29 June 2008

Taking water to Manitoba's dust

I washed the car yesterday afternoon. Not that it needed it.

This was our sixth trip to Shining Falls. Four times we've driven the distance. Twice we've flown either to Fargo or to Winnipeg, which required renting a vehicle to get us to the air base in Bissett, 97 miles from Winnipeg. Six times we've driven that last long 37 miles on a terrible dirt and gravel road, the dust during dry weather so fine and thick that it invades the interior of the car. Always all our luggage has to be vacuummed before we can bring it into the house.

Most of the dust, even that surrounding the doors, the trunk lid and the hood, is gone now ... until next year.

Signs of self-expression

Tal and I have been back in Edgefield since Wednesday night. As we go about settling into to home once again -- from the laundry to the lawn, from the mail to the mutts, we talk about the trip with happy satisfaction, recalling moments, scenes, encounters.

The trip's destination was Shining Falls Lodge, of course, and the fishing on Family Lake in Manitoba's Adikaki Provencial Park. But, those ten serene days in cabin four were preceeded and followed by a total seven nights on the road and 3900 miles in the car, a significant amount of time to be sure and absolutely an important part of the entire experience.

I read bumper stickers and license tags with great interest, realizing along the way how expressive they are of personality and position. I have a terrible memory and refrained from writing while driving, so those I actually recall had quite an impact.

On the conservative side was this bumper sticker on a trailor hauling cattle, a take off on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals): People Eating Tasty Animals.

And, this one in the back window of a pickup truck: Gun Control Means Using Both Hands.

This observation, leaning liberal, we spied on the rear of a Suberu Forester: At least the war on the environment is going well.

Personalized license tags are rightly referred to as vanity plates. I think of my own: VTS92 -- the year I graduated from seminary and the seminary's initials. Here are two we noticed and discussed as the miles rolled along: Similar to my plate was UT PHD 95. How about that for specific information about the driver? And, XCUZ U on a large Cadillac which, by the way, was passing everything on the road.

We both know there were others, some more clever, but they're stubbornly not coming to mind. Suffice it to say that we were gladly entertained along the way by all these bits of self-expression.

One last thought: I think one could, in general, make a case for which bit of self-expression might appear on specific vehicle makes and models. Another time, perhaps.

22 June 2008

Some day came

On our way from Edgefield to Bissett, somewhere along the way, we passed an RV -- a compact little house on wheels –- which had a slogan painted on the back: Some Day Came. I only caught a glimpse of the couple (a good thing since I was the driver), who looked youngish for retired, but who am I to judge?

I liked the slogan; it reminded me a little of the names people give their beach houses at Pawleys and Litchfield. I’m happy for that couple that their some day -– some day I want to have a camper and just hit the road – came. Whatever it took, I’m glad.

Today we had a little “some day.” Since the first time I saw a map of the part of Family Lake Shining Falls uses, I’ve been intrigued by one location pretty far to the north. Beer Can Alley. At some point during each visit I’d say, “Someday I’d like to motor up there.”

Well, today some day came. We set out immediately after finishing breakfast. The water was still smooth, so the boat felt as though it were gliding, almost levitating. Twice we stopped to consult the map and each time we were enchanted by the symmetrical wake spreading evenly on either side of the back of the boat, the surface of the water not breaking, just rising and falling outward and outward. We found Beer Can Alley without incident (always a relief …), a narrow, quiet, meandering stretch of water with a high rock formation on one side and a wide, flat marsh on the other. In actuality there wasn’t much to see. But, I have to say that we did see a beer can floating up against the reeds. It has its name for a reason, I judge.

For the remainder of the day we fished – back at McKay Bay. Very successfully. In fact, Tal’s first eight casts produced eight walleyes. He looks pretty happy doesn’t he? (Getting him to smile for the endless fish pictures takes some cajoling.)

We ate lunch in McKay Bay and then set out for one last pass through Tal’s Channel and a couple other favorite spots. Including taking a peek at the eagle’s nest. Earlier in this visit we could see the chicks (eaglets?) in the nest, but today we were treated to the sight of a very large parent presiding over home.

