Being A Friend

There is an art to being a good friend. It’s mostly about showing up in the right way, at the right times, consistently, and that’s not easy to do. It takes somewhat of an artist. Today I had fun looking at pictures of a “friend artist” that I have known for years. I should have finished this task yesterday on her birthday. But I believe in birth week, as well as birthday, so I’m still on time for that.

She came all the way from Florida to visit after we moved to Wisconsin.
She and her husband were our business associates for 30 years, which amounts to lots of dinners together, lots of discussions, lots of influence.
We both like to take walks and eat in cute, casual restaurants. She knows how to enjoy her friends in all kinds of settings.
She doesn’t mind getting into unusual places, meeting unusual people with me. This was at the barn of the Cracker Poemer. She adopted my friends as her own.
Always the smile is there. DeSoto Park.
Not afraid of new things or of following God’s leading. I remember this BSF leadership conference that we attended together.
I could always get her to show up for birthday parties I was throwing for friends – even at the beach on hot July days.
She has a way of loving my children as if they were her own. They feel that way about her too.
She and her husband give and serve in so many ways. I love hanging out with people like that. Walk for Life in Bradenton FL.

There are so many ways that this lady has exhibited friendship, that it would be hard to name them all (her husband too, but it’s not his birth week). We are thousands of miles apart now, but there are ways of being a friend at a distance and she knows how to do that too. I never had a sister, but she makes up for that in my life. Happy birth week Arlette. I love you dear friend.

Look through your photos, your letters, your memories and have fun today thinking about a friend who has meant a lot to you. You don’t have to wait until it’s their birthday. Tell them how much you appreciate their friendship. Tell them now while you have the chance. Just sayin’…

Don’t Make Me Mad

A couple of weeks ago I went for a short hike on one of my favorite trails. It’s called a snowshoe trail because it is used primarily in the winter when walkers are asked to stay off groomed ski trails. Our northern summers are short but most of the vegetation that grows here has learned to grow fast and furiously, even in the forest.

The path through the mature woods was great – leafy, shady, very little undergrowth. Now and then there would be a tree down across the path from a storm, but nothing I couldn’t step over or go around. Since the path doesn’t show much wear from foot traffic in the summer, there are also plastic ribbons tied on trees and branches to mark the way.

But trouble started when I got to a section of forest that had been clear cut sometime in the past few years. Smaller trees, mostly birch and poplar, and all kinds of underbrush, stumps, and rotting logs made the path harder to find and harder to navigate.

Then I got to the blackberry thicket. Canes as thick as my thumb were bending over the path at eye level, lots of them, as well as smaller thorny new growth underneath them. I can’t be sure but I think the huge thorns actually moved out to grab me as I tried to lift them out of the way and pass through. It got worse the further I went, until I was too deep in to want to go back the way I had come, but could not see the end of it ahead either. Had it not been for the orange ties, I would have thought I had lost the path completely. My arms were bleeding. I was getting mad. I did eventually connect with a groomed bike path and made my way out.

I was thankful nothing was chasing me. If I had been a rabbit, that is where I would have gone to be safe from anything bigger. I vaguely remembered stories about Peter Rabbit and brambles, with new understanding.

That is when I began to plot revenge. I have a string trimmer but couldn’t see that being too effective on the thick, woody canes. I needed a machete, which I remembered from my days living in Florida. Machetes are everyday yard tools there. To my delight, my neighbor who is a retired surveyor had a machete and was nice enough to lend it to me.

Oh yeah, and a holster to go with it.

After my arms healed up, I returned to the woods. I was filled with energetic indignation. My resolve to clear that path was so strong I completely ignored the possibility of cutting my own leg open and bleeding to death. I approached the offending area, swinging right and left until I began to feel blisters coming where my hand gripped the knife. When I downed the biggest canes, I had to throw them aside and deal with the thorns again, but I won! The path got cleared. I tied new orange ribbon markers. I felt powerful.

I know this is a weird story, but it’s true, and it’s an example of how anger fuels resolve and can actually be a positive force. There’s a lot of anger out and about these days, and some of it can be used for good. But please notice that not once did I think about burning the forest down. I love the forest and I want to be in it. So do a lot of other people. Now others can go along that path safely with me.

However, if in the future, you’re out hiking in my part of the country, be careful of blackberry thickets which can be deadly. Also, if you see ahead of you an old, bloodied person with a machete, you might want to hang back a little.

Machete came with orange ribbon. I was pleased.

Fall Fun

I’ve just spent a considerable amount of time changing the header that you see on my blog from leafless, bare trees to beautiful fall colored leaves. I’m keeping this one up until the first snow because I want to remind myself of all the FUN I’ve had walking in the woods, taking drives, and photographing our beautiful autumn 2021.

