Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Many Faces of Ice, or What I Did on My Christmas Vacation

Sherry and I are on another vision quest to a large body of water, this one variously called 
Gitche Gumee, Gitchigami, Kitchi Gammi, and etc.
We mount the crest of the hill to see the Big Sea Water not shining brightly in the distance but
 dark and leaden under slate-gray skies. 
Loving it! 
Bring on the cold winds, the icy breezes, the driving snow!

Last spring found us Down Under, next to the sunny South Pacific, 
where ice was neatly contained in a glass
instead of loose on the landscape, conquering and causing havoc.
You can experience that warm and friendly world HERE! if you are so inclined. 

Or perhaps you will continue on into the cold, cold climes of Duluth, Minnesota, 
which is the literal, littoral and spiritual home town of the Wilkinson Clan, 
 nestled between rocky cliffs and the clear, clean waters of greatest of the Great Lakes, Superior.

This blog has visited Duluth before, but maybe not in its coolest season.

Duluth is a port city, along with its sister Superior, Wisconsin, inhabited by grain silos...


...and the odd abandoned grocery cart under a cold winter sun. 

Sherry and I make a Christmas pilgrimage to our family plot at the Forest Hills Cemetery
with our brother Dan.




Here are the three of them oh so many Christmases ago, when I was but a twinkle in their eye, 
and when a first son dying of an inoperable brain tumor was utterly unimaginable.

Later we seek out the bright lights of the big city, (well, not so big)
where Dan vapes with Sherry under the dancing sparkles.

Here Dan holds up a 12-ton anchor on the Duluth Walk...

     ...a "memento" from the USS Duluth...

...which, amazingly enough, was the very last ship to be constructed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard
before it was closed by the Johnson Administration in 1966.
Its last journey was in 2005 in the Persian Gulf in support of "Operation Iraqi Freedom,"
two years after Pres. George Bush's 2003 "Mission Accomplished" speech,
and two years before he sent over another 21,500 troops to the area.
Ah, the good old days...

USS Duluth in the Persian Gulf (April 19, 2005) 
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Aaron Ansarov (RELEASED)

For forty years the ship traveled all over the world:
Panama, Somali, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Okinawa, Guam, Australia, you name it!
Kind of the ocean-going version of "I've Been Everywhere" sung here by Hank Snow in 1965
(which I like even more than the Johnny Cash version).

Back to Duluth, the city,
where we are joined by Shannon who inspires us to visit a local tourist attraction...

...known as the Glensheen Mansion (1908), owned by the Congdon family who 
eventually donated it to the University of Minnesota, Duluth, some time after the horrific murders
in 1977 of the last Congdon who lived there, Elisabeth, along with her night nurse.
The house is also the site of a movie thriller, You'll Like My Mother, starring Patty Duke,
filmed five years before the murders, another Wilkinson Clan favorite:
"Run, Francesca, run!"

(internet pic)

The guides aren't allowed to discuss the violent events during the tour, 
instead they must limit conversation to the family, the house and its many objects and aspects
which is quite sufficient, really. Who needs gruesome talk of murder when there are gilded ceilings...

...marble inlaid tables...

...and a gorgeous Christmas tree in every room?

(Shannon selfie)

Below, a cozy reading room - I wish I could sit here on a winter's day with a good book!

Many beautiful paintings grace the walls, like this one by an unknown (by me) artist.


Hazy sunlight sees us walking moodily along the shore, our very favorite vision quest activity.
This time we must work our careful way past, yes, the Painted People, who adore this shoreline
and visit it often!

We also traverse numerous ice-monsters, ready to pounce!

And we must navigate between strange sand-ice growths.

On a lighter note, Sherry finds an adorable ice-pop.

The shoreline is covered with patterns that remind us of the
 uncanny repetition of forms in nature.

We see a river of ice flowing under the Aerial Bridge, moving out to the larger lake 
where it will form a far off, snaky white line later in the day.


Then we are off to Anoka, Minnesota to spend Christmas at the Cook's.

(Pic by Ali)
Ali, Dan, Michael, Shannon, me, Derek, Alicia,
Arya, Sherry, Brett and Kellen.

Chris and Megan are in Colorado for the holidays but they have given us fabulous Mermaid blankies,
perfect for this cold climate!

