East of Ely - Why you don’t mess with Ely

The other night I posted a sunset picture of downtown Ely on a social website and the response left me speechless. At first glance, the locals who responded typified the residents of any upper Midwestern city. Yet such enthusiasm seemed atypical when you consider that it occurred on the last night of April after a month-long, drag-out fight with the unrelenting beast of winter.
This response also revealed the points of view from two distinct generations: those who grew up during the mining era and those born after.
To paraphrase one of the area’s original characters, there was none of that “kwitchurbeliakin’” response between the generations, as folks revealed an appreciation for the past and current resident’s lives.
In fact, many responders had no time to dwell on the past, but chose to use the post as a forum to discuss a more pressing issue: Ice Out.


From the miscellaneous drawer - by Anne Swenson

Dylan Thomas, in his plea to his aging father, wrote: “Rage, Rage against the dying of the light...”
And that is what I was going to write about this week. But Tuesday, after work, I phoned an old friend and we chattered about her life, her husband and the active, meaningful work she is still doing after 65.
And that evening, I phoned an even older, long-time friend I hadn’t heard from in a while. In her 70s, she too is still working and actively engaged in the management of a Chicago-based firm. We had a lot to talk about - our jobs, friends, families and future.
This is not the world in which we grew up. Would a nuclear disaster, a war, change things? Is that what our world was based upon long ago?
I don’t know.
New statistics are startling - 66 million more men in the world than women? Are there more people on earth than earth can sustain?
And from there the questions become even more revealing for the contemporary world.


East of Ely - About my two pet snowmobiles

Now that the local thermometers have begun to thaw, my oddball mind has decided to focus on a time when I was the proud owner of two snowmobiles. I was never much of an authority on snow machines, but I cared for mine with unusual fondness. Each machine was unique among the range of models developed over time, and designed with a specific purpose, one had speed and the other versatility.
The first snowmobile I owned was a sprinter, a black and gray Yamaha Exciter built in 1978. I’d often tried to imagine how a Japanese piano manufacturer could evolve into a maker of fast snowmobiles, yet with 56 hp the thought was jostled out of me as soon as I pulled the starter cord and revved up its 440 engine, reaching breakneck speeds of forty-five miles-an-hour plus. Yet the one thing that Yamaha never got right was starting in extreme cold, and for that I carried plenty of Liquid Fire® and Heet®.


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.


East of Ely - 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.


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