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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: June 1999
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « May 1999 | July 1999 »
6/29/99 - Getting busy here, as you can probably guess by our newsletter hiatus. I just got back yesterday from a 3-day jaunt out of Round Lake. We paddled over to Gabimichigami, then to Little Saganaga, then back to Round. Why so far away, you ask? Simply, I failed to take the advice I dole out about 100 times per day over the phone and "get my permit early." We had a little incident with the canoe during lunch on Little Sag one day; she decided to take an unexpected day trip, without consulting us, the paddlers, beforehand. The demeaning part is that a canoe will really sail in a brisk wind, much faster than with two laboring paddlers. So, I took an unplanned swim - in the rain, and lightning. Again, it wouldn't be so bad if I didn't advise against it in every single canoe orientation I give: "Pull your canoe all the way up on shore and turn it over, even if you're just stopping for a lunch break." I used to think it presumptuous to follow one's own advice religiously, now I just think it will keep my underwear from getting soaked. 'Till next time . . . AWH

6/19/99 - The dragonflies are swarming now and the black flies (aka gnats) are just an unpleasant memory. The black flies got a public relations boost this year when they were featured in an article by outdoor writer Sam Cook. Sam writes for the Duluth News Tribune. He is an excellent writer, so his black fly article was picked up be wire services and spread around the country. The black flies were no worse than usual this year, but their population peak coincided with Memorial Day weekend, giving thousands of holiday campers the opportunity to experience the ravenous horde.

The dragonflies are a pleasure to watch. They are incredible fliers. They can fly in any direction, including backward, stop on a dime, and never run into each other. If an airplane could be engineered with the performance characteristics of a dragonfly, the world would be a lot more fun. - Bill

6/17/99 - Here is the poem by John Oberholtzer that was read on the For The Birds radio program yesterday:

Bird Legs

I've seen gulls leave a leg hanging down as they fly. Cruising in front of my car, the foot swings back and forth at each turn like a rudder. Crows and hawks bounce into the air, and then, slightly askew, feet and legs dangle, communicating out of use, away from land.

I'd let my legs swing too. Rappelling, or on a trampoline, legs sweetly float. We share with raven feelings of fatigue. We know the strategies of gull when she seeks a relaxing posture. All creatures of sinew and bone, of pull and push, are relieved to let it all hang out, seeking the sensation of loose and relaxed.

In dreams, legs hang. Flight comes naturally, and the weight of legs is felt. Odd pressures on the hips, and tingling in the soles, remind us how infrequently our legs are allowed to drift. Below a parachute the feet tickle, as if shoes my slip off without the ground to hold them in place.

I want to follow gull over the break wall; out over the depths of the lake, my legs like pants drying on a breezy clothesline. Fold my wings with raven, as he lets go to tumble toward his mate. Drop my legs with eagle, and feel the wind and splash on my toes grabbing for trout.

I swim naked with my friend, dangling in clear water. Her breasts float from ribs relieved to feel the sharp cool. We dry in the sun against a rock, torsos and arms like sleepy orangutans. Awakened, we jump back in, floating flat, forest debris peeling off our bodies, zigzagging slowly to the bottom. Our hair undulates in the waves. Raven swims overhead, legs pumping imaginary water, sun dancing on obsidian talons. Gravity seems to slip, and it feels imminent we will drift into a sky full of water, birds, earth and people, gently bumping and slowly drifting over the horizon.

6/16/99 - This morning OB's poem "Bird Legs" was read by host Laura Erickson on the public radio syndicated program "For The Birds." The program is heard on the stations of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium. We'll get a copy and post it here tomorrow. Congratulations OB.

Frost was observed on some of the roofs here at Sawbill this morning. The forecast is calling for even colder temperatures tonight.

We took the Sawbill crew '99 group picture last night. With the controlled chaos that reigns here at Sawbill, it is a rare moment that finds us all together.


6/14/99 - Wow, there is lots going on: thimbleberry blooms, dragon flies, bindweed, turtles crossing the road, hawkweed, fragrant rose blooms, dying black flies, other flies biting, large leaf aster carpets the forest, baby moose sightings, so much bunchberry, good bass fishing, sweet little twin flowers, bumble bees, calla lilies, box elder bugs, lupines, swallowtail butterflies, blue flags, fluffy air from dandelion heads and diamond willow, aspen, and birch catkins, star flowers, coral root shoots, hopping toads, and several hard to identify moths. June is busting out all over!! OB

6/10/99 - There are holes above the shower house. Two days ago, a brief but intense storm stampeded over Sawbill. Several big pines came down, two of which danced hard with the shower house and dome. The dome stood firm against a big jack pine. Above the shower house, in those windy moments, a good size white pine snapped half way up, viciously slamming into the women's roof. Breaks from above gather more speed and are always worse. Several small holes and a crushed eave were the result. Luckily, we have good carpenter friends on the North Shore, and I am presently listening to the final touches of reconstruction. In the aftermath, we took a long hard look at the big trees around our buildings. Typically, we err on the side of letting as many trees stand as possible, but a couple diseased white pines loomed ominously near too many buildings, so we took them down. One of them was about eighty years old and has long provided shade above the shower house and office window. Yesterday's hot sun glared more intensely above the computer. I looked out and remembered the new hole in the forest over the showers. It is significantly brighter out there, and likely, a tad bit warmer. I'll miss that tree, a tree that stood for forty years or more when this spot was just forest. A tree that, until it was gone, I had not realized was part of my mental map of this place. At night, I look up at the big trees to guide me through the dark paths. Last night as I was moving between buildings, the trees were drenched in a quick, heavy rain. I stood below one, against dry warm bark that the storm was too brief to dampen. The stars reappeared rapidly, so rapidly that the dripping pines still sounded like rain. I imagined a starlight rainbow. All I saw were moppy, dark heads of pine, mourning in the night breeze. OB

6/9/99 - At the base of my brain, a flycatcher's song has taken root. For the past several weeks, an Empidonax Flycatcher has been emphatically calling a sharp, simple "per-wee!" We rarely see the flycatcher, but its call is the backdrop for all our comings and goings. Several nights, I have heard the flycatcher so clearly that I pause, surprised to hear the call so late. But, like reaching land after a long windy paddle, still feeling waves roll through limbs and heart, it was an illusion. While fixing canoes or unloading stock, the flycatcher call cuts into my conscious, distracting my concentration, drawing my mind into the woods that press so near. I've seen the flycatcher only once, threading in and out of the tree tops, alighting briefly, calling, then off again - each spot a little knot cinched with a "per-wee", darning our clearing back into the forest canopy. The insistent flycatcher tunes me to other calls, bits of sound that roll into our compound like errant balls from neighbor children. I am reminded of the fun nearby, the treats and wonder that first brought me here and are too often obscured during busy times. Worn out, at the end of a long day, all that remains is the flycatcher. A beacon pulsing in my head, in the darkness of my bedroom, it guides me through the inconsequentials of the day, into a morning so full of chiming birds, I wonder if I will ever feel down again. OB

6/2/99 - Veteran Sawbill crew member, Dave Freeman, ended an interesting overnight canoe trip yesterday. He left Sawbill about 5 PM and traveled to Wine Lake. He took the 480 rod portage north of Lujenida, but turned west in the middle and followed a little used trail to Frederick Lake. He spent the morning fishing on Wine and then returned to Sawbill by Noon.

Dave is renowned for his long distance solo canoe trips through the wilderness. It isn't that he travels fast, but he is relentless. He first came to our attention when he took a week long solo trip at the age of 16. Two weeks ago, he graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in anthropology.


Current Sawbill Newsletter | « May 1999 | July 1999 »
 


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