Monthly Archives: January 2011

And now for the wife-carrying competition!

Yes, there is such a thing as a Wife-Carrying Competition

Ladies and gentlemen, I know some of you have been waiting for the Wife-Carrying competition photos for three years.

We are so sorry–we were never at the appropriate time in the appropriate place in Hancock during Heikinpaiva to present you with photos.

This year, you will be happy to know, we were.

Here are your photos of the Wife-Carrying competition:

First you carry your wife to "clean house"

Wife carrying, apparently, is an actual established bona-fide Finnish sport.  I kid you not.  Click on this link and you can learn the origins of this sport.

Apparently a robber named Ronkainen lived in Finland in the late 1800′s.  He (and his fellow band of thieves) were accused of robbing women and food from nearby villages.  Some say they carried the women on their backs as they ran away.  Please read the entire Wikepedia article if you would like further theories as to the development of this–shall we say, unusual?–sport.

Then you go to the "sauna"

Here’s the scoop, readers.  The announcer will read the rules.  Each couple must accomplish three things as quickly as possible. 

The man carries the wife to Station One.  There they must unroll three rugs and shake vigorously.  This is called “cleaning the house.” 

No kidding.

Then you serve guests their coffee. Guests first!

Then they run to the “sauna” (which is a bench) and pour three ladles of loly (steam).  They then switch each other with cedar branches.  Any of you who have ever taken a sauna know this is a traditional practice.  It invigorates the participants.  So they say.  (I have been in several saunas, but have never been beaten with cedar branches.)

Kids watch this tomfoolery with great interest!

Next, the participants dash to a table and pour coffee for their guests.  The guests must be served first.

I am not kidding about this.  These are the rules.  At least in Hancock’s Heikinpaiva competition.

Dog watches. Utterly fascinated.

The man then carries the wife home amid much clapping, hollering and yelling. 

Big excitement in da Copper Country!

Kid watches--OK, maybe not so fascinated...

I don’t recall the winner’s time.  Somewhere between 50 seconds and 30 seconds. 

A whole lot of wife-carrying going on...

Truly, all participants looked like they were having a great time!

One couple even got married either immediately preceding or following the competition.  No kidding.  I am not kidding about any of this.

A whole lot of fun going on, too!

The above photo depicts the soon-to-be-married couple.  Can you imagine what they will tell their grandchildren about their wedding?

“If your friends jumped in the lake in January, would you?”

Strolling toward your January jump into the Portage Canal...

Did any of your mothers ever tell you:  “If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you?”  Your mother meant:  “Hey, kid!  Think for yourself!  Don’t just be a follower.  Don’t jump in the lake in January just because your friends are jumping in the lake.”

Did we take her advice to heart?  Or did we follow our friends where they decided to go?  Did we jump in the lake in January if our friends decided it would be fun?


Yesterday, up in Hancock, Michigan, lots of folks decided to listen to their friends.  Who knows why?  Someone said, “Hey, it’s Heikinpaiva!  Let’s go jump in Lake Superior!”  And lots of friends said, “OK.  Sounds like something fun to me.”

They dug out their bathing suits and sandals and–by golly–they jumped!  We were there to witness the tomfoolery.

Add a cartwheel on the way to the hole in the ice...


Don't be afraid--you can do it!


Looks like even the elderly are heading out to jump!


One of the "grannies" takes the plunge!


"And if your friends all acted like zombies on the ice, would you?"


Hula girl




Pure enthusiasm!!


Now comes the big question:  If your friends jumped in the frozen lake in January, would you?  Would you even consider it?  Do we have any takers out there in blog-reading land who would take the Big Plunge?

From Lions to Bears to Reindeer…Welcome to Heikinpaiva!

Welcome to Heikinpaiva, Hancock, Michigan. First let's watch the parade.


Settling in to watch the parade as it approaches


Looks like some Finnish king or prince?


Another Finnish folklore character


Yoko Onomaki


Yoko Onomaki and John Lennoniemi (you have to realize that lots of the Finns who settled around the Upper Peninsula have last names like “Maki” and “Niemi”) handed out the words to the song they sang:

“Imagine there’s no nisu..

