Harbingers of Spring

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
It’s no secret. Spring has been on its way to the North woods for quiet some time now. Despite the gusty wind, today saw temperatures of nearly 60 degrees and the air holds a softness that must mean spring.

A lot of good signs have been popping up.

Like pussywillows: 
Or suitcases waiting by the front door.
 (No, they're not packed yet!)

Some signs, not so good:

Granted, I’m not sure that the fire danger in the area is truly “high.” After a couple major wildfire events in the last few years, the locals are on heightened alert. And they’re right to worry until the trees bud out. Things are looking really, really dry. By all accounts we should still be out skiing.

But then things have been a little odd this year. . .

I went into the bathroom and noticed this:
For a couple weeks now I’ve been really excited that my dormant Christmas cactus is putting on new leaves. Does anyone know what Christmas cactus leaf buds look like? I’m starting to suspect that what I thought were new Christmas cactus leaves are in actuality, Christmas cactus flowers.

Flowers?! At the end of March? Right when I’m about to leave on vacation for a month? Not only are we a good nine months off from Christmas, I’m going to miss the flowering Christmas cactus! As Tina Fey would say: BLERG!

These days I find myself finishing up articles and other projects that won’t be worried about again until nearly a month from now. I wonder when exactly I’m going to find time to pack and do laundry before the trip and I fear I will not get around to throwing everything out of the fridge that is going to go bad while we’re gone.

Oh yes, spring, or something like it, is right around the corner.
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End of an Era, Ushered in by Marshmallow Fluff

Sunday, March 28, 2010
Sunrise after a rainy day 

It’s official: I will go a-waitressing no more. Yesterday I worked my last lunch shift. This means a couple things. For one, today I plan to hand-wash all of the sweaters I wore this winter so I can pack them on the trip and not have them smell of French fries. For another, it means I can start making decent food choices again.

This goes without saying, but when you waitress, your shift always corresponds with mealtime. Although you could grab little snacks as you work, the days I worked, I inevitably didn’t eat lunch until after 3 and dinner often got dished up around 9:30, if not later. By that time, I was always starving and ate the first calorie laden food I spied in the Shack’s kitchen. As much as it pains me to say it, the regimented life of a temp in a cubicle where I was able to schedule each meal and snack was far better for my waistline.

At the Shack we tried to make decent food choices. We try to get around to eating all of the fresh produce before it turns.
 But sometimes, even when we know what’s the right eating decision, our desires get the better of us. There is no better case in point than the fact that we have teeny tin of organic, fair-trade cocoa sitting next to the super family size Swiss Miss.
(What is a super family size any way? 4? 6?) Guess which one gets dipped into more.

I have read The Botany of Desire and while in high school, I read a book called A Teenager’s Guide to Going Vegetarian. I want to be that person who subsists on organic fruits and nuts and who is unmoved by a plate of French fries. I pretend I’m the girl who orders salads when she goes out, but in actuality, I’ve been known to order things called “The Grizz Burger.” (Yup: ½ pound of burger with cheese, more cheese, bacon, mushrooms, tomato, lettuce . . . ) I use the term “loaded” when I talk about baked potatoes. Deep down, I am just American enough to create things in my kitchen that look like this:
 That’s right, marshmallow fluff. A couple neighbors moved out last week and one of them left a 16 oz. bag of marshmallows and a box of Rice Krispies among the groceries for the taking. On Thursday, I couldn’t resist the urge to make a batch of Rice Krispy bars or “crispy cake” as they call it in England. That’s all well and good, except I didn’t need the entire bag of marshmallows to make the bars and have now spent the last few days eating my way through the remaining marshmallows with a marshmallow here, five marshmallows there.

This morning, in a fit of disgust, I threw out the remaining bag of marshmallows. (I think there were about four left.) With the restaurant life behind me, I have much greater control over my schedule and with that comes tighter reigns on both exercise and diet. There’s tofu marinating in the fridge as I write.

Of course, I’m about to embark on a month long vacation. Might not be the best time for such resolutions.

In other news, I’ve found myself missing the novel. After so many months (years) spent with these characters, I feel a little lost without them.

