Posted: April 26th, 2010 | Author: Julie | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Bemidji, Downtown, famous, Harmony Co-op, Minnesota, This is my town, yoga | 5 Comments »
Photography by Julie Saari
Karen (or Ambika!) Lillquist Filardo
Downtown/Lake Bemidji Waterfront
Strong, stoic, a wolf at heart, Karen wowed me with her smile and calmed me with her centered presence. A warm Spring day and cold Lake Bemidji were our backdrop. We talked and I snapped pictures. Karen did one yoga pose after another, making them look effortless. Years of experience and teaching give her this advantage. Well known around town we stopped often to chat with people passing by. Fun, energy, lover of life – this is the impression I was left with, what impression does Karen give you?
This is Karen F:
It’s not about me loving Bemidji, it’s more about Bemidji loving me! Both sets of paternal Great Grandparents came from Sweden and settled in Guthrie so I’ve always had roots and relatives in the area. My earliest memories of Bemidji are of “going to town” with my grandparents. Grandpa brought milk to the crea mery and Grandma, the Guthrie Reporter, handed in news to The Pioneer. I often made news; “Karen Lillquist, Bud’s girl, rode the Greyhound from Minneapolis to visit Art and Irene at home. She attended Ladies Aide, played with cousins, and rode her horse.” I thought I was famous in Bemidji. I still do….. I kind of am.
I didn’t plan on living up north permanently and even after 3 decades I sometimes feel like its time to go back to city life. Bemidji is a vacation place and I’m allergic to pine trees. Yet the reality is I live in a log house surrounded by them in a picture perfect setting on the lake. I still “go to town” weekly and when not teaching Yoga I can be found hanging out at Harmony Food Co-op. I can also be found dancing on the side wall of Harmony in a mural with local friends. Bemidji is a haven for talented artists. Like Al Belleveau who instigated our Sculpture Walk. For my 50th birthday he plastered me and created a blue dancing statue which is often part of the Walk. I used to put sweaters on it and once it wore Winona LaDuke’s old jingle dress. Bemidji is full of comedy.
I transferred to Bemidji State College in the mid 1970’s and loved it. BSU is an integral part of the town and brings in extraordinary people. Like Art Prof Marley Kaul who at that time had us painting BIG, or Art Lee who brought History alive better than the History Chanel. I performed with a Modern Dance Troupe on campus, rode my bike everywhere, played volleyball in backyards, and frequented The Union Station, Beaver Pond, Viking, and Jacks. Bemidji was full of bars with dance bands back then. As a former West Bank Hippie I had to live somewhere with live music. I became a Known Only Locally groupie. KOL recently serenaded my husband in front of our fireplace on his 60th birthday. An example of what makes Bemidji magical.
I got a job after graduation as Bemidji’s first Adult Day Care Director. Local elderly shared stories of lumberjacking, teaching in one room schools, working on the railroad and farming. Historically people have worked hard in Bemidji. My next job brought me to the controversial Counseling Associates, an outpatient Treatment Center that served the area and eventually clients from all over the country. I learned that Bemidji is a place of healing. I’ve helped people heal and have healed here myself. I’ve had to be flexible and creative in my career as jobs are hard to come by in our town. I jumped at artistic opportunities when they arose. Like choreographing dance for huge casts of kids and teaching them Creative Movement. I got to be in on turning the local funeral home into a Music and Arts Center. Talk about transformation! Bemidji feels stuck to me at times and other times I’m awed by the opportunities that arise. There are big parades, events where folks jump into freezing water, dragon boat races and roller derby to name a few. If nothing is going on you can go to The Wild Hare. I’m there now. It’s full of beautiful paintings and I’m full of great food. Cool people too, I just visited with an Olympic Curler soon to be a neighbor. You can always find someone interesting to talk to.
Nothing is more boring than rattling off your children’s achievements so I’ll just highlight a few unique opportunities they experienced while growing up in Bemidji; Speech contests and advanced placement classes. Nordic skiing that led to future collegiate championship. Show choir performance that won awards. Attendance at our Alternative Learning Center! I danced with my daughter for 10 years at Diane’s Dance. Attended excellent music recitals and sporting events. Bemidji’s kids are incredible. I know a ton of them. Many of them leave….and lots of them come back.
