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Three Loons On Island Lake, October 17th 2019, iPhone Video, Island Lake, near Cromwell, Minnesota, video © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


We are back in the Twin Cities. The morning we left Island Lake, the moon set in a dense fog. Three loons surfaced to greet the day. Magical is an overused word, but that’s how it felt sitting on the end of the misty dock watching sunlight hit the circling reeds.

We weren’t ready to step into work life Friday morning. The five-thirty alarm interrupted my dreams; the October sky seemed too dark for a waking body. When left to our own devices, we stay up late for creative work, rise later in the morning. We don’t naturally awaken at 5:30 or 6 a.m. in the city.

The ways we make a living around office computers and machinery hum (so different from the Taos hum) remind us of the unnatural habit-forming rhythms our bodies endure to live in a metropolitan landscape: traffic, crazy harried drivers, school bus dodging, and overcrowded parkways.

Cities are beautiful in a different way. Later we’ll take a two-mile walk around an urban lake and go to a friend’s home for an evening fire. The choices we make. I choose to keep writing.

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Island Lake, Cromwell, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, October 16th, 2019, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


We are out of the sauna followed by a dip in Island Lake. It’s the evening before we leave to travel home. We sit in black easy chairs in front of wall-length windows writing and working on photograph archives. Over the week we saw six pair of trumpeter swans, three common mergansers, one pair of eagles, and at least ten loons. A mature eagle just swooped down and flew in front of the window, then glided on through the birch.

“She’s here,” Liz said, looking my way. Our eyes lock. I feel my heart swell and break open in tears. We came to make space for grief, for the passing of Liz’s mom in September. Sadness is the other side of the joy I feel being here: walking in the autumn air, sitting on the dock listening to the cries of the loons, eavesdropping on a family of Canadian geese with Nikon binoculars. The goslings stay with the parents (who mate for life) for at least a year. Blood pressure is down, pores are clear, my heart beats low, even and steady.

We stopped to meditate on the one and a half mile walk around Loon Lake in Savannah Portage State Park. If I hadn’t portaged on canoe trips in the Boundary Waters and sank up to my knees in mud, I might not know what it’s like to carry a Duluth pack on my back, a canoe over my shoulders.

The Savannah Portage is part of history, a long, wet walk from Lake Superior near Duluth to an eastern bend in the Mississippi River just west of Big Sandy. Liz and I like to travel to places we haven’t been before. We are only a few hours from the Twin Cities; we had the lake all to ourselves. The reds and oranges of the maples are past peak, but the yellows of the birch and poplar are popping. Yellow. Soothing, bright, clear.

I am grateful for downtime. My gratitude list grew tenfold over the week. I know it’s a luxury to be able to take time off to grieve. After a loved one dies, the work-a-day world continues to churn. Mother Nature has given us solace. A place to sit on a glacial lake facing West, the direction of later life, the domain of sunsets, and oceans, and the sit bones of mountains.

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Cody, Wyoming, iPhone Shots, May 13th, 2019, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

View from Marylin’s, Cody, Wyoming, iPhone Shots, May 13th, 2019, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It was a month ago to the hour when my mother-in-law died. Liz was on her way back from a business trip in Tulsa, Oklahoma when her sister called. I was sitting by Lake Como in St. Paul, Minnesota about to eat my lunch when the phone rang. The Dallas airport echoed in the background; Liz’s voice was brisk but heavy. “Mom just passed away,” she said. “She went peacefully.”

Marylin had requested a bath the night before. Tracy, Liz’s sister and her mother’s caregiver, had gotten up, given her mother a bath, and was combing her hair when she stopped breathing. I could picture this because when Liz and I were in Cody, Wyoming in May, Liz brushed Marylin’s hair as she sat in her favorite chair by the window with a clear view of the bird feeders. When Liz was finished, Marylin gently closed her eyes, smiled, and seemed in total peace after a night of tumultuous dreams.

I miss my my mother-in-law; grief takes many forms. Marylin was like a second mother to me. She championed my writing like my own mother, Amelia, who supported my creative life even when it twisted, turned, and spiraled up and down. Marylin and Amelia never met, but felt a love and kinship to each other. They were there for Liz and I through courtship, dating, and marriage. They saw only our love for each other and the compatibility of our lives together; there was never any doubt. I will always be grateful for that.

A few weeks ago, Liz and I watched the documentary on writer Joan Didion, “The Center Will Not Hold” by her nephew Griffin Dunne. When the film ended we sat in silence and wept. Dunne uses intimate archival footage, photographs and on-camera interviews to document the span of Joan Didion’s life. Having lost her husband and daughter within the span of two years, Joan knows grief; it gnaws at her bones.

