Lassitude: A state of physical or mental weariness; lack of energy.
This is a winter word. We are half way through our fourth month of winter and I am getting weary in my mind. I’m also weary of hunting for boots, mittens, scarves and coats every time I have to go out. Actually, I don’t always put all that stuff on – that’s how weary I am of it all. I just run outside in my sweatshirt and hope to make it over to Mom’s house before I freeze.
You would find some things about our winter surprising. For instance, you can’t imagine how warm our house gets – too warm to wear anything long sleeved. On a sunny day our south windows heat the place up to 78 degrees and I have to open a few windows in order to breathe. I have one blanket on my bed and sometimes I throw that off. And inside those down jackets, it can get hot and sweaty on a walk. Yes it can.
I’m still taking walks in the wetlands every now and then. I take my phone along in case I encounter a photographic moment, but lassitude has taken over in that area too. All these winter pictures start looking the same. Kind of white.
I took a walk today. Most of it was on the track made initially by a snowmobile, followed by a couple of showshoers, followed by some boots. It’s frozen hard and is rough. I had to look down and pay attention not to twist an ankle, but at least my knees stayed dry (except for that one time coming through a deep place where I had to crawl out).
It was clear today and the snow was all sparkly and clean. Okay, I did take pictures. I have cool gloves with the finger patch that lets me do the touchscreen AND keep my hands warm. Here’s some winter whiteness, and to liven things up see if you can guess what kind of animal tracks you’re seeing. (You’re all “wilderness scout” types right?)
Something that drags a tail.
Something with long toenails.
Something with three feet and a tail? I don’t know.
Something (four footed) that meets friends on top of the hill.
It’s been years since I walked for a cause – the three day, 60 miles breast cancer walk. Today I joined my brother and his wife and a couple hundred other people from our small community to walk a 5k for ALS.
John Jaekel is a Haywardite, former coach and educator at the high school, and friend and neighbor to most everyone he meets. He is also one of the longest survivors of ALS and a spokesperson for the cause all around the state of Wisconsin. The walk was started by his family and other supporters around four years ago and has become a regular event in Hayward.
We met at the Lutheran Church in town where John is a member, and went inside to look at the silent auction items. There is no fee to join the walk, so the auction is the fund raising portion of the morning. There is an online auction as well as the one we saw, and many Hayward businesses and individuals were represented there. I bid on a small piece of furniture. Lumber from the lumber company, 2 months membership at the local gym, hair cuts and beauty supplies, art and specialty food items, and tickets to Packer games(!!!) as well as other creative and tempting offerings were up for bid.
The walk was leisurely, led by John Jaekel himself in his motorized chair. There were parents with small children in wagons and strollers, elderly people being pushed in wheelchairs, and all ages in between. The weather was cooperative, actually could not have been more perfect. I’m not kidding, there were cheerleaders and encouraging signs along the route.
One family walking close to me came from a city 80 miles away to join the walk. They had lost a brother to ALS the year before and knew John through the support network they had been in together. I didn’t get to talk to John but it was clear that he was a beloved member of the community and had been successful in stirring people to action. One of the signs along the route pointed out that the purpose of the walk was to make sure that someday there wouldn’t have to be any walks. Research toward a cure is the goal.
At the end of the walk, volunteers at the church had breakfast ready for all the walkers. Someone had upped the ante on my table bid, so I pushed it up a little higher. I didn’t get it but it went for a better price and that was good.
This was a day to walk and talk with others, over a common interest – that of helping people like John Jaekel and others who are battling als. I admire his enthusiasm and dedication, and wish him well. I thank him for bringing our community together around a good cause.
We are still at Smith Meadow, and tonight we had our first dinner guests. The menu was my secret recipe Macaroni and Cheese with a salad, watermelon and raspberry cream cheese pie for desert. Brother Dennis and sis-in-law Mary Pat came out to join us (they brought the pie)(and it was good!). This was such a treat for Dennis because he misses out on family dinners now that he isn’t comfortable at the condos.
It’s mighty hot here, for Wisconsin anyway, and we ate outside on our deck which was cooler than in the trailer. It was early enough that the mosquitoes weren’t bad yet, the meadow was half sun and half shade, and the birds were having their final sing for the day. It was remarkably comfortable. We didn’t hurry it.
