Weekend Coffee Share 8/27/17

If we were having coffee, I’d be curled up in a heavy sweater drinking lemon ginger tea.  I’ve been fighting off a cold for the past few days and, today, it took a turn for the worse.  You might not want to get too close.

It’s crazy that we’re in the final gasps of summer!  Where did the time go?

I missed the coffee share last weekend due to being out of town.  My mom and I attended a retreat with a church we’ve been attending recently.  In a lot of ways, the retreat was really awkward.  We only knew a few people and neither of us are good in large groups of people.  In other ways, though, it was a really great experience.  It was really nice to get away from home–the retreat was held at a camp by a lake, which was lovely.  They brought in a Bible scholar from a university in Chicago do lead the teaching.  He talked a lot about the original Hebrew version of the texts, which was fascinating!  Through forced group games and breakout sessions, I did get to know a few people.  And, this past week, one of their pastors texted me and invited me out for lunch!  I’m meeting up with her tomorrow, which I’m looking forward to.

Work this week was busy.  On Tuesday, I had a programming double-header, which was absolutely exhausting.  In the afternoon, I hosted a class on genealogy research, which was taught by some of my library colleagues.  It was a full group–every computer was taken.  Then, I had about an hour to turn the room around for this month’s Lego Club. Continue reading

Thoughts From a Cold Boulder

My coat wasn’t quite warm enough, but I hardly cared.  Perched on my rock, it was not the bite of the wind that took my breath, but the blue of the water stretching for miles before my feet.

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Panorama of my view from my iPhone.

Duluth, Minnesota is an old industrial town.  Perched on the Westernmost tip of Lake Superior, it’s an important harbor and port for ships bringing goods and services across the Great Lakes.  Before settling to soak in the view, I had the pleasure of watching one of the enormous freight ships slip into the harbor, skirting gracefully under the iconic lift bridge.  Strolling along the boardwalk, old manufacturing warehouses and mills (now hotels, shops, and restaurants) on one side and, on the other, the endless lake.  I’ve been coming to this city since I was a little girl.  The boardwalk, the worn brick buildings, the lake–they’re all part of me.

My nose was beginning to run, but I perched along the shore anyways.  In that moment, soaking in the beauty of the sunlight glistening on the waves, a deep peace settled over my spirit.

The past few weeks have been a torrent of upheaval–from persisting unhappiness to my job to arranging to leave the country in January to terrorist attacks and political strife.

It felt so good to get away, to sleep in a bed twice the size of my own, to eat pizza in front of a hotel TV as my brother gushed about Star Wars.  It felt good to look out my window and see city, not forest or fields.  It felt good o walk along the boardwalk, to sit on the rocks, to watch the ships come into harbor.

It blows me away how crazy this world is.  Things are always changing and I am no exception.  I don’t know what the adventures ahead have in store.  I don’t know how my experiences will shape me and who I will become.  This both terrifying and liberating.

I can’t help but think of the quote from which this blog is named:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Moments like these ones, silently dwelling in the places that have known me for so long, give me the courage to take that leap.  The peace that dwells in my innermost being gives me the strength to see what’s out in the world and discover who I’m going to be next.

Pleasant Valley Thursday: Frost Season

This photo pretty much sums up my week:

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It’s the time of the year where the days are reasonably warm and good for growing, but nights are cold.  Our strawberry fields are beginning to bloom and the tiniest bit of frost destroys the flowers.  No flowers, no strawberries, no income.

Most strawberry patches deal with frost via irrigation.  Since we’re a small, family-run operation, we don’t have the funds or water capacity for this.  So we take another route: frost blankets.

The method is simple: Spread the blanket over a field, hold down the edges with boards and sandbags, pull the edges snug, and voila!  Actually, it’s not as easy as it sounds.  It’s the kind of job where the devil is in the details.  There’s countless places where, if you make a wrong move, you royally screw things up.  For instance, you have to know which side of the field to roll the blanket out.  If you put it on the wrong side, you have the wind working against you.  You also have to make sure all the sides are tight and even as you go along putting the weights on the side–if the blanket is diagonal, it’s easier for the wind to catch it and blow it away.  Also, you need to be VERY careful where you pull because those things tear easily.  The whole process takes at least an hour per field.

