30 June 2005

Temperance River

Here we are yesterday at one of the seven overlooks along the Temperance River. We met a couple with their little boy and they offered to take our picture. Where were they from? Surfside SC. How cool is that?! Posted by Hello

Eleven hours

This will be a short posting. Tal and I arrived within the hour in Sault Ste Marie and it's been a long day -- with Lake Superior always nearby on our left. We departed our lovely little hotel, the Cliff Dweller, in Lutsen MN just after 5AM and pulled in here just before 5PM. We stopped for breakfast in Superior WI, where we "always" stop on our way home from Canada fishing. French toast at Perkins is almost as good as French toast at Cracker Barrel. Including three stops (map, fuel and lunch at a picnic table) and the time change from central to eastern time, we were 11 hours in the car. Eleven lovely hours. I've never crossed the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before. It's sparsely populated and lush.

And then, there's that lake ... The innkeeper at the Cliff Dweller refers to Lake Superior as Doctor Superior. For this part of the world the lake is much like the ocean for many of us along the east coast. Water that large has a property about it what attracts and inspired and sooths.

Anyway, we're here and safe and happy to have a place to sleep. Tal is napping and I'm going to clean up e-mail for a minute or so. Tomorrow we'll explore Sault Ste Marie and check out the locks. I'll also tell you a bit about our hike (more accurately, a long stroll) yesterday along the Temperance River which empties into Lake Superior.


29 June 2005

This photo just arrived from Chickie and Pat via e-mail. Taken about noon on Sunday, the 26th of June, we're moments away from boarding the Beaver for our flight to Bissett. Posted by Hello

28 June 2005

Can beauty become too much?

Since leaving "my" table at Shining Falls Sunday morning for the trip back to Bissett and our car, I am overwhelmed with the vast and the beautiful.

The flight from Shining Falls to Bissett was amazing. The pilot apologized for what was going to be a bumpy and slow ride, the storms having calmed enough to make the flight but that was all. His apologies were needless. He flew above the broken clouds and what I watched below us for the 45 minute flight was rugged, boundless beauty, sunlight glinting on streams, rivers, lakes, the terrain of mingled forests, rock outcroppings, islands large and small.

Landing on Rice Lake at Bissett was a sad moment; the Shining Falls experience was, indeed, over. But ... on the dock awaiting our flight was our pilot's 2 year old son, a cookie in his outstretched hand saved just for daddy. Now, this guy is serious, all business; there is no time for chitchat when unloading and loading. He's focused on his job -- and I might add, the lives on his de Haviland Beaver, his own included.

Well, the sight of that child ... The man who told us tersely to board and buckle up at Shining Falls was a different man when he helped us onto the dock. When it was his turn for daddy's attention, that little boy didn't just hand him that saved cookie. The pilot-turned-daddy opened his mouth wide, making ferocious growling, gobbling sounds, and the laughing child met the mouth with the cookie. Everyone smiled at the sight -- the two of us, the three people waiting to board, and the mother/wife who, by the way, runs the seaplane base. Such beauty ...

The drive from Bissett to Dryden on Sunday took us west and south to the Transcanada Highway where we turned east for the remainder of Sunday and most of yesterday. The Transcanada in large part is tw0-lane with many third, passing lanes for vehicles in each direction. The shoulders of the road, except when it was cut through towering rock, are gravel and very wide (and include bicycle lanes east and west bound). In all we travelled about 550 kilometers on the Transcanada. No billboards. No roadside trash. Period. Just kilometer after kilometer of indescribable beauty. Long vistas, uncountable lakes, wildflowers profuse at the outside edges of the right-of-way. It took me by surprise again and again and again. And just when I began to feel almost numb, another scene would open up and I'd actually experience another sudden, quick involuntary intake of breath.

