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Fall 2022 Inspire(d) Editor’s Letter

By Aryn Henning Nichols | Fall 2022 Inspire(d)

At least (roughly) 48 times a year, I look up at the dark night sky, bursting with stars, and think, “Whoa. We are tiny specks in this vast universe.” You too?

Family Selfie at the Vesterheim mural “Together in Decorah” by Lauren Bonney

The universe fascinates me. And those James Webb telescope images of distant galaxies that were released this past summer are mind-boggling. What goes on out there? How are we even here? 

This curiosity – about the universe, the world, and the people and things that weave into our day-to-day – is what drives us to keep learning, even beyond the traditional back-to-school setting that heralds the coming of fall.

Our summer intern, Sammy Ferguson, shares the winding path of Decorah resident Nick Chill, who took the amazing photo on this cover. We love his positive perspective on life, and his quest for lifelong learning (pg 16).

The cover of the Fall 2022 Inspire(d)

We’ve been learning about our community and its people for the 15 years we’ve been making this magazine (woot, Happy Birthday, Inspire(d)!). As always, we’ve identified Community Building as one of the top positive things we can do in this life. This issue, we’ve got four great Community Builders: The Wrobel family in Viroqua, Wisconsin (pg 22); Sarah Johnson in Winona, Minnesota (pg 26); Jane Peck in Lanesboro, Minnesota (pg 29); and Nancy Sojka in Decorah, Iowa (welcome to new Inspire(d) writer Christy Ebert Vrtis, who profiled Nancy, pg 33). These people strive to improve their communities, and create spaces where others feel welcomed and connected, in this instance through historic renovations, community art, history, and quilting. 

This connection is everything. It shows us how we’re part of a larger whole, and how we have the power to affect change, affect each other’s lives, affect our own lives. Mental health writer Olivia Lynn Schnur taps into that, and gives us an idea on how we can use curiosity to connect to our biggest goals (pg 38). 

Fall, of course, is back-to-school time for students across the world. I remember delivering fall Inspire(d)s one year and seeing then-NICC President Dr. Wee standing outside at the entrance to the Calmar campus, on the street, a big smile on his face, waving as new students arrived for their first day of classes. This is Dr. Wee at his finest. Read Sara Friedl-Putnam’s great interview with him about his life and tenure as an educator and leader at Luther College and NICC (pg 43).

Fall is also time for gorgeous leaves. And leave (haha, pun) it to our conservationist writer Craig Thompson to rake me in (groan) on the topic of Leaving the Leaves. I bet he’ll get you too. As Craig says, “The more we mimic nature, the more we benefit the planet we call home.”

If you’re heading out for a fall leaf-looking drive, visit Free Range Exchange in Hokah, Minnesota (pg 48) for picnic fare. Or maybe you want to pick up snacks for your trip to Viola, Wisconsin for a class at Driftless Curiousity. Wonder and curiosity was the catalyst for Joy Miller and Rufus Haucke launching Driftless Curiousity (pg 58) in 2021. Joy was curious about why their corner of the Driftless is so dedicated to local food and organic farming. It came down to folks having a connection with their farmers – their neighbors – and in turn, a connection to the land.

Indeed. It’s all connected in this big universe.

 Let’s live (and learn) like we mean it.

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

Inside this issue, you’ll find: Nick Chill – The Paths of Life, An Interview with Dr. Wee, Mental Health: Live and Learn, Community Builders: The Wrobel Family; Sarah Johnson; Jane Peck; Nancy Sojka, Leave the Leaves, Sum of Your Biz: Free Range Exchange, Driftless Curiosity, Leaf Crown Project, Alfred Ludeking, and more! Read the whole Fall 2022 Inspire(d) online here!