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Backroad Grace

 
A few gravel roads in the Minnesota Arrowhead end at the edge of the wilderness. Motorized travel simply stops. Magical places worth savoring appear. And the journey to them is an education in backroad grace.
 
One of the roads I use often is a former railroad from the logging heyday. It’s not much wider than a single lane to begin with, but it narrows even more in some parts. A grandmother pine shoulders one side and a greenstone boulder bottlenecks the thoroughfare on the other.

The Soul of Place

 
One can revisit the past quite pleasantly, as long as one does so expecting nearly every aspect of it to have changed.
Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov
A Gentleman in Moscow
 
I’ve had a nightmare every so often for a couple of decades. In it, the woodland surrounding our family cabin is ravaged by social development and becomes the poster child for urban sprawl. The nightmares started when my parents still owned the cabin. When they passed, I became owner for a short time, but now it’s no longer ours.

Funding the Future

 
A defensive lineman came knocking at the door. He asked for money. So I gave him some.
 
This enterprising young man introduced himself as an eighth-grade member of the Timberwolves high school football team. He explained they needed a new scoreboard and were seeking donations. From his strapping demeanor, I quickly surmised they’ve scored so many points over time that they burned out the last of their lightbulbs.
 
I liked the cut of his jib.

Wing Spread

 
All hell broke loose, webbed feet and wingtips scrambling across the water from the shoreline behind the lilies. The young hooded merganser rocketed out inches over the surface, then gained altitude as she fled the nest. The feathers of her comb quiffed back, she had the keys to the car and the radio cranked.
 
She and Del were singing little “Runaway” half way across the lake until she lowered her landing gear, cupped her wings and skidded gracefully to a stop. Her adolescent shape bobbed on the light chop.

Pockmarks in Plaster

 
I woke looking at my reflection in the microwave door. Normally, I see the alarm clock digits. But as re-entry from overnight cobwebs parted, I remembered the reason—kitchen project.
 
There’s no teacher like experience and I dip into that well frequently. I’ve done my share of home improvements throughout life, but could still use some work on my in-the-trenches technique. I do my homework and garner all the advice I can get. I try to listen with an open head and heart, and follow instructions to the letter.

Shedding Winter

 
 
The entire liquor store emptied into the parking lot, staff included—a sure sign of the coming spring. It ranks with the first sightings of robins, float planes and Harley-Davidsons.
 
The group gathered around the back of a pickup and its owner flopped down the tailgate to display the fruits of his labor.

The Winter Stall

Numerically, February is the shortest month. Psychologically, it slogs along like a benumbed lunkhead meandering through the calendar. February owns all of winter. We might as well X-off all other months capable of unrelenting snow and temperatures that make ice, and call every bit of it “February,” the 212-day month. Winter has stalled and there’s no end in sight.

Too Much in Common

 
Per capita, small-town residents know more fellow residents than city dwellers know their community members. While perspectives and political issues are conscious choices, by and large, a sense of community seeps into hearts and minds of small-town folk without decision or weighing the benefits. On the edge of the wilderness, it’s a subconscious necessity that just happens.
 
The principle extends to a variety of elements in life. For instance, it helps us regulate behaviors like road rage.

The Truth about Magic

 
 
I looked right through it. Beyond bedtime on a December 24th sometime within my first eight or so years of life, I caught them red-handed. My parents, grandparents and great-grandmother had taken over Santa’s responsibilities right there in the living room.
 
I had gone to bed but wasn’t sleeping even though I wanted to. Considerable holiday enthusiasm and experience had versed me in bedtime protocol: Santa’s arrival is quicker when sleep consumes the night.

Ravens' Hymnal

 
For the first time in a while, some deer walked near my stand when I was actually there. Seeing them was like a celebrity sighting. Somehow, we closed the gap between our distances in everyday life and I was close enough for a look. I never saw their bodies in-full all at once. But a few windows through the branches offered good views as they walked through. Little did they know I was there. Two does, nice size with healthy hides. If they were bucks, they wouldn’t have been legal. There was too much brush between us for shooting.
 
The snow keeps no secrets.
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