Another Autumn Walk

I have to say that there are some stunningly beautiful , peaceful, quiet, memorable moments available to us, even in hard times. We must chase them down and live in them whenever possible.

This was actually an accidental take but I find it gets me into the walk quite nicely. Come along…
The place, Duluth MN, the Western Waterfront Trail (or Waabizheshikana if you have trouble pronouncing Western Waterfront) along the St. Louis River. At Indian Point Campground the Parks and Recreation Department is hosting a Glow Hike. The half mile trail is marked with glow sticks. It is dusk and light is fading.
The trail is not crowded, but there is a steady stream of couples, families with children in wagons and strollers, singles like me. People are talking quietly above the sound of feet on the gravel and leaf covered path. There is an almost reverent feel to it all.
It is the perfect time to catch the last light as it turns from warm orange to cool blue. Flocks of ducks fly low and glide into the sheltered marshes along the river. The sense of peace and grace is almost overwhelming.
Even the children, decked in their glowing accessories, find a place to sit and watch.
And we all take pictures because we think we will never again see something so beautiful. We don’t want to forget.
At the campground there are fires to roast marshmallows, cookies and treats for all, quiet conversation, smiles, extra glow sticks.
On the darker side of the peninsula, the lights of Duluth in the distance are almost like glow sticks
The wood around us is darkening, but the silhouettes of leafless branches still catch my eye. The trees are like living beings, exposed against the wide sky for the last few minutes of twilight.
But one last gift comes – a crescent moon among the tops of the pines. Could the world be more wild and beautiful in this place? I have to say that I don’t think it could.

Northwoods Journal: Changes

Hi from a friend’s house in Duluth, Minnesota. She lets me stay in “my room” when I’m too tired to drive home.

Back several weeks ago, in July, we were getting ready for our family reunion, enjoying walks like the one in my last post, and having a great summer. And then the husband had a stroke, a cerebral vascular hemorrhage (CVA). He has survived but our lives have changed, a lot.

Since then, most of what I’ve written has gone in a separate blog, one that tells the story of our experience since his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. I won’t tell it again here, but in summary, we now have first hand knowledge of ICU’s, ventilators, tracheostomies, feeding tubes, and several other things that the husband never wanted to know about.

Hi, I’m the husband. My real name is Dennis and this is Occupational Therapy at Miller Dwan Rehab, the nicest place I ever wanted to get out of.

This is the first day in five weeks that I’ve been home all day. Dennis is in a rehab hospital now, a really good place, and making progress slowly. I felt he would be okay if I didn’t see him every day. The hospital is in Duluth, 90 miles away, and I’ve grown a little weary of the drive. I’m often in the car eating things I shouldn’t eat, just to stay awake – a bag of popcorn can last nearly 70 miles if I don’t spill too much of it.

Although I have wonderful support from friends and family, these changes leave me feeling physically alone quite often. Fortunately, I am spiritually befriended. God is such a friend. Jesus is such a friend. I took a walk this evening, kind of like the one in my last post, on the wetlands trail and saw evidence of my friends. It was almost like things were being pointed out, to look at, to talk about and enjoy. And I took pictures, of course.

All by itself in the middle of a nicely mowed field
Hello
She looked and then went on eating.
Sunset coming on.
Like fire in the sky.
Clouds, not mountains, in the east and in the water.

It’s September now. August was surreal, hard, and so different from anything we have known. We have yet to find out what our new normal will be. But it’s coming, and it will be okay.

Northwoods Journal: Hayward, Wisconsin

Riding around Hayward, not in a car, but on a bike – that was my joyride yesterday. It was a relatively slow ride, not a race of any kind, and I took care to be noticing everything. It was a great way to tour a small town. I’ve always loved Hayward, but I kind of “fell in love” over again. I’m pretty sure you would like Hayward too.

Many changes have taken place in our town since I was a child. Of course, one of them was the paved bike path I started on. It follows the perimeter of the business and residential districts, starting very close to my condo, and circles around to end up at the starting point again 12.5 miles later. I probably put in a few extra miles going through quiet streets, just looking at houses and yards because that’s what I like to do.

On my ride I started at what used to be my Grandfather Smith’s property, and the house where he raised his family.

Not too much later I rode past the house where my Grandfather Boone used to live, and the field where my mother and her brothers used to play.

