The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Low Adventures—Trekking Superior Hiking Trail Part 4—Cold as Hell on Split Rock Loop

Low Adventures—Trekking Superior Hiking Trail
Part 4—Cold as Hell on Split Rock Loop
By Tim Krenz

Sometimes it takes a rude, crude endurance of a conquerable challenge to learn lessons. By learning through sheer survival of something bitter, we should hope to gain experience and knowledge of how to do something, and do it better next time. In the trip to the Superior Hiking Trail in late April 2003, I learned the value of proper preparation for the weather, and never to take a few degrees of latitude and a radically different geography for granted.

When Craig and I connected to travel together on Interstate 35 to the northern touristy wilds of the state, we had sunny weather and mid eighties in degrees of temperature, and I had come from home in Osceola, Wisconsin, out of a promising spring and a very beautiful clime. As a result, I packed some layers of clothing on me and in my bag, but light layers. “Pack layers as they work to keep you warm,” I heard somewhere. I did so because I did not want to carry heavy stuff. When we left the fast food place in North Branch, Minnesota to begin our weekend journey, I took one of the free tree saplings in a plastic bag, in order to properly celebrate a beautiful, temperate, and warm Arbor Day weekend.

A couple hours later when we stopped at the visitor's center overlooking Duluth, Minnesota, we got out of the car under gloomy, overcast skies, sparkled with some rain drops. As the hard wind came off Lake Superior and barreled up the harbor into the hills, I realized, to my horror, that I would freeze myself senseless in that peculiar lake-effect weather. I made the greenhorn mistake camping the north shore: I packed the wrong clothing.

North of Duluth, the skies did brighten, a little, as we drove into Gooseberry Falls State Park. Once parked, Craig fiddled in the visitor's and interpretive center while I sat outside scribbling in a new journal. Craig had brought me a partly used, orange, hard cover forestry notebook for me to log the journal of these infamous low adventures. I wrote my first entry in the book, “my fate of harm from nature or a heart attack rest with god. May he bless all these trips herein described.” With that dedication, Craig and I put our packs on our backs and off we walked.

Up the Gooseberry River in short order, we crossed under the highway bridge and up and around to the building by the highway we walked past the year before. The rustic and boarded-up stone and timber park building, built by a Depression-era conservation corps, looked even more dilapidated and forlorn than when we saw it last. Yet it looked more holy as a relic, a temple to an age long past, when the scale of things seem to have had a more noble, defined, and simpler character. The sight made me wonder if modernity does not actually see or even understand, if seen, the heritage of which history gives us a sense of going from whence we came. Perhaps I wondered a little to oddly, overtly reflective, and too philosophically, a useless question. Yet it seems more pertinent now to ponder such things than 15 years ago from when I write this memoir.

We walked for two hours, with some breaks, including one when I had to put my feet up to relieve chest pains from a horrible gas reflux attack. At least I did not have that feared coronary in the first hour of walking. The trail north that day from Gooseberry Falls did not, surprisingly, go up every damned hill. It followed some of the flat ground, too. We would find this phenomenon an aberration of the trail over the years. Over the course of trekking that day, I saw my first bear paw prints. It freaked me out seeing them smudged in the water-filled mud holes. Craig tried to ease my mind by telling me that they looked like just rather large and mis-formed deer tracks. “Bolshevik!” I thought.

We arrived at Blueberry Hill campsite a little after 2 p.m. Once done with the warmth of walking, I put on every scant of clothing I could find in my gear. Craig and I did the usual camp chores, and we put up my new Eureka two-person tent, which Craig had picked up for me in the Twin Cities. White, gray and dark green; roomy, spacious; with a good three-sided rain fly; and a front door vestibule; I liked my new purchase right away.

After the chores, Craig made a pot of coffee, drawing our water from the stream that ran next to our campsite. We did not do much the rest of the afternoon. I read George Orwell's novel, Burmese Days, and he puttered with a book that looked uninteresting to me. Craig re-hydrated a stew he made and dried with a machine at his home. It introduced to me a flavorful spice he discovered in the Peace Corps during his stay Kenya. Called Mchuze Mix, the spice made the stew edible.

The temperature dropped after early sundown with inclining worry to me. The coffee we kept making kept me warmed, and also kept me using nature's facilities too frequently. We putzed with a fire until 8 p.m., and then settled into the crowded tent. I slept horribly. The temperature dropped into the thirties, and I only had a foam pad and sleeping bag, a combination which did not keep me in a cocoon of warmth but rather in a frigid shake. Even though I wore all my clothing, including a light, threadbare nylon pullover windbreaker, I lost most of my body heat to the cold ground. I spent the night chilly, shivering, and determined to get a better air-filled, self-inflating ground mat for future trips.

We got out of bed at 6 a.m. Coffee, cold pre-cooked bacon and hard-boiled eggs from home made up breakfast. I shivered that morning sitting on a hewed log, wrapped in my sleeping bag, shivering to berate the devil of cold out of me like some dog left out in snowstorm. When packed up, and before we left Blueberry Hill campsite, I planted my little Arbor Day tree, near the latrine next to the campsite. Craig took photos. He also made some disparaging comments, although not an unusual occurrence of his. We left the camp at 8 a.m. and moved onward with the cold low adventure.

On that day's six hour walk, we came to an overlook from which we could see the big lake almost one miles away. We noticed some kayakers through the binoculars, small looking due to the distance and the huge enormity of the lake behind them. Kayaking on Lake Superior on a cold April morning seemed extreme in a way, but with the sun now out, a cold calm, and no waves on the lake, those kayakers seemed to have no cares. I respected that freedom. They must have prepared for their high adventure better than I prepared for mine.

At a little creek that ran downhill into the Split Rock River, Craig took out his fishing rod from a p.v.c. pipe attached to his pack. He assembled it, with a spinning reel, and he proceeded to cast into the creek. I read Orwell, which I found an intriguing book, like all of Orwell's less widely read books. About a policeman in Burma with a disfigurement, trying to make his way to social respectability and into a marriage with a society girl, Orwell captured the futility of opposing fate. It reflected Craig's futility to catch fish. When we moved onward, I signed as a guest in a spiral notebook left in a covered wooden box on a pole. Once in while on the S.H.T. we would see those, and as a rule, we always signed some name, real or pseudonymous. A few steps later we entered Split Rock River State Park.

The walk took us westward along the south shore of Split Rock River. The going got rather treacherous, when the trail crawled along the cliff sides of rock with mud and dirty water streaming down them. At one point, we held the rock with our hands above our head, facing the cliff as we scooted along a narrow board walk. On a flat stretch, we got passed by a German man with a light pack and two ski poles to guide his speedy trot. This guy, who we gave the trail name of “Gunther,” had only two more short sections of trail before he completed the entire course of it. He chided me for my walking stick, a piece of wood painted half black and half red, which I had once used as a Halloween prop. Gunther did not think much of my “light saber.” Even so, we stood in awe of him when we saw him walking opposite us back toward the lake on the north side of the river. His fitness shamed Craig and I. Then again, we both vowed to never, ever use damn ski poles as they would make us look almost too fit and in shape, and far too touristy and trendy. On the other hand, I never brought the light saber on another trek along the trail.

We came to the first campsite on the Split Rock Loop. Stuck in some copse of cedar trees, it provided no sun light. Craig insisted, however, that we move to the site upriver, next to the footbridge, because the ice along the shore looked unstable. We would have had to stand on the ice to draw water. Craig thought it unsafe. After six hours of walking already, I protested with “frankness.” Nevertheless, I followed Craig, while I cussed and swore with frankness, another half mile to the last campsite upriver, which fortunately had plenty of sun. The footbridge, which replaced one washed out further downstream, looked rather sideways but serviceable for crossing.

We pitched my new tent over pine boughs that some idiot(s) had cut from trees to give their tent ground insulation. While we both felt upset at someone or some people having cut down the branches in high impact camping, we used the available ground cover nonetheless. The boughs would at least provide me some insulation from the cold ground while sleeping. Again, after camp chores, I put on every stitch of thin clothing, and for the rest of the day while I read the rest of Orwell's Burmese Days, I tried very hard to stay in the sunshine on a cold damn day in northern Minnesota. Craig made some re-hydrated ghoulash on his rickety, unreliable camp stove. He flavored it with some sort of dull and zany tomato paste. It tasted very bland; rather awful,in fact. I did not eat much that night. Now cold,, tired and hungry, I went to the tent around 10 p.m. after dithering over a fire, a couple of hours after Craig turned into bed. With a better sleeping arrangement, including putting my empty pack under my legs for insulation, I slept better.

