The Long Goodbye

Column 19 Published in the January 26, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Is the long goodbye a Minnesota phenomenon? A product of isolation? Here at The Angle it’s seems quite natural to keep talking as you stand at the door, hand on door knob, still visiting for an hour after you’ve said you better get going. Then we’ll chat on the front porch, follow you out to the car, and visit through the car window until you finally inch away. Be sure to look back, we’ll be waving as you turn out of the driveway. Continue reading “The Long Goodbye”

Leaving to Come Home

Column 13 Published in the October 27 Warroad Pioneer

“It’s morning time, Mama,” my two-year-old says quietly, expectantly. The thick morning accent of half-awake and a sore throat picked up on our travels muffles her baby voice.  I wrap her into my robe and we curl expertly together, watching the sun warm the dark lake and the frost-covered muskeg on our first morning back at The Angle. We’ve been away for a week, and it feels simultaneously as if a lifetime and no time at all has passed.

Leaving The Angle is a big part of loving The Angle. Just like anywhere, I suppose, time away from our day-to-day is vital to remembering why we choose to stay where we are.

It’s a long walk in a different kind of forest, breathing different air.

Despite the new experiences and faces, the glimpse into other walks of life, the tastes of beautiful food not available at The Angle, the shopping – oh to spend an hour walking the isles of a big box store staring at sundries I haven’t seen or imagined in over a year – despite the warmth of seeing far-away family and the chance to meet new friends, new possibilities, it’s always the coming home that has the most impact.

Home becomes something most precious to those of us fortunate to have one, and perhaps even moreso to those who don’t. In Northern Minnesota, we don’t have to look the issue of homelessness square in the face like city-dwellers do or avoid doing. In fact, many of us have callous and unkind get-a-job attitudes about it without considering the soul of the human enduring that journey.

But everything we all long for centers around Home. It is at the foundation of all attachments and it’s the base-level fear when you break down each limiting belief.

We left to peaking fall colors and came home to the grays and rain-turned-snow of the coming cold season. The bird bath and rain barrel are crusted over with ice each morning, and the world is taking on that familiar quiet that ushers in the restful sleep of winter.

Resorts are mostly shuttered and we’re back to minimal traffic, the steady movement of the deer and a quiet and resigned wait for the ice.

Halloween is our next happening here at The Angle, and mothering turns it into more wholesome, memorable fun than ever before. On Friday, October 30th, we’ll join the school kids for their afternoon party, fully costumed and ready for games and sugary treats. That evening, Jerry’s Restaurant and Bar will host the Wilderness Feast, which is a wild-game potluck, and its annual party, themed this year Hairy Scary Halloween at The Angle. I wonder how many yeti punk rockers will show up. Locals, take note: it’s not on Saturday the 31st because that would conflict with trick-or-treating, and hey, we can change things up like that if we want to. It’s The Angle.

Rural trick-or-treating is an exhausting adventure for everyone. We usually have an advanced count of how many kids will show up, and the goodies are grand because there are so few. Mr. Barrett usually has some taxidermied atrocity subtly hidden that scares the adults more than the kids. And the houses with the full-size candy bars are always remembered. The same cars criss-cross The Angle, hitting all of the regular stops, and by the end of the evening costumes are destroyed from or lost in the chaos of getting in and out of a vehicle so often.

There are about 70 households counting the islands, and we’ll knock on at best ten doors. It takes all night.

We’ll fall asleep to a sugar low and wake again to light across our beloved lake, the same waters that still hide the body of 28-year old Keith Ayers. May his family find what little peace they’re able to knowing none of us have forgotten. When we see the beauty and give thanks, we also pray he is taken Home before the ice comes, leaving The Angle one final time.

 

 

 

This Glorious Mess

Column 6 Published in the July 14, 2015 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Life at the Angle is messy.

Or perhaps I should say that MY life at the Angle is messy. Some folks definitely seem to have it all pulled together, packaged neatly and tied up with a perfect country plaid bow. But even the fastidious ones are not immune from that telltale marking mud on the back of their pant leg that comes from climbing in and out of dirty vehicles.

Muddy roads are a benign sort of messiness, of course. It’s all of the miscellaneous messes that slowly add up until sometimes it’s a downright sloppy situation.

Like always having digital clocks that are blinking because of the far too often power outages. Or showing up to a social event and inexplicably having sawdust in my hair or wood stain on my arms. My “good” clothes never stay good for long because something always needs doing and running upstairs to change isn’t time effective. We might live in the sticks, darn it, but I still like to dress decently.

There are things I don’t remember ever doing when I lived in the big city. If a tire needs air, an engine needs oil, a toddler needs holding, or chicken poop needs to be scraped off shoes, we do it, usually right then and there when it needs to be done. Popsicle stickiness gets washed off in the rain barrel. A neighbor needs a part, so we both rummage through a dusty, greasy well-used shop to find it. If I have dirt beneath my finger nails, it just means I had twenty free minutes to pull weeds and didn’t want to waste a bit of it going to get my garden gloves. Long hair smells of campfire smoke a couple times a week, and as a result the pillowcase does too. Sometimes sheets stay out on the line through the rain until they’re dry again. That’s all right by me. Our rains are decently clean here.

Did you know that if you move a turtle across the road you might just get peed on? I escaped that mess but only just narrowly. Defense mechanisms fascinate me. So do the ingenious ways that plants spread their seeds. Anyone who’s picked a hundred little cockleburs out of clothing or pet hair certainly sees the annoying grace in a plant’s subtle parentage.

Sometimes the mess arises simply from trying to do too many things at once. Multi-taskers are us, right? All the research points to the folly of multi-tasking, which I wrote about once for a software company in Southern California while sitting at my desk in tiny little Angle Inlet, Minnesota. Moving here, I truly thought a simple life would help quell my insatiable need to be reading six books at once, for example.

Most mornings I awaken with the bird song, knock over a couple books on my nightstand and stumble to my computer to get a few more things done for Angle Days or log a couple hours on a freelance writing project. When the rooster starts crowing it’s time for a morning tea or bone broth or green smoothie or fresh eggs fried in butter with homemade sausage and a thick slice of tomato dusted with pink rock salt.

Speaking of pink, it has been the year of the lady slipper. I make the drive to town several times a week for the UPS run, and each day on that long lonely stretch of road through Canada I marvel at the literal thousands of these rare pink orchids. They’re just past their peak now, but they are a sight.

If I’m not UPS’ing, I’ve been known to pick up a shift at Jerry’s, serving breakfast or beer (only rarely at the same time) to fisherman and locals. It’s a nice way to stay connected to the ebb and flow of the Angle. We’re missing our favorite pancake-eating, Twisted Tea-drinking biker dude Jon Kleven these last few weeks. His passing wasn’t sudden but it was impactful. On our drive to and fro, we can still look lovingly at the mess that is his yard and was his Angle life. He was both a rare orchid and a cocklebur, that one. Rest in peace and ride on, Jon.

Certainly, messes don’t get cleaned up without hard work. And hard work often makes a mess. It’s a frustrating cycle, but one I wouldn’t trade. Each day life gets a touch more orderly, or perhaps I’m learning to mind the chaos a little bit less, I don’t know which one. Either way, the sun continues to rise and set on my glorious mess, and for that I am grateful.