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Snow Lotus

Exploring the Eternal Moment

Peter M. Leschak

Publication Year: 1996

A Native American proverb states that “yesterday is ashes, tomorrow is wood, only today does the fire burn brightly.” This series of essays, set in the north woods of Minnesota, is woven around the theme of the importance of being alive and aware in the present. Deeply rooted in the natural world, The Snow Lotus shares the philosophical and emotional insights author Peter M. Leschak has acquired from a life lived close to nature. Each chapter in The Snow Lotus revolves around a single moment, illuminating those instants that approach epiphany. Exploring the myriad interrelationships between the natural world he inhabits and his constant struggle for transcendence and self-awareness, the tales Leschak relates encompass both the humor and the pathos day-to-day life can acquire when lived consciously. Leschak peoples his essays with a colorful gallery of characters-his wife, Pam, his firefighting companions, his trusted dog, The Reverend. He recounts finding a still-warm deer bed early one autumn morning, taking a sauna with friends, seeing flying squirrels at his bird feeder. He tells of adventures while cross-county skiing, or hiking in the mountains of Mexico, evoking a strong sense of place, of the rhythm of small-town life, of long winters and brilliant night skies. Through his stories Leschak shares the wisdom he has gleaned from his personal “eternal moments,” arguing that for humans there is a path to eternity, a path that is thorny and steep but whose passage is in plain view if only we will see it. The Snow Lotus is one guide to that path. Excerpt: “The forest was snow-covered, and ethereally dazzling beneath the late-November moon. The fir trees were crystalline spires, and even stark shadows were brightened by reflected light. I looked down and saw two deer, ghostly in the lunar effulgence . . . They bolted into the woods-shades and silhouettes vanishing beneath the laden boughs of a balsam fir. I've witnessed countless deer at night, but all in the glare of headlights; I had never glimpsed them in moon glow, in their natural demeanor of phantoms.”

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix

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pp. xi

Thanks to Todd Orjala for helping to shape the manuscript, and to Kristine Vesley for helping with the fine-tuning. And thanks...

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Deer Beds: A Prologue

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pp. 1-4

The telephone jangled at 3:32 A.M. After thirteen years as a firefighter—being randomly paged at any and all hours—my conditioned response to such a nighttime call is amusing. I truly cannot move as fast when awake and in daylight. By the end of the first ring the quilt was off and my feet thumped the floor. I...

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The Snow Lotus

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pp. 5-10

It's a singular season, ripe with old scat, and The Reverend is attentive. The only time he'll allow me to surge past him on skis is when he pauses to vigorously sniff at the winter's accumulation of wolf droppings. I'm pleasantly surprised at how many there are. It's March 21st, and we have heard the local pack...

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Snow White and the Timberwolf

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pp. 11-18

If you slice an apple in half crosswise, the bisected seed pod will appear as a near-perfect five-pointed star, which is, traditionally, a symbol of immortality. In the proper setting— say, a party where wine has nudged the perceptions of the resident metaphysicians (and aren't we all?)—a demonstration can be dramatic...

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Blue Velvet Number Nine

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pp. 19-26

We understood that the black spruce planting site would punish us. The customary habitat of black spruce is wetland, and as Richard said when we first observed the site, "You know you're in trouble when you're planting trees next to marsh marigolds." With intermittent...

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The Cosmos and Lysistrata

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pp. 27-32

I blinked at a universe down in the bog. It was an early morning in late May, and the temperature had been near frost at dawn, about thirty-four degrees. A pregnant dew collapsed out of the ether, heavy as rainfall, and the labrador tea and leatherleaf were beaded and brilliant. Streaming from just over the spruce tops, sunlight glutted the bog, and I was dazzled...

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A Damn Idiot

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pp. 33-40

It was a wet summer in Idaho's Nez Perce National Forest, and the mountains were ripe with wildf lowers. In a meadow above Fish Creek I was cheered by flecks and clusters of color—red, yellow, blue, violet, orange—against a lush backdrop of multiple shades of green encompassed by a cloudspeckled sky. There...

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Washing the Sky to Amber

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pp. 41-50

One sizzling afternoon, as we hunkered down in "the black" next to a charred deadfall, The G-Man said, "Every day out here has at least one moment." I nodded, reckoning the slow hours of monotony and drudgery that are often the most formidable challenge of a wildfire crew. Contrary to vivid impressions offered by the media, boredom...