We woke early again, 6:30 a.m. Our breakfast consisted only of that vilely crap-i-licioius form of “camp coffee,” as we planned to stop for burgers and pies outside of Two Harbors, MN. We would eat a hearty lunch after Jen, Anya, and Liz picked us up at Split Rock Lighthouse to bring us to Craig's little green truck at Gooseberry Falls. Craig and I crossed the bridge by the site for the final leg, and we made our way along the north side of the Split Rock River, heading east toward the big lake. We rested mid-way in a storm shelter, a wooden lean-to building on top of a hill, from where we could clearly see the big lake to the southeast.

By the time we drove into the restaurant parking lot, I started to feel warmer after three days of dry, twitching cold. I did not prepare myself to endure, but I did endure nonetheless. When I arrived back in Osceola at my apartment later that afternoon, we still had the weather I left behind on Friday—mid eighty degrees, sunny, warm, and summerish pleasant. I took an hour-long hot, hot shower which started to thaw the very cold bones deep in my body. Beginning with that trip to the Split Rock Loop, I always brought a little extra clothing and sleeping gear, just in case nature did not do as I expected.

Sub Terra Vita #49: My Own Time Out for Christmas

My Own Time Out for Christmas
By Tim Krenz

For those who like the holidays, we all remember some Christmases more often and with better, warmer thoughts than others. Christmas some years means more to us than at other times, and the highs and lows usually reflect our relationships with family. I can recall some things about Christmas time in my youth, and I take those times to the present, very pleasant thought how more understanding I become with years of living.

At the time too young to remember, as I heard in the story, my mother bought my father a very stylish, brown leather overcoat one year for Christmas. And in another time I do remember, I got a severe disciplining on one Christmas Eve for misbehaving before we left for church. The next year, because I taunted my everyone over my “time out” the year before, I received another of those archaic “disciplinings.” Disciplining these days has a different approach than since the early 1970s. Now, and since a long time past, kids get that “time out” in a different way, but I learned to behaved better growing up and did not get that style of “time out”too often.

My immediate family celebrated our own Christmas Eves, with the big dinners, gifts and games the rest of the evening until time for midnight Mass. On Christmas Day, we spent the afternoons and evenings at my aunt and uncle's house across the St. Croix River from Osceola, Wisconsin, at their big house in Scandia, Minnesota. All the aunts, uncles, cousins, and pets on my mom's side of the family would gather for a night of feasting and fun and presents.

Christmas holidays bring their memories, and even the small things of a child's life can transform a person to such feats of stardom and greatness, and plainly become joy, sung like odes of a symphonic chorale finale.

My father always worked from early afternoons until late evenings at his life-long job at a factory in St. Paul, Minnesota. He slept until late mornings and did not arrive home well-after 1 a.m. I rarely saw him growing up, except on the weekends, but he sometimes worked then, too. He almost always took a few vacation days around Christmas and New Year's, but the rest of the year he never had time to do much. Father just worked and he did that very well to give us a steady living.

In fourth grade at Osceola Elementary School, my class did a Christmas play, which aside from this story has its other legendary elements. For our play called “Time Out for Christmas,” I co-starred opposite my classmate, Greta. I played a Teddy Bear and she played a Rag Doll. Paul, my best friend then and to this day, played some kind of time on the holiday calendar. I also remember my friends playing “Tick” and “Tock,” in a secular story about toys at Christmas. I do not remember much else about the actual plot of the play but neither does it matter. I surprise myself that I remember that much of it, almost 40 years later.

On the day we had our big afternoon performance for the entire school and for parents and teachers in the elementary auditorium, we also had a special morning performance in our small classroom, part practice for the big show, part performance for those who could not attend in the afternoon.

We had the sets out, the props ready, the costumes on, and everything else ready to go in the room. Outside the classroom, we waited for show time. When that time came, we entered the room of our little “theater in the square.”

In front row I immediately saw my Mom and my Dad. Dad smiled his big grin right at me when I noticed him, completely surprised. He wore his white collared work shirt and black tie under his very stylish brown leather overcoat. He had woke early that day, readied for work, and did it all so he could come to my school play!

I believe our cast and crew performed well that day. That did not matter so much. My father would later come to one of my freshman football games in high school with my mom, and of course they came to my high school graduation. Still, that first time attending something meant the most. I do get it, now, all of it, in fact. My biggest ever “Time Out for Christmas” absolutely rang out all odes for joy. And still, today, after he gave it to me after graduation, I sometimes wear that old, very stylish, brown leather overcoat.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The “Whitch” Face By Pi Kielty (Posthumously)

The “Whitch” Face
By Pi Kielty (Posthumously)
Found: 2017, Box 4, folder iii
Released: September 29, 2017

