By: Steffi O'Brien
by Doug Wood
As I write these words from our old 1930’s cabin in the Pine Point woods, change is in the air. The basswoods have long since dropped their leaves. The maples have passed their brightest brilliance and the last of the foliage they hold will not last the advancing cold front. The tamaracks still hold forth in all their golden glory, and of course the red oaks will cling to their scarlet cloaks until nearly spring. But the woods are changing, and all can feel it.
The red and gray squirrels are more active and industrious than ever. Most of the ducks have migrated down the great Mississippi flyway. The herons have moved along. A kingfisher rattled from deep in the back bay a few days ago, but I have not heard him since. The nightly lows are lower. The winter stars come around earlier in the evening and begin to claim the summit of the night sky. By the time these words are read, snow
will likely cover the ground, and Old Man River may be once again locked in ice.
Change is in the air. But then, it always is.
During the months when Orion rules the night, we will be attuned to the slightest upturn in temperatures, the advancing minutes of daylight. We will watch the ground turn bare on the south side of the big White Pine trunks. We will listen for the first telltale drips from the eaves and the first whisperings of running water, the “Spring’s here!” call of the chickadee. We will feel something quicken in our blood with the first warm zephyrs from the south, and restlessly await the arrival of geese and redwings, bluebirds
and swallows, goldeneyes and buffleheads.
Change is always in the air.
Sometimes it arrives more unexpectedly than with the predictable cycle of the seasons. But it is never totally unexpected. Or at least it shouldn’t be. It may arrive as a wild storm, toppling old friends. Or as a bright,
breezy, sunny day, kicking out the last rags of clouds from a lingering low-pressure system.
And of course, change arrives in our human lives as well, in our families and organizations, in all the things we care about and love. As it arrives, we undertake the constant but always new process of dealing with it—with birth and loss and growth and evolution; with joy and sadness and concern and excitement. All are a part of the seasons of life.
For our Listening Point Foundation, this is particularly a time of change. Our beloved Boundary Waters Wilderness faces perhaps the greatest challenge yet to its viability and integrity, while wild and natural areas and creatures nationwide bear the brunt of new policies and actions from Washington that threaten hard-won gains that may have once felt permanent. Caring citizens throughout the upper midwest and coast to coast are engaged in efforts to direct the constant reality of change in positive directions. The LPF—guided by its twofold mission to preserve Sigurd Olson’s Listening Point and advance his legacy of wilderness education — will be navigating these waters in the months and years ahead. And we will do so in the context of even more change.
LPF’s long-time Executive Director Alanna Dore, for years the heart and soul and face of the organization, is taking early retirement. I say “early” because whatever her age (she may be over 35) and length of tenure, it would always feel like she should have stayed “just a little longer.” That will always be the case when a person gives as much of herself—of her love and care and personality and devotion—as Alanna has done. Her accomplishments on behalf of this organization are unrivaled and too numerous to list in full. From yeoman-like fundraising toward the purchase of the old Olson home as our new headquarters; to acquiring much needed grants for much needed projects; to overseeing historical refurbishments and restorations to the iconic cabin; to truly expert archiving and management of ever increasing historical resources; to organizing large scale annual spring and fall events, dinners, fundraisers, gifts and auctions; to creating the ongoing “visits to Listening Point” program; to—and most importantly—dealing with an endless stream of personalities, needs, wants, desires, and obligations in her graceful and positive interactions with the members of LPF and the public in general, well… as I say, a full accounting of all Alanna has done and meant to the Foundation is impossible to present here. Suffice to say, she will be greatly missed.
But not yet. For another part of this change is our welcoming on-board of new Executive Director Steffi O’Brien. Introduced at our annual Fall Dinner in Ely, Steffi has been chosen to continue in Alanna’s footsteps for many reasons, not least her brilliant smile, engaging personality, outstanding educational background, achievements and skills. Much more will be shared about Steffi in this space in the future, but for now I will simply add that Alanna and Steffi will be working together for the first six months of the new year, as Alanna shares ALL she has learned and mastered in her tenure, and Steffi soaks it ALL up. And begins to add her own touches.
So… change is with us, as always. In the midst of it we feel challenged, and beckoned, and uncertain, and reassured. As always. As human beings will forever feel on this beautiful planet Earth we call home.