Who are we? We are our stories.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Happy Solstice, the Last Time I saw Santa

At 72, without young children or grandchildren, Santa Claus has drifted from my life. 

As I recall, the last time I saw St. Nick in person was some 40 years ago at Bob and Florence's home in Clarks Grove. It was a traditional, quiet family gathering. We were in the living room, comfortable after a big meal, digesting with some of Bob's home brew poured out of a jar, an apricot brandy as recall. It was a small living room, made smaller by the big Christmas tree by the window, so the excited children were scattered about on the floor opening gifts or playing with new toys. As I said, it really was a very small home, so some of the young couples were double-stacked in chairs, with the young men's laps serving as seats for their ladies. Which seemed to suit both parties.

It was quiet, just laughing children, soft conversation and a Perry Como Silent Night LP playing on Bob's Heathkit Stereo. He was quite proud of it. He had built the wood cabinet from scratch and assembled the tube-type components from kits. I do not know how it would sound compared to a modern set-up, but at that time we only had a handful of LPs to play and we thought it all was quite fine. 

Anyway, back to our tale. Suddenly without a knock or a hello, a fully costumed Santa burst through the front door, running about, hollering, "Ho! Ho! Ho, Mer-ry Christ-mas", again and again and again. The kids were terrified. Hell, the adults were more than a little uneasy until we realized that our personal old elf had more than a hint of liquor his breath, a bottle at his hip and sounded a bit like the late Gordie Hanson, who lived up the street. And poor Santa was escorted into the cold night air a bit roughly. (We found out later he was supposed to be at a party next door and wandered into the wrong house.)

It should noted here that Gordie had a long history. Among a list of things, he painted long, rambling political commentary in neat black letters on his white garage door. He also had a black, full-sized, carbide cannon on his roof, put there by his neighbors after he shot it off at 2:00 in the morning once too often. They put there on the theory that he would generally would be too drunk to find a ladder if he was in a cannon discharging frame of mind. It perched up there unshot for years.
And then there was the parachuting dog incident. 😢

(An aside: Was this the year that Kurt brought all the presents "wrapped" in grocery bags? We still use the large teak salad bowel.)

Happy Solstice,
Be well,

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Floating Deep In the Driftless

I posted the food on Facebook yesterday as it happened. I like to eat at a place where a handwritten menu is passed from the next table or the waitress as she pours coffee. I chose the shrimp tortellini alfredo and Lorna had the smoked salmon salad with a raspberry pastry as an appetizer. Really incredible food - food that you let lay in your mouth as long as is polite because swallowing it ends the experience. And besides the whole idea of  food pictures is kind of hilarious.

After the early lunch at the Pastry Shoppe we had a little time to kill until The Clockworks opened at about 1:00. We had a old family clock that had quit ticking a number of years ago. It just sat up there on a cabinet, staring down on us with its sad 4:20 o'clock face.

Lorna wandered off to "shop", something I do not fully grasp. I really do not mind buying things I need or want, but the process of looking and hoping to buy something unexpected ... oh, nevermind. While she was browsing, I walked up the street to the Root River Rod Shop. I rarely actually buy anything, but Steve Sobieniack is pleasant, intelligent and passionate about his interest.

Steve shared his future plans for expanding the sales area into the back room and upgrading the shop where he builds bamboo fly rods. As we were poking around the back rooms there was the music of Hoagy Carmichael drifting through the shop. Steve explained it was for Hoagy B. Carmichael, an old friend who had called the night before. Hoagy the younger (now 84), was a rod maker, a disciple of Everett Garrison, a master rod maker. After Garrison died, Hoagy B. wrote a book about about him and the process of building split cane rods. The book has sold 22,000 copies and was a major impetus for a new renaissance of handmade rod and fishing with cane.

About a month ago, Goodie Goodwin, the clock man, called to tell us the clock had been repaired. The clock is now back home in Oakwood. (The Hardanger cutwork embroidery was made by a younger-eyed Lorna.) The clock should now outlast me. 

Ticking away the days of my life. Every tick, one tock closer  ;-)   - Gunnar

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wasting time

The gardening season is winding down, unless you count leaf raking - and a couple of hundred daffodils I still haven't gotten into the ground. The Fall bird migration is nearly over, though there were a few White-throated Sparrows singing today, some largish striped sparrows - likely Fox Sparrows, and of course a thousand Juncos scratching through the leaf litter. So I moved my screwing off projects into the Growlery. A year ago I had a beer cooler that failed. I had mounted a slightly smaller picture, 'Sioux Warrior' on the door, but I could not find a same brand cooler replacement to save the door. This cooler is a slightly wider, which required cutting down all the adjacent drawers and drawer cabinets. Sounds easy. It wasn't. 

