Change is the only constant

Column 5 Published in the June 30th, 2015 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Synchronicities. Gotta love ‘em.

I braved the mud of the garden to snip cilantro this evening and noticed that my sorel/kale/arugula/spinach mix has popped up nicely but is as lacy looking as a new bride’s underthings. Something’s been eating my greens!

After dinner, I relished a few quiet moments to read a bit from “Birch Waftings,” a collection of old Warroad Pioneer columns written by Oak Island resident Joyce Newcom in 1969-73. A dear neighbor had loaned it to me just that afternoon. One of the first entries I turned to was an anti-pest recipe: “1 strong onion (or 2 less potent ones) chopped; 4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed; 4 Tbsp cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil in 1 gallon water. Strain. Pour into spray bottle and apply to plants….spray often and watch your garden carefully.”

I’ll be making this tomorrow and likely pinching my nose with a clothespin, as Mrs. Newcom suggests.

“The Angle provides,” my friends and I are often caught saying. Usually it’s in reference to a fabulous dump find at the Angle’s community shopping mall. But just as frequently of late, the Angle has provided in many different ways and even in advance!

Two gargantuan felt display boards came my way after several exchanges of hand a few weeks back. I had no idea how I would put them to use but hung on to them just in case, as any practical Angleite would. That use presented itself shortly thereafter when I needed a medium for the Northerly Park vision board to bring to the Lake of the Woods County Commissioners meeting.

Northerly Park, you ask?

There is a small, small group of devoted residents who are working through a grant application to build the most northern park in the lower 48. We have a grand vision and an even grander bureaucratic slog ahead of us, but we are optimistic. My FYI community outreach about the grant application may or may not be complete before this publishes, so if your lacy underthings have just bunched up, Fear Not. Everyone will have a chance to weigh-in.

That said, our application is due June 30 and we won’t know anything more until late fall. It makes me smile to see that the state government runs on Angle Time as well.

The new airport is all the talk these days. Even a border agent grilled me for several minutes about the Commissioners meeting and the likelihood of it all coming to pass. The car in line behind me surely assumed I was getting the third degree for the muddy state of my vehicle.

Yes, the airport is a reality, moving slowly forward on Angle Time of course—not unlike the grading of our gravel roads—but it is happening. A site has been selected just south of Jim’s Corner, away from most residential areas. We’ll still wake up to the throaty bugle of sandhill cranes instead of the buzz of a twin prop. Our little ones will still point skyward at the anomaly that is a passing aircraft, and we’ll finally have faster access to medical attention when emergencies arise.

Change is the only constant, as Heraclitus said some 2,500 years ago. But at least it happens at a snail’s pace here at the Angle. Even the crankiest of us have time to get used to an idea.

The June rains have not disappointed boaters and gardeners alike. Fishing has been great until the recent lightening, which does something inexplicable to their appetites or just plain spooks them. The bugs seem to have been beaten down a bit by the consistent rains, but I hear a menacing forewarning about the coming month in the ever-present buzz and hum.

Better add extra cayenne and garlic to that lettuce spray.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves

Column 4: Published in the June 16th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Unless we count the times a bear or varmint gets into our garbage, there is no curb-side trash collection at the Angle. Recycling is even more of a beast. We have a designated place to dispose of frying oil, used batteries and propane cylinders, old mattresses and furniture, dead appliances and every kind of scrap wood and metal you can imagine. Glass, aluminum, tin cans and old paint all have their place.

But plastic, the material that most desperately needs to be recycled, has no nearby home to retire too. Mostly to appease my conscious, my household has started saving and hauling the appropriately numbered plastic containers the hour+ drive into Warroad to use the recycling facilities beneath the big blue water tower.

We keep vast quantities and varieties of unrecyclable plastic bags and containers in our home and use them however we can, but more plastic than I care to admit still ends up in the trash. Every time I throw away a plastic bag, I picture it tumbling in the wind all the way to the coast to join its petroleum-based brethren in the massive trash swirl in the Pacific Ocean. Harder to think about for me is the fact that more animals and marine life than we’ll ever know are incapacitated or killed by our errant trash.

I moved here from Seattle, where everyone is snobbishly greener than thou. It comes from the best-intentioned, most organic of places, of course. Chief Seattle, in his long-forgotten wisdom, once said, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Unless you are a hermit deep, deep in the woods – which used to be possible here at the Angle, not so anymore – it’s impossible to live a plastic-less life. It is everywhere, in everything. Those little scrubbing microbeads in the beautifully marketed toothpastes and face and body washes? Yeah, they’re plastic. And they can’t be recycled. Once they’ve gone down the drain, there is literally no way to remove them from the environment. Wildlife aren’t just ingesting them; we are as well now too.

Kinda sorta makes you want to be a hermit, doesn’t it? If you live at the Angle, you most certainly have the hermit gene running through your blood. Here, when the time calls for it, and far beyond what is healthy in some cases, we can hunker down in our homes and our stories, avoid nearly all social interaction if we so choose and put that time to work on dissolving whatever is clunking around in our minds. Hermiting is not glamorized as it may have been thirty years ago when stories of the Angle’s Philosophical Hermit were newspaper worthy. “Uncle Houston,” my siblings and I called him. I remember him getting ice cream in his beard after he’d eaten a third heaping helping of Grandma Grace’s spaghetti.

We nearly had another true hermit resident this past winter. Through the January cold and into our lives he walked, on foot–as walking tends to happen–bringing with him a new conversation topic and a new cause for uproar in our tiny little nest of a community. “The Woodsman,” we called him. He could talk for hours. He used plastic bags. When he wasn’t borrowing the shelter of the church building or looking for $10 worth of chores to do, he lived in a den he had built in the woods. Fire was cancer-causing, so he used body heat alone to weather the cold nights. The next day he’d walk down to Jerry’s for a cancer-free double cheeseburger and fries.  

I was so rooting for him to settle in and play his cards right, partly because I root for people and partly because I love a good story and an interesting character. He seemed a lost young man with glimpses of solid Angle potential. But as more and different stories emerged, background checks revealed and personal interaction confirmed, our exclusively inclusive community realized he didn’t fit.  it was decided by the squeaky wheels that his time here was up. We ran him out of “town” politely and humanely. I cried. And then I felt grateful to not draw the curtains and lock the doors once more.

At the very least, it was a far cry better than how we handle a nuisance bear getting into our garbage. But there I go getting political again…