Ah well, I’ll get over it. I have plenty of little tasks to keep me busy today and all week. Both Andy and I are anxious to be far away for a little while and the trick will be to get stuff done this week so there’s nothing to fret about while we’re away.
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You did WHAT?!?

Friday, March 26, 2010
Usually I write about woods and words as though they’re mutually exclusive. But just as in writing, there are exceptions to almost every rule and so it is with woods and words. Sometimes they sync up together nicely.

There’s no question about it: more and more people are devoting time to writing novels and books. I have a “shoot in hell” theory about the whole thing. With a crappy economy, people have time for a writing venture and there’s always that tantalizing, yet oh so unlikely, possibility that this might be the book that’s the next big thing. Why not giving writing a try? Whatever it is that’s driving people to the page, people are feeling wordy as of late. Once they’re done being wordy, they find themselves with a finished book they’d like to do something about.

As writers we are taught to mistrust self-publishing. “Whatever you do,” we’re told, “don’t self-publish!” Why? Without a publishing house behind you to help with marketing and publicity, things can go south quickly. It can be how you end up having to wallpaper your bathroom with page 6 of your novel. Or why you have to take out a second mortgage.

So when someone starts to tell me about the book they just self-published, it can be hard not to blurt out: “You did WHAT?!”

I know up here in the woods, we live in a somewhat detached reality. Does that mean we’re some safe little bubble where self-publishing just might work? My heart tells me no.

My novel, at least, is main-stream, set in a foreign country and does not fit the criteria for a Northwoods niche market. It’s the traditional path of rejection and heartache for this little story. At times, it won’t be pretty. But at the end of the day, I’ll know I did all I could to give my story it’s time in the sun. Even if I land a decent publishing contract, I’m probably still going to make a pretty modest amount of money from my literary creation.

It’s hard not to go into a litany about all of the horrible things that are associated with self-publication: the expenses you incur, the constant promotion necessary to get your book recognized, the low chances of breaking even, the dissonance that often comes from what your self-publisher says they’ll do for you (especially for promotion) and what they actually do. Just like when you blog, when you self-publish, your book is just another drop in the ocean. Over and over again I hear “putting your book on Amazon is not enough to make it sell.”

But what is your book does fit the Northwoods niche market? Can self-publishing make sense then? Maybe. There are a couple small publishers who focus on producing regional nonfiction books who must do well. But it is a small market and that alone means you’re only going to sell so many copies. And remember “the medium is the message?” Do we look at self-published work differently? Judgey person I am, I usually assume something’s self-published because a traditional publisher couldn’t be found.

All of that aside, I worry for the author who chooses to self-publish. I worry about the number of copies that must be produced to keep the cost per volume from being astronomical. On the flip side, the cost of publishing on a print on demand basis can make take home cash from each sale almost negligible or force the cost a slim volume into the “I’m not going to pay that for this” range. It’s tricky business.

But if your goal is to put the thing you wrote into a beautiful, printed form and maybe sell a few copies, there’s no reason not to self-publish.

We all write . . . and publish for different reasons.

So I didn’t say: “You did WHAT?!?”

Instead, I bit my tongue.
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Cookouts and Changing Seasons

Thursday, March 25, 2010
In February 2005, I sat on the bus on my way back to my cottage after the first weekend trip of my semester abroad in County Mayo, Ireland. As I watched the stark winter landscape pass by, I started to wonder what it would be like to truly come home to this harshly beautiful place where trees only grow on the side of the hills safe from sea breeze. Those musings turned into a short story which turned into a rough draft of a novel and on Tuesday, turned into a completely revised (and hopefully logical and compelling) first draft. Now the printout sits in a three-ring binder: it’s a little bit like having an elephant in the room.

In a month of so, I will return to the three-ring binder. I will read the novel over in its entirety and make tweaks and edits. Then it’s time to research agents and write queries and synopses. Five years of work (there were some interruptions), and the hard part’s still in front of me!

Andy’s had the last couple days off so we’ve been out and about. The spring weather seems to have inspired something akin to “touring season.” We’ve spent a good portion of recent free time popping in to catch up with various family members.

