Sunday, August 30, 2009

And a great time was had by all

A dear friend once shared with me a prayer she and her sister made up.

It seemed the perfect way to describe my 5 days along
the north shore of Lake Superior with my beloveds.



trees . . .


Prayer by Renie and Carol
Images by Kathleen Kimball-Baker

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Heading north

O, lucky, lucky me. 

All three offspring, Mr. B, Cora, Charlotte, and I are heading to Lutsen, Minnesota, and her nearby neighbor, Grand Marais, in just 8 hours for our annual 5-day family getaway.

We'll be picking wild raspberries, hiking (well not me this year) stargazing, hoping against hope to see the Northern Lights, roasting marshmallows, playing Scrabble, reading, playing cards, watching night settle in, picking up stones, and gorging ourselves on Lake Superior herring, walleye, fudge, pies, and the world's best doughnuts.

The air is intoxicating there, full of pungent pines and cool lake breezes.

It's a time for rest, reconnecting, and remembering this:

"It takes solitude, under the stars, 
for us to be reminded 
of our eternal origin
and our far destiny."

~ Archibald Rutledge

Till Sunday, blessings . . . 

Image by prakope

Monday, August 24, 2009

If one is patient

Emptiness is bound to bloom,
like hundreds of grasses blossoming.

~Elhei Dogan
Sky Flowers

Image by  Wanda Kline, available through Accent Gallery  

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thanks! I 'kneeded' that

Had I not been so averse to the ruthlessly competitive nature of organic chemistry classes, I might have become a doctor.

I love the world of medicine and I feel like I've had a caffeine transfusion whenever I walk into any kind of healthcare setting. Medical textbooks, especially the illustrations and photos, just fascinate me. The gorier, the better. And surgery holds me spellbound.

So of course I wanted to be able to witness my own surgery last week; I just wasn't quite sure I'd be up to the task.

Warning: If you tend to get light-headed or squeamish when hearing or reading about needles and such, this would be a good time to stop reading.

Owing to my particular build, lots of running, jumping, and twisting during my more active days, both knees need some work. But the left one got top billing. And the mother tiger who is my primary care physician only allows one surgeon to do the the prescribed procedure. He happens to work on the knees of professional football, baseball, hockey, and basketball players. I was lucky enough to score a surgical date during Vikings preseason training.

Apparently, the surgical gowns are made to fit these athletes. They swamped me and even had a few nurses chuckling. They also come fitted with a little hook up that allows a hose attached to a pump to inflate the gown with warm air. Very cozy but I think I must have looked like a lilac Michelin man. 

Dr. Painkiller stopped by to talk about my anesthesia options, which were basically two: 1) get knocked out and risk saying stupid things when you come to and maybe even lose your lunch from 24 hours ago or 2) have a little sedative, then get poked in the back and be temporarily paralyzed from the waist down.

I really don't like to say stupid things and I really did want to be able to watch the monitor and hear the narration, so I grilled Dr. Painkiller about spinals. He told me he had done at least 8,000 in his career and had not had a bad outcome, that spinals had a bad rep from the days when the ampules were stored in formaldehyde and the bad stuff had leaked in, and that if I faithfully laid flat out for a couple days, I could prevent getting a spinal headache, which apparently is a very nasty thing. I opted for the spinal.

My turn rolled around, and I was rolled into the operating room. As promised, a nice little cocktail of calming drugs was slipped into my bloodstream, and suddenly all -- and I mean ALL -- was very very right with the world. (There must be a legal way to achieve that state!)

Dr. Painkiller asked me to lean forward, which I was more than happy to do.

Poke. Some conversation that seemed to take a little too long. A feeling of sparks shooting down my left leg, and then sensation began to leave my southern hemisphere.

Sweet Nurse Anesthetist tilted the monitor to my left so I could have the perfect view. A blue drape blocked my view of Dr. Top-Flight Knee Surgeon and crew, though I could hear him educating a surgical resident standing by.

"I can still feel a little bit of pressure," I worriedly told Sweet Nurse Anesthetist.

