Katya Gordon for the Lake County News-Chronicle
Is anything sacred anymore? So many "sacred cows" – beliefs or customs considered sacred, though truly we'd be better off without them – have been tossed out like weeds since, say, Puritan times.
With Thanksgiving season upon us, I decided it was time to generate a list of gratitudes.
Garbage. Ew! Who wants to talk about that?
I hear an argument often regarding fossil fuels. It goes like this: “How can you talk about fossil fuels? You drive a car; you heat your house; you wear synthetic fibers; you use plastic bags.” I understand the principle behind this sentiment. Just as Gary Forsman commented in a New York Times article around copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters: “Everything, if it’s not grown, is mined. It all comes from somewhere.”
Here's a piece of news for you: Lake Superior is not officially the clearest Great Lake anymore. The full story illustrates how dramatically things are changing around the Great Lakes Region. For starters, Lake Superior's clarity is dropping, particularly in shallower waters and along shorelines. Every time there is a hefty rainfall — this summer and fall, there have been several rain events of 2 inches or more at various points along the shore — bays and river mouths swirl with brown sediment and debris.
The year is 1991. I am fresh out of college, and have taken a job that will get kids into the woods. I drive from my hometown near Philadelphia to an outdoor camp north of Ely. I have never been north of Chicago. The first night, the entire staff goes swimming in a lake that is connected to the Boundary Waters. The water is clear, cold and unbelievably refreshing. Nobody worries about having the perfect bathing suit or the perfect body. Within hours, a day or two at most, I feel like I have come home.
Many of us are noticing this year's warm, wet September. "Everything smells!" "We have mushrooms in our yard!" "How can it be so lush in September?" "The fall colors would feel much more normal if the temperature was 20 degrees lower." "Mom — kids were fainting in the heat at the cross country meet!" Friends of ours found such thick spiny water fleas at the mouth of the Knife River that it showed up on their fishfinder and clogged their fishing lines.
Usually I make sure this column is not too heavy, too gloomy, or too alarmist. Life does need to be lived, and laughed, and loved, whatever the circumstances around us. But today we will look hard at the facts and see where they take us.
In mid-August, Lake Superior surface water temperatures around Two Harbors hovered in the mid-60s. I know, because I swim in the waves almost every day, usually for 10-20 minutes. Before I go in, I take a thermometer and hold it in the waves at my feet. Then I know what I am getting into.
"Good morning, you're listening to KTWH 99.5 FM, Two Harbors Community Radio." I chanted those words happily. I was sitting in the studio on a Friday morning, returning to my morning show after a two-month hiatus. Will I still remember what to say? What's going on in Two Harbors anyway, other than gorgeous sunny days, weekend traffic and band concerts?