Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Skating

It rained yesterday--flooding the ice.

Daniel couldn't resist.

First thing in the morning, and already I've had my high point.

Not perfect ice, but perfect early morning nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"I love Canada Canada Canada"

Denali and I took a partly cloudy, 50 degree hike on the Centennial Hiking Trail (starting on Round Lake Road---) Any other March I would have had to take my snowshoes. Or at the very least expect mud. Hardly any snow left this time--it was pretty dry out there. Crunchy.

Our boreal forest doesn't have so much topsoil. During the most recent ice age, the glaciers scoured away depressions on the big slab we live on that is the Canadian Shield. We can thank those glaciers for all of our favorite lakes, but they took most of the soil too, and dropped it in places like Illinois I think. It’s a great landscape, but it doesn’t hold moisture long. A rainy couple weeks down the road, and it could saturate quickly too (we’re hoping for that). Not much precipitation this March, lots of sun though, to keep our bird friends happy; yesterday, especially the white-throated sparrows. They were loud and cheerful, calling "I love Canada Canada Canada."

My first summer in the a guide counselor for Wilderness Canoe Base. Early on a couple of my groups canceled, so I joined in-base staffers ...doing the odd jobs. The best job (because we got to camp) we fondly referred to as "potty patrol." I don't even know what kind of deal Jim Wiinanen worked out with the Forest Service, but one week Pontoonist Drew and I were digging latrines on Alpine Lake. One campsite was occupied, and we were trying to be very invisible and polite, but we didn't exactly correct this nice older couple who might have thought we were knowledgeable US Forest Rangers. And when the nice lady asked us what that bird call was, Drew very politely said (in a very deep and official voice) "That'd be the white-throated-sparrow ma'am." He even faked me out! Lucky thing she asked about the only bird call he knew. It still cracks me up a little when I hear the sparrow call. "I love Canada Canada, Canada." It makes me wish Drew would come to Tuscarora this summer....(ahem)....because he helps out sometimes, and then I can use a very deep and official voice to remind him "That'd be the white-throated sparrow, Drew"

I love Canada too (and these border woods especially). In my head, I know that the weather patterns are bound to vary. Last year, we had a very late spring. I KNOW about the tails in the curve of the normal distribution. So we're currently living in one of the tails, rather than hanging around the mean temperatures/moisture levels. Sometimes I even prefer the tails. I’m pretty fond of the power of normal distributions, and I like it that the natural world patterns are so mathematically symmetrical. And since I can’t monitor or control normal anyway, I’m going with the birds. “I love Canada Canada Canada.”

We heard Kansas City got a foot of snow. Yikes! They're living in a tail too. And Louisiana even had snow on the first day of spring..... an outlier?

But here's the deal, almost always on that hike, even in the summer, my socks get wet. I usually have to tiptoe around the wet spots. This time, my boots were bone dry---I could avoid the handful of wet spots. And THAT tail of the normal curve gave me a few momentary prickles at the back of my neck. I suppose it's an animal instinct to be wary of things that fall too far from ‘expected values.’ Maybe there will be time in a month to be cautious about this dryness, but for now, we may as well savor the sunshine. "I love Canada Canada Canada."

I made Denali stop at our regular spot to pose for a picture (she's so black, I'll bet you can't tell that she is actually rolling her eyes at me). The far right pond is the moose pond by our mailbox. It's ice free, except early in the mornings. Round Lake isn't breaking up yet. I couldn’t help but scour the topsoil for little green signs of spring. It really was a beautiful day.
Those birds kept telling me not to worry. They were telling me that I may as well enjoy life as it is, because that's what it is going to be anyway. “I love Canada Canada Canada”

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I was going to write about the gorgeous weather. With a week of temps in the high 50s and 60s, the snow couldn’t possibly hang on, and the ice is fading fast. It seems that May showed up , first melted, then dried everything up in the north woods? It is very very odd, and too early, but still we can’t help but smile the spring smile.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about my beloved niece who visited this week (with her parents and mine (her grandparents).

Maria has huge brown eyes that soak in the world.