It would make you cry…

No korpu for dunking…

Brings a tear to my eye

Imagine all the people…Living like the Finns”

(Nisu is a sweet bread and, I think, korpu is a hard toast for dunking in coffee.)

Cute girl on daddy's shoulders


Supporters of Finlandia University (the university in Hancock)


The Finlandia Lion


The Michigan Technological University Husky Band (from across the canal in Houghton) complete with fire!


Pink baby in sled


What mid-winter Heikinpaiva parade would be complete without a reindeer or two? (Here are a couple in their pen afterward.)


Let’s clap our hands and thank everyone for coming out for the parade  today.  The temperatures were warmer than usual–about 22 degrees.  The skies remained mostly cloudy, although both the sun and snow peeked out at various times. 

Thank you for joining us “When the Bear Rolls Over in His Den.”

Prepare yourselves, blog viewers.  We’re going to be in a photography mode for the next few days.  You’ll see a Wife Carrying Contest and Polar Plunging into the icy Lake Superior.  You’ll see winter pictures from the Keweenaw. 

Dress up in your boots and winter coat and chook (that would be a “hat” if you’re from around these parts) and mittens when you come over to Lake Superior Spirit for a few days.  Don’t want you to get too cold while you view the pictures!

Secrets we don’t share…

Poinsettia re-planted in snow

I have been thinking about the things we don’t share.

We all know what we share.

We share about good things, happy things, pondering things, challenging things…but what don’t we share?

More patterns. Who knows what this is?

It’s always interesting to look at what we don’t share.  To look more closely and determine why we’re not sharing.  Do we think it’s no one’s business?  Do we want to keep certain parts of our life private?  Are we ashamed?  Guilty?  Protective of boundaries?  Wise?  Astute? 

I haven’t been perfectly honest with all of you blog readers this month. 

Time for confession. 

Lean close.

I shall tell a secret.  A secret that I really haven’t shared with too many folks this month.

Tiny shrew in snow...munching bird seed beneath the feeder

I really haven’t felt well this month.  Not well at all.  You know how so many people recover from laparoscopic gall bladder surgery without any challenges?  You know how they’re up and healthy and smiling after two weeks without any major discomfort or repercussions?  You know how they’re tooting that this surgery is “nothing”–everybody should do it!

Well, dear reader, that was not my experience.

I did recover from the knife within two weeks.  But then…the discomfort started, and elevated, and refused to disappear.  It was not pleasant.  It felt like someone placed a belt around this waist and pulled tight…no, tighter….no, tighter! The discomfort was worse than before surgery. 

Who knew what this was?  The surgeon made it perfectly clear that he would not see anyone until one to two months after surgery.  So you had to…lie on the couch.  Maintain a stiff upper lip.  Learn to live with pain.  Learn to live with something that felt like a constant irritating tooth-ache.

Remember when I came back early from my blogging sabbatical?  It was because the discomfort was so challenging that I finally decided, “Heck, I need to have some fun!”  I need to start blogging again just to distract from this relentless discomfort…

Remember the “Gratitude Challenge?”  It was because my gall bladder-less discomfort was so challenging that perhaps gratitude was the only antidote to ease the challenge of the days!  (And do you want to know something miraculous, dear reader?  The day I started the Gratitude Challenge, the pain finally, blessedly, stopped for a full twenty-four hours.)

Yet another finch in the spruce tree

The reason I am finally sharing this with you is that–finally, blessedly, the pain has ceased.  Not 100%.  But at least 90%.  For five days now.

Who knows what it was?  It might have been gallstones trapped in the liver duct with nowhere to go.  Those stones have been known to dissolve after surgery.  Sometimes the surgeon needs to go in with a scope and physically remove leftover gallstones.  Sometimes infection sets in.   It could have been the after-effects of surgery.  Who knows?

I have just been contemplating why we reveal certain things–and keep certain secrets to ourselves.  I kept this secret in an effort to keep the pain inward, trying to send energy for its healing.  It felt necessary. 

