Why does autumn in Minnesota seem to swiftly take wing, on its way out before the last smart robin turns tail and skedaddles south, and the final rotten cucumbers, overripe tomatoes, and woody carrots are raked into the compost pile? Exhausted dreams of an Indian summer retreat with the first snow.
Skittish squirrels gather winter provisions, sagging pumpkin faces frown, forgotten on house stoops, and geese formations are stitched across bleak, moaning skyways. Who’s ever ready for winter’s onslaught but those who pack up their swimsuits and that suntan lotion and head south?
Consider the effort to hand-gather nuts after they’ve “plank-planked” onto vehicles and metal camper roofs, making a startling, hair-raising racket. The customary serene silence surrounding our place up north seems rudely intruded upon as the towering, grandfather oaks noisily attack whatever there is to break the falls of the acorns, resonating like shotgun pops across Oak Grove. Walking on nut-strewn grass is rather harsh on moccasin feet.
It was the final weekend in August before Kelly, Heath, and the two girls had time to visit me and grandpa up north. Ever the outdoor adventurer, Alexandra, eight, was obsessed to retrieve grounded acorns for the squirrels back home by her tree fort. She filled a pop bottle and a plastic bag with the nuts after she snapped off the caps, with a little help from Dad. A determined forager, Ally always dives into things with spunk and purpose.
Alyssa, 13, a gal with a fashion flair for retro, chose to go to Chetek with her mom and grandma to browse through the antique and gift shops, and to indulge in ice cream and cappuccino. Ally, however, went on the boat to fish with the men. Their visit altered our predictable, yet comfortable, routine (for seniors.) However, it’s delightful to spend time with them. When I feel down, the girls can always lift my spirits, not to mention my listless posterior from my recliner.
On Labor Day weekend, 100 Mennonites from all over the country flooded into Oak Grove. Usually uneventful, quiet, and child-free throughout the permanent camp sites, the cabin rentals hummed and came alive with activity. The women wear long dresses and nurse-type caps on their heads. The “clank, clank” of horseshoe games rang out. Children walked side-by-side, barefooted on gravel roads and through a sea of acorns. I smirked when I heard the familiar crying of a baby – one of theirs. What had I expected, an eerie, celestial wail?
The little girls’ braided, blonde hair and long, neat, colorful print dresses do not draw them apart, but separate only their ways, not their humanity, from those of other upbringings. One noon, the Mennonites sang a song of praise to God, as they gathered under a canopy of fluttering leaves and pine branches, where surreal light flickers through the needles. I could see and hear them from our camper window. In awe, I pondered that maybe that’s how life is meant to be lived.
That was a weekend of the most perfect weather anyone could wish for, as long as rain wasn’t needed for crops. After one too many windy, cold, and sunless stays this past season, nothing could compare to an afternoon boat ride on a lake as smooth as a precious gem, and a sky so deeply blue that it was as if heaven had been turned inside out. Gliding across water, sun-soaked breezes warmly caressing, our mutual silence was like a testimony to the Creator’s splendor.
Though we aren’t always appreciative of the storms, each season of life presents its challenges. The more suffering overcome and hardships endured, the stronger the individual. It takes both the sun and the rain to make a rainbow! Carpe diem!
Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.