Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Mountain of Gratitude: Thanksgiving on the North Shore

Thanksgiving is close. You can always tell the nearness of this holiday by the cold weather, the flurries of snow, the grocery store ads for cranberries, and by the endless Facebook posts about thankfulness.

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                                                                                                                        someecards

Yeah, you know who I’m talking about. It’s probably you! And, in all honesty, it should probably be me too. Sure, some of these posts make you roll your eyes, but it can’t really hurt to make an extra effort to give thanks. While I’m a little late to the gratitude party, I decided to compile a list of my own.

What I discovered was that a lot of the things I’m thankful for correlate with the North Shore.

For starters, I’m thankful for family. Holidays are particularly tough for me since my mom passed away. Our family had the smallest house, but for some reason we were always the hosts for get-togethers. That tradition dissolved with my mother’s health unfortunately. But the simple fact that it is Thanksgiving reminds me of family I haven’t seen in a long while, and seems to bring them closer even though (with the exception of my cousin, Wally, and his family) are all at least 5 hours away. Seeing Wally was always my personal favorite part of Thanksgiving, and now I’m practically his neighbor. I wish I could see the rest of the fam as much as I see him now, but I’m grateful for their understanding. When I moved to the North Shore there was a lot of people that thought I was nuts, and have lost touch with me over the years. But not my dad and grandma. They understood how good of an opportunity this was for me. And adventure. And though they miss me (and are missed dearly in return) I’m thankful for their trust. And the occasional baked good via the US Postal Service. :)

I’m also very thankful to be able to say I’m a published author. No matter what happens to me tomorrow, next week, or 50 years from now, I can say that I fulfilled one of my major goals in life. I suppose a certain amount of thanks is due to North Star Press for trusting in a quirky wizard story set in the 80s, but a lot of thanks is due to this area as well. As I said in an interview, I instantly fell in love with the North Shore when I moved here. I suddenly wanted everything I ever wrote to be set in this surreal, magical place. Inspiring? Yes. But also serene. Peaceful. QUIET. I started and failed many projects living down in the Cities. In the five years after college, I had nothing to show for it, book-wise. Yet my first full summer on the Shore, I was able to hash out the skeleton of Coming of Mage, and spent the following year fleshing it out for publication. Proof’s in the pudding, as they say.

And, as hectic as it can be sometimes, I’m thankful to have a job. A job that allows flexibility to write, a job that has given me the chance to prove my skills in many areas outside of just bringing food to someone’s table, a job that allows me to mingle with people on vacation–and maybe help me feel like I’m a little on vacation myself, even when I’m on the clock. I’m thankful for my shift on Thanksgiving, where I’ll get to recapture some of that feeling of get-togetherness with many families. I’m thankful that my shift ends when most retail folks’ shifts begin. I’m thankful the trend of “Black Thursday” hasn’t bled to the North Shore, and that folk up here have no problem hanging “Closed” signs to spend a day with family.

Speaking of my shift, I’m thankful that I’ll get to take part in the epic feast at Moguls–and that Wild Game Meatloaf is going to be included in the spread. I love ya, Turkey, but you ain’t got nothin’ on buffalo, elk, and beef wrapped in bacon and smothered with mushroom gravy. (Okay, easy, everybody–of course there’s going to be turkey too.)

I’m thankful I won’t be stuck in traffic this holiday season. Or any season. For me, traffic is a thing of the past. Do you know what it’s like to go to work and rarely see a car on your commute? I only have one stoplight to worry about…and miles and miles of mountainside views and lakeside vistas. Now that’s something to be grateful for.

And lastly, I’m thankful for snow. Yes, I said it. I’m shocked enough to hear myself say it. But snow in Lutsen means skiing and snowboarding. To be honest, I’ve never once been on a slope, but even I realize skiing and ‘boarding is the lifeblood of this area. People will flock to this area this winter and I will serve them drinks, make them happy, and they’ll fill my pockets with their gratitude. It’s a long draught between summer and ski seasons and all of my friends up here rely on the dutiful adrenaline junkies that we see this time of year. So, thank you, Snow, for cresting those runs with fresh powder and breathing some life into my little world up here. Maybe I’ll even strap on a snowboard this winter to show my appreciation.

