Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fathers' Day

On Friday night, these two soggy urchins showed up at the office screen door just as it was starting to rain-again. All they wanted was some rootbeer. (Their mom was just down the path, their dad was loading the car). After they had their showers (and rootbeer), these devoted parents sat in the office and talked about the experience of being in the woods with their kids—un-distracted. At first I was thinking---'Rats, I hope the thunderstorms didn’t wreck their entire trip.' But you know what the kids said about being stuck in the tent with their parents? “Daddy, we’ve never HEARD you laugh like that before.”

During Fathers' Day weekend, I had my radar tuned to the fathers that were coming through. When I took the time to zero in on them, I was heartened to notice a great bunch of guys—it gives me lots of optimism and faith in the future.

It’s a complex responsibility to be a good dad. Modern dads are supposed to be everything their dads were, and also everything that they weren’t.

They help run households and do dishes. They contribute to the family income. Sometimes as sole supporter. Then the pressure is really on, especially during harder economic times.

They’re supposed to be competent and successful in their careers. After all, they’re setting an example for their kids. They should also be following their dreams, because—don’t we all want our kids to follow their dreams too?

Then, there's extra curricular activities. Chauffeur, coach, the referee, the fan, the troop leader, the tutor, the counselor. Dads are supposed to help build, help organize, help the community.

We all know that good dads fix stuff, because the stuff is always breaking. They really should exercise regularly, be fit and keep stress at bay. And—they should be sleeping at least 8 hours a night, because otherwise, they get a little testy and impatient.

On top of all that, when is the time to get to know their kids?

And who has time to go fishing????

The dirty rotten secret is that nobody has time to do it all perfectly. Something has to give. (The grandparents seem to understand this best—but that’s a different story).

The trick is—the “taking the time to get to know your kids” piece. It can be hard to quantify that, and it doesn’t fit neatly into the Saturday list along with mowing the lawn.

But the ones I saw this weekend have found one way. Once these families get into the BWCA---so many complexities fall away. Dads don’t burn the candle at both ends out there, so first they can relax and sleep. Phones can’t ring, laptops don’t work, can’t be late for anything really, the car can’t break down…..what a rare treat—well rested, no list, only “time to get to know your kid”.

And with that, I have a couple weekend Fathers' Day stories to tell:

Boyscout Troop 74 from Manhattan Kansas came off the water on Saturday—each group had taken a different route all the way to Alice Lake (64 miles total)-a lot of dads, a lot of sons. All in Tuscarora Portage Survivor tshirts.

Dave M told Andy that he simply appreciated time to paddle the canoe with his son. They didn’t have to talk, they could just hang out and savor those hours. These are precious memories both of them can draw on when Dave goes back to Iraq next week, for another year of service. (Thank you for doing that for us Dave, by the way. Thank you)

Mike and his daughter had an adventure, and in case you didn’t know this, in June when the fish are REALLY biting, the bugs are biting too. This bright spunky girl spread her cheerful electricity all over the place when they came through. Overheard on the phone--- when her mom asked her to rank the trip on a scale of 1-10 . “I don’t know mom, she said seriously. The bugs were REALLY bad out there. I guess I’m going to have to give it a 9.5”

Wade and his son are BWCAW veterans. Can’t you tell by looking at him that he knows EXACTLY how and where to catch fish on Tuscarora Lake? He’s got a wealth of information.

Our friend John (in the stern) began his 2nd Tuscarora trip of this summer last weekend. (I’m putting in the photo of the father-daughter trip too—a couple weeks ago). When you hear John’s booming voice in camp, it matches his presence: straight out of the LA Law TV set. He’s a classic lawyer, in every way but one. He gave up his practice to become a stay-at-home dad. When he’s not busy running the PTA or community organizing, he custom-plans adventures with his kids. Right now these boys are headed on the border route to trace the path of the Canadian Voyageur Fur Traders, from Saganaga to Lake Superior. Including the Pigeon River, and the Grand Portage. Next Saturday we’ll pick them up at the fort on the Grand Portage Reservation. I guess they’ll never complain about the Tuscarora portage again. Too bad we don’t have a shirt that says “I survived the Grand Portage.” 9 miles. Whew. We’re just hoping they’ve found a way so that they don’t have to double-portage their stuff. (Andy was pretty excited about this one, because he got to re-live the days when he wore his red sash and muscled through it with the Swampers from Wilderness Canoe Base. Wayyy back when.)

Phil is part of the internet BWCA club- a chat room group, that has all the of inside information. (His handle is cowdoc -a veterinarian, if you travel in those circles). Anyway, Phil sparked his passion for th BWCA in his daughter Lindsay (Lil cowdoc) –who is now our foodpacker. He built her canoe, and their shared love of the northwoods obviously strengthens the bond between them—reinforced last weekend when he brought his boys up too. (incidentally, I forgot to say thanks for the Wisconsin cheese, Phil. Especially the smoked Swiss...tasty!)

Bryan is in the wilderness right now. He wanted to spend Father’s Day in the nothwoods, to honor the memory of his dad who recently died. Evidently, the peace of the place offers him gentle solace and joy as he’s grieving.

