Friday’s Weekend Column
Why Live in the Northland?

by James Glaser
January 14, 2005

The Weatherman claims we will be in the -40s by morning, it has been snowing off and on all week, and every so often that wind starts to howl. So, I ask myself this question every year, what the heck am I doing up here again this winter? Our "snowbirds' headed down to Florida, Texas, and Arizona weeks ago. A few of the hardy ones stay until after Christmas, but most are gone before the ground gets hard.

For several years Charmaine and I went down to Casa Grande, Arizona for the winter and we thought we would just lay around the pool and go out and explore the desert. We did that and after two weeks we were so bored we thought we would go nuts. So, what did we do, we went out and got jobs. We drove almost 2,000 miles, rented an apartment, set up housekeeping and started working five or six days a week. What fun.

Well really it was fun except for a few things like CRIME and Gun Fire. Down in Arizona you have to lock your car, when you go in to pay for your gas or somebody will rip you off. Don't leave anything in your pickup bed or it will be gone. I found a nice piece of dead cactus out in the desert and brought it back to show Charmaine and she had lunch ready and so I ate that before I remembered the cactus and we went out to look, and it was gone.

Up here in the Northland you hear gun fire during hunting season and sometimes people target shoot. In Casa Grande, not in the woods or out in the desert, but right in town we heard gun shots often. I asked the apartment manager what the deal was and who was doing all the shooting and she pointed west and said it was coming from the Section 8 housing area.

Back home we didn't even lock our door when we left.

Yes, there are a lot of pluses for going down south in the winter, but when you do leave here you miss the best season that Minnesota has to offer. True it is cold and there are times like now that the cold does get down right bitter, but there are so many reasons to stay that I doubt if I will ever be enticed to leave for a whole winter again.

Now I am in the land of solitude. If you ever really want to know yourself, spend a winter in woods of northern Minnesota, with no television, no newspaper, no internet, and let the forest entertain you and it is like you stepped back in time to a 150 years ago. Sure you have transportation, but it doesn't take long before you are staying home by choice.

You get into a routine of getting up before the sun and spending every hour of light doing something. To really get the true effect of living up here it is best to have wood heat and gas lights. I did that for a few years and loved every minute of it, but having kids made me move closer to town, which was good too because it was another set of challenges.

Right now it is 12:35 pm and the sun is blinding. The light hits the snow on the deck and bounces up on the ceiling and fills the whole house with a brightness that electrical lights can never give you.

One thing that is a real plus about living up here is the fact that no matter what happens, you have your neighbors ready to pitch in and help if there is a need. You might not see or speak to someone for a year, but you need help and they will come to your rescue and you would do the same for them, because that is just they way it is up here.

That gives you a place in the community. If you don't really like someone, you can always use this line to describe them if someone asks what they are like, "well if you ever needed help, they would be the first one there."

You have to remember if you move up here that everyone is either related to or old school mates of, every one who lives here. So it is best to be positive when talking about anyone.

Here is another reason of why it is so nice to be up here. The school. It isn't just a school where the kids go to learn. It is the focus of our future. Everyone knows every teacher, even if you no longer have children in school. Sport games, band concerts, and plays are attended by many. If there is a big funeral, like when Dale Panchot was killed in Iraq, the school shuts down and the community uses the gym for the services.

At our next VFW meeting, two high school students will be giving us speeches as they are in a state wide speaking contest and the teacher said they need practice in front of groups and we are happy to do that. Somebody does well at State and the whole community is proud. Sports or academics, it doesn't matter.

Living up here can be a time of quiet and solitude. It is pretty easy to let people know that you like to be left alone and your neighbors will respect that. They will still come to help and if need be they will ask you to help, but they won't bug you about social functions.

Over the years, everyone's child is watched as they grow up. You see them when they are little kids and you go to their wedding and you encourage them all the way through. It is nothing to see teenagers talking to adults about anything, the weather, current events, or maybe politics. "Our" kids are well informed and yes, if you need their help, the teenager will help as often as his or her parent.

So I guess I answered my own question. I live here in the winter, because it is my home and my community and I am a part of it and that makes me feel good. Good about life and good about me. What more could you ask for?

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