Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

The days are spinning by us here at Tuscarora.

We're in full spring with all of its florescent green.

It still amazes me when guests show up after a trip, and I'd swear they just paddled away yesterday...........yet they have photos, and sure enough, they've had a week's worth of memories. They've caught fish, they've had some rain and some hail, they've had hot sunny weather- enough to swim, and cold enough to freeze a water bottle one night.

Our Memorial Day weekend was especially busy. Former staffers Lindsay, Jen, and Dave came to help out those of us who are here. The regular family and friends crowd filled the cabins, and this morning, I've got a minute to reflect on it all before people start paddling in, with more stories.

When cousins Kjersten and Joe drove up the Gunflint Trail with Shelby and Daniel on Friday night, I had to shake my head; I'd swear that they were all using toddler car seats yesterday ....yet we have photos, and sure enough, they've each had a childhood's worth of memories. They've caught fish, had some rain and some hail, they've been hot enough to swim, and cold enough to freeze a water bottle.

I sort of like the way they charge ahead without nostalgia. I also like it that they've grown up together, and they have such gentle acceptance of each others' quirks.

They know each other inside and out. Joe still pushes the edge on raunchy jokes, and Daniel still stresses out on the responsibility. Shelby still looks to stir things up, and Kjersten has a mind of her own. They laugh. Their relationships with each other have nothing to do with us adults anymore. I love that.

This weekend the boys fished, Kjersten and Shelby took photos. The light was especially dramatic after the storm Saturday evening, and Kjersten with her new camera and her artistic eye captured some winners (the' Wow' shots posted here are hers).

My sentimental favorite was the path near Cabin 2---where the four of them used to don their special powers of invisibility or flight and play. I'm betting this photo will give them some nostalgic childhood memories some day, when they're my age and ready to be wistful, when there's time to remember.

We wish you a wonderful Memorial Day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why do Moose have Bells?

We've all been seeing many moose around this spring, and I like it.

Do you notice the piece of skin and hair---the dewlap--- hanging under her chin? I'm calling this one a "her" because she had a calf in the weeds, which was why we quickly left her alone. There's not a great way for me to otherwise distinguish the hims and hers in this season of the year before antlers emerge. The gender of the one in the video? I do not know.

At any rate, the dewlaps, or bells, or moostaches, are a mystery. Both males and females have them, but male bells tend to be larger. Some of them are fat and 20 inches long, some are just tufts of hair.
The moose experts aren't in agreement as to the purpose of the dewlap. Some say it helps with heat regulation. The long strands that sometimes hang down can also freeze and break off in the winter. Ouch.

Apparently they reach their biggest magnitudes on the chins of 3-5 year old bull moose.

Many biologists speculate that dewlaps (bells) play a part in the mating rituals, perhaps for dispensing scents (from bull urine and saliva, if that could ever be appealing). Perhaps size and shape are attractiveness indicators.

I'm thinking that the bells have to get caught up in the brush sometimes, and that can't be comfortable. And that is all I know.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Planting Trees, Remembering Fire

The families came to plant trees last Saturday for Gunflint Green up. I can't tell you what a pleasing little tradition it has become these last five years.
Tom and Julia (who add a little more style to Cabin 2 every summer) and I were a trio. My job was to hoe the grass clumps, Tom would dig, Julia would plant. I was truly a happy hoer.

Last year at this time of year, Shelby wrote a poem of her memories of the start of the Ham Lake Fire. We really would have preferred to shelter our kids from the whole forest fire experience. Not something to wish on a 10 and a 12 year old. Even though adversity builds character and resilience, I think this one went a little too far.

However, we're proud of the young adult she is becoming.

(12 year old Shelby)


Five minutes to fit my entire world into

This vacant suitcase in front of me

All my memories, necessities, smiles

Crammed in a single duffel

My heart pounds a

Panicked fluttering inside my chest

What what what?

What should I choose to bring?

The photos smiling on the walls

The battered lamp beside my bed

My favorite strawberry T-shirt.

What do I treasure most?

My time is ticking away

Throw in a few pairs of jeans

The money from my top dresser drawer

A third grade year book

What should I save?

Everything? Nothing?

Grab some pictures off the wall

Toss them in the pile

Five minutes and my entire world is packed into

This bulging suitcase in front of me

The tromp of heavy boots echoes upstairs

A firefighter’s gruff voice hollers

I sprint up the steps

Bag slung over my shoulder

Sunlight beams through the haze

As I dash to the idling Jeep

My dad at the wheel

My brother beside me in the back seat

We roar down the dusty driveway

A blanket of smoke curling thick among the pines

Now, I count

One dad, one brother, one panting Labrador…

No Mom

Where is Mom?