Know what? This is just one weekend of stories. The dads keep coming, carving ways to spend time with their kids. They have taken time to breathe here.Time to look at their kids. To know them. To laugh in a way that their kids will some day say “I remember lying in the tent and hearing Dad laugh harder than I ever thought that he could.”

A belated Happy Father’s Day to all the dads working so hard to be good ones. We sure do appreciate you.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

For the Beauty of the Earth

We had such a gorgeous weekend and watched so many people paddle happily away, the kids and I decided to take our turn.

The weather held so we headed into Ham Lake on Monday afternoon—for a little hiatus. Perfect.

I woke early Tuesday morning because the birds were singing like maniacs. I lounged while the kids slept (partly because they still look like toddlers when they’re sleeping), then I started observing the multitudes of mosquitoes waiting on the screen of the tent. So many, packed so tightly that their wings were interfering with each other. We have such long winters here, and the world is so very cold and apparently dead under all that iciness. The birds—the mosquitoes—all the spring babies….re-remind me what a miracle it is that life returns anew, and that we get to tap into that.

When I was a kid I sang in choirs (years of memorizing sacred music). All those lyrics are stuck in my brain, which is lucky for me when the words match the current events of the day. Sometimes my children think it is unlucky when I’m humming the same song all day long. But this trip---it was a perfect fit.

For the beauty of the earth,

for the glory of the skies,

for the love which from our birth

over and around us lies.................

For the beauty of each hour

of the day and of the night,

hill and vale, and tree and flower,

sun and moon, and stars of light........;

For the joy of human love,

brother, sister, parent, child,

friends on earth and friends above,

for all gentle thoughts and mild;

Lord of all, to thee we raise

this our joyful hymn of praise.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Key to Emotions

A summer doesn't really start until school ends---officially last Thursday.
Daniel graciously assisted with one more lesson: a key, a primer , for reading the subtle facial cues of a 12 year old boy. Cabin 3 guest (on a STAYCATION from Grand Marais) Kelly helped us out.












Oops (Please don't tell Daniel that I snuck this in. Not supposed to let on that he really is a sweet boy).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Trail Bread by Lindsay Frost

As staffers here at Tuscarora, we get one day off every week, and that provides us with the opportunity to take mini Boundary Waters trips. This past Wednesday was my day off along with 3 other staffers (Justin, Caitlin and Andrew). We were planning on heading out to Long Island Lake after work on Tuesday, but the weather continued to be quite indecisive right up to Tuesday lunch. The four of us were a bit hesitant to head out into uncertain weather—just what we wanted: to come back from our day off sick, tired, cold and wet! However, at about 4:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday our canoes hit the water at the Cross Bay landing. We were off.

We enjoyed a nice paddle out to Long Island and were surprised that we were not wet or (very) cold upon our arrival to camp. (Though, I was a bit worried we were not going to find a campsite, as the first few were already occupied.) We set up camp as the sun was preparing to set for the evening, and then started brewing up a nice campfire. A long lasting, hot fire would be essential for the evening because in our packs we had stowed away a special Boundary Waters experiment of sorts.

Before coming up here this summer, my Dad made me a collapsible, lightweight, reflector oven to use on trips. Our experiment for the night was to see if the reflector over actually worked (Dad—I know you’re reading this…I never doubted your design!). Also in our arsenal for the evening was some of Chef Justin’s sourdough artisan bread dough. We were attempting to bake real, FRESH, artisan bread in the Boundary Waters.

Well, the experiment took a good dose of team work and patience as well. We had to collect new fire wood three times over to keep the fire going, and while Justin tended to the bread and Caitlin worked on the firewood, Andrew and I got the rest of dinner going.

I guess I had a few doubts running through my head at this point: either the fire would die out or not be hot enough, or the bread would take an exorbitant amount of time to cook, or it would cook unevenly, or burn, etc.

To my surprise and delight, though, about 45 minutes after we set the oven in front of the fire, we had bread. And this bread was not just any old slice of Wonderbread. This bread had a perfect golden brown hue and the unmistakable crunch of the fresh baked bread (you know, the good stuff). It also had a slightly smoky flavor that went well with the turkey and rice dish we had prepared.

We baked bread. That’s a feat in and of itself, but we baked bread IN THE WOODS!

The four of us lingered around the campfire breaking the warm bread and enjoying the heat of the fire at our toes. We enjoyed our dinner, to say the least, and the trip in its entirety. On our paddle out on Wednesday, we took our time. There was a little river off of Lower George and we went exploring. We sailed underneath downed trees and enjoyed the SUNSHINE. Another pit stop on our return included a climb up some waterfalls on Cross as well as a slide back down the falls. We sang songs from Pocahontas, picked off dozens of little leeches, caught a fish, laughed, smiled and took it all in. Trips like this one remind me of how fortunate I am to “work” here in the summer. This place is our home in the summertime, and I’m glad we decided to take our little trip this week—it’s one I won’t soon forget.

Did I mention that we made bread?