If I have learned anything from being a part of the winter staff at Menogyn, it is that people do not simply visit the harsh, frigid, and frozen Northwoods to feel harsh, frigid, and frozen (maybe some find some slight pleasure in these aspects). People come back to Menogyn in the winter because they can find solace, community, peace, laughter and relaxation in a place where icicles can form on your eyelashes if you spend a minute too long outside. These positive aspects are ingrained in Menogyn tradition, but are manifested through the staff and the wonderful people who come to make a visit. The relationship between the staff and those who visit is what makes the experience so profound and important.
This winter we had a plethora of groups come up to West Bearskin and each one had a unique experience. We worked extensively with several Wilderness Inquiry groups, an organization designed to help bring people from all walks of life into wild places to enjoy the bounties of the outdoors. We hosted highly talented plein-air painters, friends, college groups, dozens of families looking for quality time with loved ones, a high school class, a group of fearless women who never turned down a challenge, and had the help of so many amazing volunteers who filled in the gaps.
Of course there is a baseline of amazing opportunities that every group has access to; peaceful yet thrilling dog-sled rides, crunchy snow-shoe hikes to stunning bluff lines, a pleasant ski to Rose Falls, refreshing polar plunges, quiet time by the fire, and of course homemade bread! But beyond what every group has access to, I found some of the best experiences I was a part of were the small moments, the moments not scripted. Moments like playing guitar during a cozy painting session, singing off-pitch versions of classic Menogyn songbook selections, zany talent shows, quiet and grateful moments of reflection before a meal, walking across the lake at night with a group that just arrived admiring the grand theatre of stars above, and getting a chance to steal a conversation with a guest during a busy day, these moments are why I believe in what Menogyn offers. These small moments are why I love Menogyn.
The Menogyn Winter season cannot be defined by any one characteristic. I can imagine my fellow staff members would agree that flexible, dynamic, and efficient would all be suitable terms to show how to keep the ship afloat. But I know that Menogyn in the winter is so special because the people who work here and those that come have a deep love and appreciation for the Northwoods and those moments that might not be scripted. This winter was no exception, as it was as special and impactful for me as any, and I hope it had the same effect for all those who gave some moments to visit on the of most special places on the planet.
- Claire Dzierzak