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What’s wrong with this picture? Hello! No really, that is me. I know you can’t really see my face, but trust me, it’s me.
If you are down by the waterfront for any amount of time, especially in the summer you will see it over and over and over. People huddled at the feet of Paul Bunyan or Babe his Blue Ox and saying cheese while the one with the camera fumbles with the buttons, trying to get a shot. But did you know for all of these years you (and thousands of others) have been doing it incorrectly?
What? You say. Surely Not! You exclaim.
But, YES, I say. Indeed you are. Jon Heller and I (of First Light Photography/Jon Heller Photography)
have a quick lesson for you.
1) If your intent is to see your subject along with the roadside attraction then have the people stand in the foreground near you with the focus being them and keep the statues in the back.
This photo is not the finished result, rather it is showing you where the people in your photo should be placed. It feels awkward to be that far away from the statues, but you will see in he next pic that the end result is favorable.
2)The camera person steps up closer to the people posing (basically at the curb in this case)
for a final result like this:
See the difference?
3) Trust us
You still see the attraction (P&B) but now you can see the person as well.
If you want a picture of Paul and Babe take one. If you want a picture to show how tall he is compared to your 2 yr old, let the tike run up and hug his legs. But if you are trying to show off friends and family follow these steps.
Mitch Blessing grew up in Bemidji, MN., he has family here and he was educated through college here receiving his BFA at BSU. But then Mitch moved away, far far away. To quote Dr. Suess,
OH! The Places You Will Go:
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
and go Mitch did, he went far far away. He went all the way to Miami, Fl. He finished his schooling at the University of Miami Florida while working construction to “keep up his art habit”. Finishing school and having a baby brought the Blessing family back to MN and soon back to Bemidji. Mitch is now part owner of Design Angler, along with serving as president of the Sculpture Walk Committee. I came to know Mitch through his wife Alice Blessing who is a talented artist in the area (and a dear friend of mine). The best part of this job is getting to know so many wonderful people- maybe through his story you can get to know Mitch Blessing just a bit (or maybe a bit more than you already do)
Meet Mitch :
I remember the sounds of water, thundering and splashing in the summer, corky and crackling in winter. I recall from earliest childhood the sunburn and cutoffs as well as the frostbite and thawing toes. I’d love Bemidji through my whole body even if I tried not to. I am of here.
In High School everyone talked about what a wretched little place it is here and how they couldn’t wait to get out.. to where? St. Cloud? To the mythical Twin Cities? I didn’t need to leave, didn’t hate it here, but I did have the wanderlust of a teenager. I guess we all did and just expressed it differently. Many did leave and many came back. Bemidji has gravity.
Every time I returned to Bemidji from far off lands, a prodigal son, I would feel newly overwhelmed by the wholeness of this place, the breath of it. My minerals and water are from this ground, my paradigm, though traveled and travailed, is nestled in this little home in the world.
In the spring I soften here, and I keep my shoes off as much as possible. I drink in the water all summer. In the fall I hike around and rejoice in the musk and the departure of all the things that make me itch. In the winter I tighten and I feel like working, warming things, and feasting. The extremes of every season make each one exquisite.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the guy who wrote 100 Years of Solitude, and Love in the Time of Cholera, grew up in a high mountain monastery school, then spent time down in the “exotic” cities of the coast. He spoke about the positive insular quality of places that are far inland and hard to get to. Bemidji often seems “behind” in the world, and frustratingly conservative, even (like the weather) oppressive. There are many obstacles and it takes a strong person/family to live happily here. Incidentally, there are many such strong, talented, happy people here.
The warm and worldly coast is so attractive. Out there, gifts arrive quickly and easily from around the globe. Great things happen quickly every day. So do great terrible things. Most everything happens too quickly. The large interchanges of the universe are enriching, and exposing.They demand a lot of energy, a fast burn, good defenses.
Our forbidding inland home is a buffer in many ways. It reminds me of the Bozone Layer (a la Dave Larson’s The Far Side) which protects the rest of the universe from the Earth’s harmful effects. A similar layer may lie between here and St. Cloud.
If time can be slowed a little, just to let us filter the input somewhat, then here, in nearly the geographic center of North America, we may have an advantage.
Breathe in the seasons, raise a healthy family, and mediate the unceasing, uncaring stream of input, that’s what I’m trying to do here in my town, Bemidji. Thanks for asking.
Downtown Bemidji is full of four way stops. Not just one or two, rather many many. With this being said, it has always surprised me that people do not seem to know the rules for approaching a four way stop. Drivers hesitate or give up the right of way, while others charge ahead out of turn without care for the rules or safety. When you add pedestrians into the mix, you may as well forget about the rules, and just insert confusion instead.