Although the weather has turned colder this week and yesterday evening it decided to spit rain and snow, it still look a lot more like May than March outside. So on Tuesday we went for hike. We walked about a ½ mile down an old road bed and then we climbed to the top of a huge boulder.

It was quite the view.

Andy’s been waxing poetic about cookouts for a while now. The plan has been to have a cookout when the walleyes start to run in May. But since it was a sunny 55 degrees on Tuesday, it seemed silly to delay a cookout. We threw together some kebabs and beans in the Shack kitchen and headed over to our neighboring campground. Andy built up a fire with birch wood and we got the beans burbling happily and kebabs grilling.

When the sun went down, the temperatures dropped a bit, but that was okay: there was a fire to huddle around.
March 23rd is absurdly early for even the earliest season cookout. There’s still quite a few inches of ice covering the lake, but along the shore, it can be hard to tell where land, water, ice and sky separate. The ice is reaching a state of rot that inspires people to start making bets on when the ice will go out.

Worked my last night shift last night. I tucked the tip money away in the envelope of funds for the Pacific Northwest trip.

I have several articles to work on today as well as some other freelance work. After a couple days of play, it’s hard to get myself back on task. Without the focal point of the novel to lend structure to my writing days, I’m feeling a little adrift. But those are just excuses. The work won’t get done unless I do it.
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Three Shifts to the Wind

Monday, March 22, 2010
Despite having had a lovely weekend in Duluth, the title to the blog is not a typo. I was never “three sheets to the wind” this weekend, but today I find myself “three shifts to the wind.” Only three more shifts of work as a waitress before the restaurant closes for its seasonal hiatus and I am on to the next chapter of life. I’m looking forward to the new challenges ahead of me that better match general career ideas I had in mind when I got my degree. That’s not to say I think being a waitress was a wash. It sure taught me a lot about human nature and made me a better tipper. And now, whenever times get tough, I’ve got some waitressing and bartending skills under my belt and that’s really nothing to be sniffed at.

I should be working to think of something beyond the cliché, but I just have to say this next thing: doesn’t it seem like things have been moving awfully quickly as of late? Half the time these days, I find myself thinking it’s still February. I can not believe quickly things change. In the past month the winter has made a dramatic flip into spring; I have gone from a waitress to a manager; and I have gotten a refund check from my insurance company for growing older. In less than two weeks we head off to the Pacific Northwest. Can you believe it? I bet you thought it would never get here. Especially after I’ve been talking about the April travels for what borders right on forever.

With only a few hours of work left, I’ve been given a bit of extra time to cobble some stuff together for another large freelance project that threatens to consume every moment of free time I have this summer. I’m extremely grateful for the extra time to get some pre-work done before the big push during the first part of May.

I have one chapter left to revise on the novel before the revision process is done! That should get finished up before the day’s done tomorrow. Another day you thought would never come!

The ice in the bay outside the Shack is rotting. So Andy suggested an ice fishing expedition for tomorrow. Hmmm. . . .

Had book group this morning. We really talk very little about books. When there are itty bitty babies to be “oohhed” and “ahhed” over, I guess that’s to be expected. Seeing that new little guy today (one month old, but actually still a couple days shy of his due date) sure reminded me that motherhood is not something pulling at my instincts or heartstrings just yet. I’m not even ready for the cat Andy keeps pulling for.

I spent the weekend in Duluth catching up with a lot of friends. We had a slumber party on Saturday night at a friends’ house. They’ve recently finished some remodeling and watching their two-year-old lab puppy prance around the coffee table on which the friend’s massive wedding planner sat, reminded me just how far we are from that lifestyle in the Shack. I’m still on my “let’s move every six months!” lifestyle. That’s not to say there aren’t lovely things about the lifestyle we’ve chosen in the woods, but there are just so many ways to live a life, aren’t there?
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The Wonders of Ice

Friday, March 19, 2010
We do a bit of bickering at the Shack. Usually it’s about dishes and bedtimes and why the laundry on the floor never hops into the laundry basket. Sometimes though, it’s about blogging.

