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ON THE

WATER A CANOE ENTHUSIAST EXPLORES OUR HISTORY WITH THE HUMBLE BOAT. B Y K AT E N E L S O N | P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y 2 N D T R U T H

When our waterways have broken free of their ice shackles and the summer sun is finally shining down on us, we Northerners take to the water. It’s a great Minnesotan tradition, what with our 10,000 lakes. And the purest way to be one with the water, arguably, is in a canoe. Our long and involved relationship with this simple boat is beautifully and thoroughly laid out in Canoes: A Natural History of North America by Mark Neuzil and Norman Sims. The former is a University of St. Thomas professor whose lifelong fascination with the watercraft began when his family moved to an Iowa lake home during his childhood. Since then, he’s been on countless canoe adventures, including serving as a U.S. Forest Service guide for a brief stint and building his own boat in his St. Paul garage over the course of five and a half months. As outlined in the tome, this humble vessel has played a key role throughout history, from exploration to economic development to pop culture. And today, this great North American artifact, which remains largely unchanged, connects us to our past. The book’s foreword comes from Pulitzer Prize–winning writer John McPhee, who once took Jimmy Carter canoeing on the Apalachicola River back when he was the governor of Georgia. Neuzil notes that everyone has a canoe story. Having owned a series of the watercraft over the years, he has a swath of memories and an affinity for wooden vessels (for their warmth). “It is dangerous to get too nostalgic about wooden canoes, however,” he explains, “because in the end, it’s not the construction material in the boat but the construction of memories from the boat that matters.”

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Artful Living

Magazine of the North

Profile for Artful Living Magazine

Artful Living Magazine | Summer 2017  

Artful Living, the Magazine of the North, is an elegant, intelligent publication highlighting art, culture, travel, fashion, home, food, win...

Artful Living Magazine | Summer 2017  

Artful Living, the Magazine of the North, is an elegant, intelligent publication highlighting art, culture, travel, fashion, home, food, win...