broken walls and narratives

A not so revolutionary blog about feminism, socialism, activism, travel, nature, life, etc.

Archive for the tag “adventure”

Che of the Dead: My adventures at All Souls Night

Last year, I wrote a blog post about my concerns regarding Duluth’s All Souls Night and the potential for cultural appropriation.  This year, I decided to check it out for myself.   According to the Facebook page: “Today is our 8th annual fall arts event celebrating life: honoring our ancestors, our pain for the world, and our determination for the future with local spectacle arts and community of all ages and backgrounds. Samhain and Mexican Dia de Muertos representations are popular, however, respectful offerings from ALL grieving traditions are welcome. That is why we have reclaimed the title of ALL Souls, lighting up the Night!  Consider dressing in black, or as a skeleton character, or a larger than life puppet!”

Well, alright then.  All grieving traditions.  I don’t really have a grieving tradition, but I am a socialist.  How would a socialist celebrate All Soul’s Night?  As we don’t believe in souls or that liminal time of year where the dead are nearer to us, I think it would be appropriate to celebrate the dead who have struggled for social change.  They may be dead, but their ideas and movements live on in the hopes and actions of activists today. Hence, I attended the event as “Che of the Dead.”

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This was a fun costume.  It was fairly simple, as almost everything was from my existing wardrobe, spare the glowing skull shirt I bought for $1.50 on after Halloween clearance, the clearance face paint, and light up skeleton glove.  I wondered if there were any issues dressing up as a Hispanic male, but I believe that because Che is part of a pantheon of socialist heroes, the costume did not highlight ethnic features such as skin color, and I am not aware that his image is used to promote any racial stereotypes, that this should be alright.  In any event, the idea was to wear a costume that represented remembrance for dead revolutionaries.

I arrived at the event at about 6:30 ish and watched some belly dancers.  80% of the crowd was not in any costume or face paint.  There was also a strong spread of ages, with children and elderly, along with families and singles.  The event was free, which was nice, as there are few free events for all ages.  Among those in makeup, some people wore ordinary skull makeup and others wore sugar skull makeup.  Now, I have found evidence that Mexicans and Mexican Americans do feel that the sugar skull face paint  has been marketized and taken out of context.  I do think that the organizers of All Souls Night must have been somewhat mindful of this as they tried to highlight the spirituality of the event, made it very clear that it was not Mexican Halloween, and tried to offer face painting rather than have people go out and buy makeup or facial temp. tattoos.  Most people were not using the makeup in a sexualized or cartoonish way, so I think it is another gray area.  However, I will note that the event did not feel like Mexican Themed Halloween or an excuse for white people to party.  It did feel like a celebration of life and death and from my observation it appeared there were many ages, races, and social classes in the crowd.  Perhaps the fact that it was free and not very focused on buying things, more diverse demographics could attend.  (The only buying was food from a truck and t-shirts).  I appreciated this.

The highlight of the event and part that attracted me was the funeral for bad ideas.  We did a march around the block to the sounds of a brass band.  Then, we threw pieces of paper into a fire.  On the paper, we wrote bad ideas-which were announced by the emcee.  99% of the ideas were political and progressive including war, animal abuse, domestic abuse, pollution, oil, and my own addition-capitalism.  A good portion of the crowd actually clapped when capitalism was announced. There was also a spiral dance, which I declined…as it seemed chaotic and I wasn’t sure of the meaning.  I guess it is a pagan/Samhain tradition.  This was followed by fire dancing.

My original post on All Souls Night may have been a bit curmudgeonly. Having attended, I see that it does seem to have some meaning for attendees and that participants can choose how they celebrate.  There was some definite borrowing from Mexican motifs, but there were also local variations on the theme of death-such as moose and smelt skeletons.  I believe that the organizers made some effort to avoid cultural appropriation.  As a whole, I think it was a fun event and I am glad I attended.

Just Four: Adventures in Four State Parks

I have over thirty goals for this year.  One of my goals was to visit four new state parks.  Honestly, this is a fairly simple goal because there are many area state parks which I have never visited.  This has been a great goal that injected some fun and learning into my summer.  So, here is my review of four regional state parks:

  1. Moose Lake State Park: I went on a Moose Lake adventure. The adventure began with a trip to the Fire and Depot Museum.  The depot did not interest me as much, but the information about the 1918 fire was certainly gruesome, sad, and compelling.  The fire was the worst natural disaster in Minnesota history, destroying communities, hundreds of people, and injuring tens of thousands.  The more interesting thing in the museum was the personal accounts from survivors of the fire.  These were tales of people burning alive in cars or suffocating in root cellars.  I visited the museum during Agate Days.

