Mid-March Monday


chickadees singing love songs in stereo
one to my left, one to my right
the lake below is frozen, yet blue
Lola sniffs at last autumn’s leaves
the ground melts to soft mud
moisture wicked up by the wind

the dog wet and dirty, we depart
head south for our errand
tractor tire mud on the road
a fresh-plowed field, black soil


Walking to Wisconsin


I got up from my desk and walked to Wisconsin.

Wind gusts from the south, across flat white ice. Frozen face.

The dog ranged and roam ahead and to the side.

We crossed three islands, three channels. Quiet courses.

Then we arrived at the main channel, the river itself.

Ice setting down between banks six feet high.

A few blown-over snowmobile tracks.

Little snow, easy walking, we didn’t want to turn around.

White ground and gray tree trunks, a pale sky above.

Nothing else to see except the solitude.

Across the channel, up the other bank, objective reached.

But there through the trees, the vast expanse of Rice Lake.

Walk across the island, past a giant silver maple, stand on the shore.

The delta of a significant tributary spreads out into the valley.

Square miles of grass and water and snow.

A friend’s new place concealed at the foot of that bluff.

A walk for another day, a float for another season.

Turn west again and follow footsteps back through monotony.

Back at the office again, now my brow sweaty.

My heart pumping harder, pushing winter blood.

The dog lays down, chickadees flutter at the feeder.

Natural Sciences Outdoor Adventures

Morel Madness


The lilacs aren’t blooming yet, and oak leaves are still smaller than a squirrel’s ear, but Fisherman and I went mushroom hunting anyway on Tuesday. The morels didn’t care if the old signs weren’t in their favor, they sprouted from the side of a steep hill anyway.

It is odd how I regard detail and specificity so highly in writing but will cut almost all of it from this story. Anything that would give it a sense of place could give intrepid Google users — both its search and its satellite maps — a trace to the place where we found five pounds of mushrooms when we shouldn’t have.

But there is still a story, we just have to focus a little closer. A good morel spot is a closely guarded secret, yet you can photograph them from a few feet away and put that picture anywhere. So it is also with words.

Native habitat

The delicious wild mushrooms only emerge from the leaf litter on the forest floor for a few weeks every May. They are some of the first edible anything to grow every year — the return to a world that sustains you, not tries to kill you like a six-month winter with 50 days below zero degrees.

But they don’t give themselves up easy; the woods are big when you’re looking for a four-inch fungus. There are lots of likely spots where they don’t grow, but you will spend long minutes staring at those spots anyway, seeing nothing.

So you search, with no certainty, waiting for that dark cone to appear. And each time one does, it feels like finding hidden treasure.

An unusual guardian welcomed us to the morel thicket: an Eastern Towhee, an uncommon bird that neither of us had seen before. An eight-inch long sparrow with splashes of white and orange against a black back and head, it sang and hopped between branches before fluttering out of sight in the brush.

We resumed our slow patrol, heads bowed.

Forest floor flora

Events & Activities Outdoor Adventures

Snake River Canoe Race 2014

High water, happy friends. Days of downpour the week before caused extraordinarily high water (7′) and dire warnings from race organizers. We went anyway.

Katie and I paddled it together for the first time this year. We navigated haystacks “by consensus,” paddled as steadily as we could, and finished in under three hours.

Gabe and Darrick took the gold in the citizen non-aluminum class again. And once again, the only “citizens” who were faster were two guys in the 130+ combined age class, in an aluminum canoe. Turns out these men have also competed in the Yukon 1000 — 10 or so days of paddling 18 hours a day. Never underestimate wisdom, technique, and “old man strength.”

Wade and Audrey and Slim and Nel paddled well, too, and everyone made it down the 15 miles of river without swimming – which is more than could be said for a few of our fellow paddlers.

Falling on my birthday this year, we spent the weekend at a cabin in Mora on Fish Lake. Decorated in garage sale crap, a little shabby, very quiet and comfortable.

We’ll do it again every year we can.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Capturing the St. Croix Valley’s “central identity”

Living & Playing Magazine. Scott nicely captured why I have enjoyed learning and writing about these community art projects in the St. Croix Valley:

Art Linked to Storytelling

To help build a connection to this project locally and globally, the Phipps and its partners, including the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway and the St. Croix Valley Foundation, will launch a website at www. The website will show pictures of each of the benches, give a map of the trail and more information about the stops on the trail.

In addition, the website will feature in-depth narratives about the pieces, crafted by local writer and nature lover Greg Seitz. In creating these narratives, Seitz stays true to both the sense of place and the uniqueness of the arts.

In the narrative for the bench in Larry Forrest Memorial Park just outside of Somerset, Seitz writes, “The Apple River rushes through Somerset, carving a a canyon bordered by 100-foot limestone bluffs. Just downstream, it flows into the St. Croix, which forms the western border of the town. The rivers were a major inspiration for the city’s Art Bench, explains Bruce Martell, who guided the project —with help from a local stone company and a bunch of students who don’t often get such opportunities.”

Seitz continues, “Two limestone pillars stand seven feet above the bench’s surface. They represent the Apple, Martell says, and its towering bluffs. A winding ribbon of blue flows across the bench’s surface, representing the meandering St. Croix.

“Those rivers were the highways that the French settlers who founded Somerset used in the 1850s. Connecting to that heritage was important for Martell, a descendant of Somerset settlers who homesteaded at the confluence of the Apple and the St. Croix in 1855.”

This blending of past and present is central to the identity of the St. Croix Valley. It is both the benches and Seitz’s narratives that work together to illustrate this.

Read the whole article…