Tag Archive | Canada

Trip to Zürich

The title of this post is a slight misnomer because this is actually the account of my spring break travels to Paris and Zürich. But in my case, Zürich is the less frequent destination, and I wanted to keep the post title format consistent. (Also, is it true I’ve never written a “Trip to Paris” post?! The English country dance Trip to Paris is the source of title format!)

Ahem, anyway. Late last year, my family learned that Katlyn, one of my Swiss second cousins, was getting married right in the middle of my spring break. It seemed like too perfect an opportunity to pass up. Katlyn is the same age as my brother, and over a decade ago she lived with my family for a year so she could experience American high school (I was already in college by then). She even came with us to the shelter to pick out Bismarck, the surly ginger cat who’s been with us every since. Our families have also visited one another quite a few times over the years, in the U.S. and in Switzerland. So my parents, brother, and I all decided to attend the wedding.

Our itineraries were different, though. I made plans to visit Isabelle in Paris and go to Zürich for the wedding weekend while the rest of my family went on a short vacation in the Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, before the wedding. We all left from Minnesota on the same day. For the first time ever, I flew Air Canada, with a layover in Montreal. The flight to Montreal was on a little regional jet (the aircraft seemed to be a Mitsubishi?). The Montreal airport’s code is YUL, which to my amusement is actually pronounced Yule in announcements over the public address system. I had a great experience with Air Canada, the return trip snag notwithstanding.

I arrived in France and spent a few days in Meudon. Then, on Friday, Isabelle and I took the bus and the metro to Gare de Lyon so I could catch my TGV to Switzerland. The TGV Lyria is a direct train line between Paris and Zürich (it’s a joint French-Swiss venture, and I hoped that Switzerland’s 25% share would shield me from any effects of the mouvement social on the French side). The train stopped in Dijon, Mulhouse, and Basel. It was a perfectly pleasant journey, though not extraordinarily scenic (mostly just fields, streams, villages…). We reached Zürich Hauptbahnhof, where I purchased a local transit ticket and hopped on a tram to the rental my immediate family was sharing with three more of my second cousins. (These second cousins are siblings and the bride’s first cousins; they had all flown in from the U.S. too.) I was reunited with my mother, brother, and second cousins in the local Migros (a grocery store), which was attached to the Zürich Tram Museum. Back at the apartment, the seven of us spent the evening catching up and shared a big pot of lentils and quinoa for dinner.

The next day was the wedding. After a leisurely morning at the breakfast table, we took the tram north and then walked to the top of the hill where the church stood. It was at least partly sunny but a bit chilly. In the square in front of the church, near the front steps, Katlyn’s brothers and their girlfriends were greeting guests and handing out programs. We went inside and found seats on the right side of the sanctuary, pretty close to the front. Katlyn’s now-husband is from Singapore, though he’s lived in Switzerland for a while, and Germany before that. Most of the wedding ceremony was in English, but the announcements at the beginning and end were made in English and German.

After the ceremony, I had a chance to greet Katlyn’s parents, and then we all went out to join in the human tunnel through which the newlyweds were going to run (well, walk briskly). The tunnel stretched from the open doors of the church, down the steps, through the square, down some more steps, and along the sidewalk around the corner. We all raised our arms to form an arch (like in the Virginia reel), and the newlyweds ducked their way through. Then there were group photos, covering many different constituencies, on the steps of the church. We were in one of the extended family photos.

As the photos wound down, the guests crossed the street to the lower-level fellowship hall of a different church (Katlyn’s family’s congregation uses space in both buildings) for the apéro. It was early afternoon, and we’d been told there would be wedding cake at 3:00pm. My brother and second cousins and I mostly hung around a single cocktail table. The apéro was substantial (bruschetta, empanadas, croquettes…), which was nice, since we hadn’t really had lunch. The cake cutting was a little behind schedule (in Switzerland!), but then there was cake. Under the frosting, there were two layers of chocolate cake with a whipped cream and strawberry filling in between.

The wedding cake (actually, there were two cakes, but I think this was the main one)

By the time we left the apéro and returned to the apartment, we only had about twenty minutes before it was time to leave for the evening dinner. We set out for the reception venue on foot, bearing our wedding gifts. We met a couple of friendly cats on the way. The dinner was at a restaurant on the grounds of a medical campus focused on epilepsy. The serving space inside the restaurant made it seem like it was a hospital cafeteria, but the whole space was also clearly an event venue. There were walls of windows facing a view of Lake Zurich.