Although I don’t have to go out any further than our parking lot to see some color, I do go out, taking Mom on drives in the car and hiking and biking on the trails. Things change daily. We’ve gone from mostly green with a few brilliant splashes to mostly bare with a few brilliant splashes. Even though the leaves are getting mostly on the ground now, they are just as beautiful. It’s like finding little gems all over the paths and lawns.

We’ve had an unseasonably long period of warm weather this October. Instead of being shocked by early snows, I’m still picking raspberries and working in the garden (in shorts and T-shirts). I know that will change and I can’t help it, I’m sad. Summer is too short, autumn is beautiful and winter is… long. Really long.

So here is a sampling of what I see and enjoy on a daily basis. It’s only a small percentage of the number of pictures I have on my phone and in the cloud. Finding things to photograph is definitely one of my “fall funs”.

Town of Hayward Recreational Forest
Out on the Birkie trail
A walk along the river
Driving the fire lanes with Mom
Even in the parking lot

Your Fun, My Fun

I think fun is necessary to life, so I chase it. There is some to be caught almost everywhere.

Fun is such an individual thing. Maybe your fun and my fun might be the same, but most likely not. For instance, I know a lot of people who don’t like shopping, but I do. I’m not meaning the mall, or downtown Chicago for a weekend – I’m talking Walmart.

They always have interesting, beautiful things outside the door. The fun starts before I even get inside.

There has been over a year of mostly staying at home during the pandemic, but I could never bring myself to give up that occasional trip to get groceries. It was reassurance that the world of real people was still out there. It was different wearing masks and following (sort of) the one way arrows down the aisles, but it was still fun. Rules are a little less restrictive now, and I can actually recognize some people. I always see someone I know at the store, and I always see someone entertaining even if I don’t know them.

Since Walmart is on the other side of my backyard fence, I often go there just to spend time, wind down, see what’s new or what the latest shortage is. Sometimes I check out all my favorite corners like the seed and garden section, or the camping and sports section. I don’t have to buy any of it, just looking is fun. It’s a way to get out of the house when it’s been too long…

You see, I’ve been shopping in a few other countries where it is a lot different. Shopping in the U.S., I am always amazed at how much is available, that there are so many choices, that there is an acceptable degree of cleanliness and safety. Perhaps people who have always lived here think it’s this way everywhere. It isn’t. We are blessed. Even with predicted shortages, we are blessed.

Yesterday I had fun at Walmart, just because I could. It was great.

Can you believe I got these cool pants in the clearance section for almost nothing! Perfect for the next time I go shopping at Walmart.

When I Don’t Have to Wait

It’s a strange, hard world out there. It’s time we fight back with a little fun. I have lots of thoughts on the subject and will be writing about it for the rest of October.

Everywhere we turn these days there is something to wait for. I wait in traffic, at the grocery store, for commercials to quit, for the spooling to stop, for food to be cooked, for my hair to dry, for sleep to come, for the headache to go away. What surprises me though, is that I find myself waiting for things I don’t have to wait for – out of habit, I guess. It is a habit I am setting out to conquer.

On this beautiful evening, calm, warm enough to sit outside, I’m not waiting to light a fire in my Solo Stove. Making fire (small and controlled) and watching the flames has always been fun for me so I followed the fun and started my fire. I knew I would love this little fire pit, but I can see that if I waited for others to come enjoy it with me, I would not be getting much use out of it. I do like to invite others to sit around the fire, but that usually involves some planning ahead. When it’s only me, I could be doing it any night when the weather is nice, even without a plan. Why wait?

Waiting can be a good thing, right? Why? Because I have to let the people in line before me go first (unless I want to get thrown out of the store…). Because the food tastes better when it’s cooked long enough. Because things work out better when I match my desires with right timing, right circumstances, right preparedness. I learn that patience is a good thing and I learn patience by having to wait.

But what about not waiting? You see, I’m learning that I won’t have much fun if I wait for it to happen by itself. I’ve spent my share of time feeling sorry for myself, wising I was having fun, being pitiful. I can decide to have fun, sometimes with others, but even when I’m alone. Often that is my only choice. I have a ready list of those things I enjoy doing, because everything in life goes better with fun mixed into it. It’s medicine really.

And honestly, fun is a huge part of my faith life, my life with God. I’m not sure I’ve ever read the word “fun” in the Bible, but I have seen “pleasure” and “enjoy”which are probably about the same thing. I can’t imagine the abundant life that God says he wants me to have, without it also being fun. I feel it in my heart, God is in favor of fun.

