Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Look at all that water!"

I've spent the better part of the last fifteen years within sight of Lake Superior, and still it never fails to fill me with awe. In college, I had a second story apartment on the Hillside of Duluth, in an old house with three giant windows facing the Lake, ancient glass settling heavily on the sills in a dreamy, wavy pattern, and there wasn't a single day in a single season that I didn't spend time cuddled up in the chair behind the fireplace, gazing out at all that water. In those days, the sound of the old foghorn made me smile in my sleep, and the sight of the Wednesday sailboat races would make me trot down the hill to the Lakewalk to find a sunny perch for writing or textbook reading or just daydreaming.

When David and I returned from our trip out to Oregon, we rented an apartment about a block away from the water, and we placed our bed in the middle of the room next to the window simply to be sure that the first thing we would see each morning would be the sun rising over the Lake in gorgeous displays of color and drama. That summer, pregnant with Jabber, I adopted David's early morning work schedule and rose before the sunrise, hiking down to the shore in the pre-dawn quiet. Each day I took a brisk walk east along the bicycle path to a little sheltered cove and my favorite rock, my sunrise-watching post. I placed myself there with my journal and a little tupperware of cereal and fruit--munching on my breakfast as the sun slowly unveiled himself to the world. I spent an hour writing: my thoughts and hopes, my attempts at poetry, my worries and anxieties about the future. And then, once the warmth of day heated up my stone seat and made me shed a layer or two into my backpack, I'd rise and walk the Lakewalk down to Canal Park and back to my apartment for a nice nap and some time on the computer, working on my first novel. Our apartment was small, the garage precarious, the street out front loud and busy, the heat patchy and unreliable--and yet it remains one of my favorite places in memory.

Our next home was without a view, but in our backyard rose a ridge that, if we dared to climb it (and at eight months pregnant, it was quite a feat!), offered a vista I could spend hours just sitting there admiring. In all the time we lived there, I think of that ridge and the view of the Lake below it as my sanctuary. Little Jabber learned to say "superior" before he was able to walk.

Life with two kids and a full-time job and novel-writing and bill-paying and whatever else is busy. Our cute little house now is close to the Lake but in a flat area, without a view. Still, every day on our drive to work, we climb up a hill and are greeted with the sight of Superior stretching off to the horizon, sometimes frozen and cold, sometimes impossibly blue and inviting, sometimes covered with the white capped waves that remind me of its power. On days like today, when I feel slightly overwhelmed by the world and the looming pressure of Sunday evening, I like to take the kids down to the shore for a few minutes to throw rocks in or play on the ice, and it never fails to make me feel more complete, more at ease.

I remember a hike long ago, when David and I stretched out on our backs in full winter gear on top of a sheet of ice. The sun beat down on us pleasantly, and I could feel his gloved hand squeeze mine through my choppers. Beneath us, we could hear the tiny trickle of water making its way back to the Lake as the ice melted. "Ah, this is how I love to feel," said David. "Slower than a land-locked wave in February."

So this is how we spent the final evening this February, watching the waves roll in.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

time is but the stream...

At some point in the last month, Monkey stopped being a baby and started being, in his words, "a real grown-up". This as he handed over his "binkie" to us for the last time, handed it over "for all the babies to have."

Now he's learning to use the potty. This morning he woke up, used the bathroom, brushed his own teeth, got dressed and went downstairs--all without any help. (Well, all right, I helped him pull the turtleneck over his head, and I helped him turn his underwear around so they were no longer backwards.)

As we move from one season to another here (and maybe that's wishful thinking, too, but spring is coming soon), I keep thinking about the passing of time, how hard it is to remember sometimes even how old I am. I do a lot of, "Wait, was that the summer of 2006, or was it the summer after that? Where did we live when you last visited?" Things like that.

And I realized that so much of the last seven years is measured in child events. That was the winter that David worked part time and I spent the whole evening every evening sitting on the couch nursing Jabber. That was the Christmas right after Monkey was born. And the refrain from everyone was always this: "Enjoy it because it goes so fast."

So fast.
One day you have a baby. The next day it seems he's running away in a pair of snowshoes.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

picture-perfect winter day

I love winter. In theory. I've lived all but three years of my life here in Minnesota, which amounts to a fair number of winter memories (I'll leave the actual numbers a little hazy, I think!) Memories of winter are either romantic and infused with large doses of happiness and hot cocoa, or they are ridiculous and awful and infused with large doses of "it's funny now, but at the time..." (an entire winter during my sophomore year of college comes to mind, complete with images of crowds of people running outside to help push my car up the hill to my apartment building every day as I fish-tailed past their buildings...)

The good memories involve sunny days spent building snow forts with the kids (or snowmen, even when my husband then shoots our snowman with a shotgun...yes, it did look pretty cool, even as Monkey's face twisted up with dismay--"What happened to Fwosty?") or nights spent playing hockey with my little brother on the ice rink in our backyard.

The Valentines Day hike up on the Superior Hiking Trail with a bottle of wine chilled in a snowbank.

The backyard fire pit party the night before our Minnesota wedding.

Afternoons curled up on the cat-lap chair behind the fireplace, writing poetry in my journal as I watched the world fall still under the weight of those crystalline drifts.

And yesterday. After a long spell of cold interspersed with several episodes of icy, dangerous driving conditions and more dark, cold, cabin-feverish days, we had one gloriously perfect winter day, complete with a sunny snowshoe hike on the frozen river, snowshoe races with the kids, snow tunnels, cats flying into snowbanks, a nice backyard bonfire (David and I cooked hot dogs on sticks we collected on our hike), and ending with everyone tuckered out and cozied up in front of the Winter Olympics. Overall, exactly what I needed to remember what I actually do love about winter, which isn't the gray cold days stuck inside with two crazy children bouncing off the walls.

Here's Jabber about to take the plunge on his snowshoes. Granny commented, "My, you have great balance on those shoes, Jabber!" to which he responded, "No, it's not about balancing with me. It's about pure skill."

Here's Monkey hauling wood on his sled for our fire. He's such a hard worker!

Niece K. challenged David to a snowshoe race around the backyard. If you look closely at the background, you can see D. dusting himself off after his exuberant sprinting resulted in a pretty spectacular fall. K. fell, too, but she still managed to snag the finish line with her gloved hand before losing her boots in the snow!

Monkey enjoyed making fun shadow shapes and tracking animals in the snow on our hike around the yard. Here he is growling at his shadowmonster.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

and some are much better.

cop out, but Monkey was distressed at the thought of himself being snarly on my blog, so he said, "Picture me tellin' dem I havin' a good day, okay?" Also, excuse the fact that I sound like I'm three, too. I don't usually baby talk to my kids, I swear.