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A Walk in the Woods


Fri, Sep 14th, 2001
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Monday, September 17, 2001

The road is a narrow thin cut in the side of a hill near Whalan.

To the south, the land tilts steeply upward in heavy stands of hardwood forest, the ground cover a combination of spindly grass, forest underbrush and small weeds.

To the north, the land falls away quickly into ravines and dry arroyos that carry the annual spring runnoff and the heavy Fall rains toward the Grebbin Valley, and eventually into the Root River.

Every year, since I have been back from Asia, I have come to this spot on the first weekend of September to walk in the woods hunting for ginseng.

It is an annual pilgrimage, a rite of autumn marked by flying leaves blowing in the dry winds swinging through the valley. I suppose it is a religious experience of sorts, as I come to co-mmingal with nature. These woods have become a silent friend to me and I seek them out in quiet reunion at this time of year.

Last year my son and daughter came with me. This year, my wife makes the journey.

Shafts of sunlight pour through the canopy in ringlets of light. My walking is mindful and focused as I work against the steep slope. My boots kick up rocks and slide in the morning dew. I grab on to small trees to keep my balance and stare at the underbrush for the medicinal plant.

For a few brief moments, these woods remind me of the jungles of Guadalcanal, where under the triple canopy, the air is cool and the day dark. There, the jungle is a garden to be harvested of animals, trees and plants. All of the people in the village where I lived, who are slash and burn farmers, keep three or four gardens under cultivation at any given time.

It takes about a year to grow yams, a staple food and the most traditional crop in the islands. The word for year and yam are the same - uvi.

Everyone has a special uvi garden. And they keep another garden spot for “kumara” - sweet potatoes. And then another plot that has just been cut and burned and will be planted within a few days. Survival depends on these several gardens being in different stages of development.

In the mornings people leave the village walking barefoot along the road leading toward the mountians.

“Bong bongi. Bai vai?”

“Good morning, where are you going?” you ask, even though you know where they are going.

“Ba Chakuna.”

“To the jungle,” they say.

If they carry a machette, they might be looki .....
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Fri, Sep 14th, 2001
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Submit a Letter to the Editorhere

Fri, Sep 14th, 2001
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To the Editor,
Monday, September 17, 2001

To the Editor,

It is widely known that Osama Bin Laden and other Arab terrorists perceive the US as having a pro-Israel bias. Too few Americans know that from 1947-1997, the US poured ..... 
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Vernon H. Vigeland

Fri, Sep 14th, 2001
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Vernon H. Vigeland, 77, of LaCrosse, Wis., formerly of Mabel, Minn. died March 12, 2001 at the Green Lea Manor Nursing Home in Mabel where he had resided for only a week.

Vernon was born September 5, 1923 in Preble Township, Fillmore County, M ..... 
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Gladys Judith Swain

Fri, Sep 14th, 2001
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Gladys Judith Swain, 93, of Rushford, a homemaker, died March 7, 2001 at her home.

Gladys Judith Williams was born May 15, 1907, on the Humble farm at Highland Prairie, moved to North Dakota with her family when she was 3 months old and retu ..... 
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Ronald Thorson

Fri, Sep 14th, 2001
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Ronald Thorson, 65, of rural Mabel, a retired Lockheed Corp. employee, died April 28, 2001 at Winneshiek County Memorial Hospital in Decorah, Iowa.

Ronald was born Aug. 28, 1935, in Decorah to Levi and Esther (Rotvold) Thorson. He graduated ..... 
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