The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sub Terra Vita: Chronicle #55: My Valley, My County—Revisited

Sub Terra Vita: Chronicle #55: My Valley, My County—Revisited
By Tim Krenz
January 31, 2019
For NormalcyMag

“My valley, my country!” I exclaimed in the first of these chronicles in Sub Terra Vita, my “underground life.” What did I mean then by “my valley, my country?” Does my meaning remain valid? What does it mean to me now?

In writing these sketches and mini-memoirs, I talk throughout of those personal experiences and stories of life here, the living stage drama of the St. Croix Valley. In my spirit, the topics grounded themselves upon the influences of my family and its heritage, my friends, my surroundings, and the meandering that shaped my own life and formed the hidden histories that abound in this homeland—my valley, my country.

I feel, deeply, a duty to share, reflect and expound on them. I know some stories and they should say things that help others to understand the people and place we call home. With perhaps too much pride, I mentioned in the first chronicle of having a direct family lineage in the St. Croix Valley going back nearly one hundred and fifty years. My great-great grandfather homesteaded in the East Farmington area just south of Osceola. However, even as a fifth generation descendant to this land, I claim no propriety over the valley's story but only as it extends over my personal life—seeing it, hearing it, touching it, trying to understand it.

Many families, past and now, have put frustration, blood, tears, sweat and loved ones into this ground. These underground life chronicles try to honor those peoples. May they continue to do so, as we live toward the future today. Because of these reasons, “my valley, my country,” meant a spiritual kinship with the valley, one that only seeks to nurture all and not demean anyone or anything. For this, my statement remains valid. I care about my home, my homeland in Western Wisconsin , the valley of the St. Croix River.

Moving onward, what does “my valley, my country” mean to me now? Times change and time changes. Things have to evolve, and so does our perspective.

Along with the oldness of the St. Croix Valley, new people and their families have come. Whereas the passing of time regenerates the soil when nurtured and fed with the old things that expire, new people, new ideas, new ways, new forms can bring an invigorating and creative tension that allows a vibrant life to flourish. The values of the old things here complement with traditions and customs the new innovations and the growth of the modern world. Indeed, without the wise mix of the old added to the new, unstable relationships between people, and between them and the material, creates turmoil and destructive tendencies beneficial to no one. Without the creative, positive tension in the process of renewal, the valley would wither and die by staleness and depletion. After that, it would snuff itself and its value to the world by becoming the opposite of a home, just a place without character. As residents who need to care, we can not accept the wrong alternatives. It seems better to focus and work toward the positives.

I care about my home, my homeland, in this corner of the world. Because we all should care, we must contribute good, inclusive ideas and by our deeds preserve responsibly the things that make the valley of the St. Croix River more than just a place to rest and run. We need to keep and improve it as a home for us, now and for later. When I started writing the Sub Terra Vita Chronicles four years ago, I intended to explain the past formed by my memory. “My valley, my country,” meant that I recognize my debts to others who lived or passed this way. They gave me a vibrant, comfortable homeland in which to live. I still seek only to share my experiences, but in this chronicle I would like to see how my experiences going forward may take shape.

“My valley, my country,” remains my mantra for now. A mix of customs and traditions survive but the new and interesting developments should stay relevant. Times change. Physical developments change with them. If traditions pass, culture remains based upon and growing from them. A culture provides the bedrock of sanity and values, and stability, in the change of time and appearance. Like bedrock, like strong personal principles and character, culture grips to the land and water and how people use them. We grow from the experience.

In a land and water, indisputably one symbiotic whole anywhere, we have connections to past, present and future. Both land and water as one and the people and habits the other, all combine to improve if we have the willing effort to grow healthy. We must recognize these attributes—land, water, people, and culture—as one indivisible and undivided whole of the St. Croix Valley. We must recognize our common interest and the multiple denominators as the single, whole, indeed absolute ONE.

The St. Croix River may divide two states, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In spite of that, it impresses all people on both sides of the water with the strong physical reality, and with an almost spiritual bond of history, commerce, fun, and recollections. The course of the river flows like a spine, the nerves to the stem of our consciousness about both its presence and meaning. It has a pure beauty itself, even farther north upriver. Without realizing it, the river provides our reason for life here, even if we remain unconscious of that fact. It has immense kinetic power. The river, though, keeps its own sacred secrets, too. In it meanderings, ever changing its course and barriers by erosion and time's hard pounding science, the St. Croix River's life has its own reasons perhaps unknown to us. It can make comedy in our memory. It has, also, sadly too often brought tragedy as well. That defines its pure power in a non-human, almost mystical form.