Maybe.

I could go on and on and will for the rest of the day….to myself. I’ll spare you all the nostalgic niceties I’ve kept bottled up all year. But, long story short, Thanksgiving is more than Turkey (or Meatloaf) and stuffing. It’s more than how close you live to your loved ones, or how far. It’s more than the sweet deal you’re going to get on that flatscreen TV at 3 in the morning.

Thanksgiving is remembering why you get to have these things, and who–or where–to thank for it all.

What are your Thanksgiving plans? Got some wild traditions to share?

- Mikel

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Remember, Remember the Gales of November

“Time sure flies” and all the rest that follows the cliched adage. But it certainly does fly, doesn’t it? Especially this time of year. My favorite time of all. That precious rent in the fabric of reality that is the week between Halloween and my birthday.  How lucky I am that each year my favorite holiday kicks off a one-week lead-up to my second favorite holiday.

Surprisingly, this was the first time since moving to the North Shore, that I was actually here for my birthday. I usually spend it road-tripping, returning to civilization for a few nights to remind all my family and friends that I’m still alive in the savage wild of the North Woods.

I get to live in the hub of tranquility and peace, and my dad thinks I’m the wildly brave lumberjack type. It’s sort of cute in a way.

Either way, I’ve always been curious what the Shore could offer me as a birthday gift (as if it could offer more than it’s given already). Halloween was awesome–we actually got Trick-or-Treaters. Like 10. That’s probably all the kids in town, right? Still, it was a thrill, bringing me back to the fond memories of the small town I grew up in, handing out candy at my grandparents’ house.

Best Halloween yet.

After that, I resolved to spend my actual birthday at Moguls, where my new family–my coworkers–would be, either for work or for play. I, of course, was there for the ‘play’ option.

And play I did.

While my birthday did bring out a few friends, the place was packed with the locals of Lutsen. I could tell you they were there for me, but, in actuality, it was the monthly Mug Club meeting. Convenient, no?

There was food and drink….and drink, and drink, and drink. I definitely underestimated the, er….generosity of the locals when it came to buying a fellow a birthday pint. That generosity, coupled with the Club’s complimentary “Birthday Das Boot“–which is exactly what you think it is–meant that I was royally…not parched.

It was a grand time. Or so I’ve been told.

In fact, it was so grand it made history! Okay, my birthday didn’t make history, per se, but the day itself did. November 7th was the kickoff of a bold, new tradition here on the North Shore: the Lake Superior Storm Festival.

You heard me. A new festival. Is there anything better? The Storm Festival celebrates the infamous Gales of November, the wild winds that stir up Lake Superior this time of year, which led to both the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald and all those awesome photos you see of waves crashing up over lighthouses and roadways. For years, these winds have brought intrepid stormchasers to the North Shore, inspiring art and battening hatches.

And the Gales are no joke. It’s like someone flips a cosmic switch at midnight on Halloween and triggers the angriest waters Superior has ever drudged up. Icy whiteheads crash against the rocks of the shore, unleashing their fury at being awakened after a summer of sleep.

See? I told you: it inspires art.

And now it has its own festival. A weekend-long celebration, complete with a ‘polar plunge’ into Superior, themed radio programming, and ‘Boreal Cyclone Pie’ crafted by the masters at The Pie Place–which I can assure you was devoured to the last crumb, as my friend and I discovered the next day when we tried to buy a slice. Perhaps next year I can find out what’s in it.

Is it another excuse for a festival? Maybe. But when have Minnesotans ever needed an excuse for a festival?

Maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s a badge of courage. Leave it to the North Star State to celebrate the brisk baby cousin of a hurricane, right? But that’s what so great about it. Instead of whining about the chill in the air, we grab it by the horns, wrestle it to the ground, and make a coat out of it. One we wear proudly.

Have you ever been up to the Shore this time of year? What do you remember most?

- Mikel

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