We took the dogs for a walk on the lake today. If you're not from here that may sound strange, but in winter, the majority of Minnesota's 10,000+ lakes freeze over. And if where you live is a warm place year round, this probably sounds absolutely horrid. But a frozen lake creates an amazingly beautiful public space - and in this case, right in the middle of a very urban setting. "Lake Calhoun" (as I've known it all my life) was named by U.S. Army surveyors in the early 1800's, after Secretary of War John C. Calhoun (who later served as Secretary of State and Vice President). The local Native Americans called it Bde Maka Ska, which means "white bank lake". Turns out, John C. was also a notorious proponent of slavery. I don't know the details of how or why, but the signs around the lake changed last year. Also not sure why it was decided to chose an unpronounceable transliteration of that Dakota word, or why the "Calhoun" remains, but so it goes.
If you're concerned about us falling through, you needn't be. It takes 4" to be safe for an adult human. Today, as Bev and I were headed out on the ice with Kafka and Euclid, we saw some guys loading up their gear. They had just finished a dive (as in scuba), and reported the ice thickness to be 16" (they had chain-sawed their entry hole). Bde Maka Ska is a round lake about 1 mile across. In the winter, this translates to 401 acres of an absolutely flat, no-man's land of snow and ice, smack dab in the middle of one of the most popular meeting places for couples, families, dog lovers, and just about everybody who lives in the Twin Cities. Summer or winter, there are always people around, in, or on that lake. Of course there are far fewer in winter, and many people are afraid to go very far out on the ice (even if you grew up here and know it's safe, there's something eerie and foreboding when you're out there and look down into that frigid darkness). So on most days, except for a handful of ice fishermen and snow-kiters, the four of us are mostly alone out there. The dogs are in heaven, since it's the only time they get to run free. And with the proper outerwear, the cold is not an issue (much :). What always amazes us is that it is never the same from one day to the next. The snow drifts, the ice formations, the truly alien sounds of the ice shifting - never the same.
I spend a lot of my "thinking time" on the lake, walking the dogs. It is where I try to let go of the trees and see if I can make out any forests.