November–December 2021

From the Editor

Break Time

How do you read the lands and waters where you find yourself?

In 2007, my predecessor, Kathleen Weflen, and MCV art director Lynn Phelps dreamed up the idea for a year-end edition that offered a break from the relentless news cycle, with stories that honored Minnesota’s outdoors. 

“How do you read the lands and waters where you find yourself?” Weflen wrote in the Volunteer’s inaugural Sense of Place issue, laying out the mission of the written and visual essays that followed. “How do you get your bearings, take measure of natural features, learn to care for a place and its natural resources?” 

These questions continue to shape our November–December issue. But as inspiring as I find this latest installment, there were times during its production when I questioned whether its optimistic outlook struck the right tone coming off another difficult year. Shouldn’t we be covering last summer’s devastating drought and wildfires, I wondered? Or analyzing the effects of the pandemic on natural resources work?  

But Weflen was right: We all need a break sometimes. Lucky for you, our latest Sense of Place issue provides plenty of reasons to pause and meditate on the state’s natural wonders. In “Moments in Between," writer Bill Klein embraces slow hunting days by trading the chase for quiet observations of the world around him.   

Other stories find the profound in the mundane. In “The Road More Traveled," Henry Whitehead tunes into the outside world during his daily commute. Richard Hamilton Smith’s photo essay “The Changing View” features multiple images of the same view, captured over a series of years and seasons. Shown together, the photos remind the viewer to take nothing in nature for granted. Identity is a recurring theme in these pages. Articles such as “Natural Connection," "Now Streaming" and “Paddle Home” offer distinct examples of Minnesotans who have built their lives around the outdoors. 

Rounding out the issue are stories that border on the fantastical. Sophia Lauber recounts a magical wilderness skating session in “Lure of the Wild Ice." Minnesota’s rarest carnivorous plant takes center stage in “Searching for Butterwort.” In “Semi-Abstract,” photographer Gary Alan Nelson abandons his traditional style for highly processed, almost otherworldly nature photos. And capping things off is poet Larry Schug’s haunting cold-weather reflection “Winter Solstice.”

Many thanks to the talented writers, illustrators, and photographers who contributed to our 15th annual Sense of Place issue. And HUGE thanks to you, our readers, for continuing to fund this vital publication, now in its 81st year. Happy winter.

Chris Clayton, editor in chief