July 31, 2009

Quick Update

Both Kim & I are back in the land of internet signals after a week of being in the boonies! Kim went on a four night paddle with her Sister & friends out of Sawbill Lake while I went up the Gunflint Trail and stayed at Flour Lake.

We both took a few pix and will try to get posts done over the weekend, so standby it's a coming!

July 10, 2009

The Rylander's Incredible Journey! "Earthward"

Have you ever read "The Celestine Prophecy"? If not, perhaps you should...it basically uses a fictional story to portray the author's belief that no chance meeting in life is without meaning. Today was just one of those events, that I'm sure will lead us down new paths, and remain in contact with a couple of the earth's most wonderful folks!

When a fluke search on the internet a week or so ago regarding "cordwood masonry" homes produced a link to a book entitled "Journeying Earthward", along with the fact that it's authors, Edith and John Rylander, lived only a few hours from Duluth, I picked up the cell and gave the strangers a call. In short summary, the friendly couple was delighted to hear from us, and after a series of emails, graciously invited Kim and I to visit their unique home of twenty-plus years.

A three hour drive across some of the prettiest farmland in America, through the quaint town of Little Falls, and down a winding back country road through Swan Lake, MN led us to the doorstep of our first encounter with an "earthen-sheltered, cordwood masonry" home.

John greeted us at the driveway and walked us back towards the home???

At first glance it appeared to be nothing more than a large earthen mound.

Hummm..so where'd the house go John?

Down a short path, around the protruding berm a unique object comes into view. Yes, it's John and Edith's version of a "weather stone" (You know, if it bright & dry - sunshine, if it is swinging - windy, if it's dripping wet - expect rain!).

This hundred or so pound hunk of sandstone was found on the property a few years back, complete with a "hanging hole" which was filled with ancient sea shells, reminiscent of eons past when Swan Lake was much larger than today!

And then, to our left, there it is, EARTHWARD!

They carefully explain the techniques and process used in the construction while we enjoy their interesting incorporation of many natural elements into the outer walls.

As we're welcomed through the front door, we see evidence of much love and care of the place, such as these carvings given to them by local friends.

First step inside one comes face-to-face with a large wood stove, complete with masonry surround - the physical source of the home's warmth. That's right, the spiritual one is evident in Edith and John's pride with which they tell of this journey.

Gazing around the cozy, inviting dwelling, one feels immediately secure and protected, it's solid, quite earthen and wooden arms surrounding one with a feeling of both peace and strength. No detail was spared....many interesting examples of local woods, artifacts and stones are found incorporated throughout.

Kim loves the rounded curves and rich colors of this center support post, while I enjoy the thoughtful addition of "the library wall" which boasts an example of every type of wood used in the structure within it's picture-like frame. John points to the lamp nearby, which was a gift from a nearby friend, handmade of course from the wooden base and column to the woven basket shade.

The years of dedication to detail are evident as we sit and chat about the surrounding detail, every aspect has meaning - quite different from today's 3000 sq. ft. thrown-together, characterless boxes of pre-manufactured particle board, hard, synthetic surfaces and flat, sheetrocked walls.

Edith invites us to walk through "the trollway", a narrow path through the rear that opens at the back of the mound to reveal a large, thriving garden.

As we walk along it's rows, they explain that almost all their food is produced on their forty acres "of heaven".

Before we left, I wrote in the Rylander's guest book "We came here this morning as strangers, we leave here this afternoon as old friends". Now loaded up with fresh greens from the garden, a bottle of John's prized, homemade pure maple syrup and a couple of copies of "Journey Earthward" we are almost reluctant to leave. We somehow know that true to the Celestine Prophecy, this acquaintance will endure and lead us to subsequent visits and perhaps a "journey earthward" of our own...only time will tell!
AFTERWARD: July 15th -----
I have now completed reading about half of "Journeying Earthward", the Rylander's personal story of a bold decision years ago to give up "the good life" of a California professor, modern family, living in a commercial driven society. I must say that it's not exactly what I expected, covering far more than just the details of their journey and home construction, both John and Edith have done a great job of reviewing Minnesota's rich history and geology, along with the numerous stories and benefits of living a simpler life in a caring community in rural America.

July 6, 2009

White Iron Lake Paddle

Today we visit our new friends Don and Chris on White Iron Lake, just southeast of Ely. They have just completed their new garage (with apartment upstairs!) and horse stable at the lower end of a beautiful twelve acre plot situated near the end of a long, isolated bay.

Their setup is just about picture perfect, homesite looking over the bay, nice boardwalk across a deep green marshy area, and almost complete separation from the main body of the lake. It's early evening here, with the sun's golden hue shining across placid waters of the bay. As I help Kim launch and look out across the narrow waters, I know this will be a nice relaxing couple of hours.

Chris is last to launch in here Wenonah Prism, a favored solo boat here in the Boundary Waters.

I'm in the front of our big Clipper tandem, a perfect spot to enjoy the scenery and take a few pix.

Once on the waters, Don and Chris glide across the ripply surface as we ease slowly along to visit their favorite spots along the opposite shore.
A mile or so down, we spot a lone deer swimming across ahead of us. "Paddle faster Kim, let's get close for a picture!" doesn't seem to produce much extra energy,

Kim just laughs as I watch the large doe disappear into the thick cover.

Farther along we reach the mouth of the Kawishiwi River, noticing a series of glistening rapids a few hundred yards ahead. As we turn to float back on the gentle current, Chris waits patiently in the narrow opening back into the lake.

I marvel at the pristine beauty of this part of the country, and wonder why it's taken me the better part of a lifetime to discover it's beauty.
We spend another hour or so returning, and top off a wonderful eve with a sparkling glass of Shiraz, a warm fire and interesting new friends!