I was practically born with a canoe paddle in my hand. When my dad held newborn me in his arms, he didn’t see a future doctor or lawyer, or dream of the day I would walk down the aisle (in fact, before I did that, he offered to lean a ladder against the window so I could elope instead).
My dad imagined his only child paddling a canoe, first with our family in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Minnesota, then with Camp Widjiwagan, and one day, even, in the Canadian Arctic.
Three generations of my family have been part of the YMCA and Camp Widjiwagan, so like a typical teenager I resisted. I rolled my eyes whenever my dad announced (to total strangers) how many years our family had collectively spent at camp. I argued with him at the dining room table, insisting that it wasn’t the camp that made things special but the time out in the wilderness.
I was just being difficult. I didn’t understand that it was the camp that made it possible to explore that wilderness on an all-girls trip, or that I would lead trips there myself, teach environmental education and one day become a program director.
I was ignorant to many things then, including the fact that generations of canoeists had come before me, laying the groundwork for that wilderness to exist as a protected place. The idea that people argued passionately–and over many generations–about whether to create the wilderness area had never occurred to me.
I got to write about that ignorance in this spring’s issue of Wilderness News, a publication of the Quetico Superior Foundation where I got my true start as a paid writer.
I hope you’ll check it out. My work for Wilderness News taught me to call myself a writer and to see the Boundary Waters–a place that shaped me as a person–as a political and historical landscape, not an over-simplified vision of pristine wilderness. I thought I’d left Wilderness News behind when I moved to Colorado, so it’s somewhat of a homecoming to write for the first issue of a new format, devoted to a place that I will always call home.