Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Melancholy Gray

It's late autumn, and it has been rainy gray for two days. When I drive the car out to the bus, it's so beautiful it makes my heart hurt. It's a poignant ache, and it gets me, like listening to Barber's Adagio for Strings.

Remember in Kindergarten, when your favorite color was one of the things that defined you? What kid ever picks brown? They know to stay away from it...it doesn't exactly mean happy days. It's rich and beautiful, especially as a skin color.... but not for flowers and rainbows.

So, for awhile I tried fighting this late autumn gray mood. I take Fish Oil pills, Dave says they make happy chemicals in the brain. And Mary says Vitamin D gives a little substitute sunny boost, so, I pop some of those too.
I have a friend that takes her “team” for long runs through the woods, and it’s starting to grow on me. I don’t run fast, but I try not to fall down too much and it’s such a nifty trick to move through the woods without a canoe on my shoulders, I can go for long distances and I feel like a little jack rabbit. Love that, but the speediness is certainly an illusion. Oh boy is that an illusion.

But, I've given up the fight. I'm not unhappy, but I can’t be sunniness when the season is so tinged with melancholy. We’re just too connected to the outside here---. So, I'm leaning into the rain. It's working for me. I sit quietly at the edge of the overlook at the end of my solo trail and watch the fog. The days are short, the light is diffused. But it is so very quiet and incredibly lovely.

Writer Parker Palmer says that the seasons are a metaphor for life, and--yep, that might fit. The brown dormancy of the plants-remind me of death and endings. He says, truth is revealed through the paradoxes. That the contrast paints the whole picture. On first glance, light and dark seem like opposites, but actually they define each other. Death defines life, diminishment defines beauty.
Does this mean the dreary days enhance and define the cheerful sunny ones? And so it is with my life? In the sunny summer when my days are full, there is no time to look up from my life. These late November days are slower, quieter, more contemplative, I spend more time catching up with Andy and the kids. And--this contrast helps me paint a complete picture?

Today I walked off the access road---now that the grasses are dead, it's easy to check on the little pines that we planted last spring during Gunflint Green Up. Those little guys are liking the rain. Then I remembered how the plants use autumn to scatter seeds, and so they prepare for the seasons ahead.

The fleeting snow buntings that flock ahead of my car are like bird ghosts in the fog. I don't know what they represent, but they play chicken with me, and I can't swerve away or I'll end up in the ditch... on the rare occasion when one is too slow, and it pops my windshield--I hate that. What would that mean Parker???

And the people in sunny-always Arizona, how do they fit in the contemplation? What would their metaphor be? If I ever meet Parker Palmer, I'm asking him.

In the meantime, I'm ready for snow now. Cheerful fluffy crisp blue days. It's time for deep winter. I say, bring it on~!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Know what happens when we live in the woods and our kids like sports? Same thing that happens to parents everywhere....we drive around and watch sporting events...we meet the bus late at night....we wash a lot of sweaty clothes.

Only I'm betting we drive just a little bit more.

Shelby and Daniel both run, so this fall we spent much time with the cross country team. You can't tell me that kids don't know how to work these days---I continued to be impressed by the stampedes of runners on golf courses and through woods--digging deep, entering what they call "the pain cave," setting goals, cheering each other on.

Last weekend, the girls team (and one very speedy Kieran) competed in the State Tournament.

A whole pack of Cook County/Two Harbors kids and parents trekked down to the cities--and then on Saturday to St. Olaf College for the State Meet.

It was 75 and sunny--perfect for spectating. .
My nephew Tommy showed us his dormroom, and he was looking very happy, connected relaxed. The fancy cafeteria, the climbing wall, the pick-up ultimate frisbee game in the commons, the cozy coffeshop where students and profs were having academic discussions. I get it, they could have recruited me. I'm still hooked.

The Cook County/Two Harbors kids ran their hearts out, they didn't win the meet, but I was proud of them for making it there.

As we walked past the dorms I once lived in, back to the car that was parked not far from the former trailer court where my newlywed parents once lived , I felt a strange sense of the circle of life. My kids were picturing college lives for themselves, and I'm hoping they consider many options, but...it is so lovely and familiar, I'm afraid it might snare one or both of them.

In the meantime, we sure had a great weekend.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Morning Wolf Encounter

Daylight Savings time is great. Today I woke up easily at 5:30 am. I had a half an hour to pull myself together before the kids got up, and Denali and I were ready to run from the bus stop. We got to Warrens road, all was sunshine and light, she pounced off into the brush while I cranked the music on my headset.