I want to express gratitude today for healing.  For the easing of discomfort.  For energy returning.  Thank you, dear God, dear Sacred Universe!   It’s good to feel good again.  And not keep this a secret.



Look closer at everything you see.  Patterns reveal themselves everywhere!

Window curtain spring

Repeated spirals, repeated movements, repeated colors, repeated spirals, repeated beautiful patterns.

Piled chairs

Nature patterns itself endlessly, and we humans do, too.

Window grating

What is it about patterns that appeals to us?

What is it about patterns that limit us?


Peering closer at the pattern of your days:  what patterns strengthen and energize?  What patterns are no longer needed?  What patterns can be released?


Coming to you from the pattern of photographing and writing blogs and wishing you the best on this late January day.  

Love, Kathy

First you shoot your food…then you eat it.

I suppose you think I’m talking about shooting rabbits, right?  Making booyah (as they call rabbit stew around here, even though Wikipedia says it’s made with beef, chicken or pork).  Or maybe you think we’ve shot a deer and we’re dining on venison?

Oh how wrong you would be!  We are talking about photographing our food tonight.  And then eating it.

(Which tonight happens to be Orzo Stew and Spinach Salad.)

Spinach salad. Add a little poppyseed dressing. You'll like it.

Here’s why.  Scott–over there at Views Infinitum–posted his Photographic Assignment a few weeks ago.  You can guess what is was.  Food Photography.  I–hesitantly–agreed.  Thinking:  well, if I fail, it will be a fun story about failing.  I can write a good story.  I can’t always get the camera to focus, but I can usually write a good yarn.

Grape tomato

Fast-forward to yesterday.  I was still hemming and hawing.  Told Robin–over at Life in the Bogs to forget it.  The light in our kitchen was awful.  There is never any sun.  How can you show off food without light?  C’mon, it’s impossible.  Let’s forget our promise to attempt the photography challenge.

I whined to Barry about it. 

“We don’t have any light!  No sun!  It’s impossible to do a food photography challenge,” I said.

He just looked at me.

“That’s what a flash is for, Kathy,” he said patiently.  “Just give it a try!”

OK, OK. 

Meet Orzo. Orzo, meet any unaquainted Blog Readers.

Here goes.  Here’s our dinner tonight.  Orzo stew and Spinach Salad.  What, you ask, is Orzo?  It’s a tiny multi-colored pasta.  It looks like rice, but plumps up and tastes like pasta.  The secret to this recipe–(OK, dear reader, I do not follow a recipe–I make it up) is the stock.

Save these scraps for your next Vegetarian Broth. Please.

Whenever I buy celery, I  shear off the leaves and ends and toss them in a pot with water.  Then add whatever other vegetables are hangin’ around the frig.  Carrots and onions and parsley and mushrooms are good choices. Simmer for maybe ten minutes and then whir in the blender.  Freeze in quart containers.  When needed for soup or other recipes, thaw.  An excellent base for anything culinary!  Vegetable stock can make ordinary recipes shine.  I guarantee it.

In tonight’s stock I tossed carrots and celery and green onions and orzo.  That may have been it.  I can’t fully remember.  Oh, yes, Italian seasoning.  Then miso-vegetarian broth.  That’s it, readers!  That’s our dinner.

Our orzo stew. After we eat our spinach salad.

No need to get your gun and find dinner.  Simply get your camera, photograph your dinner, and post it on your blog tonight.  Before midnight tonight. Then head over to Scott Thomas’ blog and announce “I DID IT!”  You can do it.  Ready, set, shoot!

Shouldn’t it be illegal to wake up at 4 a.m?

Fruit in hanging basket. (It's really not light outside...not yet...)

OK, it’s 4:34 a.m. now.

I have brewed a cup of coffee and laced it liberally with hazelnut creamer.

Posted my status on Facebook:  “Shouldn’t it be illegal to wake up at 4 a.m.?  Too many creative ideas brewing…”  (No, no, I haven’t posted my daily gratitude yet.  Let’s wait until the dawn breaks the horizon, at least.)

Barry has to wake up at 5 a.m. for an early morning at work, anyway. 

