Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dreaming through a White Christmas

We've had full days this Christmas, punctuated by long, fitful sleeps and daytime naps. More dreams than we know what to do with. Ken and I know better than to come down from our sleep and try to tell each other the guts of our dreams. We can never quite pull off the emotions or the fantastical settings or plots. I keep a journal and sometimes I write about my dreams. The other night I had a dream that Ken and I had invited another publisher in town (a competitor, really) over for dinner. The publisher came with his wife while Ken and I, new to our dingy apartment, were still trying to set up our Target-purchased furniture. (Section A fits into Slot B, watch you don't pull off the plastic veneer). They were calm and composed (and we were not). They had brought many expensive bottles of red wine ($30 and $40 and $50 each) and we were scrambling to find a place to set the bottles and glasses to pour into.

In my journal I named that dream "Inadequacy."

The night before we left for the Gunflint Trail, where we spent Christmas with Megan, Tim had a reaction to the powerful antibiotic Erythromycin. The adverse affects of that wide-spectrum drug, which he'd been prescribed for bronchitis, include pyschotic reactions, night sweats, and allergic reactions that include swelling of the face and neck. Tim panicked when he felt his throat begin to swell. I called the doc on call and she told us to run out for some Benadryl. It was now 10 PM and Ken and I had been running all day, buying our Christmas food, wrapping presents, taking Tim to the clinic. This would be Ken's third trip to Walgreen's but he was out and back in a flash. We gave Tim the Benadryl and the measure alone made him feel less scared. But then he got mad. The first doctor, not our regular family doctor, "hadn't even checked" him. Didn't test him for strep throat, didn't have him breathe while he held a stethoscope to his back. "How did he know what I had?!" Tim implored me. Because the medicine he had been given didn't make him feel better but rather made him feel much worse, he thought the doctor had done a really poor job.

Ken and I slept fitfully that night, each of us tiptoeing in to Tim's room to check on his breathing (what if throat closed up in his sleep?). Tim slept soundly and got progressively better each day.

That early morning we got another four inches of snow, but not so much to keep us from driving up to camp via Highway 61. It was a beautiful drive, full of snowy treetops and a metallic sparkle coming off Lake Superior. There were still freighters in action on the big lake and we guessed where they might be coming from: Norway, Russia? (We had heard on MPR that shipping action out of the Duluth port was up 25% this year.) We spotted four bald eagles sitting close and low to the highway, always near a dead deer in the ditch, always near the murder of jet black crows pecking away at the road kill.

As we made our way around one of the last bends on the Gunflint we came up on two incredible moose. They were big as large horses and when they saw us they walked slowly into the woods, stopping on the trail to turn their necks and look back at us.

Megan met us with the snowmobile at the camp drop-off point and made two trips hauling us and our gear and presents and food and bottles of wine across West Bearskin Lake to the camp itself. As we were bringing everything up the hill to the main hall, Ken turned to Megan and said, "I haven't seen Tim smile so much in weeks." It was Christmas Eve and the sights and sounds would give us much to dream about.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Yes, it is 3:59 a.m. I am nursing a very sore throat. Started last night on the road to Duluth. Woke up a few times throughout the night with it. Tried to suck a Fisherman's Friend cough drop in my sleep, but drooled on my pillow like I used to when I wore orthodontia head gear.

And, by the way, good morning, Mr. Dayton. Congratulations on your new job. We're all counting on you. Please stick with it, hang in there, give it all you've got.

On Twitter, this post was retweeted: "What women want: chocolate-covered pretzels and Gabriel Byrne." If I had a season's worth of In Treatment I'd go back to bed and watch the whole thing. Instead, I have Thera-flu. I'm typing only as long as it takes me to down this mug of it. The narcotics in it make me a little goofy but I'll take the throat relief.

Someone yesterday sent me a list of "you know you're getting old" items, which often are repetitive and not too funny but all of these seemed right-on. One was "Seems hard to remember the last time you weren't a little tired." Or, "Why doesn't MapQuest simply jump to #5 on the given directions. I mean, we know the way out of our own neighborhoods."

If you sit alone in your house in the middle of the night, what do you see? What do you hear? I note:

*our quite-organized neighbors all have timers on their Christmas lights. The bright, twinkly lights are off now.

*Both guys (husband and son) are snoring. Both guys like to sleep with their bedroom doors swung open.

*We have no pets. If we did, I wouldn't be alone here at the dining table; I'd have company, I'm sure.

*It's good that we have modern, muted keyboards. If I had to do this on a Smith-Corona typewriter, I'd have to type in a closet in the basement.

*Just as the refrigerator fan goes off, the heater fan goes on. Forced-air heat is no friend for a sore throat.

*The neighbor two doors down lost his wife to cancer this spring. It will be his first Christmas without her. I wonder how he is doing and whether he is up nights, too.

*Yep, a Chevy Blazer just drove by with its flashers on. Stopped next door to throw the paper up the sidewalk. 4:21 a.m., 5 degrees here. Tough work.

My list is so much less than Robert Frost's in "Acquainted with the Night":

I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Gentlemen, start your engines

I love the way that a deep snowfall muffles the city, packs it in, the clammering sounds softened by a layer of down and fluff. In the morning, feeling like you've fallen asleep in a snowbank, you hear nothing but the clear music of a morning cardinal, calling out with the sweetness of a young soloist in the metro boys' choir.

Well, that, and the roar of the neighboring snowblowers. Gentlemen, start your engines.

The back alley snowplow comes out earlier than anyone else. Snow = jobs = money. That guy is the first to scrape away the white stuff. Then, you'll hear my husband. And you'll, like me, be grateful for his brawn and his old-school ways. He shovels and scrapes by hand, stopping once in a while to look out over the lawns and streets. It's an easy rhythm. You lull back to sleep. And then the rich neighbor, the one who leaves for work every Saturday before nine, tries to start up his small snowblower. It usually takes him five or six tries. He lives on the corner and he's got a lot to blow. (He's from Wayzata but you'd think he moved in from the Carolinas the way he bumbles with that machine.) So you're back awake again. Then the guy across the back alley revs up his big monster. He's got two big lanes of driveways, suburban in breadth and depth, and while he's fast, he's loud.

Might as well get up and make some tea.

Ken is at the table, ruddy-cheeked, eating pan-made oatmeal and sourdough toast. He's got hat hair. His reading glasses were $14.99 at Walgreen's. He's got them on so he can read the local Highland weekly. He recognizes one of Tim's baseball coaches in the editorials. The guy wrote in to support the college's plans to expand their tennis courts. The other letters decry the expansion.

Tim comes home from an overnight. He had trouble driving home in the snow so he put his truck in low, 4-wheel drive, and backed up and flipped it into forward a few times to gain some momentum. He's wearing one of Ken's old roofing pullovers--and it fits. His cheeks are red, too.

Ken says, "We better go to George's to get your skates sharpened." Tim has a game today at one. Tim says, "I don't want to go back out." Ken says, "Then it looks like you won't get your skates sharpened." They start up the truck again and head out together. I know they're going by Bruegger's Bagels so I ask for a morning sandwich.

And so the house is quiet again. The sidewalks are scraped, the alleys are plowed. The men in the house are out. Our cottage is surrounded by snow. Even the birdhouse roof is loaded with three inches of white.

My ears are perked. I wait for the soloist to call out again.