When my husband and I moved here in the Summer of 1997, the four way stops were one of the first things I noticed. Have I mentioned that there’s many many of them? After seeing how many I would be dealing with on a daily basis, I quickly opted to review the four way stop rules. Since I seem to be in the minority here, I will take the time to post the four way stop rules here (summary version)
Writing note: I was going to post this last week. I started reviewing the rules and was looking for a summary to post through the DMV site etc. One of the first things I came across was this comedic version. I have not been able to get that version out of my head, nor can I personally write anything quite as good. So I have decided to post Jim Loy ‘s version and then link the DMV / MN driving rules. Keep reading-it’s so funny because it is so true.
The four-way stop is a drivers’ IQ test, that many drivers fail. It would seem to be a maneuver of approximately Blue-Angel caliber. But, it is really very simple, if you follow these few rules.
Case I – one car
You are the only one at the intersection. This is the simplest case. First you stop [complete stop (in or out of the cross-walk), rolling stop, 25 mph stop, etc.], then you have only five options:
2. Hesitate, then go.
3. Wait for 3 more cars to come along.
4. Wait for 2 more cars.
5. Wait for 1 more car.
A true Driver (with a capital “D”, master of four-way stops) would choose option #3. After all, they do call this a four-way stop. Most drivers modify option #3 by adding a time limit, like 30 seconds: “Wait for 3 cars or 30 seconds, whichever comes first.” This 30-second wait has degenerated into option #2, “Hesitate, then go.”
Case II – 2 cars
There are a few permutations here:
1. You got there first. See below, “Complication #3, who got there first?” In this situation, just go, unless you are a disgustingly polite driver (Complication #1).
2. He or she is on your right and you’re turning right. Go.
3. He or she is on your right and you’re not turning right. Wait.
4. He or she is straight ahead; and he or she is going straight or turning right; and you’re going straight or turning right. Go.
5. He or she is straight ahead and he or she is turning left or you’re turning left. Wait.
6. He or she is on your left and he or she is turning right. Go.
7. He or she is on your left and he or she is not turning right. Wait.
Case III – 3 cars
If it’s your turn, go. If not, try to imagine what can go wrong if you do go, and then go if you didn’t just imagine your own death. Actually, this case is a simplification of case IV – 4 cars.
Case IV – 4 cars
There are hundreds of permutations here. But, actually, it’s pretty simple. Go it it’s your turn, or if you’re turning right and nobody else is headed for that lane.
Complication #1 – the disgustingly polite driver
A disgustingly polite driver will wait for you even though you both know that it is his or her turn to go. I can imagine him or her stopping for a child, and waving the child into the path of a speeding semi. Such politeness confuses any driving situation. It can hopelessly muddle a four-way stop situation, unless you follow this advice: Flip him or her the appropriate salute, and go.
Complication #2 – which way will they turn?
Cases II through IV depend upon which way the other drivers are turning. Their turn signals may offer a clue:
1. Some people do not signaling
2. Some people will turn the same way that they are signaling
3. Some people will not turn the same way that they are signaling
There are six principles which will help you sort these out:
1. You can legally assume that people will turn the same way that they are signaling, or that they are not turning when they are not signaling.
2. You can legally ram them if they are lying.
3. No witness will stick around to back up your story about whether or not anybody signaled.
4. Drivers (capital “D”) do not signal.
5. drivers (small “d”) do not signal.
6. All other drivers signal.
Complication #3 – who got there first?
“Who” got there first, “what” got there second, “I don’t know” got there third. Sorry, that was merely an allusion. In theory, a four-way stop is simple. The cars stopped in a certain order, and they go in the same order. In reality:
1. Some people don’t exactly stop. So, when did they arrive at the four-way stop?
2. Some people stop one or two car-lengths behind the stop sign. When did they arrive at the four-way stop?
3. Sometimes two cars really do stop simultaneously.
4. Driver A thinks that driver B got there first, and driver B thinks that driver A got there first. This is a simplification of the next situation.
5. Driver A thinks that driver B got there first. Driver B thinks that driver C got there first. And driver C thinks that driver A got there first. From experience, I would say that this, along with various 4-car permutations, is a very common situation.
6. At least one driver has no clue. This has probably happened before he reached the four-way stop.
So, when there’s doubt about who got there first, who should go first? Here’s a handy rule: “I go first, you go second, everyone else hesitates.” My car is the one with the dents in each door.
Complication #4 – pedestrians
Any of the above situations can be further complicated by the intrusion of any number of pedestrians. You won’t see them lining up and going one at a time. They just keep walking right on through the intersection, dodging cars. While pedestrians slow down the normal clockwork of the four-way stop, they also introduce a logical puzzle to the situation. If you are about to go, and a pedestrian walks in front of you, how does that affect the order of who goes when? Do you get to go first once the pedestrian is out of your way? Should all the other cars wait for you? Or, have you lost your place and must wait for 3 more cars to go. This guideline should help: “If you have to wait for a pedestrian, you are now a time-bomb waiting to go off. To minimize the loss of life, you should be allowed to go first.”
