Best Intentions Part II . . .

Friday, July 30, 2010
No, no more disgusting pictures of my smoked back. Not to worry, the sunburn will soon be a distant memory when it fades away in about six months. . . .

No, today we discuss what happens when you decide to tap each day for its full potential. Or what doesn’t happen . . . .

Back in the dead of winter last year, when the days were short and dark, the money was scarce, and we lived in 12x20 Shack, I started to say yes to a lot of projects, jobs, assignments, etc. that sounded exciting and fun and just generally a really good idea. Sure I’d have time for it all, I thought. I’d just have to be willing to go full out every single day this summer. (Thank goodness I have no children!)

But lately I haven’t been going full out every day. Instead, it’s felt like I’m running into a wall. I plan to get up early but only succeed in rolling out of bed just as Andy’s hitting the road to work. By then, after the physical therapy exercises are done, breakfast is fixed and lunch is packed, there’s very little time left in my morning before it’s time to start thinking about heading to work. All day at work, I tell myself at night I’ll get the freelance work done. Yet when I get home, it’s generally sounded like more fun to bake a pie or hunker down with a cup of tea and the novel (Haunted Ground by Erin Hart) I’m reading.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, while Andy was off at fire training, I discovered the shelves in our bedroom -- meant to organize all my important papers – looking like this:

Not a single pay stub, bank statement, or anything else had been filed since after I’d gotten home from New York City . . . in April. I filed all the miscellaneous papers draped across the shelves and the printer (which is out of ink). It took all of fifteen minutes. So I decided I’d had enough with not doing what I should be doing just because other things sound like more fun. (The novel I’m reading really is intriguing.)

Last night I stayed up after Andy crashed into bed and wrote a “to-do” list that’s actually broken into bite-sized chunks. I made up an editorial calendar for this blog. (Yes, I’m attempting to semi-focus the “Of Woods and Words” content so the blog can be described, vaguely, as something other than my rambling thoughts.) There are plenty of walls out there for me to run into, but I’m through with this one. No more letting my best intentions get the best of me.
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Best Intentions . . .

Thursday, July 29, 2010
Yesterday as we headed out to the berry patch, I slathered on the SPF 45 in the truck. I coated my arms, legs, and ears.

"I don't want to prematurely age," I explained. (I have a deep fear of developing a leathery, wrinkled collarbone area in my 40s.) I think I'm going to be just fine in that regard.

Unfortunately, my back seems destined to soon resemble a shrunken apple person.

I think I missed a spot . . .
Where's the aloe?
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Things Get Obnoxious: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
There's doubt that there are berries out in the woods this summer.


But maybe we've gone just a little overboard. Enough, enough now.
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What Do You Do With Digital Photos?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
When I’m looking for a good rant – and let’s be honest, when am I not? – the topic of digital photography has always lent itself to some good, heated commentary. After all, when picture taking truly became as simple as pointing and shooting, a new era of omnipresent photography was ushered in. And just like that, we had a lot more “photographers.” Many of these recently emerged digital photographers snap beautiful inspired pictures. Others are more like me, trying to capture the daily beauty and wonder we see around us every day, but not doing so with any great technical knowledge of how to go about taking the pictures.

My verdict’s still out on how I feel about the ubiquitous nature of digital photography. It’s lead to the world to be filled with a lot more photographs, most of which won’t be finding a spot on a museum wall anytime soon. Our lives are better documented than ever before. And even if our photographs aren’t destined for greatness, it still means something to us to have pictures of:
Ginormous blueberries.
Or Andy with said ginormous blueberries
Or pretty sunsets on the lake.

In March, when I got my new camera, I thought it was really great that pictures automatically sorted themselves into dated folders when I downloaded them onto my laptop. But since receiving the new, easy to use camera I’ve taken to taking pictures almost every day. The whole dated folder thing isn’t so much fun four months and some sixty pictures folders in “My Pictures” later. Often I have trouble locating a specific picture because I can’t remember the exact date I took it.

