Investigating Beargrease

Photos from the start of Beargrease 2010 (sled dog marathon) that we went to today.
The marathon starts in Duluth and is a 380-mile endurance race to almost the Canadian border and back, through the Sawtooth Mountains along Lake Superior's North Shore.

(The man above is/was racing against his son.
Good article on the mushers here. )

These dogs were raring to go - and loud!

Ready, set ...

(I snuck into VIP area for this. shhhh)

It's late, I'm tired .. and I'm not Vonnegut.

I am:
Kurt Vonnegut
For years, this unique creator of absurd and haunting tales denied that he had anything to do with science fiction.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Oh, HOW I WISH. These tests only succeed in reminding me how I'm so NOT whomever they tell me I am. Then again, it does make me go all smuggy when I get someone I admire greatly.


#fridayflash "All-night Diner"

'All-night Diner'
3.5in  x  2.5in
India Ink on 140lb cold press
CJ Hodges-MacFarlane

Circle of Friends

I was given this award by Simon aka Skycycler (@skycycler on Twitter), which is an honor considering his exceptional writing ability, whimsical imagination and easy camaraderie with his peers. I'd like to give this award right back to him in spades.
While having missed many months of flash fiction - therefore many opportunities at getting to know many writers better - these people (and their offerings) stand out in my mind:

Shannon Esposito (@soesposito)
for her stories, especially: Birth of an Idol

Peter Etherington (@petherin)
for his stories, especially: The Distance Between Things

Jennifer Jones (@jentropy)
SnohoStories for the stories, photos and serenity found at her blog.

Stefanie Howerton (@SteferstheGreat)
52 Weeks of Wordage for her infectious exuberance and writing.



180 artists, 389 albums, 5215 songs ... and counting.
Most albums per artist goes to Tom Waits with 11, followed by Pink Floyd with 10, Modest Mouse with 9 and Led Zeppelin with 8. Lately, my most played would be Tom Waits and Radiohead. A month or so ago it was Calexico and The Raconteurs.

It amazes me that almost my entire collection (some CDs I never bothered to put on although I have room to double my albums) can fit onto one little bit of electronic gadget no bigger than a small spiral notepad. I don't even consider myself a music lover. But it's so much nicer having it all in one spot that I can take with me, play on the stereo in the car or at home, my headphones at night, etc. I'm still mystified by and thankful for mp3 players.

My music tastes vary greatly, from Primus to Woody Guthrie and Neil Diamond to Gogol Bordello - and it used to be easier to list what I didn't like rather than what I do. But, music genres have gotten so overlapping and strange in the past decade that I can't even really say what I prefer anymore. My teens and I argue over genres all the time - what is punk to them is not punk to me, they call heavy metal "screamo" which, I'll agree, is apt - but we don't agree on bands. It is nice that we share music though. I never bought "kids' music" when they were little, they grew up singing Soundgarden, Presidents of the USA, Harry Belafonte or whatever else I was listening to at the time. "Spoonman" by Soundgarden is a cherished family sing-along song.

Growing up, I had an 8 track player with two tapes - Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Beatles On Abbey Road, which I listened to every night for about 6 years while falling asleep in junior high and high school. I had other albums and tapes, but those were my nightly preferences. I tend to be like that with my music tastes. I'll find an artist and listen them (not quite exclusively) for months on end - then either switch to something else or stop listening altogether for awhile.

I'm like that with all of my interests it seems. Wonder if there's a name for sort of behavior... Is it normal?


slife one

Slife = slice of life: 
A weekly bit showing our daily world,
shared with online friends to get to know one another better.

Had a bit of fun before clearing off the truck.
Carly (18) called me a dork when I came inside, but was laughing.
Maggie (5) thought it was funny and explained where the nose, mouth and ears were located.

The hallway to preschool class causes a bit of vertigo for me,
or perhaps it is having a child just starting
another long trek through 13 more years of school.


still falling ...

I love fresh, sticky snow.
Meanwhile, my husband is in Hawaii,
missing out.

Or is it the other way around?

It's awfully pretty both places.



I woke up this morning in a great mood.
Coffee, good kids, easy-going plans for the day. 