Andy’s not a blogger, but as the number one fan of “Of Woods and Words,” he has plenty of insight on what should get posted in this space. For example, he felt this recent blog entry should be called “Of Woods and Turds.” I had something slightly more poetic in mind.

But why “Of Woods and Turds?” Well . . .

We’ve unseasonably warm weather over last week and except from crusty piles here and there, our snow is done for. It’s bad, bad news for local businesses (well, at least for the restaurant; everyone else seems to be plugging along) but it’s made for some beautiful ice conditions on the lake. On Tuesday we headed out on the spongy ice. We found some beautiful designs in the ice. As we headed back towards the Shack, we found something else.

We took to hiking back along the path the dog sled teams used this winter. As the sled dogs start to run, they have a tendency to empty their bowels. Not really a big deal when there’s always the promise of fresh snow to cover up the evidence, but now that we’re almost down to just lake ice, there are tell-tale signs of the trail’s use as a mass toilet all over the ice. In clear pockets of ice along the path rest brown puddles flecked with straw. It is not pleasant. I declined to take any photos.

As you move into the bay, much lovelier ice conditions appear.

There are feathery fingers of frost all across the ice rink.

My favorite feature however is the risen paths that have appeared where the paths and ski trails compacted snow on top of the ice. Now as the rest of the snow melts off the lake’s surface, the trails remain as risen ice bridges across the bay’s surface.

 They remind me of the causeway that connects St. Michael’s Mount to the Cornish mainland near Penzance.

When the tide is out, you can walk the one-mile causeway out to old castle and monastery on the Mount. When the tide’s in, you have to take a boat. St. Michael’s Mount has a mythology wrapped up with giants (though the causeway out to the Mount is not to be confused with Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland), but the ice bridges outside my window right now look more like the work of Jack Frost and fairies.

As much as I like spring, this is far too early for highs in the mid 60s. We are not too far removed from a major wildfire incident to be nervous about dry early springs. In the past few days I’ve seen flies and beetles out. I worry about the natural cycle of things getting too far ahead of itself with this warm weather.

Maybe worrying about the environment is a luxury afforded only to those with little else to worry about. I’m not so sure. Many people have mentioned that in recent years the once pristine water quality of local lakes has declined. I think we have a moral responsibility to think about the effect of the living an everyday life in the woods has on the natural environment and to consider whether the negative changes we note in the environment are tied to our actions. While I fully acknowledge that I’m calling the kettle black here, you have to wonder if this is a corner of the world that’s really meant for septic systems. Should we be here?

This morning it’s spitting snow outside. I’m glad to see it. At least it’s slightly normal March weather. The lake ice has firmed up considerably and now it’s frightfully slippery!

It’s officially cram session at the Shack. On Wednesday night we made a reservation for a rental car. Apart from figuring out how exactly we’re getting to the airport, we’re pretty much set for April travel. But there’s still plenty to do around here before we go. On Wednesday I recorded three radio commentaries to get me through until the end of April. (The commentary is biweekly and the latest commentary is found here.) Yesterday, I turned in my April batch of articles and will likely receive my May assignments today to make up for my April absence. Although there’s a mere 6300 words to revise in the novel WIP, it still needs to get done before the end of the month. Should get some research in at some point too . . . .

Your intrepid blogger, hard at it. Hot . . . or not? ;)
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Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
No time for a bonafide blog entry, but wanted to wish everyone the best of St. Patrick's Day. My mother and I went out for lunch today and had Guinness Stout cake and Bailey's cheesecake respectively. It brought back lovely memories of the Queen of Tarts bakery in Dublin. To celebrate the Irishness of the day, here are some pictures from St. Paddy's Days past as well as some lovely Irish scenery. Erin Go Braugh!

