William O’Brien State Park

William O'Brien State Park

I made a promise to myself this year that I would make the time to visit more of Minnesota’s state parks. (Nerd alert!) We even made a spreadsheet to keep track of activities we could do at each! I like to wait until spring has actually begun to go camping, but that first camping trip of the season is gonna be fantastic this year. I’m already looking forward to it. We went to William O’Brien State Park a couple weekends ago now, and it was perfect timing.

With all the things I have planned already for the season, it’s been a bit of a challenge to keep on top of all of my goals. I’ve been working hard every day at keeping an hour or two for things that don’t normally get attention otherwise. I’ve been doing more writing, for one! More blog posts for my dear readers. I’ve also been making extra effort to take the dog out for walks. It’s hard during the winter, what with the freezing temps here, but it’s worth it to get out and breathe fresh air whenever I can manage it. It has greatly improved my mood and mindset.

Blue sky in the tree tops
Clear blue sky over the bare treetops along the St. Croix

William O’Brien is a very nice little park, tucked in by the St. Croix river. It’s more accessible in the other three seasons, but our late winter trip was on a beautiful clear day. The sky was such a bright blue and the snow was clean white. The nice thing about getting into state parks in the winter is that they have less of the touch of civilization on them. No road grime, no salt, so sand. It makes for potentially treacherous footing, but if you’re prepared it’s much more rewarding. I’m finding a new love for winter hiking this year.

Some of the things I love best about parks is that I often get to have them to myself in the winter. If the temps are barely above 20ºF I’ll bet much fewer people are out than even at 30º. I found particular joy in some of the untouched details we saw that day. Texture and details, after all, are what I love most in my own art. I’m ecstatic when I find them constantly out in nature. One specific instance comes to mind. There was a small runoff faucet that was pumping water from who knows where down some rocky steps on the riverbank. The water itself was crystal clear and the effect it had made a mini waterfall. Even with the odd pipe sticking out, I wanted to play in it like a little kid jumping in puddles. What first caught my attention though was a  dangley little goober. It was bright green and also crystal clear, hanging from the mouth of the pipe. The way the sunlight hit it made it look like a jewel. It made me so happy to see such a bright green amidst the surrounding white and brown. The resulting picture surprised me. The way both the water and the little dangler looked in the picture was too great not to share.

Faucet Detail
Faucet with Green Algae

This is where I get my inspiration to make things. I don’t always work with color, so sometimes that gets overlooked, but texture and detail are definitely two of the creative pillars by which my process is supported. I’d say, so far, this goal of getting out to state parks is definitely paying off. I would recommend William O’Brien State Park for a day trip! I’d like to get back when the park is fully open to do some camping near the river. It would be so lovely to wake up by the St. Croix.

I hope you have also had a dose of fresh air lately, we all need it!

The North Shore

Trips up north are one of my favorite things.

Around my birthday for the last few years, we’ve been taking long weekends up north on Lake Superior. We spend time tasting local beers and staring out into the vastness of the lake. We even took a winter trip up to try some snowmobiling and snowshoeing despite the harsh weather. That was one of my favorite winter travels to date. Trips to the North Shore of Lake Superior became one of our first traditions.

The North Shore of Lake Superior
The shore near Grand Marais, MN

I design jewelry around places and our connection to them. I love finding the ties and turning a logical map into an emotional tether. When it came time for wedding plans I had already picked out a couple of areas for custom pieces just for us.

Often when people think of custom wedding jewelry they picture extravagant diamond studded or pearly pieces. While a little sparkle is nice, I knew what I wanted to do was take my map making to the next level. With locations in mind, I set to work on a set of cufflinks based on Grand Marais for him and a unique hairpin of the North Shore for me. We had already planned on Mokume wedding bands (which turned out to be an even better choice than I had dreamed), and I had already made a simple ruby engagement ring for myself and our short engagement.

North Shore Layers
North Shore hair clip layers, freshly cut and ready for fusing.

My husband is not a jewelry person. He doesn’t have a collection of rings or tie clips and I’m pretty sure he didn’t even own a pair of cufflinks before our wedding. It was an extra special treat for me to make him something customized and of a place we both love! I did a lot of tracing of the North Shore of Superior to get the designs just right. My hairpin also turned out to be a bigger challenge than I had expected. It was definitely in a different shape than a lot of the work I had made thus far. I fiddled with clip mechanisms and the long shape until it started to make sense.

The last time we took a trip to the North Shore was on my birthday weekend again, last summer. It turned into the unofficial weekend of our engagement.  As we hiked up the trail to Devil’s Kettle, he pulled out the little ruby ring I had made and put it on my hand. 

Custom Hand Fabricated Ruby Ring
Custom Hand Fabricated Ring with Lab Ruby

We have already planned another trip to Grand Marais and I can’t wait to hear the waves crashing on the shoreline again. I can’t wait to drive along the lake for miles and miles towards Canada, feeling like we never have to go back to the daily grind. I can’t wait to breathe the fresh air again and admire the eternal beauty of nature that Lake Superior is.

The North Shore is where I feel most at peace. It is just one of the many layers of my life that I’ve come to love.