Life and Death

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Hospitals…a place to find healing and where healing is no longer possible.  Entering a hospital can be a positive experience, especially when going in for a treatment that will improve one’s quality of life.  But it also can be where a patient can discover that healing is not possible, that our time on this planet is drawing to a close, that it’s time to put affairs in order and prepare goodbyes.

Two years ago I made this journey with my father.  Years of fighting a battle that could not be won, finally a few months in hospice before moving on to the next big adventure.  Now, two years later, I prepare to walk this journey with my mother.  A trip to the hospital, tests run, diagnosis determined, hospice prescribed.  She will spend her last days?, weeks? or months? on the shore of Lake Superior.  She may see the lake once or twice, or not at all.  It all depends on her energy level.  But at least she is nearby rather than two hours away.  She is minutes away from my home, near the lake that means so much to my wife and me.  The winds that blow down the lake carries its spirit over the sand dunes and through the health center, bathing her in the peace of Gitchi Gummi.  After ninety-four years, she can rest as the power of the lake carries her, guides her and comforts her on her next grand adventure.  As her last breath sighs forth from her frail body, the wind off the lake will carry that breath onward, taking it to places we can only imagine until each of us breathes our last and joins all the other breaths dancing and swirling in the wind.

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Coming Home

When people think of home, it usually is their house, a family home or perhaps their hometown.  I arrived back in Duluth late last Friday night to my house, but wasn’t truly “home” till the next day when I was out enjoying nature.  As I walked the trails along the St. Louis River as it passes through Jay Cooke State Park, I came to the realization that this was part of my true home.  Not just this park, which is quite beautiful, and not just northern Minnesota, but all of nature.  It is the place where my spirit resides and is renewed after absences.  As I look back at the past year, a year that started in early March when I got the call from my father’s doctor informing me of his hospitalization, followed by three months in hospice before he passed away which lead to spending a lot of time at their home.  While there, I began doing sports photography on the side and as often as possible, I would head north on weekends to be back in Duluth for a couple of days.  As I think back, I realize that one of the first things I would do upon my return north was to head out for a visit to Lake Superior, a hike along a river or into the forests or perhaps just climb the hills near my house and sit on a rocky outcropping and enjoy the view.  Those are the moments when I feel at home.  No matter where I am, I know that I am never far from home.  I can see it as I drive along the Great River Road of the Mississippi, the scenic back roads of pre-freeway America, driving through a national forest or sitting at a roadside stop with a view of the countryside.  The place my spirit calls home, is everywhere, it can’t be contained in a man-made structure, it’s far too vast for that.  Perhaps those places are good for being with others who share your belief, but so are the places I go to commune with spirit.  I know that many I pass on the trail share a similar belief, but in a much larger cathedral. Our altars are waterfalls, giant redwoods, dense pine forests, winding rivers, shimmering lakes and granite cliffs.  Our pews are fallen logs, rocks, flower filled prairies and sandy beaches.  We tithe by supporting our parks and natural areas, picking up trash as we hike, by taking nothing but photos and leaving nothing but footprints.

All images are of Jay Cooke State Park, February 27, 2016

The Spirit of Winter

Winters can get very cold around Lake Superior, so cold in fact almost anything can become frozen.  This truly is the spirit of winter in the northland.

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Feb. 21, 2010, Canon EOS 40D, ISO 250, 76mm, f/ 11, 1/500 sec.