Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent in the Northland

Advent is meant to be a time of watching and waiting, and in the northland, it is.

The stillness of a frozen lake or a ski trail through the woods permeates our lives. Can you sense the deep silence of Clearwater Lake?

Snow muffles sound, but also this time of year feels like one in which all of nature is hunkering down, pulling into its roots.

Cross country skiing, snow showing, hiking--these are all meditative sports--one foot in front of the other--deepening life.

We see beautiful sunrises over the big lake (and the sun comes up so late you don't need to worry about sleeping through them!) Watching day come in reds and pinks...

Town is very problem getting parking places...or with the hype of a city before Christmas.

My daughter said to me yesterday that she was going to the Mall of America...and I found myself thinking...there could hardly be anything further from what we live in Advent in Grand Marais, than a mall before Christmas.

On this, the longest night of the year, the sun sets early and gives us another lovely painting of blood red good-byes, and the welcome of a deep, starry night.

I'm ready for Christ to be born anew this year.

Monday, November 29, 2010

First lovely snowfall...

The big storms of the season have been bringing us big waves and precipitation. Near the big lake where it's warmer, we often get rain, when up the hill and inland they have snow.

On Thanksgiving Eve, we had wind and real blizzard like conditions coming out of our church service up at Maple Hill. We could hardly see the road coming down the Gunflint Trail.....

And then near the big lake, it was rain.

Still, we can go up the hill for snow. Great snowshoeing on Thanksgiving, skiing, the day after and snowshoeing again the next day.

It's amazing to live in a place where seasons are so different and it's almost always possible to get out and be in the beautiful woods.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I have so much to be thankful for this year! Our little Episcopal church--Spirit of the Wilderness has been growing in a most wonderful way! We are not officially part of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. What a privilege to help guide this wonderful group! Here we at the little church where we meet at Maple Hill Cemetary.

I am constantly thankful for the opporunity to live near such beauty!.. Lake Superior is always changing--sometimes smooth as glass, sometimes crashing and roaring. This is the beach in front of WindCradle, looking west.

I'm thankful too for great memories from
Mother/Daughter trips last summer. What a
wonderful opportunity to taket people into the
BWCAW. In this picture, Stella and Mallory are learning to paddle on Missing Link Lake.
But of course the best gift is little Esme, my wonderful grand-daughter who has been living in Grand Marais (with her mother and father, of course.) I count it such a gift to be watching her grow, taking her paddling, teaching her to bake, allowing her to rescue me from frequent shark infestations in our living room (!).
Indeed I have much to be thankful for.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Learning from the animals...

"Is that a rock?" A first time Boundary Waters visitor pointed her paddle. "Or a moose?"
"A rock..." I squinted. "No it's moving. A moose!" We paddled closer as the large female buried her head in the lake, bringing up a mouthful of weeds. She looked at us and put her head under water again.
"Listen!" another paddler whispered. "There's another..." We listened to twigs breaking in the woods nearby. "Must be her little one," I said. "We should stay back; mother moose are very protective." For half an hour we watched the cow making a fine feast of the water plants, occasionally glancing at us. Several times she looked toward the woods where we could still hear her baby. Our canoe slowly drifted toward the trees where we could hear the little one. Suddenly the mother moose looked at us with alarm and clambered out the water into the woods.

That's when we heard the sound. It was a call like no other I'd ever heard--a cross between a moo, a trumpet and a groan. Her appeal to her little one carried all the longing and love in a mother's heart. Her desire--no, her desperation--to protect her baby echoed over the lake and shook us. We looked at each other as she called again, louder, more insistent: "where are you?"
As the mother moose called again, we heard twigs snapping from her baby moving toward her. We saw their profiled noses touch before they headed away from the lake, deeper into the woods.
That mama moose's cry resonated in me as I slept in my tent that night. Even now I can hear it. Longing, love, desire to protect--why did her voice haunt me?
And then I realized: that moose was voicing the longing that echoes through the universe. Her love is the warp on which our lives are woven. The cry, "Where are you my love?" Is the sound we desire and fear, year in, year out. Sometimes we try to dull our hearing with busy-ness, noise, consumerism. Or we're tempted by substitutes--movies make big bucks offering us cheap "happy ending" versions of love; glossy magazines promise us that this make up, that diet, this exercise program--will somehow make us worthy of that kind of love. But of course neither the "happily ever after version"offered by the movies nor all the make-overs in the world can prepare us for the intensity and strength of the love we heard in that moose's cry.
That cry is the call of the divine--"Where are you? I love you." We may "hear" it in many different places--the laughter of a grandchild, a sense of being "held" when life is tough, an encounter with a work of art, voices joined in songs of praise, the loving lean of a great dog, an amazing sunrise, or the joy of serving someone who is helpless.
The time I heard that call most clearly was in a pre-surgical ICU room. I was with a man and his wife who had been hurt by relgion and not gone to church for forty years. After we talked I asked If I could pray with them. He said, "How could I, when I've rejected God all these years? Just because I might die..." As we prayed, the sense of God's presence in that room was palpable: "Where are you? I love you," like the moose call. All three of us wept.
The cry we heard on Deer Lake is the voice of God. What I heard was an epiphany, a miracle, a heart to heart encounter. In all my expreince, it is this kind of connection that may change and touch us. After all Christian faith is not about God sending a proposition, a list of commands, or even a book our way; it is about an encounter with a person. No one I've ever know was converted through arguments. But I know many people who would say they've heard--somehow, somewhere--that voice of love, and that it still rings throught their lives.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What you can learn from a two year old.