I rode past three water towers. Except for the giant fish, I think maybe it’s our town’s mark of distinction to have three of them, although none of them are very attractive – a little rust, a little graffiti, lots of sirens and satellite dishes hanging on them.

I crossed the same river twice, and rode along it for long stretches. The Namekagon River valley is where Hayward is situated and I saw several smaller streams on their way to join the main river. Lake Hayward is the result of a dam on the Namekagon. The area grew as a logging town and for a while the lake was a collection point for logs. I rode past the water arena where lumberjacks still show their skills to the public, log rolling, climbing, chopping and sawing.

I don’t know if this entrepreneur was ever a lumberjack but I am pretty much in awe of his skill with a chainsaw. I rode past his outdoor lot where he sells some amazing log art.

Is that Jack Link’s jet? I don’t know.

Near the end of my ride I went past Hayward’s airport. You could probably charter a plane to bring you to Hayward but there are no major airlines serving this town. Many of the planes, jets and helicopters belong to people wealthy enough to fly in and out, rather than drive the nearly three hours to Minneapolis or six hours to southern Wisconsin cities.

Riding a bike is a friendly way of getting around, similar to horse and buggy days when stopping to talk with someone you knew was common. I rode past the house of some friends and saw one of their kids outside fixing his car. I thought a minute, and then turned around and went up the drive to say hi. Why not?

Last stretch of the bike path leading home.

I have decided to ride bike more often this summer. It really is a pretty good way to get around for moderate distances. I thought that it might be my next challenge (gotta have a challenge…) to ride 100 miles a month, for the next four months, until it snows again. But today it is raining and I’m already losing my enthusiasm. Haven’t learned to love riding in the rain, yet.

That’s all for today for this northwoods journal.

June Journal: Appointments Driving Me Crazy

Appointments, yes. But what is really driving me crazy is the GFS outlet in the garage that keeps tripping and shutting off power to all the outlets where my second refrigerator, and my freezer are plugged in. Every day a new tactic, trying to isolate the problem…

June 19

We are not having our usual company after church today. We are not going to church. The husband keeps asking if we are doing our normal things and I have to remind him that we are staying home because I have had Covid. I did go out and watch the geese. They are getting big.

The adults are always watching – good parents.

June 20

Today was over 90 degrees and windy. I could easily have imagined I was back in Florida. I passed up helping the Boys and Girls Club with their canoe trip. The cold water would probably have felt good but the heat made me feel sick, even being inside. It’s probably too soon for me to be doing something that strenuous. Glad to stay home.

Except for the chiropractor appointment that the husband thinks he needs. Once again, I had him go in by himself while I sat in the car and watched their hanging baskets twirl and wilt in the heat and wind. They came out to check on timing for another appointment and I said it was okay, but don’t have my calendar with me to be sure.

June 21

Mom, brother Dennis and I are back on our morning meetings, discussing the day ahead and doing some reading. I had two appointments. The first was with our financial advisor, a quarterly update. He’s had Covid too so we were in about the same shape and not too worried about catching it anymore. To be proper we met outside on the patio. It was hot but not quite as bad as yesterday.

The second appointment was to look at a camper that some friends of friends were willing to rent us for the reunion. I drove out to the Schrock’s and met Erik and Julia. Their camper is nice and I think it will make a good abode for my brother Ron and his wife. Once again, I’m aware of my passion for other people’s campers, and how I will probably not ever have one of my own. Whatever…

June 22

Cooler today. An exciting morning in the garden, hand weeding the beets. Some of them are growing good and some are not and I’m not sure what the difference is. But it was nice to be outside and breathe fresh, cool air. Some neighbors came over to say hi.

After spending several hours wishing I didn’t have to go anywhere – I found out I actually didn’t have to go anywhere. The program manager at the Resource Center met with my client in the morning, assuming I was still isolating with Covid.

June 23

I hate it when I have mistakenly made appointments too close together – usually because I don’t have my calendar with me. Wondering how to have the husband at the chiropractor at 12:15 and still make it to my haircut appointment at 12:45. But, guess what? The salon called and said I had two appointments for the same day and one was at 9:45! Once in a while my appointment mix ups actually go in my favor. I took the early one and cancelled the other.

I had time to brave Walmart to pick up prescriptions for the husband and get some groceries. He had been wanting some slippers without a back that he could put his foot into easily, and I found some in his usual size. But no, they felt too small, so later I walked back to Walmart for the next larger size. Again, no. They felt like “shackles” and necessitate lifting one’s feet up with each step. I am done with the slipper game.