As we were preparing for this trip, I told Tal that I expected that we would have nine perfect days here, but that one of them would be exquisite. Today turned out to be that day. It was clear from twilight to twilight, long sleeves were still comfortable, the water was never rough, the fish were cooperative, a light breeze kept the mosquitoes away. And, tonight as I write this, the door to cabin four is open and I can hear loons calling, one relatively close and the other more distant. There may be no more plaintive sound in this world. Going to sleep with that particular music drifting to my ears is a perfect ending to an exquisite day.

21 June 2008

The longest day of the year

Last year on June 21st, the first day of summer 2006, Tal and I were on the water pre-dawn awaiting a photo op with the rising sun. Not today. It was cold! The fire in the stove when we went to the lodge for breakfast was as welcome as the steaming mug of coffee. I’ve worn none of the short-sleeved shirts I brought with me on this trip and today, even as the calendar marks a change of season, was not the day to start.

As we made our way back to the cabin after breakfast, we were given a rare treat. A pair of loons was right off the main dock, diving and resurfacing, sometimes together, sometimes singly, the one up alone clucking softly, but persistently, as he or she looked for its mate. I don’t have focal length enough to get a good photograph, but I tried anyway.

Then, it was back to the river where the fishing continued to be good for another several hours. This is a shot taken from Myron’s Current looking toward the falls, which I had to wait to take until the wind calmed significantly. For a time we watched whitecaps breaking toward us, that is, breaking upstream. Sort of odd to watch.

A quite afternoon in the cabin for naps and reading and yet another delicious supper in the dining room prepared us for a good-bye ride to Spring Fever Bay and an hour of (more) good fishing.

We came in early, yet again given the looks of the weather – which made for a rather dramatic sunset on the longest day of the year. So last year, a sun rise and this year a sun set.

20 June 2008

The photos say it all

We arrived here at Shining Falls one week ago today. Aside from sleeping, which for both of us has been long and deep each night, fishing and monitoring the weather has taken up most of our time. And, we’ve done both of those things today.

Starting out in Tal’s Channel (yes, it’s printed on the map, I promise), the Tarbox Guide Service kept the passenger in the front of the boat rather busy. In this photo Tal is sitting in the bow of the boat because the fish he’s showing off to the camera managed to wrap itself around the anchor rope while it was being caught.

Impending rain sent us back to the cabin for lunch. Here is a view through Tal’s Channel at the gathering clouds as we readied ourselves for our departure.

When the skies cleared, we made our first venture to the river this trip. Being the boat operator en route to that location requires extra attention as the currents are strong. In fact, the feeling I get motoring through the current reminds me of having the traction control on the car activate. Where we fish (in a spot called Myron’s Current) puts us in no danger of going “over” the falls, but the sound of the falls is very close and very loud.

And, again … the guide service did pretty well. Folks at the lodge – other guests and the staff -- are well aware that Mr LeGrand has it pretty good!

Plus, the photographer’s finally learned to use flash to “see” under the bill of Tal’s hat, although that strategy seems to do strange things to the sky.

Moon set

For the past three nights the skies have been mostly clear and the moon has illuminated the landscape – casting shadows and ranging from a yellow orange to almost red. I was up twice in the night and spend a few minutes each time standing in its soft light. Not wanting to wake Tal with the noise I would have made with the tripod at about 3:45, I simply gazed. At that time the wide yellow reflection on the water extended directly from our dock to the opposite shore. At 4:45, however, it was light enough that I could handhold the camera. Within 15 minutes the moon was almost too pale to be visible.

19 June 2008

All “hail” broke loose

I woke up this morning with a hymn on my mind. Hail thee festival day, blest day thou art hallowed forever. As we walked back to our cabin after breakfast, Tal commented that I was humming it. And then later, when we were back at Walleye Wall (so good was the fishing yesterday), Tal complained -- somewhat emphatically -- that he couldn’t get it out of his mind. Oh, the power of suggestion, I suppose.

At about 11:30 we had a stringer of eight fish all between 16 and 17½ inches long. A storm which we were beginning to hear, but couldn’t see, was forming. So, a hasty photo of our catch and we were off at full speed toward the lodge. We made it to the main dock and handed off the stringer to Jonathan, back to our dock and unloaded the boat just in time to stay dry.