1. Go paddling even if it's not the best of days... On Saturday
it was pretty foggy and cool but out we went on a moose hunt with little Esme saying, "Here Moosey, Moosey." Didn't see any moose but some otters playing on a memorable paddle.

Esme teaches me to go out expectantly, looking for life!

2. Dress up for rhubarb picking! Today somehow seemed to be a pink floofy dress day, so there we were wading through high grass, trying to find the over grown rhubarb patch...we were successful!
What an occasion, when you wear what you want to do some fairly outdoorsy things!

3. Take time to go and see and cuddle a puppy. Friends of ours have sled dog pups and we had to go see them and take time to cuddle and smell their puppy breath and pet their puppy tummies.
Esme is teaching me to live in now, to pay attention, to not rush from here to there.
I'm thankful for her two year old perspective!

Monday, April 26, 2010

What if I really believed in the love of God?

When we look deeply at our God images, we may begin to realize that they have been shaped at a very deep level--way deeper than we even are aware of--by the desire to manipulate of relgious or parental authority.

So it makes sense that we may struggle to believe that we are really loved--fully and unconditionally. It's much easier to scare someone who believes they're loved only if they are well behaved and sweet.

My book DOGSPELL: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO DOG is an exploration of that idea.

But in May we will be holding a retreat here at WindCradle to invite people to take time to explore their God images and then to push beyond to some more helpful ones. There are literally dozens of God metaphors in scripture that are seldom if ever used. And then there are those, like "dog" that might give us whole new ways of knowing ourselves in relation to the sacred.

What would I be like, what would the world be like
if we knew ourselves to be beloved?

Around WindCradle, Lucy sure shows lots of love to us, not to mention the way she and the cat express their love for each other.

But Lucy is not only loving; she pushes me to go on adventures. Every day those eyes force me to say, "Okay, okay, I will take you for a w-a-l-k, if you insist. And I'm always glad I did.

Lucy is open to new adventures herself. Last September I decided she was ready to become a canoe dog, like her predecessor Cluny. She did very well, sitting when she was meant to. Her only mistake was when she lept to her feet when a beaver thumped its tail to warn us off at a distance of about five feet.

If you would like to consider your god images and find some new ways of thinking of and relating to God, we have a retreat coming up--Dogged--Renewing our God Images--May 14-16th at WindCradle. Four footed friends are welcome! Check out our website.....

Thursday, April 22, 2010

First Paddle of the Season!!!!!

Sunday after church we went up the Gunflint Trail--that's not unusual--but this time, for the first time this season, we went up with a canoe on the car. It felt so good to have that canoe there, leading us into the adventures of the lakes and woods.

The weather was perfect, around 70 degrees, and of course there are no bugs yet because it's so early in the season.

The lakes were flat calm, and chilly. It would not have been a good idea to fall in!

We sat and had a picnic at a campsite on Gull lake and looked out over the water as Lucy ran down and threw herself in and chased squirrels.

Then we did a bit of hiking to wear her out. So that we could do what we most wanted to do: take the canoe off the car and put it into the water.

Lucy hopped into the boat and we headed out on Gull Lake. Sometimes I worry that this year I will have forgotten how to paddle...that it will be all gone, but as usual, it comes right back. The motion, the feeling of paddle in hand and water underneath, the almost unearthly silence......

Lucy (who only started canoeing late last season did very well) and we had a lovely time out on the water.