So how do we get the proverbial ducks in a row?
What do you do to keep your digital photographs organized and easy to find on your computer?
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You Know I Don't Speak Spanish

Monday, July 26, 2010
”I think the most un-American thing you can say is: ‘You can't say that.’”
-- Garrison Keillor

Anyone who knows me well knows I don’t take lightly to quoting Garrison Keillor. Call me un-Minnesotan, but I’ve never much cared for The Prairie Home Companion. Nor do I like to use this blog as a place from which to spew my broad political views, but this morning a news story touched a nerve and Mr. Keillor has just the right words to express my thoughts on the whole thing. The Twin Cities suburb of Lino Lakes is proposing an English language ordinance for their city government. The explanation is that such an ordinance would be a money saving measure that would save taxpayers’ money by preventing the government from having to print bilingual documents.

The issue? Lino Lakes hasn’t exactly been wracking up the printing expenses publishing Spanish language translations of government document because they’ve never actually done so. To this point in time, all Lino Lakes government documents have been published in English any way. So what the heck is with this ordinance? There’s something behind all of this that reeks a bit like racism and xenophobia.

But the point of this blog isn’t to vilify the ordinance and whatever might have sparked the idea. Nor can I completely dismiss the frustration that sparks the notion that immigrants to the United States should be expected learn the English language. After all, if I moved to a foreign country where English wasn’t the primary language, I would hope I would pick up the language of land. But I’ve been to foreign countries and with the exception of learning “Thank you” in the national tongue, I’ve pretty much forged my way through my visits using . . . English. If we Americans can’t adapt to the language of other countries, why do we continually expect people from other countries to adapt to our language?

I only talked with a young German lady about how arrogant it was for Americans to expect to get through the world with just one language. Shouldn't we at least know a little of some other languages? (Despite a very limited understanding of French, I’m about as monolingual as they come.) She answered: “No, you’re just really lucky.” She meant, if you could know just one language in this day and age, English is definitely your best bet.

I may be lucky to have a language spoke in all parts of the world as my native tongue. Still, it seems we’re poised to lose something if we buy into the concept of a monolingual society. As more and more countries use English to adapt to our increasingly globalized economy, we are losing ways to express ourselves and come into knowledge that come from each unique world language.

So why do we keep saying: “You can’t say that?”
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All Around Locavore

Friday, July 23, 2010
My parents did what they could to raise their children as independent thinkers. We ate mostly vegetarian fare while growing up and we didn’t have a t.v. Consequently, as a teenager, I ate up popular culture like it was going out of style. I loved leafing through teen magazines and looking at all the beautiful photo shoots of beauty products. I started to judge things by their brand name. In college, my penchant for brand names shifted towards something my roommate liked to call “importitis.” While it’s true that my Toyota was probably actually made in the U.S., I do tend to get a little gushy about anything that came from across the pond: especially HobNobs. Mmmm. . . .

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about what we put in and on our bodies. Every time my book group meets, it seems someone else has read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle or something by Michael Pollan. Today Food Inc. showed up from Netflix. The general consensus seems to be that we should eat locally and seasonally and try to wean ourselves from overlooked luxuries like fresh raspberries in January. Oh, and the petroleum products? Those should go.

With the abundance of blueberries out in the woods and a garden that’s holding its own, it’s easy to catch on to eating locally. But when you live in the woods, internet shopping seems inevitable. And sometimes I worry that a little too much of my hard earned cash goes to little website that starts with an “A” and ends with an “N” and has “dot com” in it. When you’re shopping solely by price tag, there has to be some sort of cost.

So I’m glad to see so many great (pretty) local products that are also environmentally friendly.

Between my little stint as a tourist in my hometown on my last days off and happening to work at place with a gift shop stocked with wonderful locally crafted items, this summer I’m starting to realizing that there are a lot of great local products out there. In this shaky economic time, I’d rather buy something and know that someone nearby directly benefits from the purchase. 

Why buy familiar brand name cleaning products that are filled with all sorts of yucky chemicals when you can pay a little more and use environmentally friendly Mrs. Meyers? (A Minneapolis company and yes, I do realize plenty of box stores are based in the Twin Cities too)

I’m glad there are Minnesota companies, like Sunleaf Naturals, that offer eco-conscious personal hygiene products.

I’m glad for the plethora of local shops in my hometown that offer local gift items.

Am I ready to adopt a 100-mile diet like some locavores? Probably not. But I’m ready to stop settling for what mass-produced products box stores offer and ready to start reading my labels a little more carefully. I’m willing to pay a little bit more. In the long run, I think it’ll be worth it.


