Up North: The First Snow

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The hydrangeas never give up, and they look real good with a dusting of snow.

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.

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Seriously, the air itself takes on a glow when there is this much gold and yellow overhead.
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But it’s the abundance of reds that stand out this year.
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A path to remember – my hiking companions Den, MaryPat and Scruffy.
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I love the color contrast with the remaining green. We came upon this pond in the forest – magical.
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At the lake, a bald eagle did a circle of the shore while we watched.

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Spatter technique – there was a lot of it this year.
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The color is close and touchable. It is easy to feel submersed in it.

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The goodness is everywhere to be seen, even down on the path.

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…

“Up North” People

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!)

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Does this look like the perfect picnic. Yes.

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.

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Judith, Susan, the husband and Mom at the hospital picnic!

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’…

 

 

Up North: Fall is Coming

I feel it. What I saw out in the meadow and wetland…

The flowers of fall – we always called them wild asters – the last before a frost. Spots of purple among the greenery.

A lingering daisy, a summer holdout.

The meadow that was a sea of lavender is brown with dried Canadian thistle.

Gold to enhance the purple, drifts of goldenrod… and a flower we called “butter and eggs”

The beavers have built dams to create ponds for themselves.

Heron hiding spots.

Colors and textures of autumn are clothing the land.

Life and death in contrast

The higher water levels (thank you beavers) have caused tree kill around the ponds, but even these silhouettes are beautiful, I think.

Nature’s delicate lace.

Milkweed, nearly ready to burst its seed pods.

Grasses that bend with the breeze.

Water, hurrying on it’s way somewhere

Day sinks past the horizon, taking summer with it. Fall comes peacefully, relentlessly.

Up North: Louie’s Landing

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Meet my brother Bob!

At our recent family reunion I had the happy opportunity to see all of my four brothers. In my “book” each one of them is talented, super relational and fun but each also has one or more claims to fame.  Bob is known for his motorcycle rides. People line up for them. There is no better way to see this beautiful country full of lakes and woods than to go with Bob on a motorcycle ride.  It was my turn and off we went.

As we got off the main highways, I realized that my knowledge of the area was limited to, well, … the main highways and what was lined up on the sides of them. I have no excuse for this. There are so many otherbeautiful roads and Bob knows them all.

 

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I thought it was kind of cool that I could get a pic of me in the mirror. I am easily entertained.

Much of this area “up north” has been affected by glaciers in the past. The way I understand it, the glaciers gouged ravines and as they melted river valleys were formed. Rocks were dropped here and there. Deposits called moraines formed hills. Small lakes are everywhere, along with some of the larger spring fed ones. The trees are awesome and much of the area is National Forest. The economy is based largely on the tourists from the nearby cities who come for fishing, boating, water skiing, hiking, biking and riding their ATVs. There is room for it all.

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Fuzzy, yes. We were going fast. 

I love trees and this northwoods is covered with hardwoods and spruce and white pine. The smaller roads are winding and tree covered, perfect for motor biking. I enjoy Bob’s bike rides (and biking in general) because I can feel the air going from warm to cool as the road dips into a hollow. I can smell grass when we pass a field with cut hay. I even appreciate the smell of new asphalt on the road.  Everything is experienced differently when I’m not encased in metal and glass. It’s true that there is less protection on a bike, but the roads are not crowded up north and we do what we can to be safe riders.

We took one of Bob’s favorite routes past Spring Lake, and east of Hayward on County Highway B. I’m giving specific directions in case you want to go there some day. We eventually came upon this sign.

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Evidently, in addition to elk, there have been moose in this area, or maybe the lake is shaped like a moose, if that is possible.

Arriving at Moose Lake, I discovered that one of Bob’s favorite places was Louie’s Landing, and that he was in the habit of stopping there for nourishment. We got off the bike and went inside to have lunch.

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It is a beautiful lake. This one is formed by damming a river, creating a flowage through a valley.
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The landing has been here on Moose Lake for years. Pictures inside show the original building and its additions.

We were slightly early for lunch so while the grill was heating up we had milkshakes and talked with the waitress and a customer. The hamburger I had was perfect, one of the best I’ve eaten. Sorry, no picture. But I did take a picture of the wall behind the bar and all the entertaining signs, typical of an area where people come to hunt, fish and get back to outdoor living.

