Wednesday, March 03, 2004


On Monday evening a thunderstorm rolled through Fairwater. The lightning clashed, the air boomed. Rain fell, melting snow already softened by our forty-degree tempatures. Darkness was coming on.

The storm had passed when the lights went off, the computer screen went black. Power was knocked out for half an hour, forty-five minutes. Mary had not yet come home for supper. I lit three candles, one in the living room, one in the dining room, one in the kitchen near the door Mary would come in.

Then I got out the little flashlight I carry in my travel bag; and I retrieved the book I've been reading from my bedside. I sat in our William Morris chair in the living room, reading. Our three curious cats formed kind of a ring around me at the edge of the light.

What was I reading? Zen poems from the tenth century to the present: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto. This, by the monk Issa (1763-1827):

Where there are humans
you'll find flies,
and Buddhas.



Mike Jensen, the Baraga County Extension Director, said that I have to have a steak of Tony's Steak House and Friday night fish fry at the Canteen - "they have the best wall-eye you ever tasted" is how he put it. I ate at the Canteen last night, their Teriyaki chicken sandwich, which was tasty. The Canteen is a bar and grill, the seats in the booths are worn, the way material gets used; there is an open dining area farther back in the place, with chairs at formica tables; and there's a long bar facing the windows across the front of the building, looking out over the waterfront park and the bay. It's a bar, it looks like a bar; either you are okay with that or you're not. If you're from Wisconsin, you already know that some of the best food comes from the most unlikely-looking places. I'll have their wall-eye Friday night then. The woman who is secretary for the Extension waits tables for them. As I left the Extension office, I told her I'd see her at the fish fry. Tonight I'll run out to Tony's Steak House south of town and get a piece of meat.


On my way past the Tourist Information building, I stopped in to see Tracey Barrett again. She has been trying to set up a ride for me with a fellow who'd be out grooming the snow-mobile trails. She hadn't been able to arrange it for last night as we'd hoped. I stopped to see if she'd come up with anything else.

She had. I'm to meet Tom Larson, one of the trail groomers, on Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. where the snow-mobile trail going to Nestoria crosses Prison Camp Road south of L'Anse almost at Alberta. Tracey marked the spot on a map, then gave me the map.


Supper at Tony's Steak House. It's in the "Bovine" area at the south edge of L'Anse, no kidding. I arrived at 5:00 p.m., the place was just opening, so I was the only diner. The bartender, waitresses, and busboy looked up hopefully as I came in. If I was a disappointment they didn't let on.

The building isn't obviously an old building but if you look carefully you can see it has weathered some years. It looks lived in, comfortably settled, not harshly straight and square; it looks like folks have taken some enjoyment here.

Tony's has steak, at the more expensive "supper club" prices we're already used to in a Wisconsin supper club. I got the nine ounce filet mignon, potatoes, bean soup, hot dinner rolls, and salad bar for $23.95. I'm not a restaurant critic, I don't pretend to be, so I'll say it plainly: they gave me a hell of a good piece of meat, grilled just perfect. And I enjoyed it; I don't get to do this a lot. Tony's doesn't waste a lot of time with green things - that's not what you go to a steak house for. Their dinner rolls were hot. They served real butter. I didn't have room for dessert.

Friends, take note of that - I didn't have dessert.

It was nearly 6:00 p.m. when I paid my check. No other diners had yet come in. There was some daylight left so I drove south on Highway 41 towards Alberta. I wanted to find the place I was to meet Tom Larson on Thursday night. When I came back past Tony's, there were cars parked in front of the place. Their Wednesday night had picked up.


MARCH 3, 1998

The roads and fields and streets were clear of snow last evening as I drove home from work. This morning there is a thin layer of snow again on everything: a fine and powdery dusting, like the ashes of many men scattered here. Today has more of winter in its fiber than any we had in February. Yet it is much too nice a day to be run from.

The snow makes the roads slippery in places. That is something we can depend on. We go through life wanting certainty - well, here it is, slippery and certain.

That field of rye, greening, has snow caught in its teeth this morning.

The tracks of the overland trails to Oregon and California still show in places on the western landscape, even after all these years. The snow here today highlights tracks in the fields along my way. The snow points and says: "Someone has gone this way."

The sun wants to break through but there are too many hang-down clouds. As I look out across the roll of land now, it is difficult for me to peel off the past two hundred years and see the land as it was, original and primal.

Why would anyone want to, you ask. Why would anyone not?



The sun is a big old fat ball
of orange cat. The sky is so

blue the snow is blue too.
I am witness to morning,

I mark Fairwater's hours
like a monk at prayer.

Yet this is no cloister. This
is not desert. Morning gleams

upon the fields like the wink
of love. Let me sing its praise.

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