Complication #5 – the four-way stop starburst maneuver
This is when all four cars go at once. All four cars stop, nearly touching, nose to fender. And, nobody can go forward. The driver who backs up loses all respect from his or her family. Besides, the next four cars have gone forward by now. So no one can back up, if he or she wanted to. The four-way stop has now achieved critical mass. The only solution is for one car to be removed, sideways, by a fork-lift. I’m sorry to say that I’ve never seen this done. I understand this is very popular in Europe, at all kinds of intersections.
Four-way stop theory
Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity says, among other things, that two observers, travelling at different speeds, cannot agree on when something happened. In fact observer A may say that event X occurred before event Y, while observer B may say that event Y happened first. And both observers are right. This leads to the “four-way stop paradox.”
A theory that seems to have even more to say about four-way stops is Natural Selection.
Dear Bemidji drivers, it is time to figure this out. You deal with these signs daily if you are downtown. Denial is only getting people frustrated at you. I know the reason you sit and wait for the other person to go (even though you clearly are in the right of way) it is because you don’t know the rules! Well I have cleared that up for you now. Proceed (now that you know how).
Right of Way and Yielding: Right-of-way and yielding laws help traffic flow smoothly and safely.
They are based on courtesy and common sense. Violation of these
laws is a leading cause of traffic crashes.
• When two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time, and
there is no traffic light or signal, the driver of the vehicle on the
left must yield to the vehicle on the right.
• When two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time,
and all-way stop signs or flashing red traffic lights control
the intersection, the driver on the left must yield right of way
to the driver on the right.
• A driver who wishes to make a left turn must yield to vehicles
approaching from the opposite direction when these vehicles are
in the intersection or are near enough to pose the risk of a crash.
• When a green arrow signal indicates that a vehicle may enter an
intersection to make a left turn, the driver must yield to other
vehicles or pedestrians already within the intersection. After
yielding, the driver may continue in the direction of the arrow.
• When two vehicles approach an uncontrolled “T” intersection, the
driver of the vehicle that is turning must yield to all cross traffic.
• When approaching a public road from a private road or driveway,
you must stop and yield to pedestrians and traffic.
• Drivers in the right lane of traffic must yield right of way to transit
and metro mobility buses attempting to merge from a bus stop
• When a funeral procession identifies itself through use of headlights
or hazard warning lights, you must yield to the entire procession.
Always looking for an adventure Jon Heller can be found on his bike or on the road exploring and photographing his experiences. Jon takes as many photos for friends as he does for assignments. A style unique to Bemidji Jon Heller has a flair for photography not usually seen in a town our size. One of the first people to contact me after I started This is my town: Bemidji, Jon and I have become friends and he has helped me on numerous occasions get a shot I can’t, or to loan me equipment I could only dream of using much less have. You have seen some of Jon’s work on the Facebook page in the Where the Heck? pics as well as the profile photos as well.
Some of you know him, but for the rest let me introduce you to Jon Heller:
A big part of my story is pretty much the same as everyone else that grew up in Bemidji. Born and raised in the Bemidji area but with the desire to travel away from here. I would read stacks of “outside” magazines dreaming about all the places I wanted to visit without knowing how I could make it happen.
Then in 1993 on a family vacation to Glacier National Park everything changed when my Dad showed me how to use his old Nikon FE camera. Once those first rolls of Kodachrome came back I was hooked, finally an art form that let me record what I saw in the world the way that I saw it. On top of it all it was easy or at least I thought so after seeing those first slides. From that point on I devoured every magazine, book and behind the scenes video I could get my hands on which is when I started to realize how much more there was to getting successful images. It doesn’t even matter what kind of photos I’m shooting, a lot of photographers only shoot one thing but I don’t really care what I point my camera at as long as it inspires or moves me in some way. I have lived in Montana, Wyoming, Florida and California and traveled to all the places in between but I keep ending up in Bemidji.
Hours after graduating from high school I was on the road back to Montana to attend photography school for the summer. By this point my main direction was in photographing people, still loving it all I just shot what ever I could. On top of that I was on my own, exploring the mountains around Missoula. However, by the time the program was done I was ready to come back to Bemidji. I spent the next few years working odd jobs while trying to build a portfolio as good as the images I saw in magazines with little success, the ideas were there but I was still missing something. Then. I got hired to assist a new commercial photographer in Bemidji who showed me how much work and gear went into getting those shots I was trying to emulate. He had all the gear and would let me borrow it for my own shoots. That’s when my images started to improve by leaps and bounds.
I have paid my photographic dues over the years shooting baby, family and wedding photos to the point where those are the only things I refuse to shoot. Mostly due to the fact that I was never very good at those kinds of shoots but they managed to pay for the gear that let my work evolve into what it is today. I do love photographing people though, anything from sports to environmental portraits. For my personal projects I tend to be drawn to people that I find interesting on some level usually through what they do for work or their hobbies. I really enjoy trying to create images of artists from other mediums.
