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key pee pole hiking running Superior Hiking Trail the force

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want: This Key

I wasn’t kidding. This story is a continuation of the previous one. I know you’re all, “Well, even though I didn’t read her last post, I’m not about to go back now and waste my precious time on it. No, I’m NOT. I’m just going to read this one here and piece it all together. I’m smart. I can do that.”

Yes, honey. Yes. You’re smart. And you’re pretty and sweet, and the other kids just don’t understand you.

But go back and read the previous post anyhow.

I’m waiting. (*taps foot and begins humming “Ina-Gadda-Davita”*)

What, you again?

You haven’t even scrolled down to it yet, ya Big Faker. It was called “Like Searching for a Grain of Broken Rice in a Bowl of Particularly-Soggy Shredded Wheat,” and it involved my talented girl parts and a 95 minute run, so you really don’t want to miss it.

Schlep off now.

I’ll wait. (*starts filing nails and practicing some “Mr. Bojangles” soft shoe, further proving her ability to multi-task when fingernails and vaudeville converge*)

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Oh, HI. I’m glad you’re back, you upstanding and honest reader who’d never skip a preliminary post in an effort to cadge four extra life minutes during which you dreamily picture what Sarah Palin looks like with her glasses off, hair down, her “energy plan” a’roarin’. Now that you’re up to speed:

So yup. There we were the next day, the Assembled Family Jocelyn, ready to fan out the family’s collective vision and scan every stick, leaf, and dead raccoon on a very particular stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail, in search of my shiny silver Camry car key.

(if you have no idea what I’m referring to and are just kind of nodding and smiling blankly after that last paragraph, that’s because you are one seriously lazy cuss and didn’t EVEN go back and read that previous post, Mrs. Pants On Fire…like it’s so onerous to take a few measly minutes out of your life to catch up with the rest of us. You’re just a living, breathing, personified “War of the Worlds” broadcast, fooling the entire audience into thinking one thing’s happening when, in truth, you’re just sitting in your lazy chair drinking Diet Mt. Dew and pretending to be “an avid blog reader and defender against alien attack”)

Before the family gathered around, I had done some kitchen-table triangulation and narrowed down the most likely area for the key loss–to a spot called “Pee Alley.” Knowing this, we could park on a nearby road and hike in a few hundred yards, looking all the while for browning ferns and a mish-mash of footprints that indicated a Woman/Ipod scuffle.

But first, we had to get the kids out and on the trail, the motivational script of which read,

Me: “Okay, now that you’re both home from school, we’re going to drive up to the spot where Mommy was running yesterday when she lost her key.”

Kids: “Mommy, why do you talk about yourself in the third person? It creeps us out.”

(okay, they didn’t say that, as they’re still learning–and will be for at least another decade–that anything beyond first person exists in the world)

Me: “So, listen, we’re going for a lovely hike on this sunny fall day. Our mission: to find a silver key.”

Kids: “Don’t wanna and are not.”

Me: “This actually wasn’t a request. We. are. going. out. to. the. woods. And. we. will. make. this. an. adventure. And. FUN. You. poopshoots.”

Kids: “Not going. Don’t like hiking.”

Me: “In what universe do children of mine not like hiking? This is unimaginable–preposterous–like women over thirty wearing leggings under a tunic blouse! Clearly, you are not the true people I grunted out from my body; anyone fostered under my care is destined to have a life-long fixation with sumacs and granite and singing The Smiths amongst them. Pod-people, you are clearly not my children. Either you hike with Pappy and me, or I love you not.”

Kids: “Hey, Mom? You’re kind of a dinkus.”

Me: “I know what you are, but what am I? Now get in the car.”

Kids: “Not going. No hikey. Can’t make us.”

