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Magnetic North - April 4, 2018

Vicki Biggs-Anderson
Vicki Biggs-Anderson

Magnetic North April 4, 2018
Liftoff and Reentry

Welcome back to Spring in Magnetic North, where folks are still swaddled in parkas and mukluks. However, even with April, aka Mud Month, and downright balmy daytime temps of almost 40 degrees, no-one with a grain of sense would jinx the good weather by boxing up winter gear. Do that and a blizzard is all but guaranteed.
 
This is also the month when many snowbirds return from their winter sun spots, or for folks like me, leave for a week or so, just to keep the wheels from coming off after putting up with winter for five months. Both of us have the same challenges when traveling, lift-off and reentry, each with its own perils. Here are mine:
 
First off, due to my own lack of impulse control, I have what amounts to a small zoo to maintain. In all, there are twenty laying hens, five laying ducks, seven bantam hens and roosters, two big geese, five goats, two bunnies, two big dogs and two cats. No turtle doves or partridges in pear trees.  But a turkey and some guinea hens might be in my future.
 
I do the daily watering, feeding, and such, practically in a trance. It’s automatic, so writing out chore instructions for a critter and house sitter is tough. Just out of college I edited computer software manuals and my boss told me the trick to vetting the writing was to imagine I was writing directions for tying my shoelaces. The chore instructions are like that, miss one thing and, well ....there can be complications.
 
So my chore instructions are lengthy, often illustrated with names of friends to call for help and numbers for power outages, plus my recipe for washing skunk stink off any of the above four-legged animals.  The goal is to arm them for any eventuality but not scare them.
 
That said, some sitters have obviously never looked at my instructions. Back in the 90’s, one such allowed our dear departed twin Labs to run far and wide, prompting calls from friends reporting the dogs were harassing picnickers at Magney State Park, a good four miles from our farm. She was, to be fair, focused on more interesting matters. Upon returning home, Paul and I found every candle and oil lamp we owned arrayed in our bedroom, along with the pungent aroma of Aramis cologne. 
 
Another sitter called us while we were in Norway to say that the well pump had quit, but not to fret because he had called “someone.” When we got home, the sitter had left hours earlier and the guts of our well were spread out over our back deck and yard. 
 
Memories like this are why I call coming home from a trip Reentry, as in the return of a rocket ship from outer space. For me, it carries the twin emotions of relief to be coming home and dread over what might greet me when I walk in the door.
 
The good news is that Paul and chose to live in a place where we are surrounded by caring neighbors and friends who seem sometimes to be waiting by the phone for our call for help.
For example, one time we got home on July 4 one year and found a note: from the sitter,  “Had a great time here, but dropped a screwdriver down the upstairs toilet and now it won’t flush.” Why a screwdriver would be employed whilst using the facilities is a mystery, but the point is that within the HOUR a kindly (and strong) neighbor was merrily shaking our toilet bowl over the back deck, dislodging the tool, after which he reinstalled the throne. 
 
And just last week I got home to find everything in tip-top shape, but, no fault of the sitter, the electric heat meter was broken, leaving me with no hot water and a slowly frigid home.   Naturally, it was Sunday night and cold. But after three calls I had an electrician at my door at 9 pm. My heat and joy over being home were restored immediately.
 
“Only in Cook County” is a line oft said when commenting on some of our negative or bat-crazy quirks, but I also say it when speaking of the generosity of time and caring we extend to each other. Even on holidays and wintery weekend nights.
 
As for the flip side of leaving home, “Liftoff,” it’s all about logistics. We are 110 miles from one US airport in Duluth and 160 miles to another in Minneapolis. Plus we have the added factors of snow and ice in winter and roadwork detours in summer. No question, living far from the madding crowd has its challenges, too many for most city dwellers, even those besotted with the North Shore and woods.
 
Lucky for me, I find that the biggest challenge of trips away is not liftoff or reentry, but the very act of leaving this place I love and that loves me back. So yes, leaving a place some call Paradise is a hassle, but I like the proverb “Take what you want and be willing to pay for it,” Sort of like signing a blank check. Only something someone in love would do.
 
 For WTIP, the is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North
 

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