Five Breaths in One Place


Northern Minnesota, along the North Shore, smells like birds, rocks, and generally good natured folk. Birds Rocks Bliss in carne bumps up against the drama of a sheer-rising cliff face carpeted in pointy green, yellow, and red angles undercutting the continental skyline. Death abounds, but any more so than it did on a global scale before the 2020 pandemic is obfuscated. Have a little lunch at the Old English pub. Complex sugars and salty beer washed down with a warm mouthful of sunlight peaking around the waving flag outside the window. No award-winning flag, that of Sir Benedict's on Lake Ave. But an attractive sturdiness in the accent deepens the British idiom. Something about the way it snaps almost on cue to the rhythm of the conversation through the panes sounds like laughter, Enjoy the day!, their eddies swooshing away.

Cross the high-traffic lakeside boardwalk and watch the world's largest freshwater sandbar dapple in and out of view, over delicate white caps. Exposed skin prickles at the cold seeming to hover before it fades. It's windy but there are no strong winds. Remember when that distinction was critical to the sowing of a day's field work? Still critical, now of a sort. Urban elms sag, exhausted by the flow of tourists and college students taking air by the great inland sea.


There are few species to city birders as prolific in number as geese, gulls, and pigeons. The first having mostly moved on by October, the second currently out competing the last on the shore but keeping to those spacious corrugated industrial rooftops plating Duluth's marina in blocks of egg-shell white. Then, other days, the warm and windy roofs are absconded by first-year gulls. Their duffy greyness blotting out the sheet metal lanes segregating uplifting birds from those coming in to land. Acrobats of the sky, practiced in the art of french fry acquisition. The squawking of silhouette gulls builds with every downhill mile. Don't look now, but there are small teams of agate hunters ferreting out chips from the lake's battering tongues of icy water. A brown creeper hops in spurts up and out of view on a maple branch. Where in the world would w bee without the threads of sentient sentiment lacing us together in stolen stretches of serene city walks? It's not really a question.


For every sense there is a breath.




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