Our Words For Water

05. 29. 2015

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In a week where the newspaper headlines asked, ‘What in the heck is going on with Wisconsin public education?’, ‘Budget committee cuts scientists’ and ‘GOP proposes 250 million cut to UW system’, I photographed a group of 5th graders from the Bayfield Elementary School writing their words for water on chalkboards. Talk about parallel universes…our elected officials in Madison are working their way through a budget full of cuts to educational and environmental programs and these young children in Bayfield were mid-way through their Water Week and sharing their stories about growing up and living on the shores of Lake Superior.

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Water is Life. Home. Nature’s Blood. Ancient & Powerful. All words that mean something to the kids in Kathy and Karen’s classrooms; words that reflect an understanding and deep appreciation for an endangered and precious resource. As I stood there, watching their hands etch words in chalk, I wished the men and women in Madison responsible for spawning the headlines I read this week could stand and witness what education and an appreciation for the natural world looked like. These kids deserve better and they’re relying on the adults in their lives to do better. 

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The intent of the Words for Water project  is to encourage people who live in the Lake Superior basin (or who just love Lake Superior) to think and act collectively when it comes to any legislation, industry or regulations that impacts water quality. At its heart, Words for Water is a way to gather our words and stitch them into a collective love story to Lake Superior. We must define our shared values around water and use our words to create good, lasting change.

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Our words have weight and if there ever was a time to wield that power, it’s now. Aldo Leopold said, ‘Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays’ and I wholeheartedly agree.  I have yet to see words like ‘profit’, ‘mitigate’, ‘runoff’ or ‘CAFO’ on the chalkboards yet these words have a massive impact on the water we are speaking for.

Our society has lost its moral compass but that doesn’t mean we can’t chart a different course than the one plotted by our elected officials. The kids I met at the Bayfield School on Thursday, as well as every child on this planet, are waiting for us to find True North again and protect their homes. Let’s write a story of love, stewardship, bravery and compassion….revolution always starts with words. 

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Follow The Water

03. 22. 2015

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The snow is almost gone, the ice road is defunct and tender greenery is emerging from the earth. Spring sprung quickly this year and while it’s been cold for the past couple of days, the sun is warm and the ground is softening. Bayview Beach is still solid ice and I wanted to hear and see some moving water. Will, Charlie, George and I settled on Lost Creek Falls as our Saturday destination and there was a nice mix of water, frozen and liquid, that kept us entertained as we followed the path to the Falls.

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Texture, shapes and shadows were the name of the game on the path. We did our best to avoid stepping in the frozen puddles, the ice froze in intricate patterns, and we wanted to preserve them for anyone else who ventured out on a chilly Saturday.

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Standing by the falls, with the spray hitting my face, I felt spring. I mean really felt spring—  felt the water shaking off its winter lethargy, felt the remaining ice surrender to the flow, felt the energy moving up from deep in the Earth into a red pine on the banks. The sound echoed in my ears, beloved and familiar.

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Spring has never been my favorite season. Between the kids and dogs…spring rain and mud creates a disaster zone on my kitchen floor that requires either hourly sweeping or surrender (socks help a lot when I choose the surrender path). But this year, it’s different— there is something about the transitions that’s calling out to me. Ice amidst flowing water, ferns growing alongside snow, moss littered with frozen droplets of water….winter gives way to spring and for a short time they co-exist in shades of white and green.

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Lost Creek Falls was running and tumbling, exactly what we were hoping to see. More rushing water, ice and mist…..spring imagined as a waterfall.


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Water is magical to me. It moves, flows, sustains, erodes, jumps, crashes and rolls over and through our world; common and miraculous at the same time. We are the lucky ones, the ones who get to call this place home. A place with water so clear it freezes into crystal balls, so plentiful it runs year-round into Lake Superior and so resolute it holds an entire ecosystem in its embrace. We are the One Percent.

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Reflection & Clarity

6 March 2015

Shards of glass can cut and wound or magnify a vision. Mosaic celebrates brokenness and the beauty of being brought together. Our survival, the vitality of the planet depends on mental flexibility and emotional acuity. Hands raised. Hands put to work. We can improvise. We can create without a map. And we don’t have to […]

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4 January 2015

Sadie has volleyball practice at Marshall School and it’s good to be back in Duluth again (talk to me in March, the thrill most likely will have worn off). We kept our first sailboat, Isle of Skye, in Harbor Cove Marina for a couple of years and I have so many memories of the boys […]

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Chicken Thighs with an Asian Flair

23 November 2014

Sadie’s playing volleyball in Duluth, Meghan joined the swim team in Bayfield and Charlie’s developed a very busy social calendar in Washburn. Given the potential for a massive scheduling fiasco, quick and easy dinners are the name of the game. The criteria is simple: it needs to be relatively decent tasting and can’t require much […]

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Snow Day

12 November 2014

Why do I wake up early on snow days? Like really early, like 5:34 AM early?? We decided that Wednesday would be a ‘Dougherty Day’ regardless of what the Washburn School District had to say about the weather. I should have been sleeping like a baby at 5:34 but instead, I was up, checking my […]

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Hot & Sour Soup for a Cold & Snowy Day

11 November 2014

Winter is here, the kids had their first snow day and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been snowing since yesterday and I think we have about 15 inches on the ground, and it’s still falling. I had forgotten the thrill of seeing a Winter Storm Warning pop up on my phone, it brought me right […]

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5 November 2014

Wherever  Wherever we walk we will make Wherever we protest we will go planting Make poems seed grass feed a child growing build a house Whatever we stand against We will stand feeding and seeding Wherever I walk I will make Muriel Rukeyser

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Milkweed Magic

3 November 2014

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition. Rumi I put my garden to bed for the winter yesterday afternoon and in between pulling, cutting and pruning, I spent 30 minutes in full-out wonder at the symmetry and engineering of a milkweed pod. It’s perfectly designed to birth and give […]

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Wild Mushroom & Goat Cheese Risotto

2 November 2014

The end of summer means all sorts of things: we need to start wearing socks again, 7 am is the new 10 am for breakfast, school and sport schedules begin to rear their ugly heads and wild mushrooms start to make their annual appearance in forests and fields around Bayfield. Quite a bit of rain […]

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