If a man owns land, the land
owns him.-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Spruce Grove Township is the birthplace of both of my grandfathers. It is a small piece of land in Northern Minnesota where birds are watched and the weather is kept under tight scrutiny. A stretch of gravel road is still home to many that have the family name. As a child, I enjoyed asking my father as we drove to my grandparents, “Who lives there?” He would always answer with, “Oh, my cousin” or “Oh, my aunt and uncle”. This land is owned by my family, immediate and out reaching as it is.
Since I was not raised in this world of Jack pines and pastures, there are words and names with which I am familiar, but have never experienced. Cousins speak about Four Town and trails, and I feel connected to these places through my family’s place in this rural setting. I believe that even with my outsider status, I belong because this is where my family started their lives in this country.
Acres and roads are sacred in this world. What is now my father’s cabin was once owned and built by my Grandpa Karl. He chose the wood from the trees in these 40 acres. He put them through his own sawmill and created a sanctuary for himself and his band of brothers and nephews. The cabin had character when Grandpa inhabited it, and now my father takes pride in its appearance and story. When my Grandpa sold the land to my father, I am sure it was easier to part with because it would stay not only in the hands of a family member, but also, a lover of this northern land.
The large garden that was sown by my grandparents' hands has grown over with weeds, but I do not concern myself with this. I know someone, an uncle or cousin, will grow from that again. I do not feel sad to think of the little metal bucket nailed to the tree is missing. The same bucket that Grandpa Karl used to tell a story about a woodsman who never returned for his lunch. As children, we believed him everytime without question. These are stories that will be retold and altered by someone else, probably family, for many more years.
This land is a place where things will not change. It won’t matter how many years past or how many dollars are spent. Life will stay the same in Spruce Grove Township where folks talk about the deer season. Family members may leave. Family members may return. The landscape might see a new house or fence, but this peaceful way of living will continue.