Because of all the particulars, my dad usually does the entire job himself.  Which, if you ask me, is absolutely insane.  However, he threw his back out last week, so this year it was up to Sam and I to save the fields from their cold nemesis.

The most frustrating part of the job is that it feels very pointless.  We spend a day and a half getting the blankets perfectly placed only to roll them back up two days later.  It’s maddening!  And it’s hard work!  All the bending, crouching, and lifting is an incredible workout.  I’ve slept like a rock the past few nights.

Other Jobs This Week:

  • Fill sandbags
  • Haul all the brush in the orchard
  • Mow everything
  • Pull plastic (I’ll explain this in a future post)
  • Spread fertilizer

High: Dad bought us yogurt covered pretzels as a reward for finishing placing frost covers.

Low: The weather conditions were absolutely miserable early this week.  Mornings were in the thirties and drizzly.  In order to keep from freezing, layers are KEY.  On Monday I wore: leggings, sweats, a t-shirt, sweatshirt, oversize flannel, jacket, thin winter gloves, work gloves, winter hat… and I was STILL cold.  Also, Sam threw a big piece of brush at me, which resulted in a big cut in my chin.

Here are just a few of the strawberry fields all happily tucked in and ready to resist the frost!

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Stop by next week for more orchard adventures!

Twenty Two

I might as well come right out and say it… today is my birthday.

Slogging through six inches of snow was not how I imagined spending my first day of being twenty-two.  But this is Minnesota, and Minnesota does what it wants.

On this day last year, I was in Oxford, England.  How many people can say they spent their twenty-first birthday in Oxford?  (British people aside, that is.)  It was one of the best days I’ve ever had.  I splurged on shopping, toured some of the colleges, and had my first drink at the Eagle and Child pub.  It was quite the adventure, and you can hear all about it (and see pictures!) on my old study abroad blog.

My twenty-second birthday is definitely not as epic, but still has been incredibly special.  My mom came to visit yesterday.  We drove up the road to Alexandria and went antique shopping, wandered around town, and had a special dinner at an expensive restaurant.  We sat eating for several hours, enjoying each other’s company and opening cards and gifts.  The day ended relaxing in her hotel, where we did some online shopping.

I spent the night in the hotel and had the joy of commuting to campus in five inches of snow.  The local school district cancelled everything today, but the University never closes.  I keep telling myself that God just wanted to drop LOTS of natural confetti to celebrate my special day… it’s a nice thought, but not super effective.

Outside of the normal Monday routine, do I have anything special birthday plans?  Not really.  All my normal Monday night events were cancelled due to the ghastly weather.  So it looks like I’ll be staying in and watching movies with the roommates.  It’ll be nice.  I’ll wear comfy clothes, eating goodies, and avoiding homework because…

I’ll also be rocking out to the following song in my head, even though I absolutely loathe it.  But it’s my birthday.  I’m twenty-two.  I’m going to break all my rules.  (Then go back to loathing it tomorrow.)

November

It’s the time of year when sunny days become scarce, the trees are stripped of what leaves they had left, and a dusting of frost can be seen on the grass as I walk to class.

November.  Technically it is the final month of Fall, but in Minnesota, it marks the beginning of the slow decline into never-ending Winter.  We begin pulling out our heavier coats, along with our hats, gloves, and warm scarves.  It’s a dismal month, cold and dreary.  We sit indoors longing for sunny September, dreading the imminent arrival of snow.

It’s not all bad, though.  My birthday is in a week or so, which is something to look forward to.  And around now, my normally adventure-seeking soul stills and weekends spent doing nothing in the apartment are a blessing rather than a curse.

These days are for staying in my room all day watching out the window from my desk as the wind turbines spin.

They’re for sipping a cup of hot tea and plunging into a new book.

They’re for messy hair and curling up in old grandpa sweaters.

And these days are for listening to songs like this one:

Spring rain

It’s impromptu poetry time!