We arrived on the western shore of Lake Superior yesterday afternoon. The first glimpse of it, the fog rolling up and onto the road, reminded me of looking at the ocean on a calm day. It's an inland ocean for sure. 350 miles long, 160 miles wide with 10% of the world's fresh surface water. Our hotel, the Best Western Cliff Dweller, is between Lutsen and Tofte on US61, and almost hangs out over the water. In all three thunderstorms rolled through here last night and the view from here of the lightening over the lake kept me up and watching. Not thinking about much of anything, just watching.

And, I wonder, can the beauty become too much? Mind you, we've seen some ugly too. The centerpiece of Dryden, for example, is a Weyerhauser paper mill right in town on the river. Not only did it look out of place, the main building about 20 stories high in a town where at most the buildings were 3, there's always an odor associated with paper production. And, we've also seen grinding poverty along our route. But, the question remains. I don't know how to describe it, but it's almost as though the beauty makes me tired. On one hand, I don't want to give in to sleep for not wanting to miss any of it. On the other hand, the beauty itself hurts somehow. I feel an anguish, a deep ache as I gaze upon it.

I don't know the answer to the question. For right now I am trying to rest in the beauty -- be it moments of love like that on the dock at the seaplane base Sunday or the cliffs jutting up out of Lake Superior's waters or the little lake tucked in behind a hill on the Gunflint Trail. Rather than looking too hard, trying to take it all in, I am concentrating on the exhale. It's a choice between the sharp intake of breath and the gentle "ahh." I know, I know. None of it's an either-or. I guess I'm attempting to distinguish between the simple gazing upon it and the trying to memorize it. The dwelling in rather than the dwelling on. Is that it? Maybe, maybe not.

The last thing I want is not to see it at all, protecting myself from the ache. I pray for the ability, the willingness to try dwelling in the loveliness, the vastness, the beauty and then letting it be.

Perhaps, oh, perhaps ... There's a line I've always loved in one of evening prayer's collects: Shield the joyous. I've never quite known what that meant, so I've prayed that those who are experiencing great joy will not be let down too quickly. Perhaps the ache I'm trying to describe is, among other things, what that line is about. Just a thought.

26 June 2005

This is the plane we'll fly out on today, weather permitting. The photo was taken yesterday under much different conditions. Posted by Hello

We "anchored" the boat in a sunny spot yesterday and enjoyed our lunch looking at this scene. Posted by Hello

On the move again

Our bags have been moved from the cabin to the lodge, our last (wonderful) breakfast is over and now we're waiting. Although some boats are out already, the rain is coming down in earnest -- on a day, mind you, when the forecast was for sun with some clouds and a light breeze. The pilot from Blue Water Aviation has called to say, with a thunderstorm in Bissett, he's sitting at the dock unable to fly. Tal's considering a nap and I'm enjoying a little more time here at "my" table in the lodge where my computer's spent the week and I've kept up with e-mail, downloaded photos and written entries for the web log.

How I hate to leave. But, truth is we can't return until we do just that, leave. With dates written on Chickie's calendar for next summer, the sweet promise of catching sight of this place once again from the air with depart with us. In the meantime, well, that's what memories are for, for the "remember when" conversations, for the sudden, quiet recollection of a feeling or a sight. I'll have no trouble during the coming months putting myself right back here in this very spot, on this very bench, Family Lake behind me and to my left. Still, getting on the plane will be hard.

Once we're back in Bissett we'll return to Powerview and continue south to the transcanada highway where we will turn east. We'll spend the night in Dryden, arriving at Lutson on Lake Superior sometime tomorrow.

Happy Sunday, all.

25 June 2005

The big one doesn't ALWAYS get away. This is a "master angler" size northern pike, caught on eight pound test line and light tackle. The jury's out on who was the most tired -- the pike or the vicar, but we both survived. Posted by Hello

An extra blanket

Sometimes our needs are so simple.

Yesterday was a difficult fishing day with 30 knot winds and rain. A couple of times a sustained blow made our 14' aluminum boat feel very small and its 9.9 horsepower motor weak. In fact, both were no match for nature's potential. Tal and I managed well, knowing Family Lake could easily win any battle instigated by the elements.

