My Minnesota guru of fishing, Bill Tikwinski recently sent me this picture. You bet my eyes popped out! That fish is just about as big as him! This toothy Pike was caught smack dab in the middle of Minneapolis on Lake Calhoun. Bill taught me just about everything I know about Minnesota fishing. When I moved to Minnesota from Oklahoma, I didn’t have a clue as to what bait to use or even the size of hook or lures.
I remember trying to branch out to learn more about the city and multiple gorgeous, glacial lakes that were in it and surrounding it and I went to a bakery and then to the Lake Calhoun dock with a fishing pole my son-in-law lent me. (I still have it, sorry Tom). I watched others fishing and knew I was ill prepared. I struck up conversation with a young man leaning over the dock with his fishing pole. He had just gotten off his night shift as a disk jockey. He said, “Now if you REALLY want to know how to fish, you need to come out here early in the morning around 5:30 or 6 and ask for Bill.”
So the next weekend I got up early, had my coffee and then proceeded to chicken out. However, the weekend after that I put on my big girl panties and ventured back out to the dock. There were several men out there really chewing the fat and laughing while drinking coffee from their thermos’s. One joker was telling a joke about women and they were just giggling up a storm. Yeah, men can giggle. I thought oh dang; I hope that’s not Bill, the liberated woman that does not appreciate women jokes. I got brave again and turned around and asked the joker…”are you Bill?” He said, “Well yes young lady, I am.”
From then on he was my teacher, my fishing guru, my friend.
This looked like the sweat lodge the Agency in which I worked used.
In light of the news about the “sweat lodge” debacle and unfortunate deaths, I felt guided to write about my sweat lodge experiences.
When I worked as a family advocate for an American Indian Agency in the inner city, we used the sweat lodge with our families and homeless teens. It was buried deep in the woods in Minnesota and only American Indian Elders lead the very spiritual experience. Several weeks before our scheduled sweat lodge ceremony social work co-workers which included an Elder and I took some women clients to the fabric store and we bought beautifully flowered cotton fabric and colorful ribbon. We set up several sewing machines in our staff meeting room and families and staff sewed our dresses we would wear in the sweat lodge. Male staff members, Elders, and teens from the Agency shelter would hop in a van early in the day before our scheduled ceremony and prepare the fire in the woods where our agency sweat lodge was. Big and little beautifully rounded rocks were buried beneath the ashes of the hot fire in the woods. If you have experienced the middle of winter in Minnesota you know that it can be extremely cold and snowy. I will never forget sitting around the campfire in the serene snow frosted moonlit birch forest before the ceremony in my cotton dress with nothing under it, scrunched up in my coat waiting during preparation of the rocks. These rocks were called Grandfathers and Grandmothers. They were the rocks that were placed one at a time, by the Elder in charge, in a little pit in the sweat lodge. Between prayers to the Elders that went before us and to the Spirit, the woman Elder would sprinkle water on the Grandmothers and steam would envelop us. We never forced anyone to participate and if anyone felt ill, the door flap to the small tarped lodge was opened for that person to exit. I feel I should add that I was the only non American Indian and have worked as a community social worker with many cultures of families. Respect is the most important aspect of my work and during the sweat lodge experience I showed my utmost respect following the lead of my Elders. In between prayers and the passing of the pipe, I whispered to my Elder co-worker that I was hearing tapping sounds on the tarp. She said that was the Spirits. When the ceremony was over I circled the lodge looking for a tree branch that might have been tapping or scratching the tarp in the winter wind but there was nothing. There was a couple feet of snow too and I couldn’t picture squirrels scampering around in the frigid moonlight. All in all it was a good experience and done in a respectful, safe way when lead by the Elders who knew what they were doing and most importantly, why.
Autumn on Deer Lake, Minnesota 2005
Absolutely, hands down, Autumn embraces Minnesota like no other state in the U.S. Maybe because it’s the harbinger of absolutely, hands down, the most brutal winter in the U.S. The contrast is wondrous. When I was working on my master’s degree at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, I met some pretty awesome Northerners in my cohort. Vicki was one of those. She and her husband Virgil own 25 acres of gorgeous land and their home on Deer Lake. The closest town is Grand Rapids. In the middle of their maple and birch tree forest, Virgil had his own sawmill like the one on the Waltons. He would split and saw birch trees and floor their home with them, which sits a few yards from the lake and their dock you see above. When I was up for a visit, Vickie and I went out in the boat for a big muskie hunt. We were nuts when we got together. Vicki is the one in the propeller hat. It didn’t make the boat go any faster. I sat in a lawn chair in the middle of the boat readying myself to take on the toothy BIGUNS that might be fool enough to bite my sucker minnow I had cast out against the wind. And the wind is all we caught. We had some giant laughs though and when we decided to head into the dock for dinner, I had no idea how wonderful that would be. Spaghetti and venison meatballs! I know we had a special desert but I just can’t bring it to the forefront of my memory tonight. I’ve NEVER seen such brilliant golds and reds in my life as I did that awesome Autumn at Vicki’s and Virgil’s on Deer Lake.