Some day I’ll get back to blogging again

Back in September, I got a wonderful opportunity to do a weekly photo-based “blog” for MinnPost called View Finder. It’s been great for me. I love taking pictures and giving myself little assignments. Some weeks have been easier than others. Some groups of photos have been better than others, but I like the experience and the opportunity to show my photos. But that project has been kind of draining my blogging energy.

I miss writing about stuff. When I started this blog almost two years ago, I didn’t realize that I would enjoy writing or be any good at it. Writing about whatever interested me — coupled with a few photos — made me more thoughtful and forced me to take time to organize and package my thinking. I’ve gotten away from that. I need to get back to it soon — not because anyone else needs to read it, but because I need to write it.

My last two blog posts have basically been promotions for my first 10 MinnPost View Finders. I’ve now done 18 weeks of it. So continuing my tradition of self aggrandizement, here are my 8 most recent View Finders with links to the MinnPost page where they are found. You can also find all my View Finders on my personal archive page on my See to Sea Productions website.

I hope that I’ll soon have something else to say.


Almost Winter on the North Shore
December 1, 2011

.

.

.

Starbase Minnesota
December 8, 2011

.

.

.

.
Local filmmaker making a documentary about light rail construction
December 15, 2011

.

.

.
North Mississippi Regional Park is an undiscovered urban gem
December 23, 2011

.

.

.

Como Park in the winter
January 5, 2012

.

.

.

Warm Minnesota winter
January 12, 2012

.

.

.

Martin Luther King Day events in the Twin Cities
January 19, 2012

.

.

.

U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in Minneapolis
January 26, 2012

Advertisements

Severed roots: Visiting a past I never had

I made my first visit to the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota this summer.

It was about time, since I’m an enrolled member there.

Why I’d never been there before is a long story. I’ll write more about it in a future post, but let’s just say that the way that American Indian culture fizzled and pretty much died in my family through my grandparents’ and my mother’s generations is not unique. The more I’m around other people of Native American heritage, the more I realize that everybody’s doing a certain amount of learning — some were exposed to more of the culture as a child and some are more like me. American society did it’s best to squash out native people and their culture — both literally and figuratively — and it’s actually pretty amazing how much has survived.

I’ve been wanting to go up to White Earth for a long time. About four years ago, I started thinking about making a documentary film about “my reservation”. But I didn’t want to just go there and start shooting video before I had an idea of what I was trying to do, so I kept putting it off.

This summer, MinnPost, the online news site where I do freelance video and writing, provided me a great opportunity (nudge, perhaps?) to finally go. I’m part of a project called Rural Minnesota: A Generation at the Crossroads. MinnPost received a grant from the Bremer Foundation to profile young people in small towns and rural areas of Minnesota. We’ve been doing groups of reports around themes, and the summer cluster of reports was about Native American youth.

I spent two days at the White Earth Pow Wow in June and ended up with four videos, featuring nine young people. They ran last week in MinnPost along with another piece I did about a Dakota man in southern Minnesota. Here’s a link to all of those videos.

(all photos by Steve Date)

I’ve been to few pow wows over the years, but always only for an hour or two. Hanging out for a couple of days, walking around, talking to people, feeling the drum beat and the rhythm of the days gave me a whole new appreciation for it. I started to feel a little more like I was in the middle of it, a little less like an outsider looking in.

I find it difficult to shoot both video and still photos at the same event. When you’re doing one, you feel like you should be doing the other. Since this was mainly a video assignment, I didn’t take as many stills as I would have liked. But I’ve put some in a Flickr set. You can view those photos here.



A reservation is a complex place. There are many story lines and some of them are not easy to understand or to tell. It took me 58 years to get there, but now I want to do a film about this place more than ever.

Stay tuned.

Happy Belated Birthday to “Billie” – (a.k.a. Emily Date)

Emily Date had one of those “significant” birthdays on Sunday.

It’s a little-known fact (unless you read last year’s birthday blog), but “Billie” was Emily’s nickname for her first few years. We had to take her in for Bilirubin tests for a couple of weeks after she was born due to the yellow hue of her skin. I guess “Billie” was a better nickname than “Jaundice”.

Emily was a happy kid -- and fashion conscious from the get-go.

She provided us with a lot of excitement in her younger years, like when she sustained a bad cut on her head when she was a year old. It was after that when she started to spend time sitting out by the garage smoking pot (see joint in her hand in photo below).

"Go sit by the garage, Emily. We're not going to allow you to do that stuff in this house!" - That's definitely a stoner stare.

Emily was a great kid — always funny and a sometimes a little unpredictable. Some of the personality traits from her childhood remain, while others have faded — such as a penchant for pretending to be famous statues.