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For me, the whole experience of getting time with my brother, seeing his favorite places, and having a new perspective on my home area made this a super enjoyable morning. You probably aren’t going to be able to duplicate my experience but if you are ever visiting Hayward, Wisconsin you might want to stop in and have a hamburger at Louie’s Landing. The milkshake was good too.

Introspection

The world has gone a bit surreal, and I’m not quite sure where to place myself in it. Thirty one years ago I left Hayward, Wisconsin for life in Florida. It was a completely new life in every way. Now I am back, but again it is a new life in nearly every way. The actual “work”of moving is done so now I have time to think about what has happened. Introspection is a mixed blessing.

We arrived last night, like we have for many vacations over the years, after a long drive, suitcases in tow, with plans to catch up with family members and visit childhood haunts. The surreal part is that we won’t be packing up again in two weeks for the trip back to Florida. We will stay here and see the seasons change, make new friends, start new routines, and settle in. Instead of calling Mom every morning I will meet her in the kitchen as we get our first cup of coffee.  Instead of cleaning my own house and taking care of the oneacrewoods, I will be looking for ways to help others with their homes and yards.

For months, this change from one life to another has seemed so far off and so slow in coming that it was hard to believe it would happen at all. “If you ever get here…” Mom would say. I would reassure her that the “challenge of the week” would be met and that we were making progress, but honestly, I had moments when I cried and felt like I couldn’t do it.  The most valuable thing I learned from it all is that I should not spend a lot of time looking at the large picture – it can be too daunting viewed as a whole. One day, one step at a time is all that I was designed for. Each small accomplishment should get its full measure of satisfaction and celebration. One by one the hurdles got crossed and now I am sitting at the end of the course wondering how I got here. Once again, the passage of Time has created a miracle, a change.

I learned about home improvement, about hiring painters and contractors and overseeing projects. I learned about getting medical and financial records in place and ready for a move. I learned about selling and buying trucks and what goes into the making of a good trailer. I learned I had friends. I learned that hard things become easier when I pray about them and decide to trust that I’ve been heard. I learned that some things must be waited for and are beyond my control. I learned that having even one concrete task that I can do is a comfort and a blessing – get busy and do it – then look for the next thing.

The house in Florida has not sold yet, but we joke around saying we are homeless, because the house is empty and our “things” are in storage. Instead I’m going to remember that my goal was to be with more of my family and that has come to be.  If “home” is where my people are, I’m not homeless. Instead, I’ve come home.

 

More to come, because this is going to be interesting, a new page. Just sayin’…

Battling Winter, post #3

A Walk in the Woods

When you can’t ski, you walk. There are trails for every kind of travel in the snow including snowmobile and fat tire bikes. It’s the biking that I don’t get. Riding a two wheel bike fast on a narrow trail through a forest of trees, rocks and other natural hazards? Why not just relax by walking blind folded through a mine field – same difference. But winter hiking is good.

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The straight rows of pine provide an easy trail for Mary Pat, Dennis and Scruffy. I’m last in line, taking pictures and catching up.

There are trails very close to the family farm and my brother and his wife go hiking there a lot. After a day of work, when they need some exercise, they dress up, take Scruffy their dog, and walk the loop by Hospital Lake. Part of the trail goes through a planted pine forest, along the edge of the lake and returns to the parking lot. It’s just the right length so Scruffy doesn’t freeze his feet. (Isn’t it weird how some animals can stand on snow and ice and not get frostbite?)

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An eye catching little ornament on a tree that seriously needs something.

There are a lot of outdoorsy people in this area so the trail is well traveled. In a bow to the season, someone (or maybe more than one person) has begun decorating trees along the way. It’s fun to find the variety of ornaments, although I felt really sorry about the Teddy Bear. It looked more like he was being tortured.

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After a walk, I might have cold feet, cold fingers, nose and cheeks but there is a core warmth that is sustaining. Breathing all that cold air makes me feel … healthy, I guess.  As I climb back in the car and the heat kicks in, there is such a feeling of calm and peace and “put me to sleep right now”.