I’m at a place right now where my photos are getting published on a fairly regular basis and it still doesn’t get old seeing my images on the cover of magazines. I still haven’t picked just one direction to go in, one day I might be shooting a orchestra conductor the next I might be dangling from a rope shooting a rock climber, all things I have actually shot in Bemidji.
That’s the great thing about Bemidji is that even though it would be considered by most a small town things are constantly changing and evolving around here to the point where there is always something new to shoot. I think that is why I have such a hard time choosing a direction with my photography and sticking to it. At the same time I am constantly brow beaten by the small town mentality around here. People automatically assuming that some one who claims to be a photographer and doesn’t run a portrait studio is creepy and should be avoided (mostly because they have seen too many made for TV movies). Though a lot of that has died down since I started shooting for a local woman’s magazine.
The last two or three years though have really been amazing, constantly shooting something and actually having people volunteer to be in my images. Three years agoy works improved immensely when I went digital and was really able to experiment with lighting. I quickly converting from a natural light only type of a shooter to an available light shooter, and by that I mean any light that is available. I will drag enough lighting equipment out to a shoot that it looks like I could be shooting for Rolling Stone when I am probably shooting something as a favor to a friend or a portfolio piece for myself.
Through all of my travels over the years and even the places I have only dreamed of visiting I love having Bemidji as my home base. With all my odd ball friends (term of endearment) that have supported my photography over the years usually by being the subject matter and the area locations that have served as the backdrop for my images this place is home. I am a 31 year old Bemidji local and it has taken most of those 31 years to realize how great of a thing that actually is.
The sculpture painting project was made possible by a grant Catie Belleveau wrote to the George W. Neilson foundation. They funded our purchase of the 10 beaver blanks that local two dimensional artists have enhanced with their unique painting styles. These sculptures will reside on the Sculpture Walk for a year and be auctioned next spring to the highest bidding individual or business who will have them grace their locations. The proceeds will be used to enhance the Sculpture Walk and 30% of the auction price will be paid to the artist who painted the beaver.
The image of the beaver was chosen by a community survey that was promoted through local media and the artist were selected by committee judging. The blanks were created by a company in Chicago called Cow Painters. We originally ordered 10 blanks but because of a delay of shipment they sent us a extra blank as a consolation. Nine beavers will be installed throughout Bemidji today with the tenth beaver coming soon, being delayed because of a death in the artists family. We have not yet determined the fate of the 11th blank beaver.
We would like to thank our down town business sponsors, The Sculpture Walk Committee, participating artists and George W. Neilson whom we are dedicating this years Sculpture Walk to – because of his foresight and philanthropy in enhancing the lives of the people in our community for many years.
Facilitation and installation are being preformed by Mitch Blessing and Al Belleveau.
Information provided by Al Belleveau
Hello, my name is Crinkle.
N 47° 28.301’ , W094° 53. 024 (City Hall)
I got that name because I spend a lot of time in the water and I get all crinkly. My best friend is Walter a Koi Fish who lives at The Wild Hare. I am enjoying summer in Bemidji after being rescued from the Evil Chain Smoking Beaver Trapper who resides 2
nd and Minnesota. While enjoying my new found freedom I have been able to check things out around here and there is a lovely tree that I am chomping at the bit for. I really want to go gnaw on it and use its parts in a dam I have been working on. This tree is located by River Wood Bank. There is yet another tree I have been eyeing on the corner of 4th and Minnesota but I don’t thing I can reach it. I hope you will enjoy spending time with me and all the others on Bemidji’s Sculpture walk.
N 47° 28.236’ , W094° 52. 955 (3rd and Minnesota)
As the sunsets in our beautiful land,
where the Mississippi is born,
the beaver stands
as the sad clown who sees
suffering at the hands of the humans
as their needs to consume
swirls in the red sea at the end of this river
May all life forms find protection
let the Earth heal and grow!
“Home Sweet Home”
N 47° 28.228’ , W094° 52. 890 (3rd and Beltrami)
This sculpture was painted to draw attention to the beavers, which are the original community builders. They create the pond where they can live, build a lodge, and raise their young, and at the same time, create a place where other animals can live and flourish as well. In my work we see them sharing their living space with several fish, a turtle, and a dragonfly. It also has several aspen leaves, which represent the beaver’s favorite food (a quickly renewed resource), and petroglyph images which represent the long history of association between these animals and humans. “Busy as a beaver” has become a cliché phrase, but in regards to the beaver, it is completely true!
N 47° 28.227’ , W094° 52. 865 (3rd and Beltrami Ave.)
