Up and Away Geography

Harry Drabik

Similar in ways to taking a vacation at a get-away location, moving is a more permanent change of living situation. I suspect a good many of us have one time or another attempted a switcheroo in what is often termed a geographical escape. My runaway attempts have always been balked by the inescapable reality that a change of setting doesn’t correspond to a change in me. I’m the same person. In the long term happiness cannot be run to or problems run from. Things tend to catch up. And in general I’ve never changed as much as the surrounding scenery, Crowds and quirky drivers are as annoying to me in Germany as they were in Grand Portage. But, a switch of scene is none the less useful. If no else it can make returning home feel welcome and relieving.

I questioned myself before making the move from Shore to Range. Was I only fooling myself, a deed personal history has shown to be remarkably easy at times? Wanting something to be true, desiring to believe is the substance of many lives and much human activity. Believing ALIENS will come get you it’s possible (as has happened) to die of hypothermia while waiting for the saucer to pluck you from the shores of Gunflint Lake. A capacity for committed belief is a touchingly human quality with potential benefits great is its dangerous pitfalls. Without belief or faith in some type of future it would be difficult for the species to be as loving or as lethal as we have shown ability to be.

Having decided on and then making the move, it took me a while to simply get familiar again with the scenery around me. This was, for me, considerably more daunting in the 360 world of the Range. Many might disagree, but I found living on the Shore to be a 270 world because that entire 90 degree arc was essentially off limits almost as if it didn’t exist at all. Lake Superior is a large wet area of water too cold for swimming. Much of the time it’s dark as well. Superior day, night, day, night wasn’t all that interesting. Near the border I’d enjoy seeing the slanting layers of Grand Portage slate or going west observe the disturbed earth crust forming the Sawtooth Mountains. There are interesting geologic stories in many geographical features. Highway 61 North Shore has two remarkable tunnels through rock. There is an explanation for why those fingers of rock exist there and were bored through to for the road to pass. But as with the slate formations eastward or the igneous rock tunneled through you need to look long and hard for information on any of that. As a people we don’t seem to believe such features are even worthy of a roadside plaque.

I suspect a prime objection to such things is put in terms of safety. It’s unsafe for motorists to exit and enter more times than strictly needed. But it’s also the case that most people don’t think those facts are worth bothering over, not if it slows down progress toward a baloney brew or a Café Sauger in a delightful setting where human pretense is given rein to be enjoyable useless. Why fuss the mind with geology or natural science when it can be kept busy with brewski while exhorting what this or that political leader did or didn’t do. It’s possible to seriously wonder how much of a role reality plays in our lives.

Is it different on the Range? What do you think? Efforts to recognize natural heritage are essentially missing. You can see stratified layers as you whiz along the Highway 53 Bridge at Virginia, but you’d be suicidal to stop and observe what the bridge wants us to see. Manmade hills and the remains of ore bodies are an important part of Minnesota’s heritage and national history regarding steel. It is, however, easier to say nothing or object to the cost of providing heritage education. Can we afford it? Or maybe the question is what price do we pay by not paying more attention to natural heritage? On a regular basis I drive past some awfully impressive deposits of fine sand that give evidence of a lot of water movement to have provided the sorting needed. So far (not that I’ve yet made it an obsessive mania) I haven’t found anyone who knows or has given it note. And hey, the Twin Ports is no shining light either. As I recall there is one marker about the Skyline being glacial lake shoreline. And there’s nothing I’ve ever seen that marvels at the two water borne deposits forming the points separating Superior and Duluth. All that sand and where is there a word about how it got there?  Doing nothing and ignoring heritage is not adequate. It only leads to less appreciation and lower satisfaction.

Unless you’re a feline, thinking outside the box is lauded; that is until you do it. The other day I was telling someone a vagrant idea that Trump was more annoying than Obama because he was more in the messy confused present. When Obama would address race he very often went back to a view with Jim Crow and segregation as surefire explanations. This leaves out Britain and the US being the two main movers to fight slavery; skips over the Civil War, and omits the present laws against discrimination in rentals, housing, lending, and so on. I got a pretty good slap down for stepping outside the box of “justice think.” The experience reminded me of a North Shore tunnel. Don’t be distracted by the rock and natural history of the area. Focus your attention on reaching the goal of improved belief; today’s Brewski Peopleski  if I can fudge a little with Justin Trudeau’s use. As a supposed white supremacist John Brown’s body truly lies moldering in the grave of omission. What a belief chooses to leave out is quite telling.