Patti and her busty friend, Cindy, pulled into the parking a little before ten o'clock. The bright blue and red fluorescent signs along the top of the building and above the front door illuminated the dark night in this brightly lit, small suburban downtown.
From behind the steering wheel, Cindy began opening the door latch, but Patti interrupted and said, “Just a minute.” Patti pulled down the sun visor and the yellow light around the mirror illuminated on her beautiful round face, accenting the small, well-shaped nose in the shadow, and those famous amber and green eyes. Those eyes, one of which looked more green, the other looking more amber, would change their tether on men in certain light as the pupils grew larger or smaller, depending on the light and the dark of the mood in a room. Patti turned to look at both sides of her face, and checked the green face and skin make up on and behind her right-sized, perfect ears, and up the arms of her sleeves.
Drawing her brownish curly hair on either side of her face below the rim of her pointed black hat, she put the passenger's sun visor up, grabbed her broom from the backseat, and then said, “You sure this looks okay?”
“Don't worry,” Cindy told her. “You look great. I can't even tell its you.”
“Then, it's show time,” Patti said.
“All right!” Cindy said, getting excited for her confident friend and co-worker to meet some guys, finally, after the breakup last summer. “Got my car keys in the pocket, I.D., cash. Let's do it, girl! Let's rock this party!”
In a knotted frilly white shirt, and her short, short cut offs and high heels, Cindy led Patti by the hand to the door, where they waited in line for other Halloween revelers for the bouncer to check their age and collect a cover. When they arrived at the register inside the door, the bouncer with slicked hair and wearing overalls and straw gave them THE smile. “Looking good, ladies,” he said. “I need to check your I.D.'s, though, since I haven't seen you here before.”
He looked at the driver's licenses under the lamp resting on the counter. “Then again, I can't really tell if its you behind the green makeup, but it looks okay to me.” He took the $10 bills each held out, and gave them each a stamp on the wrist, but the stamp would not hold over the green skin paint on Patti's hands. The bouncer did not notice, nor would he care. “Have a fun night, ladies.”
“Thank you,” they both said in unison, and in unison they walked through the double door into the main bar.
The sound of the thumping beat and the tricky tempo of the hopping words of the dance mix overwhelmed a sense, like feeling the air vibrate bangs in of sound. The dance club, gone spooky orange and black retro in décor for the night, all made it seem something else than real. Almost everyone wore diverse costume. The tweezing laser orange strobes zipping and dancing in golden, prismatic pinpoints on the smoke and dust in the room, gave the atmosphere appropriate homage to the hallowed night, its festive celebratory eve of the dead. The alcohol made it a party.
To the far corner of the club, along the black painted wall with orange crepe paper streaming from the high ceiling, Cindy pointed and yelled to Patti who could barely hear her, “There they are!”
Two men, both in normal clothes of jeans and T-shirts, the kind that looked unused and unreal—too unreal, but even less true—stood looking at the dance pit immediately below them. Cindy made her high-heeled strut and Patti followed carrying her broom through the crowd, some of that crowd a group dressed like pirates, three dressed as a sheikh with two harem girls in silk and goldish brocade, and others interesting in their imaginative costumes.
The girls arrived at the high table with two empty chairs waiting for them in the otherwise standing room club. When Cindy stopped her Duke mosey, she flicked her long and straight brown hair off her shoulders, gave one of the men a big smile, a hug, and a long-smootch. Patti held her broom, her long black wicked witch cape swayed as she half turned to look at the dancers jumping and bumping in the pit.
When Cindy and her new boyfriend stopped their welcome dance, Cindy turned around and grabbed Patti by the broom and pulled her over. Yelling above the D.J. Mix, she told the man, “This is my friend from work I told you about!”
The boyfriend said, loudly so she could hear, “I'm Randy! Pleased to meet you! This tall fella is Mike!”
“Hi!” Patti said waving. “I'm Patti!”
Mike drew nearer, his face close to Patti. “Hi! What's your name?! You have to speak up! I have trouble hearing!” He pointed to the left side of his head.
“Nice to meet you, Patti!” He almost had to shout now anyway, even despite his injured hearing. Patti could very well see the scar and burn on the side of his face next to his left ear. “What do you do, Patti?”
“For work? I'm a dental hygienist.”
“Oh!” Mike replied. “Is Cindy a hygienist, too?! Randy said you and she work together?!”
“Well, I work on teeth! Keeping them clean and all! Cindy works as the receptionist!”
“Oh, now I get it!” Mike said. Patti's eyes caught a beam of the bright spot light that the stage hand in the catwalk above the dance floor began to shine around the pit. Her green face glistened from the moisture of the paint on her skin. The brownish, fair hair looked blonder as its curls framed her rounded cheeks. And the paint on her chin began to crack from the talking.
“Nice venue! For a Halloween party!” She told it to Mike as she looked at Cindy motioning for her to follow. “We'll be back! Looks like we're going to get something to drink! Need anything!”
Mike held up his beer and said, “No, I'm good! Let me buy you the first one!”
“No, please! I got this! You can buy the second!” With that, Patti smiled, and the green paint on her chin cracked more, and her dimples popped out.
With a vodka sour on ice in her hand, Patti and Mike restarted the conversation, trying to talk and hear each other above the boom pumping the throbbing dancers in the pit.
“How did you hurt your hearing?!”
“A car accident a couple of years ago!”
“Oh, I'm really sorry to heat that!”
“It's okay! No one died!” he said, shrugging his shoulders. Just then, Patti realized he focused on her eyes as the amber in the one eye changed its shape. “I just got used to it! How old are you!”
“Twenty-four!” She answered. “How old are you?!”
“Twenty-five in December!”
“Oooo, birthday boy coming up!”
“Yeah!” he said, with an awful shucksey smile.
“What do you do for a job?” Patti asked, lowering her head, but still looking up at the tall Mike, as she sipped some of her vodka sour through a straw.
“Software engineer!”
“Nice! What does Randy do again?!” Patti asked, turning her head to see Randy and Cindy sitting on the high stools at the tall table against the wall.
“He's an electrical designer! He and I grew up together!”
“Where are you guys originally from?!” Patti wondered.
Mike told her. And as the conversation progressed Patti learned more about Mike, where he now rents an apartment with Randy, what he drives, where Mike and Randy went to school.
Just as the conversation needed to change topics, Cindy came up, grabbed Patti by the forearm of her flowing black witch dress, and said, “Girl friend, let's go!” Patti looked back at Mike, handing him her half finished drink, and Cindy pulled both of them through the throng of people. The next continuous mix over the over-thundering sound system began to play its rapping, hoppering undergroove tune.
On the dance floor, Patti's black polyester costume unfurled lightly, the rolls of the cuffs and the tail of the train and cape flopped lightly with her moves around the fulcrum of her broom. Patti and Cindy swooned their bodies and hustled their ware, and the crowd swarmed in directions all around them. Too many people to see them clearly when they reached the center of the pit, Mike and Randy tried watching the girls and check out the goods, but the indefinity of wall mirrors on two sides of the floor made the dancers multiply. Then the fog machine started, and the colored stage lights flashed in red, blue and yellow, and Patti and Cindy found themselves near a man dancing with two women. He moved up to his new partners, and the new group of five—all costumed—gave the one man among them his feeling good and great grinning smile.
Cindy stepped on a small stage in the corner, up high and in the apex reflection of the corner connecting mirrors. She started a shaft dance on the pole in the middle of the stage. Her hot thighs below the cutoff shorts wrapping and warping themselves on the cold chrome. The one man dancer, dressed like a pimperneller in silvery framed sun glasses, elevator shoes and a leopard skin hat, left the other three woman to join her. One more minute later, he pulled gently on Patti's broom below him and she took the large step up on the dance stage. Now a group of three, after a minute Patti used her broom to sweep herself off the stage, making it through the dancers and up out of the pit to the corner table with Mike and Randy.
Back at the table, sweating, the green face and skin paint held good. “Oh, my god, she's crazy!” Patti said, laughing while looking at Cindy still dancing on the stage with the man. “That's why I love her so!”
When she turned her head to see if the guys had heard her, she saw that Randy and Mike looked unhappy, stern, and rather too serious for the fun. Too real, but untrue at once. It looked like more than any jealousy with Randy. It looked more like anger with Mike. Patti's amber in the eyes flared, turning the one less green, and the other much stronger in color, the way her father's eyes used to light up when he felt a change in mood.
“What's up guys?!” Patti said, grabbing her glass of vodka sour from the table. “She's just having fun!”
“Having fun, sure, but with the wrong color guy!” Mike said.
Patti looked wide with those amber and green tinted eyes. “Huh?! Oh, nothing to worry about. They're only dancing and having a silly moment!”
Patti looked back at the dance stage, and Cindy had disappeared, but the pimperneller guy now danced with the two other women, still on the stage, doing moves, doing grooves, now into a different club song, a hot, sawing beat, but in the rampaging mood of Halloween death disco industrial. Then Cindy showed up beside her, which startled Patti. Cindy had sweat all over face, and perspiration on her tied white blouse. Her brown hair, no longer kempt, had strands in her eyes, and cross strands around it from whipping her head and body around the pole. Patti grabbed Cindy and led her into the ladies restroom. Randy and Mike looked at each other, each with indignant scowls and raised eyebrows.
After a half hour since their disappearance, having looked around the club, Randy sent a woman he vaguely knew into the ladies restroom, once he described the two girls. The woman exited with a broom and a pointed, black witch hat. “No one else in there right now!” she said.
Later, at her apartment, Patti walked out of the bathroom following her shower, wearing her university sweatshirt she used as pajamas. All the green face and skin paint washed off completely, and with a towel wrapped around her curly brownish hair, she sat down on the chair at her vanity and looked at herself in the mirror, sweetly with confidence and with her usual pride. She no longer kept a picture of her ex-boyfriend anywhere. He had run off with another girl over the summer, a rich girl whose parents lived on the rich lake, and who had a sailboat, and a speedboat.. She did not hate him, but neither would she lament his passing from her life full of future promises.

To her left, in front of the vanity mirror, she admired the framed anniversary photo of her parents. They still looked young, healthy as ever, and had the happy loving look between them they had until her father's tragic death. Patti had his eyes, the amber in the one, the green predominate in the other. His cheeks and brow she shared, too, but with her own soft and feminine trim, but the dimples, nose, and the chin belonged to her mother. She never, ever wondered in her life what the “wrong color” meant. Patti looked at her face, her skin a perfect silkiness like her mom still had, from years of care and the good genes of her family. Her father's color, different, and strong, with confidence, and his pride, she shared slightly more. She felt still closer to him three years after his accident.

The Low Adventures: Trekking Superior Hiking Trail Part 3: Into the Naked Forest

The Low Adventures: Trekking Superior Hiking Trail
Part 3: Into the Naked Forest
By Tim Krenz
September 21, 2017

While trail maps without much detail as to topography do not outright lie, they do have a certain deception. They do not, though, deceive as badly as a guide book. A trail map in a guide book, well that comes between a half truth and a very good sales pitch.

For our next trip to the Superior Hiking Trail, one of the low adventures of Mueller and Krenz backpacking, we did not use the highly detailed, glossy maps Craig would later purchase for future trips. We had not even “upgraded” to the small flip book of maps we would use the next year, either. I use the word upgraded very cautiously, because as we found out, the flip books provided no better than the blurry, information-deprived maps out of a guide book. At least for this trip, Craig bought a newer version of the guidebook, which updated our information by almost a decade from that used in the first, uncertain trip a few months earlier, in June, 2002.

For this trip, we used just those maps photocopied out of the newer book. As I might add, the photocopies did not reproduce that well. Hence, we had very little detail on which to navigate while we hiked. As a backup plan for this and all future trips, we quickly reaffirmed the hikers golden trail rule: STAY ON THE TRAIL! It proved a good rule, until a winter camping trip over a year later, but generally the rule held for most of our trips on the Superior Hiking Trail. We stayed, invariably, on the trail.

