Mother Nature delivered some very entertaining shows this week. The northern lights have made several appearances and a couple of times were nothing short of spectacular. There have been some amazing thunderheads drifting around the area too. I was at Moguls Grill and Tap Room in Lutsen this week when a spectacular thunderhead developed out over Lake Superior at Tofte. From Moguls' mountain vantage point, the towering storm was magnificently lit by the setting sun. As if that wasn't enough, huge webs of lightning played over and through the clouds. For more than an hour, a large group of people sat outside, oohing, aahing and applauding, as if they were at a light show or fireworks display. In between all this, blue skies and warm temperatures have put everyone in a sunny summer state of mind.
In addition to the natural light shows, here at Sawbill we were treated to an impromptu show by two canoeists who are professional fire performers. Eddy Wilbers and Star Williams, both from Minneapolis, make a good part of their living by twirling and juggling burning objects while dancing and doing acrobatics. The night before they started their wilderness canoe trip, they offered the Sawbill crew a short sample of their skills around the campfire with the stars shining overhead. We all sat open-mouthed and amazed as they juggled burning objects and set their own bodies on fire, including spewing great long flaming jets from their mouths. Lest that makes them sound reckless, let me assure you that they take safety very seriously. Eddy did say that he does get burned sometimes, but only small blisters that heal in a day or two.
Congratulations to some folks with West End connections who won the Lake Superior Binational Program’s ninth annual Environmental Stewardship Award. Lise Abazs, Jan Karon, and Mary Doch accepted the award on behalf of WaterLegacy, a grassroots non-profit that has as its mission protecting Minnesota's water resources from environmental degradation and supporting the human and ecological communities that depend on clean water for their well being. They are, of course, particularly concerned with the new mining proposals in northeastern Minnesota, that want to mine precious metals from ore that contains sulfides. Similar mines have led to disastrous pollution all around the world. You can learn more about their work at WaterLegacy.org.
My life and business partner, Cindy Hansen, just returned from her annual canoe trip with some other lovely ladies from Lutsen and Tofte. This year, they chose to paddle the international border from Moose Lake in Ely to Saganaga Lake at the end of the Gunflint Trail. On one lake, they spotted an eagle in the distance that was flying short gliding circuits from a tree on the shore. When they got closer, they realized that it was an adult eagle demonstrating beginning flight techniques to a fledgling chick. The chick was protesting and copping an attitude like all teenagers do from time to time. As they watched, though, the chick took the plunge and unsteadily glided out over the lake and back to the tree. The parent flew alongside and chirped encouragement to the youngster. All the ladies on the trip are moms who have seen their own chicks leave the nest, so they could all relate to the tender and terrifying scene that they had the privilege to witness.
Peter Harris, who lives in Little Marais and has worked at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center for many years, told me that Wolf Ridge is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. There will be a celebration in Duluth on September 28 that will, among other things, feature founder Jack Picotta and the stories he has about the early years. They will also be holding a staff reunion on September 29 and 30 this year. Peter asked me to announce the dates in the hope that any former staff who listen to this program will mark their calendars and plan to attend. There are quite a few former Wolf Ridge staff that have settled in the area and the reunion should be great fun for them. I've played my guitar at quite a few square dances at Wolf Ridge over the years, but I don't think it qualifies me as a staff member.
I can't believe that I missed the West End Garden Show that was held last week. My dad, who used to do this commentary and the weekly newspaper column for years before that, never missed announcing the annual garden show and reporting on the activities. By all accounts, it was another successful year for the show and I am resolved to cover it thoroughly next year.
Speaking of flowers, the Schroeder community, under the capable leadership of Jim Norvel, and with many other volunteers, has done a major renovation of the Father Baraga's Cross memorial. On Saturday, July 28, starting at 9 am, volunteers are needed to place the plantings that are the finishing touch on the renovation. Lunch will be provided. Call Jim at 663-7838 for details.