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The Long Way Home

This weekend is the beginning of the aspirational season.

Aspiration is a hope or ambition for achieving something—a wish, if you will.

December 22nd marked the Winter Solstice. We see the least amount of daylight in the 24 hours we have each day. Now, as the sun begins its northward migration, we will see evermore light each day until it peaks in June. We aspire for more sunshine, an aspiration borne out by history, science, and our experience. Not a wish.

Since mid-November, we’ve been inundated with Christmas music to prepare us for Monday’s Christmas Day—a genuinely aspirational holiday celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus—peace on Earth and Goodwill to Man, and all that.

In addition to songs like “Santa Baby” and “Jingle Bell Rock,” aspirational songs like “So This Is Christmas” by John Lennon get plenty of airtime with lyrics like this:

So, this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

Hearing that one, a favorite of mine, always raises guilt over all the good things I didn’t do in the past year. It inspires me to try and do better in the New Year. For a little while, at least.

How about “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” Written by David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner? This one will force you to consider the world around us and how we should aspire to a better world:

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, no

This is my grown-up Christmas list. Reflecting on the position my advanced years have afforded me, this song almost always brings me to tears.

To wrap up the aspirational season comes New Year’s Day and the reflections it invites. At one time or another, we all made resolutions for the coming year. From kicking the smoking habit to finding a better job, it is awfully tough to make those resolutions stick.

Every year, I resolve to eat a more heart-healthy diet and exercise more. Stay away from alcohol and tobacco. And every year, I lose my resolve before January expires.

Looking around, I see that my lack of continuing resolve is common among my fellow men (and women). We get inspired during this aspirational season, but soon return to old habits.

Grandpa Gustafson, a character in the Minnesota-based movie Grumpy Old Men, played by Burgess Meredith, had the best lines about wishes.

The scene is in a grocery store. His adult son, (Jack Lemon), said, “Pop, I wish you’d just try the low-fat bacon.”’

Tossing a pack of Jimmy Dean Center Cut (full fat) bacon in the shopping cart, Grandpa Gustafson said, “Well, you can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which gets filled first.”

This holiday season, I plan to avoid the cynicism of Grandpa Gustafson and the haunting visits of Ebenezer Scrooge. It will not be easy, but one can wish. Thank you for reading my scribbles, and best wishes for a peaceful, inspirational, and aspirational holiday. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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