The Quints

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The geese have quints.  After several weeks on the nest, mom now sits under her babies, who love to nestle in the fold between her wing and back.  It makes her less than nimble as she tries to get up to answer the warning call of her mate, who has detected an intruder on the pond. But, after shaking the little balls of yellow fluff off her back, and then helping them get upright in the soft mud, she was able to lead them into the channel between our backyard ponds, where her mate landed to be their protection.

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Our State Fair is the Best State Fair!

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corn dogs We went to the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. Crazy, record-setting crowds! It was us and 53,000 smiling people loving the day. And 200,000 more people who were determined to get their money out of the $5 coupon book they bought at the entrance. Even if it meant waiting 15 minutes to save 75 cents on a root beer… Damn it.

We started the day with a giant peach.  Mmmm!  And it was all downhill nutritionally from there. As it should be.  Is Honeyweiss a grain?  Do corn dogs with ketchup count as two vegetables?  We did have a raspberry malt. Fruit and dairy to close out the day. That’s all good, right?

Why don’t they add more women’s restrooms?  And why, in God’s name, would they put water misters over the bathroom waiting area?  I waited 20 minutes for a stall while standing under running water.  I thought the top of my head was going to blow.  The person behind me asked if they could cut in.  No way I was going to let a three-year-old ahead of me!  Then the little girl grabbed my leg and her crotch at the same time and began wailing. “Fine,” I told her mother, “go ahead.”

Saw the Willis Clan (who were on America’s Got Talent).  12 siblings, several musical instruments.  Beautiful Irish music; adorable kids! But we had so many questions:  Do you set out to birth an entertainment act? Are they assigned instruments when they are born? Do you tell the tone-deaf ones that working the merchandise table is every bit as good as being onstage?  They have taken 10 trips to Ireland as a family; why didn’t I think of the act so we could afford to travel overseas? With 12 kids.  Um, never mind.

Most of the pigs in the Miracle of Birth Center had smaller litters than the Willis Clan.  We spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what they were showing on the screen there.  Little pigs. One big pig. A woman with a towel.  We assumed an impending birth. So we got closer and were nearly crushed from behind by others driven by eager anticipation. Finally, an announcement.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen! That little pig has had his temperature taken.

Never mind, we’re “finished” here, Shaina says… Let’s go find the horses.

Shaina loves anything that goes up. Ferris wheels.  The Skytower.  The Skyride gondolas.  Thanks to her, we do them all. Did I mention I have always been afraid of heights?  I think they mixed her up with another kid in the hospital nursery.  It’s OK. I can skip cardio exercises this week.  My heart rate is elevated just thinking about our high-flying adventures.

When did uber short shorts and winter boots worn together become a fashion statement?  I obviously don’t get out much. Do people look at themselves in the mirror before they go out in shorts, or don’t they really care?  I could barely make it through my bag of 20 mini-donuts while looking at the thighs of the 60-something sitting next to me on the curb.

And am I the only Minnesotan without a tattoo? Wait, do my radiation markers count as official tats?  Then, yeah, I’m so in.

I only got lost once.  Thankfully, we had friends kicked back in the Leinie loungers (who shall go unnamed as to protect the innocent).  They were able to direct me to my 6 ft., 4 inch, husband.  Hey! Cut me some slack. He was sitting!

In summation, we dropped a ton of cash on food, some good, some not so much.  We walked until Shaina cried, I nearly wet myself, we saw a pig get his temperature taken. And I made a 3-year-old cry. Oh yeah, it was a good day. Until next year Minnesota!

Witness to Miracles

Witness to Miracles

If you’ve been married as long as I have, sometimes you have to go through some tough times to be reminded why you love your spouse so much.

Living in Minnesota is the same thing. Two weeks ago, we had 8 inches of new snow and I was ready to pack my bags and leave. Today, our backyard looks like this. I am madly, incredibly, heart-throbbingly in love again.

Minnesota Spring is nothing short of a host of miracles. One day, the trees begin to bud. The next day, full-on bloom. Sometimes the speed at which our view of the pond changes is so fast it leaves me breathless. Amazing!