All this to say that it’s a good night out here on the patio. There’s work to do inside the house, which I’m not doing. I’m alone with my writing pad and my cup of tea, watching a warm, glowing fire. No guilt, no regrets. I’m having fun and fun is good. (Wish you were here…)

The Beauty of the Earth

“For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the love which from our birth, over and around us lies; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

Looking Up

It was a day with clouds but enough blue sky to inspire a walk in Town of Hayward Recreational Forest.
The path I walk is wide in many places and the sky is visible as a backdrop for the trees. How seldom I remember to look up to see how awesome the TOP of the forest is.
We are seeing the fall colors coming on quickly. The maples are turning red.
And yellow. And orange.
The pines are straight and tall, so tall it’s hard to picture their height.
Even the dead, decaying ones make me look at them, and admire how useful they are as habitat for animals and insects.

Looking Out

The pond is wild, murky, reflective, full… and the shores are beginning to be decorated.
Fall has its barren places and looks. The dark water fascinates me when it turns into blue sky and white clouds.
Smaller paths through the woods get my attention
Even though at times they almost disappear. Finding a small clearing with a splash of sunshine is worth getting “lost”. (I wasn’t lost, really.)
There is a bench where I sit and look at this tree and wonder why it is so different from others, so prominent, simple… a minimalist tree?

Looking Down

It’s easiest to look down, and I tell myself that it’s safest too. There’s a lot down underfoot.
Some oak dropped this gift in the middle of the path. I think it was for me.
And this little maple is finishing its first summer with four red leaves which don’t have far to fall to the ground.
I always wonder why God made fungus so cute and fanciful.
See what I mean?
See?
Designed, orderly, yet unique and randomly beautiful.

Thank you for taking this autumn walk with me.

He Owed God a Baptism

There was a farmstead that I visited frequently when I was young. The farm was on Round Lake so the owners also had a resort, Meier’s Log Cabins. They had a daughter around my age and in summer, I was often at their home swimming in the lake, playing with their daughter, Barb, and often was invited to eat supper. In the winter we rode the same bus back and forth to school. Barb’s mom was a great cook, and had a large garden. They had a fish tank with guppies – funny the things that impress children… The father, Phil, was a skilled carpenter (as well as a farmer and resort owner!) He had built their house and it was full of features that were a bit special, like a real upstairs bathroom. I can’t tell you all the good memories associated with that family and that beautiful place.

But like many resorts on the lake, the cabins were sold off to private owners and so was the Meier farmhouse. I lost track of Barb when she went off to college a year before me. I think I might have seen or heard of her once since 1968. But I have often wondered about the house and what changes it might have undergone. I have wondered if I would ever see Barb again.

Oddly enough, I have another friend who now owns and lives in the Meier house. I see her at church quite often and our families have history, since our parents were friends and she and her husband know my brothers quite well. Just yesterday, my brother Bob suggested we go out to visit these friends. He had asked them if they would show me the house, for old time’s sake. We went.

There was a lot going on. They were preparing their RV for a two week trip west, and in addition they were preparing food for a special event. Jan and her sister were in the kitchen cutting up fruit and vegetables, food was everywhere. After giving me a tour of the house and sitting me down with some coffee, she explained that she and her sister were getting baptized, in the lake, the next day. She was excited and told me how it had come about.

Her sister had been wanting to be baptized and she knew Jan wanted to also. Could they do it together? That would be possible if they did it in Hayward before their upcoming trip. Although they didn’t need extra things to do before their trip, everything after that decision came together quickly. Jan had a minister friend who agreed to come, they invited their guests, and the ideas for “spiritual food” to serve after the baptism buzzed in her mind so adamantly that she KNEW how right it would all be. It had the feel of God’s blessing all over it.

Then she told a story about a phone conversation with her niece, Rachel. Rachel had been at a campground and had gone to an inspiring worship service with a Messianic Jewish rabbi. “Don’t be focusing on the bad, and the confusion in our world today” he had said. “We have reasons to celebrate!” He then told them about Rosh Hashana, the Feast of Trumpets, and about how everyone should have a shofar (ram’s horn that makes an awesome loud noise) to sound in the new year and days of celebration and hope. And the day chosen for their baptism was, of all things, the day that Rosh Hashana would start at sundown. How awesome was that?!

“Well,” she said to me, “I didn’t even know what a shofar was. Do you?”

“Yes, I have one at home. We actually observe the Feast of Trumpets for its Christian meaning and message.”

“No way!”

“Yes, would you like me to bring it to you?”