We took our trip this time in October, very late in the month, on a raining day with chilling air. As I remember, vividly by their absence, the leaves mostly had fallen to the ground along the north shore of Minnesota. Those few remaining leaves turning a decaying drab of colors mostly brownish, and the wet ones on the ground sounding loud as we sloshed on them, we stepped out of the vehicle into a leafless woods. That drizzling, chilly afternoon, as my father celebrated his 69th birthday with our family back home, Craig and I grabbed our packs from the bed of the green little pickup truck, put the packs over our shoulders, fastened and tightened the straps, and headed into the naked forest.

Leaving the Caribou Creek parking lot, heading up the trail northeastward, we literally headed “up the trail.” For the first mile of the hike, we walked, painfully for out of shape guys, and always uphill. Again, the mild deception of fuzzy photocopied maps did not abate the sheer self-deception of our high ambitions. Instead of a book or map seduction via a- “We can do this easy-squeazy”-delusion, the experience highlighted our self-deception. The exuberant enthusiasm of a greenhorn backpacker will not contribute to the trail hiking savvy except by experience.

Craig and I did not foresee at that point on our trail quest that the Superior Hiking Trail creators followed one golden rule before all others for weekend camp poets like me: The trail must always try and go uphill and otherwise follow the path of most resistance. They who made the trail, we believed, hated flat, easily walked ground. If the trail could avoid easy, less punishing paths in favor of a steep challenges or a rigorous detours, the trail almost always followed the harder ways.

After the first mile “straight uphill,” we followed the next mile and a little more on a slight incline until we arrived at Crystal Creek Campsite. Since it still rained when we arrived, Craig and I established our camp quickly. I filtered water at the creek through a clogged, hand-held camp pump which Craig brought with us, and Craig pitched his large, and heavy, four man blue tent, which slept two with gear inside it rather comfortably.

As the first noticeable thing at almost every developed and maintained campsite, the latrine forms a vital part of the site's wilderness architecture. Taken together with the fact that when needed, in an emergency situation, checking out the latrine becomes an inevitable duty when setting up camp. In daylight, on the lower side of the hill (downhill!) of the tent pad, the latrine at Crystal Creek looked all the more typical of the campsites we found on the Superior Hiking Trail. Made of a hardened fiberglass conical shape sitting on its wider end, hopefully with some form of cover over it to keep critters from going inside the seat-less rim, the platform base of the cylinder just sat over a hole in the ground, a hole into which no one wants the latrine contraption to fall while sitting. Without moderate cover or natural camouflage to hide the user from view, this latrine used a fence of plank boards to provide some common privacy to the modest camper. Still, with a purposed-built latrine, one did not have to hang out in the woods, over a downed tree limb using tricky acrobatic formulae to stay balanced.

Further along the main trail from the campsite, crossing the direction we would continue the next day, ran the Crystal Creek, flowing down the hill. Down some steps, fifteen feet below, the creek ran through a large mini-gorge, the rocks and crystalline formations overhanging the water course as it streamed. Just below the campsite, we saw the remnants of some type of copper mine.

And still on the main trail beyond our camp, crossing over the creek, Craig and I marveled at a true and ambitious piece of wilderness architectural design and construction. We saw a long, narrow, wooden, covered footbridge—with open sides waist-high and up, railings, and a peaked roof of shingles (wood shakes, I recall, but without certainty).

“You know, Tim,” Craig the civil engineer observed to me, while we stood in the misting drizzle, “people had to carry all of those materials out here, over the trail, by hand or by some type of cart. I can't see how even a four-wheeler [A.T.V.] could have managed what we just walked through.”

I thought Craig's comment most astute.

“Plus,” he continued, “no power tools—built it by hand. They might have pre-cut the beams and boards, or had to carry a generator and fuel with them, too. Either way, that's impressive.”

A covered, old-fashioned colonial-looking footbridge gave both the forest and the creek some semblance of civilized esteem in the rather somber, brownish and gray woods. It looked at once out of place, but rather appropriate, even dignified, there over the creek.

As far as I can recall, we never again saw such a humbly-sized, well-shaped and -crafted structure quite like it on any of the trips backpacking the trail. Whoever built it amazed me, and their hard work would impress anyone. Someone built it, whether the committed trail volunteers who maintained the paths, or the civic group who did the project for some reason unknown.

All this time, the rain continued to drizzle. I looked into my mini-binoculars through the bare topped trees down the valley to the east, toward the big lake, Superior, which I could see in glimmering mirrored reflections of its gray waters on this dreary, wet, cold day. Craig used his cell phone to call his wife, to check in, let her know we made it, and to ensure that she would pick us up in two days. Jen, Anya, and Craig's engineering co-worker, Liz, planned to hotel hop around the north shore for the next day and night, and to meet us on Sunday, somewhere around late-morning.

A memorable part of the day came when Jen told Craig, who repeated it so I could hear, that the U.S. Senator, who promised to serve only two terms, died in an accident while campaigning for his third term. It shocked us, and as I lived and voted in Wisconsin, I felt somewhat neutral about the guy's politics. Like any pointless death on the earth, the god keeps his own appointments for us, regardless of our politics.

Since it continued to rain, and the rain increased its pace, Craig and I retreated to the tent as it began to grow dark. The view of the lake to the east disappeared into the mist of now falling sky water. It felt like time for the comforts of my new synthetic fiber-filled sleeping bag, for some supper of re-hydrated freeze-dried meals, and to relax with the copy of the novel Amerika!, by Franz Kafka, that I brought to read for this trip.

Underneath the tent's opened rain fly and vestibule, outside the unzipped front door of the tent, Craig boiled water on a gas stove, one that he would replace by the time of our spring trip. When the water roiled and pulled itself up the sides of the aluminum cook-kit pot, he poured the scalding water into his Mexican tortilla meal and into some sort of Cantonese shrimp meal for me. These bags of warm, slowly growing pieces of salty veggies and meat, along with some snacks of venison jerky and chocolate, served as our supper for the evening.

Since I could not eat all of my dinner, I found it too bland and salty, Craig suggested I dispose of it in the latrine—a campsite “no-no” of putting anything but human waste in the pit. Outside, walking briefly in the rain by flashlight, I threw the remaining contents of the aluminum foil bag into the latrine, and put the bag in the garbage bag inside the tent vestibule. Unusually for us, compared to our later trips, we did not secure the food and the other “smellies” (like toothpaste, deodorant, even cook kits, etc.) into a bag hung from a rope thrown over a high and convenient tree branch. We had no consciousness of any bears in our early low adventures. Later, due to some of the freaky signs we did see on some trips, we henceforth always secured the food and the “smellies” on a “bear rope.”

At some point, Craig fell asleep, reading by candlelight some book. I read Kafka by flashlight, and I fell asleep much later, probably near mid-night. I slept pretty fitfully, but my trip notes say I had a dream of some cross of the movies Damnation Alley and The Planet of the Apes. Even now, it sounds like a good story, but I do not remember how it went.

The next morning, we woke, boiled water for instant oatmeal, packed up and headed up the trail at 9:30 AM for a six mile hike to the next site at Dyer's Creek at Two Island River. On that morning and all afternoon, it sleeted its half snow and half rain off and on again and again, and before we stopped for a lingering lunch of hot soup and coffee, the sky turned into a menacing cloud covered gray. We crossed rugged country, at the tops of steep cliffs, over one-plank footwalks across really large marshlands and bogs, and by the very beautiful Alfred's pond, at which we rested and I meditated. We arrived at the camp at 2:30 PM. While we set up camp like before, Craig found a camper's thermometer hanging by a string on a broken tree branch. He used it quite often on later trips, and that day later in the afternoon it read thirty degrees, Fahrenheit, and it dropped from there as night crept over us.

We played with a stubborn fire, getting us just warm enough after two hours so we could eat the re-hydrated stew Craig concocted at home and heated on his rapidly failing gas stove. And then needing to let it die due to the cold and rain, we let fire go out and went to our tent. had a thin foam pad, and not just ground upon which I needed to sleep. I did not realize then that I needed to upgrade that pad into something more comfortable. Still, though, it got damn cold, and I felt damn cold sleeping. Craig commented before he fell asleep that it could get colder if the low clouds did not linger to rain and sleet on us. Soon, I would buy a proper camping self-inflating sleeping pad, but I did not learn that lesson good enough that night.

The next day, we backpacked with lighter packs the last, easy 1.1 miles to the next parking lot. I did a cold shave and washed up where we sat by the road, at the entrance to the treeline that partially concealed the dirt parking lot in the middle of nowhere, in northeastern Minnesota. Jen, Anya and Liz drove up, and they gave Craig a ride to the mini-pick-up truck at Caribou River while I sat against a fence post and watched the gear.

