We cross the border and entered the US at 10:10AM. It was Sunday morning, and we were the only travelers on the road. Although Canada is a petroleum producing nation, gasoline is about 35% cheaper cross the border. And the road condition was good. the rolling hills in the northern part of North Dakota were very beautiful. All these contributed to a very good driving experience.
Lake Ojibway, at last!
We arrived at Fircove on Lake Ojibway at around 7 PM Central Time. It was four years ago that we came here last and stayed for a couple of weeks. At the time, they had just expanded the cabin to accommodate the requirements of two very diligent and productive professors as they would like to spend more time up here. Sadly, Peter passed away, totally unexpectedly, last October, and Evelyn had great difficulty facing the world without him.
Evelyn looked very thin, but she said she is already re-gaining her weight. For months after Peter's sudden death, she could hardly eat. A few times she even felt that she could not make it. Being able to come out here has been helpful because they both loved the place dearly and she felt life slowly return.
For us, Fircove has always been a warm place of friendship and good time. But Fircove without Peter takes some getting used to. So much was amiss--no more home made pancake for breakfast, no more zazziki for lunch, no more witty conversations over whatever, no more spontaneous laughters. And the physical presence of the 6'3" Peter. The house felt so much more spacious and quiet.
But we managed. We talked, cooked, visited with neighbors, picked mushroom and raspberry, and enjoyed the rich offerings of this lovely place.
The dreamy Lake Ojibway
A fishing boat is merged into the picturesque lake
Stones for Peter
One major task for this summer is to search for a piece of stone suitable for a memorial for Peter. Even though Peter left rather unexpectedly, Evelyn was not totally without a clue as to Peter's preferred way of "burial". Peter's ash was scattered around the "Philosopher's Walk", the picnic area overlooking the lake. But Evelyn would like to put a stone there with their names and years engraved so that those who inherit this land and lake will know the first settlers of this lovely Fircove. This stone, naturally, ought to come from their land.
In the many summers they were up here together, they walked every inch of trail in the woods which they claimed their own. They rested on the few big stones that left behind by the last glacier to watch all that were there to watch. Since Peter had his back surgery in 2005 and had not been able to do much in the woods, grass and bushes have grown back on the more remote trails. A higher-clearance vehicle is necessary to get through those trails. So, Evelyn enlisted Joe for help.
Joe and Kay Knuth is a lovely couple that the Firchows befriended. Joe used to be a mason and knew his trade well. He came in his grand Ford Explorer at around 10 AM. We all went along. Slowly he drove uphill, following Evelyn's directions. We stopped at every stone of good size, sometimes getting off the car and waded through the grass further into the woods. Joe would offer his suggestion as to the approximate size, weight and appropriateness for the use. Altogether, there are three candidates. Din-sue suggested that all three be taken and placed at proper places: one for the memorial, one for the entrance from the main road and the third for the small road which fork into the cabin. So it is decided, and Joe will help get the people with the equipment to move the stones and arrange for the engraving later.
A Busy Sunday of Many Visits
Evelyn's old butcher, the Meyers, were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary and invited everybody in town to a reception after the Sunday Mass at Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church. More than a hundred guests gathered for the festive occasion. Fr. Duane Pribula, noticing that we were new to the Church, enthusiastically showed us around and explained to us the tempura icon of "Our Lady of the Pines". Learning that Evelyn was still paining from the traumatic loss of Peter, he further offered to show us to some interesting spots in the area that very afternoon.
Our Lady of the Pines, an icon by Mary Charles McGough, OSB
He arrived at about 4PM, in casual shorts. We sat in the porch and chatted a little before leaving in his car. He drove north to the vicinity of Lake George. The first stop was a campground whose entrance was a tiny cabin with a beautiful plaque "Sergent Andrew Nelson, Welcome Center".
It turned out that Andrew is Fr. Duane's 22 year old nephew who served in Iraq and was killed just recently. He was an eagle scout and loved outdoor activities. His family donated this welcome center in memory of him and everything he loved.
Next we went to Camp Courage North, a large camping ground "where abilities, disabilities become possibilities". The vast land on the lake was a gift from the Deubener Family. Deubener made his fortune from the patent of shopping bags. By putting handles on regular paper bags for groceries, his invention brought new convenience into shopping. After his death, this piece land was given to a foundation for the disabled. Now, Tom and Mimi Fogarty are full time managers of this camp. In the summer months, there are various programs for people with different challenges to come to play, to learn and to grow. The rest of the year, they are busy raising funds and prepare for an even better next season.
Tom Forgarty: 888-276-3611; Box 1626 Lake George, MN 56458
Although it was getting dark, Dr. Duane had one more place to show. After many turns, we came to cabin still under construction. This small lot is on a steep slope overlooking one end corner of Lake George. This will be a retreat cabin for women, max capacity: eight persons. In the deepening dusk, we could see the more or less finished chapel and the 13 stations of road of passion winding up the slope. This is again a donation from a successful local son who ran a successful business.
A scene of tranquility--a great plus for the retreat cabin
Our Last Few Days in Fircove
Before leaving for the city on Aug 13, the cabin should be cleaned, the boat taken in, and all food properly stored or packed. Evelyn had her regular helps for cleaning and yard work. We helped with all other chores. One morning, without expecting it, Joe showed up in the front door, holding a beautiful wild blueberry cheesecake. They had hand picked the berries and Kay made it. And it was delicious--the best blueberry cheesecake I ever tasted. Farmed berries just don't have that refreshing flavor! And of course, the cake was gone in just one sitting!
The best blueberry cheese cake there is!
Kay Knuth is very creative. When they were still running a gas station in a nearby town, Kay would bake a few cheese cakes and pies for sale everyday. She used no recipe; she just knew what makes the food taste right. She also makes beautiful quilts. She gave two cutest baby quilts for Evelyn's grand daughter who is due late in August. And, we later learned that she has already made a quilt covering for every bed in the retreat cabin that we visited. Wow! Apparently she also has a heart of gold! Before we go, Joe brought us another surprise from Kay--a beautiful Bargello quilt! It is such a precious gift that we will treasure it and find a good spot to show it.
Bargello Quilt by Kay Knuth
Neighbors got to know that Evelyn would be leaving and began to drop by. The dining room with the million bucks view is naturally the spot for chatting. Fircove has not seen so many guests the whole summer!
Evelyn just loves it here, calling it "the good life in the backwoods." We have also grown to like the simple life and the good people here. Good bye! Fircove--until next time!