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Natasha Wegner


Natasha Wegner“Fly away, bee! You have to have some conscience, even if you are a bee!” We are gathered at a picnic table under majestic pines in the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as greater Minnesota.

We are camping at McCarthy Beach State Park. What lured us so far North was the promise of “one of 15 best beaches in the United States” as stated in the state park brochure. They forgot to mention best beaches for who part. Definitely not for people. Or for people of average height. My dog might consider it one of the best beaches, but the rest of us would favor anything but this beach. Crystal clear water and white sand are certainly necessary ingredients of a good beach. The part that I am not sure about is walking through water at least half a mile in order to actually be able to swim. To swim for exactly 2 meters which is where the beach ends. Gentle waves make people who normally do not suffer from motion sickness pleasantly dizzy, so that by the time you are able to swim you choose not to – you can’t be sure at this point of your abilities to clearly evaluate which way is up.

The dog and lots of random babies are the only ones who are actually enjoying the show. The babies are happy to sit where their mothers placed them while the dog watches a bunch of disoriented family members who are trying to drag their feet through water as if looking for an oasis in a desert. The dog herself is bounding forward and backwards trying to get deep enough into the lake where your feet would not touch the ground.

Morning is my favorite time at a campsite. Coffee tastes so much better when you have to fight for it. You know, of course, that the water would never boil if you keep looking at it. You need to pretend that you never even intended to make coffee, and that the pot is just there because there was no other place to put it. Food, on the other hand, will burn the moment you turn your eyes off of it. Or worse yet, if it is something small, it will fall through the cracks immediately if you are not staring at it using your angry eyes. So cooking is lots of fun when you are camping and we do a lot of it.

I also like the nature part. Wild life tries to avoid campsites so as not to scare unsuspecting visitors, and I like it for that. Only once did I hear a moose snort by our tent at night. That was enough for me to go fetch the ax and sit for a couple of hours in my sleeping bag feeling pretty secure that my ax could be a nice enough match for moose’s antlers should he want to compare our defenses.

During the day it is nice to experience some traditional outdoorsy activities. Fishing is definitely not for our family. We scare the fish away before we approach the lake – too loud and very animated. We tried it a few times. Armed with the most beautiful and color coordinated fishing poles we would venture into the water. I am pretty sure I actually saw fish laughing at us. It turned out you had to touch live worms or leaches. The word sounds OK in English until I translated it into Russian. You could not pay me enough to touch a leach. So it turned out that when you are fishing, you actually need to know things like bait and water depth. This information is too much for our brain grown between layers of concrete and glass windows. Canoeing is my preferred choice of bonding with nature. Loading into the canoe already feels like a good workout, and if you actually manage not to slam into every boat on the lake, you might even enjoy the proximity to water and the possibility of watching mother loon protect her baby from crazy city dwellers who should not (in her opinion) attempt any water sports.

Finally, the day arrives when we can go home. The dogs are tired and happy, the children are happy in their anticipation of returning home to become again plugged in and reunite with their electronic devices. I am happy because we managed to pack everything in the car and fit everyone inside as well. All that is left now is to decide which road to take home.

The adventurous side wins. Our conscientious choice of not going on the superhighway ends in some interesting observations regarding road construction in rural Minnesota. It is not at all like in the greater Twin Cities. Apparently, they do not see many visitors in northern Minnesota, and being more of a farming community they have not outgrown their herding instinct. Road construction gives them a great chance to meet other people as well as practice herding along the way. So what they do is they select a community member who is not afraid of the heat and place that person somewhere in the middle of the road with a Stop sign. Normally they might have one car drive by every 5 minutes or so. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to collect enough cars to consider us a good size herd, after which time the person holding the sign would turn it around which in turn allows us to Drive Slowly. This way in a nice formation we proceed to the next person holding a sign. And so on until they run out of workers who are willing to hold the sign.

We arrive home only to find out that while we were trying to bond with nature, the nature was bonding with us. The rabbits were successfully bonded with my cucumbers, dill and peppers. As I plant new vegetables in my garden I wonder why is it really that we like to go camping once a year? The pain in my back gives me an answer: If children are our future, then I am already a fossil longing to reunite with its natural habitat.