This lake scene was painted by Alice Blessing using her fingers instead of paintbrushes. The resulting marks manifest in a surprising style that resembles pointillism and the impressionistic works of Claude Monet. The artist hopes that this colorful work reminds you to protect our lakes and wildlife: Don’t pollute! Don’t poach!
Jason Elliott Clark
N 47° 28.239’, W094° 52.792 (3rd and Bemidji Ave)
Using an x-ray style I have chosen to represent both the interior and exterior aspects on this beaver form, illustrating anatomical features ranging from bones, tendons, muscles, and nerves to unborn kits and even dietary contents within the stomach. These features are represented through the use of a bold formline and stylized or symbolic markings.
Deborah A Davis
N 47°28.290’,W094° 52.880 (4th and Beltrami)
Gaea means Mother Earth and God is Gracious
That the fertile earth itself is female, nurturing mankind is a belief that crosses culture, time and borders. Gaea means Mother Earth. It also means “God is Gracious,” and is one of the 52 feminine aspects of God in the Christian Bible. Gaea in mythology was a female Titan. If we could embrace the strength of womaness, celebrate it, we would become the people we are meant to be: nurturing, loving, whole.
on a side note: While painting this, the gulf oil disaster occurred… and I couldn’t help thinking, if we could incorporate this… become less gluttoness and more sacrificial, the world would be more like the home it is meant to be for us and our children.
Hug, the History Beaver
N 47° 28.162’ , W094° 52. 973 (2nd and Minnesota)
Hug, the beaver got his name from my 2 year old grandson. Hug is covered with the history of Bemidji. The information from old photos of residents, old newspaper clippings, and a written history was found on the internet. Hug is painted green for Bemidji State University, as they are green beavers. I painted pictures on him that remind me of this area. I chose a fish, an eagle, a deer and two trees. To me, they symbolize Bemidji, and the surrounding area. You can see these things from a distance. When you get closer, you can read some of the history. Up by the top of his head it tells about the post office and how Bemidji was mistakenly named “Bermidji” when the post office first opened. It was quite a lot of time and red tape to get the name corrected. On Hug’s foot are listed the mayors of Bemidji, and the dates that they served. There are many other facts to discover as you look closely at the surface. Sadly, some of the history was lost when the symbols of the area came into being. But, sad as that may be, Hug still contains many mysteries to uncover.
Paula J. Swenson
N 47° 28.425’ , W094° 52. 887 (by Courthouse)
The river and ponds where beavers make their homes inspired “River Home”. The riverbanks are lined with rocks, shrubs and small trees with larger trees in the background. Among the inhabitants of the woods are deer, bear and coyotes. The stars in the sky, the northern lights and the shoreline are reflected in the water where small mouth bass, blue gills and muskies swim. (I know bluegills are not brown and bass are not yellow but that’s how I am.) A spiny soft shelled turtle basks on a sandbar in the river.
Visitors are welcome to visit my studio by appointment. Appointments can often be arranged on short notice. Please call Paula at 218-751-6767
N 47° 28.364’ , W094° 52. 864 (5th and Beltrami)
I wanted to design something that was totally fun, with bright colors and original characters I developed that would appeal to kids. I have two young girls at home, so they had a great time watching the beaver (we named him Ed) become this big art piece. I even used some of their toys in the design and let them do some painting, so they thought that was pretty awesome.
My youngest girl liked the beaver so much that she sat on his tail and ate her cereal in the morning for a few days. Overall it was a great project to be involved with, and became something my whole family enjoyed. I hope the community enjoys the painted beaver sculptures as much as I did being a part of the experience.
I have provided the information, locations, and small photo collages of each beaver sculpture. I intentionally did not post large pictures of each one, these photos are only to serve as a teaser. I do hope that you will take the time to enjoy each sculpture up close and take in the true beauty, talent, and creativity in person. If you look carefully at the art work it is easy to forget that such beauty is placed on the shape of a beaver. A project like this just adds to my appreciation of this town and it’s artist population. It is just another facet that makes this my town.
(Please leave a comment in the box below to show the artists your appreciation. Thank you.)
A special thank you to Janet Rith-Najarain for providing the waypoints.
One person’s life affecting many. That is how I describe Mackenzie. As she hands over your double shot/soy/two pump/vanilla latte and the Uptown scone that could make or break the rest of your day; she is having an impact on your morning and hence your life. A smile, a kind word, remembering it is your big day, asking about an update on your last conversation, and making sure you get that specialty cheese you need for your party, one person’s life can affect many. How has Mackenzie affected your life? I know she has made me smile often.
I came here for the college; I stayed for the community. I arrived in Bemidji in the fall of 1999 in order to study Mass Communications at BSU. As I met friends and relationships evolved I tacked on studies in Art and Art History. I started working at Harmony Co-op in 2001 as an evening cashier. I fell hopelessly in love with the Co-op and all the people in it. And then I fell in love with a co-worker. Jeff, the Produce Department and a steamy summer were the fertilizers that helped my roots grow. So when the dairy manager at the time left, non-related and unaccomplished degree be damned, I stayed and started my humble beginnings as the “dairy queen”. Since I had worked at BSU as the Touche Gallerie director and assorted Art History assistant positions I was collecting paychecks from multiple jobs.
