Come again another day…

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

Henri Matisse

The grass is growing faster than we can stay ahead of it and the bugs are fierce but we made it through June without evolving into a new species of large amphibian so it’s all good, I say.  Besides, we have long memories when it comes to last winter and at least we aren’t having to shovel all of the rain we’ve had.

Besides, my planters have never looked better.   I admire real gardeners who have meticulously weeded gardens and who can tell a perennial from an annual without looking at the plastic tab thingies shoved into the flower pots at the greenhouse. As much as I enjoy having flowers in my life, I am not a very good plant mom, unfortunately. 

My day lilies and hostas thrive in spite of me, year after year.   And the marigolds and coleus in my planters seem pretty independent.  Every morning when I go outside, I can tell they’ve grown a little more and are filling in nicely.  I can take no credit for this.  All I did was buy the plants, dig a few holes and whisper “you’re on your own” before I planted the little suckers.

And then, it rained.  And rained.  And RAINED.

And now I have flowers everywhere. 

Not just the ones I’m neglecting, mind you.  I mean that I have flowers where I’ve never had flowers before. 

I have purple and yellow “volunteer” pansies blooming in the grass as well as daisies, Indian paintbrush, and lupines in bloom.  There are mounds of some type of wild phlox the color of raspberries and a delicate five petaled bright yellow flowering bush that I’ve never seen before. There is pink clover in the ditch and purple crown vetch creeping down the side of the driveway.

My yard is a messy, gaudy, bright swampy mess this summer.  It will never make the cover of a magazine and that’s just fine with me.

Because beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.  And perfection?  Completely overrated.



In June…..

Our poor, dear, little house on the river is showing her age.  As I drove into the yard last Saturday to the sight of grass a foot tall, my grandmother’s round flowerbed choked with weeds, and the end of the dock that I spent hours replacing the boards on last summer completely under water, I wanted to punch Mother Nature right in the face.  Didn’t she get the memo about all the Other Important Things I’ve had to do in June, for crying out loud?

And then I got to work.  Because really, isn’t that why Minnesotans have cabins?  To work?  Oh, sure… there are some Minnesotans who go to resorts and cabins of friends where they actually relax and maybe even (get ready for this) fish.  On Fridays, they pack up the kids and games and hamburger buns, hook their boats onto the backs of their Suburbans and book it out of Suburbia for points north with not a care in the world. This is because they don’t own cabins. And then there are the folks with campers. The ones who haul all of their possessions in their little homes away from home like giant fiberglass turtles to campgrounds where, I’m pretty sure, THEY also actually relax and even, you guessed it, fish.

And then, there are the rest of us fools.

By the time I finished raking up all the grass, weeded the flowerbed, and planted a few purple petunias and a hosta, I was an itchy, sweaty, very thirsty hot mess. I was seriously wondering why in the world any sane and rational Little Red Hen who hates Minnesota winters as much as this one does would spend even one rare and perfect June day weed-whipping confused toads in their behinds when she could be doing anything else that didn’t involve deer flies and snakes and well, toads.

I went in to the cabin to grab something to drink and flopped down in my grandmother’s rocking chair in the living room for a few minutes to get away from the flies and the heat.  A cool breeze was coming through the open window and I could hear the  red winged blackbirds in the meadow she used to look forward to burning off each spring before they nested.  As I sat there, contemplating life and cabin ownership and toads, I happened to look over at the wall  filled with photos of family members that go back all the way to my great-great grandparents who had walked on the same lawn I’d been cursing all morning.  Photos of great-grandparents, grandparents, my mother, aunt, and all their cousins in one frame, and photos of my siblings, cousins, and all of our kids in another. Generations of family on one wall in a house a couple nearing retirement in 1947 had built and hoped to live out their lives together in. Her legacy? A rose bush she planted that still bursts into bloom every June about the time the wild strawberries are ripe.  And his?  A house on the river.

I don’t know why the rest of you have a cabin.

But I know, without a doubt, why I do.


It’s a Dad thing…

This is the month when we single out the fathers in our lives for a little recognition.

Dads often don’t get the credit they deserve the rest of the year, and when their special day rolls around each June, their kids have a hard time coming up with the perfect gift to show them just how much they appreciate all that they do.  Give a mom a bouquet of dandelions from the yard or a box of candy and she’ll blush and gush over the gift. Moms aim low.  Dads generally have higher expectations all the way around.

Which is why the Good Lord created dads. Because life is often more of a dandelion patch than a rose garden, after all.  Moms are squishy and soft when it comes to their kids.  Fortunately, most dads are pretty squish-proof, at least on the outside. 

My birth father was a tall, lanky boy in a leather jacket and blue jeans when I entered the scene. I study the few grainy black and white photographs from that time for clues about who he was then, pondering the course of events that brought my real dad into my life a few years later. That man was a young GI, fresh out of the service who met my mother and ended up with a ready-made family.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Anyone can father a child, but it takes someone pretty special to raise another man’s child.

