Friday, August 29, 2008

Away at Sand Lake

Or What I did on my summer vacation

I hope you've managed to keep yourselves busy with legitimate day work while I've been so absent with decent distractions for you. I was lucky enough to spend a week up at our family's cabin which has meant severe fund restriction and a complete lack of Internet connection. So, please forgive me a moment of bloggity blog it's-all-about-me blog post. I haven't been to a decent restaurant for an entire month and I'm sure my eye twitch would be more severe were I not lucky enough to have this escape.

The first night we were there, my namesake Auntie Joy (90 some years young and Grandma Gidgie's baby sis, if you're keeping track) came out to visit with us. Some of my California cousins were staying at the cabin as well - a rarity we're hoping to repeat next year. My mom and I had every intention of grilling up some venison steaks until Joy (rascal) convinced us all to head over to the Oasis for some fried chicken and great rock n roll music.

I can't go here without getting Friends in Low Places stuck in my head. Inevitably, I spend the rest of the week yodeling, "Let me slip on down to the OOOAAAAAsis." Imagine how annoying this is.

The band was fantastic. They played mostly classic rock covers with an emphasis on Neil Young with a few Johnny Cash and Creedence songs thrown in for good measure.

Here's my cousin Greg, son Geoff (clearly a fan of the music) and Matt - looking and feelin' groovy. A special thank you to Geoff for pointing out that I am old. You have no idea, kiddo.

Laura had driven up to join us for the weekend as well. It's so unfair to post a picture of the ladies when we've all got cabin hair, but this must be documented for posterity.

There was a lot of dancing, but Laura, Mom and my sister Jules and I headed back to the cabin pretty early. We were pooped and I couldn't wait to get to sleep in my cabin room on the water. We were staying down in the boathouse, that has since been converted into bedrooms. The waves washed away all city stress I'd carried up with me and I fell into a heavy and sound sleep.

Of course, the downside of such happy sleeping circumstances and country beer meant waking up at the crack of dawn and hobbling, quickly up to the main cabin, legs crossed and hopping the last few steps.

For breakfast I whipped up a bunch of custom ordered fried eggs and bacon from F&D Meats. Their bacon is some of the best that I have ever had - not to mention really reasonably priced.

We spent most days lounging about and reading. While the day before, the sun had been shining and the Cali-crew were able to get out on the water, the wind had switched and now it was too cold for swimming.

Here's Matt hard at work:

I'd like it noted that I do not endorse, nor condone this shirt. Sleeping next to him is Reggie, my mom's new puppy and on the back of the couch is Coby. We're not usually the sort of family that travels with the house cats, but Julie couldn't find anyone to come check in on him, so up he came, car sickness and all.

After hours of Jenga marathons and spotty TV reception the sun came out. Most of us ladies grabbed our magazines and headed for the shore (Julie was sleeping - she sleeps when most people are active, not unlike the bats that live above the fireplace.)

The boys headed off for the fishing boat. They had great success. Matt landed a near record sized Crappie, but it was Geoffie's big success with the Northern that thrilled us all. He'd had a smaller one on the hook when this big feller swum up from behind and chomped on the tail of the smaller one, refusing to give it up.

The guys were able to coax it into the net and voila - our biggest catch of the week:

For lunch, rather than a fish fry (because we did let the big fella go) I boiled up some Kramarczuk's Polish sausage in beer and onions that Laura had been kind enough to gift us with.

There was eating, beer drinking and then back to the reading. Julie woke up and stoked up the fire for us before starting the sauna.

We try to have a sauna every night we're up there. The building we use is converted from an old playhouse that was dragged down to the beach and adorned with a wood burning stove. Julie's theory is that you have to stoke it for hours to get the just perfect fire - cooking the rocks until everything is a good 180 degrees.

Of course, Greg the California Authority things this is a huge waste of wood and just get it in there, get it hot and get going! There was a lot of debating, but Julie got her way and subsequently spent the remainder of the afternoon hauling a faded Red Flyer wagon up and down the hill until she appeared at dinner, sweating and declaring it ready.

"Joy, are you gonna sauna?"



"No, okay, I will." Nothing gets my sister going more than me skipping the occasional steam. Personally, I don't much enjoy being sweaty and stinking, while knowing that I won't have a shower for another good week. Plus, I may be over 30, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy needling the baby sis every once in a while.

Before the big steam we finally grilled up the venison that had been marinating in fresh rosemary, oregano, Worchestshire sauce, tarragon red wine vinegar and tons of fresh ground pepper.

Bloody wonderful. We did a big steak for the faint at heart as well.

Then we all donned our suits and shuffled down to the sauna. There's a hilarious picture of me sporting a giant American flag beach towel, but I'm sure as hell not posting it here. Trust me, though, it was the size of a comforter and swathed around me, beet-colored moon face and look of annoyance. It's a wonder no one jumped to their feet and started singing the minute I walked into the room.

We sweated our asses off - my cousin Marilyn's husband Dave just dousing the rocks and stove with water. The steam smacked us in the face time and time again, no one wanting to be the first to go. I'm not a big sweat-er, but rivulets drained into my eyes and dropped the the sappy wood below me. Finally, someone called uncle and we all raced out in the early autumnal evening, steaming and shrieking. I dodged my slow mother and raced into the frigid water and swimming a couple of breast strokes before breaking the surface of the water and howling.

The big moon was covered by clouds, but usually, this is the best place to see the stars. It's like you can reach out and yank off Orion's belt for your own accessory. You just don't get stars like these in the city. I was momentarily nostalgic for my own childhood of growing up on the shores of my own large lake, until the water shocked me back into the present and sent me careening towards the sauna for one more steam.

In the morning, my skin felt heavenly and I'd slept even harder than the night before. (Although, again, there was the six am hop/dash up to the main cabin.)

The next day was colder than the first and I think it was that which drove the California cousins home, airline tickets be damned. It was hard to say goodbye because I hadn't seen them in years. This summer we lost our grandma and not long before that, they'd lost their mother (my Aunt Peggy) their larger than life father (one of the great personalities ever to roam the earth - my Uncle George), and before that my dad. We were all keenly aware in the holes that stretch through the wearing fabric of our lives. We're thankful to have the opportunity to knit together our bonds. It's easier to remember that we're all family and in this together when we've got this quiet time in the wilds of Northern Minnesota, the wall of old photographs smiling down at us.

Oh, and of course, there is cooking

I think if you look closely into those coals, you'll see my Grandpa Dunk's face, smiling up at the two of us in the sacred family space he left us, doing what he enjoyed best. Eating, drinking, laughing and loving.


At 11:40 AM , Anonymous Laur said...

My favorite memory was reading the sometimes funny, sometimes poignant and always helpful guest book entries. ("...enough blueberries for TWO pies this year!" read one.) Long live Sand Lake!

At 9:47 AM , Anonymous KP said...

Good to see your posts today. What an awesome break! Glad that my folks were able to see Jules and your mom this past weekend. Seeing that venison makes me HUNGRY. Trying to convince the guys here to go to Fat Lorenzo's today for lunch...sounds good for a Friday treat.

At 3:49 PM , Anonymous Margie Gibson said...

Oh Joy what a terrific writer you are I could visulize it all. What happy times we've all shared there at Sand Lake. How much I miss it! I know that both Grampa and Gidge even Mom and Dad were there in spirit. Please give your Mom and Julie my love. Thanks for the post. I really loved it.
Your cuz Marg


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