We had an assignment, the weather not withstanding. Fish was planned for dinner and we needed to catch our limit (four each). Although I tried, the weather proved too much for my boat-tending skills. So, I handled the craft and Tal fished. In the end his reputation was upheld, but it was by no means easy. His eight fish made me very tired!

The temperature dropped through the night (welcome to summer in Manitoba!) and I semi-awoke, aware I was cold. There was an extra blanket on the top bunk. It was all I needed. It-was-all-I-needed. Such a simple need. Such a small thing. Sleep returned.

Life in camp is by no means luxurious. The cabins are rustic; the furniture is mismatched, as are the bed linens. And, the beds (bunks) are a thin mattress on plywood. Single bulbs illumnate each room when the day light dims (at about 10). Having camped more primitively over the years, I know, how easy we have actually have it here at Shining Falls. I like the hot shower and the screens on the windows and not sleeping on the ground and digging a latrine.

But, I as I sit here I am also aware of how much I think I need day-to-day -- from kitchen equipment to clothing, from plant material to outdoor furniture, from books to CDs. The truth is, I don't need any of it. Nice. Not necessary.

So, what is need, as opposed to nice?

Early this morning with the temperature in the low 40s, that extra blanket made all the difference. I didn't even think to look to see what color it was. So simple.

23 June 2005

On Tuesday Chickie met the Gonzalezes and us for a shore lunch. All we had to do was show up with the fish. Here we are with our contribution (also our limit of 4 each for the day). Posted by Hello

25% of the earth's water = 25% of the earth's mosquitoes

The first part of that title is undisputed; this part of the world contains 25th of the earth's water. The second part of today's title might be a bit of an exaggeration! For the moment, let me tell you, I believe.

It's Thursday afternoon on a day which started out quite warm and slightly muggy. For those of you living in the south, you wouldn't have noticed, but the folks here were a bit on edge. By early afternoon thunder distinct in the distance and Tal and I came in off the water. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped almost simultaneously and -- what a storm. Pat (proprietor of Shining Falls Lodge along with his wife, Chickie) considered a kite and a key to give the generator a rest ... The heavenly electrics have calmed down now. The wind's brisk and gusty, nothing to keep us from fishing again today. And, the mosquitoes won't have a chance ...

I probably don't need to tell you that we're having a wonderful time. The days are just slipping away too, too fast. We're in camp with three other parties, two of them on the housekeeping plan (meaning they 're doing their own cooking). Tal and I, with a family from Buffalo Wyoming, are enjoying Chickie's cooking three times a day. They are the Gonzalezes -- a mom and dad, dad's dad, three children and one cousin. Having the children around reminds me of my camp counselor days. They're full of questions and ideas, open to conversation with everyone, best friends with the Harristhal's two dogs and cat, enthused by everything associated with fishing for walleye and pike. The three adults are quietly teaching all the time, patient -- and tired. When the conversation gets to be too much, I have the luxury of retreating to cabin 4.

I'm getting better at driving the boat. The fishing technique is a slow back troll. Keeping up with the boat and the fishing proves to be too much at times and I have to admit defeat and concentrate on the boat. I have, however, learned to set the hook BEFORE shifting to neutral. The other way around and the fish makes its escape! To quote Badlands Meany, "curses, foiled again."

I wish you could have seen the full moon the last two nights. Tuesday evening it was bright and clear, producing a golden path from us on our deck to it across the water. Last night it rode low in the sky behind thin clouds, a softly glowing orb. Giving up and going to bed both nights was hard.

21 June 2005

On my way from our cabin to the lodge for breakfast I smiled to see our little boat waiting for us. Tal has since motored it over here so it can be serviced for the day. Posted by Hello

"Woman, it's daylight"

Lucky for me, he waited until 4:10 to make that announcement. And, he built a fire in the stove to make my getting up more likely. The forecast for the day is 32C or about 90F, but for the time being I'm in a turtleneck and a fleece vest.

More later ...

