Category Archives: Nature


The first time Husband brought me to Winona, probably in summer of 1978, he introduced me to people in town, people out in the country, and one person in a boathouse (which is what residents prefer to call it, rather than houseboat). It was a tiny one room affair, compact and cleverly furnished, and I remember thinking how fun it would be to live there down on the river. It was so compact! I thought it would be similar to living in the trailer as we had those three summers I’ve written here about – very freeing to downsize, and get closer to nature.

I haven’t been aboard a boathouse since moving back here, but have driven on Latsch Island (in the Mississippi, between Winona and Wisconsin) – the boathouse community seems alive and well. I see that MPR recently did a short piece by Catharine Richert, based in Rochester on what it takes to live in a boathouse – not many residents tough it out for the entire winter. There are the animals (muskrats, turtles, snakes, spiders, mice, frogs) to contend with. Then there is the special “maintenance” invisible to landlubbers: ice buildup during the freeze-thaw cycle. The article states: “Unless the ice is kept at bay, water might flood in through a crack under a door or at the seam between the hull and an outer wall. It can pull the house apart, or under.”

But a close-knit community has grown up over the decades, demonstrating “ongoing communal learning with lessons passed on from houseboat owner to houseboat owner”, since there is no Boathouse Guidebook. Richie Swanson tells, for instance, of  ” ‘popping barrels’ — the ritual of forcing sealed plastic barrels under a houseboat to help it float, which Swanson said can take off a finger or a foot if you’re not careful. Swanson said the process is often a group effort among people who share a passion.”

A friend of mine is pictured toward the end of the article… in the purple slippers. She now lives in town, but keeps her boathouse for a work studio. I hope to see this place in person some day.

I agree with the article’s author, “It seems an enviable life for anyone who loves nature, except in those times when nature tries to take back the neighborhood.”

What is the closest you’ve come to living “with nature”?

A Moment of Silence. Maybe Not

Today’s post comes from NorthShorer


What comment do I need to make about these guests beside my patio? Better than any fashion runway, huh? Oops. That was a comment.

I was going to suggest a moment of silence for the beauty lost in all the ugliness. But then that would make for a dull day on a blog.

What wonder–human or in nature–lost in ugliness, busyness, or confusion do you want to commend today?

A Day at the Zoo

It was a beautiful day for the zoo. In the morning, as many families were still hunting for eggs and chocolate bunnies, we headed off.  Starting off in the Tropics we discovered that every morning they simulate a little thunder shower near Gibbon Island.  Since Young Adult and I have easily been to the zoo 50 times in her lifetime, it was quite a surprise that we’d never encountered it before.

The moose and bears were in fine form and the Amur leopards were all three putting on a fine show. We happened upon coyote feeding and, of course, sat through the bird show. We packed a partial lunch which was supplemented by waffle fries and then wandered up to The Farm for baby goat, piglet and calf petting.  And then there was the obligatory 20 minutes of watching YA pet sharks in Discovery Bay.

But the most amazing display was YA, who suggested the outing to the zoo in the first place, willingly posed for several photos, engaged in conversation about our straw bale gardening over lunch and even said thank you after I purchased popcorn for her. It was a beautiful day.

What is a favorite haunt of yours?

I Can Resist Everything Except Temptation

I stopped at Bachmans early on Saturday morning to get a few tomato cages, in a hopefully not vain effort to keep Guinevere out of my lily garden. It took me quite some time to find a parking spot; it was amazing to me that so many people were there with so many uncertain weather weeks ahead of us. I made an offhand remark about how crowded it was when I was checking out.  The cashier nodded and said “People were lined up outside this morning when we opened.  It’s the Lily Society weekend.”

I purposed don’t keep track of this weekend because goodness knows I have enough lilies. In the looks department, irises are my favorite but in all the other departments (sturdiness, variety of color, quickness to spread), lilies take the cake.  And I have plenty.  Last summer my neighbor said “it looks like the lilies are having a color war in your yard”.

I almost turned back twice before I got to my car, thinking of the varieties, the colors, the low price.   Bachmans was in my rear-view mirror before long and I breathed a sigh of relief.

But I still have to get through Sunday!

What tempts you?


Today’s post comes from Jacque

On March 16 I started my new job one day per week.  I will gradually build my time there to 3 days per week by June 1, while at the same time reducing my time at the other job.  Most of my clients will follow me to the new job, which gives me a nice head start building a caseload and an income.