This first paddle of the season reminded me of how much I love being out on the water in these wild places. The reflection of sun from water onto trees and rocks, the soft motion of water.

I'm thankful that I get to go canoeing and introduce others to this great joy. Do check out WindCradle's website if you'd like to sign up for a canoe retreat this summer: I'm leading trips for families, for mother/daughter pairs, and for women.

A whole summer/fall worth of paddling beckons!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Away from WindCradle

I was fortunate to be away with some dear friends and their children for a week last week. North Carolina was looking good, flowers and trees out, etc.

Living in Grand Marais, I find being away from here odd: traffic, shoppping malls, passing people who I don't know--these are some things that surprise me.

But there are things I miss. Of course the big lake and light over the big lake is one.

Another is the sense of space, of vast tracts of forest and of lake that are empty, that simply ARE, without needing someone to look at them, check on them, monitor their progress.

I noticed that the night sky seemed strange--though it was clear there was so much ambient light that I could hardly see stars. I lost as I sometimes do, my sense of the phase of the moon.

The easy access to wild rivers is another thing. We went to a fine state park, but I realize I've gotten used to wild parks with roaring rivers.

What an amazing thing to be able to get to these places
in just a few minutes: I'm reminded that I want to keep up those daily hikes!

Finally, the slow process of watching spring emerge. To fly to another climate plunked me into spring/summer, which was a treat. But what deep joy in watching that emergence day by day, as familiar mosses, ferns, flowers begin to show up.

In many ways I think these differences in some way epitomize what it is to live in the great north--the slow process of spring, the paying attention to sky and plant, the joy of space, light, water.

It feels as if the deep silence of the north has sunk into my soul and lives there, bringing me peace and perspective as well as gratitude.

I guess that means I am at home.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The ice disappearing from the big lake

The lake has been so lovely the last few weeks,
with a layer of ice forming at night and then breaking up and drifting in. The ice sounds like a trillion tiny wind chimes as the water ripples through it and around it.
For the last week it hasn't frozen at night, so now the ice is gone. We walk the beach daily, picking up rocks and enjoying the warmth of the sun.
Lucy the dog thinks it's swim season and in she goes for one swim after another.

So much water and light; from pink in the morning to blue and back to pink at night.
Some ravens are nesting behind the house. We are watching them bring materials to the nest. We have the binocs in the bathroom so we can look out the window and see them at work. Their babies are very noisy, so we should be in for some fun.
I feel so thankful to live somewhere where we see so much beauty.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The glory of God: spotted in the woods and over the lake

We were staying in our guest house this last weekend because some folks were retreating in the main house. When we stay there, in that smaller space, it feels like a retreat for us too....since there's a limit to the number of chores we can do.
So instead we did lots of hiking in the afternoons. We went to one of our favorite Boundary Waters Lakes--Clearwater, and hiked across it, looking down at the beautiful palisades.

Then we hiked along the path to Caribou Rock, and looked east and west as the sun was sinking
low in the sky. The birds are just beginning to sing some springier songs, as if they are thinking that mating days are not far off. Afterwards we stopped at The Trail Center for supper and met some friends and had great conversation about the unepected joys in our lives.

On Saturday we went to another favorite area--Grand Portage. We hiked up Mt. Josephine which is quite a hike, up, up and up. The view is out over the big lake and you can see Isle Royale and the Suzy Islands in the glittering distance.
The Last Sunday of Epihpany the readings were about Christ's Transfiguration, I asked people where they had seen the glory of God. Some talked about the birth of a baby, others about times of experiencing the divine. Many of us talked about being out in nature.
So many wonderful opportunities to see and give thanks for the glory of God.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Colors of Winter

I used to think that winter was long because there was so little color in it. I realize now that it might have been because I was living in a city, where winter can be wearying because it seems to be characterized by slumping snow, dirty black or brown from sand, gravel, traffic. Little brown clumps of dog poop on sidewalks. Pavement where the snow has been cleared--all seems to be gray and brown on dirty white.
It's different living in the north. The sunrises and sunsets are often's one from an early morning this weekend, looking out over the big lake.
But when you start to pay attention, there is color everywhere--it's just subtle. These rocks are part of a cliff from a hike up Kimball Creek--about a mile away from us. I love how they echo the colors of the sky over Superior.

And then when I collect twigs for my crafting of frames and baskets, the colors are lovely--red osier dogwood, willow of various colors, birch.

