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.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #37: Questing for Normalcy—In Spring

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
February 29, 2016

Chronicle #37: Questing for Normalcy—In Spring

Spring conjures memories, good ones, indeed. For some, both the worship of things in faith and in the religion of baseball combine the powerful twin belief that, yes, Nature and Nature's God give a new life to everything, and, yes, the favorite baseball teams, local and major league, will win the championships and the World Series.

Ninety-six years ago, someone quite famous invented a new word, more a corruption of the English language by mistake than any witty misuse of it. That word, “normalcy,” came to represent much more than the never-definable “normal,” or “normality.” What does normalcy mean as a state of existence? As a by-product of something not good or bad, and not quite average, old, new, or extraordinary, what does a sense of normalcy offer life here in the Valley of the St. Croix River? Several future installments of this column explore this concept of normalcy in the Valley, and it begins by the normal things of spring soon upon us.

First, we think of a good spring, the soft ground of wet muck—the oozing, thawing ground; and the melting of the ice and snow prisons which confine our winters mostly indoors, entombed in grateful cabin-hovels of warm refuge. We get snow, slush, sleet, and warmer rains of March and early April. The greening warmth begins, and the glowing sheen on us from the heaven-dwelling sun brings a new season of freeing optimism, the budding trees, flower pods, and more solid dirt. Some winters gave harder fevers of hellish cold, like the Magna Polar Vortex three winters ago. This year, we have had a mild winter. As we emerge we see growing earth, and we can feel a sense normalcy.

Not just nostalgic moments, and far from the ideal we hope we can live, spring in the Valley brings forth a great deal of consistency. Before preparing the fields for planting, farmers finish calving livestock, those renewals necessary to replenish the herds. High school kids ponder futures, either taking tests that over worry their young minds about the future, or they find a career and job which will support them.

Seedlings start indoors for certain plants for later replanting in outdoor dirt. Seasonal workers begin their year. Permanently working parents continue to raise their families. The lucky and the blessed, both fortunate, get to live. The roads clear and motorcycles and bicycles roam. Churches prepare for and celebrate Easter, families eat dinner, and opening days of baseball all over the country get one day closer. All of this happens each day of late winter to mid-spring, every year.

Treasuring them, these happenings have no approximate currency value. We appreciate about spring what we can, would, and certainly should gratefully love about life. We get sun, warmth, and rain. Food grows. Futures become closer to reality. Roads lead somewhere, especially back home. We celebrate, in faith, the new living year. We all rejoice, when we remember that we live to do something we have not done: experience the day after yesterday. Hot dogs and hamburgers will grill. Peanuts in the crate will start fresh. Bats, gloves, cleats, uniforms, and baseballs get out of storage. Infield grass gets trimmed and the boxes and lines chalked. Fans wait for that day when the season begins, along with it the new hopes of championships.

Instead of creating things to divide people, communities like greater Osceola have much to unite them. Every community, anywhere, does. Spring in the St. Croix Valley—spring everywhere—gives us a chance to remember that truth. Does this sound like normalcy? I think it should.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #36: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Conclusion, Part XV: The River of Our Times

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
February 22, 2016

Chronicle #36: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Conclusion, Part XV: The River of Our Times

On our St. Croix River, we would both push the limits of idiot notions of our careless youth and our awkward courage. Like all generations of Osceola, we mostly survived those less prudent notions, and lived to some more responsible lives. Some did not pass to the present, on and off the river. We mourned. But in the culture of our Valley, in the underground especially, the river remains the right of passage. The older pass that right to younger, to explore inwardly and outward, the times in which they think, feel, and live.

I made lots of water and hiking trips up, down, and along the river.

During middle school one summer break, our local Boy Scout Troop 131 spent eight days and seven nights on the “great discovery” of the St. Croix River, like modern-day Lewis and Clark but only one short day from home and the comforts of a bed and the television. We did let loose, especially with the scout masters out of sight. The first night we camped upriver from Oz, at a place called Sandy Hill Heights.