I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead.

We are not idealized wild things. We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.

-Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

After Liz called on September 5th, 2019, I could not finish my lunch. I sat in a Chevrolet Silverado staring at the lake, wondering at the breadth of Marylin’s spirit as it lifted skyward. The day was cloudy, the wind erratic and scattered. Summer was letting go.



Summer’s End, September 5th, 2019, iPhone Video, Rain Garden, Lake Como, St. Paul, Minnesota, video © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Rest In Peace, Marylin. I miss the way you smiled and called me your daughter-in-love. I miss the depth of our conversations around writing, haiku, and politics. I miss the way you held Liz and me in your heart in a bubble of love. I miss your love of theater, your writing and your contributions to redRavine. I miss your optimism and the way you gave back to your community and the world around you. I know you are with your father, maybe running by the Pacific Ocean with Queenie, wild and free. I am a better person for having known and loved you. We will meet again.

-written October 5th, 2019 between 10:45 and 11:30 a.m. CST. Everything is in Divine and perfect order right now.

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Scandia Honeybee, Scandia, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, August 17th, 2019, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Liz and I spent a beautiful morning on a St. Croix riverboat tour with the Twin Cities Museum Meetup group. After the captain of the Princess docked the boat, we walked around glacial potholes in Interstate State Park, then drove to the Gammelgården Museum in Scandia for the annual Spelmansstämma (Immigrant Fiddle Festival). When the music was over, we walked around the grounds and I took a close up of this lone honeybee on an end-of-summer pilgrimage. Liz reminded me that it’s National Honeybee Day. I have gratitude for the day and the place in which we live. It is filled with wonder.

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Nashville. #black&white #travel #photography #sky #architecture #shadows #clouds #sky #Tennessee #retro #roadtrip

Nashville, Tennessee, iPhone Shots, June 27th, 2016, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

View of downtown Nashville on a road trip with Liz. We stopped in Nashville to tour Jack White’s Third Man Records on the way to visit my dad and his wife. I lived in Tennessee for a few years as a child, but had never been to Music City. We also visited Ann Patchett’s bookstore Parnassus Books; we try to visit independent bookstores wherever we travel. We were lucky to have made the trip from Minnesota that June because my dad passed away unexpectedly eight months later. I am thinking of him because his birthday is August 15th. We are grateful for the time and cherish the memories. His ashes are scattered near Morristown, Tennessee, the place he was born.

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Wind in the Willow, April 2019, iPhone Video, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, Minnesota, video © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

I am drawn to the nurturing willow, especially in times of loss or grief. The willow was sacred to Hera, Hecate, Circe, Perspehone, and all goddesses of the Underworld. In Celtic mythology, the willow represents death and is good for magical work involving the dark or hidden parts of the psyche. The weeping willow is a common sign of mourning and offers protection for underworld journeying and rites of passage. Willows represent immortality, creativity, inspiration, emotion, and fertility and are known for their ability to regenerate from a fallen branch. They have been used to bind brooms and divine water. Have you heard the wind in the willows?

Do a ten minute Writing Practice on the topic of Willow. Or you can write a haiku, poem, or do a photo practice on Willow. Drop your photo or practice into the comments here or link to your blog. I have learned over the years that it doesn’t matter what kind of creative practice you undertake, as long as you consistently feed your work.

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LESSON OF THE WILLOW

 

The watery willow encourages the expression of deeply buried feelings, easing sadness through tears and grieving, and teaching the consequences of love and loss in matters of the heart. The willow reminds us of the need to let go sometimes, to surrender completely to the watery world of the emotions and the subconscious, so that we may be carried toward a deeper understanding of our inner-most feelings, toward a better appreciation of our hidden motives and secret fears and desires. Any suppressed and unacknowledged emotions can be a major cause of stress and illness. Through emotional expression, and through the sharing of feelings of ecstasy and pain, our ancestors believed they could help heal the human spirit. The willow enables us to realize that within every loss lies the potential for something new.

-from Wisdom of the Trees by Jane Gifford

 

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Resources:

What Willow Folklore Surrounds This Beautiful Tree? by Icy Sedgwick

Willow at Trees for Life

Willow Collection at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Willow at The Goddess Tree

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Slow Walking, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, C-41 film, photo © 2007-2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Slow Walking, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, C-41 film, photo © 2007-2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In the spring of 2019, I signed up for Natalie’s online class Writing Down the Bones: Find Your Voice, Tell Your Story –– to remember who I am; to try to get back to a practice. It is slow. Liz encouraged me to take the film cameras out again. It reminds me of my roots. Photography is a practice to me. It is like breathing.

