Wednesday, June 30, 2010

summer days

Days filled with work...which means cruising around on a boat in lakes sampling plants, but also seeing pelicans, hawks, eagles, ospreys, ducks, obscene shoreline landscaping, and everything in between.

Gardening...peas are peaking, everything else is looking great thanks to the abundant rain in June.

House- projects are moving ahead. Drywall is up and mudded, and if everything is on schedule I should be spending my Fourth of July long weekend painting. Not just primer white mind you, but colors like Earthenware Orange, Lemon Balm, and Daybreak Fern for the master bedroom. We are living in color now.

But if I get a break from painting, I hope to be launching our family pontoon boat in a nearby lake, where we were able to get a dock slip at the golf course. We still have plenty of summer left to enjoy it. Although cruising around a lake in a boat sounds a lot like work to me...I'll be watching the aquatic vegetation closely.

Tomorrow is the first of July, and I somehow lament that fact. I love the month of June, and I wish it would never end. June in Minnesota is paradise, if you can handle a few mosquitoes. And sunrises at 5:30. And sunsets at 9:00. And intense greenness everywhere, punctuated with wildflowers. The other day I saw fireweed starting to bloom. No way, it's a July flower!

Wherever you are, enjoy the moment. It is, after all, everything.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This really ties the room together

My life is turned upside down for a few days, but we are finally getting drywall in the great room, master bedroom, and back hallway! When it is finished, this house will look pretty much finished inside. They just hung it yesterday and today, mudding and taping will probably start Tuesday.

It looks like a totally different house. Now I can envision what each individual space will look like, and I think I will make a run to Menard's this weekend to browse paint colors and maybe even price out kitchen cabinets.

Perhaps the most striking effect of the drywall is seen in the back hallway leading to the bathroom, utility room, and back door on the north side of the house. This space used to be so dark and undefined, now it is a space in itself that leads somewhere. We hope to add a deck outside this door yet this year so we don't have to bring firewood in the front door all the time.

It has been a long journey. To be honest, I would probably not do it again. Once in a lifetime is enough for a project like this.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

a new approach, wildlife, and such

This is a look down our new, much improved driveway. Before, it was a mess of ruts and holes left over from the mud season, basically the month of April. Now the crushed rock and gravel should stand up to rain and spring thaws without us having to go mud bogging. And it's a lot nicer to walk down without having to dodge mosquito breeding puddles.

There are big things happening around here, finally. The driveway, and this week we're getting the drywall done in much of the house. That will involve much upheaval, like not being able to cook in my kitchen on my electric range for a few days, but when I think about the road we took to get here, a few days shouldn't matter much.

I am finally running again on a regular basis, as of this weekend. For the last month or so I had been suffering from a severe case of not wanting to run, maybe related to the too many thoughts running through my brain and the lack of capacity to process it all. But it's an interesting feedback loop: When I get it into my mind that I don't want to, or don't have time to run, I get into this strange apathetic state that makes excuses for not running. Which is sad, because I feel 100 percent better, physically and mentally, when I run. I need to run, period. I am also looking for the fringe benefit of weight loss, which, I have found, only happens when I run regularly.

So I went for my 4 mile run this morning, along my usual, beautiful route. It's so peaceful, I hardly ever see a car, and when I do it's usually nice people who wave. The only dogs I encounter are friendly dogs, from my kids' best friends' house. And I hear tons of birds; last week I came up with more than twenty species heard in three miles.

I was taking it easy this morning, having pushed myself yesterday with sprinting intervals, which was a form of self-torture. I just ran slow and steady. When I was approaching the point where I had decided I would turn around, I looked up and saw a doe and two fawns in the road ahead. I watched them for a while, but I did not want to scare them so I decided to turn around and begin the course back home.

I had only gone back maybe 2/10 of a mile when I saw something in the road ahead of me. A large black animal. BEAR! I stopped dead in my tracks. I was thinking, okay, usually black bears are pretty harmless, but I didn't want to take my chances. It was about 5oo feet away, maybe more, ambling across the road, taking its time. I watched it as it looked around, sniffing. I wonder if it sensed my presence. If it did, it didn't seem to care. Finally I watched it walk down a side road.

