Tag Archives: Nature

A Buggy Little Adventure

This day was supposed to be awesome. Bec planned an excellent all day date with her sister Ann and me. Bec and I would start by going to church, then meet up with Ann, head to St. Croix State Park, have a picnic lunch, then hike a 5-mile loop by the river.

Here is how the day really went.

Bec and I got up early, and did what the morning wants people to do. Drink some coffee. Take a shower. Walk the dogs. Not necessarily in that order, but you get it. Then we made the 20-25 minute drive to St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul. Some folks would take what happened next as an omen of some sort. We, however, did not. We made it before the service started, so that’s a bonus, but as we were getting out of the car we were greeted by this little gem in the car next to ours:

ZombieBaby

We met up with Ann at around 10AM and headed about 2 hours north, northeast to St. Croix State Park. The foliage was gorgeous pretty much the whole way up Interstate 35, with bright yellow, rustic oranges, loud reds, and sumac turning a dark crimson along the sides of the road. Basically, there was all kinds of beauty everywhere I looked. When we got to the park, we had a picnic on an overlook with this view of the river:

River2

And this view of my delicious Summit Porter:

Porter

But, sadly, that is all we were able to do at this state park, because we were being eaten alive (I mean almost carried away like an alien abduction) by mosquitoes. We got quickly into the car and drove through the rest of the park, like good little lazy Americans, using fossil fuels to see nature’s beauty. We did stop at two other places in the park. One was an overlook where the river looked like this:

River1

I also saw a loon after we heard it diving and splashing around in the weeds by the edge of the shore, because the last place we stopped looked a bit like this:

Marsh

So we drove, sadly, back toward the Cities with only a picnic under our belts. But then Ann had a wonderful and brilliant idea: Fort Snelling State Park! We all agreed that would be a fine time. And it could have been with cool stuff like this memorial for the Dakota Indians who were imprisoned during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862:

Memorial

Or this cool historical marker (I’m a sucker for historical markers):

HistoricalMarker

Or the fine company: HarrisButts

Or the natural beauty of a river island (Pike Island): Clearing

I could have had a good time pretending I was Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn or Becky Thatcher (if she ever got to do anything cool, besides have the hots for Tom), but there were also lots of these little bastards:

So as I said at the beginning today was supposed to be awesome, and it was. I had so much fun picnicking, hiking, and being abducted by mosquitoes… oh, wait… I learned something today: ALWAYS WEAR MOSQUITO REPELLENT WHEN HIKING IN MINNESOTA. ALWAYS. DOUBLE ALWAYS. AND TRIPLE. I kept saying, as we were walking, “This is what hell is probably like. You are with people you love, doing something that’s supposed to be super fun, but there’s one thing really horrible about it. You think all the while, oh, this isn’t bad, but then there are the mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are Satan’s minions, torturing us.” I think I just thought the last sentence of that and didn’t ever say it out loud, but now I am saying it, because it is true.

But I really did have a great time with two fantastic women. In fact, it was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a long, long time. I’m re-learning flexibility. But I’m also learning to WEAR BUG REPELLENT!

A Reason to Drive to Minnesota to Throat Punch Me: Fitness

If you needed a reason to come to MN to throat punch me, here it is, and I even give you permission, rather the encouragement, to do it. Please, please, please, if I ever say I am going to quit swimming, biking, or running, or if I say I am just going to take a short break from it, get in your car, drive to Newport, Minnesota, and kick my ass. I’ll even give you gas money. If come to throat punch me for some other reason, you’re on your own with the gas money.

That being said, I’ve started running again, very slowly and methodically, but running none the less. I’ve just finished the second week, the second day, of the Couch Potato to 5K program, and it was glorious. I’m hoping to only have to use the guided program for a couple more weeks before my body is just back in the groove of this thing I love. I’m doing most of my running on this trail, The River Bottoms Trail, parts of which are contained in Fort Snelling State Park. The section I am using right now is the part that starts in Mendota, and it’s flat as a pancake, beautiful along the river, and packed dirt so it’s very forgiving, not like concrete or asphalt. As I get better and faster again at running, I’ll explore some of the other parts of the trail, too, but they seem more technical and I don’t want to risk injuring my knee again, so I want to be good and strong before being too adventurous. The waiting is torture. My favorite part of running is careening down hills and skittering back up the other side. It’s a beautiful childlike feeling, but for now I’ll be a 40-year-old who’s afraid to get reinjured.