St. Patrick's Day, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, Ireland. 2005.
County Mayo Countryside, 2005. 
Looking towards the Holy Mountain Croagh Patrick, the highest point in Ireland. Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland. 2008
Carrowmore Beach, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, Ireland. 2008
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Spring into Spring

Sunday, March 14, 2010
Daylight savings already? Ever since Bush fiddled around with the dates (honestly that’s the best you can do when it comes to energy saving policies?!) I’ve been surprised by the clock changes. They just seem too early in the spring and too late in the fall. Over the last few years, I’ve spent two springs overseas and their dates for the clock change to “summertime” don’t necessarily match up with our dates to daylight savings. Ha! Another excuse for my confusion!

But goodness is it spring outside. Only a few bitty patches of snow remain in the parking lot. The pine grosbeaks appeared to have headed north to cooler climates, transforming the bird feeders into squirrel feeders. In this warm weather only the chickadees and squirrels have been frequenting the feeders. I’m not thrilled to have a squirrel feeder, but I also want to get rid of the remaining sunflower seed before it turns into bear season. Muck abounds outside and while I could complain about the mess, it feels too good to be running around outside in a sweatshirt to bother.

This weekend marked the last hurrah of sorts for the winter season at the restaurant. An annual breast cancer fundraiser/end of winter party took place this weekend. The event’s meant to involve sled dogs but because of the utter lack of snow that didn’t happen. So instead it turned to a vodka and ________ (tonic? Sour? Diet?) fest with live music. Everyone seemed to have fun but it’s kind of weird to think that’s pretty much it for the season. Now we have two and a half of whatever until closing for the month of April.

A coworker with a green thumb brought in an African violet for me on Friday. She’d asked if I had room for a cutting and since the rest of the houseplants are doing so well (the Christmas cactus appears to be putting on new leaves for the first time in the year and a half that I’ve owned it), I thought, what the heck, I’ll make room. What I expect was a leaf in a pot. What I got was a beautiful, blooming healthy plant that crowds out the spider plant on my desk. I need to figure out some solution so they don’t die during my absence in April. I fear with every houseplant I acquire I am getting one step closer to becoming a crazy cat lady. My reputation (aided by my love of knitting) is saved only by the fact that I don’t particularly care for cats. That said, I don’t vehemently dislike cats, but in our house, Andy’s the cat person while I prefer puppies.

In January, back when I didn’t have that much to do, I volunteered to help judge an online fiction contest. Yesterday, ten submissions showed up in my inbox. They printed out to 47 single spaced printout pages. Guess those are going on vacation with me.

Andy’s been out of town this weekend, attending the big premiere canoe sports show of the Midwest. Andy has somewhat of a whirlwind effect on clutter in the Shack so I’ve taken advantage of his absence to get things straightened up a bit. In advent of my new summer job (oh, it’s so exciting!!) we will not be summering in the Shack but instead will be moving even deeper into the woods. Things are up into the air as to whether or not someone else will live in the Shack over the summer. Since that’s by far the most economical option, I want things organized for an easy exodus. Cleaning the Shack for new inhabitants will be a big enough project at the end of April without having to organize the whole thing first.

Beyond laundry, recycling and bread baking, I need to get through a chapter of the novel and edit three radio commentaries before the day is done. I have to get the personal stuff out of the way today because tomorrow we’re right back into the work week and ideally, I need to finish up two articles tomorrow. Life’s only boring if you let it be.
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Noisy, Crazy ,Busy World

Thursday, March 11, 2010
The rain started, officially, yesterday afternoon and it really started coming down last evening when we were driving home from my parents. Now I’m sitting at my desk listening to the rain tumble down the roof and drip from the eaves. The mist hangs so thick over the lake that the near point I can see from my window is a myopic blur. In my last blog I mentioned how much more there is to smell as spring creeps in. Now, listening to the raindrops on the roof, I’m reminded of how noisy the melted world can be. Sure the wind blows and squirrels chatter and boots scrunch on snow, but for the most part, winter is a muffled, insular sensory time. Now we have the drip of raindrops, the slap of tires driving through puddles, the crunch of gravel, and the chickadees’ spring song along with new smells and sights.

