Monday, October 26, 2009

After the Fall

Back to mud season.  Rain, grunge, tracks in the house.  Not that housekeeping rules my life.  We keep an uneasy truce much of the time.  The house minds it's business, I mind mine.  But even a dirtbag housekeeper like me can only ignore so much.  Mud season.  It is a usual time for my juggling balls to hit the ground, splat.  My son's education, my career, outdoor adventures, fitness, creativity.  Splat.  It is the darkening of the year, cold and wet.  Summer and Fall glory are fading and the glittering season of Winter has not begun.  An in-between place.  A place of uneasy rest.  And some good tickles.  Alex and I have been playing let's-hide-under-the-quilts-and-have-tickle-fights quite a lot lately.  Such a cozy place to be, especially when still in pj's after the initial bathroom runs.  Then again after lunch when we're dressed and bored.  Again in the evening when postponing the bed time routine.  Warm, dark, cozy, comfortable.  He has absoluetly no fear of the dark, and likes to block out all light under the covers.  Then he will tunnel to the end of the bed like a mole.  It's a riot.  A perfect game for these times.  Thank the Lord for goose down, even as I feel sorry for those birds.  A guilty pleasure.  Now is also a good time for cooking.  Some of my 44 pounds of green tomatoes have turned into bonafide veggies, and I have a glorious tomato sauce in the fridge.  More like tomato soup actually, all velvety and smooth.   Tomatoes grown out in the sun and the wind, under the giant sky, chopped and simmered down into one pot and plunked in the fridge.  A concentrating and distilling down.  That is what this time of year seems to be.  A bit melancholy, and more so this year.  A year since we lost our most wonderful dog.  A time when friends and loved ones lost also come easily to mind.  Summer gone, winter coming, the earth in between breaths.

I feel a bit like the grasshopper juxtaposed with the ant.  Oh-oh, winter's coming and only my fiddle is in tune.  But much as I try I will never be an ant.  This is why I try to keep my life simple.  I do not have the routines and habits to support more stuff.  In fact I want to free myself of more stuff.  Clear out the composting items (only metaphorically speaking, I swear) and get down to the really necessary.  Less things to clean the mud off.  Two billion people on this earth live on less that two dollars a day.  I think I can do better.  All I need is a warm house.   And a few clothes.  And my outdoor gear.  And food of course, and my books.  Let's not forget indoor plumbing.  Art supplies are good.  So are my radios.  Gotta keep the two vehicles (well, not really but...) and the washer and dryer are key.  Maybe I can get rid of the pine-cone collection?  But not my rocks.  Or pets!  Hmmm.  Maybe just the mud.

But really, it's all good enough.  Kevin is very busy and business is doing well.  Alex still loves his school.  He now has a new job of calling out the bus numbers for kids to line up at the end of the day.  I got a call from one of the mom's who picks her daughter up, telling me what a wonderful job he does.  And I had tea with his aide last week.  Two and a half hours of sharing about Alex, in both directions.  It was delightful.  She is a grandma and just a marvelous woman.  He is starting to really connect with emotions now, his world is opening up and coloring.  At home we talk about many things, and at school he is learning every day.  He cried and cried at school over a story about a girl who flew out the window and over her town, he could not talk about why.  He told Miss Trudie, "I look out my window and try to fly, but I can't..." and cried some more.  Last year, when Lucky died we told him how she flew up to heaven.  Now he is getting words and images for that sadness, and that is a very good thing.  It is sometimes trying, as emotions leak all over every day happenings, but it was much worse for them to be so deep and impossible to understand.    They say that kids with autism do not have much emotion, and that is so untrue.  What is true is they are often locked off in their own well, with no connection to the processing and logic part of the brain, so that they can only be in one part or the other.   With little or no communication between the two and no understanding of how to corral and control emotion.  Better to just seal that area off.  But you can't.  And then when these kids fall in the well, it is so hard to get out.  Tantrums, head banging, lashing out at others.   Endless fear or rage or sadness.  Until they escape, and leave all those impossible emotions behind, sealed off again and avoided.  Little by little, we are connecting the two, and this will be our biggest job for the next several years.  We get the brunt of this work, and that is fine.  At school he is happy and joy filled.  He is impressing them with his memory and love of academic skills.  And the kids seem to really like him, even if they don't get why he is so quirky.  He still can't converse in kid language, and his attention span and fidgetyness keep him on the move during class.  But with continued work it will all come around.

