Wisconsin skies rule. These are in New Richmond. Note the UFO.
The view from my brother Dan's yard is through the pines, virtually the only trees in the sprawling housing development he lives in where houses are plopped down in the middle of corn fields.
But Dan saves his trees, and plants more, as should we all.
But sometimes trees aren't enough - extra measures are called for.
This tarp keeps the neighbor-dog from seeing Dan every time he walks outside,
which causes him to bark unceasingly. The dog, not Dan.
He decorates with rocks, as should we all. These are the smooth ancient stones of Lake Superior.
Dan is a welder, and a teacher of future welders.
He used to work on the big ore boats in the Superior shipyards, so he knows what he's talking about. The above piece, however, was made by our great-uncle Campy, the first white child born in northern Minnesota, in a logging camp. Thus his name: Campman.
The circumstances of his death some years ago inspire me: he was found under a large tree by the edge of a beautiful clear stream leading to Lake Superior, holding a fishing rod.
Dan and his toys. Above his head is one of his fabulous sculptures made of Lake Superior driftwood. He takes only what the lake gives.
Dan gives me a ride in his red and white Mustang to visit friends in nearby Menomonie.
Above are my dear friends Judy and Paul Helgeson, whom I have known from the
Winding Road days. Winding Road Farm was a working commune in the seventies
dedicated to organic farming and trying to live in a sane and productive fashion. Not an easy path.
We have dinner at their charming Menomonie house with friends from my former WI-days. There's good political talk over pizza from Ted's and salad from Winding Road. It happens to be the day before Black Thursday when all the government workers in Wisconsin will get their ravaged paychecks,
courtesy of Gov. Scott Walker, a radical extremist not fit to run a democratic system.
Ralph Nader comes up in conversation: I won't forgive him for handing "W" the 2000 election by splitting the Democratic vote; others say that Al Gore didn't push hard enough on the Florida vote, etc. etc. I believe it entirely possible that had Al been president,
9/11 might never have happened and people would be arguing about solar vs. wind
and is 50 mpg too much for the poor beleaguered car manufacturers to deal with, and Bill Clinton's surplus would still be with us. Imagine that.
The next day Judy and Paul went to the local community center to ponder signing up for activities ranging from trips to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, genealogy, healing music, finding ancestral villages in the Czech Republic, and quilting classes. Numerous political discussion groups are offered, along with a class about the poetry of Gary Snyder, who's been deep into deep ecology, zen buddhism
and the back to the land movement. Menomonie is a college town - UW Stout, where I got my BA - and is populated with educated and interesting people.
Also at the center was a room selling local crafts, which reminded me of how I regret what's happened to women's traditional artistry - now it's all corporate "kits" that standardize designs and patterns,
stock cutesy objects that infantalize women and make them not trust their own artistic instincts.
These blond heads on crosses are pretty creepy,
but not as creepy as these dolls. EEEEEK! What happened to their eyes?
In the Menomonie Mabel Tainter Theater, eyes follow you around the room.
This is a beautiful building dedicated to a daughter, shown above with older sister Ruth who died young. They were the offspring of one of the lumber barons of yore, those guys who came to former Indian land to cut down all the forests and send them downstream, creating what is today Lake Menomin, and coincidentally making large fortunes for themselves. They left behind mansions and this theater, a gorgeous building much loved and well used by the current community.
Quite the "job-creators," those lumber barons.
Ghosts inhabit the building, the woman-in-white who's been seen in the kitchen, bathroom and theater. Also mists, orbs, footsteps, cherry pipe tobacco and rose water aromas,
and lights and radios turning on mysteriously.
Here the exterior of the theater is enveloped not in ghostly clouds,
but dump truck exhaust.
Later in the day, Judy, Paul and I go to Winding Road Farm where they live part time.
I sit observing the garden and hills in the August sun, immersed in the summer smells and sounds of insects and birds. I used to spend a lot of time in this heated silence, farming, gardening - I've forgotten how it encloses and centers you, how it merges with your skin.
At times it felt like being embraced by the universe, other times it felt like a fiery trap.
Many zinnias in their garden, perhaps my favorite flower: unassuming, easy to grow,
straightforward vehicles for vivid and saturated colors.
Back in New Richmond, silence does not reign. 8AM brings on the
grunts, grinds and beeps of heavy machinery.
Much activity here in the Deerfield complex where my mother lives -
so many seniors, so little space.
My mother's 2-bedroom apartment is bright and sunny,
but living in this complex is essentially like living in a dorm, only instead of people graduating, they die.
All week, I obsessively stalk Irene.
Irene and I are scheduled to arrive in New York City at about the same time.
The town may not be big enough for the both of us.
Sherry, Brett and I take a walk down to the river near Deerfield.
Dusk falls and saturates the water with blue.
Later, a streetlight reveals strange patterns.
I change my flight to Monday, post Irene,
so get another fabulous night with Sherry and Brett on their deck.
I note that they need to defrost but Brett after explains in detail about sagging doors and faulty seals
I am left in respectful silence.
I am left in respectful silence.
Ali gets home from one of her many jobs and greets us.
The darkness hides,
the darkness reveals.
Monday morning, travel is seamless.
The usual suspects in NYC are still standing strong, apparently unscathed by Irene.