It is sinking in that summer is really, finally here. This usually happens about four weeks before it gets cold again, so I am being very much in the present, eyes wide open, walking without a jacket, swatting at deer flies and even getting a bit warm at times.
It is getting late, almost 8:30 but I have sunlight still and it’s been a few days since I walked the wetland trail. We’ve had regular rain so the meadow is green. There are a few clouds but no wind. The sunset is getting better by the minute.
Even with the rain, the creeks and ponds are low but I love the way this one looks like a ribbon of reflected light.
The first sections of my path go past fields where milkweed plants abound. They are in full flower now which makes for a rather stunning plant. I often see deer in the fields in the evening and tonight I got to lock eyes with this young fellow. I thought he was stunning too.
Farther out in the marsh, I’m seeing “my geese”. I’m getting a sense of ownership – after all I’ve watched them grow up. Most of them look like adults now. Tonight they have the company of a pair of sand hill cranes. None of them seem to mind that I am taking pictures of them so I spend quite a bit of time watching.
Passing the wildflower field makes me happy because the black eyed susans are the color of happy. Passing the wildflower field also makes me sad because black eyed susans are a mid to late summer flower and I don’t want summer to be over anytime soon.
I am reminded that this beautiful greenspace used to be a small golf course every time I see this sign, which now makes me laugh. It’s all green so I guess we can exit anywhere we want to.
The sun is nearly down and I am feeling like I’ve just had a shower of peace and blessing. Even the deer flies have gone to bed and are no longer following me. Time to be thanking God for helping me to be here in this place, at this time. Time to rest. Thanks for coming along.
Up north where summer is cool (except when it’s 100 degrees F.).
We are having a family reunion in, roughly, two weeks. This time we number around 45 individuals from the east coast, the west coast and in between. They are coming from Alaska, and Florida, from Washington, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina. By plane and by car. The meeting place is Hayward, WI and thankfully that is close to the middle, however it is also over two hours from the nearest airport. Everyone flying in has to shuttle, rent a car, or find someone to give a ride. Travel arrangements are getting wildly complex.
Family reunions are somewhat about food, since we all need to eat. But it’s not that simple. Everyone has favorite meals and food traditions that we like to recreate. Like most families, we love grilling outdoors, pizza, good coffee for breakfast and cinnamon rolls. We love popcorn and ice cream. We love a meal out at an interesting restaurant. We have kids who only eat one food. We have adults on special diets. Food arrangements are getting complex.
We love to sit around and talk, and for some of us that is the most physically active we can be. We have others who would add a silly game, a movie night, or a campfire to their talk environment. There are some of us who have to float the river for four hours or it’s not a real reunion. There are some who have to be on wheels, or boats doing something potentially dangerous. And all of us care about sharing worthwhile, memorable experiences with each other. And although I have never felt that boredom is a fatal condition, I would prefer that no one remember our time together as BORING. It’s getting complex.
The next couple of weeks this reunion is going to be on my mind pretty regularly. My four brothers and I, along with Mom, are the linch pins of the event and are talking, calling each other, and figuring out all these complexities. I appreciate how it draws us together, joining our particular skills, taxing our creativity. It’s work, but good work. It’s going to make some interesting journal entries and I hope I have time to write them.
I love that our complex family cares enough about these periodic reunions to consider planning, spending for them and coming to them. I know it probably will not always be possible. Our families are getting larger and developing groups within groups and that will change the when, the who and the where for our future get-togethers. That is okay, because no matter the size of the gathering, we are teaching the tradition to the next generation. We teach cooperation. We teach sacrifice. We teach commitment. We teach fun. We teach family.
Do you have family reunions? If so, do you look forward to them? Are there special traditions or ways of handling complex arrangements that you can share?
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.
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?
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.
Life in the northwoods of Wisconsin, one week at a time, in the brief but beautiful summer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve enjoyed many things about winter, and am ignoring those other things, whatever they are.
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!
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.
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’.
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.
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.
Small stories about me make me think about you, because we all share some of the same weirdness.
It has been cold this week and I only had one day of meeting my 10,000 step goal. But today it warmed up to 43 degrees F and I could not resist going out for a late fall walk. It was also the first day of deer hunting season so I decided not to tempt fate by walking in the forest. I headed west into town, on the sidewalk.
I may actually have taken a bigger risk by walking in town, since there was so much to look at, so many curbs to step off, so many stores to get sucked into. My route took me up Main Street. My town is working on winning the title of “America’s Main Street” and so far has made it into the top 25 five different years, including this year. There is a lot of electric decorating that’s going to light the place up after Thanksgiving, and it really does make it a picture perfect, small town Main Street. (Please, please vote for Hayward, Wisconsin by going to this link, every day through December 12 http://mainstreetcontest.com/profile121 It’s a popularity contest – you don’t even have to go there to vote for it.)
