Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lake Ashtabula

I drove past Lake Ashtabula today after I picked up the girls from my Mom and Dad at Valley City.  I remember what it was like when we used to go camping there.  When we came down that hill that led to the campground a flood of memories came flowing through my mind.  I loved going there.  Us, along with Julius Vetter's, would camp there and of course bring our bikes.  The fishing was good as I remember it and there were plenty of places to walk to.

We would first walk to the dock area and skip rocks and watch the boats come in and out of the water and my Dad would ask them if they caught anything of course.  From there we would have to cross the highway to a little store where we could by ice cream and popsicles.  As I remember it, I thought we could also rent boats.

I miss camping with my parents and cousins.  I always remember them as good times. I had Scott to ride bike around with and we would go fishing, have bonfires.  My parents seemed more relaxed and now being older and looking back, I wish I knew just how silly they may have gotten as they sat around the fire and had drinks late into the night.  The only thing I hated was going to bed before them. I wanted to stay up.  Now being a parent myself,  I get it.  I just want to put my kids to bed at least a few hours before I do so I can have some down time and alone time.  But no matter, we had fun.  There was two campsites on either side of the small lake.  We would always do the site on the south side of the lake.  I think Scott and I felt like the other side was like crossing the rail road tracks.  Those were the bad people.  The slums.  We were young.

Nothing better than grilled steaks, burgers, and chicken along with corn on the cob, potatoes, pickles, chips.  Oh and my weird camping favorites, vienna sausages and Frito Lay cheese dip.  We would play outdoor games and go to the park.  Take nature walks then try to fish some more.  If we were lucky enough to catch fish, we would be able to grill up some fresh fish over the coals.  I miss the coals. Gas is easier but I love the smell of burning coals.

The mornings always smelled of dew and our bikes and chairs would be wet from the night dew.  I'd wake up and many times my dad would already be gone cause he wanted to do some fishing by myself instead of having to help us kids all the time.  Many times I would go searching for him, but looking back now, I wish I would have let him have his alone time. We all need a little alone and quiet time once in a while.

I miss those days.  So simple. So relaxing. So much fun. I miss those days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Seen an Aurora and Not have to "Chase" One

My Aurora Chasing Night
I took for granted to many years ago when I would see the aurora.  Living out in the country all my life (up until that point) I figured everyone had seen one.  I mean, I wonder how many times I would look to the north and think, "oh, Northern Lights.........again"  I never really took time to look them because I probably thought they will always be there.  It's like seeing the colors of the trees change every fall.  Most of the time you never really stop to look at them because you think, well it happens every year.  I'll see it again next year.  But what if they stopped changing?  What if you moved to a tropical place next year?  I bet you'd miss those changing colors.  (side note here, we had a beautiful maple that turned a bright red every fall down in Minneapolis and Kaitlyn took pictures by it ever year. We would have moved that tree with us if we could have).

Best Picture I took (I think)
Well, I miss seeing the aurora.  Maybe it's the science geek that comes out in me but I miss seeing the different colors and wondering what is happening in space to create those ribbons of light.  It was to the point where, after hearing of a mass ejection from the Sun this winter, I patiently watched online for the numbers to be right, drove east of town at 12:30........AM to take watch the aurora and try to take pictures (side note number 2, I need to learn how to use a camera better).  It was so cool.  I sat there for an hour and a half just looking up at the light streak by, imagining the science of what is happening and how neat our universe is.  I had taken it for granted so many years ago.

Need to learn to use a camera better
For whatever reason, I do remember one particular time when we came home from Julius Vetters one winter's night and the Northern Lights were going crazy.  I watched out the back of the car as we drove home and looked to the north after we got home. I paused for a moment on that clear, cold, dark night and thought how cool it was and wondered how exactly those lights occurred. Then quickly thinking I am tired and I'll see them again some other night most likely.  Now I have to watch certain internet sites and drive out of town when the time is right.  I wish I could just look out my bathroom window again and spot them without warning.  One big present that would show up out my window without even telling me.  I know what I would do now.  I would go out and take it all in.

So make sure you do.  Take it all in.  Life is as it is and you might miss the beauty. You never know, the leaves may not change this fall.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

...Seen a Nighttime Thunderstorm out on a Farm?

