Closing Up The Cabin

Closing up the cabin means dreaming of summer for nine agonizing months.

Perfection, my sweet oblivion to mortal miseries,

Consistently washed from my mind,

Crickets scrubbed my soul clean,

Tree frog and owl compositions layered upon inland lake melodies.


If risen moon, wax or wane, full or slice,

Lake surface reassured Luna

‘Yes, you are fairest of them all’.

I never heard fish leap through light on lake

But satisfied snaps against the surface confirmed,

One less moth bumping against the yellow porch light tomorrow.


An early fishing boat slowly making it’s way along the shoreline

Will no longer wake me with gentle alarm just before sunup.

Screen door, rusty spring hinge,

Squeals each time it’s opened

Smacks loudly in memory long after WD 40 can is empty.


Time will once again run on demand,

Not by who’s swimming where,

Softball tonight at the recreation center,

Volleyball on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon,

Bingo for Baptists on Friday nights at the Catholic Church downtown.


Friends halt along the shoreline and sit on piers,

Feet flipping water on relatives for the last time this year

Old Adirondack chairs filling quickly,

Hammocks sway, jealously guarded

Tree swings, one more push please?

Afar, latecomers clicking like rosary beads

Heading towards the altar of the lake front fire pit.


Offer thanks to the Milky Way and heavens above

While kids eat S’mores, weenies on a stick,

Parent’s off a bit, literally, with canned beer iced in a galvanized tub,

Latest tall, long fishing tales,

Best expectations for the Packers-Badgers football season

Argued between flatlanders and cheeseheads with setting sun flaming through tall trees.


Most of the boats are on trailers, or scheduled for pick up and storage.

Owning a cabin means turning off the water,

Draining the pipes,

Deep sigh as you drive up the road,

Squeeze an artery clogged

wheeze a bit as you blend into homebound traffic

and live a bit of forever in the past.

Ninety Miles an Hour

Instead of stopping when we could we went right on …

Flash back – I’m seventeen, trying to cut my hair like Mick Jagger’s.  Dylan wails on my record player. I’m wearing white jeans tucked into black ten inch high mod boots and my mother hates me. Plum incense burns in my bedroom, and I’m drunk on Earl Grey Tea bought from the Crate and Barrel in on Wells Street in Chicago. It’s hard to cut hair with a dull paper shears while bobbing my head and not poke an eye out. I’m one of the last two virgins in Old Town, my friend Teri, being the other. I don’t know about her, but all the weed I’ve inhaled was second-hand. Half the time I thought dudes failed to use deodorant. I was dense, but it was the first place that accepted me and I kept going back.

I loved it. We’d sit on the floor in John Brown’s Leatherworks in Pipers Alley and listen to stories as he’d play guitar. My shoulder was next to Brian McGuinn, Roger’s brother. Man, I wanted a leather Byrd’s cape from John. Eventually I did buy one, but mine came from Marshall Fields, not Johns.

I didn’t make it to the Democratic riots at the Hilton Hotel although a friend borrowed my tambourine. I caught the news footage of him as he brought my beloved flower painted instrument over the head of a cop in the viewfinder of the CBS National News. Me and Teri, wound up on a documentary about  leftist groups, Remember, Nixon was paranoid.  They staged the entire thing. Producers went into the coffeehouse basement and brought up protest signs that predated us by several months, if not years, and asked up to pretend to paint them. They chose us because our hair read clean on the light meter. The crew admonished us not to look into the camera. Teri looked up, her boss caught it when it aired, and she got fired.

I never went to Woodstock, I went out and bought a horse instead and that left me flat broke. I still prefered the scent of fresh cut hay and horse sweat over live music and flower children

But I’d learned early about wiretapped telephones, FBI files, innocence, protest, and the friends you keep. The nicest people could be running at ninety miles an hour thinking no one can see them. Fifty years ago the government kept watch on who and what they wanted on their radar. Nothing’s changed much except the technology.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Why, Why, Again?


If I’m going to hit the wall driving into unknown territory, I find reassurance that others have passed by and successfully moved through. The effort to continue when I know my heart and brain don’t always agree, will measure if I succeed, not numbers and statistics.


Click on the any of the photos to turn it into a slide show

Most days members of Aldo Leopold’s family at the Sand County shack recorded in detail the natural surroundings and activities of their lives. Aldo wrote most entries, but family and visitors added their own sightings and comments into the yearly journals. The shack’s so small the journals must have been in plain view where any visitor could jot down what they saw before it was forgotten. Each event lists by initials which of the seven family members and by name any friends or relatives that were also present during each notation or entry.

The Leopold family used the shack year round, driving up from Madison in snowstorms, during high flood on the river when they had to abandon their car and walk in, and during swarms of insects. Nothing kept them from using the wood shack to gather and recording the coming and going of life around them. When the property needed repairs they looked to the river for scraps of wood that had washed ashore, or discarded lumber from old projects.

Standing in the shack I realize in one stride I’ve completed my walk across what is now the dining area. I’d been told Aldo and his wife’s bed used to occupy that place. One more stride and I’ve covered the width of the fireplace, half a hitch and I’ve hit the end wall which contains the cooking, wash basins, and a few extra oil lamps.

A lean-to built onto the side holds two home-made bunks with a couple of feet of head space and just enough room to put a lamp table between them. No closets, no dressers, no indoors plumbing. In a few seconds I inhale decades of smoke scent permeated into fireplace rock, and listen to the rafters still singing with music, laughter, and love. Yearning for simplicity, I crave a few days whispering after my lost muse in this space.