The restaurant (on the ground floor) from outside and behind

The dinner was a buffet, served in the cafeteria area, that included a salad bar and a wide variety of hot entrées. The salad bar had, among other things, mâche, little shrimp, slices of smoked duck breast, berries, and potato salad. The main dishes included salmon, couscous, some kind of beef stew, rice, glass noodles with vegetables, dumplings, and more. Later on, after a long break, there was a dessert buffet featuring mousse au chocolat, fruit tarts, tiny cheesecakes, chocolate cake, and lots more.

Before dessert, however, there was a program that included speeches by the best man and the maid of honor, a choreographed dance number by the German contingent that reenacted Katlyn’s husband’s journey from Singapore to Germany to Switzerland and their meeting at a bowling alley, and a long slideshow narrated by Katlyn’s father, punctuated by pop quiz questions (mostly to Katlyn, about where photos had been taken, for instance). It was quite entertaining, and among the pictures I spotted one of Katlyn carving a pumpkin on my family’s kitchen table. Toward the end, Katlyn’s father produced the actual chenille letter that Katlyn earned while at American high school in Minnesota. He’d turned it into a necklace, which he put around his new son-in-law’s neck.

Program aside, there was also more unstructured time during which Katlyn came to our table to talk for a while. It was my only chance to really chat with her since I’d missed my family’s rösti lunch with her and her then-fiancé on Friday. Later, her husband took pictures of her with my brother and me, and my brother and I also tried out the photo booth. Still later, the dancing began. Katlyn and her husband had chosen “You Can’t Stop the Beat” for their first dance (apparently they’re both big musical fans). I recognized the song and even thought it might be from Hairspray (the other option I was considering was High School Musical–don’t judge me). I knew (at least by ear) a surprising number of subsequent songs too. I did not dance, but everyone on the dance floor was having a great time, and the energy was infectious.

Photo of my brother’s and my photo booth photos

There were plans to meet up with Katlyn’s family again on Sunday. My train was set to leave quite early in the afternoon, so it didn’t look like I would get to see them again. But after the wedding reception, I decided to see whether I could change my ticket to a later time, since there are multiple TGV Lyrias between Paris and Zürich each day. When I went to check, I noticed my ticket was designated non-exchangeable, but also, the SNCF website let me switch to a train whose departure was a couple of hours later. All seemed in order, even though it shouldn’t have been possible. After I got back to Paris, Isabelle supplied an explanation: due to all the travel chaos being caused by the periodic strikes, the SNCF was allowing anyone to switch their train tickets. Lucky me!

I still didn’t have a ton of time on Sunday, though, so I had my suitcase with me when we went to meet Katlyn’s family (sans Katlyn) at the botanical garden. The weather was changeable, and when we found one another in the garden, it was windy and rainy. So we headed to the domes of the tropical garden. Indoors, Katlyn’s elder younger brother, who I think is a part-time quartermaster or some such, handed out red paper-wrapped bars of military chocolate.

Swiss military chocolate, unavailable in stores and labeled in the four official languages of Switzerland

I really only had a few moments in the steamy greenhouse before I had to say goodbye to everybody. Then I caught a bus back to the train station and boarded my TGV.

My return train, in Zürich Hauptbahnhof

Back in Paris, I took the metro to rendez-vous with Isabelle and Olivier, who had finished packing up Isabelle’s stand at the market where she’d been selling her artwork that weekend. The three of us ate dinner at a Korean restaurant, sharing hotpot and bibimbap (I didn’t know Korean hotpot was a thing! But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised).

I had a few more days in Meudon with Isabelle. We were both very busy with our respective work. We did make it out into the forest for a short walk. And on my last day, we went into Paris so Isabelle could pick up some stock she’d left with a team of art market organizers at a hotel in the 9th arrondissement. I got to briefly meet her contacts at that organization. Then we brought home desserts from a Chinese salon de thé in the same neighborhood. There was a coconut “panna cotta” and two mille crêpe slices, one mango and one lychee.

On Friday, my travels from Meudon to Paris to Montreal went very smoothly. Then, just as I went to gate-check my carry-on bag for my regional jet flight to the Twin Cities, our flight was canceled! For weather: there was a bit of a blizzard underway in Minnesota (a similar flight to Chicago was also canceled). From our gate, there was an exodus to the Air Canada customer service counter. The line moved extremely slowly. While we were still waiting, my fellow passengers and I received automatic rebookings from the airline. Mine was for Sunday (keeping in mind that it was still Friday, and I had a class to teach on Monday morning), with a transfer in Boston. Luckily, when I finally made it to the front of the line, an agent was able to put me on Saturday’s direct flight to Minneapolis. Much better than the automatic rebooking! Then, with help from my pilot uncle who was in Singapore at the time (!), I found a hotel room and got on the hotel’s airport shuttle. The hotel was very nice (by the time I went to bed, it was like 4:00am in Paris), its free breakfast was extensive and very nice, and its shower was also very nice.