This was a little tricky. Both the top and bottom of the door moldings are curved. The picture, Sioux Warrior, is an Alphonse Mucha print on canvas. After carefully measuring and cutting I taped the print in location, then peeled back one corner and applied contact cement to the door panel and back of the picture and waited for it dry. "Contact" means contact - when they contact they stick, pretty much forever. Once I had one corner anchored I worked my way around the other three quadrants.

I then masked the print and spray painted two coats of red over the black door. In hindsight this was shortsighted - no, it was stupid. Why not just paint the damned door red and then stick the print on it? I dunno, but I didn't. 

Alphonse Mucha was a Czech, working in the early 20th century, and looking at the profile I am guessing he never met a Lakota in his life, but that was what he named it. Whatever, I like the design and colors. I call him Orville, after Orville Bluelegs LaPlant, as close to a Sioux warrior as walks the earth these days.

Here's to Orville and the beer he guards - Gunnar

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Oakwood - 09/24/2017 One MORE Warbler

No warblers, at least while I was watching. Finally late in the afternoon a single Myrtle Warbler showed up. Some Warblers are rare or threatened because of loss of habitat. "Butter-butts" ? There are millions of these babies, tens of millions - estimated to be 130,000,000! The Myrtles nest all across northern Canada, right up to the Arctic. They are the first Warblers we see in Spring and the last in Fall. We had an outlier immature female Myrtle a week or so ago, but I am counting this one as my "first" of this Fall. Why? Arbitary - because it is my yard and my list, I make Oakwood Rules. 😏 And when they truly arrive there should be more than one.

When I was young there were Myrtle Warblers in the Midwest and East, and Audubon's Warblers in the West. They are similar except the Audubon's has a yellow throat and different migration patterns. Then they were lumped all together as the "Yellow-rumped". Recently the "splitters", armed with DNA, have stormed the Ivory Towers, overthrown the "lumpers" and cast them into the biological taxa mire. So shortly the species may be split again.              Either way, I'm going with "Myrtle".

After being so wrong for so many years, I may finally be right again. - Gunnar, the right man for the wrong time. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Oakwood - 09/22/2017 One Warbler

I did some light gardening, transplanting things here and there, and digging weeds out of the bricks with a screwdriver because I lost my heavy lock-back knife. The knife functioned really well and it belonged to my long dead brother. It has been gone for a month - a real bummer.

It was hot - in mid 90s. There must have been a hundred pre-school kids splashing in the city water park at the end of Broadway. Then back to 1410, hoping to see a hundred heat-beating birds splashing in my water park.

I sat in the shade, listening to music, drank a beer and waited - lit a cigar. And waited. Waited. Waited. Desperate, I switched to a more butterfly friendly lens and moseyed down to the Weed Garden. ("Mosey" is a distinctly warm weather word. No one has ever "moseyed" through snow.) There were a large number of butterflies feeding on the New England Asters - obviously a good autumn feeder flower. 

Click! Click! So much for butterflies.

More gardening. Very hot. Then back to the bench. Beer two. Re-lit the cigar. Waited. No more birds except the Chickadees, Goldfinches, and Cardinals - no Chipping Sparrows - apparently they have left for warmer (?) climes. Eventually one, one! first year male Redstart showed up - by its black fleck markings, the same one that was there yesterday, though it did stay a little longer this time before the Goldfinches came to splash around and spooked it. 

 No global warming here. Stay cool. - Gunnar

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Oakwood - 09/21/2017: (not much)

It is seriously winding down. Lorna got nice shots of a Red-breasted Nuthatch - me? none. I was dealing with harsh sun and dark shadows ... and very few birds. 😉

The Nashville photo is "okay", nice mostly because there is a kiss of the seldom seen red crown. A first year male Redstart did show up for a heartbeat or two, but he did not pose with his tail fanned - just landed, took drink and flew off.

There were a large number of Monarchs and Painted Ladies feeding in the asters. Lorna took some photos. Maybe it is time for me to switch out lens and become a butterflier.

*sigh* - Gunnar

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Oakwood Park: 09/19/2017

Fall migration winding down. Fewer species, fewer numbers. I did see a male Redstart, but I didn't get a shot at it. So I settled for a Wilson's Warbler and a lone Tennessee Warbler. The Wilson's I expect to be solo, but the Tennessees usually come in flocks.  A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher  nicely posed. And a, what-the-hell take what you get, Chickadee.

If you look closely at the eye you can see  a distorted reflection of the Growlery where I was sitting. Very cool.