Tag Archives: minnesota

Vote YES For The Outdoors

As you might have heard, after nine years of debate, the Minnesota Legislature finally passed a bill on Valentine’s Day to put a question on the ballot this November asking voters to permanently fund conservation and the arts. I have addressed the issue before, in two posts last year regarding whether or not funding for the arts should be included with the conservation funding. That issue is moot now, as the bill does include both causes.

Unfortunately, a recent survey found that only 32 percent of Minnesotans approved of the amendment and 64 percent said it was a bad idea. That doesn’t leave many undecideds. Which means there is a steep hill to climb for those who would like to leave a legacy of unspoiled woods and waters for future generations.

My small contribution to that effort is this bumper sticker:

Vote YES For The Outdoors bumper sticker

You can slap one on your car for a mere $6.00. Thanks to Sam for designing that spiffy checkbox. And thanks to the National Park Service for making so many of their map symbols available as a downloadable font.

Yes, it only addresses half of the purpose of the amendment, flat-out ignoring the arts, but for now I feel like it’s best to keep the message simple. I haven’t quite figured out who’s in charge of the fight to pass the amendment, but once I do, all proceeds will be donated to that group.


Unbelievable is the first and only word that seems to come to my mind and the minds of many others today. It’s all we’ve been able to say. Unbelievable.

We mourn the tragic loss of life. A freakish way to go, and probably preventable. But it seems like the focus on fatalities — from the first chaotic press conference at 9 p.m. last night through the newspaper headlines this morning — is a diversion, in a sense. What we all really lost was a sense of confidence that goes when something you take for granted fails you in a big way. Unbelievable.

As Senator Amy Klobuchar said more than once this morning, “A bridge in America should not just fall down.”

I was with a bunch of friends last night and most of us spent a lot of time on our cell phones with people around the Twin Cities, talking when we could get through, otherwise doing a lot of text messaging. Checking with everyone we knew to make sure they weren’t hurt or worse. Of course, everyone was fine. The probability that we knew someone affected in these cities of 2 million is extremely low, but the point was that we have all driven over that bridge more times than we can count. And then it just fell down. Unbelievable.

It was amazing that less than two hours after it happened, the news had quite literally spread around the globe. The sad counterpart to that fact is that by next week, this will be old news. As fast as information disseminates in this day and age, our attention spans dwindle and dwindle to almost nothing.

In the next couple weeks I think Rosie and I will have to get down there where we can see it with our own eyes. I’ve seen hundreds of photos now, but, no, I still just can’t believe it.

[tags]bridge collapse, I-35W, minneapolis[/tags]

St. Croix Postcard II

St. Croix Postcard II

The Arcola High Bridge was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1977. Experts have called this bridge the most spectacular multi-span steel arch bridge in the world. Others compare the magnificent steel work to that of Eiffel’s creations in France. Despite the history and national listing, this amazing bridge is all but unknown in the Twin Cities area, and it virtually impossible to get a glimpse of the structure without trespassing or taking to the water.

~ The Bridges And Structures Of The Major Rivers Of Minneapolis And St. Paul

You say “fundamental,” I say “essential”

A little reading round-up this Tuesday morning. The last of three posts. 

Minneapolis Star Tribune outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson’s column from yesterday once again dealt with the touchy subject of dedicated conservation funding and whether or not it should be tied to dedicated funding for the arts in the state. Anderson raised my ire a couple months ago with some vitriolic comments about those who would combine the two in one proposed constitutional amendment. Since then, I’ve read him warily, but he won me back to some extent by going fly fishing on the Kinnickinnic with his friend Skip James, who is apparently not only a heck of an angler but also the keyboardist for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Anderson wisely chose to ask James, who is involved in both the arts and conservation, what he thought about the matter. James had an eloquent response:

“I think there are a lot of people who like to say musicians and artists are one kind of people, and outdoors people are another type, and that the two don’t have similar goals.

“I don’t think so. I think everyone who lives here is aware of the quality of life we have in Minnesota and Wisconsin. And the only thing that is going to keep life desirable here, and fun, is reliable, stable funding.”

Art in its many forms, Skip said he believes, is fundamental to human existence, whether at the Guthrie or Ordway, or in a grade-school play. Fundamental as well, he said, is the right to a clean environment.

“I read where, beginning in August, it might be illegal to smoke in public places,” he said. “Why isn’t it also the case that, beginning in August, it’s illegal to pollute rivers, and that thereafter everyone has a reasonable chance of enjoying a well-kept state park 20 years from now — or to have the experience of being exposed to, and participate in, the arts?

“These are community assets, and the community has to have ownership in them if they are to survive. And ownership can’t occur unless people are exposed to these things. Where I grew up on the East Coast, there’s no place to fish trout anymore. Streams that aren’t polluted are owned by a few rich people. Who’s the government going to ask to help sustain these resources? There’s no one. No one feels they have ownership, because they haven’t been involved.”

Amen. And a big “thank you” to Anderson for printing those words and being willing to look past the labels and stereotypes to study this difficult issue in the depth that is needed.

A Call

It is a good thing to be surprised. Be it someone appearing when you least expect it (i.e. when Rosie and I traded surprise visits to each other during our long-distance college days… I’ll never forget walking into the coffee shop in Madison as she swept up after closing, without looking up she said, “Sir, we’re closed.” I stood there, not knowing what to do, she finally looked up and seemed to rub her eyes to make sense of it).