In recent years it seems like neither of us sleeps the whole night through in a regular fashion.  I go to bed between 9-10 p.m. on these deep winter nights and sometimes wander back up at 11 p.m. or 2 a.m. or 4 a.m.

He “hits the sack” much later–usually around midnight–but can often be found on the couch at all hours of the night.

He sometimes naps in the evening and gets up when I go to bed.

“We’re ‘hot bunking’ again,” I said to him last night as I went to bed and he rose.

He laughed.

Hot bunking is a practice common particularly in the naval armed forces and on submarines where several soldiers share the same bed. The bed is still warm from the prior user, hence the term hot bunking. When sleeping quarters are limited, as they especially are on submarines, and when staffing is required around the clock, soldiers both work and sleep in shifts. This could mean as many as three people share the same bunk on a submarine.

The nights I find it difficult to sleep are the nights when the creative mind starts its engines.  The Mind decides to write blogs–no, the Mind decides to write a book.  It actually starts writing the book.  Full sentences.  Plots.  Drama.  Action.

It’s so entertaining–at times–that sleep fades to a distant memory.  It can also be darn irritating.

“Will you shut up?” you request to the Creative Mind.  “You can do this in the morning.”

“It IS the morning,” says the Creative Mind brightly.  “It’s 4 a.m.!”

“7 a.m.,” you counter.  “Please.  Let’s sleep until 7 a.m.  Then you can have the whole day.”

The Creative Mind stops to consider and you doze off in the silence.

Suddenly the Creative Mind starts again…writing full sentences.  This time it’s about enlightenment and blogging. 

You open your eyes and stare at the ceiling, defeated.  This topic interests you. 

You drag your body from bed.  Wander downstairs to stoke the woodstove.  Turn on the gas burner to heat water.  Switch on the computer.

“Shouldn’t it be illegal to wake up at 4 a.m.?”  you wonder.

The Creative Mind just smiles.  It’s got you where it wants you–at the computer.

Anyone else up now??

My secret life as a sports reporter

Ready, set, Jump Ball!

This is Susie Reporter.  Reporting to you live from the Lake Linden gym, Thursday night, January 20th.

Susie Reporter is here for a high school basketball game.  Baraga versus Lake Linden.

Baraga Varsity boys stretching before the game

The tension is high.  This is the second match of the season.  Baraga won the first game, 59-41. 

The boys are ready to play.

Empty chairs on the side of the basketball court

Susie Reporter’s husband is taking pictures of the game, too.  He’s lined up at the end of the court, under the basket.  Where the action is. 

She sits in the stands, propped casually against the wall, aiming her long lens toward the Excitement. 

Boys on bench (with coaches)

All around Susie hears the murmur of fans.  They like to direct traffic.  They like to urge their team toward victory.  They tell the coaches and referees and players how the game should be going. 

Susie settles against the hard brick wall and tries to determine which setting on her camera will produce clear, crisp photos.  She looks for action shots.

She ignores the people around her who wonder why she is taking so many pictures.  She’s living out her secret life as a sports reporter.

Action shot. Get in there, Purple!

She missed the Junior Varsity game earlier in the evening because she discovered a library–YES!  A library!–in the Lake Linden school.  While her bona-fide reporter/photographer husband snapped pictures of the JV game, she found the library.

A library complete with computers.  A library about to hold its first official book club meeting of the year.

While the nice librarian situated our Susie behind an empty computer, the four book club members filed in.  Cookies and coffee and pop were offered.  A lively discussion began.

Of course, Susie offered her opinion about various books.  Of course she agreed to the delicious cookie–and then another one.  She could have lingered forever among the books and cookies and computers, but suddenly remembered her assignment.

She left the library with admonitions to write kindly about the game.  She agreed.

Avid basketball fan

Lake Linden (way, way north of Baraga–Google maps says it’s 47 miles) is situated on the Keweenaw Peninsula.  They get lots and lots of snow.  There was so much snow that Susie longed to take pictures and show her readers.  But it was after dark.  She had to settle for sports photos.

