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Jay & Mary

These pictures make me happy.


Tree Sitting

Thanksgiving continued…

We arrived back to a full house at Dad & Mary’s. Mary’s kids and their families were spending the day with us. If Mary is my Step-Mother than I guess they are my Step Brother and Step Sisters and step Neice and Step Nephews? Yeah. Sounds silly and we have never really seen each other that way. We were all in our teens when our parents started dating and we never all lived together like the Brady Bunch. But after at least 26 years of our parents being together we are still getting to know each other. This was my first Thanksgiving with them. It was fun.

Mary was prepping everyone for the feast with lots of hors d’oeuvres and her delicious bloody mary’s. We snacked and drank and enjoyed the holiday. I had offered to do family portraits for everyone as a gift so we talked about a good time to go outside. It was still warm for November, but the temperature was slowly lowering. At 2:30pm I said we had at least an hour or so of good light left, but my Dad noticed clouds starting to roll off the lake and suggested we get outside soon. He was right!

When I started taking photos it was warm enough to let Canyon run around barefoot and the boys all played football in shirt sleeves. But within the next two hours the temperatures would take a nose dive and by about 7pm the snow started.

But I did have time and light to capture 4 groupings of families, well, 5 if you count Mary with her children. It felt good to capture these families which are so close to mine but really still so new to me. When we were done we all started to walk back toward the house but I had left my camera bag down by the woods. I went to grab it, saying I would catch up in a minute.

But I didn’t catch up. I grabbed my bag and then stood at the edge of the woods, breathing in and appreciating the moment. Then I sat down in the grass. I don’t really know why. I just did. And there I stayed for about 40 minutes. Just sitting and listening and thinking and saying thanks. And of course, taking pictures.

I know these photos are not amazing, but they capture what I saw.

I would think about going in, but then I would see something new. Like ravens or vultures circling up over the hill. In another season I would have hiked over to see what dead thing had their attention, but once again, deer hunting season had me on a short leash.

Lilo was loyal and patient. She is a herding mix and doesn’t like it when the family splits up. And the smells of Thanksgiving dinner must have been torture for her people food loving soul. But she stayed with me.

I would think about going in and then the moon came out to say hello.

And now when I think about it, I realize that I was sitting there witnessing the seasons change. It was warm enough to play barefoot in the grass, a few determined oak leaves still clung to branches, the season was late fall. But as I sat sentinel the wind started to blow stronger and within a few hours the snow would start to fall. By the next morning there would be nearly 16 inches of thick white snow on the same ground that felt Canyon’s bare feet just the afternoon before.

The wind was strong and I was not dressed for the cold so I finally went back inside. It was nice to know I was missed.


Thankful for Lake Superior Time

Thanksgiving morning we left the house early to enjoy the unseasonabley warm weather and have some Lake Superior time before the holiday feasting began.

As we drove down the 3 mile dirt road to the lake we saw tell tale signs of deer hunting season. People standing on their front porches, taking in the sunshine, were wearing blaze orange as they sipped their mugs of coffee. We pulled in to the empty parking area at the water and the moment I opened the van door I heard a gunshot. Damn it. Are we going to get shot while trying to enjoy the beach?

Canyon was happy to jump out of his car seat and head out to the beach and explore.

And he did have fun, for a few minutes before deciding that he was done with the lake and wanted to go back to his car seat! So Canyon went back to the van to patiently wait for us to get back in too.

It was warm, about 51 degrees, but the twins had colds and were not in the beach spirit.

River asked nicely to go back in the van.

Then she demanded it!

Fine. So John took River & Raven to join Canyon in the van and Lilo decided to jump in too! Fine. I would have fun by myself.

My usual Thanksgiving tradition is to make a hand tracing turkey. This year I took advantage of my Lake Superior building materials and made a driftwood and lake rock turkey!

A woman had joined me on the beach but I didn’t notice her until I stood up to look for a nice, flat rock to write a message on. She was curious to see what I was up to, since she had been watching me crawling around gathering up rocks and wood. “Oh”, I laughed self consciously. “just making a driftwood and rock turkey!” She wasn’t quite sure what to make of the grown woman and her rock turkey so she said something like, “oh that’s cute.” and quickly made her way down the beach.

And yes, I carry side walk chalk with me, for special occasions that require temporary markings.


Thanksgiving Sunrise

The upside to having kids who wake up at the crack of dawn is that you have no excuse not to step outside to watch the sunrise.


The Lights of Bentleyville

So let’s recap. We arrived at my Dad’s place around 3am on Wednesday and after getting the kids to wind down and go to sleep we had about three hours of sleep. I watched the sunrise, took pictures of birds and then loaded everyone in the van for a trip up the North Shore. Stopped at Stoney Point, spent a few hours at Gooseberry Falls State Park and then headed back to Duluth. That is a really full day of fun and activities. We should be satisfied and ready to head back home to Dad and Mary’s.

Then we drove by Bentleyville, the Midwest’s Largest Holiday Light Display. We knew we wanted to go see the light show but thought we would save it for another day. But it was so pretty and Canyon gasped when he saw it. Oh who am I kidding? John and I gasped too! I looked at John. “Should we just go for it?” “Yeah. Let’s do it!” So I turned the van around at 21st avenue West and headed back to Bayfront Park.

We learned that Canyon loves characters in costume. LOVES. He would dance up to the penguin, reindeer and snow man, giggling and squealing with delight.

I was impressed by how everything was free. Free admission, free cookies, free hot coco, free coffee, free marshmallows to roast, free popcorn! What a wonderful thing to offer to the community.

We made it through the whole park and the only thing we skipped was the long line for Santa. Canyon is not able to wait in a long line so we moved on. We were worn out and ready to go home but the twins were obviously ready to have some time out of the stroller. There was no way we could handle having all three kids on the loose so I let River walk around first.

She wanted to explore but was wandering around like a tiny little wobbly drunk. Time to go! But then Raven looked at me and his whole being said, “But what about me????” So John took River and Canyon back to the van where Lilo was waiting and I took Raven back inside so that he could have his moment of freedom. Yes. After all that I went back in to make sure that Raven knew he was loved.

We were so worn out by the end of the night but I am really glad we crammed in so much fun. The weather would take a serious turn by Thursday night so we really did make the right call. I wish we could have gone again!


I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. ~John Burroughs


The Travelers Return To The Shore-Gooseberry Falls State Park

We headed North to Gooseberry Falls State Park. It was late afternoon, about 41 degrees and we had the lake front to ourselves. Perfection.

When we let Canyon out of the van he let out a happy yelp and started to run toward the rock beach. He knew where we were and where we were going. And he loved it and led the way.

Have I mentioned that Canyon was really happy to be there?

I know I should edit myself and just include one photo of super happy Canyon but he is just so darn adorable that I had to post all three.

Someday my kids will have all kinds of photos to look back on to remind them of how much they were loved. Look at that proud Papa…

I feel bad that Lilo and Canyon are missing from this portrait but they were off exploring.

How did John and Canyon get way up there?

Oh yeah. Canyon climbed!

He climbed it for the first time in August and was eager to do it again.

And the obligatory “Laurie is happy” shot.

And one more “River is pretty” picture.

And the obligatory black and white edit


Grateful Canyon at Stoney Point

We’d only had a few hours of sleep but we weren’t going to waste our first day Up North. The weather was unseasonably warm-highs into the 50’s-so we had perfect weather to head up the shore of Lake Superior. First stop was one of our favorites-Stoney Point.

The twins both had colds so they stayed in the van with John and slept while Canyon and I took a quick trip to the water.

It’s hunting season! Run!

And on we go to Gooseberry Falls…