Sadly, I did not do anything fun with my extra day in Montreal. Before heading back to the airport, I walked to a nearby shopping mall because there was a grocery store there that I thought might have some appealing prepared foods for lunch. The grocery store was called Adonis, and Google said it had all the grocery store staples, plus Mediterranean specialties. Even before I found the supermarket, I was struck by how many Middle Eastern- and/or Arab-looking people there were at the mall. Turns out Montreal is about 8% Arab and 12% Muslim! And indeed, when I walked into Adonis, there was a special Ramadan products area under a canopy near the entrance. Behind that was a pastry counter filled with a dizzying array of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern sweets. One odd thing about Adonis was that the employees (at least the cashiers) were all dressed like scouts, with striped neckerchiefs. While the prepared foods did look good (mujaddara!), I actually ended up ordering (in French!) a kebab sandwich at the food court. Soon after, I checked out of the hotel and rode the shuttle back to the airport.

AugurCon 2020

It’s been nearly a month since AugurCon, but I’m only now getting around to writing about it. Consider it a belated Solstice present! I took a bunch of notes during the panels I attended, and now I’m going to attempt to postify them. I’ll be mostly retelling, not editorializing, so if you want to know what happened, you might like this. (It’s long.) If you want to know my personal thoughts on allegory in spec fic, well, I haven’t really come up with any yet.

AugurCon was a conference (I think they were trying to keep it ambiguous with “con,” but I’d call it a conference?) held on the Saturday after (American) Thanksgiving and brought to us by Augur Magazine, a relatively young Canadian spec fic magazine. They put together a day of amazing-looking panels (not to mention workshops!), and I tuned in to two of them. Did I buy a ticket to AugurCon mainly because Amal El-Mohtar would be speaking and I am kind of a fan of hers? Quite possibly.

The first panel was “Problematic and/or Powerful: Allegory, Analogy, and Spec Fic,” moderated by Augur Magazine co-editor-in-chief Terese Mason Pierre and featuring panelists Daniel Heath Justice, Evan Winter, Amal El-Mohtar, and Amanda Leduc. The panel opened with a general discussion of allegory in relation to spec fic. Amal noted that allegory is one of the strengths of spec fic, but spec fic is often reduced to a tool for exploring real world problems when in fact it has much more expansive potential. She maintained that all fiction is the opposite of reality, which is inherently random and meaningless (an observation she attributed to Ken Liu), and so all types of fiction are subgenres of fantasy. Daniel said that allegory was great as a starting point but was not an endpoint of what spec fic writers do. Trying too hard to write an allegory will get in the way of doing justice to your story. While allegorical resonance makes sense to him, strict allegory doesn’t make for god storytelling. Amanda described using allegory as a tool, not as the entire backbone of a story. She said allegories work best when they’re soft and shifty, when you can’t tell where they begin and end. She made a comparison to chocolate cake with zucchini. Evan pointed out that literary fiction also uses allegory but maybe isn’t so much “accused” of doing so. Amal proposed an analogy: allegory is to story as rhyme is to poetry. That is, don’t let allegory constraint your story. Where it occurs naturally, it will contribute to what you’re writing. Daniel also said that if readers think they’ve picked up on an allegory, they’ll think they know what your story is about, and they’ll start applying preconceptions to it, which can be more troublesome for minoritized writers.

Next, Terese asked whether spec fic writers were pushed toward allegory in order to avoid the accusation that they were writing about political or social issues directly. Recalling Amanda’s zucchini chocolate cake, Amal said that there is a sense that writers have to get people to eat their vegetables, a notion which has its own weird politics (why are vegetables bad?). She drew a distinction between didacticism and pedagogy and used the example of Natalie Zina Walschots’ novel Hench (which apparently has difficult, thorny friendships? Ooh!). In Amal’s words, you don’t have to be convinced of the evils of late capitalist modernity to appreciate that the characters in Hench are having a hard time. Moreover, she said that reaching out to bigots through literature doesn’t appeal to her, but reaching people who may not know how to articulate their own oppression does. Evan evoked the labor of having to code switch in daily life, of having to make what he wants to say palatable to others. Allegory allows him to talk about things on his own terms. Amanda talked about the political context out of which magical realism developed as a way to criticize regimes in disguised arenas. She also mentioned how fairy tales are instrumental in shaping who we become as adults. She observed that today’s sensibilities seem to favor subtler allegory and consider older texts too obvious. On the other hand, Daniel noted that people can ignore allegory quite easily and take what they want out of the stories they consume.