To begin preparing to train for the Muncie 70.3 next July, I have decided to run three times a week, bike twice a week, and swim twice a week. I’ve already covered my running plan, so I’ll talk about biking. I’m hoping to rope Bec into my biking program next spring, but we’ll see how that goes. We love going for long rides together, so hopefully it’ll mean spending some quality time together once a week for a long ride. Mostly for now, I’m going to ride a couple of short rides each week, then settle into winter. I hate riding in cold weather, so I’ll be spending some time in the garage on the trainer, which I hate almost as much. Maybe I need to get a cheap TV to put out there to make the time pass more quickly. Such is life in Minnesota as a biker in the winter, but there is always spring.

Finally, I just sent for my community lap swim card. Talk about a super-cool, super-weird deal: the schools in our district open their pools for lap swim for anyone in the community. It costs $65 A YEAR to join the community lap swim program. $65 A YEAR! The pools are open four nights a week, and the one closest to my house is open on Monday and Wednesday from 8PM to 9PM, which is perfect. I can get in a nice swim two nights a week, just before bed. I had registered for Big Shoulders this year, but since I haven’t been swimming, I’m going to forgo my participation and watch my friend Teresa do Ironman Wisconsin. I’ll try for Big Shoulders again next year when I’ve been in the pool more.

Here is what I hope my weeks to come will look like:

Day

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Activity Swim Run Swim Run Bike LongRun Bike
Time 8-9PM Whenever 8-9PM Whenever Whenever Whenever

Afternoon

Getting back into this type of training is much more difficult than just sticking with it could ever be, so please, please, please, heed my offer. If I ever, ever, ever, mention quitting or taking a break, make the drive and throat punch me. I won’t be surprised about it, and I’ll pay for your gas.

*

On a totally unrelated note, people who have very long acrylic fingernails should not be allowed to type in public. Isn’t that so the late 1990s early 2000s anyway? The clicking reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” The clicking is maddening. In fact, I think my work is finished here. I’m going to go home and shower, then find a place to get my newest tattoo. Happy Birthday to me.

Some Things I Love

  1. I love God. I love the way [They] decorate this land every spring and then make it barren every winter. The older I get, the more I appreciate the beauty of this land. I want to capture every single beautiful thing and share it with others. Every morning when it’s light out on my way to teach school, I stop and take a picture of these two trees. This morning was particularly wonderful.

    A few sunspots, but a beautiful sky.

  2. I love my partner. Even when I am grumpy and don’t want to hear her singing in the morning before 9AM, she can still make me smile by making fun of my grumpy, pouty face. She’s beautiful, and I am so blessed. The past few weeks, since she finished school, have been a blessing. We’ve been able to reconnect in very meaningful ways. Walking at the Mounds every Sunday is one thing we love and one thing we share. Those walks have reconnected our souls.

    Aren't we cute?

  3. I love my family. We are pretty zany, and sometimes we are a little out of touch with the rest of the world, but we rock nonetheless. My parents are getting older, but they still want to do fun stuff with my brother and me. This summer we are going to the minor league home run derby and all-star game in Buffalo, to Gettysburg, and to Hershey, Pennsylvania. My little brother is one of my best friends, and he takes me to eat oysters, which are also some things I now love.

    My little bro.

  4. I love art, every type of fine art: drawing, painting, writing, 3-d design, graphic design, photography, theater, music, and all those I haven’t listed. Sometimes I even love bad art, because I think about it as someone trying to say something about this human condition. Good art just makes my heart sing. Good art makes the viewer feel more beautiful, more conflicted, more empowered, more enlightened, more spiritual, more angry, more depressed, more loved simply by being in proximity to it. Sometimes I feel as if I can reach through the art (in whatever form) and touch or feel what the artist was feeling.