Lake Linden features one of the remaining old-time gyms.  You enter the front door and turn left toward the gym.  You face a rail which looks down on the basketball court.  You must walk down a narrow stairway to reach the gym below.  There you will find bleachers at court level.  (There are bleachers up above, too.  Although Susie Reporter has never sat there.  The action is downstairs, you know.)

Moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas peer down on the court from above

Susie would prefer not to attend basketball games.  She attended way too many basketball games over the years.  Her own children lopped balls toward hoops in high school all those years ago.  She has tagged along to way too many basketball and football and hockey games in her life, accompanying her husband on “dates”.  (She is not really a sports reporter, readers, but shhhh….do not tell.  She tries to make the best of whatever life offers.  So if life offers a basketball game in the Copper Country in January–well, she’ll try her best to be Susie Sports Reporter.)

One of the last of the old-time Upper Peninsula gyms

I’m sure you are all wondering who won the game.  Baraga pulled off the win:  71-55.

The reporters piled in the car and drove back home.  Susie wondered if she would get ONE picture her blog editor might like.  She wiped the cookie crumbs from her coat and the car headed south through the snow squalls.

Hundreds of Upper Peninsula parents and grandparents and friends were heading home from basketball games all over the peninsula. 

This is how many Yoopers spend their weekday nights in winter.

Signing off just as the basketball clears the hoop and the fans cheer wildly,   Susie Reporter

Winter Stories of Lake Superior

Bench overlooking Keweenaw Bay

You can’t be part of a 30-day Gratitude Challenge around here without feeling gratitude for this place where we live.  Feeling gratitude for the woods.  For the million trees.  For the deer and bear and squirrels hunkering down in the forest as the temperature dips near zero.

Feeling gratitude for the Big Lake, for Gitchee-Gumi.  For our freezing Lake Superior, donning her winter-cloak of ice.

Ice forming

Lake Superior, as many of you already know, is the world’s largest freshwater lake.  It extends 350 miles in length and 160 miles in width and plunges to depths over 1,300 feet.

Sometimes we forget that the ecosystem in which we live informs us in so many ways.  Years ago, my husband and I moved to Texas for a short stint.  (I swear I should tell you that story one of these years.) 

You know what suddenly became clear?  I had grown up nurtured by the breezes of the Great Lakes.  They were so “normal” to me that I never ever noticed their continual refreshing presence–until moving to the middle of Texas.

My body physically felt parched, like something was missing.  The breezes were as much a part of my body as the desert dryness is part of those who live in the western part of the U.S.

"First Sand Beach"

Years ago, an Anishinabe (Ojibway) woman gestured out toward Lake Superior.

“Can you see the spirit out there?”  she asked.

I looked at the endless waves pounding against the shore.  The deep blue in the middle of the bay.  You could almost feel something–but I didn’t know what to say.  I remained silent.

Another native elder once advised, “You have to respect that spirit in the lake.  Give it offerings in appreciation for what it gives us.”

Spirit of winter tree

I hoped to take sunny photos of Lake Superior for you, but the sun refuses to cooperate.  It’s January in the Upper Peninsula.  It’s gray.  Gray informs everything.  The black and white world keeps our focus inward, as we try to stay warm. 

Ice never forms the same way twice.

The fishermen (including my husband) are tempting whitefish and burbot and lake trout on the Huron Bay.  They sit in their little shacks and thread sucker or smelt on silver hooks.  They lower the bait into the frigid water and wait. 

We haven’t eaten any fresh fish yet…but Barry says Sunday looks like a good day. The lemon pepper sauce is waiting patiently in the frig.

Ice heaves, thrusts upwards.

You can’t imagine how cold it was when I took these photos earlier in the week!  The kind of cold in which one rushes, breathless, through the icy morning toward the lake.  The wind attempted to throw you back into your car.  You persevered.  You waded through two feet of snow (in your short boots, darn it!) toward the beach.  Once on the beach, the howling north wind-swept the sand almost clean in places.

Wind from the lake blows the snow away at "Second Sand Beach"

Did you know that the Anishinabe word for “spirit” and “story” is the same?  The word is Adizokan.  Everything in the world has a story to tell us:  the howling wind, the icy lake, the twigs and branches lying in the sand.