And the sounds: From the silence of a winter snow to the symphony of new life. Canada geese on the pond, honking a raucous warning as they protect their nests from approaching dogs and children, and others of their own kind. A chorus of happy goldfinches every morning, the sweet song of the cardinals at dawn and dusk. The whir of a hummingbird as he comes inches from my head. The high cheep-cheep of baby robins, pink and bald and all-beaks, just fresh from their glistening blue eggs. The cacophony of spring peepers, bullfrogs and tree toads; lasting long after the moon has risen over the pond.

Then last night: The tiny munching sound of a chipmunk under our pallet garden, enjoying a snack of purloined sunflower seeds from the gazebo. Maybe the greatest miracle is that I didn’t go get a live trap and introduce him to a new home miles away.

Dang chipmunks! Without them, Minnesota Spring and I would have a perfect relationship!

Minnesota Winter

Have you ever thought that Minnesota gets a bad rap in the movies?

If you haven’t thought about it, I have one word. Fargo. See? Bad rap. Even without the woodchipper, Minnesota winter comes off as a harsh experience.

My husband’s brother Jonathan has set out to change our winter reputation — from the serenity of a walk through the woods to the imagination of the Ice Cavern at the Mall of America to the exhiliration of the North Shore of Lake Superior, Jonathan shows that Minnesota winters are anything but Scandinavian bland.

Enjoy!

The Cardinals’ Song

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Winter still has a grip on Minnesota, even though the calendar says it’s spring.

My hope that this winter will soon end comes in the early morning song of a pair of cardinals, which drew me from my bed long before the dawn.   

The birds are in full concert, and beginning their spring dance.  It is time to prepare the nest, then deliver the fragile, luminescent eggs.  Downy, chirping chicks, the fulfillment of today’s song, cannot be far away.  

My gardening catalogs are stacked, unopened, on the kitchen counter. Perhaps I should cast off my fleece blanket and begin making preparations.  

As the cardinals’ song promises, spring will soon overtake what feels like an endless winter.  

Beauty in the Wind

ImageCancer surgeries and the lousy weather have curtailed outdoor activities for me this winter.  What little time I am outdoors is usually either shoveling or quick jogs to get the mail, take out the trash or shake out my rugs and linens. 

It was the latter activity that had me out on the deck overlooking the pond on Sunday after dinner. I was grumbling. I had spent the better part of the day in the kitchen, cooking and then cleaning, while my family enjoyed their Sabbath rest.  As I stepped outside, the wind was brisk and the air was pregnant with the promise of at least one more Monday morning snowstorm.  Sighing, I lowered my head and kicked at the ice on the deck. (Didn’t I just chop that all away a few days ago?) Spring was a long time away.

I heard them before I saw them. “Honk!  Honk!” and the rush of wings on the wind.  They cast a shadow across the deck as they came in low; maybe checking the pond behind our house for a landing spot?   Muttering “Crazy geese, your nesting spots are still all frozen,” I looked skyward. 

A long, black beak, beautiful white body; the incomparable nasal horn-like call.  They weren’t Canada geese at all, but a trio of stunningly beautiful trumpeter swans. Their cries echoed across the frozen water as they rose above the trees and turned to the northwest, into the wind and the approaching late winter storm.

Drought

Early morning rain dampens my window.

Too late for the drought.
Corn stalks, once tall and green
bore the promise of a good harvest,
now brown and barren,
fallen.

The rain serves to remind
of what might have been,
had it come earlier
and stayed longer.
If only.

Fields of soybeans.
Pods shriveled, ungenerous yield at best.
Their leaves, dry and thin, glimmer;
paper pennies in the wind, they
bring no good luck.

Farmers turn the fields
as sun defeats shower again.
The ground lays open, grey, spent.
They won’t have to race to beat the snow.
The work is done.

Small comfort when the bills come due.

I turn the car toward home,
my mind laden with worry and regret.
So many plans
for a harvest of the talents —
God’s reign in me.

All too often squandered,
waiting ’til just before the snow
to turn promise into treasure.