My time at BSU ran out, Harmony was a steady deal but I needed something else. So a few months after Moni & Reed opened up the Wild Hare Bistro I popped in to say that I should probably just turn up to do dishes when they were busy and maybe it would be neat if they hired me. My profession as a “professional” cook had begun. My employment there has taken me great lengths in my cooking skills, on cheese adventures to Wisconsin, catering gigs, true friendships and burns and cuts. I still do the dishes…and now I have been there for four years.
I’ve been at the Co-op for eight. Anyone reading this who knows me most likely met me while I was at work. That is what I do. I work for me, I work for my husband (Jeff) but I work for you Bemidji. I love to make you coffee and muffins. I want to hear about that cheese you had at a friend’s house while you were on vacation. I need to know how your son is doing in school. I want to see your art show. I’d love to meet your parents when they come to town for your graduation.
The deal that Bemidji and I have worked out is that we are fiercely loyal and take care of each other’s needs. I live to serve and Bemidji serves this need for me.
Bad Cat Creations
Coffee with sugar, a particular routine, a pack of cats, confident, all on her own terms… She is never shy with her smiles and I found her easy to talk to. She doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression- she isn’t soft she may even be gritty- tattoos, dark edgy hair, and a dress style you can’t just buy off the rack. However, I saw a soft side too (look at the picture of her holding her cat), she is kind and seemed loyal and honest. Fun, quirky, a robust true laugh… things I took with me after meeting Christina.
May I introduce you to Christina:
I was born in 1981 in Copenhagen, Denmark to an Icelandic Mother and a Minnesotan Father. I spent my first few years of life in the tiny farming town of Ogilvie, MN and moved with my widowed Mother to Bemidji around the age of 3. My Mom eventually remarried to a hot-rod mechanic and we moved to the outskirts of Bemidji to an old two story log home built in the 1930’s by my Dad’s maternal grandparents. We had no next door neighbors and I had no siblings, often feeling alone and stranded in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest, my imagination took hold.
As a child I would wonder through the woods surrounding our house, often playing a story or a character in my head, with my trusty yellow lab, Susie, by my side. Some days I was a princess, captured by an evil queen, some days I was a pirate on a treasure hunt for lost gold (which happened to be my play jewelry I would ask my Mom to hide and then diagram a map for me to follow). I picked flowers for my family, collected rocks for my collection, and danced within fairy rings. My Mom embraced art in our lives, and we were always trying new creative avenues. I loved playing with paints, stringing beads and listening to music (of all genres). All in all, a creative and fun childhood.
Growing older, I began to resent being stuck in the woods, far from friends and things to do. We did at times live in town in a home we owned, but always ended up heading back out to our home in the woods for freedom and the stillness. As years went by and I became a teenager my need to leave grew more and more. I couldn’t wait to get out and live my life, discover who I was as I often felt stifled here.
When I was 20, I packed my bags and left for Minneapolis, I was never coming back.
While living in Minneapolis, wanting to find who I was, I realized I had always known who I was. What I was missing was my voice.
Art had always been a coveted dream in my mind, something I loved and had been striving for. I wanted to be an Artist. I told myself time and time again I would never be an Artist because I couldn’t draw or paint the things I saw in my head. It would break my heart over and over. While working at a shop in Minneapolis that sold jewelry making supplies, I pursued jewelry techniques as I had enjoyed making rather primitive jewelry as a child. It all seemed to come so naturally to me. I would spend all day working at the store, building ideas for jewelry in my mind, to get home late at night and pull together the small jewelry kit I had assembled for myself and work and re-work old jewelry. One night, inspired by pendants that were given to me by a customer at my job that day, I got up in the middle of the night with an idea of what should be done with those pendants. I was too afraid to lose the idea in my sleep. After a couple hours of stranding and link working I held up my finished necklace and said ‘YES! This is exactly how I saw it in my head!” That would later come to be my first “Aha moment”. I realized that maybe I couldn’t draw or paint the images in my head, but I had found MY medium for creation and my voice as an Artist.
It was soon after that, when my jewelry box was over flowing, as well as my friend’s and family’s, that I decided it was time to take it to the next level and start my business. Bad Cat Creations was born in 2002.