20 June 2005

And finally ... the best part: the view of Family Lake from the deck of our cabin and our home for six days. Posted by Hello

The arrival of two planes sparked activity on the part of the staff and excitement for the nine of us waiting to fly. Posted by Hello

And this is the terminal. Posted by Hello

Here's Tal this morning waiting at Blue Water Aviation for our flight to Shining Falls Lodge. Some "gate"! Posted by Hello

This is the dam at Power View, the next little town beyond Pine Falls (our stopping place for Saturday night, June 19th). We crossed the dam to get to Bissett. Posted by Hello

“O beautiful, for spacious skies”

Like the previous posting, what follows was written in a hotel room, in Pine Falls Manitoba on Saturday evening, the 19th. Not even the manager of the establishment had access to the internet ...

I have come to a momentous conclusion. “America the Beautiful” was not written for or about the east coast. It’s a hymn, the first three lines of verse one in particular, written about the Midwest, about the country Tal and I are traversing. The grain is amber and it does undulate in great waves across the landscape. When I’m not driving, I am mesmerized by its movement. And, the skies are horizon-to-horizon spacious. I cannot even begin to tell you how beautiful it all is. The hymn’s opening declaration of “O beautiful” is understatedly appropriate. This land is big and open and profoundly humbling.

Yesterday was our long driving day and we were plenty tired by the time we arrived at the hotel in Watertown SD at 8:00 or so. But, the farmers were still on tractors at that hour. There was still plenty of daylight. When I opened the drapes this morning between 5:30 and 6:00, it was again daylight and the farmer directly across the road from the hotel was bringing the dairy cows in for milking.

Today the vastness continued as we made our way across the Dakotas, along the valley of the Red River. The wheat was replaced by other crops and given the sugar refineries along the interstate (which parallels the railroad, by the way), I would guess that crop to be sugar beets. These folks here have had lots of rain. Everywhere the waterways are swollen out of their banks and many fields are, for a time anyway, play grounds for waterfowl. And the wind has been relentless. Tal has heard somewhere that in the winter the only thing between the Arctic wind and this land is a barbed wire fence! Today’s wind, from the southeast not the Arctic, blew without any letup at all.

Interestingly, most interstate interchanges are not built up with gas stations and fast food restaurants. One would surmise low population plays a part in that, not to mention the long hours we've seen people working. (Yes, we have had to search for fuel, but only once. When we found a station Tal put 16.5 gallons in an 18 gallon tank. Whew!) On the other hand, casinos and gaming operations abound, but not at the interchanges. While Harrahs is a predominant name; my personal favorite is “Winnavegas”.

We crossed into Canada without incident, made our way around Winnipeg (not THROUGH this year) and are staying the night in Pine Falls, just beyond Traverse Bay at the mouth of the Winnipeg River. We will cross the Powerview Dam in the morning as we drive to Bissett and make ready for our Monday morning flight to Shining Falls Lodge on Family Lake in the Atikaki Provincial Park.

Into South Dakota

This posting was written on Friday evening, the 17th. Our hotel in Watertown SD required that I reconfigure the computer to take advantage of their internet connection. While I could have done it, I'm sure, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to return the computer to normal.

Today started out early. We had a very long way to go. But first …

Having stumbled upon it in June of 2004, Tal and I both knew about the Bass store in St Charles MO, just west of St Louis. We also knew that it opened at 9AM. So, there was absolutely no use in trying to get a jump on our 800 mile day. We had to time our departure from the hotel in Festus. Even slightly dragging out feet, however, brought us to their bolted door with a 45 minute wait. And, my husband – who doesn’t wait well – did it! When 9:00 came and the door swung open, we both were like children in a candy store. Now, we have appropriate bait for walleye fishing, probably, for the next half decade. How much fun.