We talked like sailors, raised heck, and even rammed one of our flotilla's fishing boats, almost cutting it in half. Later, another boat blew up, with a twenty-five foot mushroom cloud of fire. Nobody got physically hurt on this trip, but it did teach us something about limits of safety and youthful impressions. All fun, I suppose. Lessons aplenty.

In high school, the August Saturday following the Friday night football opening game (which we lost), Paul, Mark, Todd, Dale and I came down from Interstate Park, on our way to Osceola Landing, and we camped at the same site on the Wisconsin as I did in Scouts—Sandy Hill Heights. We swam in the lagoon, a lagoon until the dam upriver opened the gates and the water rose, which also almost floated the canoes off the shore by morning.

Our dinner fare, not too complicated for high school kids, served up hot dogs roasted over the fire, on bread (we forgot buns), and chips. Aside from not having enough food, we had a good time, walking the trails in daylight and sharing the nighttime bonfire until packing into the tents. Nothing as adventurous or frightening as blowing up fishing boats, we just had fun.

Two summers later, in early, hot August, after graduation from high school, I came down the river one Friday night by myself. I had a hard year going, not only uncertain what stood ahead in the future, but perplexed at what had happened in my life the previous 12 months.

My father and brother drove me and a canoe to Interstate. I camped, for the last time, at Sandy Hill Heights. The site has since closed to prevent erosion of that river bank. Nothing much happened on this trip, as I walked around, enjoyed a fire, and slept outside with only a tarp over my sleeping bag and head, which did not help with the billions of mosquitoes gnawing me. I woke before dawn the next morning, and made Osceola by 8 A.M.

A week or so later, I traveled for ten days to Winnipeg. I came back to a clear house, drove to the new house my parents built on their new farm in Ubet, and a few days later, I moved into a college dorm. Odd it seemed, that last trip to Sandy Hill Heights. Everything no longer looked young and new to me. I made the passage, and moved on to new things, adulthood and the uncertainty we all feel at the big question, “What comes next?” I had new undergrounds to explore. And this fifteen-part brief autobiography of the Valley underground concludes with the note to the young, again: Live well, but use common sense, and “Seize the World!” Life belongs to the living.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #35: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground—Part XIV: Valley Spine of River

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
February 15, 2016

Chronicle #35: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground—Part XIV: Valley Spine of River

The St. Croix River unites the memories and the common identity of our valley's people. The Valley itself, and the river-shed that formed it, gives and has no meaning in itself, apart from those who enjoy it. As a thing in itself, it would possess no enduring, and timeless value, except from those people who lived here, live here still, and will in the future call this Valley home, or visit it as a destination. The river extends and defines the limits of the larger community of the St. Croix Valley. That community, on both the Wisconsin and Minnesota shores, carries forward its diversity, north and south, east and west, but it makes a common bond that people here share in whole, from those of its many parts.

From the founding of the republic following the War for Independence, the St. Croix River gets mentioned in several old, almost-forgotten diplomatic documents (I've read the copies and facsimiles that mention our river). At one point, the river in the middle formed the extreme northwest boundary of the nation, per the Treaty of Paris of 1783. A traveler inside the United States could get no farther from Federal City (Washington D.C.) without going into foreign territory, than by halfway crossing the St. Croix River between Danbury and Grantsburg in Wisconsin.

The old frontier in the U.S., the one of lore and legend, once ended on this river, until the purchase of the Louisiana cession in 1803. People always lived here before independence, however. And their ancestors remain here still. Others came. Families stayed. The people cleared the land of forests and farmed it as prosperously as those who roamed and hunted before them. But in our diversity, the Valley indeed belongs to the living. The river made the physical valley, but the peoples throughout history made the character and the community that continues to evolve today, moving toward some future shape that will signify both change and continuity.

Respect the river, as we do. Even with many achievements in our world, the river has its placid luring tones, its raging foils over our strongest will, and its powerful control to pose dangers. Respect it for its beautiful wonder, and for other reasons, and learn to love and appreciate it. It gives a community life here, and for the living ones, regard its perils with caution.

