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Summer 2024 Inspire(d) Editor’s Letter

By Aryn Henning Nichols | Summer 2024 Inspire(d)

colorful artwork by Jennifer Drinkwater, featuring a bandstand
Summer 2024 cover artwork by Jennifer Drinkwater of The What’s Good Project.

Summer 2024 Inspire(d)!

Aryn Henning Nichols with her family in a selfie
Family selfie: 2023 ropes course adventure at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center near Lanesboro, MN!

Ah summer. Throughout life, it’s meant different things for me. In my younger years it was a welcome break from school. Pool fun. Summer jobs. During early parenthood, it was all about finding ways to keep our kid engaged… and also the work flowing. Searching for balance (always). More recently? It means grasping at every second I can get with our pre-teen as she grows like the corn in so many fields across Iowa: Seemingly before my eyes.

I swear I can hear it happening. It makes my heart simultaneously swell and constrict. These days are fleeting. And these kids are the future. Everything we do in this life needs to be for them. We need to connect with each other, with the land, with our communities. We need to find compassion for one another. 

The obvious next step is to start hearing young people’s opinions, thoughts, and dreams. So… we’re excited to announce a new column: “Future Focused – Listening to the Next Generation.” Our daughter, Roxie (turning 12 this summer), has written the first essay for this page. Dang, I’m proud.

Her writing is inspired by her experiences with Ida Rotto and Red Oak Outdoor School. Our Luther College editorial intern, Margaret Mullin, wrote an amazing piece about Ida’s wonderful, nature-based educational programs – which Roxie has been a part of for the last three years. (How about all those cycles of inspiration?!)

And our Luther College design intern, Allison Thomley, put together an epic spread that reminds readers to be kind as they head out on summer adventures in the Driftless and beyond. I’ve loved working with and mentoring different interns over the years – it’s fulfilling, and a great reminder of the good folks coming up in the world.

Our cover artist, Jennifer Drinkwater, created The What’s Good Project because she wanted to start seeing the good as well. Her goal was to rewire her thinking to stop focusing on the bad, and instead spot – and share – the positive things happening in a community. Obviously, we are 100 percent on board with this idea. Sharing positive community stories is our core mission!

And we’ve got some great community builder stories to share this summer. Charlie Dee, a Holmen, Wisconsin, businessman, teamed up with three nurses in La Crosse to send compassion – along with medical supplies and training – across the world to Laos. In Southeast Minnesota, Nathan Davidson builds community one gig at a time through live music, and in La Crosse, the owners of Blue Zone Pickleball are bringing people together through exercise and healthy lifestyle.

Benji Nichols’ inspiring Sum of Your Business interview with Chris Jackson from Borah Teamwear will have you clamoring to take in the beauty of this region, as will Lynsey D. Moritz’s feature on Sarah Farrell and James Mackessy at ændre arthouse

RAGBRAI, cave adventures, live music, mystical moths, fair time scenes… you can find it all in this Summer Inspire(d) Magazine, and this summer in the Driftless. There are so many people planting seeds of magic out there, seeking and sharing happiness. In fact, our Summer theme is “Compassion: We’re all seeking happiness.” We are encouraging folks to take a beat and consider the humans you encounter on your summer adventures. We’re all going through stuff that you can’t see on the outside. Let’s extend a little compassion. Happy Summer, friends! Read the entire Summer 2024 Inspire(d) online here, or see the story list below!

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

In this issue, you’ll find:

Compassion: We’re All Seeking Happiness. Artist Jennifer Drinkwater & the What’s Good Project • Community Builders – Charlie Dee – Nathan Davidson – Blue Zone Pickleball • 100 Years of Niagara Cave • Road Map Lanterns • Infographic: Compassion • Mental Health: Self-Compassion • Ida Rotto & Red Oak Outdoor School • Future Focused: Listening to the Next Generation – Roxie Nichols • æendre arthouse • Kindness Etiquette 101 • RAGBRAI • Sum of Your Biz: Chris Jackson of Borah Teamwear • Mystical Moths • Probit: Jerry Aulwes & More!

Summer Vaycay Playlist!

Set your summer vibes with this fun playlist by me!