Every new job starts with The Orientation.  This one is no different.  I will be working with a colleague and friend who I met at a previous job at a Chemical Dependency Treatment Center in 1993.  We know each other well.  She showed me around her office, identifying where I find supplies and where I find the coffee.   I noticed an item sitting on the top of a file cabinet next to the refrigerator.  A chocolate man, a la chocolate Easter Bunny, packaged in plastic and labeled as follows:

“He’s sweet and decadently rich!  Just how a man ought to be!”

I barked a startled laugh, asking, “Where’d you get that?”

She replied, “A friend sent me that recently.”

I was surprised.  I find such a limited view of a man objectionable.  I am surprised she has this.  And I find it wildly funny!  Especially when ensconced in chocolate.  And I am a woman who has nearly always challenged limiting assumptions of what a woman can or should do.  Don’t men get equal treatment?

Several inches away from the Chocolate Man, hanging on the wall,  is a sign. The sign says, “Get the facts and reject false beliefs.”  This phrase would reflect a techniques of the kind of psychotherapy we practice:    Challenge cognitions which are somehow limiting and faulty.  Describe consequences and refrain from judgments.  I teach this technique at work daily.  And concurrently,  I hold fast to some false beliefs of my own.  And I must add I am completely unwilling to let go of those beliefs.  These are best left unwritten.

But back to the topic.  There the two items sat together, awash in judgments and assumptions about the gender role of a man.  What a combo.   I moved the man next to the sign to take this picture, thinking, “Now this is a Baboon topic!”

This combination of items created ambivalence in me.  I think the Chocolate Man is funny.  And politically incorrect.  And offensive.  That is a dynamic that humor experts say often occurs in humor—two opposite statements juxtaposed, creating cognitive dissonance. Many of the jokes we told on joke day last week have the similar dynamic that is what makes the jokes funny.

I think the Chocolate Man is perjorative to men, and I think it is funny.  It says boldly the unspeakable belief held by some women towards men. I am ambivalent—holding two conflicting emotions in the same breath.  And I am still laughing.


What creates ambivalence in you?

Adventures in Moving

Daughter and I had a productive time in Tacoma getting ready for her move there in early May. She now has an apartment, a bank, a primary care physician, renters insurance, and is signed up with the electric utility company. She met the people who hired her, and is set to start her new job on May 15. We have arranged for movers to take her few pieces of furniture over the mountains from Fargo to Tacoma. We are set to go.

We took a fun day on our trip to visit the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. I am ambivalent about zoos, but it was a sunny day and it was interesting to see the different aquatic life in the region very nicely displayed in the aquarium.

The minute we got to the zoo we heard a very loud hooting, whining  sound not unlike that of a whale singing. We followed it to its source and met Dozer, a love sick walrus on loan from a zoo in Houston, TX.  He was hooting for a girl friend, and none of the local girls were interested. I asked an attendant zookeeper how they transported a walrus from Texas to Washington. She said that he traveled by truck.  She explained that walruses don’t need to be kept in water all the time, and so he could go in a truck without a large water tank.  He was due to return to Texas later in the week.

I think daughter’s move to Washington, although complex, is far less complex than moving Dozer back to Texas. All that hooting!

What moving adventures have you had?

Missing Mt. Ranier

Today’s post comes from Reneeinnd

Oh where oh where is Mt. Ranier? We’ve looked in front. We’ve looked in the rear. Maybe it is obscured by clouds, or hills,  or enormous ships on Tacoma’s piers.  Our time here is ending with nary a glimpse of the very large mountain that would give us chills.


What have you been missing lately?

Kindness Gone Wild

Today’s post is from Bill.

Our conversation about kindness brought to mind a story told by my elder daughter.

She returned to her third floor condo having bought some greens at the farmer’s market. On the greens, when she went to wash them, she found a worm. Now you or I might have simply flushed it but she didn’t feel right about that. Instead, she wrapped it in a lettuce leaf and drove it to a park where she could set it free.

I once gave a neighbor woman twenty dollars as my contribution toward cab fare so that a baby squirrel could be driven to the wildlife rehabilitation center. Because, you know, you can’t have too many squirrels.

Is that going too far?

Have you ever committed an act of irrational kindness?