First off, this is your annual report on a gathering of radicals off in the mountains of Colorado. Now, we’re all living in a time when everyone wants the world to change drastically—not the only such time, but certainly such a one. For a lot of people, that desire can be satisfied by the occasional trip to a voting booth interspersed with a lot of complaining and expressing opinions that seem self-evident, especially on Facebook. Okay. Everyone has their path, and I’m only obliquely attacking that complacency here (partly because it’s a target that requires a large attack and partly because I still feel uncomfortably like part of the problem myself). The point, here, is that those self-evident opinions percolate up to the clicktivist armies from somewhere, and one such source is to be found in places like a mountain meadow in southwestern Colorado over the week of the summer solstice.
When I braked two years of traveling momentum to settle down and live on this little peninsula on Lake Superior, I planned to start feeling at home. You wouldn’t guess it from how long I’ve blown around all-anyhow on the winds, but getting into a deep relationship with a place is a project I’ve had in mind for a long, long time, and that I’ve planned to dedicate a lot of my life’s time and effort to.
From some of the replies I’ve gotten to my last post, I realize I didn’t actually make it clear where I’m living now. I’m living in a little country house about halfway between Ashland and Washburn, Wisconsin.
Here at the cedar-shake country house I’m living in, I’m surrounded, whenever I go out, by the changing season. I arrived here after most of the snow was already gone, but along the road there were still patches, which have melted now. On my way up here from Minneapolis, I could hear, toward the beginning of the ride, spring peepers even over the clattering of the grain car that I rode to Superior, Wisconsin, but when I got to Ashland no one had heard them yet. Now two weeks later, when I arrive back home from the eight-mile bike ride to town, I can find the right driveway by echolocating, thanks to the raucous crowd of peepers in the marshy spot next to it.
Here in Minnesota, a long, punishing Winter has been followed by a lovely Spring, which has been followed by a spirited Second Winter. The morning of the 11th, before I started writing this, snow fell with a brown tinge from dust that blew in from Texas. (Meteorologists call this “snirt”.) Later that day while unlocking my bike to travel down slushy roads that two days prior were clear and surrounded by green lawn, I saw a flash, looked up into the pelting hail, and heard thunder.
If you think you’ve seen icicles, you’re probably wrong unless you’ve been to Minnesota.
If I tell you that I traveled clear to the other side of the Midwest for the opportunity to trudge six miles across a snow-covered, frozen bay in the dark of night, you might be inclined to ask why. Well, I can’t tell you that. There are certain things in life that we just have to do. Maybe it’s something to do with thrillseeking or spending time with friends, or maybe it’s just a more primal urge that we all have: There’s something missing in my life, and it’s a six-mile trudge through the night across a snow-covered, frozen bay. Don’t just look at me. Over four thousand other people did it too. Many of them paid good money for the privilege.