Liz returned from a photographic retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii in March. In late April, we walked the prairies and photographed the white willows at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Liz was shooting digital with the Fuji X100F and Sony A7 III. I grabbed the Minolta XD-11, the Canon Rebel EOS 2000, and a few rolls of film. A little rusty, I opened the back of the Canon Rebel to find undeveloped film inside. Whoops, light exposure! (The last time I developed found film, it turned out to be black and white Tri-X of my family from the 1990s.) I finished the rest of the roll and sent it off to be processed.

Now a photographer used to the instant gratification of an old iPhone 6s, I waited two weeks for the C-41 prints to be developed. The day they arrived, Liz and I ran out of National Camera Exchange and ripped opened the envelope in the front seat of her Subaru. There she was, Pedernal at Ghost Ranch. The way she looked over a decade ago at the four season retreat with Natalie.

Synchronicity.

I remember the group walking off to write haiku, swimming with koi in the pond, complaining about the heat. I remember falling behind and never catching up, walking alone by the cliffs and ridges, taking this photograph at Ghost Ranch. I think it’s a whiptail. Natalie would tell me I should know the names of the details around me. There was a photograph of her in the decade-old batch of C-41 prints that came back. She was walking down the road at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, headed back to her room after teaching. She glanced back at us; there was a smile on her face.

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Tornado, June 1959, Droid Shots, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming, May 2016, photo © 2016 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In June 1959, a tornado roared over the south rim of the canyon directly before you. Its path was along Granite Creek to your left and through what used to be Granite Creek Campground. One person was killed. The twister ripped up timber and laid it out in the pattern you see now.

While tornadoes usually occur on the plains, several have visited the Big Horn Mountains. Blowing down mountain timber at 10,000 feet above sea level, these tornadoes are among the highest on record. The Forest Service salvaged part of the downed timber, but the steepness made it difficult to retrieve trees from upper slopes. A road at the bottom of the blowdown area enabled some clearing and reseeding. Most of the scar has revegetated naturally.



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Along the ride from South Dakota into Wyoming and on to Cody, it was quiet, except for the wind. Tornadoes in Minnesota at 830 feet; tornadoes in Wyoming at 10,000 feet. And what about the spelling? Is it Bighorn or Big Horn? I discovered this notation in a post by Emilene Ostlind at the Wyoming State Historical Society:

Note: The U.S. Geological Survey uses “Bighorn” as a single word to refer to natural geographic structures–Bighorn Basin, Bighorn River, Bighorn Canyon, Bighorn Lake, Bighorn Mountains – and “Big Horn” as two words to refer to human establishments such as the towns and counties named Big Horn in Wyoming and Montana. The U.S.G.S. also lists “Big Horn” as a variant spelling for geographic features, and both spellings are used on maps and other published materials. Growing up in the town of Big Horn I learned to write my address or refer to my school with two words, and to describe the mountains with one word: the Bighorns.

The discovery and joy of road tripping.

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

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imagePrehistoric, Droid Shots, Hill City, South Dakota, June 2016, photo © 2016 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

bone to bone they fly / 50 million years ago / ocean desert sky

 

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Road trip across the country. A cairn at the Black Hills Institute in Hill City, South Dakota. Grateful for the gift of time.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, June 11, 2016

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January, Droid Shots, St.Paul, Minnesota, January 2016, photo © 2016 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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AMOR

Amor, 2006 by Robert Indiana, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., Droid Shots, June 26th, 2014, photo © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






Robert Indiana

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I took this photograph of the sculpture AMOR by Robert Indiana on a visit to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., June 26th, 2014. Exactly one year later, June 26th, 2015, Love Wins (OBERGEFELL ET AL . v . HODGES).

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, July 3rd, 2015

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Record Store Day Highlights, St. Paul & Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2015, photos © 2015 by QuoinMonkey & Liz Anne Schultz. All rights reserved.



We made a day of it for Record Store Day, venturing across the river to two stores in St. Paul we had not visited before: Agharta Records (named after the Miles Davis album) and Eclipse Records on Wabasha. One thing I miss about shopping for albums in brick and mortar stores is the camaraderie among fellow music lovers. Agharta did not disappoint. We struck up a conversation with one of the DJs about the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. It turned out he had interviewed Rodriguez and hung out with him for a day; we left the store with a great story and Cold Fact in vinyl.

