Friday, May 21, 2021

Life between the lakes, part 48



As I’ve written about before, the geese and ducks have settled on the north shore of the lake.  It is obviously hard to tell them apart but I’ve come to know a few families. by their habits.

One thing that is always consistent is that the fathers are always eating while the mothers guide the flock (do all the work.) Much like life itself.

Tonight this multifamily flock invaded the yard. I was surprised they let me get so close to them because usually they bolt when I open the door.

Of course, geese are messy.  While we are trying to be sympathetic to the new families, we don’t want goose shit all over or to let them feel too comfortable in the yard.

But I feel for them.  One family started out with six babies and now there are only four.

Of the three families present, I counted 14 chicks with one of them, five with the other and a three with the last.

You can be pro-nature all you want and tell me hunting is evil but it is survival of the fittest out here.

Yesterday an eagle circled and did a slow dive between the cedars. It barely landed and in one swift motion left with one of the chicks in its talons without consulting me. 

This morning he came back and took a red squirrel in the same fashion around the same time and for some strange reason, it didn't impact me as much.

Survival is as survival does.

Life between the lakes, part 47



Special Covid Pneumonia edition.

My health reprieve ten days ago was short lived, so now I am into round three of steroids to try and knock this out of my system. I have not required hospitalization but neither has it been an enjoyable ride. I am worlds better than I was a week ago. Special thanks to Aunt Carla for trips to the pharmacy, doing my laundry and being “on the ready” in every way.

Finding inspiration to write has been hard because I have been so fatigued, but my groove came back today after looking out the window and realized there are spots that remain untouched by a human footprint within walking distance of where I sleep.

A few weeks ago Jack and Needa, Jack led us off-road and on an adventure up the North Country Trail. He took us to a trail that runs along the scenic bluffs of Lake Superior. It is here we found the white pine I now call Big Betty.

Big Betty is the last of the great white pines from the Deer Park logging era. She did not feel the saw, she lived many more years until she reached the inevitable breaking point. She is all that remains of the old growth.

The circumference of Big Betty at the base is 20 feet (240 inches) the chest high circumference is 18 feet (216 inches) so based on those numbers, I have determined this tree was approximately 330-400 years old, dating its origin to the mid-1600s or earlier. 

Let that sink in.

The forest remains abundant with the newer growth trees (100-150 years) but the reason I find this tree fascinating is that for some unknown reason it was spared and possibly served as a beacon or landmark since its proximity was so close to the Deer Park Life Saving Station.

As is often the case with the hounds, our walk turned into a fun and unexpected adventure and lesson in history.

"What I would do for wisdom!" I cried out as a young man.

Evidently not much. Or so it seems.

Even on walks I follow the dog. -Jim Harrison

Life between the lakes, part 46



Life between the Lakes, part 45

Pneumonia has been kicking my ass but when I woke up today, it was the first time I felt I could kick back. Today, my breathing is the best it has been in weeks. More oxygen in the brain never hurts. So naturally, I wanted to venture out.

Leaving my writing fortress is hard. Leaving Jack and Needa is harder.

After our chilly afternoon walk I made the dogs a chicken dinner they will not soon forget. While Jack slept it off, Needa knew I had other plans and we vamoosed westbound to Grand Marais after leaving Jack a peanut butter sandwich he would discover later.

The road was smooth and scenic. When we reached Grand Marais and settled into the Lake Superior Brewing Company, I ordered a beer and a pizza and it wasn’t long before a mother and grandmother and child started asking questions about Needa.

Since we were leaving at the same time, I invited them to say hello to her through the open window. We talked about her racing career and how soft she felt to the touch.  The family said thank you and left.

We watched the family walk away. Needa's eyes squinted as they left her view. The little girl continued to wave goodbye and Needa's eyes followed her until she was gone.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Life between the lakes, Part 45, special edition


The last couple of weeks have been tough. First there was my bout of bronchitis that slowed me down considerably. After a week of treatment, I felt better but not cured. Then I found myself making the trip to the clinic again and returning with a new diagnosis; Pneumonia, which knocked me out of the writing game for the better part of the week . This time I came home armed with new steroids, antibiotics and inhalers to combat it.

I'm not gonna croak, so there is no need to make a fuss.

Taking care of Jack and Needa is my immediate priority each day. While some days I would prefer to sleep past 5AM and skip our daily 2 miles, it has not been possible. They have adjusted well since moving into the wilderness and we have not missed our daily walks in five months.

Deer Park provides a beautiful backdrop for our walks and plenty of fresh air for my dogs. But they do not get the same socialization as they had in Royal Oak.

Needa especially craves attention. She will stop and turn around when she hears a car a half mile down the road, hoping someone is coming to see her. She did the same with snowmobiles this winter.

When I lived in Royal Oak, people always stopped me in the street to ask me about my greys.

“Got a minute?” they’d ask.

“I’ve got all day,” I’d reply and invite them out of their car to come and meet my lovelies.

Even in Deer Park, strangers continue to marvel at their beauty and temperament. If they get out to pet them nearly every person has commented on how Needa is the softest dog they’ve ever touched.

People usually ask about their racing careers and speed. In their prime, they’d race 550 yards (five and a half football fields) in about 31 seconds.

Let that sink in.

Jack and Needa are always anxious to see Aunt Carla when she’s outside and we are returning from a walk or when we meet in the breezeway that connects the living quarters.

I can count on one hand the number of visitors I’ve had since the move and it’s hard for me not to feel guilty. While this change of lifestyle has brought so much to me, it has also taken something away from my dogs.

Needa turns 12 today and Jack is 18 months ahead of her, going on 14 this fall. I’ve taken them on some journeys during our life together, sometimes out of my comfort zone. But they have adapted well as long as we were together.

There are few things I love more than the sight and feel of tired dogs in a room after a walk and a satisfying meal. Tonight I sat down to read and Needa assumed the greyhound “roach pose;” lying on her back, four legs fully extended in different directions with her soft white belly exposed. I rubbed it for about five minutes and could hear her low grumble of bliss, signifying happiness and comfort.

She doesn’t know it is her birthday or why I make so much fuss over her. If you are a dog owner and a friend of mine, you already know that treating everyday like a special day is something that comes easily.

These days she eats less and walks a little slower. But I’ve never felt such adoration from any of my dogs as I have with Needa. She remains the silly yet elegant lady of the house while a less refined Tiger Jack Burke rides on her coat tails of sweetness and beauty.

"What I would do for wisdom!" I cried out as a young man.

Evidently not much. Or so it seems.

Even on walks I follow the dog.”

-Jim Harrison