And that’s how it happened that we were invited to the baptism, along with 22 other friends and family. I packed up my shofar, got Mom in the car and we went out to the farmstead this afternoon. On the way we puzzled over how we might find my childhood friend Barb. Mom suggested Facebook but neither of us knew her married name, and checking out all the Barbs was not an option.

We arrived at Jan’s house and parked. Jan was in the driveway talking and came over right away. She had another story.

She and her sister had been walking out to the road to put up a “Baptism”sign up so people could find her place. They met a man on his way to the woods where he and his son had been cutting trees to use in their maple syrup business. The son had cut one more tree than planned and this man had decided to go out and get it. They lived in the Minneapolis area and were in Hayward for the weekend. They owned one of the cabins from the resort, and the woods nearby.

He saw Jan’s sign and asked what was going on. When he found out what they were planning, he said he had been wanting to be baptized too. They invited him to join them, not expecting that he really would.

But he did. He came with his married children, grandchildren, and his wife who, it turned out, was Barb Meier, my childhood buddy. I’m sure God had fun putting this little celebration together.

It was a beautiful time. Three precious people told what it meant to them to have come to this decision. The man, Don, said he had been baptized as an infant but as an adult, he had come to feel he “owed God a baptism”. They all demonstrated their love and commitment to their Savior and God and came up from the water smiling. And I got to blow the shofar, not an easy thing to do. Surprisingly, I did it quite well and counted it as just one more miracle in a long string of miraculous happenings.

Ceremonial words
Water baptism
A biblical feast – figs, honey, dried fish, olives, bread

This is just one of the ways that God demonstrates his reality to me. He does, crazy, awesome stuff and chooses to include me in his plans. He wants me to see him that way and be a part of what he does. In this I am not unique. I think he wants everyone to know him that way. Look for it, just sayin’…

Being “Right” Comes Full Circle.

(It has been suggested by the husband that I write this to his daughters.)

We were reading a thoughtful paragraph on humility this morning, referencing people who are always right about anything and everything. Dennis laughed and said something that our youngest daughter had said to him once. “I am right, because I am a Dietz!” It was said tongue in cheek and they laughed at it at the time too. Then he got quiet and continued, “I love our daughters so much. I hope they know that.”

It was a special moment and we continued talking about the meaning of that conversation and why the memory of it sparked such gratitude and love inside his “dad heart”.

During the years our daughters were growing up at home there were so many good times for us as parents and for them as children. There were also times, not so good, when they felt distanced from their parents. The role of provider was always of high concern for Dennis, and required a lot of his attention. Maybe small people (children), having limited experiences, were not as interesting as other friends and business associates. He never intentionally conveyed this to them, but it was conveyed nonetheless.

In addition it was natural to assume that children’s opinions, reasons, and thought processes were still to be directed and molded, not listened to and considered. This attitude also was never intentionally spoken, nor was it applied 100% of the time, but over the years it was felt, sometimes acutely. Although Dad provided well and loved them, he didn’t know them personally and was often clueless as to what they were feeling. Perhaps they heard more of “don’t leave toothpaste in the sink” and “your lights were left on – go turn them off” than the things daughters need to hear from their dads.

So what does it mean when a daughter can tease, laugh and point out some hurtful flaw when talking to her dad? What did it mean that she could remind him of that “always right” attitude in a gentle conversation (well, I don’t actually know how gentle it was or what it was about because I wasn’t there…)? To him, it meant forgiveness. It meant that she wasn’t afraid to remind him of that proclivity of his. It was acknowledgement and grace extended. And it was love.

The husband has mellowed so much in the last few years. Retirement has put the distraction of being a provider behind him. He fully realizes those things he has missed by not being more aware, more curious, more persistent about knowing his children. He has also been diagnosed with a heartbreaking condition. But it has turned into a blessing. It’s almost as if his heart had to be broken in order for him to know what was in it. It’s amazing to think about.

Although he is disabled, he has traveled long distances to see each of his two daughters get married, during pandemic times. He would not have missed these opportunities for the world. “Being right” has come full circle and is now much more like “Being in love.”

It provides hope for us all. We can grow, learn, change. The whole story doesn’t have to be pretty for the outcome to be good. God be praised for his transforming power, his gentleness and his wisdom, and his mysterious ways.

Hiking the Birkebeiner: Part 1

(Well, not exactly the Birkie, but right alongside it. Also, “TH” in this post stands for trailhead. All trailheads can be found on Google maps.)

Again, summer is short and almost over so I’m doing my best to section hike the 30 some miles from Hayward to Mt. Telemark. The Birkie Trail is quite wide and has some steep hills. The CAMBA bike trail, which goes over much of the same terrain, winds through the shady woods and is probably a little longer in length – but goes to the same endpoint. I prefer hiking in the woods where it’s cooler and more interesting and up close to nature.

