“Solitude” by Rainer Maria Rilke 

Solitude
Rainer Maria Rilke

Solitude is like a rain.
It rises from the sea toward evening;
from plains, which are distant and remote,
it goes to the sky, which always has it.
And only then it falls from the sky on the city.

It rains down in the in-between hours,
when all the crooked streets turn toward morning,
and when the bodies, which found nothing,
leave each other feeling sad and disappointed;
and when the people, who hate each other,
have to sleep together in one bed:

then solitude flows with the rivers . . .

“Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry

QUESTIONNAIRE
by Wendell Berry

  1. How much poison are you willing
    to eat for the success of the free
    market and global trade? Please
    name your preferred poisons.
  2. For the sake of goodness, how much
    evil are you willing to do?
    Fill in the following blanks
    with the names of your favorite
    evils and acts of hatred.
  3. What sacrifices are you prepared
    to make for culture and civilization?
    Please list the monuments, shrines,
    and works of art you would
    most willingly destroy.
  4. In the name of patriotism and
    the flag, how much of our beloved
    land are you willing to desecrate?
    List in the following spaces
    the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
    you could most readily do without.
  5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
    the energy sources, the kinds of security,
    for which you would kill a child.
    Name, please, the children whom
    you would be willing to kill.

With thanks to https://www.brainpickings.org/2019/08/14/wendell-berry-questionnaire-amanda-palmer/

 

 

This is the way the world ends – Not with a bang but with a whimper 

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The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz – he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other kingdom
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

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II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer –

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

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III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

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IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of this tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

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V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

World Traveler

My Irish Setter Erin taking a break from our walk on the Arno River in Florence, Italy. Anno 1985. Erin was 15 years old. I got him when he was 8 weeks old.

In his lifetime, Erin traveled the United States, North Africa, Japan, and Europe. Not long after this photo, he would be on a plane with us to Japan, then back to Germany in 1986, where he died of old age at 17.

He’s buried in a Hun burial ground in the forest behind our house there north of Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany. 

More stories and photos with Erin, the world traveler:

Travels With Erin

North Africa Diary – Lost in the Medina  

Media Plage – Aussies Go Walkabout

How we came to live in North Africa at Mehdia Plage

 

Relaxing at our 2CV camp site in a sand dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean just outside of Agadir, Morocco.beach Africa

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On the road, Costa del Sol, near Torremolinos, Spain.2CV theresa spain

The Wild Pacific Trail at Ucluelet, British Columbia

Take a pictorial walk with me on The Wild Pacific Trail at Ucluelet, a tranquil village of about 2000 on the Ucluth Peninsula of Vancouver Island’s far west coast.  It’s about 288 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Victoria.

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Its location supports Ucleulet’s motto – “Living on the Edge” – as the peninsula is almost completely surrounded by water, making it more island than peninsula.  The Ucleulet Harbor provides easy water access to the ethereal mists of Barkley Sound to the south, featuring the Broken Group Islands of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.  To the west is the thundering Pacific Ocean.

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It’s on this western shore you can walk The Wild Pacific Trail, which clings to the coastline as you meander the trails and boardwalks amid an old-growth coastal rainforest – a labyrinthine wildwood of trees, ferns and moss.  Without warning, the trail bursts onto spectacular views from the rocky shoreline of the roiling Pacific Ocean, Barkley Sound, and the Broken Group Islands.

The trail is an easy, relaxing hike, with two large parking areas, easy access (including disabled), and well-signed trails.  When I was there, signs instructed you on what to do in the unlikely case that you found yourself sharing the trail with a bear.  Sadly, I didn’t see one.

Photography by S.W. Cosgrove.

Looking south from the far end of the peninsula, towards Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands.  In the mist on the other side of the sound is Bamfield, a tiny resort hamlet that is best reached by packet boat from Port Alberni or by float plane.

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Here is a very engaging Blue Jay, who decided to accompany me.  Chatty bird, and quite friendly.

