Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Yesterday was the 5th Annual Gales of November paddle for me and a group of cronies. It was the normal mix of 'the usual suspects' with a couple new folks, and we paddled to a spot that we had visited briefly once before, Big Island on Lake Minnetonka. We were greeted by a small sign that said, "No camping, no campfires, no alcohol, no glass". We didn't have a tent but we had the wherewithal to violate three of the four rules. In the end we only violated two (had to bring the firewood home) and, since were the only humans in the area, we felt responsible enough to handle living on the edge in that manner. It was the perfect afternoon. The weather was unseasonably warm, the sun was out, and none of us were at work. In past years the weather has not been quite so nice, horizontal snowflakes a couple years back, but we go anyway on November 10th because this event, in addition to being a great time and the last 'official' paddle before the surface of the lakes turn solid, is a commemoration of sorts.

On November 10, 1975, thirty four years ago, the Edmund Fitzgerald sank with all hands in a legendary Lake Superior nor'easter. Our little paddle on the anniversary is a way of remembering that the lake is indeed the boss and can be a deadly place if a person doesn't respect it. That was brought home again in the past couple weeks with the loss of kayaker Doug W. in yet another deadly nor'easter on the big lake. Today, November 11, is another commemoration, the 91st anniversary of the end of World War I, the optimistically named 'war to end all wars', and the start of the tradition of Veteran's Day. I hold very little hope that humanity will ever figure out how to settle disputes without stupid wars, but Veteran's Day is a time to remember those who served, honor their service, and maybe attempt to figure out how we can get to a time where we actually run out of war veterans due to lack of wars. In Minnesota we have one World War I veteran left, a fellow born in 1901, but plenty of new Iraq and Afghanistan veterans being created to take their place. The cycle must end at some point.

In another minute and insignificant commemoration, this is my 400th post. I didn't realize it until I hit 'new post' this morning but I guess it must be true. The world is full of commemoration, as we saw yesterday at Fort Hood, some much more important and universal than others, but all significant to those close to the event. Have a good Veteran's Day and never forget. As an old history major, I can tell with absolute certainty that those who ignore history are indeed condemned to repeat it. Read a little bit about the First Afghan War in 1842 and see if anything sounds familiar.

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