Keeping Cool in Summers Gone By

Chilling at Big Mantrap Lake

My family was large and our summer vacations generally involved camping at a lake in Minnesota. Over the years, our favorite spot changed; when I was in high school, we started going to Big Man Trap Lake, in Hubbard County, Minnesota. It is part of the Paul Bunyan State Forest.  No way is it glamping. It is not fancy. No electricity. No flush toilets. Water from a well. But it is a true Minnesota camp ground. Park Rapids and Itasca State Park are within easy driving distance. I haven’t been “to the lake” since 2008, when we had a sizable gathering including five of my siblings and their kids at least for part of the time. One of my sister’s and our extra sister have gone to Mantrap for a week in August for decades. After my niece’s wedding (the one with the gladiolai) at the end of July, I will spend a week at camping with a couple of my sisters, assorted nieces and nephews, and close family friends. I am looking forward to it. A few shots from trip. (P.S. No one in my family or anyone I ever grew up with called it car camping, which seems filtered into American media and blogging.

A few other favorite shots from an earlier trip in 1981.

Dad, Fishing 1981

Mom, carving loon,1981

Campsite 1981

Join Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Cooling 

The Things We Leave Behind

Moving On But Never Letting Go



Sometimes in life the stars collide. Last week, all seven of my siblings and I ended up in the same place for the first time since my youngest sister’s wedding 18 years ago. And it wasn’t actually planned. We gathered to celebrate the 60th birthday of one of my sisters (upper left) at her home in Upstate New York. She knew four sisters were coming to spend five days with her—we surprised her with our sister from Alaska to make a complete set. It was the first time in 12 years the 6 girls had been together. It is not an understatement to say we were all stunned when a car pulled into the driveway on Friday and our 2 brothers arrived for the weekend. We spent our time laughing, telling stories, floating in the pool, sitting outside after dark spotting satellites streaking through the stars, playing cards, and eating great food. What made it memorable for me was that, for the most part, it was just us, just Dona and Wally’s kids. We understood the jokes, the innuendos, and the vague references to relatives and friends, to times and people we had left behind.

This reunion may not seem amazing to those who grew up and remained close to their families. But we are spread out. Our parents died in their early 60s—much too young. So there is no anchor, no home to go home to. We have left that behind. We depend on each other to maintain the connection. My two brothers live in Minnesota; my sisters live in New York (2), South Dakota, Southern California, and Alaska. I live in Virginia.

I have to give kudos to my brother-in-law from California who survived five days in a small house with six adult women. He managed to not trip over the blow-up beds scattered throughout the house and put up with our chatter, often at a loss to understand who and what we were talking about.

WP Discovery: The Things We Leave Behind

Weekly Writing Challenge: Haiku – Reunions

So leave it to me to misread the definition of Haiku. It isn’t 17 words but 17 syllables. Sigh. I knew there was a reason poetry and I don’t get along. I think I got it right this time.


Going home with joy

Welcome hugs, laughter, chatter

Leaving home with tears

Oops. Not Haiku I guess but I like it.

Anticipation, arrival, excitement, smiles, hugs 

Laughter, chatter, stories, cameras, airbeds, whispers, breathing 

Tears, departure, missing them already


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