Change Is Like Quarters And Dimes

It's been a little over a year now since C and I moved north.  As I look back, I can see that some of my personal behaviors have changed - a number of them significantly so.  Still, there are parts of life that have remained the same, which is a surprising fact on its own.  This whole experience has seemed a little like being born over again and having to figure things out from scratch.

In a good way.


  • I drive less... much less, but I haven't actually found that I walk more.  I just... don't... go... anywhere.
  • I've stopped shaving my legs so frequently.  When it's -20* and God has given you natural long underwear, you don't go around just lopping it off in the name of being en vogue.  We are so past vogue.  
We're so far past it that we're behind it again.
  • I drink (if it's possible) more coffee than before, but I don't pay $4.25 for it.  I fill up at the grocery store, right next to the Chester Fried Chicken case, for like, one whole dollar.
  • I have no idea if skinny jeans and Ray Bans are still trendy.  Are they?  Or can we finally move on to suspenders and Muck boots?
  • I cook more.  That is, unless it's summer, in which case I don't cook at all, which is glorious.
  • I am less driven into madness by Wal-Mart (less is still some, mind you).  One-stop shopping is kind of a big deal up here, even for newbies.
  • I can still buy local eggs.
  • I don't miss pop radio.   Would you?
  • I am still learning the difference between Sunday Lunch and Sunday Dinner... or is it Supper?


  • I've started wearing eye shadow.  This is a little ironic, considering 1) I work in my basement and mostly go out only to get the mail, and 2) I'll have to drive an hour and a half to buy more when I run out.  
Or, more likely, i'll just quit wearing eye shadow.
  • I don't lock my door.  I used to do that, back when there was a reason to lock your door... or someone to lock outside of it.  Now, I mostly want to lock people in.  Visitor-people.  This could be you.
  • Is that a squirrel in the freezer?  Oh, yes - yes it is.  


  • I have a bird feeder.  It's the middle of nowhere, in 0* weather, and I can't get any birds to eat at my bird feeder.  What are they thinking?
  • Instead of getting a real hair cut, this morning I just had C snip off "the mullet part" before I got in the shower.
  • I have cable [and a hipster somewhere falls down dead every time I turn it on].
  • I can purchase marrow bones, chicken livers and Snow Cap lard at the same place I buy my shoes.
  • I find myself racing out of the house, at 11PM, in only my pajamas, to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
I know what you're wondering and no, I haven't seen them.  
Cold for nothing.
  • I have driven a front-end loader, albeit only for a minute or two, and I was mostly just holding the brake.  They can't take that away from me.
  • My friends enter raffles for MACHINE GUNS.  You know who you are.  

I still struggle to be on time for anything, and I continue to impress hosts of people with my uncanny ability to strangle the life out of stories, but of all the things that have changed or stayed the same over this year, I'm most grateful for my friends.  

The good.  The bad.  The ugly.  Especially the ugly; nothing makes you feel good like an ugly friend.

Just kidding.  You got me.

It's the special friends that make you feel good.



Paradise Found

 So, I'm a bit ashamed to share this with you, but here goes.

We live in the woods.  

That's not what I'm ashamed of.

We do live in the woods, and this is an incredible gift, a gift I'm certain that I don't deserve.  My shame stems from the fact that I don't take advantage of this gift the way that I should.  We live on the doorstep of wilderness, and though every single day we could be out snowshoeing, hiking, whitewater kayaking, flatwater kayaking, canoe paddling, road biking, mountain biking, trail running or rock climbing - almost all from our front door - I have discovered that far too often I find myself in a lifeless and unholy union with our living room couch... like herbed butter melting over a grilled steak, my arms and legs drip sluggishly off of the cushions.  Limbs that are also increasingly composed of butter, my diet would suggest.

If you are feeling any pang of empathy for me at this moment, keep reading.  The following glimpses of forest life should shock you into proper rage at the grand injustice of my slothful existence.  I guarantee that you'll be gearing up to hunt me, armed with envy and a pitchfork, in 90 seconds flat.  And I, in true form, won't be running, so it'll be easy for you to find me and fork me to death for my crimes.

So here it is.  This is life:

We wake up to this view from the front lawn (during summer, that other season).

We get to go down giant slip'n'slides with our friends,

and play in the mud.

We can canoe,

or go whitewater rafting

[at night].
We can paddle rivers,

or sometimes just look good standing next to them.

We can snowshoe,

and take snowy, flannel-y Christmas photos.

But I don't do these things very often.  Instead I seep into the furniture... like a spilled drink.

Miraculously, despite my persistent attempts at shameful lethargy, yesterday was a day that gives me hope - hope that maybe... somehow... I'll collect my drooping limbs a little more often with aspirations of grasping the wealth of adventure found in our vast backyard.  About this time yesterday afternoon, along with a group of friends, C and I took our snowmobiles part-way up a nearby mountain.  From there, we strapped on our snowshoes so that we could hike the remaining distance to the peak on foot.  This was a day to employ what I believe to be a crucial life practice, which is to recognize the incredible nature of what you are actively doing, in the moment that you are actively doing it.  It is when you whisper quietly to yourself or shout to the birds, "this is awesome", and you know it to be true, right down to your bones...

right then...

         as you live it...

as you do it.

So now you can see why it is such a shame to let the smallest opportunity for adventure pass me by.  Because at the end of the day, what story have I written?  What awe have I experienced?  What risk?  What reward?  What part of this incredible created world have I let soak deep into my being and stir my spirit?