I sat alone, reading Kafka. Then, I heard a heavy banging noise in the lot. It sounded like a piece of metal on a hinge, like a garbage dumpster would sound, swinging on a hinge and banging. Just then, Craig drove toward me on the dirt gravel road along the grassy, treeless clearing stretch separating one side of the forest from the other. When Craig stopped, I put the gear into the truck bed and hopped in the passenger seat. Craig pulled into the lot to turn around. I saw a small dumpster, opened, while the lot looked otherwise empty.

“Huh,” I said to myself. I never did try to explain the mystery that made that noise.

Sub Terra Vita #48: Autumn Introspect

Sub Terra Vita #48
For NormalcyMag
Volume 1, Number 3
September 18, 2017

Autumn Introspect

Autumn! I LOVE the fall, the twilight season to mark either a good year passing or the bad one about to finish. A new start to begin soon, but not before newer cool air comes in season. We see colors change in the tree leaves, far too quickly to appreciate them fully in their blazenings of reds, oranges, yellows. Those bizarrely beautiful combinations stun all.. The god paints on his canvas in Autumn. Yet, we never have patience in our crowded time of living to meditate on falling leaves, after the colors. At least not with as much patience as they deserve.

Falling leaves do not necessarily mean death or premonitions of death. Only a wrong appearance of death floats to the ground, as all but a very few trees continue living. Trees remain. Like life's burdens or things we collect, leaves fall from limbs because the living no longer need them. Whether deep pains or material things that we can shed like old skin, trees release their leaves in the windy cares of the world. And similar to the wisdoms we learned, leaves regenerate into the soil of the earth, and the leaves help nourish newer and fuller life. Leaves mulch and help growth for all other things, as well as the trees themselves. Even in the fall, as in other seasons, the essence of the trees remain and grow stronger. Like aging trees, even unto us, the added rings of age become as towering majestic statues of time. Oh, these mortal rings and coiled years! Let trees grow old, and we, too, but in strength not fragility.

For these things, I enjoy the Autumn. Fall, our last true breath of mild, warmer air until the vernals of the spring's release. But between fall and the spring, we have winter. Enjoy our autumns as we shall for winter brings cold light and chilling heaviness. Yet, even winter only lasts a short while. Fall! With the harvest of the earth, with a bounty of fun, with celebration, and with festival, we can make truly great times in Autumn. With some part of a lament, Time as the adjunct of our own space always lives, but ever forward. New times do come. Yet, we live to recapture the good ones in our new living season. Never, ever waste it. We can never make more time.

As from a mirror clearly, I see myself today. I can remember autumns of other years, and if I keep my life real today, I can keep my past real to me tomorrow, and despite a few remnants of sadness, I can carry mostly joys forward with me. But I remember, truly, one great memory of fall. One happy memory. I live it over in dreams sometimes, that memory about a game of playground football, a long time ago. . . .

Unforgetful in Autumn's Fields

Like all youth, I came from the impatient generation, growing up in Osceola. From kindergarten through sixth grade, my classmates and I started and finished elementary school in the same building where it remains today. I remember some of the notable highlights, besides learning the basics of the order, orthodoxy, and rigidity of society and our society's underwhelming expectations of young people, like then like now.

Of these various memories of youth, I remember one autumn day, in 4th or 5th grade, when my classmates and I dared to fly afield from the limits of school during recess, and we adventured to the “Holy Land,” to play a pick-up game on the practice field of the high school football team. In our eagerness, our impatience to break new frontiers, we tried the patience of Mrs. W., the playground supervisor. The usual attraction of the fast kid “lipping” off the slow kid, and the slow kid, never quite able to catch the fast kid, had failed in its luster. We had bored ourselves, with our playground surroundings—the pavement, the swings and slides, the monkey bars, and the sick-go-round, early enough in the school year. I felt that limits, boredom, and rules sickened my sense of purpose. I do not remember who said it, but someone suggested, “Hey, let's go up the hill to play football.” Time for fun.

The varsity football practice field, on the plateau of the Eighth Avenue hill, where Oak Court street now paves the Olympus of the gridiron titans, sat beyond our playground limits, south of our school, almost halfway to the high school and famous Oakey Park, down the other side of the hill. Of course, since we enjoyed only a short recess, we ran like Olympian sprinters up the “wagon path” between the forests of oaks and maples beginning their run to winter with the fall-bleeding of summer in orangish, yellow-red and brown-drab leaves, and past the rows of evergreen trees, quite young and new. We knew, but not really, that we broke the rules of school.

At the top of the slope, I remember my awe on that obscure dirt-flown grass turf. On the western side of the field, beyond the blocking sleds, stood tall the wooden monolith, the goalpost made from round timbers—two tall posts, with a cross post halfway to their top. We must have chosen teams of 5 or 6 boys apiece. And as most normally happened, I probably got picked last. We could only have played for 5 or no more than 10 minutes, and I don't remember if either team scored, before faintly hearing the recall bell. I remember running as a group, down the slope on that wide path between the trees. I do not remember if we ran there for recess again, but I do think we found ourselves in a little trouble.

Because it no longer exist, except in lore, like the games of Olympus, I dare call it a “forgotten field,” a secret of Osceola's “small values” past, quite unrequited a place in the history of the village. It became nothing more than a former football practice field, and later a playground, covered with houses in the change of time. But somethings do change, good and bad, even the triumphant spirit of impatience.

My classmates and I did something, far beyond the risks of punishment then. We exceeded our own limits of courage, in a way, something not done and not condoned in today's world, and for very good reasons no longer allowed to mischievous, though innocent kids. As I think now, of then, I smile at our defiance, our quest to adventure, to exceed just a little, the limits placed by order, orthodoxy, and rigidity. In 1980, or thereabouts, we could. We lived, we merry miscreants, we gang of rebels, to win our time, on lost playing fields of Osceola.  

Review of: Dyer, Gwynne. Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats

Review of: Dyer, Gwynne. Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats. Oxford, England: OneWorld Publications, 2010.

In this book with a dire sounding title, long-time political and military essayist, Gwynne Dyer, discusses an aspect of climate change that has not receive due attention in popular debate. In accepting the fact of climate change as near-certain, and second, assuming humanity's responsibility for future environmental catastrophes, Dyer examines the political-military conflicts that global warming could produce in the world if humanity cannot stop or reverse climate change.

Loosely using what the strategic political industry might call “assumption-based planning,” in providing a narrative of hypothetical examples Dyer does not quite provide anything beyond a popular, not a scholarly, history of the future yet to happen. Definitely not a Tom Clancy thriller, and far short of a well-written and studied analysis, Dyer misses some of the important points that would otherwise support his appeal to a thoughtful and serious crowd. That missing crowd in the debate both believes in climate change and wants political and personalized solutions, to implement ideas, that work to stop or reverse global warming, if at all possible.

The book, Climate Wars, falls between two audiences. Furthermore, it confuses somewhat, as a lack of starkly clear reference points do not allow readers in some parts to distinguish whether the author's supporting evidence exists as facts or hypotheticals in those sections of the book that has future history as its intent.

Beyond the incredible needs for anaylsis on the political-military struggles of the subject, Dyer sometimes swings a huge ax at people's incredible blindness of how the politics in the international arena will change if a hot and dry world started wars to feed or safeguard their nations. The ax often misses its target more than it hits. What he could have accomplished with this direct and needed approach in Climate Wars, Dyer did once succeed doing over thirty years ago with a work at the height of the Cold War, when he wrote of the need for nuclear weapons disarmament.

Climate Wars, in the other view, does merit some word for the essentials of the matter, and in this regard it receives an honorable mention. Again, accepting a reality of climate change (or global warming, if one prefers that term), and humanity's responsibility for it, climate change poses a severe challenge to human behavior and the national interests of every country on earth. If readers suspend all doubts of the grand argument, then the future of the world has a hot, dry, and difficult time providing enough available food and fresh water for the size of the projected future populations.

If true, climate change portends a civilizational breakdown, and near collapse heading to partial extinction, if the extreme projections become reality. Short of the extreme, a somewhat milder prognosis for climate change would also result in a complete collapse in democracy and the idea of natural rights, giving way to more authoritarian governments. This would create a completely separate, and smaller, portion of “haves” in the ruling class using the “have nots” in the underclass to support them.