Large and slow-moving, this storm packed a wallop: driving rain, slanting from the north, for 10 relentless minutes; just as the lightening and thunder became simultaneous, a bolt of lightening struck the point of land directly across the little bay from cabin four, felling a tree, and marble-size hail began to pelt the landscape. Twenty minutes later, the ground covered with ice, the hail stopped, the rain resumed and lasted for another hour.

Tal thinks I should be more careful with the choice of tunes in my head.

Losing faith, keeping faith

Since we have been away from Edgefield, we have received news of two deaths. One being the Secretary of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina’s convention, Wilma Rose Davis, wife of a retired priest and mother of the sub dean of Trinity Cathedral in Columbia. The other, the Rev’d Harry Lawhon, a former rector of Grace Church in Camden, a parish I served right out of seminary. Though Harry was no longer the rector when I arrived, he turned out to be one of my early supporters, an unlikely alliance for me at the time and one that surprised many of Harry’s friends.

Wilma’s short illness came on suddenly and her death was unexpected; family and friends near and far had been keeping vigil with Harry for several weeks. I rather doubt either of them, Harry or Wilma, ever lost their faith, but there’s a lot I don’t know about a lot of things, the full scope and spectrum of either of these individuals’ spiritual lives included. I’ll miss the funerals, both of which I would have attended were we at home.

While Tal and I have been living here in cabin four, I read a novel, The Keeper’s Son, by Homer Hickam. It’s a quick read with an intriguing, albiet often-times predictable story, set on the North Carolina coast during the beginning of the US involvement in World War II. Its particular focus is on the engagement between the ill-equipped Coast Guard and unprepared local population with the German submarines sinking maritime traffic off the eastern seaboard.

One of the characters is the Preacher, who in coming to live with and experience the trials of a community supported by fishing and the sea looses his faith, a bitter transition the reader witnesses along with the characters. During a critical point in the story he ends up manning the machine gun on the 68-foot Coast Guard patrol boat and during a sea battle is mortally wounded.

As he expires and as his friends and members of the crew, one by one, say their goodbyes to him, someone places a Bible in his hand. His thoughts go like this:
By then, Preacher was considering all the words in the Bible, how they simply lay there, and depending on how you read them, they might say anything you wanted them to say. They could be read right to left, or up and down like the Chinese did, or perhaps in three dimension, through the book rather than on each page. (304)
It’s impossible to know if Preacher has his faith back by the time he draws his last breath. It doesn’t sound like it. What I do know is that his friends, those same folks who watched his faith falter and him fall into questioning despair, tried their best to carry faith for him, to carry him in the faith, when he couldn’t do it for himself.

I also know, without being privy to any details whatsoever, that Wilma Rose and Harry over the courses of their lives did that same thing for countless others suffering the depths of doubt, and not only at the time of death but especially through the daily struggle of life.

Rest in peace, friends.

18 June 2008

A stringer of fish

Family Lake, and more specifically Walleye Wall, was good to us today. The fishing since our arrival on Friday has been great; we have caught and thrown back countless fish – walleye, northern pike and perch. But, today the kitchen needed us to bring in fish. Oh, the pressure.

So, after breakfast, saying goodbye to the family we’d flown in with, seeing three planes come and go, tidying up the cabin and the like, we set out for Walleye Wall at about 10:30, a location south of the lodge where we’d not fished before. What a morning. Suffice it to say, our reputation is in tact. We’d caught lots of fish and brought in our day’s limit before lunch. The walleye limit, by the way, is four fish per person per day, a keep-able size being from 14 to 18 inches. Anything else goes back in the water.

The young fellow, Jonathan -- from Newfoundland, who takes care of the fish cleaning shack and keeps the boats in order took this photo for us. A few of the fish didn’t make it completely into the frame, but you get the idea.

An every morning guest

This moth (a luna, I think) has come to the same corner of the same window of the lodge every morning for three days now. It makes me smile to note that everyone – from the youngest guest to the most grizzled, unshaven good ol’ boy - stops to look and to comment on its beauty and it fragility. Such simple gestures provide me quiet hope.

