Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Every morning, I've got a new chance" Spoon

The rocky coast of Lake Superior

Whitefish Point received the chilling nickname of Graveyard of the Great Lakes because of all the shipwrecks at the turn of the 20th century that happened here. Many died in the frigid waters here

Making "sand angels"

P.S. Sufjan Stevens "Michigan" album has been in my head all week.

July 30, 2008
The longest lasting memento of our summer U.P. trips is always left on our skin. Insects are a diligent and resourceful enemy to humans and dogs in the summer up here. This evening after our puppy run down Swamp Lakes Road, I had to cover the tips of the dogs’ ears with fly repellent made for horses and spray them with Deep Woods Off before saying goodnight. Sophie found one of Jim’s bug screen hats and wore it on a puppy run tonight; the rest of us swatted wildly without much relief.

Driving up a curving M-123 today to Whitefish Point, Lake Superior sparkles in the
distance. Through the birch and fir trees, its blue expanse meets the horizon in a shimmering, meddlesome flurry of waves. It is restless and cold as a non-committal lover pacing at the edge of the great north woods.

We find the Whitefish Point Harbor and pull in for a visit. Old fishing boats (hardly ships) sit along rusted metal docks. They have names like Sally Sue and Cassie K. Things creak and sway. Seagulls perch indifferently.

In my mind, I try to imagine what perils these waters have seen. This is, afterall, the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” More sea faring vessels have met their demise at Whitefish Point than any other area on Lake Superior. I imagine the screams as` hundreds of voyagers, perhaps expectant and hopeful about their ventures to a new land, crossed the Hudson Bay and Lake Superior, only to meet a treacherous and frigid death in the apathetic waters at Whitefish Point.

We journey up to the Shipwreck Museum of Whitefish Point, then. The picturesque and sunny day makes it difficult to imagine the chilling scenes of death portrayed in the museum. Despite being the end of July, the temperature is only 65 degrees and the water is downright numbing. It is haunting to imagine that watery grave.

Yeti, and the ever present giant biting insects of the Great North Woods

Sophie overlooking Tahquamenon Falls

Sophie and Elise on the beach at Whitefish Point

At the harbor at Whitefish Point. Lake Superior is the cleanest, deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, with depths reaching some 1,000 feet

Yeti went missing. It started storming yesterday late in the afternoon and I think he went down Swamp Lakes Road – the trail we take the pack down on puppy runs. I think he went to hide, but then we couldn’t find him. All the other dogs were around, and it was so unusual that he would ever leave the pack or us. At only 9 months, I worried about his abilities to find his way back. Jim, the owner of the Sled Dog Lodge, said there’s been a yearling bear roaming around the cabin for awhile. Thank goodness he turned up looking as innocent as ever. We promptly hooked him back up to his barrel with the other huskies.

Last night, unable to sleep because of Yeti and Jack yapping about being tied to the barrels, I wandered sleepy-eyed out into the dog yard at 1 a.m. to a million stars in a black sky. There is no cell phone reception or internet connection here. The dogs roam free with us on runs and the kids eat brownies and popcorn and play with the dogs.

I think of all the things that do not touch this area that I do not miss. Every time I come here, I feel grounded and home.

Tomorrow we are going to Tahquamenon Falls.

I am hopeful, so hopeful, about the job in Petoskey.

Rain falling on a tin roof in Michigan
The smell of earthy embers
Ash and fir
In the dim light of July in a steady-falling
Rain, my mind
Remembers the snow falling here.
Waking up, heavy boughs
Bent with fresh snow. Five degrees, and yet
Sweating from the heat.
Now the dogs hide in their barrels from this
Moody rain, and I am searching for home.

Home is a refrain.

The sky opens, and torrents of emotion fall
Speaking to me. They tell me I miss
The lightning. I miss the thunder.
But more than that, I miss the snow.

A flash of light brings me raw
I want to sit naked
In this rain.
The hours creep here and I embrace them. This rain on a tin roof in Michigan
The smell of earth embers
Ash and fir.

On the way, losing my wallet in Fenton,
I’m happy for the chance to throw it all away.
I’ve abandoned who I was at that Amaco on a dusty road in
Mid-Michgan. Maybe someone will pick up my wallet and
Become me and I’ll unfold, return to my self.

Returning to Michigan,
I just want to sit with this rain and be quiet and empty.
I am nothing.
I am no one.
I am the snow.
I am this rain falling over everything.
I am gentle, peaceful.
I am this smile.
I am the bear walking through the rain.
I am the doe tip toeing.
I am the dog curled in the dark night.
I am that star.
I am not there.
I am not there. I am here. Here.
I want this refrain.
Only this rain.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Lazy Husky Ranch: Happy 9 month birthday, Yeti!

The Lazy Husky Ranch: Happy 9 month birthday, Yeti!

The Lazy Husky Ranch: Happy 9 month birthday, Yeti!

The Lazy Husky Ranch: Happy 9 month birthday, Yeti!

Happy 9 month birthday, Yeti!

Happy 9 month birthday, Yeti! He loves and looks up to his Siberian brother, Jack so much. Here they are goofing around in the kennel.

