One Minnesota Writer Honors August

There’s a comic strip I love called Stone Soup by Jan Eliot. Every August, the Sunday version of Stone Soup runs little reminders that, “Ya gotta love August.”

I agree. August is one of my favorite months in Minnesota because summer winds down, tomatoes ripen in the garden, mornings develop a little crispness in the air, crickets serenade us in the evenings, and everything feels a little wistful, a little poignant. Students get ready for school. The State Fair happens. And I get to celebrate my own birthday.

So, for the month of August, I am going to take my time away from One Minnesota Writer. I’m going to write poetry, read everything I can get my hands on, work in my garden. I invite you to do the same. Meander somewhere. Sink into the waning days of summer and gather your harvest.

Yes, ya gotta love August.

See you in September.

Gull on Irish Coast

Gull on Irish Coast by kcmickelson 2017.


All Things Irish – Part 1

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been traveling in Ireland with my partner Mick. A week in Dublin was followed by a week maneuvering a silver five-speed Skoda Fabia through the Wicklow Mountains, up to Cashel, down to the southern peninsulas of the Wild Atlantic Way, through Killarney National Park, and finally to the Budget Rental desk at Shannon Airport. We returned our little car, which we took turns driving, without a scratch. We were quite proud of that since many of the roads we drove on were only about as wide as our standard suburban driveway, had no shoulders but did have stone walls and hedgerows, and we sometimes met tour buses coming from the other direction. Oh, yeah, and they drive on the left in Ireland. A neat little sticker in the lower left corner of the windshield reminds renters to drive on the left.

We learned to spot other drivers who were trying to remember to stay to the left – there was a tendency to hug the left side of the road. Or to drive down the middle. Or to nearly stop in the face of oncoming traffic. We were lucky that we had driven in Ireland before and knew what to expect. That didn’t make it any less exciting when we went over a few very narrow – as in one-lane – and curvy mountain passes. Passes that included sheep in the road. And hikers, bikers, and old men with canes, all of whom were quite confident that no one was going to run them over.

One of the things that struck us was how many Americans we met on our journey. Every single place where we stayed had fellow Americans and many of the Irish people we spoke to told us of trips to the US. According to census data, Irish ancestry is second only to German ancestry as the most commonly-claimed heritage in the US population. In fact, there are more Americans who claim Irish heritage than there are people living in Ireland. (See this article from the Washington Post.) So, I guess we should not have been so surprised.

Nevertheless, this discovery at one of the B&Bs we stayed in startled and delighted me:

Rockville House B&B Minnesota Plate - Cashel

This Minnesota plate, which is just like one my mother had, was in the Rockville House B&B in Cashel. Our host, Patrick, told us that they often received gifts from people who had stayed with them. There were many knick-knacks from other places on display. After we left, it occurred to me that our host might have put out the items connected with the places where his guests came from. I should have asked!

I have hundreds of photos to sort through and stories to write about Ireland that will gradually appear here at One Minnesota Writer. For today, I offer a focus on the small things that kept catching my eye, and on the immense gratitude Mick and I share for being able to travel, catch up with friends, meet new people, and see a bit of a beautiful, wild country. Click on any of the images to see them in a larger format.

Happy Monday. Happy end-of-July.


All images by kcmickelson 2017.

Photo Monday – More Details

As a poet, details carry all kinds of meanings that can be used to create a snapshot of a moment, a spark of realization, an instant when everything changes. I see details in photos as the same thing – that impression that sometimes gets recorded and then it’s gone.

Today, I’ve dug around in my photos from the 2016 visit my partner Mick and I made to the Pacific Northwest, which is a grand and beautiful place to which I would love to return. The Pacific Northwest offers such a multitude of landscapes and climates that it’s impossible to see it all in one trip. These photos are just a few details that I hope inspire you to write or travel or simply make you happy.

along the Hood Canal

On the beach along the Hood Canal – not a place to go barefoot.

gray jay along Hurricane Hill Trail

This gray jay sang to us as we hiked the Hurricane Hill Trail in Olympic National Park.