Moon rise

I knew what day it was; I knew to be on the lookout. Luckily, when a small plane arrived just before dark last evening and, as always, I had to move to the window to witness the landing, there it was – the almost full moon. I’d almost missed it. Setting up the tripod on the deck took only a moment. I’m getting a little faster with practice.

Of course, I’ve heard about how to “get” an accurate full moon photograph. Make one shot metering what’s left of the light and, without moving the camera at all, take a second metering on the moon. Then, merge the two images. A second scheme is to take the first shot at 55mm, make a second photo of the moon with a telephoto. Putting the larger moon in the first photograph ensures ending up with the moon in the finished product looking as large as it did in person. Otherwise, you end up with a photograph like this one. Pretty accurate for everything but the moon, which is completely featureless and decidedly smaller than it seemed as it rose.

The mosquitoes were beginning to chew, but a turn to the right of about 120 degrees gave me a striking view of the lodge with the plane at the dock. This photograph, though darker in this post than in the Elements organizer, actually does that scene some justice.

17 June 2008

Moving through new water

With five previous trips to Shining Falls Lodge behind us, so gorgeous was the weather after breakfast that Tal and I struck out into new territory. Leaving behind the known, the tried-and-true fishing spots – mostly to the south of the lodge – was something of a leap. But, we headed north to McKay Bay, where to our relief and delight there were fish!

Given the vastly improved weather, we stayed out several hours longer than in previous days, eating our lunch on the shore of an island in the bay. These are two views from our lunch spot – one to the north, the other to the south. (Yes, the gooey yellow stuff between the boat and the rocks IS pollen.)

Naps were in order immediately on returning to the cabin. In fact, Tal says he thinks he fell asleep in the front of the boat as we made our way back to the lodge.

Special delivery

Even at 7:10 with the doors and windows closed to the early morning cold, I could hear it coming. By the time I stepped onto the deck the Otter was descending into the breeze coming out of the north and lining up for a landing just outside the mouth of the cove.

Flights from Bissett to the lodge are pricey; extra trips – flying one way or the other empty – are studiously avoided. So, in truth, the new red boat strapped to the strut wasn’t a special delivery. It, along with food and fuel, was unloaded and deposited on (or by in the case of the boat) the dock and six departing guests climbed aboard for the return flight.

But, a boat, red or otherwise, isn’t an everyday sight. I have to wonder about the plane’s performance in flight with the extra bulk on that side.

14 June 2008

Saturday on the water

Spring has come late to this part of the world. After a partly sunny morning of pretty good fishing we nestled the boat into a “V” in the shoreline within sight of the backside of the lodge to eat our lunch. And, watch yet another storm brew.

Just as I took this picture, Tal suggested it might be in our best interest to head in. We made it back to our dock and into the cabin before it hit -- with a single, mighty crash of thunder and sudden lashing rain.

When the storm ended a couple hours later, I busied myself bailing four inches of water out of the boat. The remaining yellow line of pollen marking the high water level in the transom reminds me of the ring left in a tub after a bath.

We went out twice more today – in the mid-afternoon and again after supper, both times staying close and managing to avoid getting wet. Snug in the cabin with a fire going for much of day two, we’re farther into our books than we’d imagined we’d be. But, snug and happy we are.

13 June 2008

At home on Family Lake

When we parked the car at the base this morning, the trip odometer read 2018.7 miles. Let me be clear about one thing if nothing else: it will be nice not to drive again for 10 days.

No, it’s not the same here. Our pilot flew us over the falls and the lodge before setting the Otter down on Family Lake this morning and my sense of sadness nearly overwhelmed me. The last time we made that tight, sharply banked turn we were flying out, having just said goodbye to the Harristhals. This visit, a year later, Chickie and Pat aren’t here. But, the folks who are here are doing everything in their power to make it OK for the repeat customers and there is joy to be had always. So, we moved in, unpacked, rigged up our gear and went fishing. And, we caught fish. Here is Tal holding my 19-inch walleye.

And, once again, the weather. We started out in a favorite, easy-to-get-to spot, Spring Fever Bay. The visibility is very good in that part of the lake and we were able to watch a storm build until we knew we needed to head back to camp. (The storm composing itself is what Tal is looking at while holding my fish.) Sure enough! We made it back without getting wet; the rain has been steady ever since. This part of the world, like the southern part of the United States, has been in urgent need of rain this spring. The water level here is low for this time of year. It will be interesting to watch the edges rise and expand as a result of the rains of the past week or so.

