It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. Afternoon, yesterday, I was talking to my grandparents on the phone (my grandpa was playing secretary and making fake beeping noises for connections) and my grandma reminded me as much. She is one of my most devoted blog readers. In fact, possibly the only one. And I like the idea that, hundreds of miles away, my lovely grandmother Maxine can read my stories, so I’m writing an update, just for her.
Also – a couple nights ago, I had this delightful night with Niko, and our friends Kyle, Angela, and Chad, and we participated in all kind of diverting activities. The one that is causing me to bring this up at all, however, is that we played “Telestrations,” known in my circles usually as “telephone pictionary,” and my very odd rapid-fire marker sketches provoked Niko to say that I should illustrate my blog. I thought of that again just now and just because I think he is the most incredible person, really, I’m going to draw some pictures for this post and dedicate them to him. And I will give myself a strict 60 seconds to complete each one.
So this post is for my grandma, and for Niko. Two key people in my life who are really pretty different from one another.
About a week ago we had one of those spring days that always happen in the Midwest and always surprise us anyway – you know the one, where it goes from forty degrees to eighty in twenty-four hours. Everybody raced outside. I wore shorts to work. It was amazing. And it manifested itself finally in a thick blue-black thunderstorm that Niko and I watched from the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River (and we did NOT get electrocuted and I DID sort of slightly crack my sunroof by sitting on it.) Otherwise though, it’s still been gray and cold but not cold enough for snow so everything is just brown, brown, brown.
Still, I’ve been exploring new parts of Minnesota.
In this diagram you can see that parts of Minnesota (it’s a map of Minnesota, I hope you can tell) are red and parts are blue. The parts that are red are the parts I’d been to at least once prior to March 1, 2015. The ones in blue are the ones I’ve traveled to for the first time since then. So I’ve been adding. And you can also see that I desperately need to visit that upper northwest corner. Unfortunately I think it might be all oil drilling and mining up there. Or else it’s frozen tundra. Probably some neat birds anyway.
So March 15-17, I went up to Ely, MN, and the International Wolf Center, with work, actually. The Zoo’s annual “Wild Wolf EdVenture.” I was the leader-in-training. We went on hikes, flew in a tiny four-seater plane (I saw two wolves from up there, and came THIS CLOSE to puking – I do not do well with tight circles in tiny aircrafts), watched a large gray wolf run across the road right in front of our van, drank beers in a very small bar (once off-duty, of course), watched the rescued wolves at the Center tear happily into some road kill, and went dogsledding on frozen White Iron Lake.
Dogsledding is WAY harder than I anticipated. My partner and I also had some things working against us, like:
1) The snow had all melted on the trails, so we had to sled on the lake instead, and ice is much faster than snow;
2) The “brake” which is a hinged bit of sled with spikes on the bottom, works well on snow but is almost completely non-effective on sheer ice;
3) Our team of dogs had not learned any of the commands yet.
Within about thirty seconds, my partner had fallen off the sled, although the word “fallen” is almost too passive. I’ve been describing it to people by saying it was like a scene in an astronaut movie where one of the unlucky minor astronaut characters gets sucked out of the spaceship and is just GONE, immediately and with a blur of flailing limbs. That’s what it was like. And I was alone on the sled, unable to stop it or slow it down, and Charlotte and Acorn and their buddies I’ve forgotten the names were just running with sheer joy, until we finally hit a thick patch of snow on the far lakeshore. My fearless sled buddy walked all the way over and got back on and an hour later she was saying, “I can’t hold on anymore, I’m going to let go,” and I was calling, “Don’t let go! Don’t let go!” and then she got sucked out of the spaceship again.
Super exciting. A little bit nervewracking. But the sun was out that day, the sky was incredibly blue, and White Iron Lake was speckled with islands thick with dark green spruce and pine. It was beautiful.
The other little blue stuff I just added in the past 36 hours. I went on a scouting mission to southwest Minnesota, which is all tallgrass prairie and farmlands that were once tallgrass prairie (mostly the latter.) Kind of an eerily empty place. An owl flew by my face, I saw a bald eagle crouched over some kind of carcass in a field, and I hiked around pinky-red Sioux Quartzite cliffs whose height seemed even more dramatic given the flatness surrounding them. First time in South Dakota too, what what!
Liz’s tips for a successful spring:
- Take time to re-waterproof your boots
- Even if you normally are sort of bored by birds (like me), this is really genuinely a great time to see a lot of sweet migrating species, so you might want to pay a little bit of attention. I saw SO many birds this weekend, many of which I feel like I have literally never seen before
- Drink some Oberon because it’s back, batches!
- Take some new people to one of your favorite places and use it as an excuse to make yourself articulate exactly what’s so special about it
Let me know how your springs are going. Bon voyage!