Love At First Sight

Today’s guest blog about the #6 Boundary Waters- a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series- is from Carla Arneson, a retired teacher who now lives full-time in her small log cabin on the shore of one of Ely’s threatened lakes; a lake through which the beautiful Kawishiwi River flows on its way to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

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Urge President Obama, Congress, and MN’s Governor Dayton to oppose the  Twin Metals Minnesota Mine.

Twenty-three years ago, when I purchased my lake lot and had my cabin built by a local craftsman, I did not envision that one day I would be engaged in a David and Goliath struggle to protect the waters of this area I love. Sometimes I say with a smile that after researching for seven years I now have the equivalent of a degree in sulfide mining.

When I was in college, I was intrigued by the BWCAW, having read books by Sigurd Olson, Helen Hoover, and Calvin Rutstrum. What they wrote reinforced my love for northern Minnesota, a love I have always suspected was a genetic gift from my Scandanavian ancestors; although it was my German great-uncle’s resort on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes that was my verifiable introduction. Those summer days and nights that I spent at Camp Bertha, from the time I was a toddler, were special.

So, it was no surprise that in college, determined to gather information, I drove through a blizzard on a winter night to attend a BWCAW fundraiser at the University of Minnesota. I bought one $1 chance for a trip to the BWCAW, and won! And the BWCAW won my heart and nourished my soul. I’m simply trying to repay this precious place.

During the past several years, I have written many words against proposed sulfide mining in the Kawishiwi River Watershed; words describing the potential damage to our health and to our waters, damage to our incredible jewel of the Boundary Waters. Words gleaned from research, and words of warning.

The following are words of the heart. They are excerpts from the first article I wrote about the Boundary Waters. Almost thirty years ago they appeared in the “Naturalist” magazine; no longer in print, but whose editor, the late Clayton G. Rudd, would surely approve of my using them again. They are memory words of my first trip to the Boundary Waters, the trip that set the stage for all explorations to follow.

That trip was an album of mental images so strong that they have stayed with me long past the last portage and have become an integral part of my life. It began on the placid waters of the Moose River where, while meandering among reeds, lily pads and boulders, I sighted my first moose, then a second, and yet another that I was sure was a rock until the “rock” lifted its head from beneath the surface and there was that wonderful photo of dripping ears and grass that ‘never was’ because I panicked when my subject rolled its eyes; funny, because we both fled in opposite directions.

Then came discovery of an exhilarating sandy beach on Nina-Moose Lake; the first campsite on Lake Agnes with incredibly still waters creating reflections unmatched anywhere, framed by white mist and silence; onward through Lac La Croix, gliding past the “picture rocks” on evening waters of pastel glass and marveling at the subtle shading of the rock that seemed to plunge endlessly, mirrored in opaqueness.

In Lady Boot Bay I saw my summer eagle soaring, her nest touching the blue of the sky; she followed me across the island to make sure I was on my way before she returned to her young. There were days of islands held in a haze of calm, then sudden change with waves churning and tossing white, a sky in turmoil and wind rising from a low moan to a banshee shriek…”

Unforgettable moments. And so today I repeat those words, with the hope that every generation can continue to experience the same wonder, the same delight in this incomparable wealth of waters that is Minnesota’s legacy. Preservation of this legacy was achieved by the hard work of generations past, and it is up to us to pass the legacy forward. The struggle we are facing today is protection of the Kawishiwi Watershed and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from sulfide mining.

As I ended my article decades ago, so will I end now:

As these feelings envelop me and I look to the future, I also reach to the past, to the generations of individuals who have presented us with a legacy of preservation. These perceptive men and women looked upon the reality of their world while retaining the honest wonder of childhood days. Because of their gift, a child of another generation, unknowingly carrying an appreciation of the need to continue the struggle, will look up and marvel at young leaves trembling against golden light. And so we go forward.”

Lend your voice to this effort to protect the Boundary Waters and the South Kawishiwi River! Please tell President Obama and Congress to protect this special place from copper-nickel mines!