View from Big Birch Lake: A Pastoral

birch lake

I am a self-confessed and unapologetic spouter of Minnesota pride. Whether scanning a state-themed “Top Ten” clickbait countdown making the social media rounds, for a mention of anything Minnesota, or catching up with college friends who were born and raised in other Midwestern states, I cannot help but confidently crow about the virtues and possibilities of my home state.

But this pride is born of gratitude and admiration for a certain environment; I acknowledge my demographic privilege, but nevertheless find myself emboldened by a basic human appreciation for Minnesota's unique cultural and natural beauty. Let me share with you a brief moment of pride: No more than a mile from Sauk Centre, birthplace of controversial Modern novelist, Sinclair Lewis, this hastening, deceptively small town yields abruptly to hilly furrows hemmed by evergreen and leafy trees crowding the horizon. At this time of year the corn barely reaches six inches high. If you continue on Highway 28 or 17 not fifteen miles, Big Birch Lake expands south by southwest a few miles from downtown Grey Eagle, Minnesota. For the past ten years I have been fortunate to visit a family friend's cabin on a southern bay of Big Birch Lake. While scores of summer cabins and residences — some valued for millions — rim the shoreline, this cabin in particular, though not lacking in modern conveniences, maintains the humble wood frame feel as it has from its foundation. The lake flows record high this year; some docks are merely a surface strip of wood in the current, and there's not a single pebbly beach in sight. After dinner generous amounts of gin loosens our tongues and we talk late into the night, taking moments to listen to the drone of frogs in the woods behind and the loon song echoing from the moon silvered dark of the rippling water. These short bucolic images are not just an argument for Minnesota pride, but an appreciation of the beauty of our unique countryside. Granted, I romanticize: the current state of much of this beautiful landscape is a result of European agriculture centric settlement, and the sweat of countless hours maintains it. Yet for most there is no denying the sensory beauty that nature gives freely. To my fellow Minnesotans, take pride in our distinction. To our neighbors north, south, east, and west, I hope you may see this beautiful, expansive, and distinct state as more than a green or white patch from 40,000 feet.   Photo by: Ruth Petermeier        

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