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Hidden in the woods on the other side of the water is the lodge that I stayed at.

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Following is the view from the private patio of the studio apartment I rented in an elegant new wood-built lodge that a young couple shared with visitors.  It was in a very quiet location, situated just a few steps from The Wild Pacific Trail.  Reasonably priced, very comfortable, with an oversized soaking tub.

The last afternoon, a storm blew in and rain pounded windows and deck.  Then, a half hour later, the sun came back out and dried everything off.

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Ucluelet Harbor

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Walking on the Western Edge of North America – the Washington Coast.

It’s autumn, when the Pacific Ocean coastal skies may be sunny or turn dark, ushering in the magnificent storm season.  Either way, it’s a perfect time to explore the westernmost edge of the North American continent.

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So my German Shepherd, Jack, and I headed out from our home on the Puget Sound to spend a week in the historic seaside resort town of Moclips, which was originally a village of the Quinault Indian Nation.  Spaniards were the first Europeans to come ashore here at Santiago beach, adjacent to the Moclips River, which runs to Point Grenville.

Moclips was homesteaded in 1862, and in 1905 it officially became a town when the western most terminus of the Northern Pacific Railway was completed at Moclips and the first Moclips Beach Hotel was completed.  Vacationers came to the beach by the thousands on the Northern Pacific.  No trains run to Moclips these days and most remnants of the the railway’s existence have faded away.  Click the photo below for more Moclips history.

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Today Moclips is a sleepy little seaside town with pristine beaches that stretch to the horizons.  The Moclips River flows from a natural riverine rain forest on a bed of agate rock.  You can see the remains of the train bridge trestles in my photos.

I stayed at the Hi-Tide Ocean Beach Resort, a peaceful and well-maintained collection of very comfortable, fully furnished and tastefully appointed condos with patios facing the ocean, the river and the setting sun. Hi-Tide welcomes dogs!  You can arrange rental on the Hi-Tide Resort website. 

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During our visit, we had a full compliment of weather: sun-drenched shorts and sandals weather at the beginning of the week, with marine air moving in, then darkening skies, wind picking up and rain by the time we left.  It was, in a word, a perfect autumn week on the Pacific Northwest coast.

Here are some of my photos of the journey. If you use them, please attribute.

Hello from Jack!

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Habanera

At my annual piano recital when I was 12 years old, I played a piano transcription of the Habanera from Carmen. I practiced over and over until I could play it with my eyes closed.

I walked onto the stage in a cold sweat, sat down at the keyboard, closed my eyes, and let it flow.

When I opened my eyes, the audience was standing, clapping, shouting “bravo.” I have no recollection of actually playing the piece, only the experience.

As a child, my father, who was stationed with the Army Air Corps in South America during WWII, parked me in front of an RCA Victor record player listening to the 78’s he’d collected from that era of Spanish ballads, flamenco guitar, and Carmen.

This selection is from an absolutely brilliant 1983 film directed and choreographed in the flamenco style by Carlos Saura and María Pagés. The image is grainy, but still powerful. The film was magnificent.

The Habanera from Carmen.

Here is the official movie trailer.

 

A memory of trees

Trees in particular were mysterious and seemed to me direct embodiments of the incomprehensible meaning of life. For that reason the woods were the place where I felt closest to its deepest meaning and its awe inspiring workings.
                                                                               C.G. Jung – Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

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We planted several hundred trees, my grandfather and me, when I was a lad of about eight years.

Grandpa heard that the county agricultural extension office would bring you as many saplings as you wanted – free.  So he ordered a pickup truck load.  They arrived bound in bundles, about 12 to 18 inches long, roots wrapped in wet burlap.

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We had a break in the rain, and they had to be planted now.  We loaded them on a trailer behind the tractor, along with a couple spades, and puttered on out to a large, rounded hillside on the flank of the west side of the farm.  The soil was shaley and rocky; the incline was too steep for cultivation.  But it was perfect for these baby fir, spruce and pine.