As asserted here, if one believes in a future of climate change, the scenarios predicted by Dyer's several examples culminate in possible extreme geographic changes, refugee migrations, mass starvation, wars, including nuclear wars, all in a world unhinged in a quest for survival of the strongest. This does, however, presuppose what Dyer only assumes: The continued existence of nation states, which realistically have no such guarantee.

Does Dyer's work solve anything? Does it solve the problem of climate change? Does he even provide a viable political solution to the lack of contemporary political cooperation for controlling the fossil-fuel emissions, claimed to cause global warming? He does not have any of these solutions.

Dyer only rehashes the same and worn mantras of an alarmist: It will come. It might destroy humanity or large portions of it! Governments must do something, including forcing average people to sacrifice everything for a governmental answer to climate change—solutions by any means or force necessary. No plan does he present, just like most of the other literature, except by implication the use of force and coercion by nation-states.

Climate Wars makes appeals to the world for a technological and habitual solution, for what first needs a political-economic plan to create them, a viable and sustainable political-economic plan. As the world indeed teeters on the point of massive change, in political relationships between government and governed, in the areas of economic systems, macro-geography, and the culture of our 21st Century civilization, most climate change activists stand almost as guilty as the climate deniers in one very important respect: Every person has a direct and personal interest in the climate change phenomenon, and so little empowerment to do anything practical about it in their own lives.

Many activists and all the deniers in this critical issue of survival neither have the moral high ground nor the right ideas, whether to change the environment's future or to dispute the scientific facts and models. The world needs better ideas to solve the problem. It cannot rely on any government or transnational governmental organization to fix the problem, or stop the fix as the climate change deniers would like to do.

Two thoughts: First, better solutions than authoritarian measures and coercion must get formulated to alleviate a post-diluvian world of climate change. Second, these hopefully more tangible tools of solving climate change, more than the mere declarations and resolutions of no effect, must allow an affordable means for individuals to implement those solutions, and provide the useful those tools for people within their homes and neighborhoods. I know several friends who already have done some of this, at great personal expense, in admirable fashion. Climate change solutions must address most of all the Issues of the cost and the individual willingness to pay that cost. Without these two conditions fulfilled, we might need to get ready for a hot, dry, hungry world, and a contest of wars for survival.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sub Terra Vita #47—Art as Instructor of Life Lessons: Some Thoughts on Paintings by Dan Osborne

Sub Terra Vita #47—Art as Instructor of Life Lessons: Some Thoughts on Paintings by Dan Osborne

For: NormalcyMag, Vol. 1, No. 2, July 2017
By Tim Krenz

This spring, in early sunny May, when warmth began thawing down the hibernating soil, I attended a stoked occasion that heated a learning from art. My great friend of many years, Dan Osborne, hosted his opening of newer paintings on display at a chateau winery, just north of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. In those paintings, I witnessed a new era for my friend's work as a servant to a higher and better form of human understanding.

Where this new body of works stands, so must I as a participant in life. In the theme of the paintings, Dan Osborne shows that people must own their passions for the broader visions they see, while learning to live fused as part of the world and not the sole actors in it. This comes, in my view, from Dan's newer work, in his challenge as an honest, relative spectator of the subjects he paints.

In the solarium in the southeast wing of the gray stone brick chateau, the room's white walls and glass windows and doors illuminated Dan's paintings by reflective sunlight. The perspective of some paintings immediately enticed me to the company of my own self, viewing them with a feeling now lighted on my inner morning after an immense winter slumber.

Before I saw them fully, I could view most of the exhibit satisfied with my own wandering thoughts, viewing this entire scene as part of the audience, separate from the picture. I absorbed them as an involved observer behind the painter. I shortly became a participant of the mini-panoramas, but not an obtrusive clutter like a person blocking the majesty of natural creation in a selfie photo. I do not want to see me. I want to see the scene.

Knowing Dan for well over a decade now, and in discussing the fine art of painting over those years, I see more and more of his method as artist within his work, without him never needing to tell the story he can show so well. Nonetheless, I later asked Dan to give me some verbal insights on his work over a cup of coffee weeks after the opening party.

In the late-night burst of his painting frenzies, 5 or 6 hours on occasion, that come in unsustainable spurts of time, Dan said that he does not see the result beforehand, “but I can see the direction. I never see the finished piece. . . . I don't know what that point is.” Some pieces take years, and some take hours, he told me. He added that no one would ever know it by looking at the paintings.

In painting, he never uses a photograph to paint simple replicas, and when he goes through with the need to embellish a color, or a form, or shape, he admits to a lot of trial and error in his work. “They [the paintings] will let me know what they need.” According to him, it becomes more than just a mechanism for healing an individual, himself included. “I feel like I'm healing the painting to make it right. It helps me, calming anxiety.” In that pointed statement of empathy, Dan concluded the thought: “It's the closest I get to joy.”

“Like a good meal,” Dan called the act of painting; satisfying, art form, creation—sustenance.

The “Obsession with silhouette, pink, and backgrounds,” as Dan described the exhibit that day, clearly marked some spectacular scenic impressions. Not just a droll landscape or a wildlife art print, the merit of the selections on display captured in the indirect use of color and black the new inner vistas of old scenes for me while I looked at them. I still now think of them months later.

The names of the paintings can and always should carry weight, for each of the pieces individually. “Sunrise on the Dalles,” a moment-in-time view of our venerable St. Croix River valley. “Violet Dusk.” “Trillium #1.” “Moonlight Savannah.” “Stained Glass Moonshine.” “Strawberry Moon.” All of these come with high marks as both pieces of fine art and the personal era for the artist.

“Trillium #2—Isn't She Pretty In Pink?” as Dan subtitled it (appropriately) I saw immediately upon entering the solarium. Rightfully so I noticed it first, for its quality, not only because I saw it centered directly opposite the entrance. Indescribable, beyond pinkish on a green field, it almost seemed as though blue bubbles of the flower painting floated on the flat large face of the canvas, in extra-dimensional texture. It said to me, “Hell Yeah!” A flower suspended, yet moving with bubbles coming from the wall.

“Luna in Bettula” gave the soft show, in the primary color of the oils. Balanced with the dark black outline and shapes of trees, the depth of night's sky composed in a reverse “sight-cology;” We see a moon in an everyday normal sky that hardly moves when constantly watching it, but when looking at the painting, the purple moon dangles over the earth, comfortably. The brush strokes move the moon forward in the ellipse on the large canvas, creating the movement and not just motion—free, balanced; dancing. That whole piece expands the mind of the possible on such a restricted, human-limiting medium of cloth and oil paint.

While “Luna in Bettula” made my favorite and personal rank as “best in show,” Dan's painting “Sunset on Boundary Waters” gave me a recall and direct connection with the artist's original viewpoint and his inspiration.

A long while ago, I took a paddling trip to that same Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). Dan mocked his own painting to me, as a piece of “orange crayon on the dashboard” of an old car, as he said that day. It still, however, arrives at a common experience he and I must have shared, on occasions separated by long time but only little in distance.

The Boundary Waters painting also teaches me a lesson, as I now found my own theme for Dan's works on display that day. It may give me some truth to the power of some worthy passion, in how I view things in my life. Stated thus: I can not add or subtract from nature itself, from any natural form, of any kind. I can observe, I can interpret, and I can enjoy and bask in that natural moment. I must stand better, like some, without imposing a preconceived will upon it. I do take it according to my delights and whims—as it exist. Beauty has its own value, which we all get to share, as we see it. Pray we see it in the equal truth of that inspiring light.

In that Boundary Waters picture, of northern Minnesota, Dan and I saw the same thing, which my own words failed to capture as well as the painting. In my camping journal I noted the sunset during my trip that day in late June 2010:

“In the water, the tree line on the opposite shore is reflected [of] its top. And in the water, pink on the closer end of the [dark] green mirroring the lake combines the soft red, and to my right (east), I see the gold visoring over the treeline on land to the north. And five minutes ago, I could see peachy pink on the east as bright as if the sun wanted to dawn like premature morning.” (“Field Book” entry).

Dan's “Sunset on Boundary Waters” captured that rapture, letting me recall it. Comparing notes, he and I saw a similar sight, almost exact in extent, on different lakes in BWCA, in different years. The same mystical sunsets of a Boundary Waters Canoe Area separated in time? As a witness, Dan did not put himself in the painting. Why would he? Anyone in that pristine scene would only make it less universal, and an obstruction to the nature of it. Dan's entire show left the images untainted, unobstructed with the clutter, but full of image that evoke impression and interpretation. The artist giving it uniform objectivity. The paintings—nearly all of them—successfully give themselves objective meaning. Dan let the paintings know what they wanted to heal, to complete them, as he said. The subject views of the show wanted only to know themselves.