I’ve also had unique opportunities myself and sometimes wonder, if I had left Bemidji would I have participated in so many GROUPS? Twelve step. Folk choir, Pounders, Northern School Parent Volunteers, Bemidji Parent Network (coined Narcwork by my son), Artworks, Bemidji Babes, Zen Buddhists, The Gasman Crew; I am eternally grateful to Greg for casting me as a Tormentor in Jesus Christ Superstar, my claim to fame. We delivered seasons of divine performance that Bemidji nor our cast will ever forget. Bemidji fought to save the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, it’s a local landmark.
We also have Paul and Babe, Lobo the wolf, and Chief Bemidji. Indian Country surrounds us. I would not be happy without the presence of the Anishinabe whom I have had the great honor to both teach and learn from. I often work on the rez and have made lifelong friends crossing cultural lines. I sometimes feel the spirits of the First People on the shores of the Mississipi River where I live reminding me that our land is sacred. My life partner and husband John reminds me as well. He left NY for clean air, water and space. We fell in love in Bemidji and made it our home. Our nest is empty now and I’m traveling a lot to study and teach Yoga, my true calling. When I’m asked to describe where I live I can barely do it! What can I say….college town, regional hub, tourist area? It’s not about what people do here, its more about WHY people stay here being that it’s BRRRRmidji more than not. I’m convinced it has to do with being loved.
Written by Karen Filardo
pics by Julie Saari
Karen’s Webpage can be found HERE
Posted: April 19th, 2010 | Author: Julie | Filed under: Downtown, Surrounding area: Cass Lake | Tags: artist, Bemidji, Cate B., Downtown, Surrounding area: Cass Lake, teacher, The Wild Rose Theater | No Comments »
Photography by Julie Saari
Cass Lake Elementary School
Somewhere between roller derby practice, judging performances for a music scholarship, child’s theater practice, classes, workshops, and meetings, Cate whittled out a bit of time for me. I met Cate for the first time at The Wild Rose Theater in downtown Bemidji. Trying to keep up with Ms. Belleveau and snap pictures at the same time was, to say the least, a challenge. One can not help but feel her constantly creating, it seems to be second nature for her. A buzz of activity and energy Cate’s spirit fills a room.
An athletic 8th grader traveling with her Wisconsin based family on a trip around Lake Superior and its environs was told “ Haul out everyone we need a break and this grassy lake front seems perfect!”
Six kids were stuffed in a baby blue Ford station wagon and welcomed rolling down the grassy hills that came to a pleasant stop at the shores of Lake Bemidji. After picnicking on that sunny August day and doing the “Cheese Smile” at the statues of Paul & Babe , we continued on to Lake Itasca. That would be a must-see if one was visiting northern Minnesota. Now, who would have ever in their wildest imaginings have guessed that this little basketball jock young woman could have waved a good bye kiss to Bemidji.
“ Hey, I will be back in 9 years and eventually make you my home … I will fall in love with a man who was living like Thoreau. I will open a woman’s theater collective in that old brick building across from where I rolled down the hill giggling with my siblings . I will work hard with my husband to put public art on the streets. I will strive to keep small town Bemidji alive in a way that only the arts can imbue to a sense of place . I will direct a Shakespeare Fest on your shore lines. During a production of Pippi Longstocking, pirates will come by boat in a kids’ show in the warm August sun. The same sun I remembered from when I ate sandwiches with family way back when. I will play opposite the mayor of this fair city in a theatrical show about ice fishing right on the lake in January. I will even race across glittering waters with an all female team for the Dragon Boat Festival .”
I love Bemidji for the arts community , the natural world , the “small time feel like I know people” ethos , and the sense of humor about itself .
Where else could we have raised our children who have moved to large cities ( DC, NYC, Montreal ) who now have memories of the screaming man coming up the driveway yelling “AAAAAAAL”. That would turn out to be three baby bear cubs wailing at 4:00 AM in the birch tree out front of the house . We have stopped in our tracks and listened to gray wolves howl which sent the hair vertical on our arms .
There is the kayaking on lakes where no one lives , the skiing by open water in Three Island Park, and snowshoeing on our own 120 acres of mixed woods, swamps and beaver ponds . There are the morel mushrooms, Springtime maple syrup, gardening all summer, mosquitoes, wood ticks, wood heat all winter long , sunsets, and aurora borealis.