It was dismal outside. I don't mean it was raining, which it was. I don't mean it was dirty, which it was. I mean it was dismal - the kind of day that tries to suck the joy right out of you. The grey clouds hung low, so low that the tops of tall trees were hazy. The top of the high, hilly spine that is the headpiece to Duluth's bed by Lake Superior wasn't even visible. It was drizzling, then raining, then nothing, then sleeting, then ... The snow was a foul mix of sand, dirt, exhaust, trash and who knows what else. Between the drippy, sloppy sounds, the chilled humidity, and the greasy blurs of grey/brown - every sense was regaled with DISMAL.

But, I wasn't depressed, despondent or even a little blue.

I noted the dismal day and kept right on laughing, cracking jokes and smiling at anyone who looked my way. Flashing my teeth, spreading a little joy and dancing through the puddled parking lots - I kept the dismal at bay. I was going to take a picture of the dismal day, to try to capture just how horribly dreary and ugly it was... and then I noticed how bright my jeans looked against the nasty concrete sidewalk in front of the hardware store.

Friends located east of me on the globe were talking about what a beautiful, glorious sunny day their world was having. I think mine was just as beautiful and glorious. Why?

I have no idea.
But it felt good.


#fridayflash "Verklempt"

He dropped it.

His eyes widened into chasms of uncertainty as time slowed. He flailed in mental stop-motion, ineffectually grasping to regain hold of it.

Dust motes sparkled, twinkling a slow waltz in front of his eyes. His mind buzzed with the electric hum of a thousand devastating consequences. Potential - shattering into the dull smithereens of decayed dreams. 

His breath, captive in his expanded lungs, prickled and itched to escape. The pressure pulsed ominously on his pores, while the folds of his brain began unraveling. What would happen?

The cat in the closed box winked.


“It’s okay, honey. We can reschedule for another night if you have to work,” she sighed.

“You still love me?” he said, in a quick rush of liberated air.

“Of course I do! It’s just dinner, we can celebrate in other ways when you get home,” her voice warm again after her pause had slowed time. “I’ll see you later, big guy.” She hung up.


He stared at the picture of his new wife, her heart his most prized possession.

Redemption reanimated his body and he touched the velvet box on his desk. Inside, the platinum cat pendant with diamond eyes lay curled in satin, awaiting its new home close to her heart.

*ahem* a little uh.. dedication

This morning, as I sat at the helm of my revived virtual world, I glanced over at the window and saw my ravaged geranium bonsai, now in full bloom, backlit by the sun.

I captured the moment and... Wait, a short backstory is in order.

Recently, the unexpected happened.

I met someone interesting.

In between my mundane activities and stretches of boredom, this person reached out across the miles to make herself known to me and put a spark of anticipation into my days. I didn't realize at first (how could I?) that this person might turn out to be a New Friend.

People (especially online) tend to be passing through, reacting to one blip of your signal with perhaps a return beep, then moving on to other things. Blipping and beeping, texting and tweeting - it's a fickle wwworld, with lots of dry, shifting dunes stretching between oases.

She commented.
I commented.
We commented. We dug deeper and commented more.
We followed and made stalking jokes.
I felt inspired to do some writing, perhaps something creative.
We emailed. We shared.
Inspiration was courting, creativity sat by my side.
We chatted. We told secrets.
For Hours.
We talk about possible trips to meet In Person.
Where is it all leading? Who knows!
But so far, I'm enjoying every moment.

This morning, as I sat at the helm of my revived virtual world, I glanced over at the window and saw my ravaged geranium bonsai, now in full bloom, backlit by the sun.

I captured the moment and am now dedicating this moment to her.

And yes, I'm feeling bit silly, a tad self-conscious - but what the hell?
Carpe diem.



I  am really tired of that last post staring me in the face, but am not feeling particularly bloggy.
So, in the meantime, here's a picture for my own viewing pleasure.


#fridayflash "The Right Thing to Say"

Her friend pulled the truck up to the doors of the hotel. She glanced over at him and said, “Thanks for the ride.” Not bothering to acknowledge his hurt look at the brief comment, she got out, shut the door and walked through the double glass doors and into the hotel lobby. To her right she saw her mother, father and friends, some already standing, waiting for her to join them. The look on every face was of raw concern, whether smiling through it or just frozen in place, like so many deer in the headlights. She couldn’t deal with them right now – she needed to be alone.