Don't you worry one bit. I'm here to make sure you don't feel any pain whatsoever. I'll make sure you're fast asleep if I think there's any chance you'll feel something.

And she patted me on the shoulder and head.

I closed my eyes and asked her to tell me when he was "in." 

He's in!

"Wait. That fast? I can't feel anything." (First stupid thing I said.)

And thus began the Incredible Journey Inside Kathleen's Knee.  I could see everything and feel absolutely nothing. I watched as Dr. Top-Flight Knee Surgeon buffed some rough spots, pointed out a troublesome patch the size of a quarter under my kneecap, and "released" a stubborn little band that has been causing me trouble for years. And that was it.
Well, almost. My knee was wrapped and a cooling contraption attached to an ice-and-water-filled thermos thing was strapped on top, and then the team lifted something that looked a lot like a log with a foot attached to it. 

"WHOA! Is that my leg?"

(Second stupid thing I said. But sheesh that's a weird sensation to see a part of your body be moved and not feel a thing!)

They politely laughed, said yes, counted to 3, and shifted me back to my rolling bed. And off I went to recovery.

At some point, Dr. Painkiller came in to check on me and see how I was doing, which I thought was a little odd since he's done 8000 of these spinals. As it turns out, I have some tough little ligaments in my back that bent his needle, but he managed to deaden half my body anyway. I've got to give that guy a lot of credit. He certainly kept his cool! I usually let slip a swear word when I bend a needle and that's just during beading.

In the recovery room, I didn't say one stupid thing (at least that I know of) and the nurse told me she hadn't had such a fun conversation in a long time. Two diet cokes and a granola bar later, it was time to go. 

Despite the real and imagined caffeine "infusion," my energy level plummeted the minute I left the clinic. I've been sleeping a lot since then, doing my exercises, and trying to catch up with blog friends.

And the "training" I was doing before surgery? Blew it the day before with a big fat piece of tripple chocolate cake some dear friends at work gave me and which, I'm happy to say, was worth every loving calorie.

So I'm on the mend and hoping to return to adventure grrrl condition before long. 

Now, one question remains: Should I go with option 1 or option 2 for anesthesia for the second knee? It appears I'm likely to say stupid things no matter what!

Image by healthinmotion 
Image by
Image by isabel bloedwater

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The color hunter

By Chris Heeter

I set out in the early morning,
knife in hand, ready for the hunt.
Walking quietly, respectfully
I head east towards the rising sun.
My prey (or is it pray?) is beauty.
I am a color hunter,
in search of sights and scents.
Stalking the stalks, I eye the sunflowers.
Magnificent in their repose,
beaming brightly, happily.
Are there but a few willing to grace our table?
I hunt not for the biggest or the brightest,
but for the little ones that would otherwise be lost.
I leave the largest heads for the birds,
seeking instead size and color
and some unspoken willingness to come inside.
I walk back to the house
with color and abundance cradled in my arms.


Chris Heeter, who runs The Wild Institute , is the author of Wild Thoughts, poems she publishes every Wednesday. You can sign up to receive a weekly poem in you e-mail inbox here. A letterpress collection of her poems, Wild Thoughts: Just Outside the Window, is published by Yileen Press .

Friday, August 14, 2009

Did they get their wires crossed?

Such bold little creatures I spotted in Mr. B's garden.


Oh, dear.
My bad blog manners are showing.
Between trying to get to bed earlier
and a bit of wildness at work
I've been slow to respond to 
the lovely comments.
Sincerest apologies.
Fortunately, the weekend 
draws near!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In defense of 'pine cone' bread

I'm in "training" for a little knee surgery next week, and by "training" I mean keeping my caloric intake below normal. (Carefully avoiding the word "diet.")

Which brings me to the subject of pine cone bread.

I had never heard the term till yesterday, when I gathered with some friends for lunch and brought out my peanut butter and peach on whole grain bread sandwich.
(No, not peach jam, actual slices of fresh peaches--yum!)

I happened to mention how much I love super-grainy bread and how my daughter, a vegetarian for years now, considers it gritty. I simply could not imagine how anyone couldn't like the crunchy concoction.