Soon after, Amal said that although they were all using analogy and allegory interchangeably, there are in fact different kinds of each. She also saw two ways of treating fairy tales, which kind of do opposite things. There are fairy tale retellings, like those of Angela Carter, and there there’s building a secondary fantasy world around a fairy tale, creating fully realized characters instead of archetypes. She called this making fairy tales stand up to scrutiny, endowing them with emotional realism, logic, and catharsis. Evan and Amal then talked a little bit about the stories that get told and have an impact on the real world. Stories in the justice system, for instance, or about the police. Amal said that allegory, like any model, inevitably reduces the thing it’s intended to model, and different models are suited to different tasks.

There followed some discussion about the (in)completeness of allegories. Daniel said they don’t work when they’re being used to avoid the truth (e.g. to avoid a direct depiction of racism). If they’re being used to illuminate, though… Evan contended that allegory and analogy are not necessarily doomed to be incomplete; rather, it’s the points of view of the people who create them that are incomplete. Amanda said that analogy and allegory are inherently incomplete, but she saw that as a good thing. An allegory that is too complete is too pat and doesn’t have staying power. It may not involve enough work on the part of the reader. Amal, citing others, said that incompleteness is necessary in storytelling, but not being totally accurate to the thing you’re representing allows you to open up other things. Allegories can be too close, but perhaps they can also be too open, in which case they don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Finally, Terese asked the panelists whether there was something particularly useful about allegory for marginalized folks. Amanda said that although she is a disabled writer, she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. Daniel said that marginalized people already live lives very much impinged upon by dominant allegories, constantly coming up against existing scripts. He finds marginalized writers’ uses of analogy and allegory liberatory, but he’s much more suspicious of those who want to allegorize them from an outside perspective. Amal mused about the extent to which the lives of marginalized people (I think) are lived in an act of translation and how there’s an aspect of dislocation to that translating work. Riffing on T. S. Eliot, she suggested that SFF writers break reality into its meanings. She said that for her the recourse to fantasy was instinctive. Fantasy feels like a kind of native language. Evan agreed that something about fantasy did feel very much like coming home.

The other panel I attended was the Featured Conversation, also moderated by Terese, with Jael Richardson, Joshua Whitehead, and Larissa Lai. Early on, the panelists talked about what drew them to spec fic. Joshua said he was drawn to the ability to destroy. He evoked the indigenous perspective of needing to burn or deadhead to allow for future growth and said a lot of things needed to be destroyed to make way for rebuilding. Although Jael wasn’t immersed in spec fic as a child, she wanted freedom from the constraints of reality as she asked the question: what is it like to grow up in a world designed for your failure? Spec fic gave her a space to explore these questions without being tied to truth of a real time and place. Larissa said that spec fic was a space in which she didn’t have to explain herself to white folks. She said she came from a culture that doesn’t like to talk, that carries things in the body. When you don’t have a lot of concrete knowledge about your own history, a genre that doesn’t require factuality to tell the truth can really work for you. She said she took an interest in her own history and mythology because she wasn’t given them as a child. She has also lost her mother tongue.

Jael laughingly noted that her forthcoming debut novel, Gutter Child, is an alternate history, rooted in the past, while the panel was supposed to be about futures. But part of our problem today is that we’ve forgotten things that came before, so how can spec fic force us to make connections between the past and the present? Joshua talked about wrenching the past into the present and then breathing life into it for the future. In spec fic, we can craft the worlds we want and need. Referencing the pandemic, which may feel like the first time the world has ended for more privileged people, he noted that indigenous people already have primers for the apocalypse. Larissa said that when she started writing, there was so little out there on the Asian-Canadian front. It was important to just get some language on the page, and she was looking to make a place in story for young queer Asian women, for people like herself, but broadly construed. Jael observed that the more specific you get with who you’re writing too, the more universal your work actually becomes. Larissa added that writing to a non-mainstream audience can open things up for you.