Dot to dot shows the second and third sections we have hiked. The challenge is to do the loops above and below as well, which roughly follow the Birkie trail from Hayward to Mt. Telemark in the Cable area. Total about 40 miles.

I have a friend, Gwen, who hikes with me. I feel it’s an act of God that we found each other since she seems to be willing to do strange (read extreme) things and shares the same love of challenges. And yet, she is not terrifyingly weird. I feel blessed.

It takes two of us in order to have a car at both ends of each day’s hike. Today we were meeting at 7 am at the trailhead and it seemed very early. The sun was barely up and was red orange behind a screen of smoke blown in from Canadian forest fires. We left my car at Gravel Pit TH and I jumped in with her for the ride to County Road OO TH. So far the sections we’d finished had been around 5 miles each from trailhead to trailhead. That’s a very reasonable couple of hours of hiking plus the drive time. This was going to be the longest yet, 7.3 miles, and we thought it might seem a little strenuous going through wooded, hilly terrain. Strenuous meant we justified bringing food along.

Hills, trees, rocks, water, repeat.

It was a perfect morning for hiking. We warmed up but never got really sweaty. Normally we talk a lot while walking, but this trek was long enough that we actually had some silent stretches where we just enjoyed looking around at the beautiful woods and listening to… nothing. No road traffic noise, no motor boats, no ATVs. There were birds. Birds are okay.

Yes, after not hitting that rock, they ride bikes between those trees. Insane. I had to be careful walking there.

For those who are interested in hiking in our area, here is our schedule and times. Whenever the bike trail is one way, I like to walk against traffic so I can see who is coming. Often the bikes are so quiet that they surprise us. During the week, we may not see any bikers at all. On weekends the trails are busier.

Our first section was Hatchery TH to Mosquito Brook TH. 4.6 miles in just under 2 hours

Second section was Mosquito Brook TH to Gravel Pit TH. 5.16 miles in 2 hours 15 minutes.

Third section, which we did today was Gravel Pit TH to OO TH. 7.3 miles in about 3 hours.

This section puts us half way to our goal. All three sections are parts of the single track Makwa Trail. All the trailheads are accessible by roads that they cross. The roads closest to Hayward are all paved but as we get farther from town, we are having to use fire lanes in the woods and they are gravel, but well maintained.

You can see our gravel access road, and the smoke haze from the fires north of Lake Superior.

For me, hiking is like soul food. I get hungry for it. It’s necessary for my sanity and never feels like time wasted.

Triathlon Time

I’ve said it before, summer is short and almost over here “up north”. I almost panic when I think about all the warm weather things I wanted to do and how few days are left to do them. One of the most significant adventures got crossed off the list last week – my own version of a triathlon. Don’t judge.

First, I don’t like to do this alone and was so glad to find a willing companion. She was a visitor to this area and clueless so I made it sound like a wonderful adventure. She not only wanted to do it but brought her dog along. The dog, of course, was also clueless.

Me and clueless friend, Bonnie, already hot and sweaty. Triathlons are hard.

The first leg of our triathlon was to get in the car and drive to Round Lake Linden Road boat landing. We all did well with this. The dog was especially good.

The road repair people tried to confuse us on the way there with these white strips on the pavement. It looked like toilet paper. Turned out, it was toilet paper. Who knew?

The second challenge was the peninsula walk of about 3 miles, maybe a bit more. The dog got a little tired and hot so we let her cool off in the lake at the Narrows. Round Lake Peninsula is so beautiful this time of year and we had so much to look at and talk about that this part of the triathlon went by quickly.

Wait, I’m supposed to do what? And do I have to drag my little poop bag along with me?

The third challenge, the wade/swim, gave the dog some confusion. She was used to swimming out to fetch a stick, and then swimming back to shore. But this was different. We waded out on the sand bar and kept going. And, of course, she had shorter legs than we did and had to swim a lot farther. My feet took a beating, since there were dangerous rocks everywhere and I had taken my sneakers off and put them in my waterproof bag. My phone also took a turn for the worse because of a hole in my supposedly waterproof phone pouch. Aside from that we did really well and after our exhausting walk that water felt so good! Completing the circular route, we were back at the boat landing and drying off in record time – probably about 90 minutes.

This Peninsula Walk/Swim is pretty much a family tradition, having been done most every summer since my girls could swim. Family and friends have joined us and most everyone has a super good time. I think the dog did too, but don’t ask her. Just sayin’…