand what ice out trout fishing is like.  They found the "glacier" on the Missing Link portage (which is still there by the way, but receding)!  They spent a little time on Missing Link waiting for the ice to go out on Tuscarora.  Strong spring winds kept them close to shore for a while.    Eventually their patience was rewarded with some beautiful northerns and lakers, even enough to eat!

This is actually the first time I've ever seen Mike in a hat that is not a baseball cap.    Can you tell what a likeable guy he is?  I can hear him laughing right through that picture.   It is not a leave-no-trace kind of laugh, it is a leave-you-laughing kind of laugh.

Suddenly it is Memorial Day weekend .  The lakes are ice free, the temps are rising , the sun is out, and the fish are waiting!  Come on up and share your fishing pictures with us!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The trout are OUT

The best fishing for lake trout is ONE week after the ice goes out.  Ask anybody.  People catch them by accident in the shallows during that week---and the Tuscarora Lake die hards are usually chomping at the bit to get in there the minute fishing opens.  This year---the ice was a little late, so technically nobody has to miss that week.

Last year, one Saturday in June, my friend Monica and I headed out.  We wanted two things:  lake trout, and a work out.

So here’s the thing….we have a group of guys who go out every year in May---to one certain lake.  I cannot give away their private destination on the internet, but let’s just say that I hadn't fished it before, and they always always catch fish.  But mostly, they also catch fun, and they're usually laughing so hard when they are telling their stories that it made me want to visit THAT lake.    They call themselves  The THAT (name changed to protect their secret) lake boys.  

Monica and I headed out for THAT lake.   Let’s also just say that it is more than 7 portages in, so we also accomplished our workout--actually two work-outs, because it was also more than 7 portages out, with our lake trout.
Ever since I worked at Wilderness Canoe Base, and we hoisted the well cared for (heavy!) standard  Grumman canoes around, and it hurt  my shoulders from start to finish, I’ve craved portaging.  I cannot explain it.  I like the way it hurts.  I would think I would be a good runner as well, with that craving,  but I’m just not.  I run really really slow: I don’t happen to LIKE the way that running hurts.  But portaging,  the activity where nobody ever wins a medal,  I like to do until I’m shaky.   Go figure.  Away we went.

To paddle away on a busy Saturday was such an indulgence right there.   And to have an uninterrupted chat with my friend that I don’t get to see enough---second bonus.  But when we got to THAT lake, the wind was just right.  And I also knew the trick, ….paddle right down the middle, and let the wind drift us back toward the portage.  Easy as pie.  Only---it was such a warm year that I knew the fish were….40-60 feet down, so we were letting out a lot of line.   We had torpedo weights to pull down our Sutton spoons—tipped with minnows…we couldn’t fail, right?  Since we were seriously fishing, we thought we’d leave the dog at home, but she HEARD us talking, and it was like she was attached to my knee, and the minute I put the canoe to float she was patiently in it.  First one.  We had to take her.

So we paddled, we floated, and BAM, we both caught fish.   Same time, first pass.  They felt like snags, classic.  So we reeled and we reeled and we reeled and we reeled, and the wind picked up in the meantime and we started floating into the rocks with our beautiful Escape, so I had to stop reeling and put the rod between my knees,and start to paddle.  Monica kept reeling, and my rod started to bend until it was obvious that somehow our fish were wrapped around each other, or our lines, or….oh, the trickiness of it.    Denali was very politely trying to stay in the middle of the boat but she did have to supervise every move, so there was also THAT challenge to stay steady.

We were a little surprised after the fiasco of the landing to end up with one trout actually in our boat (her name was Edith)…….the other line broke….the wind picked up….we were tangled beyond belief, but we had Edith!   What a great day!  

Then we had to eat our lunches, and blow around, and re-tie our lines, and blow around and get tangled in the weeds and blow around…and….then, it really was time to take Edith and head back...we knew it would take us almost 3 we paddled and portaged….by the moose and her calf in the weeds, we couldn’t have been happier under the sun.   Once we pulled the stringer up, and …….no Edith……we had to paddle back and retrieve her from the mud at the last portage. 

Whoa, were we ever tired when we got back--- where  Caleb was waiting, to clean up little Edith, so Monica could take  home the filet. Work out, check, lake trout, check. 

Isn't it funny how a day in the woods can feed a person's soul in so many ways?  I was feeling just a little more commeradarie and gratefulness for the exhuberance of those THAT lake boys, for  passing on their expertise, for Edith, for our  tangled adventure.  I hope everybody gets a "day in the woods" this spring....and if you stop by the office, I can point you to the secret place where Edith's cousins are the shallows.