Releasing and Remembering: Gunflint Green Up 2010

Last weekend we participated in our 4th Gunflint Green Up event—where the friends, guests, and neighbors gather to celebrate the renewal of the forest after the Ham Lake Fire of May, 2007. We planted little pine trees during 2007, 2008, 2009. This year we were charged with releasing them—cutting away other vegetation, giving them room to grow.
I like it. We get together for meals in a big white tent in a parking lot at Gunflint Lodge. Those events feel sort of like casual wedding receptions. Our family doesn’t get to many wedding receptions together, so two in a row is a bit of a bonus. On Friday night, we were trying to to ditch out on the Owl Presentation. We couldn’t figure how to get all the lunches we were to transport for the next day, and politely sneak away so we shrugged and settled in. An unexpected pleasure! That guy was really entertaining and likable, so now we know a little more about owls.
On Saturday morning the kids and I went to the Kekakabic trail to join a gang releasing that bunch of trees.
Who knew? It turned out that releasing was possibly more fun than planting. Our friend Lily called it searching for buried treasure, only with an upside-down map. (you know–sort of inverted?). Hanging out with kids in the woods having a treasure hunt, and then cutting out the competing vegetation made for a great morning. In a world where our economic market almost freefalls when somebody accidentally types “billions” instead of “millions” –the task of tending to little trees with kids….being distracted by the chatter and the pinecones and the sunny day— all seemed very real and right and a good thing to do. Those kinds of simple tasks often become my favorite experiences of life.

Later in the afternoon, the kids were done, and I took my clippers to the back of Tuscarora property—where trees were planted just a couple weeks after the Ham Lake Fire. You know, the Green Up event is so (appropriately) focused on regrowth and renewal, and it is such a flurry of people and action that I appreciated that quiet moment alone to remember that there was also an element of tragedy in that Ham Lake fire. I had a little tinge of melancholy, thinking of the beginnings and the endings, of people and the passing of time, of events that change things.

The memories were flitting through my head (these are now 2007 photos)—mostly the people involved, Nancy the original green up elf, Kjersten, Mike, Megan/Mike/Brandon/Kaylee crew, my kids, Jake, Noah, a friendly tomboy named Summer whose dad drove up to help for the day….and also the details of that fire.

And the little trees (recent photo—3 years later) –the way they twisted around and grew anyway they could. The way these guys survived the nibbling of the deer the snows, the heavy rains, the drought. It was an honor to help them find the sun. They are feisty and strong, and hopeful. It was a good day.