I don’t know what it is about a thunderstorm out in the middle of nowhere.  The lighting flashes seem brighter and the thunder, louder.  While it may sound crazy at first there probably is an easy explanation.  The first being there is no city lights to drown out the light emanating from the lightning so naturally they would seem brighter out where there is hardly any light at night.  The thunder could be louder because there are no buildings in the way to dampen or reflect the sound.  Be that as it may, it is something to behold.  You can see the lightning in the clouds at night long before the storm even reaches your place.  Slowly it gets closer and the time between flash and thunder becomes closer together.  The wind dies down and then begins to pick up from the opposite direction and soon the force of nature is upon you.  You don’t know if there is anything terrible coming your way.  At least if a damaging storm is coming through a city you may have the luxury of seeing how bad it is with the street lights, or if it is really bad like a tornado, power flashes as transformers are being torn apart.  There is no such luxury out on a farm.  The nearest light was  a 1 ½ miles away, just a moderate rain could make that sucker disappear.  

Now my bedroom was upstairs and the wind and rain sounded ten times worse and would easily wake me up.  I would be the first one to go downstairs and look out the window to watch the weather.  Next would be my mom.  Now if my dad woke up, you knew things were getting a little more serious.  He would be able to sleep through the strong winds and even a little light hail but he seemed to know when the larger stuff was coming.  When dad called up stairs you scurried down fast.  Hail would smack our large kitchen windows as the wind blew them against the house and you had no way of knowing if its going to get better or worse, you just waited to see what happened next. 

Two distinct nighttime thunderstorms I remember (well, one was late evening).  The late evening one I was all of five years old and I remember watching my dad going out to the burning barrel.  He came back to get mom and they stood there looking to the south.  Finally they came in and said we need to get into the root cellar behind the house(cement structure buried into the ground that held our potatoes, it was a cool dark place.  I believe it was used to store other produce many years ago).  We yelled for my brother Brian in the basement but he couldn’t hear us right away, he was listening to his music.   Finally he came out and we all ran to the cellar.  I remember shivering and one of my sisters asking if I was cold, I was not, I was that scared as the wind howled over the air vents above us and my dad and brothers pushed against the door trying to hold it shut against the wind. We came out after it was all over and the windows and drapes in the house were shattered, the roof of a pole barn ripped off and a grain bin missing, only to be found a mile away the next day. I know for years my dad said the Weather Service classified it as straight-lined winds but this day and age of internet you can look anything up and it was classified as a F-1 tornado.

The second storm I can remember looking out my bedroom window upstairs watching the lightning flashes.  One was particularly close as the thunder boomed almost immediately.  I didn’t think nothing of it at the time about its location but given how close it was, I went downstairs.  My parents were still up watching television and reading the paper.  I eventually looked out the living room window and saw something glowing near the row of trees towards the back of our farm, back where the hay bales were.  I still remember exactly what I said, “uh dad, there’s something glowing back by the hay bales” and he said, “huh uh, there better not be!”.  He looked and sure enough, a bale was on fire.  Likely from the same strike I saw from my bedroom.  We quickly called the fire department and a neighbor who had a large tractor with a bucket attached.  In the mean time, we took down the fence so we could get to the stack easier and quicker.  Once a stack catches fire, it is hard to get it out as it will smolder for a long time.  What’s more it can easily spread to other stacks and pretty soon, the feed you were saving to feed your cattle over the winter is up in flames, so as you can tell it was important to get to the hotspot fast.  When we got back there it had gone out for the time being but we knew it would be a matter of time before it would flare up again.  Eventually we found it and by that time our neighbor was johny-on-the-spot with his big loader.  Him and my dad quickly tore the stack apart and separated and cleared the bale that caught fire from the rest of the area. We knew we had beaten it and called off the fire trucks, which we could just barely make out their lights in the far distance. The lights turned off and they turned around to go back home. 

If you are in the heartland and on a farm, hopefully you get to experience a storm for yourself, but not too bad of one.  When the old farmer or rancher wakes up, then you know its serious, otherwise sit back and take in the show.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

...Been on Stage?

This particular blog “Have You Ever?...” is mainly about my experiences from when I was younger and the place I grew up. It is a place where you can get away from big lights of a city and be out in the middle of nowhere with only your thoughts and dreams. I would love to take people from large cities such as New York and let them be alone, miles away from anyone, and let them unwind. Relax, read a book, go fishing in your very own fishing hole on a warm summers day. There are so many wonderful things to do that I plan on sharing. With that said, every once in a while something else comes up that I get passionate about and I feel the need to write about and given I’ve been so busy over the past week getting ready for the play I hardly have time to really delve into much else. Therefore the question is, have you ever been on stage?

