Craig Nagel, columnist
Last month we took our granddaughter Grace down to the Guthrie Theater to see their 43rd annual production of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." On the way down we explained to Grace that the last time we'd been to the Guthrie was decades ago, when it was located next to the Walker Art Center, and that it had since been demolished and replaced by a new structure near the river. "We've heard the new building is pretty cool, but we've never been in it," we said. "We hope you like it."
Not long ago, while talking on the phone with an old friend who runs a bookstore in Minneapolis, the subject of "hygge" came up. "What's that?" I asked. "I never heard of it before." "I'm told it's a Danish word," said my friend. "I think it's pronounced either 'hig-guh' or 'hoo-guh,' and it has something to do with simple pleasures. All I know for sure is that I've sold several different books in the past few weeks with "hygge" in the title. It's really getting popular."
The basement of the house I spent my boyhood in was not a large one. Since Mom and Dad had added onto what had been a summer cottage, only the area beneath the addition was excavated. The dimensions of this space were approximately 16 by 20 feet; barely enough to house the furnace, Mom's wringer washing machine and laundry tubs, a sump pump, the water pump and a little workshop.
As we stand on the threshold of Thanksgiving and prepare to celebrate the bounty of another year, I herewith offer a list of things for which I'm grateful and urge you, dear reader, to compile a list of your own. 1. I am grateful to be alive. 2. I'm grateful to be in good health. (But even if I weren't, I think I'd still be glad to be alive.) I appreciate the opportunity to cultivate and to purchase and to eat nutritious food to support good health.
On a recent road trip out to Washington State and British Columbia, I found myself astonished by the beauty and variety of our continent. Not that this insight is anything new. My wife grew up near Seattle, and through the years we've driven or flown out there several times. We've also enjoyed visiting the San Juan Islands, the beautiful town of Victoria, B.C., and the world-class city of Vancouver. But this trip nailed home the fact that North America itself is a very special place, and those of us who live in it should consider ourselves very fortunate.
While talking with an old friend last week, we came to the shared conclusion that those of us who came of age in the aftermath of World War II have a great deal to be thankful for. Yes, there were subterranean forces at work that no doubt distorted and damaged our psyches, and kept us from complete flowering. No era is exempt from imperfection. But taken in the main, we decided that the years directly following the war provided a better-than-average backdrop against which to live out one's childhood and to prepare for maturity.
For many centuries people the world over have been fascinated with the great rock ruins called Stonehenge. Built of mammoth slabs of sarsen, a stone much harder than flint, and smaller blocks of bluestone, Stonehenge consists of a series of concentric rings of pillars and holes surrounding several "station" stones that enable one to predict with amazing accuracy the important phases of the sun and moon. In essence, Stonehenge is an astronomical computer, albeit a rather heavy one. It no doubt also served as a sacred place of worship and celebration.
Some folks collect Vikings paraphernalia. Others gather old oil cans or vintage recipes or movie posters. I have a fondness for quotes and would like to share some with you, dear reader. I hope you'll find them interesting. "Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get." - Dale Carnegie "Faith which does not doubt is dead faith." - Miguel de Unamuno, philosopher and writer (1864-1936) "To profess to be doing God's will is a form of megalomania." - Joseph Prescott, aphorist (1913-2001)
We've lived in these parts, my wife and I, for some 52 years, north of Pine River for a decade, since then east of Pequot Lakes. When we started living here, neither of us knew much about surviving in the great north woods. OK, we knew a little bit. We knew it got cold in the winter - much colder than either of us was accustomed to. Claire'd grown up near Seattle, I near Chicago. Northern winters, for us, were the stuff of legend. Adventure! Excitement! Challenge! And, as it turned out - Pain!
A few weeks ago, my wife purchased a book by Jim Gilbert titled "Minnesota Nature Notes." According to the blurb on the back cover, Gilbert has been observing the changing Minnesota seasons for more than 30 years, and has done it "with the accuracy of a trained biologist and the rapt attention of a poet." Having established a network of friends in all corners of the state to help him keep track of nature's progress, Gilbert then made it his business to share these observations on his weekly WCCO Radio call-in program, and eventually collect them together into this book.