We have had a most peculiar summer, with the weather either overly cool and rainy (today) or blazingly hot (temps near 100 predicted for Sunday). I long for a stretch of 82 degree, low humidity days, but I wonder where it is that I think I live. Minnesota doesn't do moderate, not summer, not winter.
On Tuesday, I took a rare day off work--a rare day that wasn't committed to book nonsense, that is--and met up with dear, dear, dear PMiller, famous on this blog, famous in life, a best friend, an old friend. She knows all my secrets and she does not judge me. She is wise and thoughtful but also loves to laugh and hike and doesn't mind the rain or bugs.
She came by my house in mid-morning, won the hearts of the dogs all over again, and then we cruelly left them behind and drove down the Mississippi River to Frontenac State Park for a hike. Now if you've been reading the news, you know that the state government here in Minnesota has shut down. The state museums and historical sites are all closed. You cannot buy a fishing license, or renew your driver's license. Beer distributors are finding out that once their licenses expire they cannot renew them, and so Miller has to pull all of its products off the shelves of all liquor stores. The Minnesota Historical Society has shut down its library, and the Minnesota Historical Society Press might not be able to publish its fall line of books if this goes on much longer. It is madness, all of it.
The state parks, too, are closed. This means you can't park in them, there are no employees, you are not allowed to camp, all the buildings (including bathrooms) are locked, and if you fall off a cliff there will be no ranger around to rescue you. But you can hike. The trails are open. So hike we did.
Pam grew up down near Frontenac; this is her territory, like the North Shore is mine. And it is gorgeous. Sandstone bluffs high along the river; eagles and turkey vultures wheeling on currents of air; prairie grasses and wildflowers grown tall, swaying in the gentle breeze.
It was not a ridiculous weather day. It was chilly and we had spotty rain in the morning, but the skies cleared and we got freckled and a little sunburned in the afternoon. We had the park to ourselves--us, and the animals.
As we rounded one grassy path, I saw movement up ahead, a dozen or so small brown birds with long necks. "What are those birds?" I asked, and then the mother--a turkey!--hurried out of the tall grass behind them. She made a noise, and the baby turkeys all flew, almost straight up, and hid in the leaves of a spreading birch tree. Mama turkey crossed the path, plunged back into the grass, and was gone.
What magic! A dozen wild baby turkeys. But there was more. Pam spotted a fox (I missed it). We both stopped and watched, through brush and grass, as a speckled fawn nursed from its mother, who watched us with big eyes and did not move.
We walked and walked. We saw an immature bald eagle at the top of a tree, all hooked beak and mottled feathers, and a mature eagle gliding and soaring nearby. Pam insisted on calling them "the mother eagle and her baby," but that was one big baby, with sharp-looking talons.
We stopped for a picnic; Pam always packs a feast, and so we had fresh berries and cherries, two kinds of cheese, crusty peasant bread, two ripe tomatoes, an apple. We ate so well we forgot to eat the chocolate she had packed.
Later in the day, we drove down the Mississippi, crossed over into Nelson, Wisconsin, got ice cream (me) and wine (Pam), sat outside, had a mid-afternoon coffee, meandered back to the park for one more walk.
We were never at a loss for words. We solved all the problems of the world that day, as my grandfather would say--we reminisced about our youth; we talked about her grown son and the job market; we wondered how much money we will need to retire (that one we didn't solve); we talked about romance and relationships and friendships and all the people at work who drive us around the bend and all the people at work we respect and admire. (I will leave it to you to decide which is the larger group.)
And then home again, along the empty road, through the quiet farmland and pretty river towns, back to the Cities.