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Boreal Community Media

SACRED PLACES: An essay from local author John A. Bragstad

May 09, 2023 09:27AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Wren Meinberg

By local author and writer John Bragstad for Boreal Community Media - May 9, 2023

The weather is on everybody’s minds these days, but we look 
forward to warm summer days, sometimes achingly. In 
anticipation of the glory of summer, perhaps a bit of distraction. 
To use some of the time we are given for reflection and to warm 
ourselves with memories from the past. Cheers! 

I knew at that moment that this was still, and always would be,
our place, too. No amount of surrounding changes would take it

The Years of the Forest  
Helen Hoover

In all of us, there are places we want to return to, if not in
actuality, in our dreams. It could be a farm, a lake cabin, a
childhood home, or a favorite campsite. For each person, these
are different.

I can think of several sites that, for me, hold meaning. A 
height-of-land a little west of the Grand Portage where we did
the traditional swish across the cheeks with cedar boughs to
christen us true voyageurs.

There was the special occasion of crossing a portage path in
Northern Saskatchewan where, to this day, I remember my son
and me stopping to try to discern what the rusted machinery
from bygone days must have done to produce timber.

There was the internment camp along the Mississippi River
where my seminary professor took us on a moonlight night in
October. He lit a candle there, and the whole place was
transformed and grooved into my memory.

And, for me, there was the farm in Jackson, Minnesota. I can still 
recall in detail grandma coming out the back door to feed Goldie, 
the mysteries of the back woods behind the house, and the 
fascinations lodged within the one-car garage. People driving up 
the lane still live in my memory.

Sites such as these are more than location and beauty. They
remain in our minds as places that bring us joy, that ground us.

It was reported that Don Larson, who pitched the only perfect
game for the New York Yankees, kept his focus on his family farm
while the whole world was going crazy with every pitch.

The word “sacred” has its roots in the Latin word “consecrate.”
To consecrate means “to make holy” or “to devote.” In its pre-
Christian use, the word holy meant “what must be preserved,
what cannot be transgressed or violated.” (Wordbook dictionary)

Places and people who live within cannot be transgressed in our
minds. We are gifted with indelible recall. They are (in a manner of
speaking) tattoos engraved on our spirit. Faces, celebrations, the
intimacy we once enjoyed, the knowledge of what made these
magical moments in our lives all reside within us. They can never

Here in the Canoe Country, we know it is more than the
wilderness that captures our attention, that holds our affection.
Particular campsites are occupied still by the friends we enjoyed
them with. They are haunted by memories, imbued with stories
unique only to ourselves.

This delicate web of particular lakes, campfires aglow on
singular nights within the laughter or quiet conversation, the
dance of remarkable fishing days returns us to these exceptional
sites again and again.

In a world like ours, it is vital to have places we can retreat to that
we can truly call our own. It is possible to become unmoored.
The adrenaline rush we feel can be confused with true and
honest living.

Sacred space, like metronomes, keep us steady and to the
point. They are an antidote to the stresses that perplex us. They
answer to our overload of work and responsibility. 

We consecrate such sites as these and hold them to our
memory. They warm us at night. They comfort us. They innervate
us with joy. While such locations may have changed, they do
beckon. Whether we answer their call may not be as crucial as
their siren song that will not let go.

They watch over us as we move about through our daily acts of

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

Related: Meet your Boreal Community Media Freelance Journalist: John Bragstad