Terese then asked how the panelists would like the publishing landscape to change in the future. Jael said that self-publishing has been the path of the marginalized for a long time and she would like to see a more comprehensive and respectful relationship between self-publishing and traditional publishing. She talked about support for self-published writers, paths to traditional publishing for those who want them, and space in bookstores and review systems for self-published works. She referenced fringe festivals in the theater world as a way of bringing the fringes close together and creating communities. Joshua said he wanted to see ethics in publishing, and he talked up small indie presses. I think Larissa joked about Jael’s pragmatism and said she herself had a pragmatic side she didn’t like to talk about. Then she said there’s a pragmatics in the dreaming and a dreaming in the pragmatics. Impossible dreaming is important; you don’t know what to make happen until you’ve done the work of dreaming.

Next, Terese asked about ways of connecting with other writers of color and marginalized writers and the potential for community building in spec fic. Jael characterized the Black community in the U.S. as very defined, even as it contains multitudes, while in Canada there’s more disconnection in the Black community. Black people are underrepresented in literature, and there is both a community disconnect and a disconnect between publishing and the community. There are opportunities to make more connections, but it’s a long game. Larissa felt that Canadian publishing wants realism from BIPOC writers. She’s found support from the feminist spec fic community in the U.S. and from the queer communities in Canada and the U.S. During the panel, I think, she got an idea for a hashtag #DecolonizeRealism. Joshua stated that nothing could be more real than the stories indigenous people share with each other. CanLit may want memoir and realism, but this stuff is real, however fantastical it might sound to a white audience. He was advised to remove dream sequences from some of his writing, but for him, dreams are very real. They’re grounded in the body and the community and are instructive.

Lastly, Terese asked whether the panelists had dealt with gatekeeping, perhaps even from people within their own communities who didn’t think they should be speaking for them. Jael wasn’t sure she’d experienced that from within the Black community, but she said that publishing has trouble seeing different kinds of stories. While she had “amazing white ladies” involved in her book, their experiences disqualified them in some ways from shaping certain parts of the story, particularly the ending. So she had to navigate that alone, as well as learn that gatekeeping would come at multiple levels/steps of the publishing process. Joshua said that most of the gatekeeping he’d experienced was on the part of older gay men who weren’t happy with his critiques of gayness. He also described the gatekeeping he’d faced as mostly from people who felt they’d been called out just by his existence or his story. Larissa said that yes, she had felt policed, differently at different times in her life. Some of the most painful forms had come from within her own community, but she didn’t want to bring those spirits into the room at the end of a beautiful festival! She said that “policing” at its best is accountability, and she might make a distinction between the two, citing some extraordinary experiences she’d had with sensitivity readers.

The Boundary Waters 2020

My family spent last week in the Boundary Waters. It was my seventh (!) trip, fifteen years after my first, and my family’s fifth trip together. The last time we went was in 2016, when we canoed and camped on Isabella Lake. This year, we returned to Seagull Outfitters at the end of the Gunflint Trail, where we’d gone in 2015.

We drove up on Monday, stopping in Duluth to pick up sandwiches for lunch from Northern Waters Smokehaus. We used to plan our Boundary Waters drives around meals at the New Scenic Café on Old Highway 61, but with the pandemic, things are a little different. The New Scenic Café is closed, and we ordered our sandwiches ahead and picked them up from a table under a tent on Northern Waters’ deck. My bagel with smoked salmon and scallion cream cheese was scrumptious.

We reached Seagull Outfitters on Sea Gull Lake early in the evening. We were spending the night in the bunkhouse. At the outfitters, we heard there was a bear active on the western edge of the lake; four campsites on the adjacent Alpine Lake had been closed, and we were advised to avoid the western side of Sea Gull. The bear wasn’t afraid of people, which is bad news for everyone, bear included. (Also, there were possibly multiple bears?) This was a bit concerning. I’ve never seen a bear in the Boundary Waters, and while it’d be cool to see one from a distance, I have no desire to encounter a bear that isn’t deterred by human noise.

The next morning, one of the owners of the outfitters told us she’d avoid Sea Gull Lake altogether because of all of the bears and go north to Saganaga Lake instead. This would require a 38-rod portage at the outset, but just paddling after that. So we decided to do it and not spend four nights wondering if bears were approaching our campsite.

