Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Into The Woods

Imagine entering another world. A world of lakes and tall, clustered trees. A world of green on green, on green. Even as the flight descended we were mesmerized by the patchwork of farms and fields, bodies of water dotting the land, like mirrors reflecting blue and clouded skies. Tempted by all this we made a few stops on our way to see Laura, Gary, and Sophie.

At one point Maria, overcome with emotion, exclaimed: "Woot! I am screaming for nature!" She was delighting at the sight of every river crossing, every clearing in the woods.

Then, breathlessly, she announced, "I just saw a pile of birds, flying across the sky!" Geoff suggested, "A flock?" And Maria laughed and said, "Yes, of course! I saw a Squawk of birds." And now I can't decide which I prefer, a "pile of birds" or a "squawk of birds." For sure I like screaming for nature!

We arrived at our destination after dark. More magic. Because even though we had an entire day to grow accustomed to the idea, I still could not believe we were finally in the North Woods, finally seeing Laura and Gary in the home they built, finally hanging out with cousin Sophie! It had been too long since our last visit, but now we were really here, and it felt amazing.

A campfire awaited us, and the loons were calling from the lakes. Loons! Lakes! Giant marshmallows! Loons! I did not get a picture of loons, those ancient birds whose melancholy cry reaches through the night. They play a compelling serenade. I did not get a picture of the giant marshmallows, those puffed confections about the size of a small child's upturned, eager face.

Laura and Gary built a home fit for hospitality. It is comfortable and inviting, with thoughtful touches throughout. I love the laundry room, with the chute, and all that wonderful Packy storage! From magazines on the bedside table I read about the Eagle River ice palace, and places where you can ride ziplines through the forest. The boys and Sophie indulged in a mini-marathon of Dr Who, happy to share in their mutual Geek passions and interests. Every window offers a view of the forest they love, green and lush, now. Between the natural beauty outdoors, the comforts indoors, and the delicious provisions Gary kept putting out for us... how many desserts did you bake, Gary?... it's no wonder the children are eager to return in winter. I would love it too.

Maria saw a deer.

What a proud and special moment for her. Maria saw a deer. No one pointed it out to her, she wasn't in a zoo, or on a field trip. Just strolling around the yard, maybe looking for toads, she noticed the doe stepping lightly through the forest, gingerly making her way across the yard. I think Maria will always remember the moment... I hope to always remember the awe and gentle hush of Maria's voice when she announced to me what she was seeing, for me to see too.

On another garden to forest stroll, we began noticing the toads. Tiny-tiny toads, like playthings or cute school erasers... one, two... three. Alex and Max love frogs and toads. We all love Frog and Toad.

This day, this vacation, this adventure, just kept getting better and better. Sophie had funny, and tragic, toad stories to share. I can't think of a single frog or toad in our yard since our days at El Rancho, but here in the North Woods one has to watch her step. Small and big critters are everywhere.

Both Alex and Max have pined for pet frogs, and admirably they have both refrained from keeping any. Whenever they have researched frogs as pets they have come to the same conclusion... frogs are unhappy as pets, they have many complex needs.

But... such a temptation! We could not resist the opportunity to recreate a safe and dear environment for our tiny friends, to keep them safe for one week, then release them unharmed at the end of our visit. Sophie made a juice bottle vivarium, and Max, Maria, and I made another. We dropped in some pebbles, covered it in earth, with some rooted plants, a twig, a stone, a leaf, and one toad for Sophie, and three for us. Why is it so appealing to create little worlds, to hold it in your hands and observe the activity up close?

We caught bugs for our friends. We kept them out of Addie-Cat's reach. And we spent the greater part of our visit talking to the toads, or about them, and watching them in their bottled forests. I know I have not lost my longing for other worlds, play places, a Wind in the Willows community of forest friends, and their cozy homes.

We walked to one of the lakes.

People, do you know? Not everyone can walk to a lake. We have a lot of natural wonders where we live, namely an Ocean! But lakes are something new. Something special. Laura and Gary carry their kayaks, or canoes to this spot, then slip in, and paddle away! How far? For how long? Do they fall in? Are there riptides, or jellyfish? I know the Pacific. I do not know lakes. I think they are mysterious, a bit deep. How deep? Goodness.

We should have planned to stay longer. We hope to return. I want to slip a kayak into the water, and paddle around.

Sophie did not have to work. Laura did, which was a bummer. Gary made it his job to feed us, and guide us, and feed us. How many different desserts did you bake, Gary? Gary and Sophie were wonderful guides and hosts, and even from afar, Laura made us feel very welcome.

We spent a good while here, where the lake narrowed into a creek, slipped under the dirt road, then gurgled onward, twisting and turning through the forest. Maria played Pooh Sticks here. And Pooh bark, and Pooh pinecones, and Pooh leaves! She conducted all kinds of experiments with floating stuff down the creek.

I called every excursion "a hike." My little joke. The mosquitoes in the woods were thick and thirsty, the ticks too. I wasn't too disappointed about our abbreviated hikes. Our main objective was visiting, passing time with family, so we were happy doing whatever.

Really happy. Enchanted with the soothing colors, the shade and dappled sunlight, bird calls.

Into the woods. Alex came prepared, for fun.

Ever seen a log splitter?

Not me! But when Geoff heard about Gary's, he could not wait to rev it up. Gary had two empty spaces he intends to fill with split logs for winter. He has one pile all ready. Geoff got busy, happy to make a start of filling the other two spaces.

Pure force driving the wedge through the wood, making a nice, clean split. The machine was loud. Geoff kept at it for a long time.

Well... long enough for one weekend this winter, when Laura and Gary can stay snug and warm in the North Woods. But for the whole winter? There's plenty of work left to be done!

Sophie and I remarked... Geoff was enjoying a lumberjack dream come true, and Gary got to enjoy someone else being the lumberjack!

So... I wonder how many days in winter we could manage to get away for another hike in the North Woods, time in Laura, Gary, and Sophie's company? Maria is more than happy about the idea of spending Christmas in the woods. Now, that would be magical!


Kim said...

The woods look lovely! We sure could use a log splitter. Joe does is all by hand! Enjoy the rest of your vacation.

judy in ky said...

I love hikes in the woods! I love the woods, so magical seeming. And the loons! I love hearing the loons. Sometimes we go to lakes in Michigan (up north, in my husband's Michigander language), and I listen for the loons' cry every evening. There is nothing like the call of a loon.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

When I saw how much would it takes to get snuggly through a winter... I understood what an indispensable tool a log splitter is. And it seems like a nice one to share, like a neighborhood log-splitting co-op. Joe is going to keep some strong arms!

The loons, their voices coming through the woods in the dusk... what a special experience!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

hahaha "Would"

I am pretty sure I meant to write "Wood"

judy in ky said...

Oh, I just extrapolated that you meant "how much it would take" not "how wood it would take"!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

I love you Judy! Anyone who can find right in my wrong, is a friend I need!

Now I have this stuck in my head:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck... ?