In that, Dan's gifts made the art and the audience, separately, each complete.

Part 2: The First and Uncertain Trip of The Low Adventures: Trekking Superior Hiking Trail

The Low Adventures: Trekking Superior Hiking Trail
Part 2: The First and Uncertain Trip
By Tim Krenz
July 18, 2017

After convincing me on the “day of the Pinto” in November to trek the entire Superior Hiking Trail from Two Harbors, MN to the Canadian border, Craig made various ideas of planning over the course of that winter, 2001-2002.Time available, our age, and our physical conditions would mean we could do it by stages, in short trips, and take leisurely lollygagging time on the actual trail.

We would start in June, but I feared for my mortality and several very irrational things in the whole ordeal to come—heart attack, primary among them; bears, equally worrisome; and everything from UFO abductions to getting eaten by Big Foot, both of those last surprisingly notable in my list. I had no idea what to expect. I knew I could not deal with bears, so I tried to ignore that potential problem. Aliens and Big Foot, I pushed out of my mind, with some remarkable difficulty for a paranoid and imaginative guy like me. To avoid the heart attack, I had some solutions.

Beginning that Thanksgiving, I decided to train physically for the trip. A heavy smoker, and never too enthusiastic about exercise, I started my regimen small. Over the next several months, I walked all over my hometown of Osceola, Wisconsin—up the hill on County Highway M, around the circuit of the village, and down and up the massive and steep stair cases to the Cascade Falls. Even with a back pack full of heavy crap to accustom myself to the weight, I trudged those steps to the falls immediately below my apartment above the main street gift shop.

I thought I took big steps to strengthen my body, and dispose the irrational thoughts like ET and Sasquatch from my mind. I did push ups, sit ups, ate healthier, lost weight, gained self-respect, and all that jazz. I did it on my own, without paying a trainer, but I imagined I looked pretty vagrant walking through a normal semi-suburban idyllic town wearing cheap hiking boots and carrying my gear. All the while, Craig had made me one promise when he convinced me to do the trail: No matter what happened to me, he would get me out of the woods, even if it took several trips, and I came out in pieces (HA!). By mid-spring, armed with a poorly outdated Superior Hiking Trail guide book, Craig had the trip mapped out and we set the date, June 18, 2002, to mark our beginning.

I had a work commitment the day before, so we could not leave before the appointed morning. I packed heavy stuff—too heavy, like a novice would. I had a good, a very good back pack, but old, rotting, war surplus gear I inherited and collected at sales from several wars back (though all still made in the Twentieth Century). I slept well. That morning, Craig picked me up in his mini-truck around half past seven o'clock. I felt ready, but disguised a dose of trepidation. What to expect? Would I even enjoy it? I did not know. I had to go find out. We headed into Minnesota, and we turned north for a three hour ride.

After a quick breakfast in Hinckley, MN, we made it just past Two Harbors, MN, which sat on the big lake, Superior, before 11 AM. At that point in time, the trail started north from there, although years later it extended southward to Duluth. We parked at a parking lot on some lake country road, a place ominously called Castle Danger. We unloaded our packs, and stripping heavy crap out of them, we then threw out more crap. Finally, still heavy, we put the packs on and headed north on the Superior Hiking Trail (S.H.i.T). Right away, we encountered a tall and rugged hill, straight up and steep, called Wolf's Rock.

The hill trail went up, and up; up; up. Way up. Just starting this trekking, this low, spirit-crushing adventure that first half mile, really, really discouraged me. At the top of Wolf's Rock, before the leg-shortening, crunching walk down the other side, we did see the nice but distant view of the lake. In fact, my journal calls it a “breath-taking view.” I think “breathtaking” might have referred to the fact that my smoker lungs raged in pain. Either way, after only one-half of a mile, I really, really wanted to quit this entire adventure. Done, finished. Puss out. But we had not really started, and Craig encouraged, and might have threatened, me to go on to the campsite. We still had over three-quarters of a million steps to go to finish the trail. (We estimated the total steps years later). Those first steps, on the other hand, made me painfully aware that I needed a lot of training, some inspiration, and lighter gear.

At three miles into the hike we ate lunch, a simple and heavy-to-carry mix of food Craig packed—summer sausage, cheese, PB sandwiches, crackers, and apples. We moved out from our lingering lunch rest at 2 pm, and encountered another “S.O.B. Hill,” called Mike's Rock. Again, we saw the spectacular, panoramic, hazy summer view of Lake Superior off to our east, closer now, but still over the horizon of a green, thick forest.

At 3:15, we reached West Gooseberry Campsite, on the creek of the same name, but only after we had walked right through some type of wood tick nest. Craig and I each found over a dozen ticks on us, on our clothes, on our skin—everywhere. Before we set up his four-man blue tent, we spent fifteen minutes picking the little fuckers off of us. Eww! We thought the tent worms all over the roads and trees, and in webs across the trail bad enough. To deal with these ticks proved more intrusive, personal, and tricky.

Five miles into a rather quiet forest, but with the calming sound of the creek trickling below our site, we pitched our camp and drank coffee for two hours. I smoked cigarettes, to catch up on that “breathtaking” view ahead of time. Like I discovered camping with Craig before he left for the Peace Corps in 1997, he had a lot of stories. Of course, I would hear many of the same ones several times over the next six years. I brought a book to read, too, on this trip. I could read and ignore his stories for years, it turned out. As I noted in my journal before supper that first night, “I couldn't believe it. I made it.” We settled into camp, and I enjoyed every minute.

Craig's commercial backpacking gas stove did not work properly. It never would. It spit out gas all over. I unpacked our supper, which I cooked over the small fire Craig built in the rock-lined fire ring. We ate reheated, pre-cooked chicken breast, rice, cheese, cooked baby carrots, and drank flavored powder mixed with filtered stream water. (We used the mix to make the water somewhat palatable).

I filtered more water after supper while Craig did dishes. I became highly suspect of the creek. After washing my arms in the creek once we set up camp, my arms began to get little bites and bumps. They itched horribly, so bad that I scratched them raw and red that night and the next day. I had to drink this stuff? The camping filter, with a nozzle, two hoses, and a very sticky pump took forever to fill bottles.

Did all that cross contamination of the hoses, or the clogged charcoal filter inside of the filter really take out the impurities? Novice me, I decided to ignore it, like I ignored the thought of bears attacking me, flying saucers taking me to the mother ship, and Big Foot eating me for a midnight snack. I just learned on this trip that while I could take precautions against bad water and bears, I just had to live with it by not getting too paranoid. I drank the filtered creek water, reluctantly, and scratched the hell out of my arms the rest of the trip.

The rest of the night, we sat by the dwindling little fire, feeding it what slim pickings of fire wood we managed to find around the heavily used campsite . I wrote a journal entry. Craig told stories. The sky at 9 PM still looked blue, although the sun had set. I contemplated the soon to come summer solstice two days away. I always felt a little spirit crushing remorse the days after the June solstice. It meant shorter days. I did feel, and write about, a certain reward in many ways by the past nine months and the recent turn for fortune my life took in that time. I managed, with some very hard work and honest, introspective thought brought to my existence on earth some new and enlightened understanding every day for the past nine months. Just into my thirties, I had a choice between life and early death. I chose right.

In my intemperate twenties, I always wanted to do more, act for a purpose in things, and not live aimlessly and mindlessly. I also wanted more pleasant adventures, and happier ones, too, than the decade of the 1990s brought to me. Did I have any chance? I thought I did have one, to live “as a person lives life, to feel, to breath, to experience, without negative defects. . . ,” I wrote in my journal around that fire. “. . .This is what I meant,” I continued, “. . . and to do with the rest of my time; live without fear and live doing—an active life.” So go the optimisms of a youth at age thirty-one.

After a night sweating in the tent on a warm and dark night, we packed and left for the last 5 miles of our short trip. Near Gooseberry Falls, itself a wonderful and beautiful waterfall no different than many others, we passed an old state park building near the highway before entering Gooseberry State Park proper itself. The building, one of the old Great Depression era structures built by civilians in the construction corps, still had its rather stolid, solid presence. Rock and timber built, with wood shingles, the park, however, had all the windows and doors boarded and nailed shut.