“They’ll hold the hill from erosion and someday provide a break from the west winds, as well as lumber,” Grandpa pronounced.

We planted.  And planted.  And planted.  Grandpa broke ground with his long-handled spade, driving it in with a sharp push from his farm boot.  He pulled the spade back and forth, cleaving open a pocket in the dirt.  From the other side, I deposited one sapling.  As Grandpa pulled the spade out and moved a few steps onto the next planting site, I tamped the earth carefully around the sapling with my feet.  I took another sapling from the bundle and followed on.  We planted every last one.

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I’d long forgotten these evergreens until about 35 years later.  Visiting my hometown on my way from California to Germany with my five-year-old daughter, I drove out to the old Minnesota farm site.  It wasn’t a farm anymore, of course.  The ancient sprawling eight-bedroom farm house where I’d spent my youth, along with the barn and out buildings, had long since been bulldozed.  The fields where I once sat on my Grandfather’s lap on the tractor as he plowed, the trails I rode my horse on while tending the grazing cows and sheep, and the ponds once plied by ducks and geese – all leveled, landscaped, terraced and filled with suburban cookie cutter boxes on quarter acre lots.

All gone.  Except for two things.

The large pond I used to skate on in winter, catch turtles from in summer, and water the stock at – was still there.  Its likely saving grace was that it was spring fed and too deep to fill.  So the developer kept it as a water feature, complete with pussy willows waving in the breeze.

And the trees we’d planted.  The hillside that had been too steep to till was too steep to build on.  So a good portion of the trees that my grandfather and I had planted remained.  They ranged about 30 to 40 feet high.  We’d spaced them close, in lateral rows across the hillside, now forming a dense forest where birds and other wildlife could find refuge from suburbia.

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Druid mythology is said to consider trees to be the sacred guardians of memory.  So it was a moment both joyous and solemn to be standing amongst the trees I’d planted with my grandfather 35 years before.  I was standing with my daughter, who’d never met my grandfather, yet who was now meeting him in his stand of trees.  Our trees had survived against all odds, they had thrived, and they had come onto their own.  This one small part of the landscape of my youth was intact, but changed over almost four decades.  A memory of trees.

Now these guardians, these once diminutive saplings, provided that break from the west winds, though not to the farm, the buildings, the livestock, or our family, as had been my grandfather’s original plan.  The wind break was to the dwellers of the houses on the quarter-acre lots.

As I stood there, with my daughter, not much younger than I was when I planted these fir, spruce and pine trees, I could not help but think: the future will always be far different from what you imagine it might be.

“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”  Greek proverb.

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The Man From Snowy River. The Poem.

You may have seen the critically aclaimed 1982 movie, but have you read the original poem?

Australian bush poet A.B. “Banjo” Paterson (author of Waltzing Matilda) wrote “The Man From Snowy River.”  Paterson grew up in the Outback and knew it well.

The mythical ride is set in the Snowy River region of southeastern New South Wales and eastern VictoriaAustralia, on the eastern slopes of the Snowy Mountains near Mount Kosciuszko.

“The Man From Snowy River” was first published in The Bulletin, an Australian news magazine, on April 26, 1890. In October 1895, it appeared in a collection of Paterson’s poems, The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses.

In this video, Jack Thomson narrates Banjo’s poem, set to scenes and music from the movie.

The Man from Snowy River

 By A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up-
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony – three parts thoroughbred at least –
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die –
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, “That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop-lad, you’d better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you.”
So he waited sad and wistful – only Clancy stood his friend –
“I think we ought to let him come,” he said;
“I warrant he’ll be with us when he’s wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred.”

“He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse’s hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen.”

So he went – they found the horses by the big mimosa clump –
They raced away towards the mountain’s brow,
And the old man gave his orders, “Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills.”

So Clancy rode to wheel them – he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stockhorse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their sway,
Were mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, “We may bid the mob good day,
No man can hold them down the other side.”