So things may be muddy and dark, but the world keeps on spinning.  The end of one adventure becomes the beginning of another, as long as you're living in a circle and not a straight line.  I think it is time to go for a run with the new dog... in the mud.  C-ya!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Writing Wanted

I want to write. 
Tried tonight. 
Lots to say. 
No brain today. 
Could be the cold.
Could be the virus.  
Bookkeeping done.
What else desireous?

Thursday, October 15, 2009


It's not that I don't like winter.  I do.  I really do.  I get excited to ski the trails, skate the ponds, and hike the rivers.   I love to hear water under ice, watch gorgeous individual snow flakes, feel frozen air hit my lungs at 20 below.  I love to snowshoe in silent woods and sled the deserted golf courses.  When it is winter the world outside is yours.

When it is 40 degrees, and raining, and dark, I just want to go to bed.  And stay there.  At this time of year it is cold and miserable.  The trails are mud, the clouds are grey, and the sun gets up late and goes to bed early.  And so do I.  This is the Achillies heel of my outdoor year, perhaps of the whole Northland.  As the joy of the harvest goes past, and the last brilliant days are wrung out, the darkening of the year begins.

Maybe I should take my cue from the bears.  Hibernate for real.  Give Christmas a miss and hang a sign on the door, "See you next Spring!".   The cat wouldn't mind.  I'd have to put the feather bed on, to match the down comforter.  Usually I wait until the first real cold snap.  Instead I can snuggle in now, and dream away the months.   Maybe this year I'll do it, I've had the impulse before.

Yeah, it's not that I don't like winter, I just do not like the build up to get there.   I guess I'll just throw in a good movie, drink some tea, and wait, wait, wait for the snow....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Harvest Dinner

I am stuffed to the gills as I write this.  Tonight was the annual Harvest Dinner for the Clifton Volunteer Fire Department- Duluth Township.  It is held at the Duluth Town Hall out on the Homestead Road.  Not on Homestead Road, mind you, but The Homestead Road.  There is something very curious about the countryside around Duluth.  It is fiercely proud, and quirky.  There are people who have lived there for generations, and most of them know their good fortune.  Many more have moved in during the last few decades, and they are dedicated to the area.  Alex's aunties, Barb and Sherry, live in the country 'round there.  They have a gorgeous wooded place, with a house they built from scratch and a shop that is the envy of all.  Woods (40 acres), fields, a stream, fire pit, Quonset hut, a huge garden, and now the happiest chickens on the planet; their place has it all.  Oh yeah, and a killer dog yard for when they have to go to work, free range cat, and 10 acres of invisible fence for the pooches.  Their name for the spread is Camp Bark in the Dark.  But I digress.

This year was my first in three that I have made it to the feast.  Alex and Kevin make it every time and Alex even made the poster this year.  Twirling his pasta on a fork, with a big grin.  It is a fund raiser for the fire department, and Sherry is a fire fighter.  So is Jody, who also fixes violins and lives nearby.  She picked the numbers and our little family had a clean sweep in the door prizes.  We walked away with the coolest cutting board ever (wooden circle with an engraved spiral), sustainable farming calendar and gift certificate for the New Scenic Cafe, and alphabet letters that interlock.  The music in the background was great, fiddle and guitar duo.  It took about ten minutes for me to realize the musicians had also played at our wedding.  I thanked them and informed them that the music had done it's magic and we were still happily married eleven years later.  There were dozens of happy eaters, all cozy in the Duluth Town Hall.  An old country community building that we had wanted to get married at, but could never get ahold of anyone to work it out.  The unknown woman we sat next to had fought to create Alex's charter school, when it was slated to be closed 7 years ago.  She also knows my great friend Sam.  Maybe we have just been in town long enough to make all these amazing connections, but I also like to think we have been doing a few things right along the way.   Cultivating what is good and nourishing.