As we were finishing we heard a tractor approaching and, sure enough, it had a rake attached to prep the downed hay for baling. The surprise was that it was driven by a 15 year old young woman (in a dress), a Mennonite farm girl working to make hay with her dad. I didn’t get a picture of that huge rake and tractor as she ran it around the meadow – a missed opportunity for sure. We watched in awe, and clapped when she left. She acknowledged with a smile and a wave. She was one of eight children from the farm adjoining our land. My brother said he wouldn’t be surprised if she came back with the baler before it was dark.
Sure enough, more tractor noises approached, preceded this time by an SUV driven by a mom with her four children in the back. The tractor and attached baler came next driven by the father with his one year old son on his lap. They start them young.
It didn’t take long for the family to leave the car and come sit on the deck with us. The children were such happy, farm savvy, healthy looking and enthusiastic young people that I kind of fell in love with them, quickly.
The eight year old boy saw the baler stop and immediately announced that his father had put too much hay in and had clogged the baler. He ran out and rescued the one year old while his dad crawled under the baler to fix things. He also gave his opinion on how many bales the meadow would yield and he was right. He had already been around enough hay fields to be knowledgeable.
The girls sat next to me and conversed while we watched the field get processed. They were surprised when I told them many children don’t know what a farm is all about and think milk comes from a supermarket. We talked about cows, coyotes, their toy room, and how nice it was that their grandpa and grandma lived next door. Janessa, who is five, was the most talkative. She could have played Laura in Little House on the Prairie, if she had been an actress. But how much better to live the life and not have to pretend.
The baler got fixed, the field cleaned up right good with three big bales and a smaller one. The show was over. Our new friends got in their Suburban and went home. Night fell and the fireflies came out. Dinner and a show, but much more interesting and fun than the usual outing by that name… just sayin’.
Wanting to get my definitions down “cold”, I looked up the word vortex. It’s a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything into it’s center. I’m guessing that the word polar means the air is circling around the pole, North pole in this case. We’ve all seen the maps on the weather reports about the circle dipping down into regions it doesn’t usually affect. That’s what happened this last week.
I don’t want to make light of a weather event that resulted in loss of life. Those things that come unexpectedly like storms, tornadoes, tsunamis, forest fires, etc… and catch people off guard are always going to be a problem for the unprepared. But frankly, we hardly noticed the vortex here in Hayward.
It’s winter and everyone expects it to be cold. When it’s more dangerous than usual, a few things get cancelled and we stay inside a little more. The one outstanding consequence for us, particularly the husband, was that even the mail delivery was cancelled one day. Obviously, whoever made up that postal creed about “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can keep these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” did not live in northern Wisconsin. Nope.
The polar vortex was here for about three days. On one of them we had an appointment with a nurse at the court house. She was there as usual. We got in our vehicle, which is kept in a heated garage, and drove there and kept our appointment with no difficulty. On the way out of the building I noticed that someone had ridden their bike there and parked it in the bike rack. Personally, I wouldn’t have done that in below zero temps, but that just shows you what people do up north when they have to.
My biggest decision these days is whether I want to be too warm when I’m in the house or too cold on my frequent, but brief, trips outside. Almost all days I wear two layers on my legs, wool socks and shoes with a good thick sole. I do layers on the top too, but count on shedding them inside. Sweatshirts, down shirts, fleece jackets are hanging in the closet, handy, and on the backs of chairs, on the beds – wherever I happen to be when I get too hot. Sometimes when I get an irritating flash of heat, I look at our indoor/outdoor weather station and it will be 78 degrees or higher inside. What a problem to have…
People like the husband, who are pretty much limited to walking as their form of exercise, have it rough in this weather. We don’t have an exercise bike or treadmill that he’s comfortable with, so I have to take him somewhere to walk. We go to the local hospital where the hallways are wide, with handrails and frequent places to sit, eat or use the rest room. We can walk for nearly a mile if we visit all the connected clinics and facilities. They are getting accustomed to seeing us at the assisted living Bistro where we often stop and have lunch. They serve the best $3 soup and sandwich in Hayward.
