From time to time, I’ve taken a break from chronicling my travels in far-off destinations to write about small adventures close to home. I can’t travel abroad 365 days a year, so I try to find new places and things to do in my own backyard.
This summer was no different. The highlight, of course, we my son’s wedding. I’ve already shared my amateur photos from the day, but here’s one more, of me and my cousin and nieces lining up to show off our green eyes. It was funny at the time.
This year, spring lost its luster because of my aunt’s illness. Soon after her death, I walked around the little lake near my house, Beaver Lake, and did something I never do. I sat down on a bench and actually looked at the lake, the tree branches loaded with buds, and the sky as spring clouds drifted across and changed the colors on the water. I listened to the jays, robins, wood peckers, loons, and cardinals. I didn’t have any great insights into the meaning of life or loss but I felt comforted to know that the wheel turns and the world wakes up every year.
I returned to the same spot a few more times as spring progressed into summer.
I met a friend for a walk at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. We never did walk. We got a pitcher of beer and sat at a table for a couple hours, people watched, and talked politics.
On my last visit to my aunt’s house, I took a long walk along the St. Croix River. It looked to be shaping up as a great year for mushrooms and fungi, with many rainy nights and steamy days.
Molly and I hung out on her deck and laughed at her cat playing secret agent in the tall grass.
Then there was Japan, and then I was back. I visited my favorite paths along the Mississippi, starting at Hidden Falls Park. I don’t know why this photo looks like my lens was smeared with Vaseline, or if coyotes are a new thing here, or how they know there is only one.
I spent a rainy afternoon and evening at Irish Fair, an annual event in St. Paul that always has great music. This year was no exception; there were bagpipers in kilts, of course, but the headliners, the Screaming Orphans, got the crowd whipped into a frenzy.
I hosted a Japanese food-making party for Keiko, my nephews, and my brother. Almost everything turned out oishi (delicious).
In late July I returned to the St. Croix and canoed with some people I knew from the fabulous mid-Century modern high rise apartment building I lived in for six years.
For once in my life it didn’t start raining as soon as I stepped into a canoe. I was paired with a woman from Nebraska who had never canoed. She didn’t follow instructions and had no upper body strength, but she was so nice that I didn’t mind that I basically paddled the canoe myself the whole way.
We stopped for a long picnic lunch on an island. Afterwards, as if I hadn’t gotten enough of a workout, I did a two-hour hike through the Minnesota side of Interstate Park, which is a park that straddles the Minnesota and Wisconsin banks of the St. Croix River.
A friend and I rented kayaks and paddled around Pickerel Lake; this is not my photo, in case that’s not obvious.
I took some long bike rides, went berry foraging, and sat in my backyard and appreciated the hydrangeas that had been a highlight of Japan and were also profuse in St Paul this year. I even tried my hand at flower arranging.
As ever, summer closes with two blockbuster events. First, the Minnesota State Fair. This is a small selection of seed art. Winters are long on the prairie.
The poor horses. Of course they bite and kick, cooped up like that.
Bulls on Parade: not just a song by Rage Against the Machine.
Then, Labor Day weekend in Wisconsin, paid for by my aunt. It helped to have a super cute super baby there.