We crossed the Missouri River three times today, each time something of a drama (in St Louis, just west of Columbia and, finally, in Kansas City). I won’t go into it now, but each major river we’ve encountered since leaving home on Wednesday has brought its own moment of impact – the Savannah with a light mist drifting along its surface, the mighty bend in the Tennessee at Chattanooga, the Cumberland flowing right through Nashville, the Ohio and the Mississippi converging were Cairo IL sits on a not particularly large peninsula. Where that convengence is concerned, our route took us from Paducah KY over the Ohio and into Illinois for the briefest of moments before we mounted another bridge over the Mississippi and found ourselves in Missouri. Both of those back-to-back bridges looked like close kin to the old bridge in Charleston – narrow and high. On the occasion of each river we were always traveling too fast for me to take it in. Truth be known, though (and Tal knows it), I could very easily stand for hours and hours and gaze at each and every one. We would never get anywhere at that rate, I know. But, enchanted by them I am.

For much of today we paralleled the Missouri: from our stopping point last night south of St Louis, west to Kansas City where we turned north to Sioux City IO. It was at Sioux City where our paths finally diverged, we continuing north and the river continuing west. The Missouri Valley is wide and fertile, growing mostly corn, soybeans, some wheat and great numbers of cattle. The valley’s width, while I can’t guess at the distance across, is broken only by the infrequent groupings of trees, suggesting a house site and farm outbuildings in their midst. Larger areas of trees on the horizon generally sprouted a water tower and a steeple, letting us know a town was in the distance. Of course, there are roads crisscrossing (at right angles) the expanse of farmland, although they remain unseen for most part given the height of the crops in the fields. From time-to-time, however, a boiling plume of white dust gave away the passage of a local vehicle, that intensely churning tight cloud, dissipating and beginning to drift like an earthborn contrail almost at the same moment it was produced.

Tal and I, insulated in our vehicle and passing through at 70+ mph, wondered at those clusters of buildings housing a family and a livelihood, at those steeples in the distance well off the interstate focusing the hopes and dreams (probably of an earlier generation) and, most especially, about the occupants and occupations and immediate missions of the drivers of those unseen vehicles among the fields in the Missouri's valley. Each one of them was living a life unique to that person. Each one carried through the day, perhaps, the burden of secret sins or the buoyant joy of newfound love, the truth of responsibilities as well as privileges, just like I do and Tal does. Each one is beloved of God and knows it sometimes and forgets it often, just like I do and Tal does. Each one forgets that the rest of the world exists, intent on the immediate and the personal, just like I do and Tal does. Just like we all do.

As I invite sleep tonight those boiling clouds of white dust are clear in my thoughts. I want to remember them and the unseen people driving along dusty roads creating them. I want to keep them part of my world.

16 June 2005

Speaking of truth-telling. This is a side view of the main facade of The Hermitage. From the front the portico looks truly monumental. But, from the side -- well, it reminds me of the false fronts on buildings in frontier towns. Posted by Hello

At rest in the "show me" state

Tal and I have had a second happy day on this summer of 2005 adventure. While our destination is Bissett Manitoba, I couldn't imagine day-after-day-day of straight driving, so I won Tal over for a tourist stop. Truth is (ah ha), I made all the lodging reservations weeks ago, designing the trip in front of the computer. Our mileage for today was low -- on purpose. After all, I reasoned this morning, pressing on would throw a wrench in the whole schedule. We DID spend a couple of hours this morning at The Hermitage and, after fidgeting a little bit, Tal relaxed (gave up) and seemed to enjoy the house and grounds.

The Hermitage is the Tennessee home of Andrew Jackson, 7th president of the US, who was originally from SC. While there 's pretty serious (even viscious) dispute over that claim between North and South Carolina, the people at The Hermitage maintain Mr Jackson himself claimed South Carolina. Mr and Mrs Jackson were present at the front of the house when we walked up, completely in costume and character. When I said we were from SC and thanked them for opening their house to us, his response was to thank us -- folks from "home" -- for coming to see them.

While the house was interesting and the grounds (gardens) inspiring, it was the 15 minute film in the interpretive center all visitors see before going to the house which has kept me thinking today. And, like my admitting working in a touristy stop as I mapped this trip, it all goes back to truth-telling.

