Julie Gard is a prose poet that lives in Duluth and teaches writing at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She writes about art, travel, family, and water. The Beat is a daily reminder that, in Minnesota poetry matters, and Minnesota poets prove that every day.
Our trek into autumn continues throughout the upper Gunflint Territory…and senses are being excited, both visually and also with a caressing from chilled Canadian air currents.
The area seems to be back in a more normal weather groove as we conclude the first half of September. An increasing frequency of 30-degree nights and 50s during the day is most invigorating.
We’ve been experiencing some November-like days in terms of wind conditions. In fact, last Sunday, area lake waters were raging in the winds with waves of four feet and maybe more at times here on the Gunflint. Rollers were splashing over the Wildersmith dock that is now several feet above the depleted lake level…so this is no exaggeration.
The passing of our Labor Day weekend has brought to an end a summer of recreation, rest and relaxation. A lot of wilderness dwellings now stand vacant, with spirit-like memories all that remain of warm season activities.
Almost overnight the sugar maples along the Mile O’ Pine and in a few other border country patches have exploded in scarlet. Guess that shows you what I know, because a couple weeks ago, I had my doubts that the annual color show would amount to much due to the strangling drought.
Adding the crimson treetops to the burgeoning birch and aspen gold has brought the spotlight toward the coming equinox. It is leaf-peeper season: a time for which we autumnal enthusiasts have been longing since the ice and snow departure of month four.
I’ve got to believe that smoke signals from the Lizard Lake fire a couple weeks back got through to the rain gods. A rather unexpected overnight rain spelled another inch or so for the parched Gunflint wilderness last Friday. So that’s two successive weeks now where we have seen the long dry spell somewhat tempered.
The much-needed moisture lifted human spirits too, as bubbling trickles have re-appeared in any number of dry creek beds. And although the area could stand many more days of dripping skies, we’ll take the last effort with smiles and hope for more.
Additional spice has been added to the northern wilderness world--I’ve detected the first fragrance of plant fermentation from our damp earth. Some folks would argue that the first smell of mud in the spring has an incomparable natural essence, but to yours truly, there is nothing equal to the aroma of an end to a northwoods growing season. Aaah…the scent of Dagwagin (fall).
An inquisitive bear made its way into the yard last Sunday, but found nothing that smelled like nourishment. So it didn’t spend much time nosing around, particularly when the neighbor lady made her presence known.
Meanwhile the harvest and storage season for area critters is continuing at a maddening pace. I think the squirrels must have enough stashed for at least two winters, based on all the items that have been cut down from high in the conifers.
Patches of azure sky were few and far between last Saturday for the annual Taste of the Gunflint. However, clouds and occasional light showers did not deter hundreds of folks that traveled the Trail to partake of some gourmet northwoods bounty.
The official “end of the trail” at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center had in excess of 200 visitors, most of whom enjoyed the great pie and ice cream that was being served. Thanks go out to all who assisted in organizing each and every stop along the scenic byway, and especially to all those upper Gunflint pie-makers!
Keep on hangin’ on and savor the sights and smells of the season.
Brenda Hellen lives and works in Northfield, Minnesota. She’s a mother of three, has an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and she trains in karate. The Beat is a daily reminder that, in Minnesota poetry matters, and Minnesota poets prove that every day.