Later we stopped by Hymie’s Vintage Records where we entered a packed house for Chastity Brown and caught Pennyroyal’s last gig. Our final stop was Mill City Sound in Hopkins, but they were closed for the day. We ended up at Nacho’s Supermercado where I consumed one of the best burritos I’ve ever had.

Vinyl is alive and well. And if you subscribe to Neil Young’s belief that current digital formats produce only about “5 percent” of the sound that vinyl records do because the data is so compressed, Record Store Day is a good time to start your vinyl collection again.

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Lithograph Stones, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2015, photos © 2015 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





lithograph limestone
the way water repels ink
paper covers rock






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I like to draw images for my daily poetry practice from the things that are going on around me. Yesterday we visited the Highpoint Center for Printmaking to see Entwined: New Prints by Julie Buffalohead. Julie collaborated on ten pieces with the printers at Highpoint; several of the editions have sold out. It is a beautiful space. One of the cooperative members working on a large piece of limestone stopped to explain the lithographic process to us. Alois Senefelder invented lithography in 1798 while seeking a less costly method of reproducing copies of his plays. In an attempt to reduce his publications costs, he tried to produce his own copperplate engravings which led to the use of slabs of Bavarian limestone. You can read more at the History of Lithography (LINK).

Making reverse images in copper was a very difficult process, a process that required much time and practice to master. Thus, Senefelder decided to practice his engraving on slabs of Bavarian limestone instead of the costly copper. In the mean time, Senefelder needed a liquid that could be used to correct his frequent mistakes on the genuine copper plates. For this, he found a mixture of wax, soap, lampblack, and rainwater were satisfactory. The two materials, limestone and the “correction fluid” became the primary ingredients of lithography.

By experimenting, Senefelder found that an image drawn onto the limestone with his correction fluid would repel water, while the surface of the stone itself would hold it. He found he could first wet the entire stone then apply ink, with a roller, to the entire stone to replenish the ink on the image. The stone, which held water, repelled the greasy ink; the “correction fluid,” which is greasy and thus repels water, accepted additional ink. The chemical process is known as the Principle of Lithography.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 29nd, 2015

-Part of a yearly practice to write a short form piece of poetry in a Moleskine journal once a day for the next year. Related to post: haiku 4 (one a day) Meets renga 52

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Fire 3 - IMG_20150308_131427 copy5




We sat in a circle around a ring of snow, inside a ring of stones, inside a ring of kindling. It was damp outside. The moon rose in a foggy black and white photo over the house to the east. The fire felt good on my bones. After a while, my feet got cold but it didn’t seem to bother me. I saw something hop and trot, then stop. Is that a fox? I said. It is, it’s coming our way. The fox stared and came right for us. It walked close to the fire, headed to the next yard, and circled back. Susan said she had put out a lamb shank earlier in the day. The fox must have smelled it. The shank was gone. The fox came close to the spot where it had been and dug up a bone out of the snow, crunched on it. The fox was small and petite. A month or so ago, I saw a fox at Lake Como near the Conservatory over lunch. I watched it for a good fifteen minutes before it disappeared into a grove of trees. After the petite fox left, we saw another fox out on the pond in the distance. Then we heard them barking to each other across the ponds that are Twin Lakes.

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-haiga & excerpt from today’s writing practice posted on redRavine, Sunday, March 8th, 2015
-Part of a yearly practice to write a short form piece of poetry in my Moleskine journal once a day for the next year. Related to post: haiku 4 (one a day) Meets renga 52

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Thirsty

Thirsty, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2015, haiku & photograph © 2015 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-haiga posted on redRavine, Saturday, January 10th, 2015
-Part of a yearly practice to write a short form piece of poetry in my Moleskine journal once a day for the next year. Related to post haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52

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By Timothy Hastings



walljasper photo for tanka

Seaside, Kingdom of Tonga, May, 2014, photo © 2014 by Timothy Hastings. All rights reserved.



seaside, selling shells
each of her beautiful strands
spoke her memories
we shared names and nods and smiles
and lapping waves sang her song



-related to post: haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52

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I-35 Bridge, July 4th, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 4th, 2014, photos © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


On July 4th, we had dinner with friends at their home near Minnehaha Falls. On the way home, we took the Mississippi River road and detoured to a spot under the I-35 Bridge. A river boat docked, waiting for fireworks. A father and daughter burned sparklers from an overlook. There was a light breeze, no mosquitoes. We were tucked away from the throngs gathered near Gold Medal Park to watch the 10pm fireworks. The river was swollen. The bridge was dressed in red, white, and blue. I wondered at what it means to be free.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, July 5th 2014

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