It’s a humbling experience to just begin to discover the place where I have lived for summer after summer. Working and living just on the edge of the extensive lake country of the BWCA, my first experiences in this place overflowed with frantic preparing, organizing, and recovering from wilderness trips. It took a change of both the seasons and a paradigm to begin to connect to the Northwoods as a place, not just as a stepping stone to other adventures.
The boreal forest has an underrated yet intricate ecosystem which develops under the wise guidance of mostly the nonliving elements of the environment. The rocks and water do not breathe, grow, or propagate themselves, yet they are dynamic community members. Their placement, shape, slope and meeting drives the incredible variety of landscape and possibilities.
I understand this place first through the water- its wide expanse absorbing energies and spreading them smooth, just as surface ripples eventually fading into flat. The water searches for the lowest point, flowing in rivers, filling up deep glacial tracks and shallow bogs. The water might be clear and cold, in deep and wide lakes; or murky and full of life within a bog; spreading feather crystals of frost on sub-zero windows; thick cross-sections of ice sitting next to sauna-dipping holes; clouds waving across the sky; or most of all the heavy weight of deep snow, drooping branches and masking the landscape. As the bringer and creator of life, water does not only command our respect, but our curiosity and awe in its many and unimaginable states.
Some may scorn Minnesota as topographically intriguing, but they have yet to spend a day hiking behind the lakes. Fins of granite stretch through the woods, hidden under a blanket of pines and firs and birches, but solid and surprising with cliffs and overviews. These rocky ridges also hide the forest ancients, ignored by loggers and developers, hinting at what could have been in our forests. Their arms expand above mossy, clear understory, inspiring names like the Enchanted Forest.
These undying elements are the basis for my endless adventures and discovery.