Put On Your Big Girl Mukluks and Enjoy Winter’s Beauty

Even with one moosehide mukluk topped off with black duct tape since my dear four-legged companion found it to be a delicious, albeit expensive, chew toy (leaving the entire boot liner and bottom 2/3 of the lovely chestnut exterior intact), I have been “enjoying” our never ending stretch of sub-zero temps this winter (day 64 and counting …).  As an aside, isn’t that a testament to the wonder of the Steger mukluk? Unrivaled winter footwear after 20 years of living up north, keeping my toes toasty warm, enhanced by stick-on toe warmers only in the most brutal of temps (which, I admit, we’ve had a lot of this winter – did I mention, this is Duluth’s 64th day with a recorded sub-zero temp this winter?!?).

But I digress … as I shared with you in this week’s Photo Challenge response, the frigid temperatures have produced some amazing photo ops on the frozen expanse of Lake Superior.  Last weekend, the sunny skies produced a stunning blue reflection in the ice piles, created by the powerful force of Lake Superior’s shifting waters.  The ice cover on the Lake is the largest in decades, so one must be mindful that these scenes may be decades in coming again.

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

Drawing closer to the large pile of broken ice shards, the bluish hue became more intense, waxing and waning with the sun as the clouds drifted across the sky.

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

The depth and breadth of this particular ice upheaval is hard to capture in a photo.

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

Upon close inspection, the pile appeared to be manmade, as if a snowplow had come along and pushed a long band of broken ice together to clear the flat expanse of the Lake beyond.

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

The blues were amazing …

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

One could be lulled into a false sense of security, seeing the shoreline so close, the apparent stagnant pile of ice melded together, and the thick ice cover below.  Mother Nature reminded me that even on a beautiful, blue-sky day, the wind can whip up the powdery blanket, and cause the water and ice to creak and groan like an awakening giant.

Wind-whipped Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

Walking back to shore, the ice pile receded from view, and I was more cognizant of the living mass beneath my feet.  Signs of life were evident, from a large, winding fissure that had opened and closed over time …

Ice Fissures on Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

… to a fresh hairline crack in the snow with gurgling water fighting deep underneath the frozen surface to try and break free …

Ice Fissures on Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

… Lake Superior was sending a reminder that Spring may be a long way off, but she won’t be frozen forever.

Ice Fissures on Lake Superior ~ Duluth, MN

With the winds and periodically “warming” temperatures (I think we hit 20°F (-6°C) once in the last week or so), the large plates of ice shift, and open water appears here and there even as the temperatures battle to reach double digits in recent days.  The day after taking the photos above, I headed up to the Hawk Ridge overlook and saw the hint of open water (or at least more tenuous ice cover) in the distance.

Winter view from Hawk Ridge ~ Duluth, MN

Has it been a long winter?  Certainly, but with warmer temps these ice-covered postcard scenes will melt from view.  So, in the meantime, put on your big girl mukluks; get out and enjoy Nature’s wonder.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Secrets of Parenting Success

What is the secret formula to raising a happy kid?  a successful child?  Since we are just making it up as we go along in this household on many days, I certainly don’t have the answer.  But we remind ourselves of certain basic principles from time to time.

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” ~ L.R. Knost

The world needs more people who value charity, gratitude, empathy and understanding.

OK, there may need to be an exception for certain brotherly interactions . . . 

Snow fight in Glacier National Park, Montana

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Books are an escape into worlds of fantasy, dreams and adventure, while other times they act as the doorway to a new realm of knowledge and understanding.  Do what you can to cultivate your child’s love of reading, and teach them to treat a good book like a good friend.

(Note:  I am still working on my husband and youngest son on the whole “treat books with care” concept — my oldest son and I will not let the other two members of our family borrow our most treasured volumes, for fear they will be returned to us appearing to have gone through the washing machine, or unceremoniously jammed into a bag or briefcase. I am thankful for the ability to share ebooks with them . . . )  

Peaceful winter bay

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” ~ Margaret Mead

Instill good values, and let them figure out how to apply those values to the world around them.

I do have to say, though, that my husband forgot this tenet when introducing them to NFL football, being the passionate Minnesota Vikings fan he is (I remain in denial when it was the first time I heard one of my sons utter the words, “Packers Suck.”)

Twilight at the cabin

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.” ~ Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Many of my favorite family memories involve experiencing the wonder of the world together — watching a herd of buffalo cross the river to their evening grounds in Yellowstone National Park, sitting on the shores of Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park with a picnic lunch watching the mountain goats play on the snow-covered mountainside above,  or gazing over the vast depth of the Painted Wall at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

As I have noted in prior posts, time together spent exploring places of wonder can strain the family ties, as well . . . such is the risk of spending endless hours confined in the car together, enjoying a classic summer road trip.

Painted Wall at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

There is no one right way to raise a child  . . . indeed, that is what makes us so unique and interesting to each other.  How dull life would be if we were all the same.

Unique inukshuk along Lake Superior's shore

On that note, I leave you with the words of the poet e.e.cummings:

“To be nobody but yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” ~ e.e. cummings

Blog on, friends.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Peaceful Sunday at the Feeder

One would expect Minnesotans to be somewhat jaded and indifferent to news of a fresh layer of snow in December.  However, after a winter last year that was brown and gray for much of the season, and a November this year that left us with only a few inches for a brief period of time, many of us went to sleep last night hoping the weather forecast was accurate in predicting that when we opened the shades the next morning, we would be greeted with a winter wonderland of white!

In reading posts today from other Minnesotans whose blogs I follow (Northern Narratives, thirdeyemom), I see that I was not alone in wanting to share Mother Nature’s overnight costume change!  The winter weather gods had painted each branch, stem and late-hanging leaf with a delicate detail brush!  Something about waking to freshly fallen snow, coating each surface so gracefully, brings out a sense of awe-filled excitement, just as a child has when waking to learn the world has been blanketed in white while he slept.

Snow-Covered Trees in Northern Minnesota

Of course, that excited child did not have to drive a car in the white, slippery stuff . . . wondering if the wheels would catch and stop the car before it slowly slid into the curb of the opposite side of the intersection, despite cautious speeds, four-wheel drive, traction control and every other bell and whistle of automobile manufacturing technology.  Thankfully, our required driving today was not extensive, and when not sliding slowly down unplowed inclines on the city streets, one could almost enjoy the fresh and pretty views!

This family’s day was one of homework, household tasks, office work, as well as breaks to unpack favorite Christmas decor to scatter about the house, while my husband put together a pot of chili which filled the house with the aroma of comfort food.   Outside, the chickadees, nuthatches and sparrows kept busy, as well – a constant parade of visitors at the feeder.  Had hoped to see the neighborhood cardinal pair, looking for that flash of red against the pure white snow, but they were elusive today.

chickadee feeder 12_9_12
Hey, are you looking at me?

No deep thoughts, no humorous anecdotes . . . just sharing a few of the common sights of the fresh December snow in Northern Minnesota.

white throated sparrow chickadee feeder 2 12_9_12
White-Throated Sparrow and Chickadee
white throated sparrow 2 12_9_12
White-Throated Sparrow
white throated sparrow 12_9_12
White-Throated Sparrow
white breasted nuthatch 2 12_9_12
White-Breasted Nuthatch

Ciao! ~ Kat