After 3 years in Minneapolis, I grew weary of the constant stream of noise and distractions. I missed the sounds of loons and crickets at night, having never become accustom to the sirens and noise of the city. The end of that last year could not come soon enough. I bought my home (a small mobile home) and moved it out onto my family’s property. Still unsure of where I wanted my life to go, after a year I closed up the house and headed to Pennsylvania to get a degree in special effects make-up. I don’t know if getting that degree and moving to Hollywood was ever a real goal in my mind, but at the end of my schooling, just about to graduate I realized it was not the industry for me. So, still not wanting to “go home” I headed to Arizona and started working for the Renaissance Festival, looking for new experiences and travel. Those first few months of life in the Southwest left me feeling unhappy and a little lost. When in conversation with one of my closest friends, she asked “if special effects doesn’t make you happy, then what does make you happy?” Without hesitation I said “I love doing my jewelry designs!” This was my second “Aha moment”.
With new determination, as well as wanting to be close to my family, I returned to Bemidji for the final time and began the journey to fulfill my dream.
I began to see Bemidji with new eyes and a new place of promise. Feeling secure and free in my little home in the woods, taking in all the beauty around me in my own yard that I seemed to have missed before, I pushed myself to pull inspiration from all my experiences and travels. Pursing art festival after art festival, toting my wears, telling my story and meeting fellow artisans and new artists looking for advice on how to “get started” selling goods, a brainstorm started brewing.
Having always had the dream to own my own store, I decided I would not waste anymore time simply dreaming of it. I would make it happen. I had decided I would not only follow my dreams, but I would chase them down and make them my reality! And if I could help other artists along the way, and bring new and different products to my community- I would do it, and do it with a smile.
I often joke that opening my shop was purely a selfish dream, I wanted a fun little boutique like the ones I loved in Minneapolis and other places in my travels, and if no one else was going to do it, then I would! But in actuality, I wanted to fully embrace my community and help it grow into the artist community it is blossoming into. I began to meet wonderful people, and find new love of old places I had once never given a second glance too. I love that I can walk through my downtown area and encounter friendly strangers and smiling friends. I love the strong sense of community, and the feeling that if we can be a strong community, then we too, as individuals, are strong.
I have some serious pride of my town Bemidji. It is a fun, warm, loving, and creative community. I often wonder how I didn’t see these things before, but I don’t spend too many precious moments thinking of the past, wanting to savor every moment enjoying the present and dreaming of the future.
Lake Bemidji Waterfront
Strong is how I would describe Kathryn Lavelle. Brought here by an abusive man, ripped from the environment she knew and left here to survive on her own- now a single mother after escaping the clutches of yet another abusive relationship. In search for a ticket out of here Kathryn found instead a town that embraced her and helped her heal. She found a place that her life’s pain could be used to help others, she found a home. I will let her explain why Bemidji is her town
I was born on September 5th, 1967 from strong-New York born-half Irish-half Italian-church going-Catholic parents at St. Claire’s Hospital in a small New Jersey town called Denville. I lived in NJ until I was 9 years old and then my family moved to Maryland. I grew up in Maryland…Fallston to be exact…until I entered adulthood.
I attended Fallston High School, wherethe majority of my time was mostly spent skulking through enemy territory. Fallston was a lily white, somewhat affluent, mostly conservative community that seemed hell bent on showing me to my place and forcing me to stay in it. Let’s face it, at the time I was not pretty…I was not popular…I was not a cheerleader…I was never what you would call successful in school. I always felt out of place…as if I was supposed to be living somewhere else…some magical town or city where I could just be myself, breathe deep and be appreciated for my strengths and talents. I later attended Harford Community College only to eventually find myself great with child as they sometimes say, and I had to drop out after only half a year. I had become a statistic, just another one in my long life of statistics…teen pregnancy…sexual assault survivor…teen dating and domestic violence victim. I found myself a young, single parent living in Baltimore City, bartending week nights at a little motorcycle bar called The Loft so I could try and support my infant son. I eventually met and began dating a man from Minnesota when my son was about 3 years old, and we ended up following him back to his small hometown of Clearbrook. So that’s basically the extremely short, bottom line version of how I actually came to end up here in God’s Country, as some of the old timers are still inclined to call it. Before that point, I hadn’t ever given Minnesota a glancing thought…I’m not even sure I could have found it on a map because Geography was yet another school subject I definitely did not excel at (to the extreme chagrin of my father). My entire life’s game plan (from a 16 year olds perspective) was to hopefully graduate from high school…move to Florida where I’d help a friend’s grandma run her bed and breakfast…and write beautiful poetry to the majestic Sun as he slowly spread his amazing golden red and pink streams across the darkening sky. Talk about your culture shock when I finally ended up in Northern Minnesota…
Marriage number two didn’t fare so well…5 years in all…and I divorced the man we originally followed to Minnesota in the first place. I found myself with 3 kids by then, my two daughters Brianna and Mollie who were 3 and 4 years of age…and of course my son David who was 7 by that time. I was fully intending on moving back to Maryland with my tail tucked between my legs so I could hear family members say, “I told you so” for about the next 20 years. I moved out of our home in Clearbrook and got as far as Bemidji where I found a small trailer…REALLY small…in Northern Township. We signed the rental agreement, month to month, and then the children and I moved in. My plan was to work until I had just enough money to get bus tickets for me and the kids. Then we’d travel back to the East Coast so I could start from scratch yet again.