Hurricane Hill Trail

Mick broke a rule by sharing his granola with this little ground squirrel when we got to the top of the Hurricane Hill Trail. He later said, “But he was so cute!” Big softy.


This driftwood on the coast of Washington surely houses a lot of tiny critters, but I didn’t look for them.

average annual precipitation - Hoh Rainforest

In the Hoh Rainforest, it never completely dries out.

Mary Oliver poetry

A poem by Mary Oliver was one among many poems that surprised us along one of the Hoh Rainforest trails. Poetry and the forest – it’s a nice combination.

Astoria, OR, sea lions

These sea lions had quite a conversation in the harbor at Astoria, Oregon.

Astoria-Megler Bridge

This is the mouth of the Columbia River and a shot of the Astoria-Megler Bridge at sunset, with a ship heading out into the Pacific Ocean. The bridge, which we drove across, is 4.1 miles long.

green rocks

These rocks in the harbor at Astoria, Oregon, are an eerie shade of green. They are particularly striking when the sun is low in the sky.

Are you inspired to pack your bags yet to see what is beyond the edges of these photos?


Photo Monday – Details

I’m thinking about details today – the small things that we may or may not see, but once noticed, hold their own sort of beauty. And I’m thinking about what prompts any of us to write or make other art. For me, travel offers a vast buffet of prompts and images that keep me going for a long time.

So, today, since summer in Minnesota is road trip season, I’m revisiting the trip I took with my partner Mick last summer. We drove across North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, then headed south into Oregon where we turned around and headed back with additional stops in Wyoming and South Dakota. Among the hundreds of photos I took are several images of smaller things, those details that make me look twice.

Perhaps one of these will spark something for you. If not, you could always pack your bags and head out. Enjoy.

Feral Horses at Dusk

Wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit – one of my favorite images from our 2016 road trip. The way the colt rubs his chin on his mother gets me every time.

wild flowers on rock

Wild flowers from Theodore Roosevelt National Park, doing their best to survive in harsh conditions.

dung beetles

Dung beetles in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I almost missed them, but saw something move out of the corner of my eye as I hiked along one of the trails. They are industrious little creatures.

window in rock face

Also from Theodore Roosevelt National Park – a natural window in the rock face offers another perspective on things.


A bobolink sings its heart out in the rain in Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit.

rattlesnake warning sign

The rattlesnake warnings we came across in the Dakotas and Montana didn’t stop us from getting out of the car. And we never saw any snakes. I’m sure they were avoiding us.

marmots near Pompeys Pillar National Monument

These marmots snuggled together on a rock near Pompeys Pillar National Monument in Montana. 

Butte Breweing Company windowsill

These bottles lined the windowsill at Butte Brewing Company, Butte, Montana.

Come back for more details next week when I dig into photos from the Pacific Northwest.




Summer Playtime

On the Fourth of July, Mick and I took a little morning bike ride and found ourselves at Goldie’s Garden, aka the University of Minnesota Department of Horticulture Display and Trial Garden.

If you ever want a little respite in the midst of the Twin Cities, this little garden can provide. On the weekends, there is almost no one around and you can sit among the flowers, watch the butterflies, just be quiet if that’s what suits you.

If you are a gardener, this place has signs on all the plants so you can learn what is growing there and get ideas for you own garden.  A summer intern might be around if you want to talk to someone about what is in bloom.

If you are a photographer, the morning light in this spot is glorious.

We wandered around here for quite a while and just sunk into a beautiful summer day.

As for our own garden, which is clearly an ongoing trial, we have our favorite Jurassic Park style plant right here:

Meet our cup plant, which grows to be about eight feet tall and has huge leaves. It’s enormous presence delights us. There will be yellow daisy-like flowers soon; they aren’t as big as you might expect. This might be the perfect spot in our garden for a fake dinosaur.

And, over this past weekend, the full July moon was irresistible:

Full Moon July 2017

As was the fire:

fire table

Hope you are grabbing those summer moments with both hands.