And that's when my friend Natalie said that when she and her sister were kids they would beg their father not to bring home any "pine cone" bread. I nearly spat out my bite at that point. (Natalie has a way of delivering the most original and hilarious lines with little warning.)

But I digress.

I've also heard whole-grain yumminess referred to as twigs and bark. What is it with the comparisons with trees?

Maybe it's an astrological thing. I'm a taurus and apparently like things earthy. But perhaps those less attracted to the ground prefer to eat something more akin to sliced clouds.

So in defense of bread of an arboreal persuasion, let me say that:

(1) It's beautiful. Seriously, just look at the amazing texture and doo-dads on a slice.
(2) It takes strength to eat, giving your jaws a workout, thus burning extra calories.
(3) It's filling. I can eat a piece of pine cone bread and be satisfied for at least 2 hours longer than if I ate a similarly sized slice of cloud bread.

But I won't quibble any further.

Suffice it to say that I shall relish my beautiful pine cone bread + peanut butter + peach sammies as I "train" for the next 9 days for a lateral release.

And may those who prefer more fluff enjoy your own little slices of heaven.

Images by katiew , stephendl , and adineland 

"How far that little candle throws its beams!"

~ William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Instructions for making
 a clementine candle here 

And thank you, AuthorblogDavid, for the Post of the Day mention!
You certainly do brighten our world.

Image by kag2u

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Yes, let us . . .

Let us enjoy breathing together.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Image by alicepopkorn

What a way to start the day

Finally, our parched prairie is getting rain. What a blessing.

Still, hanging out at the bus stop in the drizzle can make for one bad hair day.

So this morning, I tucked myself into the covered entrance of The Heart of Tibet store to take shelter from the rain while I waited for the bus. 

For some reason I decided to look up. That simple act was one of the loveliest things I did all day, so I thought I'd share what I saw:

Like Narnia, without the snow

The Heart of Tibet in in the heart of Linden Hills

The color of prayer

May your morning start peacefully, too. . . 

Friday, August 7, 2009

Just remember . . .

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
        love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Image by Peter Baer

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A great peace

"And a great peace came over me
and I seemed to hear the pines
and the wind
and the rocky shores
say to me,
'You . . .lover of the wild,
are part of us.' "

-- Sigurd I. Olson

Image from The Group of Seven - Art History Archives - Canadian Art

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Something about August

It's been 4 years now. Four years since I moved my mother 1,300 miles to Minnesota, the state where she would spent her final 3 months of life. She was never fond of this August, a month she associated with bad memories.

But it was the loss of memory that prompted this move. And fortunately, she still knew me, Mr B, and my children. And we were blessed to have her, if even for a short time.

So August reminds me of her, reminds me of how phenomenally fortunate I was to have been loved by such a woman. Shortly after she died, after funeral services in Minnesota and Texas, Mr. B and I spent a weekend in Galveston, a place she loved, a place we both came for rest.

And I wrote these words, a letter to her of sorts, a way to reach through the veil . . .

Break of Day, Galveston, November 12, 2005

Good morning, Mom

I’m sitting on the beach at Galveston, looking at the sunrise. Lots of waves today, and where they are not Galveston green or foamy crests, the water is pink. It’s a partly cloudy morning. It makes me feel close to your memory to be here.

It’s been 6 days since you died in my arms before dawn, since I kissed your snowy head and told you over and over that I loved you, and your breathing slowed, became quieter, shallow, whispery, then stopped, like a windup clock that’s ticked it’s way to silence. It’s been 7 days since I held your hands, all warm and twitchy, and asked you if you wanted to have a party in Galveston, and you somehow managed to move-grimace-grunt an affirmation through your labored breathing and closed eyes. And they said you were non-responsive!

This isn’t the party. That will come later, maybe spring, probably August. Yesterday was your funeral mass; last night, Randy and I came here to collapse. I woke up ridiculously early again, so I decided to watch the sun rise on the beach.

