Friday, August 5, 2016

Cooler weather brings resilience #phenology

If I knew for sure who it was up in Minnesota's Northwest Angle that left open the door to cool, dry Canadian air, I'd drive up there and thank him, her, or them. Today feels as if last week's Gunflint Trail weather finally caught up with us. Maybe, if I'd driven South a little slower, it could have drafted behind me and would have arrived sooner. Does the phrase "good sleepin' weather" ring a bell?

a new day dawning for Minnesota's North Country?
a new day dawning for Minnesota's North Country?
Photo by J. Harrington

The change in the weather foretells the impending arrival of the best three months of the year, as far as I'm concerned. September, October and November usually are cool, but not cold. We get tastes of snow that doesn't stay long and the flaming leaves and Autumnal flowers change the entire character of the landscapes. Unfortunately, right now along the roadsides and other disturbed areas of our piece of sand plain, Sandbur fruits have ripened. Yesterday and today, dog walks have left me with one on a jeans leg, and another one today on a suede shoe. Time to put a pair of needlenose pliers in my hip pocket to be ready to pull burs from between dog's paw pads. Sigh!

Minnesota's canoe country
Minnesota's canoe country
Photo by J. Harrington

Let's hope the skies will be clear overnight so we can watch for the Perseid meteor shower that peaks in a week or so. I've managed to startle myself the past two mornings by spotting flashing navigation lights of far-away planes moving rapidly among the stars. Other than more sumac leaves turning color, that's about it for now. With little more to report from the immediate neighborhood, let me take this opportunity to suggest, if you have rural places that you care about, that you take a peek at some fine work that's been done recently by a crew of undergraduates at Macalester College. They worked "to find ways this region [Minnesota's Iron Range] could become more economically diverse, resilient, and less reliant on extractive industries." The strategies they propose, with some adjustments, could and would benefit not only the Range, but the Red River valley, Superior's North Shore, from Grand Portage to Grand Marais south to Duluth, and any rural area that's losing population and want's to turn it around.

The Resilient Iron Range offers a regional framework that much of greater Minnesota would be wise to consider and act on. Region's may well be the city-states of the 21st century. Regional collaboration is a major key to successful economic development and environmental protection. (Yes, we can and must have both.) I certainly hope the IRRRB, the Downstream Business Coalition, and some leaders at UMN Duluth, among others, pick up this ball and run with it. (Full disclosure: the Better Half is an alumna of Macalester and I spent a couple of decades working on community and economic development in Minnesota.)

North Star


In Hanko, Finland
a young woman boards
the vessel in the Baltic
for a ship across the Atlantic.
The North Star shines in the sky.
She's carrying in her valise
a change of clothes
a packet of seeds
and the sauna dipper.
Distance pours between constellations
between English words on her tongue
through storms and sun.
In New York City, she buys
a one way ticket
boards the train going
across the continent
arrives on an inland sea.
The winter ground underfoot
is familiar with frost
as she transfers to a northbound
along the Vermilion Trail
in Minnesota.
Ahead of her waits a man
a house to be built
and a fire that burns it down.
Ahead, eleven children
to bear, a few she must bury,
the cows in the barn
needing to be milked.
Unbroken ground only hers to till.
Above her, the North Star
inside the aurora borealis, northern
banners waving welcome —  


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