Happy Fourth! And Some Summer Reading….

There are those who love to celebrate the Fourth of July: picnics, parades, fireworks. And there are those who veer toward quieter pursuits: solo hikes, deserted beaches, a good book.

I can help you with your reading list if you’re in that last category – the summer issue of Gyroscope Review is now available in both print and PDF formats. Click the cover below for more information.

Gyroscope Review Issue 17-3 cover

Poets in this issue tackled topics of all sorts, especially current affairs – perfect for your Fourth of July consideration. And if you’re wondering where that cover photo came from, I took it when I visited Berlin in the summer of 2015. That shot is part of the East Side Gallery that covers a section of the Berlin Wall. Find out more about that here. Thanks to my co-editor Constance for choosing that photo to grace our cover.

In addition, submissions are now open at Gyroscope Review. My co-editor Constance Brewer and I strongly encourage any poet who is considering a submission to us to read our back issues, read our guidelines, be thorough. If any of the work we publish offends you in some way, then we may not be a good fit for you. On the other hand, if what we publish makes you think, makes you re-read, prompts you to have a conversation, then we might be just your sort of place.




We are Growing Weeds

My partner Mick and I garden. A lot. We try all kinds of stuff and are pretty fond of native plants because we believe they’re better for all the critters that buzz around and nibble on the seeds. We have reduced the size of our lawn a little every year – no love lost between us and grass that needs mowing or watering or fertilizing.

This year, Mick decided to try something different. Well, it was last year, really. He ordered a mix of native grass and flower seeds from one of his favorite places, Prairie Moon Nursery, last summer. After some research, Mick and I pulled up the raised beds we had in our backyard, removed all the old landscape fabric, broke up the soil a bit. Mick added the seed mix to some sand.  In late autumn, he spread that mixture all around where the raised beds had been.

And then we waited.

This spring, an assortment of seedlings emerged. Mick’s research indicated that we should just leave it all alone – don’t step on it, don’t pull anything, let the natives and the weeds from elsewhere battle it out. Eventually, we are supposed to mow the area and let it grow again.

And this is what we have so far:

1 (3)

Looking into our own backyard

1 (6)

Looking toward our neighbor’s yard

It doesn’t look like much yet. But today I noticed this thistle that the birds are going to love:

1 (4)

Can you see the thorny thistle nestled in with other plants?

And I’ve noticed the rabbits around here spend a lot of time in the new garden. Yes, in spite of its weedy unkempt appearance, it is a garden.

We know from having native plants in other spots in our yard that it will take a couple of seasons for these plants to thrive and show us their flowers. We know that this is not most people’s idea of what looks good in a yard right this minute. But we are clear that our backyard experiment might be one small good thing for the environment. I was reminded of this when I came across an article in yesterday’s Star Tribune about farm chemicals and something called soil regeneration. (See: Conventionally farmed land is literally dirt poor. A Vermont couple has set out to change that.)

I’m not comparing our backyard to a farm, nor do I have the education about what it takes to farm to make comments on the article referenced. But it did get me thinking about the simple things we do every day to make our surroundings grow the things we want to grow: fertilizing our lawns, spraying assorted pesticides on flowers or vegetables to keep them from being eaten before their time, planting flowers that do more harm than good to the bees that we all know are in trouble anyway. Do we really need the fertilizers and pesticides? No. And Mick and I are choosing to grow what looks like weeds as one step in making our little piece of earth a healthier place. We are seeing if we can regenerate that one little plot of the backyard.

We have some guests who recently moved in to the spot we made for them a few feet from the weed garden:

mason bee house 3

Our mason bee (and other bugs) house – see the bits of mud in some of the holes? That’s an indication that the mason bees have moved in.

Our weed patch is going to bloom into something wonderful. We just need to have the patience to wait for it.

And while we’re waiting, we’ll read up on what’s next for soil regeneration in our own backyard. If we believe the personal is political, then our own backyards are all some kind of ground zero.