Me: “The key is very shiny, you know, which means it’s glamorous. Only the cleverest of people could ever find the treasure that is a lost key in the woods. Let me tell you a tale about the kind of person who only wishes he could find a key in the woods: there was a guy once who seemed, on the surface, to be clever, a guy named Johnny Keyfinder. One day, he plunged into the woods, in search of a key. After many hours, he emerged, keyless, having fooled himself that he’d found something better: a hand full of appleseeds. Listen to this: old Johnny ‘Keylacker’ Appleseed then wandered the country for years after, holding his seeds in one hand and shaking hands with the other. Now how clever does he sound to you? Not very, eh? Not bloody clever at all. Kind of dumb hickish, if you want to use real words about it. Seriously–how did he think he’d wipe himself or cut a steak, what with both hands already so busy? This man was NO keyfinder. He was just a busy-pawed gladhander. Eventually he keeled over, appleseeds in hand, with his last words being, ‘I never did find me a key, so what’s it all been about?’ His legend pales in comparison to the one you two are going to create today, when you hit those woods and find Mommy’s key!!!!”

Kids: “Gracious! He was hebetudinous. We must differentiate ourselves from that dolt. Hie now–to the horseless carriage. Oh, and thanks for the thesaurus last Christmas, O Maternal Matriarch.”

Me: “Huzzah! The afternoon is ours to seize.”

So then we, like, drove there and stuff.

The second we stopped the car, as predicted in a secret wink-wink-eye-rolling exchange between Groom and me, the kids did shape up and forget their hatred of Woods. They ran to the trail and began bushwacking, peering, and


herky-jerking on the balance beam known as “uprooted and suspended birch.”

Two minutes in, the true beauty of the afternoon became apparent, particularly to the Star Warsian Wee Niblet:

We were in Ewok country.

Vexingly, Ewok Country is rife with stands of browning ferns, each looking more like a possible pit stop for a full-bladdered runner than the last.

But the Jedi Youngling was not daunted.

Picking up speed,


Niblet gathered light saber sticks, thrashed the bushes in search of battle droids, and continued his Jedi training, which has advanced considerably in the last few months. Specifically, his ability to harness The Force has gained finesse.


Concentrating, the lad raised his hand and channeled all his fledgling powers into using The Force to find that key.

Fortunately, Jedi Master Groom was in the lead. Stopping suddenly and staring intently at the ground, Groom called to his Padawan, “This looks like a spot in need of your attention, Boy. Focus your powers here, and let The Force do its work.”

Skipping along, humming a new song learned in kindergarten (“Hell-ooow/How are you?/I’m so glad/To see you”), holding his Force-channeling hand in the air, Niblet abruptly pulled up short.

He stared hard for a minute, soaking in the quiet of the immense trees surrounding him, and then carefully bent down.

When he straightened to his full height–equal to that of the brown ferns cloaking him–he peeled open his hand, on which balanced–

by the Original Light!–

a silver key.

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Categories
locally grown organics pole hiking Thanksgiving

Conversatin’ Locally

Two mornings ago, while Girl was at big-school and Niblet at little-school, Groomeo and I took an anniversarial, celabratory pole hike (basically, that means we were hiking but used ski poles, too; the arm workout gives the whole cardio aspect a boost. Personally, I enjoy it because I’m a much better skiier when there’s no snow involved). Being on the Superior Hiking Trail was, of course, lovely, but it got even funner once night-owl Jocelyn woke up enough to allow for an interchange of words.

The first grunts I managed telegraphed to Groom this random question: “So when you coached cross-country [running], and you guys would do ‘hill bounding’ in training, what exactly did that consist of?”

His subsequent demonstration–perkily leaping up a hillside to the sound of my muted applause–had the effect of re-injuring his groin muscle, a muscle that both he and I take very seriously. For the last few months, he’s been relying on yoga and biking in lieu of his usual daily running, just to give Groiny a break. But there, in the space of a hill bound, all his good takin’-it-easies were nullified.

As our hike got going, so did his groinal protestations. Being of Norwegian extraction, though, he did carry on for an hour and a half, stoically. It helped, too, that we had some conversatin’ to distract from the pain.