We can rush by with our busy schedules, or we can pause to listen.

Frozen Huron Bay as it appears through the trees

Sometimes at night you can hear loud booms from Lake Superior as the ice cracks and forms.  Sometimes it can wake you from deep sleep. 

“It’s just the ice down on the bay,” you murmur, and roll over, pulling the quilts closer.

In a few weeks, the fishermen will cast their bait 220 feet into the big lake. 

By the end of the month, adventuresome souls will jump into a hole cut in the ice up on the Portage Canal.  Celebrating the spirit of Heikinpaiva (when the bear rolls over in his den) they will briefly join the spirit of the lake for a frigid communion. 

No, readers, I shall not.

More ice every day.

It’s good to pause by Lake Superior and feel gratitude for its endless spirit, its endless stories.

The Anishinabe say winter is the time for telling stories.

Thank you for listening.

When a log lands on your toe…will you remember your gratitude practice?



Wham!  Bang!

Last night I reached down to pick up a log for the woodstove. 

The log slipped down to the floor–unto my sock-covered big toe.  OWWWWW!

You know how you’re tempted to curse the log and life and, owwww, does that toe hurt!

But yesterday was one of those kind of days.  I was so happy and filled with joy and gratitude (see yesterday’s post about the 30-day gratitude challenge.)

My second thought–after acknowledging the pain of the log on the big toe–was “I am grateful that log didn’t hit the whole foot!”

And then I started laughing.

Guess what, dear reader?  I think the laughter or gratitude may have changed the entire outcome of the scenario.  Because–ten minutes later–the pain was completely gone.  It never re-surfaced.  This morning the toe looks like a normal pink toe.  It doesn’t even remember the crazy log which tumbled off the pile.

Stranger things have happened with an attitude of gratitude!

Lone chickadee in snow

Day 2. I am grateful for the power of gratitude.

I am grateful that 28 people shared yesterday’s blogging link on Facebook.  That 15 of my friends decided to take the 30-day gratitude challenge!  That one of these friends–Susan D–had 12 of her friends dedicate their month to gratitude.  (And whether our friends continue or not–it doesn’t matter.  One moment of conscious gratitude is better than no moments!)

I am grateful for this exquisite feeling of joy which keeps soaring through my day.

I am grateful that this practice keeps my mind focused on the gifts of what is.  How easy it is for us to notice what isn’t–and continually yearn for something else–instead of acknowledging what we do have.

OK, what else am I grateful for right now?

Some of you may think I am a big dork, but I rented the movie “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”  Watched it last night–to Barry’s great dismay–he decided it was an opportunity to retreat to the garage.  This morning I am re-playing the movie simply to listen to the tunes.

I wore my coat, with golden lining
Bright colours shining, wonderful and new
And in the east, the dawn was breaking
And the world was waking
Any dream will do

What else am I grateful for?  I am grateful for my connection with the divine, the sacred, God, Allah, Jehovah, the Universe–whatever you want to call it.  I am grateful for the gift of awareness.  For our human potential to realize our divine potential.  That we have inner guidance leading us to our ultimate potential–if we listen and act.

A grandfather apple tree

I am grateful that the divine coalesces into form and we can be filled with delight as finches and chickadees flit in the spruce tree.  As old apple trees wear blankets of snow.  For Donny Osmond as Joseph.  (ohmygoodness, did I just type that I was grateful for Donny Osmond?)  OK, you, too, Marie. 

I am also grateful for everyone reading this blog because their inner guide lead them here.  (And I am grateful for those not reading this blog–because their inner guidance is leading them where they need to go next.)  And this has been a big one for me to learn! 

Don’t you love it that there is so much for us to learn? 

Go, go, go Joseph you know what they say
Hang on now Joseph you’ll make it some day
Don’t give up Joseph fight till you drop
We’ve read the book and you come at on top!

(Barry, you can come home now.  The movie is over.   lol!)

P.S.  Anyone who wants to leap into the gratitude challenge can at any time this month.  What are you grateful for?  (Or, in a more grammatically correct way:  For what are you grateful?)