16 ½ Things I Love About Summer

1. Early morning walks around the neighborhood (a.k.a. my own tour of gardens).

2. Strawberries, peaches, and cucumbers with dill in sour cream. Burgers/brats/shish kabobs on the grill. Homegrown tomatoes and sweet corn in August.

2 1/2.  Picking fresh herbs from my patio pots: basil for caprese salad, fresh mint for mojitos, and cilantro for quesadillas.

3. Waking up to birdsong at 5:30. Being awake and refreshed when hardly anybody else is up. Adding that extra hour to my day.

Mears Park, St. Paul

4. Cutting through Mears Park, along the man-made stream on the way to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market on weekends.

5. Walking to get an ice cream cone from the Grand Old Creamery.

6. Feeling bathroom tile that’s pleasantly cool to my bare feet—not frigid—so I don’t have to hop from one throw rug to the next.

7. Sunning with a book and swimming at Schulze Lake in Lebanon Hills Park.

8. Grabbing Wednesday night supper from the food trucks at the Nokomis Farmer’s Market.

9. Fireflies in late June.

10. L o o o n n g days that stay light past 9:30 p.m.

11. Heat lightning.

12. Road trips—leaving early with a sack full of snacks and a cooler packed with cold drinks. Passing rippling fields of impossibly green corn and soybeans. Pink, purple, yellow, and white wildflowers tumbling across ditches.

13. Drinking wine and reading after dark on the front porch.

Powderhorn Art Fair, Minneapolis

14. Art fairs bursting with jewelry to adorn me and artwork to adorn our home.

15. Outdoor dining at area restaurants—in hidden shady gardens, improvised patios framed by flower pots, or even at tables three feet away from traffic.

16. Drinking beer (don’t tell the park rangers) around the campfire we don’t really need and seeing a breathtaking number of stars come out overhead.

The Dead Cat is Out of the Freezer

IMG_0493Seasons change, and so it is time.

We have a small window to perform our ceremony – in between the comings and goings of teenagers.

A line forms and we sing “Amazing Grace” while walking to the burial place in the corner of the yard. Our daughter and her friend dug the hole earlier. To make sure it was big enough they placed Trouble the dog in the hole but he quickly jumped out.

Seasons have changed for the children as well. A Cub Scout is now a Boy Scout who will be doing his Eagle project on Saturday. A small girl, who was always the first to jump into the swimming pool, is still the first to try most things in our house.

Our procession takes us underneath the flowering crabapple. The sweet scent follows. I lay down the paper bag holding our beloved.

There is a discussion about whether to bury Angel in the shirt that he is wrapped in. I kneel, gently cover his black and white face with the fabric so dirt won’t fall into his eyes. My stomach constricts. I straighten. Jody hands the girl the shovel.

There was a day when the children were ten months old that I thought they would be that age forever. I could not see past that day to this one. Parenting was hard work. Parenting was demanding. It still is, but in a different way. Now I need to stay attuned to who they are, what they are doing. I can’t be any less present. Because I need to be there if only to say, I see you. I am watching you. Give me your phone.

After our ceremony, as they are rushing off, I pull down the branches of the apple tree and smell the white flowers that within days will fall off the branches.

I want to shout to the children’s departing backs that I’ll never give up. No matter how hard parenting may become, I’ll never give up.

Angel our cat is gone. He had a good life. I have a good life. And, you are worth it.

 

No Running Water. No Electricity.

189What to do. What to do. What to do. Fish and swim. Fish and swim. Fish and swim. Geocache. Hike. Have pizza in Grand Marias. Skip stones, bike, play games with cousins, canoe, learn to portage in the Boundary Waters, scare Jack. After making a safety circle use your Scout knife, start fires with or without matches, hunt for shooting stars and satellites in the night sky.

The adventurous group. Lightweights not allowed.

The adventurous group. Lightweights not allowed.

Our family recently went on our most rustic trip ever. To some of you, it will be pansy-like because we didn’t actually hike into the Boundary Waters but stayed outside of it at Crescent Lake Campground. Crescent Lake Campground is a Superior National Campground, 13 miles from Sawbill Canoe Outfitters.

My nephew and niece, Ralph and Tina Walker and her family would call us lightweights. They were surprised that this was our most rustic experience because they have been camping with their children, eight and six years old, since they could fit into a fanny pack.