Here, where I could throw a rock from our deck and unintentionally kill a brook trout, there is no excuse.  Only opportunity. And as I strive to take hold of mine, I will also hope that you are out there, searching, finding, and fully discovering yours.


If You Think Your Figure Needs Work...

I awoke this morning to a deep, lingering question:

Did the first human have a belly button?

Yes, I, in my genius, am really asking.  What do you think?

(Please leave your answers in the comments section, or this debacle might haunt me another night.)

If that doesn't keep me awake, this sure will.

For the rest of my life.

So please... post me some of that hidden wisdom.



If you came here hoping that I would write some sentimental post about how important it is to love the one you're with, then clearly, you need to do some catch-up reading.

So, what kind of Valentine's Day message do I have for you, Faithful Reader?

Here's what not to do:

Your most important job today is not to bring clever handmade cards to your friends, though these would be my choice if there's no way you can avoid it.

Your job isn't to make a heart-shaped cake for your sweetie, either.  It might turn out well, but the odds are stacked against you.  Plus, if you're over ten years old, you don't get the cute factor.

Lastly - and please tuck this gem in your back pocket - it's not a wise move to give your secret love interest that "it seemed like a good idea at the time" gift.  You know the sort I'm talking about.  Remember, the Beast gave Belle a library. The Prince brought Cinderella her lost shoe. Aladdin gave the genie his freedom. A good gift is a well-planned gift.

And a well-planned gift involves a little, you know, planning.  So don't give your girlfriend pants that would fit a 12-year old and don't give your man a bottle of Rogaine.

Or vice-versa.

But above all, don't give anyone a pair of these.  That is what we call "stepping on dangerous ground".

But M, you haven't told me anything that I can do!  True.

Well, friends, here are my plans.

My primary responsibility this Valentine's Day is to stock up on red hot candies and conversation hearts.  Red hots are a perfect heart-shaped treat any day of the year, but nothing brings on a flurry of romantic fireworks like three pastel Sweethearts sugar-glued to the bathroom mirror in mid-October:

(u rock)   (hot stuff)
(txt me)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning will vomit in her grave, but she's dead anyway, so she can yak all she wants. And it's just one more way that C and I will keep our magic alive all year long.

Just call me Cupid.


And Then Suddenly, All In A Moment, We Realized How Good It Was

It's a wise practice, I think, to every so often remind one's self of the incredible nature of things.

So many things.  





Last night someone took a pastry cutter to the sky.  After pressing it to the darkness, twisting once or twice (for good measure and a clean cut) and peeling away the scraps, there was left a large, round, luminescent cookie.  A moon cookie.  Because we live miles and miles [and miles] from anything resembling a shopping mall, this very stunning moon cookie found no competition for its brilliance.  Here there is no streetlight to overpower (not a single one), no neon sign diminishing our view from the ground, and finally, up a three mile driveway surrounded by thousands (thousands) of acres of wilderness, there are rarely even any headlights.  So last night, ironically, in a world where too much is never enough, this powerful pastry moon bathed the entire forest in light.

This, this was enough.  

Enough to cast shadows.  Enough to see your footing on the dry, packed snow.  Enough to plainly observe with your eyes the incredible nature of things.  And - without the noise of cars, trains, sirens, or even logging trucks - enough to hear life with vivid clarity.

The fog of hot breath in 7-degree air.
A quick gasp before mounting a snow tube at the hill crest.
The whispers of children to their parents: Yes, it's SO fun.
Screams that ring like a bell choir through the naked birch trees.
A dozen gleaming smiles.  
A cascade of giggles.
The cackling of friends rough-housing in a soft, forgiving world.
Toes that wiggle in their boots, rousing one another... stay... warm....
Walking through a gap in the trees (how are the stars this bright?).
Running to catch a ride to the top of the hill.
Escaping all mind-clutter as we whoosh
          - downward, faster, spinning -
                 through the forest.

But no, this is not escaping. 

This is finding.  We are finding out that





Could You Brush It Off Fo' Me?

We live in a snow globe.

Someone must constantly be shaking it too, because almost every time I glance through one of our windows there is more white stuff fluttering (or careening) toward the ground like dandruff flaking onto a black shirt, only much less icky and sometimes dumping out as fast as a sack of rice.

I understand that these words (snow!  potatoes!  dandruff!) are like stinging nettles to desperate snow-mavens in other parts of the country, where sledding and powder days have been replaced by freezing rain and icy roads.  I'm sorry that the cottony-color of your dreams has faded into a dry, pallid, septic system brown.  That stinks.

It really might, now that I think about it.  (How does that septic man do it?!)

There are things that you can do with snow, and one week ago today, I was at a snowmobile race - my very first, actually.

No, I'm lying.  I, like any oxygen-breathing person, follow the sled circuit like a gas powered madwoman.

Aaand my pants are burning.

Anyway, the best part of the whole day was surprisingly not the hours I spent standing on a frozen lake, but was in fact 15 or so short minutes I stood watching a small circus of 4-7 year olds (Yes, FOUR) speed along on an itty-bitty race course riding snowmobiles the size of Hot Wheels.

My, what tiny little windshields you have.

This was life-changing.  Some of the kids were creeping slowly around the circle, totally unaware of the two or three pint-sized astronauts piloting rockets dangerously close to their arms and legs.  These few were flying.  Tiny flyers who had clearly lost their minds, but not their grip on the throttle.

After this, C and I drove downriver to get groceries, then I snapped a picture of this on the way home.

It's fuzzy, but yeah, those are coyotes.  

You know, just a million dead coyotes.  Totally normal.

Then, two days later, someone shook the snow globe again.

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