Crossing the dunes on the arched wooden bridge that connects Islander East Condominiums with the sand, it looked like a passageway to the heavens, and that brought the tears again. But after I got to the apex of the bridge, and started actually approaching the beach, I began to feel the beautiful peace that Galveston h
as always given us both.

Pam told me to take special note of birds during these weeks and months. People who lose someone they’ve loved deeply often seem to notice winged creatures, she said.

So I’m watching two gulls standing side by side on the beach, very close to the water. They’re facing the tide, occasionally twitching their feathers and looking from side to side. Just this moment, they moved toward the water in lockstep and stood in the shallow surf.

One took off to west, but the other stood a while longer. Up and down the beach she looked, then she turned her head back to glance at me. After eyeing me for a moment, she took flight, wings beating so hard, up and up, reaching seagull height, then arced to the west until it became north, flew in front of Islander East, and left my sight.

Sandpipers have been skittering up and down the beach, too. They look like little children at play, but I know they’re hungry and searching for food.

When I brought you to this very spot last August, one day before you moved to Minnesota for the last three months of your life, you seemed so very much at peace here, and I’d swear your heart swelled like the Gulf waves. You practically squealed when you bent over to take your shoes off and you dug your toes into the warm sand, proclaiming how wonderful it felt. We moved closer to the water, spread out a towel for you, and you lay there, staring at the sky, floating in the memories this place could still evoke in you.

Alex cartwheeled across the sand with those 11-year-old legs, creating art with her coltish body. She busied herself building drip castles and Sean went for a swim in his boxers. It was sunset then, a buttery breeze loving on us, and we talked about clouds, how magical the moment is when and sky and water became the same color, and how my children’s green eyes are like the color of Galveston at different times of the day.

I really think you’d love the cloud formations right now. There are long sweeps of soft gray shrouds. A small golden white is rising behind a dip in this shawl. Further to the east, the sun is rising and backlighting a kind cloud sand castle in soft purple and gold. A layer behind all of this is morning.

A gull just stood less than three feet from me, giving me the stare, most likely trying to see if I was some poor slob he could con some food from. I didn’t have any to offer. He took off after standing on those skinny little legs and poofing his feathers like an insult.

Now the sun is breaking through more boldly, with fans of light shooting skywards, emanating from a burning center that isn’t infinite but will certainly be around a long time. It just pulled out of the cloud bank to cast a golden trail on the surf, and it’s lighting me up as well.

The pinks are gone now, so fast, and the longest part of the sky, which meets the horizon, is a gold wash. The sun’s gone under the shroud of clouds for a while, but I’m pretty sure it’ll vanquish that shade as it keeps it march, steady and slow, and predictably upwards. The surf is the color of Sean’s eyes at the moment, well, maybe a little darker and there’s still gold on the water where it reaches the sand at its shallowest point. It’s a choppy surf today, loud, but not deafening. My little yellow beetle flew off.

I just spotted on the sand in front of me two small lengths of water-logged bamboo amidst a smattering of shells. And now I see a third. I love how proud you were of the bamboo you grew in our backyard, how it took off like crazy under your nurturing attention. I just took a stroll down the beach. Bold grackles seemed to be my company this time. As I walked back, five landed near my towel, started “crabbing” at each other, then flapping off elsewhere.

Yes, the sun’s winning out, making the shroud fade—more white clouds are taking over, and to the west, blue is a much broader canvas for your assortment of clouds. The water is the color of Laura’s eyes now, though not an exact match. Maybe it’s even more like Sean’s at the moment. The sun fan has changed directions, with rays pointing downward, and the sun’s gone behind a bank of clouds, though I can still see a sliver poking through.

When it was darkening and time to leave Galveston, you were ready. Sean, Alex, and I helped you up from the towel, and walked you back to the bridge. The walk up was hard on you, and you had to stop a couple of times to catch your breath. But when we got to the top, you turned back to look at the surf and sky and you said, “What a fitting, beautiful way to leave Texas.” I promised to bring you back same time next year, which means August. “Yes,” you said, “God-willing.”

