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Boreal Community Media

“I GO UP TO THE NORTH TO FEEL SMALL” - an essay by local Cook County author John A. Bragstad

Mar 15, 2023 10:40AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Khamkéo Vilaysing 

Author: John Bragstad - Boreal Community Media - March 15, 2023

HEY HEARTY FOLK! Life in the hinterlands in the depths of winter,  still even this week. But the Light is Advancing. Hooray! A tribute to the northern spirit and a chosen way of life!  

There are wild horses out on the lake today, what Sigurd Olson called the curling fog arising from Superior and inland lakes on days when the water is much warmer than the air. 

The night sky is dusted with stars that reach beyond what is visible in the South. There are many feet of snow up on the Gunflint Trail tonight. 

It is enlivening to live in a place where wild things still happen, where mettle is tested, where we are not domesticated. While we have all the conveniences here that make life enjoyable and easier, we face the elements on a different scale. 

The snow-clad hills above our town are a testament to the interior where things are written larger. Here is the country of the wolf, fox,  moose, lynx. Here is the land of the long silences that imbue the BWCAW with only one aspect of its grandeur. 

In modern times we have lost this primal connection to the land and,  with it, a sense of humility about life. We form it, shape it, design existence to our specifications. 

To be genuinely humble, to feel small, is not something in life we routinely experience. Perhaps the closest we come is when a blizzard sweeps down from Canada, and we are caught on frozen highways.  There are things we cannot control. We stand mute in their path. 

Here we are reminded that we are but a small part of life. The wild horses continue to run with the waves. The brooding clouds on the horizon will only move once they are ready.
The banshee snowflakes in my headlights, moving east on Highway  61, care little for a reason I went to town. It is humbling for me to know I cannot outrun them. 

From my first book:  
Compass Season 

About the author

John A. Bragstad has been a therapist, working with couples and individuals, for 25 years. He is self-published and is enjoying retirement. Lake Superior is just off his front porch.

He has written three books: Compass Season, Loon Laughter at Midnight, and Who's Watching Whoo? They are available in Grand Marais at Drury Lane and Lake Superior Trading Post, or at
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here