From the miscellaneous drawer - by Anne Swenson

ON BURNTSIDE LAKE in the late 1940s, this 50-something couple came to visit their daughter Dee who was working at Camp Widjiwagan. It was the start of a long and happy connection to the area.


Trout Whisperer - Little knife soup

Little knife soup
Sunshine is out the west door, and it’s the only door on the cabin, so today that door is wide open. I can see those warm golden rays shinning a bright white light off the melting snow.
The scene warms my heart.
He is sitting in his rocking chair, she is in the small kitchen making a pot of chicken wild rice soup. They’re both listening to the stereo. For those old enough to know what one is, or to even own something like that these days, is rare. As rare as one Doc Watson song after another, and they’re both in this little log-walled snug room.
The space is warm. I pull up a chair, we make our polites. In a moment I have a mug of tea. She doesn’t offer me milk, she knows I take it strictly as tea. To her man, a dash of milk is ladled in and handed to him.
They smile at each other.


East of Ely - Antifreeze for the Soul

Maple syrup tapping comes late to Northeast Minnesota, but the sap flows as well as it does in New England. I partook in this annual gathering over the years that I lived along Lake Superior, loving every minute despite long hours of jug tending and fueling the everlasting fire that distilled sap water in an old tub into dark golden syrup.
This ritual bridged the gap between late winter and early spring with friends and family, beginning each day as the sun cast its first light and heat that pumped the forest to life with drum rolls from mating woodpeckers knocking their brains out.
Little did we realize how our syrup making ritual was tied into an adaptation that enabled these hardwoods to survive the harsh winter of the northwoods.


The ultimate family heirloom

According to the website, nearly 14 million households, say the reason they’re not planning to move ever is because they plan to pass down their home to a family member.
Whereas in the past, it might be some fond memento passed down as an heirloom, increasingly now it is the family home.
I understand. Although the Antiques Roadshow is still one of my favorite television programs, it is easy to see that values of antiques have changed dramatically from 15-20 years ago.
Even now, when an appraiser of some object says it has a value in the thousands, it would be difficult to sell it that high in the Midwest, even in area auction houses or on eBay. Those big bucks must come from appraiser connections out East if at all.
The problem is: old things just aren’t valued currently even though they may be better crafted, sturdier and more attractive than contemporary objects.


Native son: Let’s talk some more

AUTOGRAPHS – There is an unwritten protocol about how to get autographs from celebrities. Running up to these talented people furiously waving your autograph book or a piece of paper in their face is not good manners.
How do they know you aren’t trying to hurt them? The safest and sanest way would be to write them a letter in care of the theater where they are performing and ask them to kindly send you an autographed picture. The downside to this is how will you know if the signature is that of the celebrity or their secretary or assistant.
If you are trying to get an autograph from a Broadway star in person don’t wait at the stage door BEFORE the performance. Celebrities want to start focusing on their role. They want to get to their dressing room as quickly as possible to turn themselves into the character they are playing on the stage. There is also the makeup and costume fitting to be done.


From the miscellaneous drawer - by Anne Swenson

I had occasion this week to reflect on my world and the people within it.
Like you, my life isn’t perfect. I’ve watched my friends suffer, watching their loved ones die. I’ve said goodbye to many myself.
And back when this was turning into a new millennium, so much changed in my life. In one brief year so much happened, so much beyond my ken occurred that I could no longer cry. Weeping became that which might cloud my visage, but never erupt in its fullest.
That was a hard time, steeling me to continue on with life.
And that’s what I have continued ever since.
There has been no separation from life ever since then and I have learned to survive.
I emerged from my 82nd birthday this week with some pleasure and joy. To share a meal with Megan, Nick and Mary was one. To hear from old friends, Sharon, Judy and Sue was another. To share lunch with Claire, Barb and Emily was another.


The strange story why Ely, Minnesota isn’t in Canada

The northeast region of the future State of Minnesota became part of the newly formed United States because of a horse trader’s opportunity to take advantage of an empire’s conceit. This happened during the negotiations concluding the Revolutionary War in Paris, France in 1783, when the horse trader, Benjamin Franklin became aware that the map used by the British had an error.


Friday at 13°, then +40? From the miscellaneous drawer

What is cold? For someone living in Washington DC, it’s 36 below on January 31 in Ely.
For a fellow thinking of retiring to Ely from Chicago, he wonders. “My immediate question concerns ‘25 miles East of Ely.’ This description appeared again yesterday on the Chicago Tribune’s Weather Center page which daily cites the warmest and coldest spots in the U.S. I don’t recall the Ely area ever being cited as the warmest spot, although I could have missed it, but ‘25 miles East of Ely’ has been cited (frequently) as being the coldest including yesterday’s paper, which cited -16.
“Exactly where is this garden spot, and when it’s -16 there, how cold is it in Ely proper? It seems its getting a little late in the season for these temperatures. Or is it that I am not Ely-Tough and should drop my relocation plans? Either way I will see you in August, when the mosquito population is down. I think I just answered my own toughness question.”


How Samuel Ely raised the bar as Ely’s namesake

In 1857, the first Northern Michigan iron mine was built near Marquette around a pig iron smelter named the “Pioneer Furnace.” Rather than naming the mine after some old European city, one of the mine’s founders insisted that it be named by a local council of native Ojibwe. This was a little unusual for the Industrial Age in the U.S. at the time, but the mine chairman had been raised in Iroquois country, a region where people had respect for the tribe’s democratic way of life.


East of Ely - Rolling with the rock of ages

My life can be divided into two parts, the first where I looked to the ground, and the second where I looked up through tree limbs toward the sky. The second half was spurred by my love of birds, while the first had its foundation in rock.
No surprise I was so focused on looking down since I started life with my childhood eyes much closer to the ground.
My grandparents had a cabin in eastern Ontario, where most of the rocks I found had been blasted along the roadsides, exposing minerals that looked like solid gold to a young boy. I had no idea then that the earth beneath my feet was comprised of a solid mass of magmatic rock that stretched from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Ocean. All I knew at my young age was that the ground had a feel that was oddly comforting.
My family moved to the Midwest where a vast underlayment of limestone called “Karst” formed when ancient oceans covered the plains.


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