Tuesday, September 29, 2009

With all the craziness going on in my life I set out in search of ways to relax and unwind:
  • Not Always Right - The blog of customer stupidity for anyone who's ever had the, erm, joy of serving people for a living.
  • STFU Parents - For the Facebooker who is tired of the TMI parents post about their offspring, including bowel movements, becoming a woman, and WTF this is.
  • I need to install a skylight just so I can try this.
  • What would really happen if zombies attacked.
  • Toilet signs from around the world (the Legoland one is awesome).
And now I'm off to have some chicken noodle soup and ginger ale; I got attacked by a nasty flu and my eyes are starting to tire of the monitor :P

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Boundary Waters 2009 - Part 3

We stayed at our second camp on Cherokee Lake for 3 nights. The morning after setting up camp, we made a short day trip to Long Island Lake. When we were renting our canoe, the outfitter who was dealing with us gave us some recommendations; this was one of them. The eastern half of this lake’s shoreline had burned in the big fire of 2006, and it sounded worth a see. We only packed the food pack – so we didn’t have to leave it unattended in camp – and only had 3 very short portages, so this day was not nearly as exhausting as the day before. We left around 10AM and reached our destination around noon. On the way there, we had to lift over a muddy beaver dam (although I was able to avoid the mud as was Freki – he’s very delicate and always steps around mud and puddles). One of our portages also had a very muddy spot that LB plopped right into. Another portage had a gorgeous rocky stream that we stopped at briefly. When we got to Long Island Lake, we looked for a spot to stop and lunch. We found a large rock or tiny island, depending on how you look at it, right across from the burn-down area.

It was a very nice, sunny spot, and the water around it was quite deep. Freki set off swimming away from the rock immediately – oftentimes when he doesn’t have an objective while swimming (such as fetching or eating water bugs), he just determinedly sets off perpendicular to shore as if he’s never returning – and we had to call him in to keep an eye on him. He spent the whole time paddling around the water with hardly a pause.

LB and I had a nice lunch until some bee decided to come buzzing around my head. Eventually LB was able to kill it, although I did wish he hadn’t used the cheese knife. Eh, more protein. Then, as LB was cleaning off the knife, I looked over to see a mass of bloody black thing on LB's ankle. It was a pile of leeches feasting on his flesh. The blood drained from my face, near as quickly as it was draining from his ankle, as I whimpered and squeaked "Leeches!" while pointing at the insidious mass. He found several more throughout the day, some were hiding in the black sole of his Chacos, and one huge gigantic bloated one was spotted by me at the last portage on the way home. After lunch, I took some pictures then we packed up and returned to camp (back over the beaver dam OF DOOM AND LEECHES).

When we got to camp, it was only 2:30PM, so we spent the afternoon relaxing a bit. We waded in the water a bit, washed up, and tossed Freki’s water Frisbee.

As we dried off I had LB rub the knots out of my shoulders for a while on our sunny rock on the beach. We had our dinner and got a relaxing night’s sleep.

We spent the next day in camp; we slept in, then had oatmeal with dried fruit for breakfast, which was DELICIOUS (we mixed the fruit with the oatmeal before adding the hot water, so they remoisturized and warmed a bit). As I was starting up the Jetboil to boil water for our breakfast, I felt some small thing hit the back of my head. I paused briefly, thinking, oh something must have fallen out of the tree. Then something hit my shoulder, and shortly after a pine bud flew past my arm and impacted the ground. I then heard the loud chatter of an angry red squirrel. I was under attack! Freki soon came to my rescue and barked up the tree that the poor little squirrel was inhabiting.

After breakfast, we played card games and water fetch with Freki most of the day, then hung out by the campfire late into the evening. It was nice to have a lazy day around camp to work out all the sore muscles and recuperate for the next day's travel.

The next morning we headed out to our third and final campsite, of which I do not have a picture. We paddled back to Sawbill Lake the same way we had come to Cherokee Lake, but this time there was only one leech (that we saw) on Freki, since we were both much more cautious when crossing beaver dams. Our third campsite was nestled in the woods and had separate areas for the fire and for the tent. We spent some time swimming here, but mostly we slept and prepared to leave early Saturday morning. We woke up early the next morning to the sound of a deer rutting off in the woods, although we never saw him. We skipped breakfast and paddled just under 2 miles back to Sawbill Outfitters. On our way out, we stopped by a cafe in Tofte to grab the most delicious lattes and pecan cinnamon rolls I've ever had (eating naught but granola bars and freeze-dried food for a week had no effect on their flavor, I'm sure). LB drove the whole way back, while Freki slept and I got some pictures of the scenery, although unfortunately it was too foggy to get a picture of Lake Superior.