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Being A Tourist in Your Backyard

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Yesterday, as the result of an exciting new freelance opportunity, I had an excuse to spend the night downtown in my hometown. The NYC trip of April had started to fade into “far away” and frankly with the vast amount of highway construction along the one getaway route out of town -- Hwy 61 -- makes a quick day trip anywhere outside of the county anything but quick. Schedules have been consistently chaotic so we’ve pretty much hunkered down in the woods.

Time for a change.

Last night, even though I was only an hour away from the cabin and about five minutes away from my parents’ place, I was anxious for the excuse to shake things up a bit.

And the very best part was that my friend Kati agreed to be my travel companion. Since I sometimes look at as Andy as he walks through the door at the end of the day and think, “oh, do you live here too?”, you can only imagine what effect being uber busy and living an hour away from town has had on friendships. There was some much needed catching up to take care of.

We made the most of the time we had. For supper, we cooked up some wonderful homemade pizza. Then, once I was sufficiently full of cheese, pepperoni, and root beer, Kati suggested we go spend the rest of the evening playing some pick up soccer. While I was playing, I felt like I was 16 again, albeit, missing a bit of that handy hand-eye coordination I had back then in my soccer playing days. Today I feel like I’m about 60. Ya know, who needs knees anyway?

This morning, after a fitful night of sleep in a strange location, we headed down the street for a bit of breakfast. Afterward, although there were plenty of things I could have been doing, we opted to play tourist a little bit more. There are a couple new businesses in town and although I’d written preview pieces about both businesses' openinga, I hadn't been inside yet to get a glimpse of the final product. We poked around in those two stores, along with a few other gift shops, then headed out to the lighthouse.

In the end, we decided if you were really, truly a tourist in this town, it wouldn’t be half bad. I guess that's not a surprising conclusion to reach when the skies are blue, the conversation is pleasant, and there's nothing that truly needs to be done except enjoy the warm sun and gentlest of breezes.
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Gonna Make A Pie

Sunday, July 18, 2010
Baby don't you cry, gonna make a pie
Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle

--Waitress

After the great disappearing blueberry pie phenomenon of  last Saturday night  (when I made a pie with a lifespan of approximately 15 minutes), I knew I wanted another shot at fresh blueberry pie this summer. When I heard that my parents, grandparents, and a couple uncles were planning to come to visit the museum and have dinner at the cabin, I knew I’d found my excuse to pick another six cups of blueberries and make a pie. Yesterday at work I kept humming the little ditty from the quirky (but cute) Adrienne Shelley film Waitress: “Gonna make a pie, gonna make a pie.”

To be honest, I haven’t always had such a casual relationship with blueberry pie. When I lived in town, I always devoted an afternoon or two to heading up the “Trail” and picking blueberries. In college and during the winter I spent in the Cities, I usually had about a gallon of berries in the freezer. One of my best friends (and by far, my best roommate, ever) always gave me a hard time about my stubborn unwillingness to use any of the berries for a pie. Of course, I brought the hard times on myself by one time going on a rant of “I don’t know why people would use six whole cups of berries when the berries are tiny and take forever to pick.” During those days, I used my berries sparingly: in muffins and pancakes.

Now that I live in veritable blueberry paradise, berries are never in short supply and the task of gathering six cups of blueberries takes just over an hour and can, more often than not, be accomplished in the backyard. Kind of like how I spent 20 years of my life pretending I had straight hair, eventually you get over your inhibitions and start throwing all your berries into one pie crust and letting your hair crinkle, curl and kink as humidity see fit.

To say I still feel some guilt twinges about using so berries in a single bakery item wouldn’t be quite the truth, but I am still very conscious of the large amount used, so I try to make sure the final pie is worth the effort and sacrifice. In other words, it better be good. This means I turn to my secret ingredients:

Yep, lard and the freshest blueberries possible.

I’ve been using butter to make my pie crusts for years, but since I now frequently keep company with those with lactose intolerance, I decided to try out lard last week. Honestly, despite having a co-worker who swore by the virtues of lard, the substance kind of revolts me. But after the success of the lard pie crust a week ago, I may be becoming a lard convert. I’ve never made pie crust that was so easy to deal with.

I made this blueberry pie last night and having successfully fending off Andy from nibbling at it, now the pie rests on the counter, waiting for company and vanilla ice cream.

Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle.
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A Severe Case of the Mondays

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I once had a co-worker who worked Friday through Monday.