Photo Monday – Summer Light

Today’s post is all about peaceful images. We need them. Enjoy.

1 (41)

Our next-door neighbor’s old tree is housing a family of woodpeckers.

Version 2

Early morning light at the St. Paul Farmers Market makes the vegetables look magical.

3 (1)

Truffles surveys her domain. You may kiss her paw now.

4 (1)

A Sunday morning bike ride through Minneapolis.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A slideshow of the osprey nest in Roseville’s Victoria Ball Fields.

1 (40)

And the Father’s Day man of the hour, my partner Mick

Have a good week, everyone.


All photos by kcmickelson 2017.




Monday Can Be Delightful

Monday has a bad reputation – back to work, back to the grind, back to waking up with the alarm clock, back to dressing to please someone else perhaps.

But catching delight can shift perspectives in a second. This morning, for example, I came to my desk early to sift through slush at Gyroscope Review, where I’m a co-editor. Our reading period for our summer issue ends this week and things are piling up. Authors need answers on their submissions, we need contracts for publication acknowledged, artwork for the front cover still has to be done, editorials must be written, and layouts must be done within the next couple of  weeks. When I’m working, I’m not playing with our dog and my occasional office companion, the indomitable miniature dachshund Truffles, and she let me know her displeasure today by peeing on the dog bed in my office. Even though this wasn’t as bad as the time she ate an entire leg from the pantyhose my daughter left hanging over the side of her laundry basket, I was still mad. Damn dog, I thought at the same time as she slunk away to hide under our dining room table, no doubt thinking, I showed you.

Well. Her misbehaving landed her in her crate for a minute while I stepped outside for one of those aforementioned perspective shifts. I had my cellphone with me, since I was waiting for a callback. And there it was, waiting for me: a swallowtail butterfly, its yellow and black wings in high definition against the purple blooms of meadow sage in our garden. I stood still, watched, and the butterfly fluttered upward and around my head, back and forth, until it landed on the flowers again. I was enchanted. It had done its job.

I captured a tiny bit of its magic with my iPhone. Maybe it’ll make your Monday a little bit more delightful, too.

And Truffles? She’ll get an extra walk today. Clearly she needs something more to do.

A Little Extra About Delight:

My fellow blogger and photographer, Audrey over at Minnesota Prairie Roots, had a post today about finding delight in small moments, which is just what I’m talking about. Go have a look:

For more about shifting your focus, you might be interested in my series, 52 Ways to Shift Your Focus, which ran on this blog in 2012-13.


Want Some Fun Summer Reading?

My friend and colleague, Oonah Joslin, recently shared this with me:

Twisted Tales 2016 cover

Twisted Tales 2016, published by Australian indie publisher Raging Aardvark Publishing, is a flash fiction anthology that will infuse your summer with oddball glee. The authors, who hail from Australia, Britain, North America, and elsewhere, are winners of a competition in support of International Flash Fiction Day. This collection is Raging Aardvark’s fifth in the Twisted Tales series. Raging Aardvark is big fan of short stories, as they say on their website:

Champion of the short story and its derivatives, Raging Aardvark Publishing aims to provide a space for emerging writers to demonstrate their talents to a wider community. Totally passionate about the short story form and ways to support the creative process it’s our goal to foster positive growth within the international writers community for these authors.

And, for this new publication, just what is meant by twisted? Swift tales of people who may or may not be unhinged, wicked storms that may or may not unleash spirits in need of innocents, crowds gone mad, jack-o-lanterns of a different sort, alien fiancés, and more. And that’s just in the first half-dozen stories. These are stories that leave you wondering, will make you laugh, will make you think.

Most of all, they’ll make you want to read more.

Have I finished this collection? Nope. I’m saving some for my own summer fun.

Thanks for the share, Oonah! And congrats on on the inclusion of your work, What Comes Round Goes Round.


The above image links to a pdf from the publisher for your reading pleasure. If you would like to purchase a copy of Twisted Tales 2016, click here