Because it gets dark so early, these walks often coincide with the most beautiful sunsets. Really, I could not stop taking pictures because it was changing every minute or so and I wanted to capture it.

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Thanksgiving Chronicle: Ordinary Times and Travels

wpid-20141015_0707500.jpgThe husband and I had been thinking and praying about this trip for weeks.  My family often tries to get together at Thanksgiving even though we are geographically scattered. Those of us from Florida have several times found ourselves “snowed in” up in Hayward for the holiday. Last year we combined the get together with Mom’s wish to spend the winter with us. We flew to Wisconsin, traveled in her car to Michigan to have Thanksgiving there with three of my brothers, and then continued on down to Florida. It worked, and we were trying it again this year, hoping it would work again.

Monday, I felt like a captive pretty much all day. I used to think that it was pretty cool getting to travel a lot – flying off to southeast Asia, to Seattle, to Wisconsin – but I am over that. Although I booked our flights weeks ahead of time there were no good seats to choose from. I sat in the window seat on the first leg. There was no chance of getting out over two other people, so I sat for that hour and a half, sleeping against the wall. The second leg was longer and I was in the middle seat, which to me is even more claustrophobic. With the space in front of my feet filled with a back pack, my knees touching the seat ahead of me, and a hefty passenger seated on either side of me, it was like being in a small box for three hours. The worst part of the trip was after the plane landed and everyone who could, stood up, filling the aisle. We waited for 15 minutes before anyone was actually able to leave. We were in the back, of course, and got to watch every person in every row struggle with their luggage. There was nothing to do but wait the eternity until was our turn. In my dreams I become rich and famous by designing a better de-planing procedure and selling it to airlines.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 (very early): I sat up in bed looking at a clock that showed 5:45 and mentally calculated that it would be 6:45 in my usual time zone – no wonder I was awake. I failed to consider daylight savings time, and so had the person responsible for setting the clock in that room. It was 4:45, so I had some “think time” to consider how it was that I was thousands of miles from where I had been yesterday. I was, always am, properly amazed and thankful for safe travel. Wisconsin in winter is dark late in the morning, dark early in the evening, leaving very little daylight to save, but there was some, finally…

 

Then and Now: Hatchery Creek

I’m not done recording details about the visit to Hayward, Wisconsin. The Chamber should be paying me for this…

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then (1987)
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Now (2016)

It was thirty years ago but I remember it  like it was yesterday. Two moms, one with two little boys and one with two little girls, needed the kind of break from routine and stressful lives that only nature can provide. They were campers so they loaded up and traveled to an out of the way spot. It was an abandoned fish hatchery, state land I suppose. The cement tanks that had been embedded in the ground to harbor the young fingerlings had been removed and the field grasses had grown to cover the areas. The small road, two tracks with grass growing in the middle, crossed a stone bridge which covered a creek, Hatchery Creek. Chalk it up to mid-westerners to avoid having to name things, by just calling them what they are.

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I was one of the moms. I had driven down the road one day looking for a place of childhood memories.

Sundays, with the whole family in the car, my dad would stop on the way home to look at the fish, in particular the large sturgeon who lived in his own special tank. Other tanks were rippling with the motion of the young fish waiting to be released into northern Wisconsin lakes and streams.

But in 1987 it was obvious that the program had been discontinued and the sign indicated that the natural stream that ran through the property was being restored as a trout habitat. There were no buildings left, no signs of recent activity, just a beautiful meadow surrounded by hills decorated with hardwoods and pines. It was the perfect place to camp. I could hardly wait.

In this day of protected lands, designated camping spots and required permits to camp, it is hard to imagine someone just picking a place in the woods and deciding it’s the place for them. If we were trespassing, I didn’t know it. Plus, we were gutsy women who loved to make independent decisions, and we made the decision of where to put the tent, where to make our campfire and told our kids where they could explore.  That’s what they did all afternoon.

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There is something so compelling about a creek. It’s more personal and approachable than a river. Rippling and clear, musical, fordable, a creek begs you to follow it up river because it has to start somewhere. What would that look like? This particular stream was easiest to follow if you got in it. The banks were sometimes purposely undercut to provide hiding places for fish and the grass and bushes on the banks were tall. A person who didn’t know the stream was there might have a hard time finding it. But you could walk in the middle in water never more than knee deep and every now and then there would be stones or boulders to stand or sit on. The kids were having the greatest time and we were watching, with cameras in hand.