The food, of course, was excellent.  Spaghetti with fresh, organic, homemade sauce.  Veggies straight from local gardens.  Venison and locally harvested meat.  And dessert, dessert, dessert.  Kevin is going deer hunting at Sherry's tomorrow, and we are hoping for venison of our own.  The suckers are running rampant around here right now, and if we don't harvest them they will eventually come up with overcrowding illnesses.  Plus they are as free range and organic as it gets.  Tasty too.  I do still have some lingering, post-vegeterian regrets, but I live with them.  We are starting to break the news to Alex about where some of Mama and Daddy's food comes from, he still being a total vegeterian.  Not for lack of trying on our part, he just wont touch meat.  We started by explaining tonight that we were stopping by Barb and Sherry's after the dinner to close their chickens in for the night.  So no other animals would eat them.  This is a little part of the world we have not been terribly forthright about.  He never asked, we never explained.  He was rather interested in this new bit of information, and enquired about what types of animals might eat the chickens.  We came up with about a dozen local predators.  He didn't ask anything else, but we did forge on and mention Daddy was going to try to shoot a deer tomorrow.  I am not sure that he knows what that means, but if Kevin brings one out of the woods I guess he will further his education.

So, now the Harvest Dinner is past and the trees in the country are at their peak of color.  I currently have 44 pounds of green tomatoes ripening in the kitchen, and three coolers full of apples.  The last of the flowers fill two jars on the table.  Tomorrow we may have venison for the freezer and  Sherry stated she forsees eggs in our future.  Winter is surely coming (especially since it snowed today), but I think our cozy little free range life in Duluth should see us through.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Film at 11

Well, I think this will work.  This is a little piece that was done for the news in our area.  Since Alex is such a ham, and loves his acting, we were asked to participate.  It was fun, except for the fact that we had to do it twice.  They lost the first entire interview set and film.  Not sure how that happened, but a few weeks later they sent an entirely new crew to film again.  I would be very curious to compare the two, since I don't think I said the same things at all.  But I'm sure the gist was the same.

I am so indebted to this clinic, I think I would go to the moon for them.  Our fundraiser last month pulled in over $9,400, so I feel like I am helping out even if I was only a little part of it all.  Still could do more, just not sure what.  I do NOT like the way I look or sound on camera, so Hollywood is out unless I get a makeup artist (or 12) and voice coach.  Tahirih is the bomb... maybe we could write a book together or something one of these years.  Perhaps when survival of junior high is imminent.  For now I am just happy to be helping in small ways.

In other news, Alex ate parmesan cheese the other day, without any coercion at all.  I just put it on the table and announced he did not have to eat it because it was for me.  And today he ate two different kinds of pizza.  Also, this morning he woke up and announced that he was a fish, "Bloop, bloop.".  For a kid who ate only bread and pasta and had almost no imagination a year ago, we're doing pretty well.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Adventure Calls

In the crush of parenthood, homeownership, working, and life in general I have gotten spotty at picking up the phone when adventure calls.  Sometimes I know and just don't pick up, other times I let the machine get it and never call back.  Still other times I have made sure I was out of reach or booked when I figured the call was going to come in.  I almost missed it this time and that would have been a shame, because there would not have been another call of this type to take this year. 

Today it was Lake Superior that was calling.  She wanted me to come out and play in the surf.  I know, I know, it is October and that sounds damn cold.  I almost declined on those grounds, but then I did the quick math and realized I would likely go the entire year without surfing if I did not get out.  Avoidant as  I am, that just did not sit right.  And it is not that cold yet.  It is not like it is snowing or anything.  So, I cautiously agreed to go out with my friend Alaina.  She and I have been kayaking together since the mid 90's, and we are nicely matched in skills.  She kicks my butt in alot of things, and occasionally I get to do the kicking.  We also live about five blocks apart, so the set up would be easy.   And we both have kid pressure so I knew she would be good for a similar time frame as me.   And thus our little adventure was born (and came to fruition with a lot of help from Kevin).  I whined a fair amount about it being cold, my being out of shape, and general anxiety over the surf, and she commiserated and yet got us out to do it.  And out we went.

