The Badger Community Heritage Wall – How a Public Art Project Tells the True Story of One Rural Community

(Published in the October 3, 2017 issue of the Warroad Pioneer)

A century from now, our descendants will travel the widened yet familiar section of Highway 11 that runs at a diagonal from Lake of the Woods to the North Dakota border. When they reach the small but thriving community of Badger, someone in the vehicle will inevitably say, “Watch for the Wall!”, and as their vehicle slows, all eyes will strain towards a small green space a block beyond the highway. What they watch for is eye-catching even on a gray day, when the light through the clouds still plays with the colorful hundred-year old glass shards, thousands and thousands of them, painstakingly cut, set and cared for over the years by loving fingers that have long since returned to the Earth.

It’s a very likely scenario and one that artist Sherri Kruger says she prays for. “Forever. I pray that it lasts forever,” she said, when asked about the possible longevity of her creation. Said creation is her brainchild, but in its short lifespan to date, the project as a whole has become much more than just “hers.” Continue reading “The Badger Community Heritage Wall – How a Public Art Project Tells the True Story of One Rural Community”

Life’s Greatest Truth and Hardest Lesson

Column 2: Published in the May 26 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

The walleye season is upon us. And simultaneously, our lovely Slow Season here at the Angle comes to a close. Resort owners may not label it “lovely”, as they toil with cabin and dock repair, lengthy spring cleaning check lists and “no money coming in,” as one of the long-timers so succinctly (and rather grumpily) summed it up.

But certainly, if you’re all about the money you don’t live at the Angle. I know I’m not the only one who lets out a long, full-bodied sigh when everything quiets down. The land itself seems to sigh in transition as the world either makes ice or melts it. During the off-season, I can walk the gravel roads for miles not encountering a single vehicle. If I do, it’s another local who either waves vigorously or stops for chitchat about what’s keeping us both busy and if the weather is cooperating with said plans.

The silence and solitude that many of us chased all the way to the Angle is so much more with us during these lulls. Nature seems louder. Our breath goes deeper. And a weary gratitude bonds neighbors while we work at the same tasks at the same time.

But with the change from slow to busy, winter to spring, ice to mud, also comes an energy that reinvigorates the whole soul of this place. We get to show off our home. People travel from near and far to visit Lake of the Woods, to catch fish, and to be at the Angle. Those few who choose to make a permanent home here, where everyday life is decidedly less convenient than most elsewhere, are stewards of the place. We are the welcomers, the accomodaters, and even if we’re not business owners – I’m not – who eek out a living by catering to visitors, we each do still get to cater to visitors.

“Get to.” Key words. It feels like a new and exciting privilege every time I answer questions about the Angle, every time I give someone simple directions or tell the story of how I ended up here. Some two decades ago during my ignoble and prideful 20’s, I often visited my family here, and whenever I encountered those who made this their home, I judged them so harshly. I couldn’t fathom that it was a choice. They must all be stuck. They must be uneducated. They must not know what I know of the wordly world.

Ha! I can only shake my head.

I see now that I’m barely scratching the surface of learning what they’ve known all along. Everything is a choice. Of course it is. Paraphrasing the words of author Matthew Kelly the fact that everything is a choice is life’s greatest truth and hardest lesson. It’s a great truth because it reminds us of our power, the untapped power to be ourselves and to live the life we have imagined. It’s a hard lesson, because it causes us to realize that we have chosen the life we are living right now. That can be frightening if we don’t like what we see, but also liberating because we can now begin to choose consciously.

It seems easier somehow to make conscious choices when I’m walking barefoot on a worn trail through the woods or in the black earth of our garden or on the smooth clay that our gravel roads become after the busy season’s traffic. And so I try to choose joy in the short list of things that keep me busy. I laugh and wrestle both with my 2-year old and with my patience. I make natural home and body products to feel better about our chemical-laden world. I create art of some sort, any sort, at all times; the latest is jewelry from deer antlers. (Try this when you’re in a sullen mood sometime. Not the deer antlers per se, but anything, just sit down and start creating as if there is no wrong way to do it.)  I also help a couple of resorts with spring cleaning. And in a week or so, it’s time to start planting the garden and planning Angle Days.

Keeping busy isn’t the choice I’m making, but it is a happy byproduct of having many options that bring joy. What are the choices you surround yourself with?

Next time you’re at the Angle, let me show you what I make out of moose poop.