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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Speaking of New Year’s resolutions...

Kathleen McQuillan
Posted 1/10/24

It is the beginning of a new year. I just turned off my radio after the top of the hour’s morning news. I try to keep abreast of what’s happening in the big world out there without …

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Speaking of New Year’s resolutions...


It is the beginning of a new year. I just turned off my radio after the top of the hour’s morning news. I try to keep abreast of what’s happening in the big world out there without becoming too discouraged. It’s amazing how little things seem to change from day to day. But I know that what I hear is but a tiny slice of reality. I’ve lived in my simple cabin near the end of this gravel road for several years now, shielded from much of the chaos engulfing so many fellow inhabitants of Planet Earth. Here, I’m sheltered from the worst of the storm. I know that I am very fortunate.
This is an unusually quiet early Sunday morning. Absent today is the nearly constant din of highway noise that emanates from the paved highway a mile away. After decades of intensive marketing, our state tourism department has succeeded in enticing more and more urban dwellers to partake in the natural beauty of Minnesota’s northern lakes and forests. I, like many who live here, have worked hard to accept the inevitable changes brought by the influx. All that aside, it’s a good day for a walk.
My boots scuff along the gravel road, muffled by the season’s first skiff of snow. A single set of tire tracks mar the surface, laid down sometime overnight when the snow began to fall. Further along, I notice some faint rabbit tracks near a popular deer crossing. Today, however, there are only signs of one small deer — strange for this place where deer tracks would frequently be mixed with those of a mink or weasel, a fisher or wolves’ — just some of the woodland creatures that also live here in the boreal forest. But all that has changed.
Not far from this crossing, I stop to glance beyond the beefy padlocked steel gate erected this past summer by a group of hunters. They purchased their property at the same time that two other hunting parties bought adjacent acreage. After forty years as the sole residents along this two-mile road, the presence of strangers camped across from my driveway has been a jarring experience. I’ve lost my privacy and the freedom to walk upon the hundreds of acres that surround me. These three parcels went up for auction and sold quickly, leaving little time to adjust.
Come September, the armed cadres descended upon the territory in search of wild game. First grouse, then goose, then bear, then deer. Arriving every weekend and then, once November arrived, every day. By the amount of shooting, I imagined the terror for every creature that moved. Even I no longer felt safe.
“Adjust,” I’d silently chant to myself in an effort to calm my nerves. “Accept that this is their way of enjoying their little piece of paradise.” Then my inner voice would bark right back. “But, it’s not my way!” Accepting change is difficult.
Now it’s January. They’ve wrapped up their camp and returned home. I can put all that behind me and indulge in the soothing sound of wind breathing through the Norway pine and the faint whisper from under a raven’s wings as he flies overhead. With time, I begin to hear the deepening of my own breath as I hike the hill, carved long before my time here by torrents of snowmelt and spring rains surging through the creek bed. At the top of the hill, I pause to catch my breath. I sigh. All is not lost.
We’re already moving toward the halfway mark of January 2024. Despite so much that’s changing in the neighborhood, and in the world, I want to be hopeful. Even if it’s challenging and sometimes overwhelming. I want to be open to the future and face it with optimism and courage. When the problems of the day seem too complex and the path forward blurred or dim, I want to stand with those who are shining a bright light.
I want to experience excitement for the start of a new year and joyful anticipation for the things yet to be discovered. I want to be strong and brave as we set goals and overcome the barriers that stand in the way of reaching them. I want to be an inspiration and a source of wisdom whenever possible for the next generation taking hold of life’s baton. I want to face the future with resolve.
No one is saying that the year 2024 will be easy. In fact, signs suggest we may be entering one of the most critical periods in human history. Our mettle is sure to be tested.
If our ancestors could ring our phones, they might assure us that we will get through this if we pull together and hold fast to the core principles that guided human beings before us through their darkest of times. Acceptance, Respect, Cooperation, Honesty, Fairness, Patience, Perseverance, Understanding and Gratitude are just a few principle values that can sustain our hope and vision. They’re worth a moment of serious reflection. If our children and grandchildren could find the words, they might tell us that we have no choice but to stay hopeful. They might beg us to tackle the tough stuff first, and act quickly and decisively for their protection and best interests before it’s too late. Just imagine.
I pause on the road and take a long look around. The trees are covered in hoarfrost. The frozen creek catches rays from the rising sun. Everything sparkles. The beauty is breathtaking. I am filled with awe, thankful to be alive, convinced in this moment that there just is no other way to be.