I’ve just recently returned from a five-day sojourn in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” otherwise known as Minnesota (with an emphasis on the third syllable). I had never visited Minnesota before, unless one counts making airline connections at the Minneapolis—St. Paul International Airport. The experience was delightful from beginning to end. Coming home last Saturday night I even saw some of Cincinnati’s fireworks display from 35,000 ft.
I first flew to Duluth (explored by Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, in 1679) at the invitation of Lise Lunge-Larsen of the Nordic Center. Lise, a noted children’s author and storyteller, was a delightful host, showing me about the town. I got an up close and personal view of its watery neighbor—Lake Superior. You probably already knew that Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and the third largest by volume. If Lake Superior were emptied out, it would cover ALL of North America and ALL of South America to the tune of 12 inches. What you probably didn’t know is that Superior boasts some of the best drinking water anywhere—many breweries and distilleries utilize its pure water for a “superior” taste. In fact, Lise’s daughter and son-in-law founded Vikre Distillery in town, which was voted the Best Craft Specialty Spirits in the country by USA TODAY in 2016. That water must be doing something right!
On June 25 the Nordic Center was packed with an attentive crowd, including several people interestingly enough named Boyce. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any connection to my grandfather Dennis Boyce, who ran away from Donegal, Ireland, as a teenager to come to America in early 1900s. It was a great crowd, and a wonderful evening. We celebrated afterward at Vikre and even got to see Duluth’s famous Aerial Lift Bridge in action— locals who are stuck on either side waiting for the enormous cargo ships to pass through are said to have been “bridged.”
From there I traveled to Minneapolis for a series of talks, the highlight being at the Norway House on June 27. Again, another large audience. While I usually preface my remarks by asking if anyone in the audience has any Norwegian ancestry, here I asked if anyone did not (and there were, but only a handful). As the guest speaker I was treated to some delectable Norwegian desserts from the kaffebar in the lobby.
The Gallery where I spoke was hosting a photographic exhibition by Judy Olausen entitled “Mother: a vision of the Eisenhower-era mother; eager to please, ready to serve, and blissfully sweeping the unmentionable under the rug.” The photos were quirky, zany, tongue-in-cheek send-ups of 1950’s era homemakers. Interesting for their own sake, they provided a unique backdrop to my talk, resulting in some unforgettable juxtapositions. Here’s my favorite:
Is the woman in the photo aghast at the point I’m trying to make? Is something horrible crawling up the back of my shirt? Or is it simply a case of underarm odor?
The only way to know is to visit the exhibit yourself (and don’t forget to try the pastries).
Nordic Center photo courtesy Nordic Center Facebook page; Norway House photos courtesy Mike Wick.