When they reached the mountain’s summit, even Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timbers in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat –
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.

Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound in their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

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Landscape of Youth Remembered

This reminiscence is a brief, wistful journey in a lingering daydream to a natural history of my past that comprises who I am.

Recalling my boyhood on a farm outside a small town in a Minnesota river valley, I walk through its green and amber fields and its verdant woodlands in spring and summer, sitting down and rolling back to “…loaf and invite my soul…lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass,” with Mr. Whitman.

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With tasseled corn waving in the breeze, the air is filled with the fragrance of freshly cultivated earth, new mowed hay drying in the humid sun, and the pungent aroma of cows and horses in the barn.  Pigs squeal as they play in the mud, and chickens in their roosts cluck away, singing their discordant Song of the Laying of the Egg.

In the forest, the crow, the robin, the wren, and the jay converse as they establish presence and protocols.  In the farmyard, geese and ducks squawk, racing to where their grain is scattered on the ground.  Hawks and eagles keep their vigil from the sky, while the owl from his perch waits silently, blinking his eye lids – three lids per eye – monitoring a mouse bumbling through the leaves on the ground who would soon meet an untimely end.

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Foxes cry on moonlit nights, sounding like a human babies lost in the woods; the wolf plaintively tests the air to see if any brothers or sisters might be in the neighborhood.

Summer provides a natural bounty, with berries of all kinds, plums, apples and cherries to be eaten right off the vine.  We pluck dandelions from the yard to make a sweet wine that will rest in bottles in the cellar alongside crocks of fresh cut cabbage in a salty brine, among rows upon rows of pickles and tomatoes that will bring thoughts of summer to cold winter days.

Escaping summer’s mid-day inferno is essential, whether lounging in a creaky, unpainted gypsy lawn chair made of willow twigs in the shade of an ancient elm; lying quietly in the cool screened porch; or retreating to a far corner of the hay mow where no one would think to find me.  I might snatch a wisp of timothy hay to chew on or stick between my teeth – or pull a blade of grass to stretch between my thumbs, purse my lips, and blow through to produce a whistle so loud it made the dog jump.

When the smoldering, moist heat becomes oppressive, when it’s 95 in the shade and 95 percent humidity, I ride my horse over the hills and through the back woods to Long Lake, where we plunge in to swim together.  Or I bike to the St. Croix River, jump in wearing cut-off jeans, and feel the swirling current dissipate the heat from my mind and body and carry it downstream.

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Taking my very reluctant little brother for a ride on my pony Peanuts.

Harvest season comes as the air takes on a steely edge, winds pick up, and oak burning in the wood stove perfumes the air.  The wood cook stove in the kitchen never gets a chance to cool, as each day my grandmother adds additional lamb, vegetables, barley, and potatoes to a bottomless cauldron of soup that never ends.  I lift the cast iron plates from the stove top to toast thick slices of rustic, fresh baked bread over the deep crimson embers and slather them with hand-churned butter.

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Towing Dad behind the 1948 Leader farm tractor. I learned to drive this tractor a few years later.

Doing early morning chores, feeding stock, milking, carrying water, chopping wood, I can see my breath as a light frost forms around my nose.  Snow builds on the roof.  Icicles drip in the frigid sun from the eaves.  Fields and woodlands begin their turning a frigid, brittle white as the somber silence of winter envelopes the land.

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Winter fog

In late winter and early spring, our sheep will begin dropping lambs wherever they feel like it.  We lace up our sorrels and trudge through the night snow, slush and mud with flashlights, listening for the bleating of orphan lambs that must be brought in to hand feed.  The dogs will lead us to them.  All lives are precious.

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Eight years old with an orphan lamb that I had bottle fed.

These memories occupy a comfortable space in my mind, providing a homage and the logic to what formed me and what I’m made of now, all these years later.

As long as memory remains, so will this landscape of my youth.

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Stairs leading to downtown Stillwater, Minnesota
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My hometown on the St. Croix River: Stillwater, Minnesota.