Off I went with the Best of the Carpenters, feeling energetic like I am 11 years old, singing loudly "son of a gun, we'll have big fun, on the bayou." ( note....*I was smart enough not to admit to knowing the words of the nerd songs back in 5th grade, I figure I'm AOK alone in the woods now.)

Then I looked up and into the eyes of two of the most beautiful huge wolves I've ever seen. They were trotting down the road and they stopped, tails up, to look at me. I stopped singing (but Karen Carpenter continued in my ears), my jaw dropped. They were mostly white, with gray saddles, and they stared at me calmly for awhile. Like maybe they were sizing up my spandex and bright red sweatshirt thinking "predator, prey, or what ???"

I was sort of embarrassed for a second. They were so cool, and I was such a.....gaper (from the vocabulary of my friend Toby--working at Keystone one winter...for the well dressed loud novice Texans)
Then I hollered for my oblivious bounding domesticated lab. And the wolves dissolved into the woods--where they obviously rule.

We had a great run, you know, on top of the world looking down on creation. Only once Denali flushed a grouse and it flew straight at my head (just like the owls on the Harry Potter movies) so that I had to duck. We got back to the part where the wolves had been, and I could tell by the way Denali ran in circles sniffing the road, with her dander up, that they were still around. I tried to be really still and scan the woods for a horizontal line in the distance---I tried to move my head only after my eyes led the way, like a deer hunter, like a predator. But I didn't see them. So I shrugged, and headed back to the car.

Denali and I love it on that road. But those regal white strong monster wolves reminded me that those woods are clearly not OUR terriotry.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November days--dark and dreary

I faintly remember a poem that my grandpa used to recite--by Longfellow. Something about all lives needing days that are dark and dreary.

But good grief, enough is enough. When the kids and I walked out to the car this morning Shelby mentioned that it was hard to remember the sun. It's true---it seems like we've had thick clouds forever.

We took a stark walk this afternoon. The woods are silently beautiful in a deserted sort of way.

Maybe we do need November days, dark and dreary--maybe we ought to savor them.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Grand Marais Halloween

We moved to the middle of the woods just when my kids were in elementary school--prime Halloween age. It was one of those things we considered seriously, along with the long bus ride, the cousins, Brueggers Bagels, the Hollydazzle parade… “is this worth giving up?” Funny how decisions are---because try as I might to weigh it all carefully, we can never know exactly what we're getting either…who could have known?
It’s definitely a Grand Marais event, where the action is. The kids aren’t really prime Halloween age—but what I’m appreciating about this small town—it seems that they’re welcome to trick-or-treat until they’re done. They can ease out of it—it’s no big sea change, no age threshold. Wear a costume or not—no pressure. A whole bunch of them went out for the walk, but several of them didn’t collect candy. Or picked up a lollipop on the way, for the blustery walk where they recognize people left and right. Where the cop turns on the siren and speaker to say---"you there....do you want some candy?"
Some came back early for ping-pong. Anything goes. I like these kids. Lucky. Nice night.

I didn't walk. I guess it's time to admit, that when some of them are in highschool, they really don't need me to walk along. So, we hung with the adults, and they're OK too. Here's Shelia, the Stimulus Package, who won the adult cleverness award in my book.

It wasn’t my house, but I did leap to the door often enough to pass out treats. My MOST favorite kids were the ones who---for the first time, were realizing that it's a candy free-for-all. I figure comprehension hits about age 3. They get it, they get to keep it, it’s CANDY, it’s pure magic. I vaguely remember that feeling, but maybe it’s even more fun to witness—check out this little blond witch. Could she be any cuter?

This one little guy, couldn’t contain himself, because he got to CHOOSE his candy. All that were left when he arrived were the tootsie rolls. He had his two pieces but he kept standing there. He kept staring at the dish and having these little excitement tremors. I said “do you see another one you like?” He said—“Yes! With a little leap….I see a lellow one”….I said “Guess what? You can have that lellow one!” and then he did a big leap and looked at his dad and said “I CAN HAVE THE LELLOW one too!!!”
I’m a push over. He wasn’t my kid, I didn’t have to teach him limits or how to say thank you or anything like that. I was just going for the leap and delight about FREE CANDY. I found him a red tootsie roll too.

Here’s hoping you witnessed at least one Halloween 3 year old this year.