I approached that road cautiously. Then I remembered some advice from somewhere that said, when in bear country, talk loudly. Clap. Sing. So I sang whatever came into my head, told the bear that I did not mean any harm, and punctuated it with hand clapping. It must have worked, or else the bear didn't really care one way or the other, because when I reached the side road there was no sign of the bear. I started running again, then a couple hundred yards later I came across the still wet footprints where the bear had come out of the ditch onto the road.

I am most surprised about how not scared I was. I reacted with a sense of "Oh wow! A bear!" more than anything. I guess that comes with living out here; you develop an appropriate sense of caution. I don't think it will be necessary to carry a can of Mace on any future runs; after all, I have been running the same route so long, and this was the first bear encounter. I still worry more about humans, but on my running route I don't even have to worry about them too much.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

the summer look

I switched back to this header photo I used last year, because I think it captures a Minnesota summer better than any other photo I have ever taken.

Speaking of summer, it's coming by leaps and bounds here. The next three weeks or so will be the peak of daylight at 46 degrees north latitude, which means the last streaks of light disappear about five hours before they reappear in the eastern sky. I love June. I only wish I didn't feel so squeezed for time in my daily life.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

now, this is LIVING

I just returned home from a wonderful weekend away from home. The Hermit, kids and I packed up our new 1968 camping trailer and the Suburban (yeah I know, gas guzzler but it is really the ultimate family truckster) and headed about a hundred miles southwest to a beautiful campground on the shores of a central Minnesota lake. This campground was the site of the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association's annual Homegrown Kickoff Festival. (Kickoff meaning, the beginning of summer and the music festival season around here) This festival features all local acts representing the best in bluegrass and old time music in the region.

I was in a band that performed at this same festival, different location, eleven years ago. It seems almost unreal to say this. To think I was actually in a bluegrass band, singing lead vocals on a couple of songs that I taught to the band. But then we moved to another state, the couple that formed the heart of the band broke up, and that was that.

Enough about the past. I'm writing to tell about how I had an absolutely wonderful time in the almost 48 hours we were at the festival. It was not nearly long enough. We arrived Friday afternoon, after much packing and all the worry that accompanies a family camping trip, when you have not done anything like it in years. But we got the trailer in place, set up camp, cooked dinner, and gradually relaxed. I started having a musical itch, and walked around for a while after dark looking for a music jam I could fit in with. But being inexperienced and rather shy at this kind of thing, I returned to our family campsite with unfulfilled musical urges. It had been way too long since I had done this festival thing, walking up to a bunch of strangers playing music and jumping in.

It turns out I was just walking around the wrong part of the campground, and the best music was within earshot of our camp site. The next morning, as I was returning from the bath/shower house located near our site, I ran into an old friend of mine, Dick Kimmel, a very accomplished bluegrass musician who happened to be camped out less than a hundred yards away from us. His RV was parked next to Lloyd LaPlant's RV; Lloyd built my mandolin, and he is about as nice of a person as there is. I walked over there with my mandolin that morning, into a music jam already in full swing. I was welcomed, and I overcame whatever nerves I had and joined in.

It was the best thing ever, musically, for me. At the start I had a hard time even moving my fingers to find the right chords, but about an hour later I was amazing myself that I could actually play solos! All I needed was to get together with other people.

The kids had a blast. There were several families camped nearby with kids, and they played wiffleball and soccer together. It rained Saturday into the mid afternoon, so Calvin discovered the fun of playing X box video games on the 19" flat screen TV in the camper. (The Hermit is fully responsible for this, not me!!!) And the kids made numerous trips to the beach.

Saturday evening, after 24 hours of being there, I was overcome with a feeling of absolute happiness. All the nervousness about making this trip had disappeared, I had reconnected with some old friends and played music, just as I had hoped I would, the family was having a good time, the camper trailer was working out okay, and I was reclining in my new super lounge chair with a cold beer. I was even seeing some good birds: catbirds, phoebes and pileated woodpeckers around the camp site, and the pair of loons on the lake had two babies.

Sunday before we left, I played music again with my friend and a few other good musicians. As I was leaving the jam, Lloyd came up to me and said "You're sounding great on that mandolin!" Coming from him, that is a compliment I will cherish. And I believe it. I sounded better than ever, and it was just the effect of playing with other people. I am more ready and willing now to seek out every opportunity to play music. Aside from my family, music is what I live for.

But this isn't all about me. This is about my family, finally going out and doing fun things and living life in the moment! It's about letting go and living. And we had not done nearly enough of that for the last few years. Now I know we will.