After six years of life in Southeast Asia, where the difference between a summer and winter day is about 45 more minutes of sunlight and a few more toasty degrees, it has been absolutely wonderful to experience distinct seasons again. Since Minnesota winters tend to stretch long, Lek and I have gotten to experience all four of them here at Cascade Lodge.
It was a very white world when we arrived last April, and a couple of heavy duty snowfalls were still in store before mid May’s bolder sun swelled rivers with snowmelt and coaxed new life up from the soggy forest floor.
Poplar buds simultaneously burst into leaves in the course of a single afternoon just before June, and then summer set in with its jungle-lush green, wildflowers, butterflies and tasty berries…and also hatch upon hatch of mosquitoes, gnats, deer flies and ticks. Days were long and lazy.
By mid August change was again in the air. The wind rustling the forest canopy carried whiffs of Canadian taiga and had a crisp edge. Suddenly the forest community seemed to have a new sense of urgency. Scampering squirrels got busy building bank accounts of winter food caches. The beavers went to work refurbishing their lodge. Berry patches were trampled by bears intent on fattening themselves before their long winter sleep. Frost glazed a few mornings.
October debuted not only with blazing autumn color, but also with a sprinkle of snow on the forest like powdered sugar on scrumptuous Cascade Restaurant french toast.
Now the forest lies naked, waiting patiently to be decked out again in another white coat, and it’s already dark by the time kids get home from school. Firewood’s been cut. Boots, parkas, and choppers have emerged from storage, and snow shovels and skis stand at the ready as we await the season that truly gives Minnesota a reputation: its “uffda-she’s-a-cold-one-today” winter.
It’s a season as powerful as it is beautiful. It demands respect even as it beckons us out to play. Days of howling winds and drifting snow are followed by days of incredible stillness when sometimes the only sounds are the soft, methodical crunch of snow beneath snowshoes and the beating of one’s own heart…and maybe a moonlit concert of wolves.
My favorite season is, well, all of them! But winter, sadly, is the one I’m gonna hafta miss.
Winds of change are blowing within me. Soon Lek and I will be leaving Cascade, and then on 747 wings we will be lifted from US soil for the last time this year. Our path back to Thailand is well-worn and familiar by now. We’ll pass over the Alaskan fiords, skirt Anchorage, see the Aleutian Islands and then head down the east Siberian coast enroute to Bangkok and a completely different climate, culture, and existence.
Our thank yous come wrapped in gratitude. Thank you, Cascade Forest, for having us in your many moods. Thank you non-human forest friends for making so many hikes so memorable.
Thank you to our lodge guests for your many warm smiles and pleasant conversations.
Thank you owners Michael and Maureen, and thank you my co-workers, for all of you have become unforgettable and forever friends and, really, extended family to Lek and me. We are a happy crew that works well together; we discuss personal issues and the deeper meaning of life even more than we talk shop, weather, fishing and football. (And thank you Maureen and Shane for pushing my laugh-till-I’m-in-tears button!)
Thanks to the lodge itself, whose walls have given us a cozy physical home and the privacy that Lek and I sometimes need.
Winds of change are taking us away. Winds of change will one day bring us back.
For all these things, and for all of you, we overflow with gratitude.
Until our forest paths cross again,
David and Lek