Whirlwind No. 1: I am writing this while sitting on an uncomfortable wooden hard-back chair in the basement. It is about 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. Boscoe is pacing. Riley is quiet but wary, unnerved by everything, including the sound of the washing machine, which is stuffed with towels and thumping away on the spin cycle. Doug is scanning his iPad for news of the tornado. Outside, wind is whipping the treetops and sirens are wailing.
Whirlwind No. 2: Last Thursday, after the walk, I patted the boys on the head, swung my little tote bag--which was stuffed with a pair of sandals, a change of clothing and (I found out later) toothpaste but no toothbrush--into the back seat of my car, heaved a rolling suitcase packed with copies of NEWS TO ME into the trunk, and hit the road.
I was headed to Duluth, where I was in the running for another book award. The ceremony was that night. I did not expect to win, but I did hope to sell a few books. Wouldn't it be great to roll home an empty suitcase? But mostly it was just an excuse to take a couple of days off work and visit Duluth, the Lakewalk, some friends, and my lake.
It was 68 when I left the Cities, and the temperature rose as I headed north. It topped out at 72 somewhere around Askov and then began to drop, and by the time I cruised into downtown Duluth, it was 52 and the wind was off the lake. I had brought no jacket. I know, I know--amateur. Had I forgotten what it was like to be in Duluth? I walked the Lakewalk as far as Guv's bench, which was not very far, and then I turned and hiked back to the car. Brrrrrrr. Cotton capris and a long-sleeved t-shirt are no match for the wind when it gets that knife edge of chill.
The awards ceremony was at UMD, in the ballroom, and it was a more modest affair than the awards ceremony I had attended last month in St. Paul. No glitz or glitter, no free champagne, but sensible Northlanders in sensible Northland attire. At each end of the room, authors sat at long tables behind piles of their books, hopeful for a sale.
In the middle of the room chairs had been set up for the keynote speech. And along the far wall--pie! Fabulous wonderful pie, provided by the Rustic Inn, one of the best pie-makers along Minnesota's North Shore.
There were little squares of raspberry cream, chocolate, apple-pecan (which looked sticky and hearty) and lemon cream. They filled the table, and young women kept carrying out more on soggy little paper plates. It seemed my duty to help deplete the supply. Because I tend to find something I like and stick with it, I had a piece of raspberry pie, and then I had another.
It was fun chatting up authors, readers, publishers--people I'd met before, or long ago, or not at all but knew from Facebook. One woman looked at my nametag, let out an audible gasp, and said, "I love you!" She meant, of course, that she loved my book, but I will take it either way.
At 6:30 we were all ushered into the central area to listen to the keynote speaker. I was surrounded by empty chairs, but a friend texted me and said she would be there shortly. And then, oh lovely surprise, another friend showed up, just sort of materialized at the end of my row, and so I had two of my peeps with me when it was my turn to find out if I had won a prize.
And then, of course, I did not win, but this was perfectly OK because some really wonderful writers did. I did not sell all the books in my little rolling suitcase, either, and that was a little sadder, but I did sell a few. Well, two. OK? I sold two. And so had to roll the heavy little suitcase back home again.
We listened to the keynote, we clapped heartily for all the winners, we had more pie (and more pie and more pie), and then we went out for drinks.
Yes, that's milk. Not everybody likes beer.
In the morning, I went for a woodsy hike with my friend Ann and her headstrong and curious five-year-old daughter. We saw frogs and turtles, and blooming forget-me-nots, and trilliums not quite ready to bloom--and then I swung by Canal Park to see my Kenspeckle friends, and then finally back on the freeway, headed home.
I was gone a mere 24 hours but such a lovely 24 hours--packed with walking, talking, eating, laughing. I went home two books lighter, and one new toothbrush (thanks, Ann!) heavier.
Whirlwind No. 3: When I got home from the grocery store on Saturday afternoon, there was Sporty!
We had expected him at 4, but he got in early and now, at 2 p.m., here he was, chatting with Doug, petting Riley, scratching Boscoe, dropping his overnight bag in our extra bedroom, filling the house with his stories and happiness. He was here on the first leg of a long complicated business-and-pleasure trip that involved Minneapolis twice, Chicago and New York. We, I am happy to say, were Part One of the pleasure.
I have known Sporty forever. When I lived in Duluth he used to babysit Toby when I was out of town, and he and his roommate and I used to go up the North Shore to the Scenic Cafe for Sunday brunch and French-pressed coffee.
The dogs adore him. So do we.
Like all good Midwesterners, we made him a big meal--grilled pork roast, fingerling potatoes, washed down with plenty of beer and hard cider. We ate on the porch.
And then in the morning, we did it again. (Raspberry pancakes with Wild Country maple syrup, and a whole pound of bacon.)
Boscoe lobbied hard for bacon and might have scored a nibble or two. Riley found a spot under the table where he lay in wait for scraps.
And then, precisely at 2, Sporty was gone--just 24 hours, but how great to see him. Time passes too quickly, days are busy, and we forget, sometimes, to pay attention to our friends. You can look up and years have passed since you have seen each other. I am grateful that he took a day to visit us.
The tornado blew through about thirty minutes later. Our neighborhood was spared, but parts of Minneapolis were badly damaged--not just trees uprooted and powerlines down, but roofs ripped off of buildings and people left homeless, and injured, and two people killed. We were lucky in that all we got was rain--hard, hard rain.