Beth and I returned to Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon, primarily because I had received a letter, from Steph, from France, saying that I needed to go contra dancing with her. We cruised into town singing along with the radio and over to my uncle's, arriving in time to catch the tail end of dinner.

No one was upstairs when we arrived, but there was food scattered about the kitchen. We descattered some of it and went downstairs to discover that they were watching Percy Jones and the Lightning Thief. There were a few epic scenes, but the movie was light on complexity, existing primarily to ferry its main characters on one goose chase after another. It ended with an epically bad sword-fighting scene. This is the curse of being a fencer: all future sword fights you see will be judged in light of what you know and, alas, must will be judged poor.

Another disconcerting quality was that the main characters, who wikipedia tells me are fifteen by the end of the Percy Jones series, are played by much older actors. The female lead, at 24, was most apparently out of place. I often think what an odd, and mildly perverse, world it is that my niece is growing up in.

I devoted most of Sunday to thesis work, but went out in the afternoon with my aunt, uncle, and cousin for some canoeing/kayaking on the chain of lakes. In my aunt's opinion one is not a true Minneapolisian until they've done this, so I felt fortunate to have got it in before my presumed departure. We bumped into some friends as we were getting the canoe out and borrowed their two-person kayak, which turned out to be quadruple the weight of the canoe, although still maneuverable in the water. The trip yielded a number of marmot sightings, a cormorant, and a few turtles. The route took us past ungangly boats churning milfoil out of the lakes (its rather a nuisance), under bridges (and bridges jumpers), old rail trestles, beaches filled with swimmers, and through four lakes.

When I first arrived in Minneapolis, I took an hours-long bike ride through the western side of the city, visiting many of the lakes along with the aforementioned railway trestle. I'd never made it back to it since, but had fond memories of the ride which were stirred up as we passed beneath. At the farthest point of that bike ride, I found a leather chair sitting by the street with a sign on it: "Free". I tied the chair upside down on my back and began a long trek home. I rode through the Minneapolis sculpture garden, looking like a sculpture myself, and disrupting a wedding in the process. Riding through downtown, I passed another wedding, again drawing looks. The chair lasted a couple of years before getting mildewy in storage. Following the boat trip, we dropped by Sebastian Joe's before returning home, from whence Beth picked me up.

We arrived at the farm well after midnight and began another week. By this time, we were sufficiently used to the magic to begin seeing reality: that farmer Steve was grumpy.

There were more minor adventures: a turkey escaped the barnyard, the cute little "devil cat" of the barnyard bit me and became my bitter enemy, we took walks at night beneath a nearly full moon and Beth saw her moonshadow for the first time, we found seemingly abandoned country roads which terminated in the buzzing of whole apartment buildings full of honey bees. The green houses needed weeding, so we did that, using the rototiller. The peppermint needed picking, so we edged our way down to the marsh. A marauding skunk got caught in the live trap, and Steve through both skunk and trap in the pond to end the matter. I found the baby goose dead in the barnyard one morning after a heavy rain.

But weren't all depressing. I played piano, wrote, and had good conversations with passerby in the store below. I also had a chance to finally read the entirety of a Dr. Bronner's label. Just a chance, though. Even after two weeks of brushing my teeth nightly in front of it, I never did manage to read everything on that label. As the legend goes, soapmaker-master-chemist Dr. Bronner started a successful American buisness before losing father-mother-wife, almost his own life, torture-blinded, he deeded to African astronomer Israel's 6000 year great All-One-God-Faith all this. A blow-up of that label is here.

Beth's room

I'd been toying with the idea farming for some time and this whole experience provided a way of evaluating that. I still like the idea, but the livestock side of things seems to require too much responsibility and to produce too much mess to be attractive to me. I think our farmer had stretched himself thin between having a store, so many plants, and the livestock (which may have contributed to grumpiness). But neglect and inattention manifest themselves in different ways, and it seems as though the animals are liable to suffer more than the plants. So, if I get into this, I think it's going to be a smaller, plant-based operation. And, yes, I'd still like bees. But no, farming, at least insofar as it was out at Oak Center, isn't a career for me :-)

We told Steve we were leaving and, on Saturday morning while he was still at the farmer's market, left a note and drove away singing freedom songs.

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