The Wide Angle: Finding some solace beneath the stars

Published 7:07 am Saturday, July 14, 2018

I’m currently experiencing a bit of a rough patch in my life, which is fine. It happens.

Our route through the course of life is rarely perfectly smooth, so we can only try and find a road with fewer potholes.

We also find ways to get around or deal with these rough patches. Distractions if you will. The gym, cooking, lawn work — all of these can act as distractions when things aren’t going exactly as you once imagined them.

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For me, one of those great distractions has always been our family’s yearly vacation to Isle O’Dreams, just north of Park Rapids in north central Minnesota.

I’ve talked about this place often as my 12 readers can probably tell you, but I’ll describe the place for anybody auditioning to become my 13th reader.

The resort is an assortment of cabins situated on a peninsula, surrounded by Bad Axe Lake — quite frankly the coolest lake name ever.

We’ve stayed in a number of cabins during our family’s history at the resort, but currently we stay in a smaller cabin on the peninsula’s spur, hitched on the east side of the jut of land.

Both lake and resort are surrounded by thick pine and birch trees climbing the hills.

It’s a fairly secluded little resort and the lake itself doesn’t have public access which means boat traffic is somewhat limited, lending a quiet atmosphere to those visitors spending a week at this jewel.

I have really fond memories that easily reach into the triple digits, all of them as vivid as the next.

Really, I would have no problem spending my life not only at this resort, but in this part of Minnesota. Along with Isle O’Dreams and Bad Axe Lake, is Itasca State Park, just a short jaunt away which me and my girlfriend visited four times this year, the last day just driving around the perimeter of the park. The last seven miles is a one-way stretch that winds gently through the forest.

I easily forget the day-to-day hurdles of every-day life surrounding these seven-days.

This year, the trip north was a bit more welcomed than most years not only because of recent stresses, but because I had a specific plan in place. I wanted to get back to photographing the stars — astrophotography.

I love this pastime, and while I don’t have all the equipment necessary, I have enough and up there the background is just as heavenly as the skies themselves.

I get out around here of course and while I have nothing against southeast Minnesota, there just isn’t much besides farmland for me to include in photos.

I’ve spent a lot of time around the turbines near Grand Meadow, but you can only spend so much time including the giant turbines.

I spent a couple nights setting up on our dock and various other points of the resort and once again, like so many times up there, I was transported from the worldly problems to experiencing time with the gods and titans of our skies.

But there has always been one shot I’ve always wanted, but couldn’t get for a variety of reasons — setting up on a small inlet leading to Bad Axe’s little brother Buck Lake, so I could shoot south and capture the whole of the lake along with the resort itself with the Milky Way in the background.

However, the first year I had the idea smoke was drifting south from wild fires in Canada and last year the moon was my foiler.

This year, however, it was perfect. Clouds obscured the first night, along with the getting over the hurdles of what I needed to get to that part of the lake. I didn’t want to take a boat because water was down this year and I didn’t want to deal with it in the dark, so I opted for a kayak; however I still needed a light. DNR requires lights on any craft on the water at night.

Ultimately, I got it all figured out and one of the last nights I finally got my chance. Just before 11 p.m. I headed out. The paddle to the inlet was so easy and smooth and remarkably quite. It was the immediate escape I always strove for at this resort.

After about 10 minutes I arrived and, along with pretty much every bug and insect in Minnesota, began setting up.

Turning off my light I went to work, except that work was distracting because of how the night opened up. It was the cleanest night sky I’ve seen in a long time in terms of a lack of light pollution. I didn’t even really need to let my eyes adjust that much to see the grandeur spreading out before me.

When it was all said and done, the pictures weren’t that important, honestly. I loved what I got, but I made mistakes and in some ways screwed up the opportunity, but in most ways I couldn’t have been disappointed, nor do I really care that much.

The stars and planets filled the skies with diamonds. The night was quiet, but for the noises of nature. In the distance I heard wolves calling and answering. At one point on the way back to the cabin I simply shut the light off and drifted for a few seconds, casting my head up to the night to simply be a part of the greater universe around me.

We’re distracted by tons of things in life that take us from the smoother road, making things more difficult than we wanted or imagined them to be.

But other times were distracted by the universe. I highly urge you to let yourself be distracted by the universe.