And he did. Two of them, actually. Through childhood and adolescence, he was there.  I can drive darn near anything (including a snow plow) because of him and he’s the only person I know who can diagnose over the phone with almost 100 percent accuracy what the noise my car is making means. This has come in handy more times than you can imagine. When I was young, he always told me I could do anything I set my mind to and he wasn’t lying. He was there the day I graduated from high school and has attended all three college graduations, as well.  He walked me down the aisle the day I was married and has been “G-Pa” to my kids from day one.  In all the big and little moments of my life, he has been present. Adoption? Not a foreign concept to him. What’s to explain, after all?  I carry his last name as my middle with pride.  He wasn’t a perfect father any more than I was a perfect daughter, which is fitting since nothing in life is ever perfect, I suppose.

But he is my Dad.  Not very squishy,  Kind of stubborn.  Wobblier than he used to be.

But always, always there.

And that has been more than enough for me.



The windshield of life.

We are under siege here in the Land of Sky Blue Water.  Luckily, the big guns have arrived.

Last week, I watched an entire squadron of dragonflies use one of the granite boulders in our front yard as a landing strip and sun deck.  The week before that, we couldn’t even watch TV in the family room without dozens of mosquitoes buzzing near our eyes and ears so it is good to see these celophane-winged little daredevils.  Dragonflies are the workhorses of winged creatures. In fact,  according to Smithsonian magazine, dragonflies evolved long before a lot of other flying insects. Prehistoric fossils of dragonflies with wingspans of up to two feet have been discovered. Dragonflies can fly both up and down, hover, and even mate in mid-air.  They catch their dinner with their feet and are capable of catching hundreds of mosquitoes in a single day. (  And while the image of dragonflies the size of puppies mating in mid-air isn’t one anyone wants stuck in their head (sorry), when it comes to their current relatives, you have to admit that dragonflies are a pretty flippin’ awesome kind of bug to have around in Minnesota in June.

Last Friday night, as I drove around Mille Lacs Lake, suddenly the windshield was splattered with the remains of hundreds of fish flies who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As I tried in vain to get my windshield wipers to get some of the bug goo off, I suddenly remembered a History professor I know who, once in utter frustration over the fact that none of the students in his class had done the day’s assigned reading, referred to the entire class of college freshmen as “bugs on the windshield of life.”

Our old dog made it to another summer with her kids.  When we walk her, she pants and slows down until she spots a dragonfly.  She thinks they are a delicacy and can catch one in mid-flight which I find remarkable for a dog of seventeen.  She prefers the ones in the air to the ones on the road which proves that even when you are a dragonfly with mad skills, sometimes you are the windshield, and sometimes you are the bug.

It is June.  One of the best, albeit buggiest months of the year here in Minnesota.  But it is JUNE, not January.  And while we swear and swat and wash our cars, we will remember this.  We will be itchy and grateful for the blessings of sunshine and cold, clear lakes, evening campfires on starry, starry nights, strong beer, and loons at dusk.

We are Minnesotans, after all.  What the heck do we have to complain about in June?




They were everywhere.  Baby birds stumbling through the too-tall grass up at the cabin.  Their mom had decided it was time to send those youngsters out of the nest she’d built in a grapevine wreath hung next to the screen door.  I first noticed it when I was unlocking the door.  The robin swooped out, startling me.  I looked up and there they were…four baby robins with fat faces staring solemnly back.  Mom sat on the lawn chirping at me.  I’m not sure if she was chewing me out or telling her kids to stay put.

By Monday afternoon,  they were all out of the nest.  Gusts of wind pushed rain across the lake. Mallards rode whitecaps. Two teenaged otters bobbed just off shore.  It was not a good day for flying or doing much of anything else outside, for that matter.   Especially if you haven’t any idea how to fly.  So they hopped,  and I mowed the lawn.  Four very wet, very confused babies and a mom doing her best to herd them away the woman pushing a green monster named LawnBoy.    I’d make a turn….start another pass through the yard…and there they’d be….four brown birds with faint hints of the  orange feathers yet to come and wet spiky punk rock hairdos and their stressed out Mom,  all running away from LawnBoy.

Did we slam the screen door on Sunday one too many times or did the mom just know instinctively that severe weather was coming later that day and want them out of the nest before it hit? Or was it just time?  It’s impossible to know.  Human parents of graduating seniors know only too well about the stormy skies and monsters out in the big world waiting for their kids.  We come to accept that we can only protect them so much.  The world is bigger than us, after all. So we do the only thing we can….we teach them to fly.  Because we have no other choice.

I finished the lawn, dodging all five robins.  As I was getting ready to leave,  Momma Bird and her kids were gone.   I choose to believe that they were nestled under the cabin porch,  safely out of the wind and rain. A bird family of five snuggled together in the dark enjoying their angleworm supper while the babies discussed the long legged cabin creature and her grass eating monster.

And this morning when they awoke, I’ll bet they all learned to fly.