Nephew Steve giving me fishing advice.

Nephew Steve giving me fishing advice.

We were fortunate to have Ralph with us (or unfortunate) because Jody and I would have chosen a campground with electricity and showers. Ralph is a minimalist guru. All he needs is swim shorts, string and a hook.

It was at the last moment, when he told us, “Oh by the way, there is no electricity and no water.” Immediately, I went into a panic. I had envisioned sitting in our tent trailer, plugged into my computer, safe from the elements (mosquitoes), deeply engrossed in revising my manuscript while others were off exploring.

There would be no plugging in anything. Not the crock pot, not the griddle, not the electric fry pan, and certainly there would be no fresh coffee brewing in the morning.

Andy taking off fish for Crystel and Antonio

Andy taking off fish for Crystel and Antonio

Electrical appliances are how Jody and I roll. Or, how Jody rolls. Because, as I was found out on this trip, Jody does all the cooking. My niece and nephews were a bit incredulous about this. “You let her do everything?” They asked me this as she was serving us the first round of bacon, eggs, pancakes, and coffee (though she doesn’t drink coffee).  I flinched, stumbled around in explanation, finally landing on, “Didn’t I choose well when I married her?”

As custom has it. Fish thrown back get kissed.

As custom has it, fish thrown back get kissed.

The Walkers and di Grazia’s own the tent trailer together. It’s fun when owning joint property with your relatives works out. Prior to leaving for the Boundary Waters, we decided (Beth decided) that it was best that the children, Antonio and Crystel, Jack and Andy, sleep in the tent trailer and the adults in tents. This may seem a bit lopsided. Shouldn’t the kids get the tents and the adults the castle?

Not if one of your children is Antonio. I was most concerned about us surviving him on this trip.

Superior Hiking Trail

Superior Hiking Trail

By the time we left for our no electricity and no running water camping trip, I was resolved to have a good time, regardless. The di Grazia’s would go off into the unknown and be of good cheer. Even Antonio.

My first and best purchase for our trip was fishing poles for Antonio and Crystel and a fishing license for me. I would need the license for taking fish off and putting nightcrawlers on when Andy the six year old wasn’t doing it for his cousins. Andy, as he declared several times, is an expert at fishing. By the end of our five-day trip, Crystel mustered the courage to take 3 small fish off her line. Antonio was content with the six year old doing everything for him.

swimming across the lake
swimming across the lake

Bears were a minor concern. We did all the right things and stored our food before going into our tents at night. Still, I had visions of Smokey crawling into my sleeping bag with me and woke Jody one night to tell her that. Once she was awake and watchful, I could sleep.

It can be a nice or not so nice experience when camping in a remote area with friends or relatives that you don’t spend much time with. I didn’t know Steve’s son Xavier prior to our camping trip. I found the thirteen-year old to be very pleasant.

Antonio and Crystel surviving the roughing it part.

Antonio and Crystel surviving the roughing it part.

Xavier became big brother, guardian, and protector to the 11, 10, 8, and 6 year old. He accompanied them swimming across the lake and when the adults escaped to Sawbill (Jody and I showered there), he stayed back. After swimming he gathered them in the tent trailer for card playing.

560847_10201948707418318_42800681_n[1]Although Ralph had a host of activities for us and planned our days and evenings, our group didn’t always stick together. The Walker’s and the Smith’s went on many more geocaches, hikes, and canoe trips than we did. That worked out. It is important to do what works for you.

On the day of the portage into the Boundary Waters, Antonio decided to stay back (he wouldn’t get out of bed). There

Xavier

Xavier

could have been many reasons for this, one being the last time he was in a canoe with me he didn’t fare well. After portaging, swimming, fishing, picnicking, and canoeing with our group, we split off. Jody and I wanted to return to Antonio and the adventurous group continued on.

Canoeing back to our portage, a moose and her baby were swimming across the lake. We were so close to them that as we sat in our canoe we could hear their breath blowing out their nostrils as they huffed their way across. It was simply amazing. Jody, Crystel, and I stayed still in our canoe until they climbed out of the water and walked into the woods.

Moose_with_baby.sized[1]No electricity, no water. There was so much to do.