12 June 2008

Rice Lake at sunset

Bissett, almost any way one looks at it, is the end of the road, a road which deteriorates with every passing kilometer (119 in all) after leaving Power View, the last 47 kilometers being a combination of gravel and dirt – which is worse now than it was on our first trip to Shining Falls Lodge five years ago. But, in those five years life in Bissett has improved.

The line goes like this: "There’s gold in them thar hills." Actually, there’s gold under the swampy western end of Rice Lake. The original gold mine opened in 1914 and long ago played out. Like oil, I suppose, the easy-to-get-to gold was gone. A new company, the San Corporation, somehow knew where else to look and had the wherewithal to take that look. Below is a view of the gold mine buidings with Bissett's lakeside park (here Tal and I had our picnic) and the floatplane base in the foreground.)

From outward appearances not much has changed in Bissett. But, there is a livelihood and a sense of prosperity that was missing before. When the gold runs out this time? Who knows. I would suspect, skeptic that I am, that things will go back to the way they were before the mining operation was restarted. The current news is that a new vein has been opened with more workers needed, so no one need consider that “what then” question just yet.

In the late afternoon Tal and I walked to the park at the lake to eat our picnic supper of leftovers from the travel cooler. And, hours later we walked back to see the sunset, the official time for that being 9:37. It says a lot about us that we were making ourselves stay up! As usual, it seems, the weather was of primary concern, but the impending storm offered drama for photographs. We were safely back at Northern Wings, the B&B where we stay, when the rains finally came just before dark.

The long way around

Our drive today – even had we not encountered such trying conditions as yesterday making comparisons easy – was simply lovely. As I know I’ve said before, there is something about this entire route in which I take delight. Grand Forks to the Canadian border and on into Manitoba, though, is something extra special.

We woke to see the sun on I-29, so situated was our room, the light a pale yellow, angling low and long. On the road before 8:00 we watched, however, as a long bank of clouds appeared on the horizon and we and it seemed to approach each other at a pretty rapid clip. (I was contribuing 75 mph on our part!) Being the driver, I was happy when the clouds proved to be only clouds. By the time we bought fuel in Pembina and crossed into Canada dramatic clouds, a stiff wind and a temperature in the low 50s is all I have to report. Happily. (This shot was taken at the Canada welcome center at the border crossing, the flags demonstrating the breeze's intensity.)

With fewer than 300 miles to travel we took a long, rural route to the east around Winnipeg, in general, on long straight roads, at right angles to each other through lusciously green fields interrupted occasionally by muddy driveways. The towns we passed through were fascinating – if for no other reason than their springing up in front of us so quickly and disappearing behind us so thoroughly. The real surprise, though, were the churches, Greek Orthodox churches, simple, but strangely grand with their onion domes, and, again, dramatically remote.

I cannot fathom how the folks who live on the route we traveled do it. Late spring through late summer is one thing. There are signs this time of year for fishing tournaments, to golf courses, about rodeos, and the like. But, late August through early May? What a life. But, who knows. Maybe I’d surprise myself and thrive.

We stopped in Steinbach, the largest town on our route, for lunch, at a McDonalds. Here’s a hint at how they do it. There’s a fire place in that McDonald’s. A fire place!

And, today, 50 degrees and windy, the fire was burning, there were people wearing fleece –- not simply eating a late breakfast or an early lunch, but reading the paper, working the crossword puzzle. For much of the year being inside just has to be OK. And, perhaps being interested helps as well. The lady at the counter who took our order, on being handed a US ten dollar bill, asked where we were from and wanted to now where we were going. And, when we left some 45 minutes later, she called out a “happy fishing” goodbye.

How do they do it? Hard as it might be for me to grasp, they are themselves, they live their lives where they are and they love their part of the world. Not so unlike everyone else I know.

11 June 2008

Mystery solved

Well, in part, maybe.

Once we turned right (north) on I-29 yesterday we began noticing trucks travelling south transporting long, white, sculpted objects, round at one end and pointed at the other. The first trucks carried two nestled together. Subsequent trailors carried a single object, these being considerably longer than the ones two to a trailer. Each truck had two escort vehicles. We puzzled. More trucks. Parts for an abstract public monument? More trucks.