One of our oft-used mottos up here is “if you don’t like the weather you’re having, wait a few minutes for it to change”. This weekend it’s supposed to be 41 degrees and raining. It will probably get icy and melt some of this nice, dry snow. I’m actually hoping they’re wrong and it will stay below freezing.
I know I looked forward to our first winter back in Hayward – the afternoons reading, the evenings sitting by the fire with my knitting, the quiet snowfalls, the dazzling white, bright and sunny days. I’m trying to think of those things instead of wondering when the lilacs will bloom, or when the garden can be started. It’s best to stay “in the moment”. Just sayin’…
The response to her brother’s note, left at the door of the fort, came two days later. It didn’t quite match any of the compelling situations she had imagined, but Shirley was okay with that. It was a relief to know that there was no criminal in hiding, no homeless desperado, no Bigfoot out in her meadow. It was still a safe place to walk. And it turned out that the real situation was as interesting to her as the imaginary one.
It was a survival class being taught at the charter school whose property bordered the wetlands and meadow. The teacher called to remind Dennis that he had contacted him months ago about permission to use the property. He had been taking small groups of students there frequently to practice skills like finding shelter, finding food, and starting fire. No one had noticed them out there.
The fort had been his idea. He had led the others out to the meadow to construct it. They had made fire probably four times for a simple meal, maybe six more times for keeping warm, preserving the fire bed for the next time. They were kids, but someone had to help them know that campfires were for more than roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Shelter and fire could mean their survival. It had been a fun class.
It didn’t take her long to find him on Facebook and ask for a meeting. Sitting in the local coffee shop with their hot drinks, Shirley got whole story from the teacher himself. He was clearly passionate about the outdoors, about survival in a myriad of environments, and about teaching basic skills to anyone who needed to learn them. He had stories…
Survival was a recurring theme in his life and was extremely important. He learned that at an early age growing up in Alaska. He learned it in the military. He learned it traveling to foreign countries. There were countless experiences that reinforced that lesson.
He would present scenarios to his students. What if the plane they were on crashed in the middle of an uninhabited area and there were 50 survivors, or 100? What would be the best course of action to save lives, to survive? What would you do for the wounded? Where might you find food and shelter until help arrived? What resources might be right there in front of you but go unnoticed? He believed everyone should have a chance to think about those things. Those were the kinds of things they talked about out in the meadow, as they built the fort.
Not everyone responded warmly to the experiences he offered, at least not at first. There were the silent ones, the thinkers, the watchers. Some had been fearful and guarded all their lives. But as young people they were flexible, they learned what he was teaching and it gave them confidence, allowed them to trust and work cooperatively. It was life changing for them and rewarding for him.
“So what comes next?” she asked him as they finished their lattes and prepared to leave the shop.
“Maybe, if the fort is still there for the next class, we’ll figure out how to keep it warm. I want to see if the kids can figure out something solar, although you would be surprised how warm it gets with a dozen kids in there…”
Thanks to John (or Scott or whoever you really are) and Angela for the latte and a great conversation. Hope to hear more of your adventures in the future.
The pile had been growing for a couple of seasons. Downed trees from the bad storm a year ago, a whole summer’s worth of fallen limbs, old pallets that he didn’t need – he’d hauled it all out to the meadow behind the barn. It was dry and ready to be torched. That was the one of the things on his list now that the weather was cold and the ground was wet from snow that had melted.
It wasn’t that kind of melting that meant spring. It was only December, the month of cold and early dark. He was thinking of the burn pile and other chores as he did a routine walk through the meadow and surrounding wetlands. It was a favorite winding down time near the end of his work day. He skirted the barn, crossed over the small creek and around the pond and surveyed the pile.
It looked different somehow. He had been out with his machine and pushed it up around the edges, but some of the larger logs looked oddly placed. He strode over and walked around the pile, trying to remember just how he’d last seen it. There was no doubt that something had changed.
Coming around the side away from the barn and out of sight from the path, he saw what was left of a small campfire about ten feet away from the pile. That was new. Someone had been here long enough to enjoy sitting around a fire.