Like “shackles”, I’m told.

Welcome distraction – a Zoom call with my daughter in Seattle and her husband. We are working on a newsletter for the family reunion in August.

June 24

Why are my strawberries small and orange? They taste great, even when they don’t look ripe, which most of them don’t. Just in case they aren’t getting enough water, I put the irrigation on them for a good spell.

Highlight of the day – I got invited to go out for fish fry this evening at a restaurant! The husband decided to go too. I was worried about that, but he did okay in spite of being too hot (we sat outside) and not wanting to eat fish.

This week has left me wondering about my mental health. I can’t seem to apply myself to anything. Waiting for some kind of change, I guess.

At least the freezer and the extra fridg are now plugged in where they won’t be shut off every night when the GFS faults

June Journal: Week 3

Life in the northwoods of Wisconsin, one week at a time, in the brief but beautiful summer.

The geese, always the geese…

June 12

I felt tired today, and with an attitude that I can’t quite find a name for. It made me a little less smiley everywhere I went, quieter, maybe a bit sharp in my inner talk and resigned to having to hold it in. No sense in letting impatience, crabbiness and frustration show when it would only make things worse.

Church, family brunch in the party garage, and then my friend Gwen and I got on bikes and rode the trails for 10 miles. That was the best part of the day. That, and the moon which I noticed as I was pulling the blinds shut before sleep.

June 13

Still tired. Still crabby (under cover). I wonder if this is my way of having Covid…. although it seems I would have at least one other symptom. It can’t be Covid this week because I have too many medical appointments for myself and others – precious appointments that we’ve waited forever to have.

At the follow up visit to my foot doctor I told her how the heel pain wasn’t changing all that much and she gave me a few more suggestions. She liked my new athletic shoes. I knew she wanted to see them but I wasn’t sure which shoes to show her. I have clean ones and dirty ones that I wear most of the time. In fact, I probably change shoes four or five times a day, trying to protect my sensitive feet outside and trying to protect the floors inside.

It’s laundry day. Not that I consistently do laundry on Mondays, but that I consistently do it when the baskets are full and there’s no more clean underwear.

Over at Walmart I discovered that I could edit the part of pictures that I wanted printed. Eureka!! For twelve more cents I got a better representation of Simba, one with a head. Mom and I made a collage of family pets for the reunion. We are quite the animal lovers.

June 14

Big accomplishments today were returning a book to Delores, checking the garden, cleaning the garage, and moving furniture in the living room. Dennis is having trouble steering his walker – the path from the recliner to the bathroom has to be wider.

Fenced, mulched, watered and growing.

June 15

After watching an ad for apple cider vinegar gummies (can’t remember why this interested me) I decided to take some vinegar the last two mornings. I didn’t dilute it very much today and it about tore my throat out. I thought that was why I felt kind of sick with a bad headache.

Dennis had been waiting for days to get in to the chiropractor so I took him in the afternoon. I wore a mask and didn’t stay in the room with him but waited outside. Went to Walmart after and picked up a home Covid test.

I HAVE COVID, after more than two years of avoiding it. And it would have to be now, on the day I have a massage scheduled. Wonderful.

Here comes the ‘Rona virus I never wanted to have.

Spent the rest of the day cancelling my life for the next week or so.

The good thing is that after testing, Mom is negative for the virus. She has to be able to keep her appointment on Friday or she won’t be seen until January 2023!

June 16

Second day of headache, even though I’m throwing everything I’ve got at it. The fever is making my eyes hurt. Had I been well, both the husband and I would have had doctor’s appointments today, skin checks. I would also have seen my client at the Resource Center.

I got my SoloStove cleaned out and packed in its case for the bonfire night at church, which I won’t be going to. Emailed around to find another keyboard player for Sunday worship, which I also won’t be going to. Cancelled a visit with my cousin from Indiana which would have been on Saturday.

Spent a lot of time going back and forth from my recliner to the bed, trying to sleep/rest. My neighbor brought chicken soup for us.

Dennis doesn’t seem to have any symptoms and I hope he doesn’t get it. I try to spend as little time around him as possible, but meals are hard. I didn’t want to cook supper so asked him if he wanted a shake. He looked disappointed and didn’t answer for a while, then said “You know I don’t really like steak all that much any more.” We got that figured out to our great relief and satisfaction.