That was 14 years ago and I have lived in Minnesota a total of 19 years…5 years in Clearbrook and 14 years in Bemidji…almost half my life has been lived up here in the great Northland. You may be wondering then, why I never moved back to Baltimore. I didn’t move back because…when a place gets a hold of you…it gets into your blood, brain and bone. It sings to your spirit and says, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you! Better late than never, girlfriend…better late than never!” I got as far as Bemidji and realized…almost as soon as the first box was unpacked…that I was here to stay…that this was HOME! And all of my best laid plans…my eventual escape from Minnesota back to the East Coast from whence I came…became thwarted by this wonderful, eccentric place of energy and possibilities. Bemidji had in fact gotten a hold of me. I would like to add that my Brooklyn born, Irish East Coast bred dad finally ended up following me here to Bemidji after a few visits, and has lived here now for about 7 years. All of my social activist tendencies have come from this man…and it’s been wonderful having him here to spend time with…where he has had the opportunity to watch his grandchildren grow…and now has that same opportunity with his great-grandchildren! And he too, has come to think of Bemidji as his home.
At this point in my life I consider B-town to be my one true hometown, because it was the one I had been waiting half my life to find. Bemidji was the place where I first found my stage legs, my performer’s heart and my singer’s voice. It was the place where I became trapped in an abusive 10 year marriage from hell (my 3rd one) and yet it was also the place that helped me use those horrific experiences to reach out and teach others so they could begin their own journey of healing. It was the place that showed me unbearable heartbreak, pain and sorrow and yet it was also the place that gave me renewed hope and finally…FINALLY…true and unconditional love! It is the place where my children grew up and my grandchildren now embark on their own journey of growing and learning. It is the place where I live and work and breathe and dance and count my abundant blessings. Bemidji is the lake, the land and the sky…coming together to form a more perfect union of township and rural living. Bemidji brought my husband Cody and I together and Bemidji is where we’ll grow old together…me probably a little faster than him since he’s 12 years younger…but together none the less!
I love so many things in, around and about Bemidji.
..I love the Diamond Point Park…I love the lake trail…I love Preachers Grove in Itasca State Park where Cody asked me to be his wife…I love Paul Bunyan Broadcasting where I am currently embarking on a new career as a part time weekend DJ…I love the Wild Hare Bistro and Coffee House because sometimes “you just wanna go where everyone knows your name”, and they even remember what your usual is when it’s too damn early in the morning for you to verbalize it! I love the smell of Harmony Coop and Sunrise Natural Foods, and the wonderful people who work there and lovingly share their wisdom and knowledge. I love having a pint of Guinness at Brigids Cross Irish Pub because it reminds me of the Cat’s Eye in Fells Point, Baltimore. I love being able to walk into my local bank where the tellers know my first name and they’re always letting me know how much they enjoyed the last play or performance I was in. I love how random people see me walking down the sidewalk and ask how my family is. This is the kind of magic you don’t get in a large city…the magic of people connecting on a personal and emotional level that we sometimes take for granted. There are subcultures within our fair city that are reminiscent of true M. Scott Peck communities, and for me these pockets of evolving humanity are essential for my survival as a true human being…to know that people care about me and for me and are working with me to make the world a better place.I like to think of myself as a true Bemidjian because so many people in this town know me…what I’m about… and they still don’t try to change who I am. What an empowering feeling that is! People who live here can be their own true selves, and that in itself is a wonderful gift. I feel I am accepted and in some cases even respected (I hope!) for my domestic violence experience and the work I do to bring education and empowerment to northern community members. In Bemidji I am most recognized as being the domestic violence outreach and education coordinator for Northwoods Coalition for Family Safety…but I am also known for many others things as well. Bemidji has never tried to keep me in a box, rather it has allowed me to experience life on many levels. I have been an actor…a writer…a poet and playwright…a singer…a friend…a wife…a mother and a grandmother…a social activist…and I am very content to live out the rest of my days here, growing and learning while weaving my life in and around the diverse seasons and landscapes of the area.
So to wrap up and bottom line my story…who am I? I am an aging hippie living with her younger husband in an Earth home in Northern Township with 6 cats, 2 dogs and a large corn snake. I am the proud mother of three amazing adults and two gorgeous grandbabies. I am a good someone to have in your corner if your back is up against the wall because I will fight hard for what’s right and just. I am the one who will stop and be late for work if an animal is hurt on the side of a road because I must get out and try to help it. I am the one with an overflowing full plate and a few more on the back burner thrown in for good measure. I am a loyal friend and a relentless foe. And I am…most certainly…a true and loyal fan of my adopted home town…better late than never…Bemidji Minnesota!!!