Northern Wilds Magazine
Choosing the right Valentine card in grade school was always a dilemma. | CHORDBOARD

Memorable Dates

The Drama of Valentine’s Day Cards
By Elle Andra-Warner

Over the years I have had my share of flowers and chocolates for Valentine’s Day, which were very much appreciated. However, what stands out for me about Valentine’s Day goes back many years to the dilemmas, decisions and drama around the annual exchange of Valentine cards when I was an elementary school student at Thunder Bay’s St. James School.

My mom would buy a multi-card package or two of the ‘cutesy’ odd-shaped Valentine cards for me to deposit in the ‘mailbox’ the teacher would set up for us to send cards to classmates. Hardest part for me was deciding who gets which card. They weren’t easy decisions.

For example, some cards had goofy ‘love’ messages—who to send them to? Well, definitely a dilemma that called for priorization and strategy. Those mushy goofy cards went to the group of ‘best friends.’ What cards to send to the guys I liked, maybe even had a ‘crush’ on? The card couldn’t send out the message of being obviously interested, so I’d pick out especially nice but ‘subtle’ cards for them. And the not-so-cool cards would go to those that I knew less well or didn’t have much to do with. The goal was to give everyone a card. But sometimes I ran out of cards and then had to figure out who wasn’t going to get a card and hope they didn’t notice (but of course, I’d notice who didn’t send me a card!). Decisions, decisions.

When the day came to hand out the Valentine’s Day cards, the teacher would bring out the ‘mailbox’ and the calling out of the card recipients would begin. Drama was high. What if you only got a few cards or maybe none? What if the classmates you sent cards to didn’t send you one? Were you too obvious sending that special card to that particular guy you liked? And then would come that moment, when you realize that you did get a reciprocal card from ‘that’ guy, but then you try to look cool as you wonder if that meant he thought…well, you get the idea.

Looking back now brings a chuckle and kind of nostalgia about those early days of Valentine’s Day drama!

A Date that Became a Fracas in Paracas
By Walter Rhein

I was working for a web page in Lima, Peru when I had to go on assignment to Lunahuana. I called up my girlfriend at the time, and asked her to come along. We were expecting a nice little day trip, but what we ended up with can only be described as a fracas in Paracas.

Our first mistake came when we missed our stop. Lunahuana is a couple hours south of Lima, but we fell asleep on the bus and ended up in the coastal town of Paracas. The countryside becomes pretty bleak in that part of Peru, and it’s always unnerving when you’re standing on the wrong stretch of road in the middle of a desert with no transportation in sight.

Luckily, we managed to wave down a taxi. The driver turned out to be an affable man called Peluca, which is Spanish for wig. He agreed to take us back out to the central highway to look for a bus.

We arrived at the Panamericana highway and Peluca gasped, “There’s one!” We looked where he was pointing to see a bus hurtling along at full speed. My girlfriend sprinted to flag them down and I paid Peluca, thanking him profusely. There were a few moments of chaos as the bus ground to a halt and we ran a couple hundred yards to get onboard.

Things were looking up when we took our seats when my girlfriend let out a tormented cry. “We have to go back!”


“I left my purse in the taxi!”

Nobody on the bus was happy as we sprinted back towards the front and begged to be let off. We ran back but Peluca was already gone.

Losing a purse is always a pit in the stomach moment and my girlfriend was lamenting the expense of getting all her identification cards replaced.

“Paracas isn’t that big, maybe we can find the guy.”

We stumbled across a small collection of buildings where the local drivers conglomerated.

“Do any of you guys know Peluca?”

“Sure, he’s right down there.”

Hope soared as we headed over to Peluca, only to discover he wasn’t the right guy.

“You’re not Peluca, the guy we knew drove a gray taxi.”

“Oh, you’re thinking of my brother, I’m Peluca Dos.”

We explained the situation and Peluca Dos got on the phone with Peluca. “Do you have a handbag that some passengers left?” From the other end of the line we could hear, “Yes, you can’t have it.”

“No,” Peluca Dos said, “They came back, can we meet and get them their bag?”


We eventually got the bag, took the contact information from the Peluca brothers, and made our way to Lunahuana. I ended up writing two stories. One was about the event I was supposed to cover, the other was about the good deed done by the two brothers in Paracas. I’ve been giving their email away to people asking for recommendations for years.

And I married the girl.

A Pair of Firsts
By Eric Weicht

It started with a text.

“Hey! Want to come over for a bonfire tonight?”

We’d known each other for weeks by this point, but it still made my heart race to text her directly. Usually, I’d have sent out a text to all of the Lutsen summer guides, inviting everyone over for a bonfire even though she was really the one that I wanted to see. But, on that clear-skyed June afternoon, I wasn’t so sure that I wanted other people to come over. I wasn’t so sure that that’s what she wanted.

“Sure!” she replied. “What time?”

I gave her a time.

“Great see you then!” she said.