“Monday is my Friday,” she liked to quip to grouchy workers who slumped into work every Monday. I’m not sure it made them feel much better.

Since I now work Thursday – Monday, I thought it was pretty great that I could now adopt this quip as my own. But today I learned the hard truth of the matter. No matter what your days off, there is always a “Monday.”

And it’s not quite so much fun to have Thursday as your Monday when Friday still brings, well, “Friday” sort of deadlines.

It’s not that things were a train wreck today: all told, it was a pretty pleasant day filled with lots of nice people. But I was busy with things that really needed to be mulled over quietly, away from the hustle and bustle of a very busy public building. There were a few tense moments waiting for someone to show up who’d been significantly delayed by traffic. Then the power went out. Which made that last hour and a half of the day -- when I’d planned to catch up on email communications and the like -- just seem all the more futile since the internet server was down until closing time.

But to everything, a silver lining.

The comedy of errors of today ended up enabling me to get home in time to catch one of the first airings the CCC documentary  I’ve talked about off and on for the last five months. It’s finally done! Or at least, the first of six episodes are done. . . .

My thoughts are not coherent enough to finish up the article that needed to be submitted tomorrow. So I have an early morning spent writing and editing ahead of me tomorrow.

Let’s just hope this case of the Mondays doesn’t spread to “Tuesdays.”
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Happily Ever After?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I am the first to admit that I have terrible taste in television. Perhaps because I grew up in a home without a t.v., I find myself drawn to the glowing animated box like a moth to the flame. While I can defend my penchant for Project Runway and Top Chef, some of my other television habits completely lack defense. No matter how much knitting I may have gotten done while watching Millionaire Matchmaker, The Real Housewives of Orange County, or The Hills, the time spend watching such drivel truly are lost hours of my life.

So when the satellite receiver in the Shack spontaneously exploded last fall, just when I was contemplating moving in, it seemed like a no brainer to not fix it. The decision not to have television had nothing to do with living life closer to nature and everything to do with saving a couple bucks and keeping me away from my guilty pleasure: the Bravo Network. Of course, we promptly set up a Netflix account.

While we keep the bad television at bay, I continue to have devastating access to my beloved chick flicks. I enjoy the run of the mill conflict of interests and the predictable happy endings of chick flicks. But when I popped in Must Love Dogs this morning while doing laundry, even I found the plot a little too predictable.

As a person in a committed relationship who is contemplating pet ownership, I guess I wanted dogs to feature a little more prominently in the plot line. Sure “Must Love Dogs” made a cute title and a great poster, but little time was spent exploring just how pet ownership affects a relationship. And even though it was supposed to be an edgier chick flick that focused on the divorcee instead of the twenty-something, it was still had the heavy handed standard chick-flick application of “I found someone I’ve committed to and now my life is perfect” to all characters: even the ones who’d shown no inclination towards commitment at any other point in the film.

I know I watch bad television and poor movies that are all pretty far removed from reality. But still . . . .

Why are we always feed this line that our lives are miserable until that magical moment of falling in love? Why does falling in love in the movies always lead to marriage, maybe some babies, and little else on screen?

I’m not saying I’m anti-commitment, rather, I’m wondering: “what’s next?” Is there really no life after making a commitment worth making a movie about? And most importantly, are dogs and cats involved in happily ever after?
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God Only Has One Shoe

Monday, July 12, 2010
I was raised a pessimist optimist. I hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. I never quite believe that good things are going to happen.

But lately, although it’s been busy, a bevy of good things have been occurring. Work is good; home is beautiful; life is happy. Freelance writing opportunities keep popping up, offering hope that someday soon I really will make my living with my pen.

And all the little seeds we sewed a few months ago have suddenly burst into beautiful blooms.

So when is the other shoe going to drop?

In Anne Lamott’s novel, Blue Shoe, the main character bemoans to her best friend that she’s afraid of the other shoe dropping at any minute.

“God only has one shoe,” says the friend.
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The Grasshopper and the Ants

Sunday, July 11, 2010
We all know the fable about the grasshopper and the ants. Lately at the cabin, it’s been feeling like we’re both the grasshopper and the ants. We’re trying to bring home the bacon and still have lazy long mornings to eat the bacon (with toast and hash browns and eggs, of course).

