Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spring's high water mark?

Today is a beautiful early Spring day. Unfortunately, we're midway through Spring. That won't keep us from enjoying it though. While we were doing some errands, I noticed a couple of flower beds of dandelions or crocuses in full bloom. Where they were located appeared to be exposed to the sun all day. Our travels took us down through northern Washington County. The boat launches on the St. Croix were partly to mostly full, although the river is still more than bank full, as you can see at the "old" Stillwater lift bridge.

St. Croix River at Stillwater
St. Croix River at Stillwater      © harrington

On our way back north, we stopped at a historic overlook. In all the years I've lived in this area, I don't recall ever doing that kind of "touristy" thing. It's an interesting location for taking some photos of the "river town."

Stillwater from up river                   © harrington

One of the books I'm currently reading is North Woods River. I grew up in Boston and the surrounding area, where local history is as pervasive as it is ubiquitous. Here in Minnesota we seem to be satisfied with historic plaques and waysides.

Northern Limit of Lake St. Croix plaque
Northern Limit of Lake St. Croix plaque    © harrington

It seems to me that those of us who want to promote bioregionalism and local foods and the local economy are missing an opportunity by not putting more emphasis on local history as part of the local emphasis, including more attention being paid to the history that was part of the culture before the arrival of European culture. Next Saturday, May 10, is an event (registration full) put on by the Minnesota Humanities Center:
Dakota in the Twin Cities ... local sites of significance to Dakota people, learning about them from the Dakota perspective. As you experience these places, you will challenge assumptions made about Dakota history and identity and gain a deeper understanding of the significance of places like Pilot Knob, Wakan Tipi, and Mounds Park to this land’s first people.
I wonder what it would take to organize something like that for the St. Croix Valley, which is full of Native American history, or if Louise Erdrich might want to help?

I Was Sleeping Where the Black Oaks Move

By Louise Erdrich 

We watched from the house
as the river grew, helpless
and terrible in its unfamiliar body.   
Wrestling everything into it,
the water wrapped around trees
until their life-hold was broken.
They went down, one by one,
and the river dragged off their covering.

Nests of the herons, roots washed to bones,   
snags of soaked bark on the shoreline:   
a whole forest pulled through the teeth   
of the spillway. Trees surfacing
singly, where the river poured off
into arteries for fields below the reservation.

When at last it was over, the long removal,   
they had all become the same dry wood.   
We walked among them, the branches   
whitening in the raw sun.
Above us drifted herons,
alone, hoarse-voiced, broken,
settling their beaks among the hollows.
Grandpa said, These are the ghosts of the tree people   

moving among us, unable to take their rest.

Sometimes now, we dream our way back to the heron dance.   
Their long wings are bending the air   
into circles through which they fall.   
They rise again in shifting wheels.   
How long must we live in the broken figures   
their necks make, narrowing the sky.

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