Every year on a set weekend in mid-January, my sisters and I drive west from the Twin Cities to Brooten in the Bonanza Valley of west-central Minnesota. No matter what challenges the weather whips up, we make the trip. We go because our annual family quilting weekend has become a tradition. Dreamed up by our maternal aunts, the event draws nieces, cousins, and in-laws to piece together a quilt and recall family history.

My cousin Damon has dubbed the extravaganza Quiltstock, and it does have vague similarities to Woodstock, the notorious 1960s music festival. At our aunt and uncle's house on the edge of town, a couple of dozen people pack into a relatively small space. After supper, as night falls and we quilters settle into our stitching rhythm around the quilting frame, Uncle Berdine brings out his steel guitar and my sister Wanda unpacks her accordion. Aunt Ramona picks up the tune and starts to sing. Soon others join in.

Like any tradition, this one has room for variations. This year Damon led an expedition of the Weflen sisters to his farm for a walk in the woods. On the way there, we spotted a snowy owl, a first sighting for many of us. At the farm, as we tromped along a field of wind-glazed snow, my sister Nancy remarked how the landscape looked like photos in the Sense of Place issue. It was true, and we thank our relatives for giving us another way to stay in touch with this place.

Connecting with other people and nature helps keep a person healthy. Numerous studies, as well as personal experience, show this. Minnesota Conservation Volunteer tells stories that help connect readers to the outdoors. And we are grateful for the many ways readers stay in touch with this magazine.

Thank-you pages in this issue are one sign of reader support. Your contribution not only ensures that the magazine arrives in your mailbox, but it also makes you a partner in our conservation mission. Whenever you tell someone about this magazine, you carry that mission forward. About 4,000 new people sign up to subscribe each year. Most have heard about the magazine from someone like you. This past holiday season, 895 people gave gift subscriptions to 1,262 households.

Along with contributions, many of you send encouraging words such as these: "I cherish the Sense of Place issue." "We want our children to have access to the quality writing about our state's outdoors that your magazine provides." "The grandkids sit still and actually talk about the articles."

By writing letters to the editor, readers also talk to each other. Like a lively conversation, letters present new perspectives on a story. Hot topics, such as wolf management and proposed copper mining, spark letters that raise questions and generate more ideas.

Curiosity moves people to write to Natural Curiosities. The questions can make us puzzle, laugh, and sometimes groan. One staff member said he'd be happy if we never got another letter about squirrels. But you know we will, because people will keep encountering these annoying, amusing, amazing critters. Even my husband—whose bird feeders have invited all the neighborhood squirrels to our yard—has threatened to send us his how-to-outwit-a-clever-rodent question.

Occasionally, a piece in the magazine leads to talking in person. After recounting his near drowning in "Paddler Down," managing editor Keith Goetzman received a speaking invitation from the Forest Lake Lions Club, which had raised money for the fire department airboat that had rescued him.

Online editor Mike Kallok connects with MCV's 4,000 Facebook fans. His stories, such as "The Case for Copper," lead to correspondence with other hunters and anglers.

Art director Lynn Phelps, who lives by the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, selects photographs, arguably the feature that readers admire and talk about most.

In customer service and circulation, David Lent and Sue Ryan gladly take your phone calls.

All of us value your engagement with Minnesota's lands, waters, and wildlife. And we know that supportive, thoughtful readers like you are the best friends any publication could have. Let's keep in touch.