Love to the Johnsons (& Orlando)

Sunday afternoon journal-ing habit in full swing! We had a fabulous (sunny, muggy, then wet) overnight three miles south of Harmony, MN for the second annual Johnson Family Chistmas in June. Aka, our family reunion. Harmony is smack dab in the center of farm country. We slept beside a pasture of mooing cows. “Moo’s by moonlight,” I’ll call it.

Sadly, the weekend was dampened on the drive home with the news of the tragic  events in Orlando. Most deadly mass shooting in history in the U.S. with fifty individuals killed. It took place at an LGBTQ nightclub. Perpetrator 29 years old. Motive not all clear, although it is known the shooter had expressed strong hate for LGBTQ community. He used an assault rifle of some kind which is apparently becoming known as “gun of choice” for this violence. (See Denver Post – Of 79 mass shootings in the US since ’82, 63 done with guns purchased legally.) It’s being named a hate crime and domestic act of terror. As a citizen and mom, I am horrified we as a country are allowing this sort of violence to take place and escalate. My heart breaks for our country and world. It is especially broken for my  LGBTQ friends and loved ones and how this makes them feel. I keep thinking about the mind-body workshop I took this week and Matthew Sanford’s comments about submission, nonviolent resistance and Gandhi, and related yogic teachings.

That aside… camping on the farm was so much fun. We left Minneapolis Saturday morning at 8:30. The car was fully loaded with sleeping bags, thermarests, a pack-n-play, swimsuits, beach towels, lawn games, summer clothes, our cooler. We were on hashbrown casserole duty along with veggies and dip.

The drive was to Rochester and then 52 to Harmony where you head south on 139. Their driveway is actually one or two driveways south of the Iowa border. The terrain is lovely down there with rolling farm fields and tree groves for ample patches of shade. Wally inherited the farm from his family about ten years ago. They’ve slowly been renovating a garage into a home/cabin.

There’s a big, old, red cattle barn on the south end of the property that we took over for meals and movies. It smelled damp and earthy like a barn. It felt like a scene in a movie or like we should rent that place out for a shabby chic wedding. In the basement of the barn we set up food buffets. Out the rear door we laid out five or six eight foot tables end to end for long, family style dinner table. Barn swallows were swooping in and out this morning as we sat on the patio watching it rain.

The upper level of the barn is filled with old tables, chairs and all sorts of old farm equipment and supplies. It was dark and cozy up there. This morning, the kids nestled into chairs and under blankets up there watching movies, protected from the rain.

Brynn was in heaven and totally blissed out swimming and playing with her cousins, running around like crazy. It was so incredibly sunny and muggy yesterday we all melted. The kids had slip and slides and kitty pools to keep cool. Grown ups set up lawn chairs under an awning near the house. We sat in a circle around our OWN kitty pool with ice cold water from the hose piped in for soaking our feet. That, plus brewskies and bottles of water, was the perfect contrast to our sweaty sweaty skins. Picture at least 20 of us grown-ups.

The Johnsons always reminisce about how when the family got together when Justin’s generation were kids, the adults would just kick back and have fun and almost forget about the kids all together. The older cousins would keep tabs on the younger ones, and the pack of them would weave in and out of the grown-ups consciousness.  Whenever they reminisce like that you can feel their deep joy and pleasure in those memories. They’ve got a big family, five sisters and one brother, the brood of George and Lucile, who have truly raised the nicest and most well-adjusted group of people I know. I am so lucky to have married one of them.

To our dismay Sheldon’s had to “break camp” for Duluth around 8:00 pm because poor Gaius was sick. We still don’t know exactly what’s got him. They arrived back home at 1:00 am after the long night drive.

Other highlights: Janice and Jeff rented an RV which was a blast! They also got Brynn a fun dinosaur blow-up pool for her birthday which was a hoot. Caroline and Sean’s offer was accepted on their house. Jim and Vicki are expecting – due in November. Andrea and Greg couldn’t be there but there wedding is in October in Austin, TX.

Some of many favorite moments from the weekend:

  • Brynn in her neon striped bathing suit, belly sticking out, pale white skin, and face covered in red Popsicle.
  • Justin, 2:30 in the morning, shirtless, putting up the rain fly on our new, red, four-man coleman tent in the dark. I go out to join him, jumpy because of the lightening and my constant fear of summer storms. Snuggling once we’re back safely in the tent and realize the rain fly was on- right.
  • In the tent laying on my sleeping bag around 10:30. It’s before I fall asleep. It’s hot. I’m looking up at the night sky through the tent screen. The moon is a crescent. It is sparkling. The stars appear. Trees sway, insects buzz, I can hear the family laughing in the distance. Brynn and Justin are sleeping next to me. Realizing it’s us moving, not the moon. I watch it cross the sky.
  • Just before bed, traipsing between the tent and the car. From a distance, I watch as they release lanterns into the sky. They glow and float above the farm, into the night.