June 17

I slept pretty good last night. The headache has changed and is no longer continuous. It’s now periodic sharp stabs of pain in the temples, and somehow I prefer that. I’m coughing now and still have a low grade fever. I have little interest in productive activity – it’s the recliner and the bed for naps.

Den (brother) took Mom to EauClaire for her appointment with the eye specialist.They did a biopsy and won’t know for several days whether basal cell carcinoma is confirmed or not. They did tell her that this surgery takes a hospital stay and it is not something to look forward to, but might be necessary.

It seems like there are a lot of unpleasant surprises lately and it makes me wonder what we are doing right that makes the family such a target.

June 18

I am determined to be more normal today, and it is working. A beautiful morning outside where I had my breakfast on the patio. Mom came over to sit with me a while and we caught up on each other’s news of the last four days since I’ve been isolating. She doesn’t feel real well and thinks she has Covid too, even though she had a negative test a couple days ago. She told me that if she dies of Covid, we should wait and have her memorial during the family reunion in August. That way she would have some people at her event. Always the practical one… At this point there is no reason to think she won’t be alive and well in August.

I picked flowers. This is what June looks like in Wisconsin.

Grass is getting tall and wild chives are blooming.
Daisy time
The second variety of lilacs, late bloomers
And the iris and hawkweed.

June Journal: Week 2

The geese, again. Look how big the little ones are getting.

June 5

Today was Pentecost Sunday where, in the Bible book of Acts, the promised Holy Spirit was sent to empower all Jesus’s followers. It was a pretty wild day, and a very important occurrence – like the birthday of the first church. The husband was quite disappointed not to hear anything about it in church, and it seemed a little strange to me too. Especially since it is the only biblical holy day that churches remember anything about now. Hmm… Fortunately we heard a message about being merciful in our judgments which seemed to be something we could apply to the situation.

Six of us had family dinner tonight (or supper if you’re from the farm). We don’t do this every week, but often enough that we are starting to think of ourselves as the BlueBloods of Hayward. Our table isn’t as big and we have nothing to do with law enforcement or running our town, but we do eat and sit around talking after. We have our own brand of less dramatic drama and it suits us fine. The critical conversation was about making gravy, which as everyone knows, is not the easiest thing to do.

June 6, 2022

I panic now that it is getting to the end of dandelion season. Lilacs are also turning brown on the edges. Next thing will be daisies, then black eyed Susan, then goldenrod and no more summer. But I need to not give precious time to dreading winter, when it’s June!

All that to say it was great weather today. Things are up in the garden, even though some of it is barely visible. We were out to the “meadow” and got a trailer load of wood chip mulch which I started spreading to keep weeds down. One of the boondockers staying at Denny’s watched me in the garden for a while and came over to say how sorry he was to see me working so hard. I felt sorry for him having nothing fun to do except watching me. The garden is my fun spot, and when it stops being that I will stop doing it.

I took the husband for a wheelchair ride on the paved driveway. He needs to get outside and he doesn’t think of doing it himself. He doesn’t try to walk far anymore.

June 7

I really wanted to get out in the garden again and finish unloading the mulch. Instead I went to town with a list of things to buy. Filled the car with gas and although it took my breath away, I will probably soon be remembering when a full tank only cost $76.

I bought some stepping stones and intend to make a platform for my SoloStove fire pit. It’s a project – more on that when I get it finished, if I do.

I was at Walmart and only beginning the list when I got a call from the husband. He needed some help in a delicate matter. Left with the decision of whether to finish the list or come back later, I went through the checkout and rushed home, although the speed of doing things at Walmart is hardly ever described with the word “rush”. The place is nearly always a zoo during the summer. I went back later.

Before I could get out to the garden, I got a call that my clients at the Resource Center were waiting for me. I thought their appointment was on Wednesday. Rushed over there.

I did finally get to the garden and stayed so late that the only thing I could think to make for supper was a Super Shake. Banana, avocado, yogurt, milk, peanut butter and dark chocolate syrup got stuck in my bullet blender. I could not get the container free from the machine and had to put it all in the refrigerator to wait until more muscle was available.

June 8

Early morning excitement. Denny was able to get my shake out of the blender. I had it for breakfast.

Today there were a few things I felt I should do for Lois and Wendell in Stone Lake. They are 90+ and I know I don’t pay enough attention to them. I am the only one brave enough to cut Lois’s hair and she basically can’t be seen through her bangs at this point. The other thing needing attention was their. landline phone. It was already nonfunctional for a couple weeks and there was a work order out to the company to check it but Wendell had forgotten to tell them that their emergency alert system was connected to that line. It was going to take another ten days until the scheduled repair. Several of us were uneasy with that.