The elevator doors stood across the vast lobby and in a split moment’s decision, she headed straight for them instead of to the collective support that waited, holding its breath to see what she would do. She heard someone call her name but kept walking. The elevator doors slid silently open and she stepped in, pushed number three and waited for the doors to close. She saw her dad walking to catch up, the hitch in his walk apparent. He liked to say he’d broken every bone in his body at least once, some twice – and it was the walk that betrayed he might not be exaggerating much. The door slid closed and she rode up alone to the third floor.

She made it to the room and pushed down on the door handle, before she realized she didn’t have the cardkey. She tried again, hoping maybe it would just open out of respect for her need, but the door wasn’t obliging. She leaned her forehead on the cool wood, content just to stand there forever, realizing with surprised detachment that she still smelled like the hospital, like witch hazel.

A hand reached out to her shoulder and gently pulled her back to make room. Her dad slid the cardkey in with his weathered, almost mahogany-tanned hand with its thick, clean nails. He liked to show her “nail strengthening exercises” for those times when one is caught without their pocketknife and needs to pry something loose with a fingernail. She didn’t quite believe the exercises worked, but did them anyway because his nails were unbendable, tough and she wanted to believe everything he took the time to tell her.

He opened the door and she went to the far bed and sat on the edge, facing the window. He stood alongside her with his hands in his pockets, also not seeing the same vista through the opaque curtains. He waited for her.

“Dad? That sucked.”

“I know, honey.” His voice, made deeper, and face were ravaged with pain and empathy, his slate-gray eyes searching the curtains for something to make her okay.

The tears welled up into her eyes, making the room blur into an underwater realm of pleasantly colored light woods, and distinctly hotel-like colors and patterns. She stood up and buried her face in his shoulder. The tears flowed from her eyes in hot rivers and she clutched at the front of his lightly plaid shirt with both hands. All the grief and anguish had surprised her – she never cried. It welled out of her as if some foreign entity had possessed her. She was both crying and watching herself carry on, embarrassed but not unclenching the fists of plaid shirt in her hands. Her dad embraced her with both arms, not saying a word – just holding her, gentle and solid.

She could smell his familiar morning odor of spice and musk from his “cheap, but does the job” aftershave, coffee, and 40 years of mentholated cigarettes. He hadn’t started smoking until he was in the hospital, after some Korean War injury he never talked about. His buddies would bring him cartons of smokes and he’d just pass ‘em on to others in the ward, until someone brought him menthols, and the smell reminded him of one of his meds. He started smoking them as if they’d somehow have the same effect, and had never quit. She had picked up the habit the night of her 16th birthday, when it was legal, because she wanted to be just like him.

Her nose clogged up now, forcing her mouth open to catch ragged breaths of air. The sounds that escaped her were not of her. They were from some mewling, grotesque cave creature. Why had she done it? Why had she acted so cavalier about it all? The only time she had felt slightly off-kilter with the whole deal was when she was looking at her father, the pain in his eyes over her decision apparent, only slightly hidden by his love for her. He was her rock, and she had shaken him without regard, but he was too kind to say anything. Her tears were not only for herself, but for the pain she had caused him and, unknowingly, for the guilt of that inflicted pain she would carry long after he was gone.

When she became self-aware again, the tears subsided. She pulled back and hung there, feeling cleaned out and used up. She didn’t know how long they’d stood there, but it had been long enough. Cracking a little grin, she touched the black smudges of mascara and slick wetness of her dad’s shirt.

“I got your shirt dirty.”

“Oh Christ, it’ll wash.” He cracked a little grin back at her, reaching into his back pocket to get his hanky. He handed it to her and, knowing better than unfolding it, she dabbed at her puffed and sore eyes. She took a deep, only slightly ragged breath and tried a wider smile at him. His moist eyes twinkled, under his slightly bushy, grayed brows and he touched her cheek, “That’s my girl.” And she was.


Today's Rationalization

Pictured above is my blooming geranium bonsai.
I'm quite proud of it and it's lovely photogenic lines.
As a serial destroyer of proper bonsai trees and shrubs,
a gentle suggestion was given to me
to try taming the precocious geranium,
as it might be easier on my conscience and pocketbook.
It's aesthetic lines and startling blooms remind me that,
although my paths may wander without comprehensible reason,
occasionally I am rewarded with unexpected beauty.


Acupuncture & Indian Food: Novella of First Experiences

On Saturday, I went with my eldest daughter and my sister-in-law to my first acupuncture session and first Indian dining experience. Both locations were dimly lit so I couldn't provide my own pictures, so I have, with minimal guilt, stolen all photos to make this a more interesting experience for you and more time consuming and annoying one for me. Go Martyrs! 

