"I love Canada Canada Canada"

Denali and I took a partly cloudy, 50 degree hike on the Centennial Hiking Trail (starting on Round Lake Road—) Any other March I would have had to take my snowshoes. Or at the very least expect mud. Hardly any snow left this time–it was pretty dry out there. Crunchy.

Our boreal forest doesn’t have so much topsoil. During the most recent ice age, the glaciers scoured away depressions on the big slab we live on that is the Canadian Shield. We can thank those glaciers for all of our favorite lakes, but they took most of the soil too, and dropped it in places like Illinois I think. It’s a great landscape, but it doesn’t hold moisture long. A rainy couple weeks down the road, and it could saturate quickly too (we’re hoping for that). Not much precipitation this March, lots of sun though, to keep our bird friends happy; yesterday, especially the white-throated sparrows. They were loud and cheerful, calling “I love Canada Canada Canada.”

My first summer in the BWCAW–1986….as a guide counselor for Wilderness Canoe Base. Early on a couple of my groups canceled, so I joined in-base staffers …doing the odd jobs. The best job (because we got to camp) we fondly referred to as “potty patrol.” I don’t even know what kind of deal Jim Wiinanen worked out with the Forest Service, but one week Pontoonist Drew and I were digging latrines on Alpine Lake. One campsite was occupied, and we were trying to be very invisible and polite, but we didn’t exactly correct this nice older couple who might have thought we were knowledgeable US Forest Rangers. And when the nice lady asked us what that bird call was, Drew very politely said (in a very deep and official voice) “That’d be the white-throated-sparrow ma’am.” He even faked me out! Lucky thing she asked about the only bird call he knew. It still cracks me up a little when I hear the sparrow call. “I love Canada Canada, Canada.” It makes me wish Drew would come to Tuscarora this summer….(ahem)….because he helps out sometimes, and then I can use a very deep and official voice to remind him “That’d be the white-throated sparrow, Drew”

I love Canada too (and these border woods especially). In my head, I know that the weather patterns are bound to vary. Last year, we had a very late spring. I KNOW about the tails in the curve of the normal distribution. So we’re currently living in one of the tails, rather than hanging around the mean temperatures/moisture levels. Sometimes I even prefer the tails. I’m pretty fond of the power of normal distributions, and I like it that the natural world patterns are so mathematically symmetrical. And since I can’t monitor or control normal anyway, I’m going with the birds. “I love Canada Canada Canada.”

We heard Kansas City got a foot of snow. Yikes! They’re living in a tail too. And Louisiana even had snow on the first day of spring….. an outlier?

But here’s the deal, almost always on that hike, even in the summer, my socks get wet. I usually have to tiptoe around the wet spots. This time, my boots were bone dry—I could avoid the handful of wet spots. And THAT tail of the normal curve gave me a few momentary prickles at the back of my neck. I suppose it’s an animal instinct to be wary of things that fall too far from ‘expected values.’ Maybe there will be time in a month to be cautious about this dryness, but for now, we may as well savor the sunshine. “I love Canada Canada Canada.”

I made Denali stop at our regular spot to pose for a picture (she’s so black, I’ll bet you can’t tell that she is actually rolling her eyes at me). The far right pond is the moose pond by our mailbox. It’s ice free, except early in the mornings. Round Lake isn’t breaking up yet. I couldn’t help but scour the topsoil for little green signs of spring. It really was a beautiful day.
Those birds kept telling me not to worry. They were telling me that I may as well enjoy life as it is, because that’s what it is going to be anyway. “I love Canada Canada Canada”

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been poking around the sites for different outfitters as I begin planning my first BWCA trip. I was drawn to your pictures, the dog named Denali (anyone w/ a retriever has to be “good people”) and that you are full-timers w/ kids. When I started reading the blog and found this entry with a beautiful mix of poetry and statistics, I think I made up my mind. May you be blessed with enough rain to keep all of the eco-systems happy and sunshine when the spirit needs it most.

  2. Your first BWCA trip? Hooray! Here’s hoping that you’ll love it just as much as we do. Let us know if we can help in any way.

    Incidentally thought, it’s the people that we remember most at the end of the day. Thank YOU, because you just made mine. -Sue