    Sculpture in Front of Minnetrista

  5. I love coffee and tea, but coffee more.

    Greek Coffee at The Artist Cafe in Chicago

  6. I love my bicycle. I actually love any sports equipment that allows me to move my body. I love my Vibram Five Fingers, my kayak, my basketball, my disc golf discs, my bathing suit, and all of the other things that help me play outside during any season. This is the one of two areas of my life in which I am a little self-indulgent. I own way too much sports equipment.

    Zbornak the Bicycle

  7. The other area of self-indulgence in my life is food. I love food: the way it looks, the way it smells, the ways it tastes, the way it feels in my mouth. I love experimenting with tried and true recipes, making up my own recipes, and just eating food in its natural state. Really, two things make my heart sing: food and exercise.

    Bison Steaks

  8. For the purposes of this post, the last thing I love hearkens back to my childhood when I’d sit in my little red wagon on the way to the library watching the trains and waving to the caboosers and engineers. I love trains, and all things railroad. Watching trains roll by fantasizing about hopping on and riding until they stop, walking on the tracks or rails, lying on the ties on the trestle over the river looking down between them smelling the river water roll by. I look down the tracks and think about how blessed I am and how my life is coming into what I’ve always wanted it to be.

Lent Day 25, 26 & 27: Lost a Few Days in There

I think I must have been being too joyful over the weekend, because I lost a few days in there somewhere.

For today’s meditation I want to focus on the present, and not in the cheesy way that an email I received encouraged me to: they call today the present, because it’s a gift. Um, yeah. Pema Chodron writes: “One can appreciate and celebrate each moment—there’s nothing more sacred.There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!” I spend too much time, in fact, most of my time, focusing on what comes before each moment and on what comes after each moment. I don’t regularly savor each moment as it happens. Too frequently, I waste the moment by thinking about what I could have changed about the past or about how that present moment will impact my future. In general, I don’t just stop and think about how truly beautiful, or how truly sacred, each moment can be or is. I find myself trapped in the past, looking toward the future, and forgetting about the present, the right now, the “moment” of which “there’s nothing more vast or absolute.” I just squander the sacred beauty of what is.

On Saturday night, I had the privilege of attending Mass at St. John’s in the big HC, my home town. I find myself wondering, in a good way, how people can be Catholic or Orthodox. How can they be in the very real presence of Christ every Sunday and be able to stand it? Whenever I think about the fact that Jesus body and blood are literally ingested into the bodies of the followers of those two denominations, I always wonder if they recognize the beauty, the sacredness, the absolute wonder and majesty of that idea. Jesus is real, he is present, and he is giving, yet again, his body and blood for our consumption. I, for one, can only be in that very real presence of God every so often, because I feel so small in comparison, so unworthy, so ignorant.

Communion

On Saturday, I wondered how this glorious and holy mystery impacted those people who shared in the Eucharist. I, of course, did not because I am not Catholic. I do believe in transubstantiation, but I haven’t been baptized in the Catholic church, so I always abstain out of respect for their rules, expectations, or whatever. It’s probably for the best, because I am not sure I could stand it. When the Fr. Dave was emptying the bowl that the body had been resting in, and combining all of the blood into one chalice, I began to think of the sacrifice. It’s Lent, who wouldn’t think of the sacrifice? But when he lifted the chalice to his lips and swallowed down the rest of the body and blood, I lost it. I always tear up in the face of great reverence. How purely beautiful to not want any bit of your Lord to be wasted, to take in all of that pain and suffering and redemption!

On Sunday, I had another great moment with God in nature. I know, I know, a good protestant (forgive me I think I was a nun once in a former life) experiencing Jesus in the Catholic Church and then again in Nature?!? Ack. Maybe I’m not such a good Protestant after all, but how can you not experience God in this:

Beauty at the Mounds

Especially with the flowers and the grass poking through the dead leaves and winter decay, how can a person not experience God?

So then tell me how is it with all of these bits of heaven presenting themselves to me, how is it that I can still get side tracked by thoughts such as these from Psalm 73?

For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

How can I be persuaded to compare myself to others? How can I let what other humans do bother me? I think it’s because

I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

And that’s not likely to change any time soon. But, by focusing on the present, not the past and not the future, maybe I can become less and less of a brute beast (see that future focus?). And maybe I can escape the past of dwelling on what seems unfair or irrational. I’m trying. Let’s hope it works.

Peace.