All week, the bay has been filled with the sounds of summer vacationers and visitors. Motor boats buzz in and out of the bay, vehicles are always passing by on the windy gravel road behind the cabin, and there are plenty of shrieks and splashes come from the neighbors’ docks as people of all ages jump into the warm lake water. It looked like so much fun. Even with full time jobs and various other commitments, we figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. With a week straight of warm sunny days, why not pretend we were on summer vacation, just like everyone else.

So we went fishing in the evenings. (That’s unadulterated excitement in Andy’s eyes.)

I took touristy shots of moose on my way home.

We had picnics and toasted ginormous marshmallows.

Now the weather is clouding over and I’m starting to feel like a guilty little grasshopper. I wonder if I could have spent my time in a slightly wiser manner. After all, yesterday evening was devoted to the pursuit of making a blueberry pie. After supper Andy and I went out in the woods to gather the six cups of blueberries we needed for pie filling and returned home to throw together a pie: I made the crust, Andy did the filling. (Easy as pie?) There are no pictures of aforementioned pie because it was inhaled (with the help of 10 people) about fifteen minutes after it came out of the oven. Maybe I should have spent my time doing something more lasting . . . .

But then, if there isn’t time for fishing, or wildlife gazing, or ginormous marshmallows or eating warm, fresh blueberry pie, what is there time for? Happiness springs in many things, most of them little and few of them stem solely from the grand culmination of hard work and dreams come true. Hard work buys us contentment and security, which in turn probably makes us more susceptible to happiness, but we have to be on the lookout for happiness all the while we’re heading down the road to “dreams come true.” If we never acknowledge happiness, how will we know it when we see it?

Remember in Wicked when Glinda sings: 'Cause getting your dreams, it's strange, but it seems a little - well – complicated. There's a kind of a sort of : cost. There's a couple of things get: lost. Despite the virtue of being a little worker ant, sometimes we overlook what the grasshopper had to teach us too. The grasshopper might not have been great at keeping food on the table, but he sure knew how to keep his heart full.
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Money Can't Buy You . . . Health Care?

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Yesterday, my first errand set me behind schedule. I spent the rest of the day running late until finally after supper, Andy proposed we go lake trout fishing. As I sat in the bobbing boat, it felt like the first time I’d sat still all day.

I had a moment as I was driving home last night. I was halfway home and still had one last errand to run. This after a day of laundry, grocery shopping, recording a commentary, finishing up a documentary, and making two batches of blueberry jam among other sundry errands. And it was my day off.

“Why am I doing this?” I thought to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I really like what I do and it’s my resistance to let go of any of my tasks that leads to my days off wearing me out more than my work days. As of late, I also get compensated fairly well for my efforts and after a pretty pauper-ish winter, that feels pretty good. But is it worth it? At the end of the day do the numbers in my online bank statement justify the bags beneath my eyes?

Conventional wisdom is that if you work your butt off when you’re younger so that you can reap the benefits in your old age. But since retirement seems to be going the way of the American Dream, one has to wonder: what if it’s always like this?

When I was researching an end of life article a few months back, I spoke with a health care provider who said, “You can do whatever you want at the end of your life, as long as you can pay for it.” Okay, I’m picking up what you’re putting down, but really are our lives spelled out in such crude monetary terms?

I’ve yet to reconcile myself with the fact that my gross annual income plunks me right in the midst of the middle class and prevents me from getting any possible break on my health insurance. What? I’m not still just a poor college student? It’s just no fun watching big bits of your paycheck whoosh away towards a health care plan you can’t really afford to use. No fun, but a cultural sucker punch I’m willing to deal with because I’m not willing to have a medical emergency bankrupt me.

I kept driving and kept thinking and I realized the running around happens for a few reasons. First of all, there are bills to pay. Of course, if I made a little less money, it seems I’d have access to better health care options. But that’s just not worth it, not when comes the biggie: many, many, many years from now, I don’t want to die in some miserable, icky nursing home because it was all I could afford. Oh I know, things change, fiscal security comes and goes, but when I deeply wonder what the heck I’m doing this all for, all I have to do is imagine some really awful nursing home. There will come a day when the running around ceases and when that day comes, I want to be darn sure that I get to spend it in a place with a nice garden.

