Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Dark Places

The Ardea cinerea, or Gray Heron in a tangle of branches high on a treetop. There are tons of these prehistoric-like creatures wherever I go kayaking, but I've never quite captured one so close before.

Random pollution makes an interesting photo

The Dark Places
Tonight, the water itself is alive: as the hull of the kayak glides silently through the dark water at dusk, big fish whip their tails in swirls of fury underneath the surface to get away from me. When I look closely, the dark shadow of a bass hovers beneath the surface, still, its tiny fins swishing back and forth in a slow inertia. A dark figure and ripples catch my attention: a beaver crosses the water in a slow paddle, making her way back to her den (click the video above to see her.) The shutter of my camera frightens her and she, too, whips her tail in a splash and submerges herself back to the safety of the deep dark places.

I like the dark places. I stay out well past sunset. It is new moon, and spirals of stars soon appear across the enormous black sky. Tiny beacons of green and red blink across that dark canvas; there must be seven of them crossing at once, full of passengers eager for their landing. Every hue is taken from this same gray palette: the water a smoky ripple; the black silhouette of trees a stoic black city against the lighter shade of sky; and to the west, one final point of ruddy haze lingers where the water meets the sky, out where the sun has disappeared. The water is like smooth and dark, like glass, except it ripples as I paddle my way back. The paddle makes an “x,” crossing against a backdrop of swirling Milky Way. I focus intently on that big black island, and the North star. I paddle again until I have blisters in the webs of my thumbs.

It is then I see the point of light – a star – fizzle and fall, streaking across the night sky. I say a silent wish and head into shore.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Sophie and one of her best friends and our neighbor, Elise, all ready for their first day of school, dapper in their uniforms, waiting for the bus

I pulled out my Gortex bibs from Cabelas today.

A bit premature, possibly, but today was the first day of school. And with the relief found from the peaceful quiet that comes with the first day of school, a relief is in the air too.

It's cloudy and overcast, looking like it could rain any minute. It is cool. The thermometer out back in the dog yard says 52 degrees and it's almost noon as I type. The dogs are a bit excited - and so am I - because these cool temperatures mean fall training will begin soon!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So...what is going on behind the scenes anyway???

Three weeks ago, I was laid off along with three other sales reps at the magazine I worked for. I loathed my job. The drive took an extra two hours out of an already jam-packed day, and my non-materialistic earthy side could not jive with the corporate, nameless, money-hungry role my profession forced me to embrace.

On Friday, August 8th, I walked into my V.P.'s office for one of our weekly sales meetings - meetings I had come to dread. He grilled us as an attending grills his resident physicians: what are you doing with this account? Is there any blood left in this account? What's your close date and how many insertion orders do you have? And finally, always, how far away are you from some ridiculous sales goal?

That Friday, I walked into his office to find the director of HR sitting there as well. I smiled, knowing exactly what this meant: freedom. The universe was releasing me from what my stoic "pull yourself up by your boot straps" Irish ancestory would not allow me to release myself from.

And now, another gift, my freelance work has picked up drastically. And it's looking like as another gift, I may be able to live and work up north in the land I love all winter, training dogs and running races.

Namaste. I am amazed and awe struck by the absolute beauty of life and gifts I am presented with. And I am lovin' life!

And so, here is a repost of something posted the other day that probably didn't make any sense. But given the context of above, it should be crystal clear now!

Top Ten Awesome Things About Self Employment
1. drinking beer on the job
2. wee hours
3. dogs at work
4. long lunches with my kids at the beach
5. tax deductions
6. shorts and flip flops
7. working remotely (aka from the Sleddog Lodge)
8. flexibile scheduling (aka "sleeping in")
9. no commute
10. listening to Wilco loudly from itunes

Friday, August 22, 2008


A tribal elder was telling his grandson about the battle the old man was waging within himself.

He said, "It is between two wolves, my son. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The boy took this in for a few minutes and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf won?"

The old Cherokee replied simply, "The one I feed."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York

"When will it be cool enough to run?" Jack asks me expectantly.

"Not yet, but soon," I reply.

"But when?" his impatience growing.

"Soon," I reassure. "Tonight while I was paddling, I saw the first signs of fall."

It's true. As I paddled this evening for a quick circle around the lake on my kayak, I saw the first bits of chlorophyll draining from the trees. The nights are cool, and though I know tomorrow it's supposed to be nearing 90, it won't be long before the smell of burning leaves fills the autumn air and I will head up north once again.

This winter's plans are already shaping up. I depart for the U.P. for the first of many trips next month on the 12th for a camp out at the Sutherby's Last Chance Kennel with guest and two-time Iditaquest champion Lance Mackey. Over one hundred mushers are already scheduled for attendance.

After that, it's back up north in October for the beginning of fall training. And boy do we have LOTS to train for this year.

Stay tuned!

Friday, August 1, 2008

U.P. in the summer is vibrant and beautiful. But I still prefer winter

Can you say "dirty"! We always manage to get very dirty at the Shaw kennel!

More pictures from the Great North Woods

Sophie wearing Jim Warren's bug hat

Swatting bugs on the puppy run

Porch dogs - really being Lazy Huskies!

Yooper Girls!

God, bring me to snow country!

I had an interview for a Marketing Communications Specialist position at Northern Michigan Regional Hospital today in Petoskey. On the way up, somewhere in mid-Michigan, I lost my wallet. Luckily, there wasn’t a lot in it. But my driver’s license, marriage information, bank card and check book. It seems I’ve literally left my “old life” back there on the road somewhere.

The hospital paid for a family suite at the Appletree Inn for us. We arrived after a stressful day of driving with six dogs and two kids to find a cute little care package made up just for me in our room. And during the interview, everyone was so gracious and down-to-earth. I feel at home. I hope to hear something positive shortly about the job.

I am now in the sleddog lodge. Jim said there’s been a yearling black bear visiting the cabin lately. The weeds are tall as the headlights on the truck and cover the sandy drive way. It’s hardly the same as this past winter. And I think I prefer winter. Walking down the trail used as the dogsledding chute in the winter just isn’t the same, and I miss the fury and speed of the dogs’ pace in snow.

Although they can pick up quite a pace in this sand too. In the mornings, I roll out of bed, use the bathroom and before anything else, head out to the dog yard. They greet me with prancing feet and yowls as I unhook them one-by-one from their barrels. And they’re off. Still sleepy-eyed, we head down Swamp Lakes road for a morning “puppy run.” I still wear boxers and a tee shirt, and the bugs start having their way with me. Luckily this early in the morning, the bugs aren’t out in full-force yet. It is quiet and peaceful, except for the locomotive-sounding rhythm of paws running full-throttle on the ground.

The dogs are in their element here. They are such a cohesive little pack and I am proud of them. Part of me wouldn’t want a big kennel because I like taking them all out at once for runs like this. It seems this is the best “off-season” training are several of these short but hard free-range runs a day. Not only does it help to develop their muscles, it helps to teach them who is leader (me) and to work together as a pack.

I am especially proud of Yeti. Seeing him run hard toward me, ears and tail pinned, I can see his potential. I can’t wait to hook him up this fall.

In the evening when the dogs are hooked back on their barrels, they howl in the yard. They seem so quiet compared to Jim’s 60. Jack makes his monkey noise. I smile to myself. I feel the ridiculousness of my job back at home fade away. I am not meant for that environment. I miss working in healthcare. I have high hopes for NMH. God, bring me to snow country!