Emily lights the way with her ice cream torch.

Emily always had a few little irrational fears growing up. She’s doing pretty well these days with balloons and clowns, but we didn’t know until fairly recently that she used to be afraid to be in the house alone.

Emily is ready to jump behind the couch after seeing a clown on TV.


Quite a shiner for the star of the Lynnhurst Park softball team.

Emily has always been very athletic and liked sports and exercise. I still remember those first soccer practices when she was 6 years old, gymnastics, softball, and later on, track.

I was so proud of her when she stuck with soccer even when it became apparent that she wasn’t going to be a starter in her senior year. She played for the love of playing and was a well-liked team leader.

She’s tried a lot of sports over the years and loves being active. She’s completed two marathons as well as a couple of half-marathons — the most recent being the Med City half-marathon in Rochester on Sunday.

.

Here’s one of my favorite photos of her. She was (I think) 14 or 15 and starting to look like the mature Emily we know and love today. The print has a nasty wrinkle running across it. I hope to find a better print or the negative some day.

I think Emily told me once that she doesn't like this photo, but I do like it and that's all that matters.

In 1999 she went off to college in Virginia and life was never the same again — for us or for her. But it was a great experience for her and I’m so glad she was able to do that. She made some good friends at UVA — not to mention meeting a young Mr. Cedermark from New Jersey — even though that friendship didn’t take off until a few years after graduation.

Emily worked as a tour guide during college at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Well, one thing led to another, as they say, and soon Emily and the Cedermark lad were wed and lived in Jersey City. They moved to Rochester, Minnesota almost a year ago to start the next chapter of their lives together.

Emily with Andrew and Craig - the two Cedermark boys she DIDN'T marry.


She married well. As we like to say in Minnesota - Ya, they clean up pretty good, don't they?

Emily has grown up to be a beautiful woman and genuinely good person. She’s got a good head on her shoulders and her heart is in the right place. What a wonderful feeling it is to be her Dad.

She recently contributed to my 5th grade team’s trip to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in northern Minnesota — both financially and by volunteering to come with us as a chaperone. It was great for my students to be able to spend some time with her. They loved her and she pitched in and worked hard at making sure my girls were on top of things. I and my students can’t thank her enough for spending those 3 days with us.

Emily, Ajoyia and Josh at Wolf Ridge

On Emily’s birthday the other day, I got to run a half-marathon with her, her sister Lauren, Kyle’s brother Andrew and his friend Carianne in Rochester. It was a wonderful time. I’m so lucky to be able to do things like this with my kids and I’ll never forget how great it feels.

Med City Half-Marathon - only 13.1 miles to go! (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Emily, you’re 30. Wow, that’s amazing to think about — not in a way that you’re getting old, but to think about all you’ve accomplished and experienced already, the places you’ve been — and you’re only 30!

You’ve come so far from little (yellowish) baby “Billie”.

Thanks for being such a wonderful daughter.

Love you,
Dad

Wolf Ridge trip coming soon — help us if you can.

My class and five other 5th-grade classrooms from Andersen School in Minneapolis are headed for Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in northern Minnesota in two months. It’s going to be a great learning experience for our students, not to mention a lot of fun. (Read my post about last year’s trip here)

Lisa Hartmann's band of "voyageurs" prepares to paddle the big canoe.

97% of the students of our school come from families below the poverty line. Two-thirds speak English as a second language. Virtually all are students of color. They also blow just about every stereotype of kids from these kinds of backgrounds out of the water. They are, for the most part, bright, well-behaved, good students, good kids. Most of them come from strong families, good parents and have hard-working role models in their lives.

So what’s the problem? A couple of things.

Can you touch the mountain goat at the top of the climbing wall?


First, most of them have not had the experiences in their lives that children from wealthier backgrounds have. Summer camps, music lessons, sports teams, seeing other places, doing new things, being away from home — all that stuff that many of us want for our children — are lacking for many of these students.

.
The other thing they lack is money. When you are “working poor”, you live paycheck to paycheck. You often work more than one job and worry constantly about making ends meet. You don’t have savings to dip into for things like expensive field trips.

The total bill for our 5th grade team is in the neighborhood of $22,000 for this 3-day trip (and that’s after a break on the bus price and the Wolf Ridge fee). That breaks down to nearly $200 per student. At other schools, they do some fundraising, but many families can afford to pay the money — maybe even kick in a little extra for a scholarship.

Ojibwe heritage class teaches students about the life of the native people of the north woods of Minnesota

At Andersen, several teachers have worked very hard writing grants and soliciting individual donations from friends. Every year it’s stressful and every year it seems to come down to the wire. We estimate our grant and donation money based on past experience and then ask our families to either pay or fundraise a certain amount. This year we’re asking for each student to pay $45 — a reasonable, but still significant amount.

