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The Gales of November

FOR ANYONE going through the sometimes choppy waters of change. Hope you enjoy it! John

“The land had been well named. It was the weather breeder of Canada. From it came powerful winds and unpredictable storms, all the more vicious because of their suddenness.”

Sigurd F. Olson, The Lonely Land

This is November, a time famous for gales sweeping down from Canada or across from Michigan and Wisconsin. Our skies are grey and surly. There is plenty of wintry weather on the march.

Lakes of the BWCA can be wild and raucous. Gunflint Lake is one of those. The hills surrounding it funnel the wind and catch anyone in an ambush who isn’t paying attention.

Lake Superior is even more dramatic. Some pictures show waves launched against the cliffs near Tettegouche; the mist carries thirty feet or more up the rock faces. The spray touches even the pines set along the ridge.

At one of the shops in Grand Marais, there is a painting of fishermen, their boats crouched in a rock-strewn cove, guarding against the open water of the Big Lake. They wrestle with long delays and boredom. They make do with conversation. But that day, the sea wins.

Another watercolor shows a fisherman’s boat lifted almost out of the water. The man in the bow has an oar buried deep in the wave’s crest. In the back, another crouches with his hand on the tiller.

Everything depends on this dance between forward movement and balance. Too much turned to the wind, and the boat will capsize. It is a contest, met not once, but with each rushing comber.

Life here, on the open sea, can be raw and sometimes unforgiving. There is no “bench” to put into the game. Nature knows of no time-outs or rest breaks.

These same calculations are not only “out there” on Lake Superior. We choose to travel, and the snow dances in our headlights. Weather predictions are for inches before the day is through.

Do we set out anyway? Do we decide our willpower is enough to make it to our destination? And at what peril?

And what of not going, of letting snow drifts paralyze us from ever leaving the driveway? Sometimes, we can lose heart the longer we stare.

The winds of November remind us that there is a time for caution, a time for movement, a time for letting go of all our expectations of what we think should be, of what should work.

It is a time when life deserves our respect, when sometimes we must humbly tread as we consider what we will need for the long, irrepressible winter that lies ahead.

Adapted from “The Gales of November,”

Compass Season by John Bragstad

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Judith Vallance
Judith Vallance
Nov 10, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Always love your development of a line of thought John. I really do reflect more in the winter and appreciate the timely break from the routine of summer here on the farm. Living in the moment can be a safe place to be - you are aware of the present. Take care.

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