After my halfway mark of 3,000 steps I headed home. On the way there was a big garage sale at my church, so I decided to walk through.I usually consider it safe to do that when I’m on foot because who wants to carry a bunch of stuff for a mile? Not me. My excuse for stopping was that I might find the perfect thing for Mom’s birthday. She loves garage sale treasures. Instead I found a whole box of really nice glassware – just the kind I’d been looking for at the thrift stores. They were heavy glasses, sixteen of them.
Leaving the sale with my box of glasses, I started looking for shortcuts home. I am always aware of the difference between “as the crow flies” and the distances I normally walk on the streets. Most of the time I’m trying to get more steps in and don’t mind, but the box wanted to get home, and there was kind of a path heading in the right direction. I took it.
It turned out to be the way to the impenetrable urban woods, where the church lawn crew dumped all their leaves and pine needles. I say impenetrable, but really it wasn’t. I was able to put the box on the ground and push it under the downed pine tree and follow it out into the ditch. The road I wanted to be on was right there, where the crow was still flying, in the direction of home. I was glad there were no cars going by though.
One more shortcut remained between me and my destination. I was getting a little tired, maybe a tad clumsy as well. But the thought of tripping and ruining all my new glasses kept me going so, so carefully.
It feels a little odd walking in places I normally drive, cutting across parking lots and ditches. It feels odd and sneaky taking back alleys and roads that most people don’t travel or even know about. But honestly, at my age, there aren’t a lot of things more exciting than this to do, so I like doing this. Especially with a heavy box.
I crossed the last highway and made it home, all the glasses intact. And today, once again, I finished my 10,000 step goal. But I will say it’s going to be harder to do it very often this winter, and it’s definitely harder with a heavy box. Might not do that again, just sayin’…
Stop pretending – you’ve probably done something like this too. What was in your “heavy box”?
Tomorrow Gwen and I will finish the last section of the Birkie Trail, and it’s good timing because we are starting to get snow flurries and temps in the teens. Hiking this northern section of the trail has been quite different because we have used the actual Birkie trail rather than the single track bike trails. Another difference is that it’s about the busiest place “out in the woods” that I’ve ever seen. We are always crossing ATV trails, bike trails, logging trails and fire lanes and more than once we have been confused. Often we are telling ourselves to just enjoy the walk in the woods and see where we end up, because we have no clue where we are. Backing up, here are the finished sections.
September 12, 2021 Hatchery TH to Hwy 77 Bridge
I explored this short section myself one afternoon because I’ve been curious about the bridge ever since it went up. For years the Birkie ski race used to cross Hwy 77 near this spot and the road actually had to be covered with snow and closed while thousands of skiers crossed it. There was even talk of tunneling under the road, but the eventual decision was to put a bridge over it, making it much more convenient and safe. I’ve gone under this bridge countless times, and now I’ve also gone over it.
September 17, 2021. OO TH to Firetower TH. 5.53 miles, 12,410 steps
We had some logistical help when we hiked the section of OO to the Fire Tower trailhead. My brother dropped us off at the Fire Tower warming cabin and picked us up a couple hours later at the Johnson Center on OO. He rode mountain bike trails in the area while we hiked. In fact, there were quite a few bikers riding the trails that day. I guess some of them got hot and sweaty and had to change clothes, at least that’s the story we told ourselves as we passed the warming cabin at Boedecker Road where a guy was standing naked by his car. The things you see in the woods… I did not take a picture. It was a beautiful fall day in all respects!
September 30, 2021 Firetower TH to Timber Trail TH 6.9 miles, 15,484 steps
A couple weeks later we did the next section ourselves, doing a loop from the Fire Tower TH to Timber Trail warming cabin on the classic trail and back on the skate trail. It was another beautiful afternoon, but we had a later start. We didn’t make it back to the car until 6 pm and the sun was nearly down. Our days are getting noticeably shorter. This one got us a little tired. We did extra steps looking for trail signs and my real step count for that day was 19,172.
October 26, 2021. American Birkebeiner TH to North End TH. No idea
I could hardly believe we had taken almost a month off. It didn’t seem like that long a time because both Gwen and I started going to Ski and Tea. It’s a ladies ski group coached by some amazing, experienced cross country skiers. We’ve been getting together nearly every week for training on the Birkie. Since there’s no snow, we practice various ski techniques while hiking – it works. On the afternoon of the 26th we drove to the far end of the trail, the Birkebeiner TH in Cable and walked in some kind of a weird circle until we got back to the car a couple of hours later. Too many intersections, too many maps, too many trails. I think we set foot on enough of the Birkie to say we did a good section. My total step count for the day was 15,464, about 7 miles. Have I mentioned that there are lots of hills? There are LOTS OF HILLS.
And as I wrote, tomorrow we will hike our last section, Lord willing. I hope to post about our triumphant finish. Excited! Check in to see if we made it (and find out about our planned reward).
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.
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.