Had he forgotten giving someone permission to use the meadow? It was his private property and although he allowed some friends and local residents to walk the paths around the wetlands it was hard to imagine any of them hanging out for any length of time, not in the weather they’d been having recently. And there was just something not quite right about that pile…
He was just about finished circling the perimeter when he noticed it. A gaping hole in the side opened into the interior of the piled up brush. Kneeling down and peering in, he was amazed. There was enough room in there for a couple of people to roll out sleeping bags. The sides and top had been supported by pallets and piled high with tree trunks and brush. The whole pile had been re-engineered into a shelter, and a pretty cool one at that. It was empty, thank goodness.
He couldn’t think of anyone who could have done it, and remarkably, without being seen. Maybe kids? There were lots of them out on Christmas break, probably bored and needing something to do. A vagrant? It was a bit drafty but definitely better than no shelter at all, and there was plenty of dry wood left to burn to keep warm. What really bothered him was the thought of how he could have set the thing on fire with someone hiding inside. Not a good thought…
He sure wasn’t going to wait out there until someone showed up, so he decided to leave a note. He snapped a picture with his phone and went back to the house for paper and pen. The note went something like this:
“Hi. Whoever built this, please call me. You’re not in trouble. This is really cool but I am concerned about your safety. I was planning to burn this and add to it, and I did not know about this. Thanks. Dennis, Property Owner.”
He finished it off with a phone number and tacked it to a log inside the entrance where it couldn’t be missed. Now to wait.
My people are making plans to gather for Thanksgiving. They are coming “up north” where we have short, cold days. This gets me started thinking about what there is to do up here when I have visitors.
I’ve gotten suggestions of activities some would like to do, most of which are either out of the question, or I don’t even know what they are. One of my daughters will be here for most of the week. Thank you, dear, for this list.
Her suggestions were:
Afternoon of frisbee golf (didn’t I tell you it was snowing up here?)
Visiting a slaughterhouse (um, no slaughterhouses. A new interest of yours?)
Build a Star Wars AT-AT out of bacon (you don’t like to touch meat, remember?)
Skunk hunting (for sport) (oh sure…)
Chapel Hill graffiti tour (I don’t think we have a Chapel Hill)
Lunch at Chipotle (no Chipotle… sorry)
Power walking race (maybe, in Walmart – you ok with that?)
Photo shoot near the big pickle (no, it’s a Musky and it’s a fish!)
Hip hop dance lessons (I think we’d have to import a teacher, but yeah…)
Yarn bomb an italian restaurant (no Italian restaurant, sorry)
Bit torrent party (what?)
Go caroling outside some night clubs (we have bars, not night clubs)
Camping! (didn’t I tell you it was snowing up here?)
Make a turkducken (you’re kidding… why?)
Night at the ballet (no ballet, sorry)
Computer day (no one talks to anyone, except chat & email) (already do this, no)
Clean up a mile of I-40 (I think that’s in North Carolina, no)
Dress up Lily fashion show (what?) See if an iPad will blend (what? what?)
Frozen margarita chugging contest (my head hurts thinking about this…)
Uno (Now you’re talkin’, yes)
Amish day (how does one do that?)
Zelda marathon (?what?)
Arts & crafts table at the flea market (flea market closed when it started to snow – doubles as a hockey rink, sorry)
Make organic free-range black bean burritos (maybe, what’s a free range black bean?)
Christmas shopping roulette (incompatible ideas, no)
Street racing with test drive cars (snow, ice, remember? way too exciting)
Plant an acai garden (the ground is frozen, no)
Afternoon of epic naps (this will happen without planning, yes)
Record a music video (we could do this in house, yes)
Visit a winery (no winery, sorry)
Start a Google group (you would want to do this? really?)
A couple of weeks ago the talk of the town was the high school play. I wasn’t too excited about a plot that centered around the trial of the wicked witch of the east and featured every fairy tale personage you’ve ever heard of, but mom decided she would go with my nephew. She said it was fun, so, based on her glowing review I decided to go the next night. I was desperate for a theatrical cultural experience and figured this was as close as I was bound to get for a while. I even ended up going ALONE, which takes some courage. I sat in the front row. It’s just what I do.
High school plays have not changed much in the last 50 years. I was so reminded of my first chances to be on stage. There is a lot to appreciate in these simple beginnings that teach poise, presence and test one’s memory of lines, and ability to be someone else. I still have an occasional nightmare where everyone is waiting for my line while I look frantically through the script to find it. There was some of that this night, but overall the whole play was well rehearsed, and it was fun. I think the actors had fun too.