Luckily, the national scenic riverway recognizes its sanctity and works volumes of near-magic in spells to keep it purer, cleaner, healthier, and usable beyond most other modern waterways. Without the river we would posses no valley from which to draw its life blood of good water. With the river, children and adults who grow up here had many rites of passage, from canoeing, camping, boating, fishing, swimming; from viewing the expanse from high rock cliffs; from sitting on sand bars exposed when the electricity generating dam in St. Croix Falls slows its discharge. The fun, if respecting the river's power, gives great hope. If not respected, as we tragically re-learn often, it can also take dreams away. These powers give the river the stories of our lives here.

As a kid in Osceola, Wisconsin, born at the old hospital on the top of the bluff overlooking the river, I have always had attachments to that water, and definitely to the land around it. My friends and I, even with my family, spent incalculable time on the St. Croix River. We swam, we paddled, we motored, we camped, we jumped (luckily, no one died—many others have), we explored, and we grew. On its edges of land above, on the islands in the coursing stream, on the backwaters, in the swamps, on its bridges, and in the water itself, we learned to respect it, for its massive effects and for its dangers. We saw its characteristics, its curiosities, and its scars made by human misuse. The St. Croix River, like the entire valley, has its nooks, corners, its concealments—everywhere. Wiser minds took precautions to help the river survive long ago. Today, we benefit from that.

By neutral intent, the river offers no malicious motive to humans or animals. As people who live here or who visit our land and water, we all get to enjoy it. Treat the waters and the land around it well, and the stories grow. Misuse them, hurt them, taunt it with acts of stupidity, carelessness, irresponsibility, or deliberate abuse, and the river will haunt us in the future.

In many ways, both good and bad, the St. Croix River treats its guest and the valley's children with the fate that timing, chance, purpose, or accident calls our odds. This fact holds true for lifetimes. It holds true each season. The river's character possesses qualities neither demon nor deity. It will continue to arbitrate the destiny of all of us in some way. Like any home, the valley around the river ties into those odds of fates. It stays true, never false. It will stay true as long as we treat life here true and never falsely.

The surrounding land in the St. Croix Valley feeds all the watersheds to the St. Croix River itself, so the water and land hold the present life and the future destiny of this homeland. “My valley, my country.” The common connectors of land, water, people, and culture, move forward. This forward movement needs to keep the St. Croix River as the key to the narrative we will write. We need the river to enjoy this place fully. Therefore, we should keep always in our mind and spirit this link of our past, the now, and the coming time. Keeping the story strong, we can keep this place a good home.

The river and the watersheds that feed it give a custom and tradition to carry forward. On the other hand, how many people actually know their home well? Regardless of other places we can visit and see, we all need and should want to know our home better. I challenge everyone, the old and the young, to explore and experience this place, this valley, this country. See it, live it, think of it, absorb it into the memory and the sense. Realize what this place means, and why we want it to grow better while still keeping the values of the old. All of the valley's nervous system; the creeks, the hills, the big ridge line, the old farms, the old ruins, the new buildings, the appropriate way to renew the community, all provide a body for our consciousness. All things here must connect.

Use the opportunity to know it wisely. Use it in peace, and share the story. Only in this way can we preserve the narrative of our times, enrich our lives, and learn that we all must consider ourselves neighbors who can get along together. The commons of the St. Croix River give us that life-saving opportunity, to unite around our wonder, and not divide over the irrelevancies.

Building the story with a common language of our culture here in my valley, my country, we can grow and transition to even better achievements. We will meet the future with the confidence of moral gain and not the fears and uncertainties of material addictions. We can only go about the future smartly if we know the facts and even the inspiring myths of ourselves as people of the vallley, and of our home as land and water. We can meet the future as ONE.

What does “my valley, my country,” mean to me now? It means living prosperously in every sense of the words. It means a shared understanding with my neighbors of what we have at stake. Yet, now it moves beyond me. To me, it truthfully becomes, “Our Valley, our Country!”


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