As we neared the firing of the cannon marking the end of summer, discontent bubbled up inside me like a witch’s brew in a red hot cauldron, threatening to boil over at any moment. With school set to resume tomorrow, our usual quota for adventure was woefully short. We completely failed to camp together as a family this season, which is shocking, but even daily excursions were remarkably few and far between. This is owing to my bum legs (on the mend since April), and the addition of my new growing space, which has a way of sucking out all remaining oxygen (of course wildfires and smoke didn’t help either). The new space currently looks like this, and will remain unfinished for the next 6 weeks, I hope, while we wait for our new windows (one of many pandemic-related shortages).
But, who really cares how we got to this sad state of affairs. In the theme of last year’s Do What You Can, I’m pleased to trumpet three victories that all transpired on each of these three days of Labor Day weekend. Sometimes we just need to run out of time to make things happen. The result of this major success is that I go to sleep this evening feeling satisfied in the present, rather than stewing over failures of the past. What an unexpected turnaround!
- My mom had nearly evaporated from my kid’s consciousness. No joke, Emma off-handedly mentioned to Shawna that she couldn’t remember what Grandma looked like. It had been somewhere between 2 and 4 years since our last meetup. Rather than point fingers or feel bad, we finally arranged to meet her for lunch and a little diddle around time afterward in Chippewa Falls (a bit over half the distance between us at the moment). The only photograph I have to memorialize this victorious moment is this shot of some longhorn cattle at the Irvine Park and Zoo (I can’t even believe how awesome this park is, by the way)…
Most of our quality time was spent inside a rather expensive restaurant (two hours in a quiet back room) on a rainy day. It was delightful! Twas possibly the most enjoyable lunch I’ve ever had. I’m so pleased we stopped overthinking the situation, and sat down together for a meal. In situations like this, it’s worth paying extra for a high-quality experience. Conversation was easy in the quiet space, service was rather slow (delightfully compatible with our need to linger inside from the rain), and we escaped the crowds congregating in the handful of more affordable options.
2. Shawna’s output had diminished significantly since the start of the pandemic, but that’s all behind us now. Joey and I were beyond ecstatic to deliver her newest paintings to Siivis Gallery in Canal Park. Some of these will be shipped up to their sister store in Grand Marais, Sivertson Gallery. She attempted to get into these places some years back without success, but they reached out to her a few months ago. It was amazing to finally see this goal materialize:
After delivering the art, me and Joey headed out to Park Point, where the long line of cars queued up to cross the bridge was reminiscent of refugees fleeing an invasion. A hard rain drove every soul from the beach, so we had the place to ourselves. This spot is only a handful of miles from our house, but can you believe we failed to visit this special place all summer long???? Cresting the rise, en route to several miles of gorgeous beach, my breath was immediately taken away.
We sat on a log together and read for a while, and finally took a stroll. 45 minutes of this peaceful goodness made me thirst for more.
3. My discontent over the complete lack of adventure still not satiated, we had one final day to make things right. We needed a last minute easy button, so I laid out $100 to rent a couple kayaks for a 12.5 mile paddle of the Brule River. Having the outfitter take care of the logistics was priceless. Our experience couldn’t have been more perfect. This was exactly what my kids needed, after facing more boredom than usual this summer as the project carried on. They needed a challenge that was slightly beyond their current skill set, as did I. Several difficult rapids, a distance requiring 5+ hours of focused work, and much more, fit the bill perfectly, not to mention the fact that a continuous paddle is perfect physicality for a guy enduring leg problems that have ceased virtually all hiking and running.
The river is festooned with character, with historic cabins (100 – 120 years old) around several bends, such as this quaint cottage on an island where President Coolidge once lodged and fished. By the way, Presidents Grant, Grover, Hoover, and Eisenhower have also visited the Brule…
Emma was particularly smitten by the history, and I’m so darn happy she chose to join us. It was originally going to be just me and Joey, but she hopped into the car at the last minute. The girl handled every challenging rapids like a boss while leading us downstream. I now have two capable adventure buddies!
Though we’ve endured a terrible drought, the river flowed strong with clean, crisp, cold water. This is an incredible trout stream. Back to the dozen or so rapids we hurled ourselves down, they were exhilarating! A challenge a bit beyond all of our comfort zones, they were exactly what we all needed. The kayaks were terribly forgiving of the occasional rock while flexing, rather than pitching violently as a canoe would have done. I’m just so happy we were able to plunk down a Benjamin Franklin and drive 40 minutes east to transform the conclusion of summer into a happy occasion.
It’s never too late to do the things you’ve failed to accomplish. Who cares how you got here. Just take steps toward a resolution. Each of these victories were rather simple, but to us they were simply marvelous. Stop thinking yourself to death, and get out there and do something!