Despite its shaky start, our vacation was great for everyone. The weather was perfect (mid-70's, sunny, no rain all week), there were few bugs, and we got a lot of fresh air and exercise. We were all exhausted for a few days after coming back, but it was worth it.

Previous Episodes:
Boundary Waters 2009 - Part 1
Boundary Waters 2009 - Part 2

Friday, September 25, 2009

Boundary Waters 2009 - Part 2

Our first morning in the BWCA, Freki and I woke up around 7:30. LB wanted to sleep some more, so we hiked up to the point near camp and took a few pictures.

We then hiked through the woods a little bit, where I found some wild raspberries that we decided to have with breakfast.

After packing up camp, we set off for a long day of portaging. We ended up portaging almost a mile, total, but it was supposed to be longer; one of our portages was made very short thanks to a beaver dam. My pack weighed close to a third of my body weight, and was about twice my width. As I trekked through the woods, I found myself often pondering Sherpa guides and wondering how they avoided shoulder knots. After the last portage, we paddled down Cherokee Creek, which, at one point, had a beaver dam that we had to lift the boat over. Now, I was paddling the front of the canoe, lacking the skill to steer it. The person in the front is responsible for landing the canoe by stepping one foot out when land is near, without tipping the boat. I had to do this with the beaver dam, which was approximately one foot thick. I missed. The water was easily over my head, but I at least hit the dam. My right leg went somewhat through it, and I was in muck up to my hip (there is probably a beaver cursing my name as she tries to fix the hole I created). I somehow flung my left leg out of the boat, likely over my own head, so as not to tip it, and then fought slippery muck to get up onto the dam. Eventually we got the boat over, and I was almost dry before we made camp. When we pulled the canoe up on shore, I noticed 2 leeches clinging to the bottom of it. I FREAKED.RIGHT.OUT. Because, dude. The three phobias I have, paralyzing, mind-freaking phobias? Bees, ticks, and LEECHES. ZOMG. After putting down the canoe I excused myself, ran off into the woods and checked VERY THOROUGHLY everywhere the beaver dam had touched (thankfully, I had no leeches on me - what I would have done had I found them, I'm not sure, since I'm afraid to touch them). After this, I quietly regained my composure and shorts, then went back down to the beach. There was a gorgeous sloped rock into the beach, facing the sunset, where LB and I finished the wine, cheese & salami. I had a quick wade to wash out my mucky clothes, then we built a great fire (some kind people before us had gathered quite a bit of wood) and hung out there until bedtime.

Next Episode: Holy Hell More Leeches!, Combative Squirrels, and More Nature Crap!

Previous Episode:
Boundary Waters 2009 - Part 1

Coming up next:
Boundary Waters 2009 - Part 3

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Boundary Waters 2009 - Part 1

So I alluded to being busy in my previous post. For a week at the beginning of September, LB, Freki and I took a trip to the Boundary Waters. Oh, except the day we were supposed to leave? One of our pipes burst a leak. Fan-freaking-tastic. So my father in law came over and fixed it, but we ended up leaving the next morning at 7AM, after packing furiously until about 3AM. (We had originally wanted to leave around midnight, then take turns sleeping in the car). I surprised myself with my endurance by driving to our entry point - nearly the entire length of Minnesota - with only 2 pee breaks, on 3 hours of sleep. What can I say – I’m a champ. Or a glutton for punishment. I’m not sure which.

We got to Sawbill Outfitters around 4 to pick up our permit and rent our canoe. When we picked up our permit, we were required to watch a cheesy video, most likely produced in the early 90’s, about not feeding bears or leaving trash or taking things. Finally we could go down to the water and load the boat:

After getting to the send-off, about 0.02 seconds were wasted before Freki decided to try to get into the water. He wasn’t so sure about jumping in from the dock-like send-off

but quickly found a way around that:

We finally hit the water around 4:30PM. LB said some insulting things about my paddling, and I informed him I’d never been properly trained and it had been at least a decade since I’d set foot in a canoe. He backed off and instructed me on proper technique. Within a half hour he was remarking on what a quick learner I am, and I was like, "DUH, I am TEH AWSUMNESS!" After harassing a few other paddlers, we learned that a certain campsite was likely still unclaimed, and made our way there. It was gorgeous!