Then, late in the day at an abandoned rest stop, we saw three north-bound trucks stopped, their drivers conversing. And, on each trailer? A single, long, while sculped object. The tip of each one broken. Then, it hit me. Wind turbine blades. It had to be.

Today, we saw only two. And, as we were setting into our room here in Grand Forks we saw a third from our window, two escort vehicles and a truck entering I-29 at Exit 138.

After supper I began poking around on line and found Navitas Energy in Minneapolis, a player in windpower development. Close but not quite what I was looking for; they wouldn't account for trucks on I-29. LM Glasfiber, a Danish company, also came up in windpower technology. Denmark? After finding a map on their website I clicked on a bullet in the upper part of the United States and this was the annotation that popped up: Blade factory and administration in Grand Forks ND since 1998.

Mystery solved. Someone to the south is building a wind farm.

Now, I wonder who ...

Travel conditions: terrible

When we checked into the hotel yesterday afternoon in Vermillion and we asked the desk clerk about the rivers and other local sites of interest, he advised us to take advantage of the day's light. Tommorrow, he said, was not going to be nice. So, we "did" Vermillion, sweating a little on our walk and, as you might have noticed from the river photos, struggled with the sun high in the west.

At 5:00 this morning the thunder woke us thoroughly. The rains came and the wind howled. Not what this part of the world wants or needs at present. Travelling was exhausting. While the rain abated from time to time, providing periods of relief, the wind never let up and, over the course of morning the temperature dropped from the low 70s to 50. Eventually, we stopped commenting on the fields-turned-lakes. We stopped being surprised at water-filled exit and entrance ramps onto I-29 closed to traffic. One good thing: the spray from passing vehicles was a non-issue, since it all blew left (west)!

Fortunately, it was a short travel day and we're safely in Grand Forks. After a nap we ventured out to visit Cabala's in East Grand Forks MN and to enjoy supper at Applebee's on the Red River. Yes, it's in flood stage. And, yes, it's still raining.

10 June 2008

A view from Vermillion

Vermillion is a college-town (University of South Dakota) in the SE corner of the state situated on a bluff overlooking the Vermillion River. The river is only slightly visible in this SE-facing photograph; in the distance is Nebraska and the Missouri River which forms the state line. Also visible here in the foreground is the grass we began seeing everywhere today, its undulations simply fascinating to watch.

We ended up in Vermillion not by chance. I read some months ago about the town and the proximity of and access to the rivers and, despite the distance of some 6 miles from I-29 into town, we decided to take a look. A good decision. The USD campus is luscious this time of year; the historic district is charming; the rivers are, indeed, a pride and a draw.

We visited Cotton Park, named for the huge cottonwood trees along the Vermillion, and walked a couple miles on the several-mile-long walking/biking trail. After a delicious supper at the Mona Lisi (not Lisa), an Italian restaurant in the historic district, we drove to and across the Missouri (and into Nebraska) to take in the view at the Mulberry Bend overlook, seen here.

Actually, all the rivers of this trip are fascinating -- and out of their banks: the Cumberland at Nashville, the Tennessee and the Ohio in the vicinity of Paducah, the Mississippi in St Louis, the Missouri at St Charles (and repeatedly thereafter). As we travel along I try to will myself to remember the bodies of water we cross and the bridges that transport us. But, at the end of the day it's pretty much a blur.

09 June 2008

Breakfast in central time

We have landed in Warrenton MO, west of St Louis, for our first night on the road, walking to supper and back in a light rain. The big fluffy bed looks so comfortable. I know the writing vs sleeping tug-of-war will be a short battle, and I can declare a winner already.

It was an early start -- wake up at 3:30 and on the road by 4:00, leaving home with coffee in travel mugs. Our plan to make getting through Atlanta a top priority was a good one, I think, although we could have left home 30 minutes earlier and had an easier time of it. On the other hand, we arrived at Chattanooga in time for the end of that Monday morning rush. So, an earlier start wouldn't have helped anything.

