Up North: #EveningWalk

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Not sure why these walks are so calming, grounding, mind clearing – but they are. The whole day gets reviewed and put in perspective. The day things prepare to retire and let the night things come out.
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The meadow was blanketed with purple Canadian thistle only a few days ago, now it’s aging. The flowers are drying, the black eyes of the Black Eyed Susans are petal-less and browning.  It’s natural progression. As with the meadow, so it is with me. 

I’m reviewing my memorized psalm as I walk. It’s been a while but this part comes easily back to me “As for man, his days are like the grass. He flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone and its place remembers it no more.” How easily I fit into this meadow and take my place with the grass and the flowers as they age.

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It’s mid-August in north Wisconsin. Are some leaves already giving in to Fall? I’m remembering all the times I have seen these seasons change. Summer is so short, and so sweet up here.
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Poplar hearts on the ground. I love being up north, in this place, in this moment. I love all the places that God has put me, but this one is in my blood and even thirty years in Florida didn’t leach it out.
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Water and reflection. The greenspace I walk goes through meadows and wetlands. Several ponds are connected with streams and marshes. This was Grandpa’s pond where he trapped minnows for fishing.
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Grandpa’s pond and Grandpa’s barn. They too will change, perhaps disappear, just like the seasonal flowers, just like the people who have farmed this land, loved these views and walked these meadows like I walk them now. Oh to know their thoughts…
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I love many things. I love small fires and running brooks. This one is almost unchanged from the days of my childhood, sixty years. I wonder how the water can keep coming from a source that never seems to empty. I think long and hard on the metaphor of “living water”.
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Two families of Canadian geese have grown up here. They wander the banks around the pond until I appear, then they fly to the water. Out there they look so peaceful. How easily they float. 
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I can’t tell the parents from the goslings by their size any more, but their protective stance both in the water and out, give them away. By the size of the flock, they have done a good job.
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Up north, where sunset comes late and sunrise comes early.  I am here and get to see both ends of these beautiful days.

I get to see it! My gratitude is sharpened because I am daily with people I love who do not get to see it so clearly. How blessed I am. Tonight, across the table from me, one of my people who struggles to see at all, related that even eating had lost much of its appeal. She cannot see what she is eating. I try to imagine eating food that I cannot see.

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As the sun spends its last few minutes above the horizon, I take picture after picture of it cutting through the trees like a giant flashlight 93 million miles away. How can that be?

Today I marveled at how well my computer and internet were working. Today I did ordinary things like cooking breakfast for the husband, writing a letter to a friend. scrubbing sinks and making beds, Today I prayed and considered my family, my friends. Today I took an evening walk.

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…

#2: Delta Diner and the White River

A couple of years ago my family started talking about trips they had made to the Delta Diner, a restaurant in a streetcar, out in the middle of the woods. I had never been there so Mom had it on the list of things I should do this visit. We got right to it – breakfast on Day 2.

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My sister-in-law MP, Mom and me, arranged in increasing size.

Since I’m mentioning breakfast, I will tell you that the Delta Diner is not just another greasy spoon place by the road.  It is a destination.  It has gotten media attention and been touted as one of the most interesting places to eat in our neck of the woods.  It is small (duh, it’s a streetcar, really) with a bar overlooking the grill, and a row of booths on either side of the door.  People wait outside on picnic tables for their seating.  We came for the breakfast menu, which also included some sandwiches and desserts.  I had been waiting to try Mom’s favorite, Norwegian pancakes with jalapeno.  I was not disappointed in them either.

In calling this “lake a day” challenge I have to explain that I have a very loose meaning of the word lake. It is any body of water, excluding mud puddles or the kitchen sink.  Today it was all about a stream called the White River.  It is small in some places but since the watershed looks really big on the map I’m sure there are some wider spots.  The place where our road crossed over was definitely not a park, but just a place where the pavement allowed us to pull over without obstructing traffic.  There was a view of the stream that was flowing swiftly into the largest culvert I have ever seen which carried the water under the road.  A canoe or kayak could easily ride through. wp-1470585404474.jpg

I was not the first person to make my way down to the water’s edge but I wouldn’t say there was a path either.  Up here in the northwoods we always have to think about poison ivy.  There is also the possibility of losing footing and sliding into the stream and I was very aware of that.  Photo credits on this day go to my brother Dennis who was handicapped by the direction the sun was hitting us.  This was another one foot dip, although the water was clear and only about four feet deep. I need to start wearing my swimsuit everywhere I go and traveling with a towel.

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The sun is bright, making me very white. One foot in the water…