Where We Are (Minnesota Lakes)

When I wrote last, I think the world felt a bit like the calm right after an orchestra has tuned and has lifted their bows, and now we are in a full-on crescendo. Everything has gotten louder. We feel a collective anxiety and uncertainty like never before, and by moment I wonder if I have too many thoughts or too few, if I am not taking this seriously enough or am taking it too seriously.


Several weeks ago, we were in northern Newfoundland on vacation, feeling the last sense of freedom, and simultaneously trying to figure out where to return to. After many discussions with our families and fellow travelers, we decided to return not to NYC, but to Minnesota, where there is space to walk outside. Walker's family picked us up from the airport, and have welcomed us since unwaveringly. We have walked the trails here every morning and evening since, and every day I knight a new season: Rising Green in the Forest, Fern Spread, Lake Ice Melt, The Passing of the Geese.


Many people have inquired after us, hearing the news of New York. Every morning, I watch the numbers and watch videos of New Yorkers clapping out their windows for health care heroes and I simultaneously long to be with them, and feel grateful for where I am.


Life's uncertainly has led to so many questions, that I have had to stop asking entirely: How long will we be here? When will this end? When will kids return to school? Will I keep my job with schools closed? And each time a question's vibrato holds, I have to let it go. I don't know. But here is what I know:

Each morning, we wake at 6:45, pull on layers and watch the winter melt on our walks along the lake a five minute walk from here. Some mornings the leaves are coated with a thin, crisp layer of frost and they are lifted for a break under our feet. Some mornings we hear woodpeckers. This morning, a crow's call right above us stopped us for two minutes: it sounded like running water. The lake's ice falls around the edge more each day, and a slow green rise is coming in the forest. We find a deer tail quivering behind a stead of trees. We watch worms wriggling. I stop in fear of a rafter of turkeys ahead on the trail. And in the evenings, sometimes we hear low over the whole lake the questions of an owl.


This morning, a deer 15 meters away looked into my eyes and did not blink. Chickadees flitted around our heads, singing in the morning, silver droplets around us. And with every walk, the words of Wendell Berry's poem "The Peace of Wild Things" hold me: 


". . . I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief."


Being in a place and feeling nature move around me that is not controlled by us, watching the ducks sputter up and then seamlessly skim over the just melted lakes, feeling the air part as a hawk's talons skid out in front as it lands above us in the tall telephone-pole-straight pines: this is my great gift right now. This and the welcome of family who never questioned us staying and have let us take over their kitchen and laundry and bikes and life as if it is normal.


I'm off today because of a temporary furlough, schools being closed and all. And in it, I am holding each glint of sunlight, each lit underbelly of geese flying over, each bud pressing to open (I have only seen one that has made it through bark). Nature does not solve everything, but it is soothing my soul right now. And the extra time with this photographer isn't hurting either.


The birds are waking earlier with the sun, I've noticed in just a few week's time, and yet they welcome us every morning without fail.


The water's color is gray before storms, and bright blue when the evening sky lightens just before sunset. These gradations, variations and subtleties seem like such changes, and each one I celebrate for what it is: 


another thing that comes without a human wish or push.


All photos taken in Vadnais-Sucker Lake Regional Park (which we walk to morning and evening) and Tamarack Nature Center.