As I speak, the parking lot here at Sawbill is empty for the first time since May 16. Every year, I think there will be a car or two left over after the season, but miraculously, they all disappear when the lakes start to freeze.
It makes sense to me that our culture has evolved the holiday that celebrates spookiness at this time of year. The woods are very eerie right now. With the leaves fully down, the forest is a collage of vertical grey lines, leading the eye up to an implacable leaden overcast sky.
Even the loons have turned a dull grey. They seem to float lower in the water this time of year, rarely diving, and trading their wild summer laughter for tiny, muted hoots. I guess they’re conserving energy for their upcoming marathon migration flight to the Gulf of Mexico.
The strangest part of being in the woods now is the sound - or the lack thereof. The wind through the bare branches takes on a shrill and brittle moaning note. If the wind isn’t blowing, there is complete and utter silence, punctuated only by the occasional report from a chick-a-dee or blue jay. And just when you think you’re all alone, you hear the wolves howling in the distance or the grunt of a rutting moose, to remind you that the wheel of life is turning, even as the edge of the snow blanket inexorably creeps toward us from the north.
Once we get past All Hallows Eve, it’s time to celebrate the storms of November and the clear, crisp, brilliant winter days that are just over the horizon. The Cook County Visitors Bureau has declared Nov. 7 through 9 the second annual Lake Superior Storm Festival. There are many fun events scheduled, but the one you really don’t want to miss is the “wave dash” at Lutsen Resort Saturday, Nov. 8. At high noon, you can join with a large group of other crazy - I mean courageous -people sprinting into the welcoming bosom of Lake Superior to enjoy a brief swim. This invigorating event is a fundraiser for the Lutsen Fire Department. By the way, if you don’t see me there by noon, please feel free to start without me.
I was dismayed to see that the Northwoods Cafe, a community institution in Silver Bay, was closed. Luckily, the closure is only temporary while new owners extensively remodel and update the popular gathering spot.
The new restaurant will be called the Northwoods Family Grille and will feature award-winning hamburgers and barbeque, along with other American food classics and all day breakfast. Online ordering and take-out services will be available.
Congratulations to the new owners, Floyd Baker, Jessica Moen-Baker, Everette Haselow and Anne Haselow. They expect to open their doors in mid-November. Once they open, I encourage all West Enders to show their support by eating there frequently.
This radio station, WTIP, is a miracle in our community. WTIP is our community. The proof is that nearly every time you turn it on, you hear the voice of a friend and neighbor. More often than not, they are volunteers, just like me.
Recently, I got my hair cut in a small town outside of Cook County. The barber had his radio tuned to an ordinary commercial radio station. I was appalled to hear a nearly continuous stream of vitriolic political attack ads. These ads are paid for by people and organizations that don’t live anywhere near here - with interests that have little or no connection to our community. Personally, I harbor bipartisan resentment toward all attack ads.
In contrast, WTIP’s contribution to the political season has been thoughtful, in-depth candidate forums with questions directly from the voters. This reflects the dignity and importance of our democracy and demonstrates the mutual respect that allows a community to flourish in a way that is fair to all.
Last, but not least, I wonder which child listening to WTIP now will be inspired to become the next Bob Dylan, the next Jim Oberstar or the next Martin Luther King. Or maybe they will be inspired to become a city councilor, or a great teacher, or an informed and effective citizen.
Please join me in supporting this vital community asset.
(Photo courtesy of Visit Cook County)