February 2010 Archives

Bonanza!

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KIds Sledding in 1924, Minnesota

If my camera worked you would be looking at a snowy, forested hill densely dotted with red, orange, yellow, purple, green sleds and a dozen multi-colored kids tromping up that hill. One picture that comes to mind is an impish 3rd grade boy with a blaze orange hat, piercing blue mischievous eyes, and smiling cheeks full of freckles. He's laying in the snow - blissfully dazed - smiling up at the universe that counts wiping out at the bottom of this sledding hill as a school day.

I spent the day with nearly 50 3rd and 4th graders at the Bonanza Nature Center in Big Stone County. We built snow forts, snowshoed, went cross country skiing and sledding. Oh what joy- oh what a day! I went down that hill so many times and got enough "air" over the bumps to enjoy a slight concussion headache in the evening.

Once the snow was flattened down on the hill we could pick up enough speed to make it past (if you were lucky) the big trees at the bottom of the hill and go over the edge of another small cliff onto the lake. We egged every sledder on screaming "Too the Lake! Too the Lake" A couple kids made it intact. Finally a teacher had to stand at the bottom of the hill to keep us from hitting the trees. We actually cracked the front of one of the toboggans on the trees. Funny- our tobaggan was identical to the one in the MN Historical Society picture, above. Really- we are sorry about cracking the toboggan.

Here's the deal. Bonanza is a Scientific and Natural area with virgin prairies, trails, and a nature center on Big Stone Lake. But what's more- about five little schools in our area support that Nature Center to provide programming for our kids. It is a blessing and a grace--a true retreat. Mr. Mike is the naturalist who keeps the place going. Bonanza is one very small part of our school district budget.

Our little school district is a fine, fiscally responsible endeavor of the communities of Clinton, Graceville, and Beardsley Minnesota. What little we've saved in our rainy day fund has been permanently "borrowed" by the state of Minnesota.

I'm concerned these days about the center sucking the life out of the periphery. That means St. Paul taking reserves from Big Stone County (among the poorest in the State). Washington taking resources from Minnesotans (the price charged to the generations to come). The United States sucking resources and capital from the rest of the world. The overwhelmingly strong desire to maintain power- and support our non-negotiable way of life. How do we manage the decline of an empire? Can we cradle it in our arms and grieve its passing?

I want to note the passing of Cousin Marion. She lived for music. Played the organ at the church in Hayfield for over 40 years. She was good to us children and we loved her, her laugh, and her special look. She always seemed like one of us kids. I will miss her.

Between now and the end - I plan to keep sliding down those hills as fast as I can- screaming as loud as I can- the spray of fine snow blasting my face. Then gaze up at the sky above in dazed contentment with this one precious life. May it be well lived.

Da Vhistling, drifting snow

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The View Coming Home -- more winter

We're into our 3rd winter on the prairie. Right now the winds are howling, school is already delayed two hours tomorrow, and I struggled around the farm with Mike doing "chores" earlier- using him for a windbreak. If you know Mike, he's not much of a windbreak!

Winter recap

Winter #1-- Shock and Awe. There was a curious novelty of screaming blizzards, blowing curtains (when the windows were closed), and facing the elements on the wide open, sparsely populated prairie.

Winter #2-- Long long winter. Last winter was nothing if not long. Really long. It is a blur of really long winter. It dully soaked into my psyche that out here on the prairie there is a thin veil between our well being and that blizzard blowing out there -- again-- keeping me awake-- again.

Winter #3-- This winter. This is a good winter. A few new windows help. I put the boys down for their afternoon nap today and said "hey look! the 'curtains' aren't blowing." Maybe its using the snowshoes-- more fun in the snow. Maybe its because I'm getting a lot more sleep- kinda hibernating- or the security that comes with that family set of -15 below rated sleeping bags. Or possibly reading Laura Ingell's "Long Winter" in which they nearly starve to death in the winter of 1881 just a few miles west of here. I, on the other hand and 130 years later, had a homemade shrimp and nettle pizza tonight for dinner in a howling blizzard on that same prairie.

Each night around here we take a few moments of stillness (no easy feat with a pair of monkey boys) and give thanks aloud. On a night like tonight there is a lot to be thankful for-- just in contrast to the Long Winter. We are warm, have lights, food, and family safe together.

Now if only the shingles weren't rattling off the roof above my bed.

February Sun

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Late winter afternoon at the pond

The kids and I spent a long winter's afternoon/evening at the pond. We left the house with the sun setting bright pink and red over the horizon- an early winter dusk. We walked down to the pond trying to (the kids) and not to (the mom) fall through the fragile, deep drifts that form in the slough.The kids love the feeling of falling into those drifts- for me it is the stuff of nightmares. Upside down, over your head in feathery snow with no traction.

**Aside- we are just finishing reading Laura Ingells Wilder's On the Shores of Silver Lake. One scene is a couple coming to the prairie on Christmas Eve and their sleigh falling through the slough drifts so they have to abandon it.**

We played on the ice, finding spots where the wind had blown away the snow. The kids never tired of playing "pile on" each other. Like a frisky litter of pups rolling around in the snow.

The stars came out one by one at first and then by the hundreds and millions. The cold air was crisp and clear. Soon we could see satellites gliding by and the Milky Way becames a cloudy streak of stars across the night sky. We lingered on and on into the night.

I'll admit to getting a bit of my adventure needs met by these nighttime walks into the prairie preserve and onto the pothole ponds. Alone on the prairie- no people- no lights at all (we've turned off our yardlight)- no sounds of civilization, cars, trucks, trains or planes. Wide open space, darkness and my children around me in the frigid cold.

Then I start getting nervous. It's a long trek home- there are those drifts in the slough to avoid- I remember the e-mail my neighbor sent last week about a farmer hitting an 800 pound hibernating bear while harvesting the corn that still stands in the snow. So I start to hustle the kids back towards the house.

Last weekend I attended the funeral of a friend's son. One of the older gentlemen talking to me after the service looked out the church basement windows, the smell of brewing coffee filling the air, and said "I can handle this better with the coming of the February sun."

The kids sang a new song called "There is Hope in the Darkest Night" as we walked back home- they taught me the words so I could sing with them. There is hope in the darkest night- and the February sun is here.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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