How did you land in Minnesota? Geography is more than a destination. In many ways, geography is destiny. Where you live, work, and play shapes your life.

"A Fisherman's Tale" in this issue takes place in a portable ice-fishing house on a frozen lake. Waiting for fish to rise to his bait, writer Tou Yang raises ordinary questions—any fish down there?—and deeper questions—what if my family had not landed in Minnesota? Beneath his questions, the reader can sense that this newcomer has embraced this land of icy waters. And his immigrant family has made Minnesota more diverse.

What is this place called Minnesota? Consider its topography, the lay of the land. This issue reflects some of the variety—from the cover photo of a flat expanse of snow sculpted by wind, feet, tires, and sleds—to the essay on a 10,000-acre peatland known as the Lost Lake swamp.

Marshall Helmberger and his wife, Jodi, built their home on the edge of that swamp. His essay "Lost Lake Sanctuary" delves into more than three decades of exploring the waterlogged landscape outside their door.

Tom Anderson centers "November Reunions" on a rough-hewn wooden shack by a North Shore creek. The history and culture of his hunting clan form the core of his sense of place. For many a Minnesota deer hunter, Anderson's nostalgic account of days and nights in the shack will be familiar territory. Whether recalled or lived in the moment, happiness resides in good company.

Laurie Allmann's "Through the Looking Glass" renders time capsules of place. For this story, she traveled to see the sites presented in historical dioramas, three-dimensional natural scenes from the 1940s. The artistic and scientific geniuses behind the dioramas first visited and then depicted each particular place and its wild inhabitants—wolves in winter at Shovel Point on the North Shore of Lake Superior, migrating snow geese on Mud Lake on the state's western border, and early May wildflowers in the maple-basswood forest of Maplewood Park in Waseca. True to the tiniest details of tall grass and fallen leaves, the dioramas stop time. Allmann talked to biologists and ecologists today to examine how the natural communities and features of these places have aged.

Allmann says a conservation ethic compelled the creation of these dioramas at the Bell Museum of Natural History. A conservation ethic has also helped protect some of the real-life ecosystems. Shovel Point is now part of Tettegouche State Park. Waseca's 28-acre city park protects a tiny fraction of the maple-basswood forest that made up the original 2,000-square-mile Big Woods ecosystem. Because federal flood-control projects destroyed much of marshy Mud Lake, the spring spectacle of migrating snow geese has largely moved to South Dakota's Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

As stories in this issue suggest, a person's sense of place goes well beyond the walls of home or hunting shack. Our world encompasses lands and waters too vast to be owned by any one person. Wild sanctuaries, hunting grounds, fishing waters, hiking trails—all require room to roam, opportunities to cross borders. These shared spaces include national, county, city, and state forests, parks, trails, water accesses, wildlife management areas, scientific and natural areas, and more. What if we did not have such places?

Our public lands and waters enable us to experience the natural state of Minnesota and, indeed, to be Minnesotans.