This area has given me the joy of being publicly hugged by dozens of Native American children I have served on the Red Lake and Leech Lake Indian Reservations as I walk through Target and they spot me .
I am a gypsy always wanting to move on, move on and have traveled to Japan, Germany, 50 states and Canada, New Zealand, Nepal , Britain, France, Switzerland, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Italy, Greece. I always want to explore more, learn more, understand more and yet I always return home to Bemidji.
My ashes will be scattered in my spiritual home, Heaven’s Peak in Glacier National Park, but what a blessing Bemidji has been. For now – home, in the best sense …
Home is love ,
written by Cate Belleveau
self- actualization as an artist,
aesthetic beauty and
Pics by Julie Saari
Posted: April 12th, 2010 | Author: Julie | Filed under: South of Bemidji | Tags: Bemidji, David, Logging, Minnesota | 6 Comments »
Check back on April 19 for another story
- South of Bemidji
South of Bemidji
Photography by Julie Saari
I found David quite by accident. I knew I wanted a logger to be part of my project. But, how does one find a logger? After all they work in the woods. I happened across a site, took a chance and scrawled a note on a piece of paper and stuck it on the truck at the site. I was praying he didn’t think me crazy. Instead, he called me. He was excited. See, David knows he has a story, and he was ready to tell it. To me this is the best kind of story; one of a life well lived, and lived simply.
The day I took David’s pictures it was his 63rd birthday. He was ready to go and had everything planned to make my experience easier. What he may not have known is I loved being out in the woods. I could have stayed all day; the trees, the smells, the quiet taken over by one lone chainsaw.
David has a story, here it is:
I grew up on a farm near Guthrie. My first involvement with the timber industry was my brother and I cutting aspen off our family farm to sell to the Nu Ply plant in Bemidji. We used our Ford farm tractor and a two wheel trailer loading and unloading all the wood by hand. After we had stacked the cut pulpwood in a place a truck could reach we hired a logger who had a truck to haul it to NuPly.
After graduating from high school I continued to log some in the same way and also to work for loggers who had more specialized equipment. Until I graduated from the University of Minnesota, Forestry school, spring 1970; I worked weekends and breaks logging for myself or for loggers to pay my way through school. By the time I graduated I knew I really enjoyed logging. The development of rubber tired skidders and hydraulic log loaders had taken the backbreaking labor out of the process and made it possible to log more difficult terrain. However, before I could start logging full time I had a military obligation to fulfill.
The four years I spent in the Air Force strongly reinforced my desire to choose my own work and the place I would live. I logged whenever I got leave and I did purchase a used skidder while I was still in the Air Force. As April 18, 1975 approached I was eager to get back to Minnesota to:
Be close to family.
Do work that I enjoyed where I could see the results of my efforts.
Be outdoors every day.
“Be my own boss”!
In April 1975, I started logging full time mostly working as a one man crew. I followed the same model of operation we used as kids on the farm, do the work to get the wood to roadside and then hire the trucking. This is still the way I do things and it has permitted me to do the work I really enjoy.
In March 1980, I married another person involved in the timber industry, Barbara Lundmark. Barbara worked in her father Roy Lundmark’s timber dealership. I had sold Roy wood since 1967 and had known Barbara since I returned from the Air Force. We moved to a location halfway between our previous homes when we got married and my address became Bemidji as hers had been. Barbara continued to run the business for her parents until April 2001, when she and I became co-owners. We continue to operate the business though at a very reduced size due to the loss of mills in our area.
My logging operation is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the heavily mechanized crews that have become the norm. One man with a small grapple skidder, a pickup and several chainsaws comprise the entire operation. Felling, delimbing and cutting into the various products is accomplished with chainsaws. Building roads, skidding the wood from the woods to the landing, sorting into various products and piling for truck pickup is accomplished with the grapple skidder. The pickup carries fuel for the skidder, chainsaws and of course the crew.
In the last fifteen years I have cut mostly private timber combining my forestry education and my logging to help landowners develop a long term plan for their timber and then implement that plan. It is very rewarding to be able to see the results of the work we have done and to be able to share the increase in value that the work has created.