The building, while insignificant in its presence near to the modern park building a half mile away, represented something beyond: It carried a venerable presence of wisdom, natural material, and stout construction. We would return to this theme a lot on this adventure. What wisdom would I learn? With what material did I have to work in my life and on the trail? How stout did my god construct me?

At the new park building, we became worried. We expected a ride back to Craig's little truck, nine miles south. A park worker came up to us, and gave Craig a message to call home. It turned into no real emergency, nor even an inconvenience. Poor two-year old Anya, Craig's daughter, had a severe rash and Jen, his wife, could not meet us at Gooseberry State Park for the afternoon. We had no ride back to the car. We definitely needed an “Alternative Contingency Scenario Bravo,” a “Plan B.” Craig decided to leave me at the park with the gear and walk and hitch hike back to Castle Danger. I thought it sounded a little risky, but Craig and I could see no other way.

Surprisingly, he came back a half hour later, with the truck, for me and the gear. “Retired pastors are our new best friends,” he declared in beaming relief. Apparently, a retired pastor picked him up and drove him from the park gate to the truck. Lucky, we thought, at that point, after a very successful and satisfying short lollygag through the forest and hills of northern Minnesota. In a way, the retired pastor that day seemed to give us a little blessing for my existential exercise of trekking the Superior Hiking Trail with my friend Craig.

With around three-quarters-of-a-million steps to go, all the way home from Two Harbors, MN, to Osceola, WI, I wondered, “What part do we do next? And When?”

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Prayer for a Closing Pitcher

Prayer for a Closing Pitcher
By Pi Kielty
July 27, 2017

Now I step me out to pitch;
I pray the ump the ball's unstitched.
And if I throw it to home plate;

I pray the batter strikes he takes.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #46: Words Made of Letters

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #46: Words Made of Letters
By Tim Krenz
January 25, 2017

In a prized heirloom which I keep well protected, I can read the words written by my maternal grandfather that he wrote to my grandmother before they married and started a family. Beside old pictures in the photo book where I found the letter—including a black and white photo of my Grandpa at my parent's wedding—I have no other way for him to speak to me. I can conjure no memories of him. My grandfather, Victor Michael Kielty, died almost a decade prior to my birth. My Grandmother Evelyn M. Kielty, neè Yonker, lived until almost age 89, passing away just a few months prior to my 30th birthday. I have memories of her, many in fact, as she lived close and played an prominent part in my life.

Once in a while, Granny Kielty, provided me with stories of Grandpa, some funny, some sad, all good. When talking about her long-departed husband, she always looked fondly at her memories while sharing. She wore her wedding ring proudly until her death. I could see in her the love she had for Grandpa Kielty, the love she never lost. With these few contacts with the past, like the letter, the photo(s), and her own reminiscence, I got to somehow know Grandpa Kielty in the only ways possible. The insights gave me the impression of very good, decent and kind man.

In that letter to Grandma Kielty, Grandpa mentioned things about the life he wanted, some hopeful things, and some stern things about what he did not want. He signed the letter, pre-marriage proposal, “Your friend, Victor.” In all the stories, and all the other ways concerning Grandpa Kielty, like his newspaper obituary, I do not trip over the words, but I read into them the place or time he lived. Even more, I try every time to hear his voice, how he thought, the man inside and how he outwardly presented himself. I hear cautious words of a suitor, and the depth of his affection for Granny.

The letter I discovered gave me this “hearing” of him, the first real sense I ever had of him, and can ever have, unless I find more of his letters. Growing up, I always had wished I knew him in my life, even if too young to remember it. If I only had a word or picture of him holding me, I would have enjoyed it. More than for me, I always wished that he and Grandma Kielty would have lived old, for the sake of Granny who always seemed sad at the end of her stories. Grandpa left the world at the age of 52. He died far too young.

In a different lette in the same photo album, I found a letter from my maternal great-grandmother, Katherine Yonker, neè Yiddake, to my Grandmother Evelyn. I reach further back into the history of my maternal family, to before the birth of my own mother. I know that Great-grandma Katherine died a long, long time ago before 1940, and the circumstances of her death remain a mystery, speculation notwithstanding. I may have never known her, if not for a letter.

I don't remember Great-grandpa Yonker, Katherine's husband and my Granny's father, but I know from stories that I attended his funeral when very young in the early 1970s. He died in old age, and had lived as a widower. I have an heirloom from him, however: an old ring, a beautiful whitish agate on a sterling band. I found no letters from him, but I have the ring. Yet, somehow, I understand part of his life. In Great-grandma Katherine's letter, I hear that ghost-like voice, one of a sad woman, depressive even. The family lore I hear confirms that she lived a very, very sad life before dying awfully young.

In the photo album of my mother's family, I recognize some of the great-aunts and great uncles, and more recent relations when full of youth and exuberance. I can also see that many relations now living share similar looks and features of our ancestors. Not myself in that album, because I look like my father's side of the family.

I can touch and smell the ancientness of the frail paper on which my heritage wrote their letters. I can smell the chemical decay of the photos, too, as they fragment away in the thick, black paper of the album. I have memory now of those I did not know, because I could read their words and sense their time, by sight, by touch and by smell. The pictures survive, too, though the photos disordered and got loose in the book, by the age of the glue worn away. Like photos and letters, we survivors of our ancestors, on both sides of my family, begin the long journey to brittleness and fragility by age and living.

The letters, especially, I have something that both excites the sense of history, and daunts the passing of our time. In the relics, I can touch them in the careful way to avoid damaging them. I feel the threads of the note paper, unmarking themselves by time of the now faint colored blue and red lines. The pencil and pen scripts erode. In them, I have the authentic history, that historians cherish in their research, of a primary document created by those people important for me to define present things. I actually can touch the paper held by my Grandfather. That gave me more reality and closeness to him than I ever knew before I found his words and his voice. In touching the letter, I create the shape of the room where he wrote. I see the lantern giving him light to write. I see the desk. The person blind to my actual memory comes alive.

The photos give me a different sense. The black and white smoothness speaks the words that I cannot express. Images of them give me the image of their minds. Drying their sweat in soiled work clothes, lunching from pails in the shade of the house during fall harvest on the plains of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.. My Grandpa Kielty met my Granny Kielty while harvesting with a crew one season on Grandpa Yonkers farm. I pretend to see that moment of spark.

I touch that history, that identity of the Kielty family, their heritage that I do not know by personal experience in the Great Depression, but that I see in their faces. I hold the moment that my grandparents beheld, even if I cannot see what they looked upon. But even that picture gives me words in my thoughts of their home and hearth, their land and their work. Holding these letters and pictures, I behold them.

Regardless of what others think, I need these things to understand better, allowing me to comprehend my present better, and help point me in the direction of my future. I cannot covet the letters and the photos on a computer, which digitizing may preserve them for an historian and journalist (like myself), but having them and holding them mean so much more to my spirit. I have to forget the intellect, the ingenuity, the very technology that runs the work and the social world. I have to create these persons from real fragments.

I cannot hold something an ancestor held in their hands through any number of computer pixels in order to bond with my heritage. For most of my life, I could feel the absence in my heart of those people I never knew. In touching their affects, I found a contact with that side of my family, and that itself fulfilled a missing part of my spirit. I could never have asked for more, when all technology fails, than for touching an accidental discovery to surprise my sense of heritage.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Wonder Pory Psalm: From: Alphabet Psalms

Wonder Pory Psalm
From: Alphabet Psalms
By: Pi Kielty (posthumously)
Found: January 10, 2017

Wonder Pory Psalm

The depths of thee, your empathy, always mark you strange. Where you walk, you wander, and call your father's name. The odd cloth you wear, what you do, you've always done your same. How you talk to raptured rooms, you rebel toward your early tomb. Then you feel around that shore, and command a stormy sway? What makes you different, we cannot tell, yet we feign embrace your bizarring self. You carry them, then leave them all, for hills you roam, in desert realms. Eating what, but clay? What heights you see? How wise you know? Then talk of things ancient old, yet still removed our ills away. That simple path, without silver you trod, and show those things you pray. We wonder. It makes you odd, but now we see, your bloody crown, hands, and hobbled legs. We see your wondering soul. At your grave, we saw the stone, now pushed and rolled. He saved. Forgive us, Lord, for we thought you strange. You left the world. We remained. We live with guilt and sinful shame. Now we grieve our awful crime. In last, we see the Wonder. We need you more, and once and more, as time returns. We pray you welcome. Please, Lord, reveal more wonder. . . come home with us and Stay.