We went to visit our friend Katie’s partner Philip in Red Wing on Saturday. He’s going to school down there to learn how to build and repair acoustic guitars and the such. The night before Katie had driven down from Minneapolis and had been talking to him on the phone while she drove and he was at the laundromat. He thought she was still a ways away and when she walked in and tried to kiss him while he was talking on the phone to her and looking the other way, he apparently nearly jumped out of his skin.

On Saturday, after wandering around quaint downtown Red Wing, as I reached my cute shop tolerance, we mercifully headed a ways out of town to the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Arts. It’s a cool-looking old place situated right on Highway 61. I’ve driven by it a bunch of times before, but never knew what it was, or even that it was open to the public. It is surrounded by a brick wall that gave the impression of secrecy, that perhaps only heightened my curiosity.

But it is most certainly open to the public. It is a sprawling compound of buildings surrounding a beautiful old brick water tower. In a huge field that goes from the buildings to the edge of the bluff where the land drops to the Mississippi River below, there is a sculpture park filled with eccentric creations. Similar pieces are scattered around the grounds.

There was a sense of freedom to the place. It was okay that we didn’t enter through the main entrance right away. We wandered around the back of the main building where a giant hoist had sculpture pieces in mid-construction suspended. A long-unused basketball hoop surrounded by giant scraps of copper. A yellow lab greeted us, let us pet her briefly, then went back to her sentinel position atop a hummock where she could see the door into the kitchen.

Outside the main entrance stood a piece of sculpture about five feet high. It was different shapes of ceramic stacked into disjoined columns. I said that I liked it because it had color. All the pieces were painted vibrantly. Color is far too rare in most of the modern sculpture I see.

When we finally got inside, I was blown away. The main building serves as a gallery and a studio for artists-in-residence. The front room contained a clock that was unlike anything I had ever seen. I can’t, I won’t try to describe it, except to say that it was made entirely of hickory and the lines were perfect and beautiful. Everything happened gracefully and slowly, just as times is wont to do. I studied it for a long time. Anyone have $7,400 I could borrow?

The breadth of the art that was displayed in that building was breathtaking. Though all mediums and styles were represented, there seemed to be a consistent vibrancy and whimsy, and none of the artists seemed to be afraid of bright, bold colors.

In a room in the basement was the permanent collection. Here, there were several Picassos, a de Kooning and a Warhol, amongst others. The artists I hadn’t heard of were all innovative and displayed a high, but unpretentious, aesthetic.

For one reason or another, pottery seems to be a big thing at Anderson. There were several galleries and studios. One of them, Angela Foley, had a wonderful artist statement on a printed piece of paper on a shelf by her work. I wish I could remember it better now, because she briefly described her aesthetics and the traditions she saw herself as working in, but then moved on to talking about calling and passion and the importance of pursuing what she was good at, and what was good for her.

I’m not a potter or a painter of a sculptor. I don’t know what I am. I write. But, the Anderson Center was a very timely surprise. It got me thinking about my own priorities and the things I choose to do and the things I should be doing. How we all are born with some calling, whether or not it is obvious to us or the people we are close to. I realized that my own calling isn’t hard for me to understand.

Before we left, we climbed up into the tower. Seventy-six steps winding around the inside of the tower brought us to a small circular room with a table and chairs in the middle and an observation deck going around the outside. On a shelf in the room was a paperback dictionary and there was a fan and a heater. I imagined the artists and writers who come here to work for two or four weeks coming up to watch the sun rise over the valley from this room, thinking about their calling, which they hopefully get the chance to really pursue while staying at the center.

A calling is a question, we are all born with one (or two or three or more). It is a question, the answer to which is what I believe are supposed to spend our lives trying to answer.

Arctic Skies

ColdAs a coworker of mine just packed up to head home for the day, I noticed her knee length wool coat with the thick, furry collar. I said to her, “That looks like a warm coat.”

She paused, then said, “It is… but it’s still Minnesota.” She laughed, pulled on her gloves, and left for the day.

No amount of warm clothes seem to be able to keep us warm this week. Winter arrived with a real cold snap. It was about zero degrees when I came to work this morning, it’s 15 degrees right now. It will get colder this winter, but the first arrival of such frigid air is always a shock to the system. I won’t deny I’m looking forward to forecasted highs in the 30s this weekend.

Sadly, there is no snow on the ground. As I stood on the curb last night, waiting for the dog to do her business, I lamented the fact. I wish we had snow, but for the past several winters, dry, dead grass in the middle of winter blankets the ground far more often than does fresh snow. Every season, the hope that winter will be a series of blizzards like I remember (if slightly exaggerated) from my childhood lessens a little.

Huddled inside my coat last night, hat pulled low and scarf pulled high, I realized the hope was still there, and it would be until I no longer could even remember the sight of the big snow banks along the street after the plows came through, of feet of snow on the driveway, of the woods in that soft purity of winter.

* Edit: I know a lot of Minnesotans who consider talking about the weather one of their primary hobbies. But I enjoy what Randy has to say more than most (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a meteorologist!). He just posted up his own thoughts on the cold weather and his hopes for a snowy winter.