My phone calls to the company got me thoroughly acquainted with their robotic algorithms, punching every option there was hoping to get a real person who could listen to my explanation. I did finally get in line to speak with a rep, with an estimated wait time of 170 minutes. (Thinking to myself, “isn’t that about 3 hours?! Can they do that?”). Don’t ever sign up for service with Century. Link. Just don’t. You’re better off with no phone and no frustration.

The purple oxalis, which endured being inside all winter, loves the cool, rainy weather. These water droplets looked like jewels glued to the leaves and practically begged me to take their picture.

June 9

I finished a good book last night, after some obsessive reading. I woke up feeling the house was cooler than usual and suddenly remembered some windows I had left open. Actually, I had forgotten to go out to check doors and windows and had left the patio open too. And a few minutes later, Mom came in. She saw our lights on way early, and the garage door open, and had tried to call me twice with no answer. She was relieved to find no carnage of any sort (axe murderers abound…). I noted how reading late into the night can disrupt routines. Embarrassment, yeah.

It occurred to me that the problem with Wendell’s phone service might be his equipment, so I went to Walmart and got him a new landline phone. Mom and I went back to Stone Lake to see if that solved the problem. It didn’t.

Stopped to see Mary and Jerry to see their house one more time before they leave it forever. So many parties, so many memories… Ended up buying some of their left over garage sale items. I took a bunch of her fabric which I will now have to figure out where to store. I couldn’t help myself. My mind thinks I still sew, Out of touch with reality I guess.

I went to return the good book to Delores and found out she had tested positive for the virus, not a good thing. I am also starting to feel a little garden sore.

June 10

Found out yesterday that my son-in-law, Ryan, got accepted to the cutting edge trial for treating lymphoma! Such excitement! My phone keeps blowing up with notifications. We are happy to see treatment beginning today, and relieved, and thankful

Today was shower day for the husband. We were both exhausted when it was over. He was cleaned up. I was sweaty. But it has to be done, doesn’t it? Actually, I’m examining that question carefully.

I felt pressure to be in the kitchen in the afternoon, having invited two lady friends for supper and promising Delores some chicken soup cure. But the whole time I was hoping there would be time to finish up the project off the patio with the paving stones.

Last year I spent a lot of money on a retractable awning over the patio. I decided that I didn’t ever want to see that awning go up in flames or melt from the heat of my occasional outdoor fires in the SoloStove. So the platform of pavers sticks out a few feet into the lawn, out from under the awning. I had an hour to work before supper, and had already dug out the sod. I lined the hole with sand and set the pavers. It looks like it’s been there forever. I can’t wait to have a fire now.

My simple soup supper was good. Bread and soup and watermelon, but it does sound a little strange now that I see it in print. It was the conversation with Mom, Misty, and Barb that proved most interesting. I have found two more individuals that someone could write a good book about, if they could just spend enough time with them.

June 11

It’s 6 pm. The sun has finally come out after a normal Wisconsin day of clouds, coolness, and unpredictable sprinkles. I went back and forth between the husband and Mom, reading aloud, listening to a good message about humility and un-called for judgment, and eating. Mom had donuts from the bakery. Dennis wanted vegetables and cheese, and we are going to finish with soup left from last night.

“Garden sore” has turned into “heating pad sore”. I fell asleep in the recliner instead of biking with Gwen. I need a rest.

The evening is more than lovely and I have ended the day with a fire in the SoloStove, on the new pavers. No one else, just me and the cat, Shadow.

I am reading another book and will probably stay up too late. God knows my obsessiveness. He loves me anyway.

The Last Time

The title is a bit scary, but not really, if you consider how many “last times” there are. Tonight I read to the husband for the last time today. I wiped off the kitchen counter for the last time tonight. I had my last spoonful of ice cream before putting the lid on and sticking it back in the freezer (yes, I eat out of the carton). There’s a “last time” to be considered at every turn of life, and that thought alone has got me thinking about the preciousness of each moment.

Today was a great day for taking my last ski outing, and by last I mean that I have met my goal of 25 times this season. I am content for it to be the last – winter has seemed long. There is a lot of water around as the snow melts and it’s good to hear and see the brooks opening holes in the ice. There are lots of signs of spring. I was almost afraid it would be here before I reached my ski goal, but no, there is still snow in the forest.

