I had the rare opportunity last week to visit Sigurd Olson’s writing shack. Much to my surprise, it was not at the famed Listening Point, but right in town in Ely. My brother George and his partner had met Listening Point Foundation‘s executive director, Alanne Dore, and she invited them to see the shack. I tagged along, and was really glad I did.
The shack looks like Sig had just left. I was stunned to see that the last thing he ever typed was still in the typewriter:
Perhaps subconsciously aware of his own passing, Sig typed those words, then went out in the woods on his snowshoes and died. The snowshoes rest in the corner of the shack.
Sigurd Olson is best known for his work in the Boundary Waters and for wilderness preservation worldwide. He would come to the North Shore area primarily to fish the headwaters of the streams for brook trout. He did write a lovely poem about Lake Superior; when I find a copy I’ll link to it here. There is talk now and then about naming Minnesota Highway One, the winding wild road connecting Ely and the North Shore, to Sigurd Olson Highway.
An entire desktop in the shack was covered with rocks, some of which could have been from a North Shore beach but others coming from much further away. Probably a lifetime of memories right there, captured like a Zen garden.
As a writer, naturalist, educator and fan of wilderness myself, I was deeply moved by the experience. The writing shack is so resonant with the spirit of the man. The future of it is unclear, as it sits on private property. If you’re inspired by the work and words of Sigurd Olson, consider supporting the Listening Point Foundation.
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