Last year, four of the girls in my class took to rock climbing like spiders. They were fearless. (The boys were another story.)

We’ve got 60 days to go and it’s tight again this year. We’re unsure about getting one of the grants and we’re getting a little nervous.

I generally don’t like to ask for money, but I have no problem putting this out there in blogland for anyone who might be interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to our school, in any amount — small or large. In fact, I’m proud to be a teacher of these kids and I believe that this trip is such an important experience for them (and one that most of them will never have if we don’t take them) that I’m asking anyone who might be interested to help us out a bit.

We’re not asking you to feel sorry for our kids — just for a few bucks to send a deserving kid to camp.

Thank you very much. By the way, the kids are well-aware that most of the money to pay for the trip comes from generous donors, and they’re very grateful for it.

Email me at Steven.Date@yahoo.com for more info.

If you’d like to send a donation by check, make it out to “Andersen United Community School”.

Mail it to me at:

Steve Date / See to Sea Productions
P.O. Box 19416
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Thanks VERY much!

The ropes course challenges kids to overcome their fears. Whether they complete the whole course or not, we celebrate the success of trying.

Dogsitting gets you outdoors

Emily and Kyle’s dog Peet has been staying with us for a few days while they were out of town. Peet’s a wonderful dog and we love having him in the house. I’ve never been a dog person, but I love this guy — and not just because he’s my first grandchild.

I’ve actually come to see some benefits (I already knew the downside) of taking him outside several times a day to take care of his needs. The first walk of the morning on a cold day is the one I never thought I’d enjoy, but I have to admit that there is something about the dark, the quiet, the crisp air, the big steaming turd in the snow on a winter morning. After living in Minnesota all my life, Peet has taught me to appreciate cold!

Peet

Just for the record, we will not be getting a dog. And I won’t take care of your dog. But I will gladly and eagerly take care of Peet any time they ask.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that it’s also because of Peet that I saw some beautiful winter scenery this morning. I would not have been out driving around southeastern Minnesota had Emily and I not agreed to meet in Cannon Falls, the half-way point between my house and hers, to return Peet to his Mom.

I’m glad I had my camera along, because the conditions were right for one of those morning frosty fogs that whitens all the trees and makes the whole landscape look like a greeting card. I had heard about fog warnings earlier, so I had an inkling that it would be beautiful when the sun came out.

When I saw this funky sunrise over the Mendota Bridge, I knew it was going to be interesting.

So after we said our sad goodbyes to other daughter, Lauren at the airport for her flight back to Chicago, Peet and I set off across the prairie. I had a nice breakfast in Cannon Falls with Emily, while Peet napped in the car. On the way back I got my camera out, took a couple of little side detours from U.S. 52, and shot some photos. Here are a few of them.

That’s all. Nothing more to report.

I love Peet.

I like going outside with him (usually).

When I do, I see stuff I wouldn’t otherwise see.

I miss him already.

And to paraphrase Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now — “I love the smell of steaming turds in the morning. It smells like victory!”

Minnesota’s Newest Immigrants

The stoic Datermark family begins a new life on the frontier.


Emily, Kyle and Peet (the Datermarks) arrived in Rochester, Minnesota on Wednesday last. Much like the Joad family of “The Grapes of Wrath”, they came with only what they could fit into and onto their car. The newlyweds from New Jersey have bravely embarked on a new life on the Minnesota prairie. After a long day on the road traversing the Appalachians and the eastern midwest, they spent two nights in Chicago, thankful for the shelter and sustenance provide by the Dervos family and glad to spend time with sister Lauren.

Emily gets rid of the old to make way for the new.


But seriously, they’ve bought a great house. Mrs. D and I spent Thursday and Friday down there, helping a bit with the beginning of the transformation process. It mostly just needs cosmetic work on the walls and floors, though, so it’s going to look great soon.

First coat of the new colors in the dining room


We’ve seen them four days in a row now, which feels kind of strange. It’s great to have them only 84 miles away, after so many years of Emily living in the east. I know it’s hard for Kyle’s family to have him so far away, but I hope they can visit often.

First lunch at the homestead, using pretty much all the furniture they have right now. The rest of their stuff is in a moving van somewhere. Nobody knows yet when it will arrive.

Kyle begins his residency at the Mayo Clinic tomorrow morning. This is very exciting, not only for the two of them, but for all of us in both families as well. Good luck to Minnesota’s newest residents! We’re so proud of you.

To see more photos of the new house, go to my Flickr page here.

Peet and the goose welcome visitors to the House of Datermark.