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Local View: On this 4th, appreciate the gift of another summer

From the column: "The few weeks fill too quickly, especially after a year of being starved for the companionship of friends and family."

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The foliage has entered its deep and dark summer phase and stands like rows of spectators along a parade route down the quarter mile to our secluded cabin on the North Shore. We’ve just returned to our sequestering sanctuary where we had wintered-over, out of caution from the COVID-19 virus. We are back to savor one of the four most enjoyable seasons on the shore.

Bolstered by the confidence of vaccines, we ran away for a few weeks like so many others. Leaving cicada-like from our hidey-holes, still armed with masks if needed and a 30-year supply of sanitizers, we tentatively reentered the mainstream of life. We are fortunate, never having been infected, although our youngest son and his friend were somehow located by the coronavirus and spent four weeks in recovery. Unfortunately, her stepfather caught it as well and did not recover. As my once-skeptical brother-in-law in Oklahoma said to anyone who would listen after also getting sick, “You don’t want to get this!” And we were lucky — we didn’t.

The gulls are back, patrolling the ledge rock for any discarded picnic morsels. Flotillas of Canadians patrol our waters, waiting for us to drop our guard so they can ravage the recovering lawn. The deer have migrated up and over the Sawtooths now that there is water elsewhere. We still hear horns of warning occasionally up on the highway. Wherever go the deer also go the wolves, as we’ve not seen any since the snowmelt, except for a coywolf on the way home in early June from Grand Marais. The hummingbirds are back, along with an army of bees to feast on the blooming flower beds. Traffic has increased considerably as more and more adventurers discover there is more North Shore farther up from Gooseberry. The start of the workweek used to bring quiet, but many vacationers have discovered that returning home early on Monday is a better option than battling Sunday traffic backups around Forest Lake.

This miraculous season of Minnesota summer is tightly sandwiched between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. The few weeks fill too quickly, especially after a year of being starved for the companionship of friends and family.

The Fourth of July this weekend will be the big gathering, as we incorporate some birthday celebrations. There will be fireworks, though more limited than I had growing up on our farm in Nebraska in the 1950s. We had easy access to digit-destroying cherry bombs and M-80s.

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The Fourth then was a time to gather with neighbors to celebrate before the wheat harvest demanded our full attention. The heads of grain would be getting heavy and rustle as they ripened in the hot sun. Along with the wheat harvest, I worked on the baler to gather clover and alfalfa. I would sit on the side tying strands of wire as it was fed to wrap the bales. The quarter and a dime I was given seemed like a reasonable reward. At 10 years old, I didn’t know that not all kids worked in the hot sun and were caked with chaff during their summer vacations.

Those 35 cents and some birthday money bought me my own personal fireworks display. I anxiously awaited to contribute to the night of pyrotechnics. For weeks, I laid the precious purchases on my bed, trying to decide on a sequence for maximum effect. I built ramps out of Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs to launch the helicopters and Roman candles. I was confident my demonstration would have been the highlight of the evening if someone had not dropped a hot sparkler into my waiting stash. It was impressive, but so disappointing to watch my prized collection detonated in a flash. My parents tried to console me, assuring me that although short it was still one of the best surprises of the night.

We will be more careful here on the North Shore this year with our small display of ground-level, Minnesota-restricted fireworks. However, a piece or two with aerial capabilities imported from Wisconsin will brighten the effort.

We will be challenged to return to other normal engagements as memories of isolation from COVID-19 will no doubt linger. We will enter restaurants with trepidation. We will feel empowered to freely access local grocery stores and shops. But it will be a while before we feel we can safely sit in rows of mutual survivors to watch a movie and munch on buttered popcorn. Buffets will wait. We will give some thought to returning to the State Fair but will still likely be wary of crowds. Returning to church services will be slow as we sort out communion procedures and the ability to sing together without masks.

In spite of such trepidation, it’s time to extend our circles, exchange hugs, and welcome others into our midst. It should also be a time to pause and give thanks for those who provided services during the shutdowns and tip graciously. We need to think of those who developed the vaccines, masks, and sanitizers, as well as increased the supply of toilet paper. We will remember those who aren’t with us through no reason of their own.

We will try to remember that life is a gift, regardless of its uncertainty, and especially appreciate that we’ve been given the gift of another summer.

Steven M. Lukas is retired after a career in business and education. He and his extended family divide their time between the Twin Cities and Schroeder.

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Steven M. Lukas

Related Topics: CORONAVIRUS
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