My SiL is one of those new-agey types, which normally provides a lot of scoffy mirth in our family, but on occasion she lures me into some of her wonky gigs - usually with a little food bribery. She knew I'd not tried Indian food before and was hankering to - so she offered to buy me Indian lunch if I went to a "community" acupuncture session this month with her. (Having failed her last month, as I withdrew at the last minute due to stress ... Irony noted.)

The acupuncture studio was in an old office space above the Electric Fetus (Great music/head shop/cool stuff store - but don't say "I'd like an electric fetus candle for Christmas", unless you are with someone who knows that the Electric Fetus is the name of a store, not a contraption). We deshod outside the door and walked into the tiny room partitioned with curtains. The obligatory decor (prints of Buddha, myriads of official looking certifiying certificates, and lots of  - WAIT - enough detail, this could become book length. I'm sure it looked like every other desperately hopeful acupuncture joint.

Sitting in a comfy recliner facing some random, close-eyed woman with needles poking out of her head, and my SiL and daughter to either side of me in their own comfy chairs, I tried to relax. Everyone's feet were facing the center of the room, and luckily I treated this outing like a 3rd date and had shaved, pumiced, gratered and painted before leaving home. When it was my turn to get punctured, the waif-like Mistress of the Needle asked me some questions, I told her no lies, and she proceeded to gently palpate areas of my body and stick pins in my feet, legs, hands and yes - on the top of my head. The last made me jump a little - I did not expect my skin to make a quiet popping noise as it broke the skin. Yes, ew. But - no pain!

She left me there to marinate in my newly skewered chi. I waited for something to happen. I listened to the chanty music. I watched the fountain. I checked out the bottom of random woman's feet (hardly calloused!). I closed my eyes and thought about if my chin was obviously doubling. I counted everyone else's needles and found I only had 7 compared to their over 10 or more - which made me momentarily jealous, then smug - because I was obviously in better overall health. I thought about Indian food. I wondered how I was to tell if I was feeling something or was it just the fountain, dim lights and soft chanty music making me relaxed. I thought about how this wasn't an ideal situation to scientifically deduce if those various needles were doing any good. I wondered how long I had to sit there. At some point, she came and took the needles out and smiled with warm expectancy at me. I smiled back unsurely, chirped "Thanks!" and jumped up to get on to my Indian food. I'm sorry to say I don't know if it worked, but I'd do it again for no other reason than it's not bad to relax in a cozy setting while mimicking a pin cushion.

Next stop - India Palace. Nice decor, dimly lit with fancy elephant gods and pretty exotic ladies decorating the walls. Sadly, they only offered buffet lunch (I loathe buffets), but since I was being Daring that day I didn't moan. Clientele was mainly those Green & Therefore Cool smuggy types (huge population of those in Duluth) and Indians (dot not feather, although huge population of the latter in Duluth as well).

I didn't order any beverage since I wasn't paying, although some of the strange yogurty drinks looked promising. Everything looked kind of yucky except the bread (paan) and the chutney (I liked the mint), but that's true of some of the dishes I make so it didn't mean they weren't good, right? Well, the curried meatballs looked bad and were bad. But the tandoori chicken was yummy, and the saag paneer (spinach & cheese goo) was scrumptious over some really tasty basmati rice. (Yes, I looked all these up a minute ago, since of course I didn't memorize the names on the spot. Eating excursion, not to-be-quizzed-later.) The rice pudding (kheer) was exceptional and surprisingly flavored. I'd go back, but not for buffet.

And a day later? I'm still feeling relatively stress-free and the Indian food did not give me heartburn. About as much as one can hope for!


Winter Beach

Here are few photos taken on Jan 8, 2010 on an excursion to the shores of Lake Superior with my daughter.

Temperature was 6 degrees.

All ice boulders and ice rocks on shore of Lake Superior. None of these are actually rocks, some are as large as 3ft across.

Icicle pool, about the size of a hot tub.
Not hot.

Breakwater on Wisconsin Point

Taken from the shoreline - new ice field created by incoming ice and slush from the lake.

Loose sand blown away from frozen sand, leaving beach detritus on small pedestals.

Me, freezing, but enjoying the ice beach excursion.