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Greg Koelker


“Go out and walk. That is the glory of life.” Maira Kalman

In his classic piece about living, Thoreau said, “... I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived... I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” living life to the fullest. In “Walden,” Henry David Thoreau reminds us that being able to stroll though the world helps connect us with our “essential wildness, that spring of spiritual vitality” that has been dried up by our sedentary civilization. “When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall?” Good point unless a blizzard or ice storm have chased us inside.

Last week, mountain man Mark was here from California spending time with his mom and me. On Friday, the three of us and Scout got out for a walk on Proksch Coulee Road for the first time in a long time — for Ellen since at least September. Mark has gone for walks up our icy and muddy ridge road, slipping and sliding down the Grouse Hollow Path on the way back. I have walked outside a couple times when the road was dry enough. Anyway, it was grand to see my darling girl thrill in just the act of being out on a walk. On the way toward home, with the wind at our backs, she suddenly stopped, spread her arms, and cried, “This is wonderful!”

On Saturday, with 50 degrees on the thermometer, Ellen, Mark and her sisters Lori and Barb went out for a stroll, braving a bit of a sharp wind, they were back in soon. Again, they all loved it. Scout joined them, too.

Ellen walks in the house, in and out of the clinic, and during therapy sessions at the clinic. We have a great treadmill, loaned to us by our friend Rox, that works well, but it is not the same as walking outside. Being able to get around outside adds a new quality, a new dimension to Ellen’s recovery. We know we still have a long way to go but with the temps rising, we’ll get there faster, I hope.

When she can go mushroom hunting, I have hopes that El will be able to chase down some morels in a couple of months. Using her sharp eyes and walking stick to fill a bag with the fabulous fungi has always been one of her favorite things to do. She doesn’t eat them, though, I do.

The owls are still at it. The full moon last week brought out the best and worst in some of us. Scout wanted to to bark all night long, chasing away ghosts, varmints and prowlers — real or imagined. There were other dogs barking somewhere and coyotes, and even turkeys disturbed by something. At the risk of ruining your day with the image, I have to tell that I went out in my robe and Crocs in the middle of the night to yell at Scout. I felt so bad afterward, I had to sit up and read for an hour to get tired again. I am not proud of it, but it worked, and we all got some sleep, Scout included.

We saw last week that the Mississippi River is opening up north of Genoa. The best thing we saw is that each wide pool of deep blue held hundreds of duck, geese, swans and other water birds. My buddy Vince called to say, “You’re welcome,” the other day. He was on the ice and not catching anything and he had not called me to go. The ice in the backwaters will be getting funky pretty soon I fear. If you haven’t already done it, your permanent ice shanty was supposed to be removed from Wisconsin/Minnesota boundary waters March 1.

Until next time, get out — there will be a meeting of concerned Vernon County citizens regarding maintaining the high quality of water in our area on March 14 at the American Legion in Viroqua at 6 p.m. Finally, go for a walk outside if and when you can. Walking outside is so much much more energizing than walking on a treadmill with headphones on, watching “Deadpool” or “Big Bang Theory.” Oh, yeah, I heard and then saw my first robin, too. Enjoy.



Greg and his wife Ellen Koelker are retired and live on Grouse Hollow Farm near Stoddard. He is chairman of the Vernon County Chapter of Wisconsin Conservation Congress.

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