I had my 25th birthday yesterday. I’m sure at some point in my short life I thought 25 was ancient and that I worried I wouldn’t have done anything when I reached this point in life. Now that I am a quarter of a century old, I can honestly say, looking back on things that I’m pretty pleased with how it’s all gone. Of course, there are things that might have gone better if they’d happened a different way and there are definitely some things (*cough* relationships *cough*) to bemoan, but all in all in this first quarter, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve seen a lot and I dare say, I’ve done a lot. And since, as one of the waitresses at work told me yesterday, I have a good twenty years ahead of me (“everything after 45 sucks,” she said) I plan to continue to make the most of this fleeting fast life I’ve been given.

The birthday in and of itself was fine and not without some lovely bits. I had to work yesterday, which made me a little cranky (and my tips reflected it!) but when I got there I found that another waitress had made birthday brownies in little heart-shaped silicone pans. It made me smile so much. We had dinner with my parents and afterwards, we went downtown to get a drink and watch some first day action from the Minnesota Boys State High School Hockey Tournament. We even got Dad to come down for a little while (!)

Now I have a beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting next to my printer from my brother. And, and, (are you reading this Lisa?!) there’s a brand new camera right next to me from Andy! I’ve had a refurbished Kodak since Christmas 2004 and the thing has been a battle horse. It’s gone on four overseas trips and I’ve never had a problem with picture quality. Unfortunately, it’s a dinosaur: huge and heavy, with a lens cover that no longer automatically opens and a hearty appetite for batteries. I feel a little bit like a traitor now that there’s a lovely new Canon PowerShot D10 resting on top of my day planner. After all, the Kodak was still working all right. . . . . I’ve heard lots of good things about Canon cameras – although I wish they didn’t create sooooo many shortcuts on my desktop when I install their software -- and I’ll have a great opportunity to test this model out on next month’s travels. It should do pretty well on the home front too: considering that the new camera is shockproof, waterproof, and freeze-proof, and, as Andy quipped, Ada-proof, it should be a pretty good fit for life in the woods.

This week I’m signing a lot of contracts that probably mean, come March 31st, my waitressing days are a thing of the past. I’m excited, a little overwhelmed, and horribly unfocused. The novel rewrites have to get finished this month because it’s becoming clear it’s going to be on the backburner until next fall and I need to get some other assignments out the door quickly so I have time for any extra work I may take on before the month is done.
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Spring Fever

Monday, March 8, 2010
Last night at work, I brought the vats of chili and soup out to the walk-in coolers outside and took a big whiff of fresh air. It smelled green and earthy and moist. “Smells like spring,” I told the cook.

In the last week, as melted snow has started to pour down roofs in rivulets, we’ve all gotten a touch of spring fever. It seems Orion, the constellation that marks the passing of winter, is running hastily out of the night sky. The once frozen outside world that smelled only of pine and sunflower seed on warm days is being push aside to make room for a new sensory world that smells awake, albeit, a bit groggy. The puppies that lived on the lake with their sled dog counterparts all winter headed home today. Although the sled dogs have a couple more tours to give this winter, the warm weather has turned their lake home into a puddle. So they’re off to their summer homes and will return for their scheduled tours.

Yes, it’s too early for mud season, but nonetheless, the road from the Shack to the main road is a pile of slush and muck. While it’s easy to be deluded into a sense of imminent spring, we’re all pretty confident that we haven’t seen the last of winter yet. That’s just how seasons are in the great north woods.

Things are falling into place for the coming summer. While it’s tempting to focus on wonderful things to come, that’s not my best plan. Currently I have a to-do list too long to fit on a Post-It note. Why is there always something that not getting the attention it deserves?

It’s International Women’s Day today. I shall celebrate by writing one article, two commentaries and finishing a chapter. What better way to celebrate the day then doing what I want to do? I am a truly privileged young woman blessed to have the biggest struggles in getting what I want be internal. I have a lot, a lot of amazing women from the past and present to thank for that.

Off to work, more later . . .
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Maybe Just a Touch of Cabin Fever

Saturday, March 6, 2010
Right now I’m sitting at my desk, watching water trickle down my car’s windshield as the morning frost melts away. The warm weather seems determined to continue. We have anticipated highs in the 40s all across the coming week. With temps like that, things are melting quickly and in the warm afternoons, roads and trails are transforming into sloshy patchworks of slush and dirt.