 It doesn’t have to be in a city or a place where people take their acting a little more seriously. There are small towns and smaller productions that only come around once a year and the focus of these productions is to have fun. If you do it on the side, make sure it is a place that focuses more on fun rather than the art of it, especially if you have hardly ever done it before. The right place and right fit will suck you in. I love going to practices and pretending to be someone else along side others who are doing the same. Breaking out of the daily grind and going over lines and making things up along the way. Coming up with funny ad libs or actions to provide additional laughter to the audience proves to be therapeutic when you are on stage. Not to mention the feeling of a job well done, knowing you entertained someone if only for a little while plus the accolades you get when you mingle with the crowd. If you need a confidence boost, the stage can make you feel 10 feet tall.

 By the time you are done with the performances you will have likely made some new friends. Every time I’ve done this I’ve met somebody new and am glad to know them. After all, you have come together weekly for the past two months trying to get ready for a production and will likely see each other every day of the week leading up to opening curtain. You leave your work and personal life at the door and check into a new reality that the play brings. For those few hours you are someone else. For those few hours your job is to entertain and when others around you are trying to do the same thing you in turn will be entertained by them, even while you practice. Meeting new friends, stress checked at the door, why wouldn’t more people like to try it?

 I have to say performing in the little town of Reynolds, ND has continually been my favorite. Good people. Good laughs. Great crowds that are there to just have a good time (speaking of, Reynolds broke their old record by having 440 people come to the play this past weekend). If wish you could all try this. Want to? Let me know, we are always looking for new actors! It don’t matter who you are or where you are from!

Friday, April 6, 2012

...Laid on the Ice on a Cold Winter's Night?

It may not sound very inviting but I remember those nights fondly.  I lived out in the “Middle of Nowhere, USA”.  Raised on a farm, miles away from a city or town or even the next farm, the nights were deathly quiet. To give you an idea how quiet it can be there, there is a highway about 2 ½ miles from the farm and over the rolling hills and across the grassy plains, on some evenings, we can hear cars drive by.  No they are not blaring their horns or big loud trucks, it’s the humming from when the rubber meets the road we can hear on some very still nights. 

 Our farm was located on top of a hill so to speak and it overlooked much of the land surrounding it.  Behind the farm, no more than 400 feet from the house, the hill drops off as a small creek has carved out the land underneath it.  It is probably around a 50 foot drop of dirt and weeds that is nearly straight down in some places from the overlook down to the bottom by the water.    Of course in the winter the creek freezes over and it becomes the perfect place to go and look up at the universe and reflect on the things going on in your life.  To some it may sound crazy given your laying on a cold sheet of ice, but when you are bundled up nice and warm and the banks of the creek shield you from any wind, it is really rather comfortable, quiet, and peaceful. 

I remember as a kid, on those nights that were especially clear out, I’d carefully walk down the steep bank, being careful not to fall as the snow gave way under my feet. Sometimes I would sit right down in the snow and slide down the hill.  In the middle of winter, I knew the creek was frozen solid so I didn’t have to worry about checking the thickness so I would just step right on the ice and the ice and snow would crunch under my snow boots. I remember looking around and maybe slide back and forth on the ice a few times as kids like to do.  Trying different tricks and twists an kicking ice chunks around like a hockey puck.  After a bit of play time, I would lay right down on the ice and look up to the large sky above.  Better than any television as it was much clearer and much bigger picture.  With very little light to filter the sky, the amount of stars you can see is amazing! My eyes would scan across the vast universe as far as I could see it. Contemplating the millions of stars it must take to make up the Milky Way Galaxy alone.  Some stars would twinkle more than others and occasionally you would see a satellite quietly drift across or if you were very lucky, a meteor.  God I miss seeing those stars on a clear winters night.  I am not sure why, but the sky seemed cleaner and clearer in the winter.  Maybe it has something to do with the lack of moisture in the air in the winter.  But all I know is it was amazing and a sight that remains vivid in my memory. 

Also vivid were the sounds.  On windy days you could hear strange sounds the wind would make as it would dance across the prairie or get pushed around certain obstacles up above on the farm.  What little grass that was peeking out of the snow would rustle and sway.  The wind is never fun to have around, unless you are lying flat on the ice and most of the wind skips right over you across the banks above.  The still nights were particularly special.  You could hear a dog bark from miles away.  A few nights you could hear a band of coyotes off in the distance and it made your mind race, wondering what they were doing or just how far away they might be.  The farm gave sounds of the cattle and horses grazing, running, or playing. 

These were good nights I look back on and I wish I would have known how special they were.  It was a good place to go and reflect on your day or even your life, particularly if you had a bad day it was a good place to unwind and recharge.  It was just you and no one else to spoil your thoughts or dreams.  I wish those of you reading this could have had that experience.  I would share it with you as I think it would do wonders for anyone looking for a little quiet time and time to reflect.