The traffic aside, however, Lookout Mountain's looming presence and the Tennessee River's great curve through town were worth the trip from Edgefield. At 9:00 my driving for the day ended with 311 miles behind us (whew) when we stopped for breakfast at a Waffle House on I-24's Exit 152 (Kimball TN). It was as those welcome cups of coffee steamed in our faces that we realized it was only 8:00. The day was still young!

We arrived here having travelled 789 miles. No wonder the bed looks so beguiling.

07 June 2008

A long day

The alarm clock went off at 5:30 this morning and I sprang from bed like a thing possessed. The coffee was ready by the time Tal's son, Bruce, arrived for their every-other-week visit at 5:50.

While they talked and relined reels for our trip to Shining Falls, I plowed forward with the letter project for my seminary class, running into faulty e-mail addresses and mailboxes that couldn't handle the size of the PDF, ending up making more hard copies than I'd really wanted to and addressing 30+ envelopes. It's so easy to decide that collecting and distributing a set of letters is a great idea -- and it is, but actually getting it together here on the kitchen counter has taken more time than I anticipated it would. If I were still working I don't know that it would ever have made it into cyberspace and/or to the post office. A drop in at the home of new neighbors dragged us both, happily, from our chores and into a welcome social setting for a couple of hours in the early evening.

It's been a rather long day. But, we're closer to being ready to leave on Monday than we were at the alarm some 15 hours ago.

It's only 10:05, but the bed awaits and I'm listing in that direction. Signing off.

06 June 2008

Back to Gravatt

Unbelievable. I had a call back!

After the Sunday morning Eucharist at family camp, that lovely, breezy morning at the outdoor chapel, the camp and conference center executive director e-mailed to ask if I would conduct an altar guild tutorial for the camp staff who will be assisting visiting clergy over the summer. We, seven of us under the blessed ceiling fans, enjoyed an energetic hour together in the open-air Collett dining hall this morning, learning the names of items (the placemat thingy is a corporal; the plate is a paten) and thinking through how Gravatt's outdoor chapel works. Such fun. And, I'm so glad to play a small part in the start up of the camping season.

To know more about Gravatt, follow this link:

I was home before 11:30 to shift gears for lunch with a former parishioner whose birthday today is and then spent the afternoon tending the washer and dryer AND wrestling with the iron. But, as I'm making my way to bed and a night of rest, I can happily say that the laundry's done.

05 June 2008

Making a PDF

I spent much of the day working on a compilation of letters from my Virginia Seminary classmates to distribute as a single document as we move beyond the 16th anniversary of our graduation. And, the plan was that the distribution would happen via e-mail in as many cases as possible.

Mid-way through the project, just as I was preparing to turn the Publisher document into a DPF (portable document format) which allows a large document to become an e-mail attachment, when I realized that the necessary software was on the computer Tal and I gave to the church when I retired. Stopped in my tracks.

A 45-mile round trip to Aiken and the closest office supply and I was back in the groove. At the moment, with the PDF made, I'm too tired to proofread 60 e-mail addresses! That eye-crossing activity -- and the end of this project -- will have to happen tomorrow.

04 June 2008

Name that feeling

Some days make more sense than others. And, today with nothing particularly memorable having happened has seemed to make perfect sense -- all day.

We read the newspaper and ate breakfast together. Tal played a round of golf; I finished arranging for the June bills to be paid on-line and otherwise while we are away. Tal accomplished all the edging in the yard; I came up with a odd, but strangely edible supper from remains in the pantry and refrigerator. A steady day of activity. Nothing urgent. No drama.

I think this state might be called contentment. Could it possibly be?

Tomorrow may well be different, but today, today has been just right.

Two bright spots

As I caught up Quicken with the latest in the Democratic presidential nomination process unfolding on BBC America, I opened an e-mail we thought might be coming. As real a possibility as it was, I'd managed to convince myself it would not come to pass. Not yet. Interesting how powerful wishful thinking is!

Our dear friends, Chickie and Pat Harristhal (pictured here on the dock under the wing of a float plane), owners of Shining Falls Lodge in Manitoba, let us know that they had, indeed, sold the lodge after providing hundreds of people four summers of extraordinary fishing and hospitality. Tal met them in the summer of 1988 at Canadian Boarder Outfitters (which Chickie and Pat owned and operated) near Ely MN, when he and his son ventured into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for the first time. He has seen them and enjoyed their company for 18 of the last 19 summers.