Every youngster and young adult in Osceola grew up on and around the river, the one of our heritage. Boating, swimming, camping, hiking, exploring, and a lot of canoeing, tested the limits of every generation's courage and stupidity. Mostly unsupervised by adults, or slackly so by them, we did dumb, DUMB things. Luckily, most of us lived to survive our lack of judgment. Many have not, far more than we wanted to lose. Some lived with serious injury.

WARNING FOR THE YOUNG: Do not challenge nature or the technology. NEVER jump from the cliffs or structures like bridges anywhere into any part of the river!! Nothing will scare you more than getting caught in an underwater current, disoriented, and panicked where you cannot find the vital direction up to the surface. See some person who broke their neck hitting the water wrong or landing on rock. Nothing of this sort turns out well, when pure luck does not arrive. Never count on that luck.

Respect the river. It has many things to enjoy, and every generation will find their own story, and challenges, without risking tragedy, or the limits of chance and fortune. For the young and for the older experienced explorers, adventure resides in the underground journey in the river valley, and it can form memories and the character of a person beyond mere serendipity.

And that said, it reminds me of when still in school, and the river occupied our times. [Continued in the next installment].

Monday, March 07, 2016

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #34: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Part XIII: Feast of Song

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
February 8, 2016

Chronicle #34: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Part XIII: Feast of Song

Music, both songs of good age and sad times, have always served as a delicious dish to the feast of life for the Valley Underground. The background score to our living meal, the song behind us playing while we dine on experience, continues formless for fun, but also rigid like a hymn, to give shape of sound to our present and incomplete supper. While we await the dessert course to conclude our party, we may notice too many beloved guests left our table empty chairs. While we must celebrate their company, while they blessed our room, we cannot but mourn their pass, and continue to do so in the song of life.

Before we dirge we must dance, and take our repast in the times now. Life belongs to the living, as we say, and song completes our evenings.

To many of my time, my generation in Osceola, we nursed on a full bottle of The Beatles, and others, a wholesome breakfast to any young born late 60s and afterward. We lunched on songs now called “classic rock,” or “old country,” but then just songs played on the radio. They still get played on the radio, hence their durability as “classic.” Our parties had live polka bands, that distinct aroma of fun. We may have heard songs about freedom in Philadelphia during THE Bicentennial, or Steely Dan songs we did not quite understand until adults. Still, though, the world had music in the background, always playing, all the time. As we grew, we grew restless for meaning to songs giving definition to our identity.

In middle youth, came punk and radical, the “repo.” Now it passes for “alternative,” but to what, bad music? In all the who-who's of unwholesome snacks, we discovered soylent trash took over, popular music feeding us its dead corpus. Then, we learned that our generation, here in the valley, had its own tunes for the dinner concert.

In late high school, when I all but finished an early supper, I could not play a note of noise. My drum had no beat, my voice a rotted tone. I did, though, know to love good sound, but I could only become part of the party, vicariously as the table guest of the band. I had older friends, out of school—mentors, inspirations, and protectors in every sense. They helped me, in many ways, find a new appetite, and invited me to the underground diner. And we ate from the wholesome garden grown roots of healthy, natural foods of real music, live, raw, and life reinventing.

At a mansion one night, the snow storm canceled Friday night in Oz (our Osceola). Everything shut down in deadest dark and white. After our dinner, we got bored. “Let's go get the gear!” one of them said. Like idiots, we said, “Sure.” I even said, “Let's take my car. It goes through anything.” Our enthusiasm high, our logic weak, and our bellies full and our minds sleepy, we five piled into my cherry red Plymouth Horizon. Snickers drove. Dels in the front seat. Bops, (I think) Dens, and I sat in back.

“Back in our day,” we can say, “we drove 20 miles through a foot of snow just to get band gear for our own private concert, for us.” It took us almost three hours to return to the mansion, where we set up the stage in the living room of the house above the pond springs. The fab ones played music all night, late. I had my appointed, proud role, too, as a brother at the table feast, not a guest. I still have copies of the tapes we recorded that night. The legend of Osceola's own Rollicking B-Sides began. The party continues, the dinner not over, the night youthful, and the music in the Valley underground continues to play, loud and alive.