Why didn't I see the colors of winter before?
It helps to be able to see so much sky, and to be able to hike through river canyons, to have twig shrubs growing everywhere.
I guess I must have been blind to these colors before--I find myself wondering whether I perhaps was so busy looking at the piles of dirty snow that I couldn't see the colors around me.
No longer! I'm loving all the colors of winter, though they are often softer than the colors of
summer. And I'm bringing them in--for frames and here for a room divider we've been needing.
All the colors of the rainbow...blessings in the winter months.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Great fun for a great cause!

A number of wonderful musicians donated their time and talents last night for our Haiti they are playing and singing! Lots of great eating, conversation and dancing.

I loved the way the children danced and played in the middle of the scene...made me think "how great to raise kids in the middle of this kind of community!"

Dancing and a wood burning stove kept us toasty throughout the evening. Young and old, differently abled--with a wheel chair and crutches out on the floor--agile and less so....a great time was had by all!

We don't know yet how much money we took in for Haiti, but we're thinking this kind of evening may become a regular part of our "ministry" here--bringing the community together to kick up their heels for a good cause.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dancing in the north woods!

Next Monday our little chuch is hosting a party to raise funds for Haitian relief. Funds will go to Episcopal Relief and Development and Habitat for Humanity.
A number of local musicians have dontated their time and talents to play and sing. Just the time of year to kick up our heels!

This party will be different from some......we're inviting folks to dig out those fancy clothes they have tucked away from times when they were mother of the bride or bridesmaid, the tux they never get to wear in the north woods. Plus mukluks of course--the latest in formal footwear...
Great music and hotdishes shared, for a good cause. A true northwoods occasion!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Color inside and out

Last weekend we had a "Peace Fibres" retreat
here at WindCradle. It was wonderful to work together--creating fiber art like needle felting and string work as we shared our lives. Bright colors--of fabrics crafted all over the world; hunks of roving and yarn and spirals of embroidery thread:These spread out on the banisters, the floor, the table.

We ate and chatted and danced and shared--all the while going deeper. Some participants were old friends, others we'd never met before. But by the end of the weekend we knew each other well, and could see that no matter what our exteriors, we each sported bright inner colors.

Color throughout the house. Colorful lives shared.

Like the sky outside, bright pinks and reds, reflected on the lake....color everywhere if we stop to see it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

That darn lake!

Of course, one hates to complain about Lake
Superior, this beautiful sea on our doorstep. But she has this habit of moderating all our temperatures!

People sometimes ask if we have air conditioning here at WindCradle and we laugh! "Yes, and her name is Lake Superior." In the summer it's never hot with all that cool water right there.

But in the winter it's almost never super cold either. Often people will say when they hear I live north, "It must be ten or twenty degrees colder up there than here in the cities." But it's not. Most mornings it's warmer because of the big lake.

Take this morning for example: it's twenty degrees (just heard it on the radio) in the Twin Cities, but here it's 35. That means we're getting rain and they're getting snow.

Yesterday we drove out of the rain up the Gunflint Trail five miles to our little church on Maple Hill. We found ourselves in a major winter storm with blowing and drifting snow. We drove back down toward the lake into rain.

This is a problem? you may ask. Well it is if you like snow, and I do. If you pictured yourself in the drama of blizzards, it's a disappointment.

When I was a girl growing up in Western Washington State, we'd sometimes get snow and it would be so exciting and then the wind would turn and I'd wake up in the night to the sound of a Chinook wind, blowing warm air and turning our snow to slush.

Lake Superior is so big and so lovely and so moderating. Maybe it's about time for me to accept her moderating influence, to not need the drama of blizzards. At least I can drive ten minutes to fine snow...

Maybe that's a gift of aging: we can lose our need for drama, and enjoy moderation and everyday beauty around us.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hidden Places

The North Shore has many hidden places--deep caverns dug by rivers running from the higher places down to Lake Superior. Many of them are really only accessible in the winter, when the ice freezes and snow covers. I'd never been on the Onion River before last Thursday, when we went with some friends. Karen led the way, and Ellen (the reason for these great pix) brought up the photographic rear.

The walls of these caverns reach high above our heads; small frozen waterfalls come out of rock faces. The colors are subtle but beautiful, reds, browns in the rocks; the ice ranging from smokey colored to bluish green.

Perhaps because we can only hike these places in winter, or because they are invisible from the road or even from the Superior Hiking Trail--or maybe because they are so deep and mysterious--they seem like lovely mystery tucked away. So much of our spiritual life is like that--mystery hidden that we encounter from time to time and can only relish for a short time. Ephemeral is the word for something fleeting--as spring blossoms, fall color on trees, and hikes on rivers in canyons.