She has sturdy little athletic legs, that match her Mayan ancestors. I’m sure she’ll grow up with ties to Guatemala, because my sister and her partner are already promoting all of that. But she’s all ours. And we are crazy in love with her.

She’s inquisitive, and independent, and of course brilliant. She’s such a little peanut that she seems even more brilliant, because we forget that she’s almost 5 years old. She’s tough, but she also wore a tu-tu most of the week. She says stuff like---“I like that word--- ‘startled’ ---but you know what Sue-a (pronounced Sue-uh)? I don’t like the word zamboni any more. I used to like zamboni, but now, I just don’t.”

We began discussing the safety of the ice as the week went on, and pretty soon there was no flipping way she was going out there anymore. Probably a good choice: now there are a couple of Maria-sized holes, even though I think there is still a foot of ice out there. Well, there is a foot of rotten ice where there isn’t open water…where there aren’t spring holes, where it isn’t pulling away from the shore.

Her favorite place is outside. “Point my feet in the right direction, and I’ll go find Shelby and Daniel” This was literal. I had to point her feet.

She laughs at my jokes.Her parents try to get her to sit down at the table, when she is just the perfect size to stand on the bench, and put her hands on the table and jump a little bit during dinner, when conversation gets exciting. I said—"What if we all did that all the time?" And I got up on the bench, and my dad is always game for that, and pretty soon everybody stood on their chairs and started jumping. And oh—she thought it was so funny she kept remembering it all week. I like that in a kid.

Her high point of Tuscarora? Definitely Denali. Only she says “Denowli” .

We were on the rocks by Lake Superior last night—the kind of beachy flat rocks that make the North Shore. Maria got punchy, and wanted to hold my hand and run and run and run. It was hard, I had to focus on my footing because…because I’m old. But she held my hand and was reckless and laughing like a maniac, and she never wanted to quit. i thought, if only I had a hand to hold, I could run wildly like that. It was a nice night, the daylight savings sun was keeping us warm, plus the running running running. I don’t know what was so funny about it, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that it has been unseasonably weirdly warm, it didn’t matter that there was a list of tasks somewhere, or even that we didn’t know how many more times we were going to run the whole length of cove we were in. We were just running, and she was a lunatic. It was refreshingly mindless.

One time she said “I am full of love and joy.”

And I've decided that is exactly what I want to be when I grow up

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Canoecopia Weekend

We'll all be at Canoecopia in Madison this weekend-

Andy will be at the Tuscarora booth--the kids and I at Becoming A Boundary Waters Family booth/activities.

If you're in the Madison area, come and find us!

My folks will be holding down the Tuscarora Fort for us.

And now--we're off!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Here and Now

I was reading about this American woman making soup for these farmers in Zimbabwe. The fields were dry, they had been in a drought for awhile and as they began to eat, it started to pour. So hard that the sheets of rain splashed the soup out of the bowls into their faces, and while she was running for cover, the farmers just sat there in the pelting rain and ate the cucumber soup. Because, if they got up and left the rain, then they were afraid the rain might leave them.

It was the season of rain, and they wanted more rain.

In the season of rain, they were savoring the rain.

I was going to be deliberate about that this March weekend. Strive to treasure the moments, just as they came. I didn’t want any more or any less, was just was going to cherish what I had.

Let me tell you though, it wasn’t difficult to do that with this weekend. Gorgeous, sunny spring, 50 degrees. Definitely relishing these moments wasn’t a huge challenge, there was no rain….but still. Maybe I could just practice for a rainy day.

Andy spent a couple days on vacation— with some good friends of his who came up for their annual boys' weekend. These are really good guys, even if they cheat a little at broomball. (!)

Daniel had a hockey tournament canceled, we only went to town for one tennis practice, otherwise, we had unbroken hours at home for a change. We played a lot a lot of broomball. Hours of broomball.

There was some fishing, we skied some, We had some nice fathers/sons guests who ventured out fishing too. Easy sunny days.

Right now I’m spent. Daniel and I just finished a game of Stare, and he didn’t cream me like as badly as he usually does. Andy has fallen asleep on the couch, Denali is rolling around on the floor while Daniel scratches her ears. Shelby is doing some homework.

It is really good to be here and now.