It’s wet snow in the open places where the sun hits it. Snow gets kind of airy, sticky and rotten when it’s heated. In the shade it cools again and gets hard, icy and very slick and I could feel the difference in the speed of my skis. But the real challenge was all the piles of debris on the trail. The ice storm last week brought down lots of limbs. Pine cones and needles were all across the trail where volunteers had been through with chain saws and taken the big branches off.

This is not the worst mess I encountered, by any means, and it is on the flat and not at the bottom of a hill. Annoying but not dangerous.

Although I have improved in my balance, and my technique this winter, what I’ve really gotten better at is being cautious. The falls I’ve had, and the ones I’ve seen my friends take, have proved to me that things happen so, so fast. I’m now always thinking about what could happen in a given situation, and the risk involved. How sad would it be if, after skiing all season without breaking anything, I would fall and become injured on my 25th, and last, time? It would be very sad.

I thought about this at numerous points along the trail, but especially at the top of one hill on Hilly Loop. I generally like hills and going a little faster now, but at the bottom of this one there was a tree mess. I knew I would pick up speed going down and there would be a sudden slowing when my skis hit the debris. I had already “snow plowed” down a couple inclines and actually side stepped down one, but this time I actually took off the skis and walked down. Yay me.

Once I got out of the pines and into some hardwood areas the skiing was a bit better. I enjoyed the longest distance of any of my times on the snow – only 5.4 miles – but it made a nice finish for my last time. I felt very grateful for the day, the activity, the beautiful weather, and the fact that I was intact and not hurting (in very many places). It was wonderful to be alive, with the possibility of living to ski next year.

Today, I think they call it being “in the moment”. Isn’t that the same as being fully aware of what you’re doing and that it might be the last time you ever did it? Yeah, I think it is. Just sayin’…

Celebrating small victories, last times and being in the moment.

Winter On Its Way Out

Winter is struggling. It knows its days are numbered, but it doesn’t want to give up without a fuss. I know it likely has another storm or two to annoy us, but the longer days (yay! thank God!) and the higher trajectory of the sun are doing their job. We still have two or three feet of snow on the yards but there is melt taking place every day.

Have enjoyed watching this guy out my kitchen window.

I’ve enjoyed many things about winter, and am ignoring those other things, whatever they are.

Poor dear, literally, poor deer.

I skied 24 times, and have only to go out once more to meet my goal of 25. Some of those times could be titled “Freezing with Friends” but many have been perfect winter days and not at all uncomfortable. Skiing – we all know what it looks like and don’t give it a second thought when watching it. There’s a difference when you call it “walking on slippery surfaces with shoes over five feet long”. Suddenly it becomes ridiculous and dangerous. But, I’ve only fallen a couple of times and I have not broken any of my bones!

Soup, rolls, fruit and drink for 10,000

Our February ended with the American Birkebeiner, the biggest cross country ski event in the U.S. I’m in a much safer role for this activity. I help serve hot soup to people who’ve just done 55k on skis and lived to tell about it. Ten thousand bowls over two days – we volunteers have seen enough chicken noodle soup to last for a while.

Reading to my husband, watching Dr. Phil with Mom, early morning briefings over coffee with the family, errands, grocery shopping, a little housework now and then, trips to the clinic for doctor’s appointments, fixing meals, changing light bulbs, paying bills, playing with the cat… welcome to my world.

Which is so tame and safe compared to what is happening over in Ukraine. The people there are more like me than unlike me, with their parkas and winter hats. I think about them most of the day, pulling their suitcases across the border to safety, hiding in the subways with their children, taking up weapons and going out to actually shoot, and many of them dying. They are dealing bravely with their circumstances and I admire them, pray for them.

It doesn’t feel right to watch war on the news, to be a bystander. It feels a lot like being in the Roman coliseum watching the lions being unleashed on the undeserving and helpless. It’s not acting. It’s not a game show or a mini-series. I feel very affected and yet I have to go on working out my less important, more mundane circumstances, watching as one more winter comes to a close. I have to say, it is very strange and disturbing.

I Thought Slow Was Safe. Nope.

Snow looks so… soft, doesn’t it?

