I met Joan Undahl only six years ago when she invited me to lunch at Sportsman’s Oak Island Lodge to gracefully hand over the involvement she still had in The Angle’s annual Blueberry Festival. We laughed and talked, and I’m sure I must have seemed naive and yet oddly familiar in my fresh-from-the-city attitudes. Over the years that followed, I saw her many times at luncheons, when she needed groceries delivered or the rare boat ride to Young’s Bay. She was always sending me letters with random ideas for The Angle she had saved over the years, and I was honored to have been chosen in her eyes as someone who might carry-on those dreams. Continue reading “Joan of Oak”
Column 14 Published in the November 10 Warroad Pioneer
For as much as I’ve written to the contrary, the Angle can’t really be considered all that extreme anymore. We get mail three times a week. FedEx and UPS can deliver a dusty Amazon Fresh package directly to our doorsteps or docks. Electricity has been around since 1974, though it’s spendy and tends to go out when we’re hatching eggs in the incubator, have just sat down to a long-anticipated movie night or are in the middle of perfecting our lemon custard soufflé. (Just kidding. Nobody at The Angle bakes soufflés.)
Marine Band radio was replaced when regular phone service came in 1991, and today we have sketchy DSL internet and one decently reliable cell carrier. Notably, the gossip grapevine is only a tad slower now that we don’t have the loud crackle of a neighbor’s conversation in our living rooms.
Of course, I did not live here in those times, but I do remember visiting my grandparents and marveling at the novelty of it all. It felt special, quaint, exciting.
Moving here was not any huge sacrifice, nor was it a lofty transcendental quest. It simply felt right, or at least I wanted it something fierce. Wanting, as I have learned the hard way, does not always lead to wise decisions, however. And though I do subscribe to No Mistakes, or phrased positively Everything Works Out Perfectly, in hindsight I can see that there were easier, more sensible routes to my desire.
I am of the belief system that we’re here in this life to learn a select few lessons that we chose before we arrived, the exact ones necessary to move us along both the collective and our individual evolutionary path to the divine.
“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know,” spiritual teacher, author, ordained nun and mother Pema Chodron said.
Not surprising to anyone who knows me, I am a slow and stubborn study in a lot ways. There are life lessons I have had to repeat again and again and again, especially on matters of the heart. My in-process lessons in The Angle’s soft extremes seem so embarrassingly painful, and yet at the same time, I’m exhausted from taking them so damn seriously.
I’m craving a full-bellied laugh that cleans out my tear ducts in a wellspring from the depths of my tired soul.
Laughter is a release, after all, and letting go is so critically important. The anonymous saying, often wrongfully attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, has always spoken to my heart: “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
The Angle seems a rough life, but there is an underlying gentleness that pulls and kneads at our awakening souls. By default of our very whereabouts–the forested land, the mighty lake, the gravel roads bumpier than they’ve been in their 40-year history, according to one old-timer a week ago—by those threads, we have a cautious connection to the raucous cacophony of the outside world.
We can shut if off at will. And we can escape back into it at the touch of a button.
From my window, I watch a small woodpecker working vigilantly despite the rain and the wind. The deer have arrived for their daily meal of the garden’s leavings. The migratory birds are all gone now and traffic at the feeders is slow.
My little one and I cleaned out her sandbox and put all the outside toys away for the winter. There was a sentimental finality to that somehow. Letting things lie until the spring thaw – there’s another hard-learned lesson for many of us.
Letting go and letting things lie are far from the same, of course. One will beget that soulful laughter a long time hence, and the other, regret.
The Angle, as she does, has let go of another beloved. Hard-working resort owner and lovingly-stubborn resident Norm Undahl passed away on October 30. I wrote of his wife, Joan, only a few columns back and want to pass on heartfelt sympathies to such a strong lady. Norm and Joan were an anchor couple on Oak Island and I’m sure residents would agree, it just won’t be the same.
Death is a final teacher of sorts. If I haven’t wrapped up my lesson-book by then, I’m sure it’ll take out its red pen and show me the correct answers.