“Up north” activities may lack the variety and sophistication of big city life, but I see a simplicity and wholesomeness in what does take place. People work hard up here and their free time is often spent in community service, activities with their kids, or just being home. There are many choices in those categories. I’m just sayin’ that so far, I have no trouble keeping busy.
Today it snowed. It wasn’t dramatic. The temperature has been inching down toward the freezing mark over the last week or two. We have had a lot of rain, which usually will spoil the fall color and make the leaves turn uniformly brown and dull. But this year the colors have held out brilliantly. Today, every time we looked out the window the weather was changed from our last observation. The sun would come out briefly and be followed within minutes by a snow squall.
Since I will so soon be taking pictures of snow, I need to finish letting you all know how beautiful autumn has been. I am so blessed by God the artist, that I don’t have to take a vacation and travel to see the woods in glorious color. It’s right here in my backyard. Last Sunday, after lunch with the family, we didn’t want to go straight home. Mom, the husband and I drove out in the country, to the lake, just to see what the trees were doing. Later, I got to explore a park I had never been to with my brother and his wife. It was a wonderful day – that’s what “full of wonder” means. My phone is so full of pictures – no way could I show them all – but here are some.
There are so many more – it was hard to choose. I wish you all could see it. Part of the reason it is so beautiful is that it’s also so short lived, fleeting. As I said, today it snowed…
Meet “The Sisters” who are part of my extended up north family. Michelle, Susie and Judith are three women who have been near and dear for years now. Susan and Judith started out life in Vietnam but were adopted by a kind lady who was in government service. Michelle was the lady’s biological child. These three sisters have lived in several parts of the globe growing up. They have a delightful accent which is hard to place because it’s from all over. Even they don’t know what to call it.
The sisters have resided in Hayward for about 20 years, running a child daycare business in their home and various other jobs. They happily participate in any community event they can manage to get to. They especially did not want to miss the upcoming annual hospital picnic.
Michelle was talking to Mom, planning our Saturday outing together and in addition to the picnic, she wanted us to spend time at her house and also go out for dinner. Mom tried to say no because she doesn’t like to plan more than one “event” per day. But as Mom says, Michelle, who is only 91 “has more energy” than she does so dinner ended up in the plan too. (Michelle is amazing. She wants to cruise the Panama Canal next year. She has more energy than I do!)
Our first event, the hospital picnic, was a genuine, small town, delightful event. I’ve never lived anywhere else where hospitals had picnics. The hospital personnel were great hosts and were giving out free health information at the welcome tables (the colonoscopy pictures were “to die” for…). They had a raffle and I won a prize, which happens almost never!!!. The food was really good. Games, music, pie and ice cream. Perfect.
Keeping the Christian sabbath on Saturday is routine for the sisters and they love to spend it with family and friends. We joined them this Saturday after the picnic, at their house. The sisters are gift givers and our family has been blessed many times over with their generosity. Sometimes it’s a chocolate bar, sometimes it’s a basket full of delicious food, or a book. They always think of something and today was no exception. We came away with so much! But I will tell you the really remarkable thing. Like most people I am more comfortable with reciprocal gifting, but I would not be able to keep up with Michelle, Susan and Judith. They truly give without expecting things in return and they do it to make their love evident. Their joy in giving makes me feel loved.
We went out for dinner. We waited a few hours, hoping we wouldn’t still feel stuffed from the picnic (didn’t work), and went for Chinese food. I don’t know how we happen to have a Chinese restaurant in Hayward – somehow it always seems a little out of place in this land of lumberjacks and Nordic skiers – but it is a welcome break from McDonald’s. Michelle does not have dinner out without treating everyone to dessert as well. We finished off the evening with a trip to Dairy Queen.
An eventful sabbath day with the Madison sisters left me knowing that Hayward is blessed to have them. This is not the last time they will appear in stories here. Some people fit so gracefully into a small town, a town that still has hospital picnics and Dairy Queens, a town with three stop lights and a park with a giant Musky, a town “up north”. Just sayin’…