Minnesota in its modern context: Still beauty to soothe your troubled soul

Go up north. Keep the faith.


Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here . This article was written by Jack and Cindy Uldrich of Minneapolis.

••• The poet Mary Oliver has a simple but evocative poem entitled "Instructions for Living a Life." It reads: "Pay attention/be astonished/tell about it." My wife and I recently returned from a week up on the Gunflint Trail and we'd like to tell you about it because in this new year when the disturbingly warm weather has heightened worries about climate change, and the early presidential primaries have many of us fretting over nine more months of a grueling, negative and decisive political campaign, Minnesota's North Woods offer solace and hope.

To begin, we were fortunate enough to have arrived shortly after one of this winter season's few snowfalls, and the land surrounding our lodge on Flour Lake was coated with a blanket of white snow sufficient for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. This time outdoors, in addition to providing our bodies physical exercise, also offered our souls ample exposure to nature's raw, healing beauty. The first evening the setting sun highlighted a forested ridge with singular tops of black spruce silhouetted against a blood orange sky.

The sun's lowering light then angled across the frozen lake and lit a hilltop where eons of practice have somehow instructed the white and red pines how to master the skill of growing.