Business owners are less than amused. After a somewhat lackluster winter season, they’re none too keen about Mother Nature putting the kibosh on winter this early in March. “We really need another six inches of snow,” a business owner told me yesterday. I grimaced so much she could hear it on the other end of the phone. While I try to empathize, deep down in my heart, I’m ready for mud season. Even if that means the road from Shack to the main road will soon be flooded with slush if this warm weather continues.

That’s not to say I don’t understand why I should be keeping my fingers crossed for more winter. It would be foolish not to acknowledge that it has been snowmobilers who have paid my way through this winter. If the snow goes now, I will be hard-pressed to find anyone to leave tips on tables through the remainder of the month.

But snowmobile trails, which have been in notorious rough shape all season, can’t stand too much of this warm weather. While I’ve cast a sympathetic ear to many snowmobiler complaints this winter and have yet to successfully answer the question “when’s the groomer going out?” I haven’t really known what they’re talking about. I don’t snowmobile and other than putzing around the lake with Andy on an ancient Tundra prone to asthmatic wheezes, my experience on a snowmobile involves one ice fishing trip with my grampa when I was six and once riding around behind a friend’s house while in high school. The only time I’ve ever driven a snowmobile was when I was out with my friend and for some reason, not much is funnier than a couple teenage girls dinking around with a snowmobile.

Cabin fever seems to set in with the warm weather: these days anything that gets us out of the Shack sounds like a good thing. For yesterday afternoon’s adventure, Andy and I headed up to the cabin to snowmobile. You know what? The trails are really bad. Bumpy, rough and in some places, bare.

Because we had considered going on a Quetico canoe trip last fall, I have my RABC (remote area border crossing) which allowed us all to cross over into Canada yesterday on snowmobiles. While the American side where we were snowmobiling has suffered from wildfires over the course of the last fifteen years, the Canadian side is the lush wilderness people expect in this neck of the woods. As we buzzed past granite cliffs and big stands of white pines, I kept hearing the whine of Rascal Flatts in my ear: “You don’t look a day over fast cars and freedom.” (I know, the girl who quotes Bob Mould also quotes Rascal Flatts – my taste in music is abysmal and any outside attempts to correct said awful taste have been futile. Sorry Peter.) Let’s face it, snowmobiling is the country thing to do during Minnesotan winters. It’s kind of an absurd activity: like driving for fun. You can see a lot of beautiful country quickly, but it sure doesn’t feel like you really did anything. Maybe it’s that passive nature that makes me apprehensive about it.

Regardless of personal feelings about the activity, after a winter of waitressing in the woods, I have found snowmobilers to be sweet, caring and often funny. But the snow is going and soon snowmobiling will be impossible to talk about in present tense. It’s been fun though.

P.S. Check out the new link: “Of Woods and Word (On Air)” on the right. “Of Woods and Words” has made it to the local airwaves. Don’t listen to the commentary -- I sound like a wavering old lady who might faint – but read the commentary that’s posted, if you like.
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One of Those Days

Thursday, March 4, 2010
Today is March 4th, the only day in the year that also doubles as a command. I’m not so much marching forth today as I am floundering forward. It’s one of those days when I should be highly focused and productive so I can get a bit of work in before I head off for the lunch shift. Instead, my biggest accomplishment so far today has been dumping my jar of change on the floor to sort through it and remove all of the quarters so that the jar of laundry quarters is nice and full.

To give you an idea of how things are going, this morning I walked downstairs, cranky, groggy and thirsty. A glass of water sat next to the sink. Mistaking it for leftover Emergen-C water, I drank it down. It tasted a bit funny. Kind of like a brewery.

“That water tastes funny,” I told Andy, who had already showered and was much perkier than I. He let out a high-pitched, uncontrollable chortle.

“That’s because it was melted ice water from a bourbon and coke,” he finally spat out.


I poured myself a glass of water from the tank of filtered water in the fridge and carried on.

In other news, a batch of articles is up online. You can see them here, and here, and here too.