For someone who loves being outside as much as I do, winter in the north is challenging. Snow, sleet, and ice can be cold and uninviting. The words slipping and sliding also are also prominent in my winter vocabulary. My somewhat advanced physical (not mental) age would suggest that I avoid all opportunities to slip, slide and fall. So, why on earth would I choose to take up cross country skiing, where slipping and sliding is actually the whole game? I don’t know. I guess I thought it wouldn’t matter if I went slow.

My first clue that slow was not the answer came as I plodded along, breaking my own trail in deep snow – a definite slow process. As I passed a line of spruce trees separating my path from a row of houses, a large Husky came silently bounding out to meet me. I stopped forward motion, startled, and promptly fell over. I hadn’t yet learned how to get up with skis on, hands trapped in pole straps. After trying for 5 minutes, I took the skis off and managed to get upright. Even the dog was surprised, and did we ever leave a huge hole in that smooth blanket of deep snow. That was last year.

More recently I went on an afternoon ski with some good friends who ski anything but slow. They think slow is okay, but fast is fun. They would pass me on the skate track, turn around and come back and pass me again just to keep moving. I felt a slight hit on one of my poles as I was being passed and made the mistake of turning to look.

I have heard even good skiers say that keeping balanced is tricky when they look around them at scenery or behind them to see who is following. This has always been the case for me too. When everything around me is white (snow) I have a hard time finding a point of reference, so I keep my eyes fixed on the track ahead of me and my skis. Like I said, turning around to look was a mistake.

I had a few seconds when I thought I might be able to recover my balance. They were very brief and then I felt my knees hitting the ground and my nose plowing into hard, crusty snow. “Face plant” is what it’s called, and I think it happens because hands, which normally would reach out to protect the face are, once again, strapped to ski poles and unavailable. My glasses came off, losing one of the lenses. My friends rushed to see how hurt I was, but I was already practicing my advanced skill of getting up without taking off skis. I have learned how to do that this year. Progress.

I was not skiing fast, and was very glad to have been going slow, for things could have been much worse. I have to say that in this season of my life, when slowing down can be very important, it is not the only friend that I should consider. Right alongside it is balance, not only in skiing, but also in life. Gives me something to think on… just sayin’.

This is as close to a “selfie” on skis that I will ever take. Even taking pictures can make me lose balance.

My White World (not a political post)

We get snow as a regular winter thing where I live. I realize others do not. But it’s interesting this year to see how many places are getting to experience the mixed blessings of fluffy, frozen rain. I’m watching a bit awe struck to see how it is dealt with (or not) from place to place. I’m actually glad that I live where snow hardly ever makes the news except when there’s not enough of it.

It’s Thursday. Motels and restaurants are gearing up for the weekend influx of snowmobilers, skiers, snowshoers, and fat bike enthusiasts. A snowmobile trail crosses our driveway and sometimes it looks like there is more traffic on it than on the road. We’ve had several snow days lately and there is a good covering on the ground. Yesterday it came down all day and the plows were running constantly, keeping the roads as clear as possible. I traveled out to do some snowshoeing with friends and my car was so covered with snow and ice that I had to give it a bath in the garage when I returned. This kind of thing is normal life in northern Wisconsin.

Normal life includes frequent shoveling.

I deal with a snowy winter in two ways. On below zero days I have trouble making myself go outside. Instead I sit inside and eat, drink tea and stare out the window. On days when temps are above zero I make myself go out. It’s still not easy because there is all that unusual dressing that has to be done. Lots of necessary activities cannot be done with two or three layers of clothing snapped and velcroed in place, so the prep to go outside is as important as having the right jackets, boots, mittens, caps, etc…. My pockets have to contain all the right stuff too – tissues, phone, mailbox key, car key, mask. That’s the short list.

But once I get all that done and am outside looking at this beautiful, frozen world, I am always glad to have put forth the effort. Snow is snow, and the pictures don’t change much from year to year, but I take them anyway. Here is my snowy world.

It takes about 20 minutes to get to this point of standing with skis on, ready to move out.
My outings are often around the greenspace where I live. My grandfather’s barn is one of my favorite landmarks.
The sun rises in the south(east), and sets in the south(west), rarely getting any higher than this. Makes for nice shadows.
This snowmobile track makes for easy going on new snow but I get to cut my own path fairly often.
Having trails through the forest like this are one of the benefits of living in Hayward, Wisconsin.
These are beautifully decorated trees.
The alternative to skis.
Because sometimes the forest is a hard place to ski. My friend Barb has on snowshoes, and Gwen has new skis that are more like snowshoes than not.