We round the corner

And collide with the flames

I open my mouth in a silent scream

Hands clench the door handle

A cocoon of fire envelopes the road

Flaming tree tips plummet and ignite the parched straw

Red and orange flickers burn my wide eyes

With their terrorizing image of destruction

As I glimpse mom’s grey suburban

Motionless at the Cross Bay Lake Entry point

The terrifying truth burbles up

And washes over my forced calm

Straining against my seatbelt

Hysterical panic exploding inside of me

Out there in the blazing inferno

My mom faces a hurricane of flame and heat she can’t fight

Helpless tears streak my cheeks

Strapped in a car; stuck

We approach the second entrance to the Cross Bay Lot

A grey suburban pulls out ahead of us

My heart soars

Stopping the sobs

We screech to a halt at the Gunflint Trail

And slowly turn

The smoky billows climb the air

Purple and orange hues blossom through the gray

Our house, our life

Disappearing into the sky

I discover the panic has stopped

Take a shaky breath

Somehow, some way

We’ll survive this

Waiting, breathing, accepting

Watching the firefighters

Hearing the radio exchanges

Dreading the hour we’ll see the destruction


The mile driveway stretches into millions

As we head back in the anxious car

The true wrath of the fire

Is revealed

Wasteland stretches before me

A desolate scene of smoking silence

Charred black from the raging blaze

Only a splintered shadow of the majestic beauty this forest once was.

The flames have stripped the very soil of its memory

Scraped down the rich dirt to raw rock

Leaving beached granite whales

In the ocean of blackness

The ashes ache with death

A forest that was once filled with life and energy

Now flutters between my fingers

And blankets the ground with a heavy sadness.

Towering white pines

That I had loved to lean against

Because they felt so completely solid and secure

Are left as frail slivers struggling to stand

But my eyes stretch over the hill

There, in a sparkling bubble of green

Lies our house, our resort

An island of survival in the sea of disaster

And my heart flies higher

Than the topmost branches of the soaring white pines

Because there will be new life in this desert

A new emerald woods

It may be my children

Who are the ones leaning against grand old trees

The ones who get to experience their great support

But sprouts are already tunneling up through the ash to sunlight

So I unpack my world, my suitcase

Put back my treasures

And watch this stunning forest

Create and recreate its beauty

(This poem appeared in the Boundary Waters Journal, Spring 2011 issue.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Saving a Chair

Maybe I was feeling a little nostalgic about Mother's Day.
Maybe it was because Daniel was working like a fiend on his autobiography project---and I was helping him compile photos from growing up, and reading his version of the memories. I don't know if it is a sad tribute to the Suzuki method of violin, or to me....but I had forgotten how we used to argue about the proper placement of the margarine box/paint stick that was his first violin. Really Suzuki? I was supposed to sit in on all the lessons and practice with him every day? I was supposed to remember and reinforce the exact placement of his elbow, and he was going to remember that forever.? Sigh.

At any rate, on Monday when it came time to throw this particular chair in the dumpster, I just couldn't do it. It was a great chair before the glide pedestal broke off. The glider footstool that provided the true comfort broke years ago--not sure, but I'm guessing it was from multiple kids 'surfing' on that thing.
My parents bought us this glider--where they wisely guessed we might spend hours with babies. I'm most nostalgic about those middle of the night feedings, where I was alone in the world with each baby, in turn. The little cottage we lived in had these weird orange sconces. I fell in love with those little bald heads in this chair. In that quiet orange glow, I learned what Sylvia Boorstein meant--when she talked about mortgaging my heart for life.

In Daniel's photo hunt, we came across a photo that didn't mean so much to him, not such a good photo. It was our first family canoe trip, Shelby was the 4 year old expert on 'Boundary Waters' from her trips as a toddler, so she gave Daniel the lowdown for the entire car ride. When we arrived at the Seagull landing--Andy and I went into the bustling mode of unloading canoe and gear. It was July, 1999. We were in a hurry to secure a campsite, having no idea that we'd have the lake strangely to ourselves, because of a recent wind storm. We hadn't been paying so much attention to the news I guess. We looked up, and the kids had climbed out of the car and were standing motionless at the edge of the water, just looking at 'Boundary Waters'. I loved that moment.

Stop by my office. You are welcome to take a moment to sit in my chair and look at Boundary Waters.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Paddling Season

The ice went out last Thursday--we woke up to a beautiful morning today, that's for sure.

In a couple of hours we'll plant some trees by the Round Lake landing--part of the Gunflint Green Up shindig.

Staff members started to arrive last week, paddling guests start coming on Monday. Here we go!