(Pic by Ali)

(Pic by Ali)

Above, Sherry and Shannon modeling their glamorous Christmas garb,
Shannon's awesome outfit from the Duluth Goodwill, of course.
Below, Michael sports his Bah Humbug hat. 
Of course.

(Pic by Ali)

Kellen and Arya are comfy in their jammies!
All day long!

(Pic of and by Ali)

(Pic by Ali)

Alicia seems to have acquired a couple extra hands.

Hair fun with Arya!

More hair fun: Ali and Shannon as Cousin Itt, from the Addams Family.

(Internet pic)

Across the street from the Cook abode: ice!
My old lost skates have turned up, ready to rock and roll! Woohoo!

The very picture of grace on the rink. Me, that is. Not Derek.

(Pic by Ali)

(Pic by Ali)

I leave the snow angels behind to face the mean streets, that is, mean highways
of Minnesota and Wisconsin. I'm on a big Megabus, and my $7 extra reserved front seat
 affords me a great view of the carnage.
Apparently, with a mere touch of the brakes, you put yourself and the twenty vehicles behind you
 at the mercy of invisible black ice that sheets the road!
I could skate to Madison!

One vehicle after the next veering off the road and/or smashing into each other.

Or, quite literally, crashing and burning.

All the way to Madison, vehicles litter the highway and surrounding areas,
 as if a giant, nasty toddler decided to make the road his playground. 
Some might consider this a sad but apt metaphor for the state of our nation...

In Madison, the view from our Airbnb looks like peace on earth.
At least all the ice is in its proper place.

Although Elliott thinks that some of it needs to be knocked about a bit.

Turnabout being fair play, the ice knocks him around a bit also!

This ice has collected on hanging roots, and swings like a heavy pendulum over the lake.

Below, just a fraction of what it takes to go out in single digit weather!

(Pic by Jennifer Keeley Yonda)

Hours of fun getting ready...

(Pic by Jennifer Keeley Yonda)

...for minutes of well, not-so fun! Down to the lake,
and then up from the lake a very, very short time later.
(Andrew went back down, by the way.)

(Pic by Jennifer Keeley Yonda)

Maybe it worked better for Elliott yesterday, 
when the temp hovered around ten degrees, and they just wore boots.

(Pic by Jennifer Keeley Yonda)

Frank and I are staying at an Airbnb on Lake Mendota in Madison, a place of many wonders.

(Pic by Andrew Keeley Yonda)

Settled inside, Elliott and I engage in important apres-Christmas work,
building a gingerbread house.

(Pic by Frank)

Elliott helps to clean up after the gingerbread house is complete to our satisfaction.
He makes sure that no stray piece of candy is left lying on the floor as he plays vacuum cleaner.
Elliott is no longer a toddler, by the way. He is four big-boy years old!

Not as old as his daddy, but getting there!

Here he is playing with the bag-o'-animals Aunt Sherry got him at the Goodwill, while
my fabulous gifts lie nearby, virtually untouched. Can't win 'em all! Nor should you!

I take refuge in the infinity mirror.

(Pic by Andrew)

We all love the massage chair! It brings out the OMs in all of us!

At the rest stop during my terrifying bus trip, there were the usual silly Wisconsin souvenirs about
cows and cheeseheads.
But our own Wisconsin wine-glass New Years Eve experience is not so cheesy, as you see:

Happy New Year! 

The full moon in Scorpio sets over the lake on our last day.
And then it's back to NYC, with its ever-dramatic cityscape.

Above, night-smoke in Manhattan, emanating from the aforementioned Brooklyn Navy Yards, 
which has risen up from ruins to become a renovated site for "green" technology, and
 for Steiner Film Studios which includes a Brooklyn College Graduate Film School, 
and also a Pratt Institute Design Incubator with art studios for students. 
The days of ship-building, and indeed, the "days of the smokestacks" 
are supposed to be over in NYC, so I'm not sure what these two chimneys are spouting...
but I do know that the lovely day-smoke in Bayport, Minnesota, below, 
comes from a coal-burning plant.

Back in Brooklyn, it's an eerie, snow-and-ice-less landscape until twenty-four hours later,
when winter catches up to me...

...and I breathe a great sigh of joy and relief as I trek up to Prospect Park!
Loving it!
Bring on the cold winds, the icy breezes, the driving snow!

Here's to 2018!
May it bring us good times with family and friends and fa-la-la's...

...along with cooler heads
and cooler weather.