“The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth”
When I was a boy our family would go up to my grandparent’s house in the distant Northern Minnesota in the town of International Falls several times each summer. This was home to my Grandpa Fred and Grandma Marcella, and it would be the place where I would do most of my growing, both at the time and later on while looking back on it and reflecting.
A trip to my grandparent’s house meant many things to me as a boy, including bountiful feasts of my Grandmother’s home cooking, playing pool and pinball in the basement, and playing Cribbage at the dining room table. It also meant picking fresh vegetables out of the miniature garden that my Grandmother dutifully tended, or the way she would insist on going on mid-day walks to chat with the neighbors about how much I’ve grown since the last visit. But what has become most important to me over the years is that it also meant an opportunity for me to spend time with my Grandfather in nature.
All around my grandparent’s house there was vast and expansive woodlands and fields to wander through as a child where I would learn from my Grandfather which plants were and were not poisonous, how to know if a deer had gone through the path and if any fawns were with them, and where the large boulder creatively nicknamed by me as “Big Rock” was, and how to find my way there and back. We would also go out onto the waters of Lake Ranier and the Rainy River. He would teach me the natural landmarks, where the Walleye liked to hide, and how to properly take a nap on the boat without having your rod go over the edge when a fish took the bait.
It was during one of these fishing excursions in the middle of the summer that my Grandfather would hint at his philosophy towards nature. On a particularly blistering July day it was only the two of us out on our small boat in the middle of the motionlessly flat lake, waiting for the fasting fish to break their spiritual resolution. We had both taken our shirts and socks off to try and cope with the heat, and sipped on the cold Sprites that my Grandmother had packed for us. During a quiet spell my Grandfather got a far off look in his eye and simply said, “It’s beautiful, all of it, isn’t it, Cooper?”
The profound meaning of this statement was certainly loss on me at the time, but in retrospect it is something that has truly lasted with me. My Grandfather saw being in nature as more than just pastime recreation, something there to be used for our own means of entertainment, to him it was an art and a connection to something deeper. I believe he knew humanity’s place on the earth and it is his beliefs that now live on in me.