"I am a Minnesotan by birth and a traveler in wild places by vocation and compulsion." -Paul Gruchow

Monday, May 21, 2012

State of Mind: 3rd Crow Wing Monday

I've only been Up North for two weeks now, in this weird space of childhood memories and adult responsibilities, making new traditions and habits for myself in this place that holds so much of my identity and my memories.  The parentals have been in and out in the last two weeks, and I puppy-sat Daisy one of those days.  Right now, they're back in DL, Daisy has a spa appointment and puppy class today, then she gets spayed tomorrow.  The cats are quite glad to see her gone for a while.  Daisy has been trying to make friends, but it's not working--and frankly, from a human perspective, it's freaking hilarious.  Picture this:  energetic puppy, cranky Maeve.  Maeve growls and hisses, Daisy cocks her head, sits down, and echoes the noise back.  Maeve is not amused.  So, then, energetic puppy meets neurotic Galway:  Galway bats a paw (a claw-less paw) at Daisy, sometimes rather forcefully bats at her, Daisy sits down, bats a (much larger) paw back at Galway.  Galway is not amused.  Me, I think it's the best entertainment one can have, since the Cabin doesn't have cable or internet.

We're teaching Daisy to swim in the very shallow waters of 3rd Crow Wing, and as you can imagine, that's pretty funny too. She doesn't quite know what to do with herself when she splashes herself.  Instead of walking in the water, she likes to bounce like Tigger, like she's got springs in her ankles.  It's a really good way to wear out a puppy who's got more energy than my parents.  And I'm remembering summers here, swimming (only with an adult) and not being allowed to go past the end of the dock.  To my adult legs, that's barely knee deep.  And as we chase Daisy in the water, I point out a birch leaning over the ice ridge on the neighbor's property and comment that would make an excellent pirate ship.  We'd long ago lost our shoreline trees to erosion (before we put rocks there).

On the way up to the Cabin, I point out the baby white pines I've found.  When I'd told my mother about them last week, she exclaimed, "Oh, you found some Kermit trees!"  And I thought that was the best name in the world.  My grandparents were farmers by blood, but conservationists by heart.  I'd always thought that their conservationist ethic came from my grandfather, with his master's degree in agricultural economics and his work as a vocational agriculture teacher, but my mother says that it came from Gram.  My grandparents would find these little baby trees on their property and my grandfather would put stakes beside them, so nobody would trip or mow over them.  He would take care of them until they were large enough to transplant to another location with more sun, so they would have a better chance of growth.  Right now, the view to the lake is fairly well filled in with trees of 20-30 years, planted when I was a kid.

I can report to my grandmother that her prized pink and white showy lady's slipper did not get devoured by deer this spring, though it won't bloom till June (if we're lucky).  I put some chicken wire over it to protect it and I'll keep an eye on it while I'm up here.

When I walk the dirt road from the Cabin to the mailbox each day, I check the soft edges of the road, because that's where we find the best deer prints.  Or, in the case of three little girls with walking sticks, where it's easiest to fake deer prints.

This is the place I know.  This is the place that I return to when I need to be reminded of what I know and who I am.  This is a place where my knowledge of the world is solid.  Rural knowledge is not backward knowledge, something that has become extraordinarily important to teach my students in which ever class I happen to be standing in.  I know that the rain we got this weekend was a good rain, for fire danger and for the newly planted fields.  I know that the soil here at the Cabin is sand and erosion is a problem.  I know what poison ivy looks like and where I'm most likely to find it.  I know the difference between a red pine and a white pine and I know how to calculate how old a particular white pine is.

And then I start to think that how can you know a place if you don't know its water?  (Or its soil?)  This is water I know, this rain, this water, this lake.  I know 3rd Crow Wing.  I know how far I can walk out into its shallows without getting my shorts wet.  I know that because it's so shallow, it'll warm up much faster than most of the area lakes.  I know what we need to do on the hill to stop the rain from washing the soil--which is sand--down to the lake.  I know what this water tastes like, the water from our well.  It's not fresh and bright tasting, it's fairly flat and gray in flavor.  But it's ours.  And I know it's ours.

There's no better place in the world than to be sitting on my grandparents' ancient couch, staring out at 3rd Crow Wing and the leaves and needles that mostly obscure the view of the lake.  We just put out bird feeders this weekend, so hopefully that will start to attract birds and squirrels and other entertaining creatures.  Because the loons woke me from sleep this morning, after singing me to dreams last night.  I used to know which birds were which, but I've been gone from here for too long.

I need to get a bird book before I leave town.

What do you know?  And where do you know it?

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