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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