So I run around. Partly because of the imaginary icky nursing home. But mostly, because I wouldn’t want to not do anything of the things I’m doing this summer.
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The Two-Gallon Challenge (Wordless Wednesday)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Never knowing what my schedule might do next, I thought it best to devote my free day yesterday to the pursuit of berries: 32.5 cups worth of blueberries to be exact. Sweet success!
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Like Fishing, Like Life

Tuesday, July 6, 2010
I’ve heard it said that there are two great metaphors for life: a river and a garden. Last night I decided there might be a third great metaphor for life: fishing.

You know, you make sure you have everything ready, you hope everything works, and then you head off, knowing that anytime, your motor may fail, forcing you to paddle back to shore. Once you’re out on the water, you throw in your line, bob around a bit, and wait for something to come to you. Maybe not a metaphor for the most proactive of lives, but a slice of life, nonetheless.

We weren’t the most patient fishermen last night. We caught a lot more snags than we caught fish (okay, so there wasn’t even a nibble), which was fine by me. After a busy and sticky hot day at work, I was happy just to be floating about in a boat, enjoying the light breeze and the cooler evening temperatures.

After the relaxing time in the middle of the lake, we came back home, where I made popcorn over the stove and managed to get a potholder on fire. Nothing like starting off days off with a bang. The popcorn was really good though, and the flaming potholder was immediately flung into a basin of dishwater.

Today’s my first day off in eight days (I realize that since I work increasingly as a freelancer, days off are a highly arbitrary concept) and while that fact doesn’t exactly signal “the end of the world,” I’m looking forward to not spending the next two days at work, per se. There are blueberries to pick, a commentary or two to write, some fishing, and a baby loon in the bay to watch grow up.

It’s heating up to be another scorcher outside. Better add swimming to the agenda.
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The Influence of Location

Monday, July 5, 2010
When I started out with this blog last October, one of the main ideas I wanted to explore was what it meant to be a rural writer, instead of a struggling writer stuck in suburbia or in a crappy downtown apartment. I’m not sure how much I’ve actually explore that theme in the nine months I’ve been maintaining this blog: more than anything this has become a writer’s diary and ramblings, be that good or bad. But the influence of location has always intrigued me. Does living in a place that can look like this:
Or this:

Or this:

Or this:

Have an effect on how the words show up on the page?

In college I had the bright idea of combining a spring break trips with an exploration of how filmmakers treat “real” locations when using them to represent imagined locations in film adaptions of a literary works. I figured it would be an interesting independent study course. It turned out to be an awful independent study project that required an extension and by the time I received my final grade, the project had morphed into a thesis completely unrecognizable from the original idea I'd wanted to explore. But I was still intrigued. What influence does location have on us? More specifically, what influence does location have on our imaginations?

Yesterday at the Grand Opening, I ran into a published writer who had seen some of my freelance work. He complimented me on my work (which was very nice) and then we talked a little bit about the lack of writers in the area.

“We have a ton of craftsmen and artists up here,” he said. “But not too many writers.”

“I don’t get it,” I said. “This is a great place to write.”

In my Bylines calendar, the other week, the writer of the week, Deborah Elliott-Upton, wrote about misconceptions people often have about writers. “We don’t all own cabins in the woods with a scenic panorama to inspire our words or upscale offices where we can be alone with our thoughts,” she said. But some of us are just lucky enough to be surrounded by beauty and stillness on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean we always have time to soak up our luckiness: holding down a fulltime job for the last couple months has certainly affected the amount of words that get down on the page recently.

This morning, I woke to a still lake bay, reflecting the shoreline and blue, nearly cloudless, sky. I sat on the deck (granted the dew had yet to dry and my bottom got a bit damp) with my granola and coffee and watched a little fish swim among the boulders in the clear water below. After so much running around for the last couple weeks, it seemed like the perfect moment to be still, to gather my thoughts, to maybe put them down on the page later.
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Like Ripping Off A Band-Aid

Sunday, July 4, 2010
Today is the big day for the museum: it’s the grand opening. After weeks of penning how-to manuals and setting up gift shop inventory (that’s on my part) and years (five to be exact) of dreaming, planning, and doing on everyone else’s part, we’re all both shocked and thrilled that the big day is finally here. Today’s event is complete with door prizes, cake, ribbon cuttings, the whole shebang. Did I mention that we have a flash flood warning in affect for the area?