I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to live in an area I love, to do work that I love.
Written by David Horn
To see a slideshow of David’s photo shoot click here
pics by Julie Saari
Posted: April 4th, 2010 | Author: Julie | Filed under: Downtown | Tags: Bemidji, Chief Theater, Downtown, Harmony Co-op, Lisa, Minnesota | 8 Comments »
Check back on Monday April 12th to meet David.
Photography by Julie Saari
What if someone never leaves their hometown? Do you consider them stuck? Or are they blessed to have been born into the town they were meant to live in?
Back Alley Downtown Bemidji
Lisa W. is one of the first people I see on my days in town. A quick stop into Harmony Co-op for my Certified Organic Free Trade $1 cup of coffee serves more as a recharge of the spirit than a hot beverage. Seeing Lisa there stocking the fruits and vegetables is a kind of comfort to me. The contentment of her face made me want to know her story, maybe you will find it interesting also. Do you think she got stuck?
This is Lisa:
Bemidji’s my hometown. I was born in the nursing home right off Bemidji Avenue which used to be the area’s main hospital. I graduated from Bemidji Middle School, Bemidji High School and Bemidji State University, got married (and divorced, and married again, ahem) in the Bemidji courthouse, had a baby in the “new” Bemidji Hospital, and landed a job in downtown Bemidji at a our only community owned grocery store. You get the gist. I’m one of those: a local. Not a seventh-generation indigenous local or a third generation Scandinavian-settler local, but the kind of local that was simply born here and feels Bemidji in her blood.
The question most hometown people get, from my experience, is ‘why didn’t you ever leave? Or ‘what made you stay?’ as if it was a one time decision made at a vulnerable moment rather than a complex string of choices made around a central…..vision, perhaps, or set of values. In this hyper-mobile world, it is rare when one stays put; much less by choice.
But being a hometown gal means that basically many, if not most of my ‘firsts’ happened here. That gives some major psychic influence to a place. It’s like a familiar smell that brings you back to your grandmother’s bathroom; this geographical space within which complex patterns of memory neurons form. For instance, the Chief Theater was where I saw my first “R” rated movie, Excalibur, with a boy I liked so much I almost peed my pants at the thought of us eating out of the same popcorn tub. (We didn’t.) It was also the place I acted on stage for the first time when it became home to the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. (More firsts: my first case of pathological stage fright; my first ceilingless high at successfully delivering a line.)
My first case of swimmers itch happened when I was ten, swimming with my sister in Lake Bemidji (she was 14 months older; she toweled off). My first job was at T’Juans which afforded me my first car, the first boy who would ever break my heart, and, ironically…years later, the first guy who would ever figure out how to mend it. (Different guys, same restaurant.)
But regardless of my own personal ‘psychic influences’ that anchor me to this little rural village in northern Minnesota, Bemidji is a place in it’s own right; not just the place I had my first meeting with life, but a place that exudes a certain quality of life. Not ‘quality of life’ kind of quality; that term is used very broadly these days. Rather, more a felt-sense of ‘living’ that is able to happen here, between these lakes, inset along this river, amongst the meeting of cultures and traditions, under these forests, within these habitats, and withstanding this very extreme climate. This is the reason so many of us stay here, or come here, or return here; this indescribable magnetism that a certain number of us feel…in our blood.
Perhaps it is as simple as the natural beauty of the landscape, though I think the harsh winters would deter the average aesthetic-minded traveler from settling here. Perhaps it is the university; the odd placement of academia within a hard-working rural farming and logging community. Perhaps it is the collective memory of the pre-settlement culture which keeps alive the spirit of the place in art, and dance, and story. And even, perhaps, it’s the sense of cultural woundedness and historic oppression that hangs in the air as an invisible invitation for healing.
But more likely, it’s all of these things, plus.
What exact thing it is for me, I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s been a choice made between this place and me. Bemidji calls forth the values I hold on family, on beauty, on hardiness and complexity, health, determination, resilience, history, and community. I guess I answer this call by keeping it alive in story, by choosing to stay and work and build and flourish in the community I’m called to, and by realizing that the big, wide world exists right where I open my eyes.
Written by Lisa Weiskopf
To see a slideshow of Lisa’s photo shoot click here
pics by Julie Saari