His opener was:

“So when we go over to Kids’ Godmamas’ house (our kids have the benefit of two godmothers, a lovely couple at whose commitment ceremony a few years ago we were privileged enough to speak a few words. I generally do that anyways, but it’s so nice to be invited to do what comes naturally) on Saturday night for their annual Friends’ Thanksgiving dinner, their request is that everyone’s food contribution be locally-grown, from not more than 50 miles away. With that in mind, and because neither of them hunts wild turkeys, we’ll all be having wild-rice-stuffed squash.”

Tripping over a rock but stopping the stumble with a well-placed pole, I mused on this. Of course, having a healty boho/crunchy strain in me, I could appreciate their choice. On the other hand, both Groom and I are a little tired of every concept, however noble, being packaged and marketed. Is it really different if it’s the books of Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver that nudge our choices, instead of Wal-Mart and Costco? Is it always necessary to distill every life choice onto a bumper sticker?

Okay, okay. I suppose it is–sometimes. Buried somewhere in that last paragraph, though, there is a point to be taken. I’m just not going to disrupt the good vibrations of any conscientiously-composting, homemade-pesto-making, light-treading human peace symbols who might be reading this by pressing it home. If you disagree, calm yourselves by soaking some beans, lighting some incense, locking in your dreads, and getting the tie-dye pots a bubbling. Just make sure your incense and RIT dyes were made within 50 miles of your home, O righteous leftist consumers of the world.

Suffice it to say, these friends of ours are good, deliberate, thoughtful women. Their Friends’ Thanksgiving will be delicious and fresh, the food not contaminated with chemicals or petroleum residue. I like all that. I do.

“Hey, wait,” I finally replied to Groom, “don’t you always make some bready thing? How are you going to do that under those constraints? It’s not like the rocky clay of Northern Minnesota is waving back and forth with wheat stalks.”

“Yea,” ma man affirmed. “It’s a bit of a sticky wicket. Luckily, after a delicate negotiation with Godmama One, she and I reached a compromise: if I promise to only purchase hemp shirts for the next three years and wipe solely with Seventh Generation toilet paper, we can use wheat from a couple states over. The rest of the ingredients, we’re going to have to scrabble together.”

The brainstorming began. Noodly with gratitude that we wouldn’t find ourselves spending the next two days pounding dried yarrow into a wheat-substitute, we easily decided that local eggs and butter would be no sweat. Speaking of sweat, we started immediately collecting ours on that hike, mopping it into a handkerchief which we later wrang out, ultimately dehydrating the liquid until a small pile of crystals remained. We have salt. Locally-grown and emitted.

But yeast. Where to get it? A-ha!

A quick trip to the drugstore after the hike solved that one. We loitered near the Vagisil, and when women approached, we called them out, convincing them to donate some personal samples. After a bit of intimate scraping, the bread can now rise.

Indeed, eating locally is really an issue of ingenuity. The hike hocked up a list of ingredients, along with an unanticipated joke, created as I struggled with too-long poles, one that we can use to amuse the crowd at the Friends’ Thanksgiving table:

How many hearty Finns does it take to collapse a telescoping hiking pole?

Answer: None. It takes a Norwegian with a groin injury!
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That’s the kind of material that kills up here in the Northwoods.

Okay, I’m off now to check the porch for our weekly delivery of butter and bottled milk from a nearby dairy. And even though we didn’t have a good year for basil, there’s pesto in the freezer that needs thawing before dinner. After that, I’ll carry out the compost–although if I see any bears out there, rooting through our old egg shells and carrot peelings, I fully intend to kill them and hoist them into the trunk of the car as an entree offering at the Friends’ Thanksgiving.

They are, after all, locally grown.

Unless, of course, we discover they were tranquilized this last summer in Yellowstone Park for getting too near tourists at Old Faithful and then transported a thousand miles away to Northern Minnesota where they’ve been ekeing out an existence in our compost bin. If that’s the case–frick!–the carcasses will just have to rot.

It’s a matter of principle.

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