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

dusky morning

dawny afternoon

eerie dimness smothers and

lends to pittering and pattering

along the cold-cracked pavement

 

on the other side of the window

my roommates bound

through the falling droplets

oscillating up and down

months of restlessness

result of a five month Minnesota cold spell

suddenly breaking

 

on my side of the pane

I crack open the glass

hugging my warm sweater

breathing in the first spring rain

 

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Click for Photo Cred

A note on blizzards

The tiny town on the middle of the prairie where I attend school has been struck by a blizzard.  And, like any respectable college student, I compare my suffering to Disney movies.  Specifically, I compare my suffering with Disney movies that deal with snow, ice, and all the magical goodness that Minnesota winters bring.  Yes, I’m talking about Frozen.

(Spoilers ahead.)

You know the scene, near the end, where Elsa’s emotions spiral so out of control that Arendelle is lost amid a massive swirling cloud?  Desperate to melt her frozen heart, our spunky protagonist and the tender-hearted mountain man brave the elements, struggling toward each other through the terrifying cold and whipping snow.  Valiantly they push through the storm, determined against all odds to find each other before it’s too late…

That’s how I felt walking to class today.

My face was numb after about thirty seconds and the wind nearly pushed me to the ground several times.  Yet still I struggled, putting one foot after another, determined against all odds to reach my destination.

The only difference between my day and Frozen is there was no Kristoff waiting for me on the other side of the blizzard. No.  No lovable mountain man to melt the despair I felt at the prospect of risking my life for the sake of my education.  In his place was class, professors, and homework.

I wish my life were a Disney movie.

Freeze

Minnesota has frozen.  It’s like the new Disney movie only with no castles, no talking snowmen, and at the end of the day, no amount of love makes the weather get better.  The cold is here, and it’s here to stay.

Yesterday was the first time the temperature was above zero in a week.  The ground is covered in a foot of snow.  When the wind blows, the snow scatters across the road, making driving a near impossibility.  This coming Monday, the governor of the state shut down all the schools because the high for the Twin Cities area is -13 F.  Average temperatures in Western Minnesota (where I go to college) are for around -20 F.  Add in windchill and it’s significantly lower.

Why am I talking about the weather?  Well, that’s what Minnesotans do.  We talk (or, rather, complain) about the weather.  Lately, courtesy of global warming, it’s always doing something strange.  We get fifty degrees in May followed by nineties in September.  We get the longest spring in history, with gorgeous weather starting in March, and the next year winter lasts nearly five months.  You can never seem to win.

When I was in Ireland, during the drive from Dublin to Cork, the tour guide was talking about the weather.  Apparently, obsession with discussing the external conditions is a worldwide thing.  Anyways, he said that he was once in Canada during the winter.  He walked off the airplane and absolutely could not believe how cold it was.  Ungodly, he called it.  He listed off some of the basic conditions he experienced there, then asked us, “How do people survive?”  The others on the bus (a few fellow American students living in Rome, a couple from somewhere in England, and an Australian) shuddered in terror.  I just shrugged because the horrors he described were what I’ve lived through for the past twenty-one winters.

This morning, I was on my way into the local gym and I passed the manager.  She was bundled up like a marshmallow and I could only recognize her through a small slit for her eyes.  The rest of her face was covered in a low hat and tightly wound scarf.  Last night was particularly windy, so she was shoveling away the snow drift that had made its home in front of the doorway.  It looked like she was working hard–she didn’t even need to go inside where the weights and running machines were to get her daily exercise.  As I plodded through the drift to the door, she looked at me and, through all her layers, I could see the exasperation on her face as she asked me a very important question:

“Why do we live here?”

In the moment that followed I had a mental flashback to living in London, where the weather is in the fifties and the only impediment is the occasional rain shower.

I then replied, “I ask myself that every day.”

Once inside, after tugging off my own layers, tying up my gym shoes, and settling my Kindle on the elliptical, I pondered the manager’s question.  And, despite the terrifying cold, the ghastly amounts of snow, treacherous driving conditions, and layers upon layers of dangerous ice everywhere, I knew exactly why we live here.

It’s home.  Deep down, we take pride in living in ungodly conditions.  You could almost say that we love it.  (But, if you ask, we’ll never actually admit it.)