The film was so unlike the history films burned into my memory during high school. You probably know the ones: Mike Wallace and You Were There, Movie-Tone News reels, and the like. They were clearly produced by the victors or were produced to inspire the folks back home to keep the faith that WWII could and would be won. There's certainly nothing wrong with that.

The reason I remembered them today, I think, is that this presentation was so very different, in stark contrast. Not only did that short film tout the greatness of Andrew Jackson -- the general, the family man, the land and slave owner, the president. It also brought into the light his quirks, his failures, his questionable dealings. In essence it tried to present the whole man with his great strengths and his very real flaws. I can't say it was "fair and balanced" as that phrase has been beaten to death on the news channels. I'll simply way it was as all inclusive as such a brief introduction could be.

I'm now reminded of another moment in my younger days, the time when Brookgreen Gardens' first color book was published. It contains a number of major essays and includes the fact that Archer Milton Huntington had been an illegitimate child. The editor of the book took some heat for including that revelation. The author of the particular essay had wanted to tell the truth and to paint one of the founders of Brookgreen as a whole person, rather than present him in glorious terms, larger than life. Although no one ever asked me what I thought, I admired the book's editor more than I can say and Mr Huntington, the tall handsome man with the wolfhounds in the photos, became a real person to me.

When I was the assistant at Grace Church in Camden SC teaching the junior high class, one of the young men said out of the blue that he wished OJ Simpson would just tell the truth. Sometimes don't you wish the same thing -- not about OJ Simpson, of course, but about the claims and counter-claims on all sorts of fronts? Don't you wish that you knew what was really going on behind the stories on the nightly news?

What is so hard about the truth? Is is fear? Do you think we fear telling the truth, especially when it means revealing something less than virtuious in our character? And, what is the fear? Is it the fallout from the truth-telling that's the worst part? People, family and friends will think less of us, will judge us, will avoid us, will not trust us again?

That sort of fear, the fearing being seen differently, I suspect, reveals much more about us than it does about those other people. I think the judging and avoiding would be OUR reaction to the self-revealing truth from another person. OUR reaction. And, that's likely the "why" behind our fear. We can trust those other people only as far as we can trust ourselves. And, we know we would sit in judgement. Ouch.

All that from Andrew Jackson and two hours at The Hermitage. It was a wonderful stop. And, even playing tourist, we travelled over 300 miles today. Tomorrow will be much longer -- from here, just south of St Louis MO, to Watertown SD (between Souix Falls and Fargo), about 800 miles. But, out there across the prairies the speed limit will be higher ...

15 June 2005

Our fuel stop was in Christiana TN. We had just delighted on our lunch from the Ridge and didn't have to ask that particular question. Posted by Hello

On our way rejoicing

The title for this posting is the first line of a hymn and, without a hymnal (we're traveling light), I can't name it. How dependent I am on those rows of books looming up behind me in the study. But, having had a wonderful first day of vacation, that line is in my mind.

We closed the "gate" at 207 Country Club Road just before 8 this morning. Our route from Edgefield to Atlanta to Chattanooga to Nashville was splendid. In fact, until some really frightening construction at the intersection of I-24 and I-40 here in Nashville we made remarkable time -- about 400 miles in 7 hours (you to the math). And, that's including one pit stop, a pause for lunch at the Nickajack rest stop on I-24 this side of Chattanooga, and a fuel stop 50 miles outside Nashville.

And, speaking of lunch. Wow. We feasted on Vann bar-b-que and Yonce peaches. What could have been better? With that in mind, I am posting the sign at the fuel stop at the Outpost in Christiana TN right after I finish this note. But, I don't need to ask what's for lunch tomorrow. I KNOW! More of the bounty of the Ridge, the place Tal and I call home.

That's it for now.

05 June 2005

The sun reappeared on the seventh day and, as you can see from this photo (taken on Sunday, 5 June 05), the blinds are closed again. Posted by Hello