Surfing on Lake Superior has changed in the last 20 years.  Back in the day it was all kayaks, and that was good.  The craft move similarly and all paddlers are evenly matched.  I know where a kayaker is going to go, and what to expect in general.  Now a days the fashion is all surfboards.  Surfboards!  That is so silly, but it is true.  I don't like this trend.  They sit out on top of the best waves, and then barely catch them.  They leave many waves wanting, but get freaked out when there is a kayaker in the line-up.  I have not figured out how to navigate this well, so I sit far away from them and barely get any rides.  I will figure it out eventually.  The thing is, they move differently, and have a whole code of ethics that I am not up on.  Again, I will figure it out eventually.  I suspect they are here to stay.  It was a big storm that brought on this surf so there were tons of them.  18, to be exact, sitting right where I wanted to be.  Oh well.  I wasn't up to speed today anyways due to it being my first day out on surf.   That always freaks me out and keeps my super conservative, so I doubt I really missed anything anyways.  Who knows, since I can't beat them maybe some day I will join them.  When I need a new hobby.  Ha!

Even with the anxiety, the driving rain, the 40 degree temperatures, and the surfers, it was marvelous.  Lake Superior is breathtaking, and Stony Point is gorgeous.  It is a spot where there is a large rock ledge, an old lava flow, that seeps into the lake and smooths out the bottom for some killer waves.  The water is clear, as there are no creeks coming in nearby, and it is blue.  Very blue.  I am not sure how that works since all the rivers that flow into the lake are Tannin Brown, like root beer or tea, but Lake Superior is a gorgeous blue color.  Especially at Stony Point where the rock is light grey.  Grey, and today it was being pounded by huge blue waves that would hit the ledge and then spray a good 15 feet into the air.  The sky was grey too, due to the rain coming sideways.  But really, it was rather warm.  Once I got into my wet suit bottoms, layers of fleece, dry top (think gor-tex with rubber gaskets at neck and wrists), spray skirt, bulky life jacket, head cover, helmet, and gloves, well by that time I was quite warm.  And I did not feel the wind or the rain.  Just the excitement of getting out on the lake. 

Lake waves and surf are quite a different thing from waves on the river.  On the river the waves stand mostly still and the water runs past.  In the lake the waves are crashing past and the water is mostly still.  And the waves are ever changing.  The swell comes from far out, where is has built across the miles with wind action.  It is uniform and not very big until the bulk of it begins to run into the shallowing bottom.  Then the swell rises into a peak, and if it rises high enough the wall of the peak turns verticle and curls over to crash down on itself as momentum pushes it towards it's end on the shore.  After the crash the wave is all whitewater, frothing and rolling on towards the beach.  Surfers play on the wave face, kayakers play on the wave face and in the whitewater.  As long as you keep your balance you can ride the wave and the whitewater; twisting, turning, spinning, and even backwards riding.  It is very fun, and exhilirating.  If you lose your balance you are dragged along upside down, while the wave tries to foil every attempt to roll.  Sometimes if you roll you get slapped over by the next one, and sometimes the next one.  It has been awhile since my balance was in question that way, but I still remember.  And that balance can go when one is freaked out or tired.  So I remember, and play it safe.  Probably too safe today, I only got a few good rides in the hour we were out.  But they were worth the trouble. 

It feels so good to be finally floating after all the prep, scrambling and racing on the way out after pushing off shore.  Next you power through the whitewater that's trying to push you back to the shore, line after line of whitewater.  If the waves are too big then the whitewater or building waves can pushes you too far back, of flip you over entirely before you break out into the quiet zone where the water is deep.  Then you get to turn around, assess the waves coming in, wave to a few surfers, confer with your paddling buddy, and wait for a good ride to catch.  Always adjusting position for wave and wind action and the strength of butterflies in your stomach.  There are always many false starts before the perfect situation is reached.  Where the wave is just right, your position is just right, and your will and skill takes you onto the moving face for a ride, ride, ride.  Oh it is glorious when it all comes together.  And really, this opportunity, to surf Lake Superior and be a part of her power in a fun crazy way is one of the reasons I settled here.

I am glad adventure called today, and I will try to remember to pick up earlier next time.