We finally put Andy’s canoe to bed for the winter yesterday. Technically this should have been done in November, but somehow the snow came and the canoe got forgotten behind the Shack where it became a canoe-shaped snowdrift. Recently, with the longer days, the canoe-shaped snowdrift transformed into a canoe as the snow melted off the canoe’s black bottom. To prevent UV damage, the canoe got driven 35 miles to be stashed in the cabin’s basement. It must have looked pretty darn optimistic to anyone who spotted us driving around with a canoe on top of the Corolla. Someone asked yesterday when the snow was coming. “Any day now,” I said. But honestly, I’m okay if the snow stops coming. It could be spring now.

Had a nice long tromp through the woods after we deposited the canoe yesterday. The sun’s warm enough that you can actually feel heat on your cheeks and hair. The snow’s still pretty deep though. It went up to my mid-thighs in some places.

Time to think about getting to work, where hopefully I’ll be a little more alert and with it.
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Like a lamb

Tuesday, March 2, 2010
It’s a little chilly out, but that fact aside, March is coming in like tame, sunshiney lamb. Pine grosbeaks, chickadees and redpolls flit around outside. They seem pleased with the sunshine, or maybe they’re just happy I’ve been remembering to put out bird seed on a regular basis.

For the last three months, we’ve kept a plastic container filled with sunflower seeds just outside the Shack’s door. The squirrels have gnawed on the handle of the container a bit over the months, but it was until this past week that they actually figured out to push the container’s lid down into the container to access the seed. After the first time they managed this, I put the lid back on and put a rock on top of it. The second time, I switched the lid around so that the gnawed handles no longer lined up. The third time around? No more Mr. Nice Guy. The container of seed is now sitting where shoes and boots are meant to go in the Shack and I’m sure the squirrels are feeling a little disheartened this morning. The ever elusive pine marten popped out from the wheel well of Andy’s truck this morning and gave me a good hard look while I was brushing my teeth. Maybe it’s not the squirrels to blame after all.

I’m starting in on the next batch of articles. The deadlines are a long ways away, but I need to get them done with so I can spend an appropriate amount of time on other projects. Turns out no one answers their phones on Tuesday mornings. Who knew? I have now left messages with approximately five gazillion people and am hoping some of them call me back. That would be spiffy.

March came in a little bit like a lion for me. I contracted some sort of weird bug that wasn’t the flu or a cold and most logically was probably just a mild reaction to a vaccine (thankfully the third of a three part administration) I got on Thursday. Nevertheless, I’m feeling pretty close to myself this morning and for that, I’m very glad. I hate being sick, although I was glad for the opportunity it offered me to finish up Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires yesterday. Despite the comically persistent discussion of foie gras (I wouldn’t know good foie gras if it landed on my head), Garlic got me excited about eating out in NYC, although I doubt we can afford any of the places Reichl mentions.

Speaking of health, health insurance policies renew at the end of March and both Andy and I got a bunch of information in the mail about price hikes in our current plans and other available plans if we’d prefer to switch. I am so underwhelmed with my health insurance options as a young, healthy person. I don’t see the point in paying for health insurance every month if my deductible is so high that I will inevitably have to pay all of my annual expenses out of pocket anyway. I also know it’s irresponsible not to have health insurance because if something were to happen, it wouldn’t take long to rack up bills over the deductible. The coverage available for prescription drugs is getting poorer and poorer each year.  I make too much money to qualify for any of the health coverage programs the state offers. It feels as though I’m being punished for being able to provide for myself and when it comes to health care, it seems like I spend a lot of my income paying for, well, nothing. Why is the racket of health care so hard to figure out in this country? It’s frustrating as someone looking to self-employment as a permanent option. One of the biggest drawback of the particular “career path” I’ve chosen to stumble along on is that it means health insurance, not to mention retirement, will always be my problems.

But like Scarlett O’Hara would advise, I guess I think about that tomorrow. (I have until the end of the month to decide what to do about health care.)

For now, I’m going to fire off some more emails, maybe make some more phone calls, do some research and maybe get a bit of novel revision in too.
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