Other than a shared love of wild places, I doubt Aldo Leopold and I could have lived together a week in that shack. I would have adjusted to the Parthenon, campfire cooking and bunk house sleeping. Keeping meticulous records of what time a bird sings, what kind of weather and light accounted for variations in its arrival, tracking animals, even going so far as to count the daily roadkill, oh no, not me. I would have shoved a fist at Al and he would pointed the stem of his pipe at me.

Main reasoning, I can’t get up that early much less remember the names of all God’s creatures small and smaller. I love them all, but I have Attention Deficient Disorder and can’t maintain concentration for more than 15 minutes on any subject. Writing this blog creates an agony befitting a square peg in a round hole each week. I start with a grandiose idea, begin research, get sidetracked in various alleys of research material, lose track of speculative nuggets, get depressed, misplace focus, give up, start another idea, knock head against wall – ah, the crap of adult ADD.

I would have left in Aldo’s journal memo’s to posterity such as, “Do you really think anyone is going to care in 50 years that you saw 3 dead rabbits on the road today? Screw it, Al – went home to take a bath!”  A poor guest, I would have left guiltless the hard-working Leopold family to plant among themselves the thousand of trees on the barren shack property. I’d of been long gone and good riddance to bad rubbish before they got around to planting the hundreds of species of native wildflowers. Lucky for the rest of us, it doesn’t appear they suffered from Attention Deficient Disorder. The world is a richer place that they didn’t have a slacker like me for a friend.

Luckily, most  prairie and woodland plants on the Aldo Leopold properties for viewing along the hiking trails were planted between 1935 and 1948. I’d have been in diapers in 1948 so this entire scenario is, fortunately, a load of hooey. I read Sand County Almanac in 1974 and although it transformed my thinking and converted me to a prairie lover for life, I got the wrong sand county. Wisconsin has several of them. It would be another twenty years before I discovered the shack still existed.

The Leopold family had some prairie remnants still growing on the farm, like Big Bluestem, Over the years, they discovered other dwindling or marginal native prairie, woodland, and wetland plants growing on the property and transferred them to other areas they thought more conducive to survival. Some species were found on neighboring farms, in danger of destruction, and so they moved and transplanted them to the farm.  The remainder was brought in from their Madison home or donated by friends. Unlike todays garden centers there was no place they could  purchase native prairie and woodland plants.

Having thrown aside my internal furies I decided to focus my battles and my camera on the prairie and rain garden established at the Aldo Leopold Foundation Center. I attended the grand opening in 2007 and I wanted to see how it had grown from seedling to mature garden.  His daughters, Estella Leopold and Nina Leopold Bradley had spoken of their father and their years living in the shack. They were both lovely ladies with a passion for life, land, and their father’s dream. Although my photography focus differs greatly from the scientific precision of the Leopold legacy, I would hope Estella, the remaining Leopold,  would understand and appreciate the joyfulness I’ve found in exploring her family legacy.

The Sand County Shack, notable in the Sand County Almanac, is a  few miles north of Baraboo, Wisconsin. It is located next to the Aldo Leopold Center.  Use the link for directions and information. Walking tours of the property are free; tours to the shack area include a fee.

Added to


“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” ― Wendell Berry

…and so I have reached a wall I cannot find my way around. I’ve tried to write my way through it, dug deep beneath to unearth profound ideas, and called upon Muses to uplift my spirits so that I might see what lies beyond. Nothing produced any grand scheme. My mind used to open and place words faster than a beaver could fall a sampling. If a mystified mind is employed surely I’m working overtime without pay. A Muse of Perspiration has replaced my Muse of Inspiration.

It doesn’t matter if I work by light of day, or lamp, nothing shines forth. Late last night was the closest I came to hearing the faint whisper of my creative Muse. I was on the back porch, overcast, no light flickered from sky or woods. Nothing glowed from within the house. A free symphony of night sounds uplifted me – and mystified that this should happen while I was in total darkness, with only lean capability to recall the scale of the occasion. I couldn’t sit and write my cascading thoughts as they turned into articulate visions in the dark of Cicadas and Tree Frogs. A playful, short-seasoned chorus which only the night breeze hears. It was similar to,  ‘If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, will it still make a sound?’

I’d been gifted with several minutes to absorb an experience I could bring forth at will during the remainder of my life. It was long enough to acknowledge my Muse of Realization – this is what John Muir listened to while awake in his loft bed a few miles away some 160 years or so ago. I’ll wrestle my stupefied Muses and give them a good cussing for kicking back and chugging good old Wisconsin brews while ignoring my pleas,  I’ve posted a short sideshow from the John Muir Memorial County Park in Marquette County, Wisconsin. The prairie restoration is on the acreage below the original boyhood of John Muir, surrounding Fountain Lake (now named Ennis Lake). The park is located on County Highway F, approximately halfway between Portage and Montello, Wisconsin.

Later in his life, John recalled his arrival on the farm in 1849 as, “To this charming hut, in the sunny woods, overlooking a flowery glacier meadow and a lake rimmed with water lilies, we were hauled by an ox-team across trackless Carex swamps and low rolling hills sparsely dotted with round-headed oaks. . .This sudden plash into pure wildness–baptism in Nature’s warm heart–how utterly happy it made us. . .Everything new and pure in the very prime of spring when Nature’s pulses were beating highest and mysteriously keeping time with our own. Young hearts, young leaves, flowers, animals, the winds and the streams and the sparkling lake, all wildly, gladly rejoicing together. Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!”  Obviously, John had no problem in his life with missing Muses or mystification.


Some dry facts of wetlands

Posted by permission of the artist @ – visit his site to view more of his terrific environmental cartoons.

If you’re interested in learning about the management of water on a global scale here’s a link to the impact on the loss of habitat on wildlife and humans.