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I had to work my way through head high foliage to get to the place where it looked like water was welling up out of the bottom of the creek. It may not have been the birthplace of the stream but it was certainly adding the major portion of the flow. I have a weird fear of holes spewing an endless flow of water. If I stepped in there would I disappear, falling endlessly like Alice down the rabbit hole, only this hole is full of water which kind of rules out being able to breathe?

I’m again back in childhood, ice skating on the farm pond and hearing Dad tell us to stay away from a certain area where springs kept the ice thin. Springs were mysterious, like faucets that never get turned off.

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The rest of our camping trip was spent cooking supper, sitting around the campfire with visiting grandparents, and sleeping through the night with one eye open. It was “that season” of the year and our tick phobia was full blown by the time we left, nevertheless it was a memorable time for me, and that is why I revisit Hatchery Creek most every time I go home to Hayward.

Two weeks ago daughter Esther and I went to the area where we had camped and observed the ritual of wading in the creek. She was the youngest of the four children present and does not remember the time and the place as clearly as I do. It has changed. It is now an access point for a series of trails including the Birkebeiner ski trail. It is used year round by many people who want to hike or single track through the woods, or skiers practicing their hill climbing and cross country skills. People do not camp there and I feel a bit sneaky (and smug, and fortunate) for having done so. The creek is still flowing, although it seems to have taken second place to the footpaths through the woods. I know where that spring is. I still find it mysterious and I still wonder how it keeps coming, and coming, and coming…

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A short walk up a trail
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woodland beauty
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even in death…

There Is a House…

wp-1471628511978.jpgIt sits at the top of a hill in a midwestern town. It has been there for a hundred years or more and I can imagine the stories that took place within its walls and grounds. I think I want to live there.  Maybe not forever, but for long enough to see if I love it as much as I think I might.

In this large house with stairways and many bedrooms I would have places for all my favorite guests, and I would have some secret places just for me. I know it must have at least one hidden room somewhere.  I would make each bedroom special with places to sit, to sleep and to read while looking out a window.

It has a large kitchen with lots of light coming in numerous windows. A cool breeze blows through the central hallways because it’s on a hill and surrounded by shade trees – the currents of air are refreshing and full of magic smells like clover flowers and mown grass. Outside the kitchen door would be a garden with a pool. I would grow herbs and salads and water lillies.  On my tall fence I would grow grape vines and in late summer there would be a lot of grapes.

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In the winter I would sit in the great front room by the fireplace with my wool and knitting needles. I would invite women to come and knit with me. In the summer I would sit on the front porch. I would call to my friends walking by and ask them to sit and have ice tea with me. I would flavor it with mint from my garden.  There would be a bouquets of hydrangeas everywhere.

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But being old and full of stories, means that this house is drafty, poorly wired and has some floors that are not quite straight or level. It would need lots of paint, and constant attention to the roof. It’s fireplaces and chimneys would need cleaning, and it’s plumbing would be less than desired. Would I love all that? I don’t know, but I would like to live in it and see.

Just a dream…

 

Lake a Day Challenge: Company Lake

This is the last post of my challenge since this visit to the northwoods has come to an end.  This lake was a surprise for me. Although the road my sister-in-law and I were biking had been around forever, and was named Company Lake Road, I hadn’t been aware of how pretty it was or of the lake it was named for. The lake was breathtaking in the morning light when we came past it. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera and had to come back later in the day for photos. It was still pretty gorgeous.

I have to say that this spot is typical of the beauty in the Hayward area and the northwoods in general.  These small lakes, marshes and streams are common. Fish, frogs, turtles, cranes, crows, eagles, geese, ducks, swans, chipmunks, skunks, badgers, otters, beaver, fox, wolves, bear, deer… you name it, it’s here and can often be seen close up.  I will admit that I did not get wet in Company Lake but I have an excuse. I will suffer with mosquitoes, but I will not go close to poison ivy, and the bank where I took these pictures was full of it.  Just enjoy these pictures of late summer in north Wisconsin and know that it is a wonderful place to be.

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