Posted: June 14th, 2010 | Author: Julie | Filed under: Downtown | Tags: Bemidji, Harmony Co-op, Minnesota, service, This is my town, Wild Hare | 3 Comments »
Photography by Julie Saari
Harmony Co-op Dairy Cooler
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.
Written by: Mackenzie Lindahl
pics by Julie Saari
Harmony Co-op’s web site HERE
Wild Hare’s web site HERE
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 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