We’re going to build a sand castle for you near the water’s edge so you really can be the royalty you dreamed of when you were a little girl, and then the sea and surf and you can decide what you want do and where you want to go next. Perhaps you’ll be parts of birds or sea life—perhaps all of them. But wherever you go, you’ll be free to travel at will.

I love you, Mom, and it’s so painful to know that I cannot hold your warm, tender hands any longer, or kiss your forehead or cheeks, or help you in and out of cars, wheelchairs, bed, or up and down stairs. But what a full and loving life you had. What a legacy you built for me and my children and Randy. Your love has infused us all with memories, strength, and warmth beyond measure.

No, you weren’t perfect—sorry—as hard as you tried to be. But you were way better than good enough. And that’s about as good as it gets in this world.

Peace be with you, Mom. God knows you gave it to me throughout my life—bringing me to Galveston, holding me when I hurt, being available to me with an open heart, even during your own painful moments. Okay, so you didn’t make my sporting events. Big whoop; I’ve not stayed all that active anyway. But you typed my high school papers when I was desperate for sleep, you made me frothy Mexican hot chocolate, you sewed my Halloween costumes so I could be anything I wanted, you tucked me into bed each night, called me your Chachi, brought me aspirin to bring down my fevers, spread Vicks on my chest and covered it with a diaper when I had a cough, read Call of the Wild to me when I was only 4 years old.

You were an extraordinary Mom and Grandma. I adore you, Mom, and will cherish your memory all the days of my life. We’ll be back next year, right here. God-willing, that is.

At least for now, the sun has won, and the clouds are its ornaments, your ornaments.

Larry Ludtke gave your eulogy yesterday. He modestly identified himself as a sculptor but talked about how you had challenged him to paint when he said for the “umpteenth time” that he wanted to try. He took up the challenge on one condition—that you’d sit for it. You agreed, and the portrait is stunning.

These were the final words Larry spoke to a church crowded with people who loved you:

“I have never, since I painted Celia, ever successfully put color into any portrait I tried over the years. The portraits I have done since then have all been monochromatic. The attempts at adding color have not worked for me. It is almost as if the colors I managed in Celia’s portrait drained from my pallet and placed themselves in her painting, never to be used again. It’s just as well. She deserved the colors. Full of life, she was always like a rainbow that touched us all.”

9:30 am. Hey, Mom! The sun did win! It’s a gorgeous day, and the sea is the color of Erik’s eyes.

That walk I took down the beach this morning? Larry’s colors washed up on the shore. They’re in little bits of shell, a soft fuchsia color, and then a luminescent abalone fragment–curved, almost like a long fingernail. I also found a couple shells that remind me of the tops of your delicate-strong hands, when your tendons and knuckles were so pronounced, moving under your thinning, baby-bird skin.

I placed those beautiful hands on my cheeks one last time as your body cooled. I had such a hard time letting go that morning, even though I knew you were indeed gone. I’m still not sure how I’ll manage without you and those hands. Maybe Larry could sculpt them.

Anyway, I’ve packed my beach finds carefully, and I plan to work them into a piece of jewelry. You always said your walks on Galveston gave you a new treasure every day.

It appears the same is true for me.

Images from, Millicent bystander, virexmachina, jolyohn

Sunday, August 2, 2009

For your amusement

A few of my pals have been going through some rough times lately.
So I'm thinking it's time for a bit of levity. 
Allow me to introduce to you a few of the critters who keep us company
 in the Mystical land of Minnesota . . . 

Middle Earth isn't the only place with Ents!

And when in Hinckley, you must see Panda, the Proud

Melbourne may have the Defiant Daisy, but Grand Marais is home to the Savage Walleye

Meanwhile, even the pavement maintains our reputation for "Minnesota nice"

Though our flying pigs do get benched from time to time

But do be careful, because you never know when you'll encounter a 'timber'wolf!

And for those who still read books (and not just blogs), you'll find us a beary literate state to visit

So, my friends, keep your chins up, because blue skies are on their way

Especially if you pay us a visit!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A perfect day

by e. e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings;and of the gay
great happening ilimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any - lifted from the no
of all nothing - human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my eyes awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

image  by Today is a good day


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