Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Big Flakes, Fat Flakes

Big flakes,
Fat flakes.

With just two days left of autumn the skies have become filled with snow. There isn't any accumulation of this moment but that it will occur is certain. Winter is pulling the blanket up over the land and all but us few creatures of winter are busily getting ready for extended naps or are packing their bags for the trip south.

Just last night I was at Camp Ihduhapi for a sauna with Tom, Johnny and Phil. We commented on the way back that all of us were hungry, and had been more hungry as the days shortened and our bodies naturally desired to store fat for the winter.

With Halloween just two days away I am reminded that this is the traditional time of death. The cycle of life comes to a close on the night of Halloween and winter is upon us. This time of year is often a time of reflection and a time to grieve and mourn a death or perhaps celebrate a life that has has now ended. How fitting it is this time of year the Paul Wellstone died. If someone had asked me how his death would have affected me I don't think I would have had any clue. It has been a profound experience making me think about life, liberalism, justice, and making a difference in the world.

Everyone I know here in Minnesota, and even people I know elsewhere in the world, are really taking some time to think about life and what they are doing in the wake of Wellstone's death. There were about 20,000 people who showed up at Memorial service last night and almost every station simulcast the entire 3+ hour event. It only caught bits and pieces but it was incredibly moving.

While saunaing last night Johnny asked us what we were leaving behind, what we wanted to shed and let go of. It was a marvelous question. I was thinking about something that had popped into my head. Wellstone liked to quote Gandhi who said, "Become the change you want to see in the world." I'd heard this before but it somehow has more meaning to me at this particular time. It banged around in my head for a while and came back out in a different form. Today I'm thinking:

The only way to become the person you seek to be;
is to become the person you seek to be.

I will endeavor to do just that.

As soon as the snows of winter come, they soon go as well. Perhaps we will not be blanketed by snow. As I gaze out the windows I see it has stopped. Everything in nature is cyclical. I know it will return.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Autumn is hiking and pumpkins

I have sometime here since I finished up my lunch very early today. I haven’t written anything down for a while. The world outside is in constant change and I am forever enthralled by the play before my eyes. Autumn is trying to keep it’s feeble grip on Minnesota but Winter is beating it’s chest up North and making motions to invade.

I’m still working out at Warner Nature Center and last week we walked across the soon to be official St. Croix Greenway Corridor. Approximately 5 miles of land from the St. Croix river in the East to Warner Nature Center in the west has been protected as a Wildlife corridor. The land includes Warner, Wilder Forest, Boy Scouts Kiwanis Camp, William O’Brien family land and a few other minor pieces of property. As far as we know we were the first to walk the whole corridor in recent history. It was beautiful and really gave us an appreciation of how large it is. Warner is much larger than I had previously thought.

I saw changing leaves of oak and maple. I saw deer rubbings on buckthorn, ate lunch on a hillside next to miniature oaks. We walked through native prairie of little blue stem and ate a snack next to a large monocrop field of corn that will next year be restored back to prairie.

Outside now, the peak of color is over. The browns and dull yellows dominate and the frosts we’ve had are making even the still green buckthorn droop and wither. The sky is blue. I’ll have to remember that in the Winter when a gray wash colors the sky and hides even the location of the sun.

I leave in a few hours to teach the first of six weeks of after school nature classes to kids. I’ve already started two other schools this week. This one is the last. The topic for today is Pumpkins, fruit or vegetable? We take out the carving knives and discover that they are indeed fruits. There’s something special about finishing the circle around the stem and then trying to pry the top off. It doesn’t usually want to give in so easy. It finally pulls off to reveal the sometimes delicate, sometimes chaotic design inside. I love sticking my hands in to the goo. It is wet, slightly slimy, and almost always cold. I’ve been storing the pumpkins in the van outside so the insides are very cold.

The seeds slip between your fingers and elude your grasp. The strands that hold them in place collapse into slimy strands and simply slide away as you grasp in vain. Out comes the spoon. Cutting and scraping, the slimy insides fall into a lump in the center and are scooped easily out. The transformation is fascinating. One minute the inside is spider-web-like and slimy. The next moment it is cool, smooth and clean. It is like a shave job on a demon. It suddenly looks respectable. It suddenly looks ready to receive a gift placed inside.

Soon a face or design is carved.

Soon a candle is placed inside.

Soon it is Halloween.

Soon the growing world goes to slumber.