Freki played in the water and angred the little red squirrel who made his/her home way too close to camp. S/he was chattering at us the whole time we were there.

After setting up camp, we ate some cheese, salami & crackers that we had packed for lunch, but obviously we had eaten lunch on the road. We also pulled out a nalgene full of the newest cheap wine that my mother was obsessing about and had given us a few weeks ago (we figured it’d make great camp wine – it could only get less sweet with oxidation). While eating dinner and building a kind of piddly fire, we noticed a family of beavers across the way building a lodge. At first, we only saw one beaver. The family leader got curious about us and swam up to check us out.

After s/he was satisfied we weren’t trouble, other adults and young came out to assist in the building. We let Freki play in the water too long, and he never quite dried off, since it was quite humid that night, poor puppy. I think he was OK, though, thanks to his thick undercoat; his skin was probably dry.

Next episode: Wild Raspberries, Nature Pictures, ZOMG LEECHES, and more!

Coming up next:
Boundary Waters 2009 - Part 2

Boundary Waters 2009 - Part 3

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sorrow and Anger

Well. It’s been a while. I had some stuff happen in my personal life that scared me off blogging for a bit (and I may at some point change my blog from public to private because of some of it), and after that I got really, really busy (more on that later). Some of the stuff I won’t get into here, some I will:

I met my friend eas through, of all things, a wedding planning website years & years ago. I attended her wedding and met her husband, and we’ve visited a few times over the years. She is a beautiful person who is wry, determined, practical, sensitive, and great to hang out with over margaritas. Her husband is a stand-up guy who is sweet, funny as hell, respectful and kind. Just about a month ago the worst thing that could happen, happened to them. Eas was 20 weeks pregnant and went into premature labor. Their son, Gabriel Ross, was born alive and died in their arms.

Many of our friends have written their support, and I have lagged behind. Every time I sit to try to write, my chest gets tight and tears start to well up in my eyes. I can’t write what is in my heart because it just seems so selfish and inappropriate. You see, this is how my little sister Emily died. All these years, all the childhood therapy and it just comes flooding back like it happened yesterday.

It wasn’t exactly the same, but I won’t go into too many details, for the sake of eas’ and my family’s privacy. Emily had hair. Hair! Thick, black hair, like mine. She looked like me. The picture of the sister I named but never got to meet is seared in my retinas. Her head was still conical from the birth. Some say it was a blessing – upon necropsy (they don’t call it autopsy on a stillbirth), they found that she had a hole in her heart that would have made her life difficult if not short. My parents told me we couldn’t have the remains, the hospital wouldn’t let us have them. Instead we planted a poplar tree in our back yard. The tree is still there, so tall and strong, like she never got to be.

And when I think of eas, this is all I can think of. So I waited to write. Got advice from a friend. Because this is her time of mourning, not mine. This is not about me. But it is something I have to get out of my system, something I need to talk about. I’ve been afraid of what to say to eas out of worry of imposing my feelings into the situation; I worry that my cautiousness has made me seem distant.

And I’m mad. As a sister, I’m sure that my pain does not compare to that of a mother losing her child. But I know the pain that I feel, and I’m mad that my friends have to feel the pain that my parents did. I’m mad that we as a species know so little about pregnancy and childbirth, and that we do so fucking little to expand our knowledge. I’m filled with rage at the completely inhuman way my friend was treated by the hospital staff when she was in the biggest crisis of her life, which was similar to the way my parents were treated. I’m mad that a quarter of a century later my parents still can’t bring themselves to talk about what happened in more than fragments, that I had to tell my little brother that he had not one, but two older sisters, that my mom could say nothing more but to confirm it. I’m mad that I still don’t tell people that I had two younger siblings, when they know only one is alive, because I don’t want to have to go into details. Only my husband knows everything about her life that I do. And I want to pour all this energy and love into eas, but I want to give her the space to mourn, too, without being burdened by my baggage. Because I love her and I want her to make it through this dark night and I know that she can because she is strong. So maybe I’ll just pray that Emily and Gabriel can find each other and play together and be at peace, wherever they are.