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The Guts of God

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pp. 51-58

"Tonight/' Loki assured me, "would be an ideal time to die." He's a hopeless liar, and merely a fleeting voice in my head, but in the wake of that stunning passage of the autumnal equinox, I agreed. In principle. Mercury and Jupiter had gleamed briefly on the orange stage of dusk, setting fortyfive minutes behind the sun. The diurnal solar death was gilded with the aroma...

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pp. 59-66

We figured out later that at the precise moment Pam was in the house talking about Alice, I was crushing her with the left rear wheel of my pickup truck. Pam was telling her colleague Maggie that we had to be careful when Alice, our eighteen-year-old cat, was outside, because she was nonchalant about vehicles and slow to avoid them. We had to deposit...

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The Awesome Triple-L

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pp. 67-78

I wrote a novel once, worked at it off-and-on for nine years. I finished it three times, with each incarnation longer and more complex than the last. A New York literary agent dubbed it "original," but I didn't let that go to my head. I knew she was employing original as a gentle euphemism for weird. As...

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Ditching the Future

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pp. 79-90

When I was thirteen years old, my brother David was seven and a half. Because of that age difference, we weren't buddies. The school system—omnipotent social arbiter—had established us six grades apart. Though most students are analogous by the time of graduation, or at least more alike than different, a...

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Nasty Business

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pp. 91-104

I'll call the victim Sulo, and if Neil and I had known his plan, we'd never have invited him into the sauna. I was helping Neil construct a boathouse out of cedar logs a few bright summers ago, and we worked hard at it all day. Neil lit his neighbor's sauna after lunch, and periodically stoked the firebox the rest of the afternoon. We anticipated a relaxing...

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Total Eclipse of the Clouds

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pp. 105-110

The illness punched me. I was stretched out in front of the woodstove, watching a video, and as I stood up, chills consumed me instantly. I shuddered, teeth chattering, and Pam stared from across the room. We were astounded by the sudden violence. My only warning had been a vague scratchiness at the...

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Blood Walk

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pp. 111-118

I walked twenty-five miles in a wet snowfall. The route was a labyrinthine trek through the streets of Mankato, Minnesota, a town I'd never seen before I stepped off the bus that morning. I was issued a crude map, but it was nearly useless, and soon smeared. I was at the mercy of small, handmade signs and arrows..

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The Magic Puck

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pp. 119-126

A few years ago I was offered a full-time job—with benefits. The hourly wage was decent and the work didn't sound onerous. It was income and security we certainly needed. Such offers—out of the blue—are rare. I turned it down immediately. Actually, I was surprised at the swiftness of my response. That must mean, I reasoned, that it was the correct decision. But there was...

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Tilting Round the Far Spruce

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pp. 127-132

Like an alchemist with his stone, I carried my skis to the edge of the bog that rings Secret Lake. It was January 28th, and if not for the trail I'd been tramping since early November, I would have wallowed past my knees in snow. "I went out to the hazel wood," wrote W. B. Yeats, "Because a fire was in my head." I went out onto the frozen lake because there was a glow in the east—moonrise. And because there...

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An Easy Winter

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pp. 133-156

It was a mild winter with little snow—an easy one—but I felt lucky to see the spring. Some didn't make it. We drove into that winter on December 1st, winding down the Stingy Lake Forest Road with the headlights off. A misting of snow had painted the gravel white and left the forest black. The snowfall vanished into the woods, settling delicately on leaf...

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Smoking Mountain

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pp. 157-162

When I came to I saw that Brute was still out cold, lying on his back in the volcanic ash. We were fortunate that this wasn't some hairy technical climb, where we were inching around rock outcrops or depending on handholds, because it was the second time in a half hour that we had both passed out. Our...

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pp. 163-166

Three years in a row I left home for the summer. I had a job with the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho, battling wildfires. My specific position was in "helitack," as a member of a helicopter crew. Our missions included initial attack on fires, medevacs, search and rescue, reconnaissance (visual and infrared), slinging cargo, and the support and retrieval of smokejumpers. It's...

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About the Author

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p. 167-167

PETER M. LESCHAK is a freelance writer who lives in northeastern Minnesota....

E-ISBN-13: 9780816687497
E-ISBN-10: 0816687498
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816628209

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 1996

Edition: First edition

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Subject Headings

  • Minnesota -- Description and travel.
  • Natural history -- Minnesota.
  • Leschak, Peter M., 1951-.
  • Minnesota -- Social life and customs.
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