Yeti has turned out to be such a wonderful addition to our kennel. He was so introverted and extremely shy when we first brought him home from the U.P. in February (see post from February 25 "Make Room for Yeti" linked above), I wondered how well we could socialize him. While he's not as gregarious as Jack, he is very social and a strong and fast runner. He follows me all over the yard when I'm scooping, and he cries when he can't be with us. I have a lot of hope in this guy. Happy Birthday, Yeti! Can't wait to hook you up this fall!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kayaking with Sea Lions in the Pacific

Shortly after I came home from Cali, I did some research on California Sea Lions. And apparently, they're a favorite food of sharks. Not only this, but there have also been a couple of sea lion attacks on people noted in the press, mainly in the San Francisco Bay area. Yikes! See that dark spot in the water in front of me? That's the sea lion who swam right under my kayak.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Do Not Leave Huskies Unattended (even for a second)

I left Mandy unattended in my house for 5 minutes tonight while I ran up to Walgreens. I came home to her literally with her head stuck inside a cereal box running into walls, trying desperately to remove the box. It was the funniest thing I've seen in a long time and provided some relief to the scortching hot temperatures lately. So of course, I had to make a slideshow out of it. Check it out!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Longing for Winter

It's been so hot, even the moon turned red tonight. In this kind of weather, I get the equivalent of what others get in the winter: cabin fever.

The dogs are miserable. The flies are horrible, biting the tips of the dogs' ears. The dog yard looks like a desert with husky-hair tumbleweeds blowing about.

I bring them in and we are cooped up in our climate-controled haven. We'd like to stay inside until mid-September or whenever the temperature drops below 80 degrees.

Huskies flop on hardwood. They stretch lazily, putting paws over eyes, dreaming perhaps of next winter. I day dream of next winter too, longing for it like an old friend.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

An Elixir of Vitality


My favorite places are way back in the icky, mucky thick of things. This is where I come alive, where I am most content. At twilight on the water, life emerges.

As the moon reverberates against the last blue-gray light of the clouds, fireflies dance – small strobe lights in a forest disco. A symphony of amphibians – bull frogs, peepers – sings in stereo as turtles “kerplunk” into the water, startled by the slow stroke of my paddle. Fish jump. What I think to be a large mouth bass comes right near the boat, its pursed lips sucking up an insect on the surface. Whitetail deer move slowly through the trees, their long legs graceful and poised. A brown bat darts through the night sky; dandelion spores float by. A blue heron calls its cackling “creak, creak.”

Suddenly, from the chorus, I hear the distinctive call of a lone barred owl. I row silently toward it, calling back, but am met with silence – only the stillness of the water and tiny ripples from my paddle.

Time passes.

Then the guttural “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” call comes back to me. I call back.

I paddle and time passes.

Then, without a sound, the call is right above me in the trees, just the “you all” part of the call. And with that, I am connected. We call back and forth steadily for ten minutes before two more Barred owls call from the distance. Before long, I am surrounded by their calls, in the trees to the left and to the right. I sit in the middle in my kayak listening, connected.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I come from the water

I’ve seen more wildlife while paddling than I ever have on foot.

Last evening, I paddled over two-foot waves against the wind on West Branch’s west end toward my dad’s old “fishing hole.” The water was rough, and as the waves splashed up over the hull and onto me, I smiled, already feeling the stress of the corporate day dissipate. The sun settled close to the horizon, and I cast out, watching the “rooster tail” fly land with a “plop” in the dark water. It was quiet except for the sound of songbirds and the occasional fish jumping from the water.

It was then I noticed a small, dark head bobbing along the surface of the water within five feet of my boat. Silently, the beaver paddled along, leaving a small wake behind her. Her dark eyes focused on her den and her thick brown coat clung to her skin. Suddenly, she disappeared under the water with a small splash. I paddled silently over to the den where I heard the muffled whines of her pups. Quieted, then, by their mother’s appearance in the den, my attention was drawn to the Great Blue Heron sitting hunched on a felled tree. He watched me in the hushed evening, and I realized how many eyes were on me.

A family of ducks emerged; then a raccoon waddled along the shoreline with two youngsters following. I paddled closer, trying to be as quiet as possible, but their eyes followed me nervously before they all shuffled off into the brush. I saw, then, the skull of a doe just on the shoreline. The pointed nostrils and hollow eye sockets were bleached gray from the sun; I wondered how long it had been there and what caused the doe’s demise.

The one night I didn’t bring my camera!

As the sun sunk into the west, it smeared a pink and orange glow over the sky. Steam rose from the water - the same water that two hours previously had been churning and choppy now shone like glass, lulled, too, from the gorgeous sunset. The rudder of my boat cut cleanly through the water, and I looked back, watching the small ripples wave behind me. I paddled slowly now, not wanting to leave and end this bliss. I thought about the power of water, how something so liquid and simple - three simple molecules of two simple substances - can hold up ships, erode mountains into sand, give life.

I am a fan of water in all its forms and am most at home when I’m out in it. Whether floating in the easy summertime of a July evening or gliding through the tundra of an Upper Peninsula winter, I’ll take water anyway, anyway.

Friday, July 4, 2008

squiggly lines of fire

4th of July downtown

The glory of independence in squiggly lines of fire flying in a black sky. And I think about what it means to be free. That definition means different things to different people. To me, freedom means I can decide today to apply for a job as a whitewater rafting guide in the Pocanos (which I did). To someone else, freedom means other things.

The 4th of July has held other, more ominous meanings for me in the past. It has been a reminder of one particularly traumatic event that changed my life and who I am forever. But it has also reminded me of a beautiful moment shared with a friend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming over a pint of Fat Tire lager.

Tonight, while watching the explosives fall in a flurry of color overhead and hearing the "oooo" and "ahhhh" of the people surrounding me, I couldn't help but think of how much money was, quite literally, going up in smoke. With things so economically strapped in this country, on one hand, it doesn't make a lot of sense to watch money burn.

I also thought about how those explosives glorify war.

The kennel is quiet tonight. Foxy, our Alaska dog, is no where to be found. She hates fireworks and thunderstorms. The dogs are smart: those loud KA-BOOMs are not natural, and if they were, it wouldn't be a cause for celebration.

But tonight, I thank God I am free enough to live in a country where I can write this, where I can choose to be a whitewater river guide or a "healthcare marketing advisor." Or a dog musher.