Franconia Sculpture Park

On Saturday we completed our annual pilgrimage to Franconia Sculpture Park, which remains as magical as ever. (In my understated way, I referred to it as the 8th wonder of the world when we first visited in 2011.)

This trip was further enhanced by the presence of our friends Katrina, Jason, and Hendrick who moved to Minnesota at the beginning of the summer. They were part of our birthing group in the bay area, and Hendrick was born just a month before Griff. It’s been fun seeing Griffin and Hendrick play together as full-size kids, when they used to gurgle on a play mat together back in Oakland. We’re grateful that both of our families have landed in the same place again.

I tried to mention the artists and the titles of their sculptures in the captions, though I didn’t record the outhouse one and can’t find it online. Most of the artists haves pages linked from a page at the Franconia website.  They all have interesting stories, but I was particularly struck by the story of Michael Richards, the artist behind the “Are You Down?” sculpture featuring three Tuskeegee Airmen in a black sand circle. He created the original sculptures in resin in 2000, and then began a residency at the World Trade Center. He was killed on September 11, 2001. Franconia led a successful kickstarter campaign to have his pieces cast in bronze (his original intent). The fully realized piece was unveiled on September 11, 2012. It is the only permanent installation at the park.

"Are You Down?" by Michael Richards
“Are You Down?” by Michael Richards

Travail Kitchen and Amusements

Sarah and I spent nearly four hours in food heaven last night. The place is Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robinsdale, just northwest of Minneapolis. We arrived at 5:45. We had a table at 7:15. We worked our way through a spectacular ten course tasting menu (plus numerous extras). We left, with goofy grins, at 9:35. It was long; it was expensive; we can’t wait to do it again.

They sing and dance; they shout and laugh; they cook unbelievable food; they explain everything; they chat with you and it’s all live — the kitchen is right in front of you. Their cocktails were outrageously good (and so fun to watch them make). The music was loud, eclectic, and perfectly enhanced the festive mood. They transform a weekday dinner into a celebration. This is where all the great chefs go to party, and we were invited along for the ride.

Update: Travail’s 2013  kickstarter page does a great job defining their vision for the dining experience. (They blew past their goal to the tune of an extra $180,000!)

Loons and otters, frogs and leeches

It’s been a great weekend for wildlife at the cabin. We spotted the otters cavorting in the lake yesterday, the first time Andrew and the kids have seen them. They were leaping and diving in the west bay, near the old beaver lodge. We got quite close to them in the canoe, and could clearly hear them chittering. Very exciting!

The loons are present as always, though they’ve kept their distance. Their calls, especially after dark, are as haunting and beautiful as ever. We also spotted a bald eagle on the island, along with a kingfisher and a smaller bird of prey, a kestrel perhaps? Some sort of white crane or heron flew low across the water too.

The leech whisperer
Griffin, the leech whisperer.

Beneath the surface we spotted a perch, plenty of minnows, a turtle, and lots of frogs and leeches along the marshy shoreline. Griffin loves the leeches and catches them with ease. He’s inspired us to be less concerned about them. They’re slow to attach, painless, easy to remove, and harmless. (Unlike mosquitoes and ticks, leeches rarely harbor anything harmful to humans since they primarily feed on amphibians.) I’ll take them over all the other bloodsucking pests.

During our swim yesterday we also found a sizable rib, probably from a deer.

Finally, we learned recently that there is a northern flying squirrel nesting near the cabin! They are nocturnal, so we haven’t spotted her, but Jeff saw her on his last visit. Her distinctive voice is quite noticeable just after sunset.

Enjoy a few photos below of some migratory mammals we’ve seen quite a bit of.

Looking for frogs.
Ready for adventure.
Wading by the island.
More otters please!
“It’s our swimming pool!”
Proud pool engineers.
A thinking soak.
Maggie pool!