Although the sky is growing a deep, ominous shade of grey over the lake as I type, we’re hoping for a very happy day, come rain or shine. If you’re interested in this museum, I casually refer to on occasion, it actually is kind of a big deal in the area. The Duluth News-Tribune did a great article and the local radio station has given us some very nice coverage as well. Check out the links if you’d like more info.
Yesterday afternoon we had a social gathering in conjunction with all the festivities which required a certain amount of gussying up. My junior year of college, I bought a dress to wear to dressier summer occasions. Since the dress is a halter top and white (a no go for any weddings), I have worn the dress a whopping four times. Not only is the dress largely unsuitable for the Northwoods, I just don’t have that many occasions to wear it.

Still, I like dressing up, I do, and whether or not that means I’m yet another young girl claimed by the influence of Sex and the City and its pro-consumer message, I’m not sure. Because when you really examine what dressing up entails, it’s kind of odd: we put on uncomfortable shoes that limit our mobility, we wear dresses that run the risk of offering an unintended peep show, we subject ourselves to all sorts of bizarre beauty procedures.

I don’t know when people decided plucking eyebrows was a good idea and I’m not sure why I subscribed to this train of thought, but every time I’m intended to head off to a social gathering, I find myself in the bathroom, sneezing away as I pluck my eyebrows. (Pulling out these fine hairs seems to trigger a nerve that makes me sneeze.) I keep hoping I will wear out this nerve someday, but it keeps going strong, even after 12 years of tweezing. They say “pain is beauty” and “truth is beauty”: plucking eyebrows seems proof that the former is a more accurate description of the world we live in!

At the gathering, I attempted the well-intended advice spelled out in Bridget Jones for such social events: “Circulate, oozing intelligence. Introduce people with thoughtful details.”

Bridget and I had similar success following that advice. Unfortunately, it was about 90 degrees inside the museum with about 99% humidity. The only thing oozing last night were all the attendees. Intelligence, at least on my end, was limited to gasping at passersby: “It’s HOT!”

Today the (good) madness continues. And then tomorrow, we figure out what a normal day at work looks like. I told someone: “I just want to rip off the band-aid.” It’s time to be open, to offer ourselves up to the world and show everyone what we’re made of. And it’s time to run around in jeans and t-shirts and let our eyebrows enter into an unkempt state until the next time we pull out our party dresses.

Happy Independence Day to all!
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The Great Blueberry Quest

Thursday, July 1, 2010
Here in northern Minnesota we often joke that the year is divided into three seasons: winter, mud season, and a week of summer. In truth, I’ve never found a corner of the earth so fundamentally tied to the seasons – Western Europe’s half-assed winters always left me feeling confused – and there are plenty in sub-seasons in this neck of the woods. In spring we have mud season, then the springtime of the first blossoms. While summer may be a season almost entirely devoted to blueberries, it too has its own set of sub-seasons: scouting for blueberries, picking blueberries, and eating blueberries.

After the Ham Lake Fire burned through the area in 2007, blueberry picking has been phenomenal. Everyone has their own “secret” picking spot. Of course, some “secret” spots are more popular than others. We’re lucky enough to have a small blueberry patch right behind the cabin, but whenever we’re out in the woods, we’re looking for an even better berry patch that’s truly secret.

We look for a place where the soil’s sandy, where the sunlight’s a bit filtered to allow berries plenty of sunshine and just enough shade to grow nice and plump. People are often dismayed when they return to a patch they remember doing well a few years back and finding slim pickings, to say the least. Blueberry patches are often found where jack pines thrive and as a result the patches can cycle out fairly quickly when the baby jack pines grow taller and start to cast too much shade over the berry bushes. It always pay to keep your eyes peeled for a new patch, because there's no guarantee that the same spot that offered great picking this year will be as marvelous in the years to come. Last fall when we were out grouse hunting, Andy and I spotted a spot that we thought might offer plenty of good pickin’s this summer, so yesterday we hopped in the truck to go check it out.

We turn off the main road onto an old, bumpy, skinny, rocky, logging road. After stopping once to push aside some blown down sticks, we parked in front of a fallen tree.

After scrambling through the tree, we forded the river.

We walked a little more. And were warmly rewarded with a scene of blueberry fields forever.

Last night in the patch behind the house, I picked about a cup of berries. But the majority of berries, especially at the patch we scouted yesterday, won’t be ready for a couple weeks yet. I’m excited!
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