Agate Days is a celebration of agates.  I have never attended before because it seems to occur on the same date as Wrong Days in Wright (which I attended as a child).  I was shocked to see that every side street was clogged with cars.  People are much more enthusiastic about agates than I had imagined.  The highlight was watching two dump trucks unload loads of gravel onto a main street.  Hundreds of people waited for a gunshot to signal that they could descend upon these piles of rocks on the street.  Hidden in the rocks were agates and quarters.  Adults and children carried water, buckets, and shovels for sorting through the rocks.  I am not very aggressive so I stayed out of the fray.  I ventured in briefly and nabbed a single agate.

The dump truck:


The crowd goes wild!


My prize:


After Agate Days, I headed to the Moose Lake State Park. This was pretty appropriate for the theme of the day because there is a small geological museum at the park.  At the center, I learned how agates are actually formed.  Basically, a billion years ago North America was being split apart (just as Africa is today along the East African rift).  A bell curve shaped mid-continental rift formed were Lake Superior now exists, extending southward through Iowa and westward towards Nebraska.  This splitting allowed for magma to seep upwards to the surface of the earth. Air bubbles formed within the lava, creating space for agates to later form.  The agates are basically iron stained silica deposits that formed in these gas bubbles over time.  When glaciers later scoured the landscape, the agates were dislodged from the surrounding rock, broken up, and moved about.  This is why there are agates in this region (and other regions along the mid-continental rift or where glaciers moved these agates).  So the best thing about the Moose Lake State Park is the small geology museum.  I love to learn and though I am not versed in geology, I felt that I learned a lot that day!

  1. Tettegouche State Park:

I review this in my blog post about ferns.  I went to this park for the purpose of learning about ferns.  Since then, I have purchased a fern guide and borrowed a guide from the library.  Even with the guides, I have a very difficult time distinguishing ferns from one another.  However, I believe I can identify about five common ferns and a few “friends of ferns”.  I will continue to work on this skill as it is on my list of goals for the year.

3: Crosby Recreation Area:

I reviewed this in another blog post as well.  It isn’t exactly a state park, but because it is a recreation area I thought I could count it.

  1. Tower Soudan State Park:

This park was super!  I visited the park in early July with Adam and Lucas.  It is unique because it is a state park that offers mine tours.  So, of course, we shelled out the $12 to go on the mine tour.  The Tower Soudan Mine is the oldest and deepest mine in Minnesota.  The tour begins with a rather bland video which discusses the “Cadillac of Mines.”  As a socialist, I was a little skeptical about the shimmering safety of the mine.  However, apparently it was a fairly safe mine compared to others as it was dry (unlike the Crosby mines which flooded, leaked, and were muddy), cool, and solid (the Ely greenstone is strong enough that mine did not require lumber supports in shafts).  After the video, we put on hard hats and squeezed into an elevator, where we made an exciting two minute decent into the mine.  Actually, the guide for the tour was Bill Lah, who was a student at UWS with me.  So, it was interesting to see someone I knew.  Bill was a great guide.  After loading us onto an underground train, he told us that the iron from the mine was of particularly high quality as it was derived from specular hematite.  Some of the specular hematite was still visible on the walls of the cavern in blotches of glittery gray.  It was used as an additive in making iron, though this became obsolete with the invention of oxygen tanks (which could add oxygen to the iron).  The new technology resulted in the end of the mine, as extraction from the vertical underground mine was no longer cost effective.  Bill discussed the working conditions of the mine and was clear to note that although the mine was safer than other mines, it was never easy or safe work.  He also sang a song in Slovenian, as his grandparents came to the U.S. from Slovenia and his grandfather was a miner.  After the mine tour, we milled around the park, where there is an assortment of mining structures and equipment.  Generally speaking, the tour helped me to learn a bit more about the process of iron mining.  On the nature side of things, the mine is home to a healthy population of bats (which have not had white nose syndrome).

Aside from mining tours, the Soudan Mine is a research center for physics experiments.  There are science themed tours wherein visitors can learn more about the neutrino research at the park.  We only had time and money for one tour, so I was not able to learn about the neutrino research.  Oh well, I could always return sometime!


Visting the state parks has been great.  It has made for an educational summer.  Aside from the four listed, I have been a frequent visitor to Jay Cooke State Park this summer.  There are many free lectures and hikes on topics related to identifying trees, wild flowers, geology, etc.  As a result, I believe that I have increased my knowledge of nature quite a bit this summer…but that can be the topic of another blog post.  For now, I have enjoyed these little adventures.

Tower Soudan Mine Park Images:

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