It was the summer of 2016 and we were both working as summer guides at Lutsen Resort. I was living in a little red cabin 20ft from Lake Superior with no running water or electricity and had little in the way of a “life plan.” She had just graduated from undergrad that spring and was taking the summer off to be a kayak guide before committing herself to med school.

We were two wildly different people on two completely different life paths brought together by chance, a mutual desire for adventure, and a love for paddling big water. The future was anything but certain.

The sun started to cast lengthening shadows from behind the trees, so I lit a fire in the fire pit and continued to wait outside. Stars cut through the darkening sky, while Superior gently polished the rock shelf behind my little red home. I read Jack Kerouac’s rambling prose to pass the time and distract from the growing, almost unbearable feeling of excitement in my chest.

An hour passed before movement on the path behind me caught my eye. I looked up from my book and saw her walking towards me, wearing a flannel.

“Did you invite anyone else?” I ask.

“No,” she replied, “Did you?”

We laughed and swapped knowing glances.

We spent hours talking by the fire, sharing stories and describing childhoods while the little red cabin danced in the background by the lit of the flickering flames. When we ran out of firewood, we went inside to play cribbage under the light from a headlamp. When I got tired of losing, we decided to walk out on the rock shelf behind ‘Little Red’ to look at the stars.

I was shivering in a t-shirt and exhausted from a big day at work, but I toughed it out because it was her! And I was starting to fall. Hard.

Finally, after hours of staring at the stars across the largest lake in the world, I built up the courage to ask, “May I kiss you?”

She said yes.

Fast forward to four years later and I’m back behind the little red cabin, waiting for her to finish the scavenger hunt that took me weeks to plan and put together. I’m a little bit older but not all that much wiser, still just wearing a t-shirt when I probably should have had on a sweater.

I look up and see her walking down the path towards the Lake that first brought us together.

“Will you marry me?”

She said yes.

Our First Date
By Kim Casey

It was the late 1980s, and I was thoroughly enjoying my single existence. This did not go over well with my grandmother, who feared that I would never settle down. So concerned was Ida, that she would call me at work every few days to see if I had found a man yet. And each time I would report with a sigh, “Nope, no change.” What I didn’t tell the persistent woman was that I wasn’t even looking. I had come to the conclusion that things, especially of the romantic nature, should never be forced, but evolve on their own, if they are meant to be. And that is exactly what happened.

One evening a friend and I went to my favorite coffee shop on Cumberland Street, and there in the corner sat this handsome man with a radiant glow. Turned out my friend knew him and she introduced us. Except for a little misunderstanding over an ashtray, we seemed to hit it off. After that I kept bumping into Jon at various places in my neighborhood, and the connection between us became even stronger. So much so, that I could no longer deny I was really interested in the charming man. But before I would consider anything serious, I needed Jon to meet my grandparents. As they were great judges of character, and after all the mistakes I had made with the opposite sex, I greatly needed their guidance.

Jon and I dropped by Ida and Norman’s house early one evening and we started playing cards. There was a nervousness in the air and things felt a little awkward amongst us all. Midway through a game of crib, Jon announced he needed to use the bathroom, which was located off the kitchen where my grandparents and I were seated. While he was gone, the three of us were chatting about the weather, when this loud BRRRRRAAAAP came from the bathroom. My grandparents and I immediately stopped talking and were looking at each other with raised eyebrows. Then we all burst out laughing. Jon obviously was in no rush to rejoin us, and when he did finally arrive at the kitchen table, his face was bright red. But it was not long before he was also laughing about his gaseous emission. And it was at this moment, that everything shifted. Everyone relaxed and the rest of the night went exceedingly well.

Later when I was alone with my grandmother, she announced Jon was the one. Her reason being that he and I laughed a lot when we were together, which was the sign of a good relationship. And of course, she was right, as we are still together. And no matter what challenges we have faced, we have never lost the ability to embrace the lighter side of life.

We Connect in Nature, the Wild / Giga-Zagibinaamin Bagwajiing, My Life in One Day by Sam Zimmerman

My best friend and I have made it a tradition to take destination vacations on birthdays when we can. When my fortieth birthday was approaching, I convinced her to go to Alaska with me as I have always desired to see the glaciers, whale watch and, most importantly, visit the Saxman Native Village in Ketchikan. The trip to Alaska had been a lifetime dream of mine having always been entranced by the natural beauty of the landscapes. 

On September 6, 2018, as we began to hike to the Mendenhall Glacier (with four new friends we made while whale watching) under the piercing blue skies, an eagle flew over us and dropped a feather.  Indigenous people know that eagle feathers are powerful medicine to be respected and cherished. I believe that eagles are messengers of blessings and to have this eagle gift me with a feather was such a powerful experience. While sitting along the shores of the Mendenhall glacier, burning sage and thinking about the eagle, where my life had taken me, and what I wanted my life to be, I prayed.  

This one day changed the course of my life. I returned back to the lower 48 states, carrying the blessings of this eagle and the sense of calm from this experience to begin the first step of many to follow in my ancestors’ steps and began painting again after not having picked up a paint brush for over 15 years.   

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