People move in and out of our lives. Where the Harristhals are concerned, the moving in has truly been a joy, a long-term joy. And, this season of their moving out -- at least in the Shining Falls venue -- is going to be cause for long-term sweet sadness. We leave next Monday morning for the drive to Bissett for our flight to the lodge on June 13th. Their not being on the dock to greet us is going to be a difficult moment. But, we are going anyway, grateful for their having introduced us to the lodge, to Family Lake and to Manitoba's Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park.

As I make my way to bed tonight, I wish these two bright spots in the life Tal and I share all the very best and hope to bask in their light some wonderful time in the future.

02 June 2008

Giving in

Well, Tal and I gave in before bed last night. With ceremony we pushed the switch from "heat" up past "off" to "cool" and then nudged the desired room temperature from winter's 65 degrees to 78 degrees. And, we slept without having to try to convince ourselves we were comfortable as we most definitely had the night before.

So, we made it to June 1st and beyond Memorial Day, that unoffical start to summer in this country. The inbetween months marked by welcome and minimal Aiken Electric bills are over until the fall, nice while they lasted, but sleeping cool is so worth it.

01 June 2008

Family camp

I keep forgetting how much I like being outside.

Before leaving for VTS last Wednesday, I had a emergency e-mail from the director of Camp Gravatt seeking a celebrant for their family camp on Sunday morning. Clear about preparation time while away -- the lack thereof, I was touched when she offered a camp staff "sermon skit" and I said I'd be there by 8:30AM.

Now, I don't want to run a camp or even be a regular at session closing worship, but it was a wonderful morning. It was still cool and in the shade under the trees the breeze coming from the left and ruffling the pages of my prayerbook was pure delight.

About six families had taken the diocese up on the family camp experiment, introducing both parents and young children to Gravatt itself and to camp activities. So, there was a small, lively, interested group of worshippers, to include eight eager staffers (one among them with a camera).

The little guy here in the red shirt had been told by his mother not to receive the bread, but take a look where his eyes are! He's not looking at me while I offer him a blessing and make the sign of the cross; the items on the paten have his attention. I'd just love to know what he's thinking.

Are we there yet?

Rain was in the forecast. But, when I left the VTS campus at lunchtime, the sun was still shining. It was early in the weekend and getting through check-in and security at Reagan National was eerily smooth, smooth enough that I had time for lunch.

From where I sat in Concourse C enjoying (get this) a grilled portabello mushroom sandwich with goat cheese and arugula (yum) I had a clear view to the north of the National Cathedral riding high on Mount Saint Alban. Also, to the north and in a wide swath of sky to the west and the east was the promised weather. Fascinating. The cathedral was in a mysterious state, its appearance changing as the minutes ticked by, the edifice brilliant, luminous against the nearly purple sky, details on its walls and towers distinct one moment, then nothing but a black silhouette the next when the skies brightened briefly behind it.

My flight was called about ten minutes late and our bus didn't quite make it to the plane before the deluge began. We stayed on the bus and the ground crew took to the luggage hold under the plane's left engine. In a lull we boarded the CRJ-200 and it only took until we were seated for the storm to begin in earnest. The airport closed; the rain came down in gusting sheets; the wind rocked the plane; the day grew dark enough for the street lights to come on; lightening and thunder were simultaneous and at times continuous. At just over an hour the plane was refueled, we were prepped for take off, the aircraft moved about 50 feet before the airport closed again for the storms part two.

In the end the delay lasted almost three hours, BUT the flight home was utterly spectacular. We "essed" our way through, around, among the storms, at one point seemingly almost at eye level with the top of a signature anvil-shaped cloud. I watched the tops and sides of big fluffy clouds the color of dirty snow roil, expanding up and out. Fortunately, I did not have a camera with me; I would absolutely have joined the ranks of cloud photographers!

Stiff and tired as I walked from baggage claim to the parking garage, the sight of the car was so welcome! And and home -- blessedly -- came into sight an hour later, Tal, Whitby and Belle at the car door before I could even put the car in park. Ahhhh ...