We left on Tuesday morning and returned to Seagull Outfitters on Saturday. In many ways, it was an ideal Boundary Waters trip. It only rained once, the last night we camped, and it didn’t start till after we’d gone to bed and stopped before we got up. (Of course, between the thunder and lightning and somewhat leaky tent fly, we didn’t sleep all that much, but still!) The bugs were remarkably tolerable; I didn’t put on bug spray once, even if in the evenings around the campfire the mosquitoes buzzing around my ears were a little bothersome. We had one particularly windy paddle, but I still got my canoe back to our campsite landing spot without the waves driving us into the rocks. I brought several extra layers I never wore because it didn’t get as cold as I’d expected. Saganaga allows motorboats, and some of the surrounding area is built up, with cabins, so it felt a little bit less like the wilderness than on past trips, but it was still beautiful. From our campsite, it was just trees, rocks, sky, and water as far as the eye could see.

We’d originally expected to stay on Sea Gull Lake, so portaging hadn’t been part of the plan. But the 38-rod portage through the U.S. Forest Service’s Trail’s End campground was actually one we’d walked back in 2015, on the day we left Sea Gull Lake. We’d explored the falls and gotten a family photo taken in front of the rock face at the southern end of the portage. This time, of course, we actually had to portage our canoes and gear, and though the trail wasn’t very long, it was steep in places, with many rocks and tree roots. Just north of the portage, there were some rapids, and since we were going downstream, we managed to shoot them. (On the way back was a different story, but I’m proud to say we got our canoe up the rapids first, after making “only” two mistakes.) After the rapids, we reached Gull Lake, and from there we paddled north through some narrow channels to Saganaga.

Saganaga Lake straddles the Minnesota-Ontario border, so half the lake is in Canada. In other words, we spent this trip at the very edge of the U.S. And we made two day excursions pretty much to Canada. On our first full day in the Boundary Waters, we decided to canoe to the point marked Canadian Customs on our map. We were camping on the southern end of Loon Island (a lovely campsite), so we paddled up past Munker Island, Voyageurs Island, the Blueberry Islands, and Horseshoe Island, till we could see Canada. (It looked exactly like our side, except that in Canada there were houses on the lake.) Then we spotted a white building with signs around it, and as we got closer, we confirmed that this was the customs checkpoint. There was a small wooden dock with a No Trespassing/Passage Interdit sign at the end, a bilingual notice about everyone having to report for border inspection, and around a slight bend, a big sign proclaiming Canada! But the whole place was deserted. We could’ve just gone ashore, but we did not.

The next day, we paddled farther, to Saganaga Falls, which turned out to be rather small (kind of like the falls we’d portaged around to get from Sea Gull Lake to Gull Lake). There was a portage here, but we just left our canoes out of the way on shore and walked the trail to go see the falls. We were on the American side, but the other side of the stream was Canada, and we could see a green sign that said La Verendrye Boundary. (Later I learned that this is named for Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye, which is kind of a mouthful.) We watched a party of three men and a boy canoe up from the north (where we’d come from too) to the rocks on the Canadian side and start fishing. One of them actually caught two fish, a very little one and a rather small one, both of which he released. As we were leaving in our canoes later, there was a group in a motorboat that caught a decent-sized fish in a net.

I felt I had particularly good luck taking photos of wildlife this trip, and it was my first time using my phone instead of a digital camera. This made it harder to get good pictures of distant bald eagles or loons, but the amphibians and butterflies were pretty cooperative. The sunsets seemed less spectacular than average (perhaps because the weather was better than average?), but the stargazing got better every night until the night it rained, and we saw the Milky Way and a few shooting stars.

If you didn’t know, I published a short story set largely in the Boundary Waters a couple of years ago. It’s entitled “Lómr” and appeared in Cicada, and you can read it here.

In Which We Wave At Canada

After leaving the Boundary Waters, we drove back to Grand Marais and had lunch at the Angry Trout on Lake Superior. We bought some smoked trout and walleye cheeks from the fish market next door, then headed further north to Grand Portage, at the very tip of Minnesota’s Arrowhead. The actual Grand Portage, or Gichi-onigamiing, is a 9-mile trail that bypasses 20 miles worth of rapids and falls on the Pigeon River near where it flows into Lake Superior.

We stopped at Grand Portage State Park, almost at the Canadian border, to see the waterfall. On the way into the visitor center, there were signs giving the English and Ojibwe (Anishinaabemowin) names for various animals. I later learned these seven animals were clan names of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.



We walked the extremely accessible trail to the High Falls as thunder rumbled in the distance. These falls (there are more) are about 120 feet tall. They’re on the Pigeon River, which at this point forms the border between the U.S. and Canada.


Part of the High Falls


In case you can’t figure out where it is…


The U.S. (Minnesota) is on the left and Canada (Ontario) is on the right

Back in the visitor center, I found this sign listing helpful Ojibwe words:


And then we turned back, not having actually visited Canada.