About the time I started thinking about the editor’s note for this issue, my wife and I went up north for a weekend with my cousin and her husband who have a place in Sawyer County, near Exeland where my grandparents lived during Prohibition. Family lore has it that my grandfather was a bootlegger in those days, but I’d only been up there myself a handful of times. We hiked the land, through several types of forest, swamps, and marshland, identifying plants and mushrooms with an app on a phone. We kicked up quail, saw deer, snakes, a bald eagle, and the largest snapping turtle I’ve seen since I left Louisiana. On our way to lunch at the Get Hooked Bar, we saw a white birch growing out of a vacant storefront in Radisson, nature reclaiming the land.
We took the boat out on the Chippewa Flowage, one of the state’s largest inland lakes, created in the early 1920s when the Wisconsin-Minnesota Light and Power Company built a dam on the Upper Chippewa River despite strong opposition from the Lac Courte Oreilles people who had long been living there. The beauty of the flowage belies its history. There are over two hundred islands in the flowage, and we saw one, a floating bog the size of a football field dotted with trees, that had come loose from the shore last spring and blown across the lake to where it threatened to block a bridge and the entrance to a small resort. We watched time-lapse drone footage of a flotilla of 20 or so local fishing boats and pontoon boats pushing the island side by side, churning the water and slowly moving the huge floating piece of wayward turf away from the bridge. It was amusing with the time lapse, and oddly disconcerting.
It’s a long drive up north for us for just a weekend, but as always, we were glad we went. The wildlife and the beauty of the natural world alone were worth the trip but in the end, it was also about strengthening our connections with the friends and family that support and sustain us. As this issue came together, I began to notice the connections within and between these stories and it got me thinking about how often relationships and accomplishment come from spending time together with people in the physical world. This seems almost so obvious as to go without saying, and yet it’s clear that at this point in time, we need stories to remind us of the importance of those connections. I invite you to spend some time with the people and ideas in the pages that follow, and see what connections you find.