Bill’s Climate Story

I have a deep love of the outdoors.

My first job out of high school was a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters. It’s still one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

The money wasn’t great, but the real rewards came from being outside all summer, canoeing in the Boundary Waters with boy scouts. I formed a deep appreciation for raw nature without man-made structures.

Being in nature, it soothes and nourishes me.

It gives me perspective. It makes me feel like I am a part of something much larger than myself, but also belonging to a larger group in which I have an important role to play: a steward.

I have a lot of favorite moments from my time in the Boundary Waters, most of them on portage trails between lakes. I could get my feet on the ground and see what plants, trees, and rocks were there.

In late summer of 1991, my father-in-law and I took a three to four-day trip—when he was in his early 80s—into the Boundary Waters. He is from Denmark, and in their country the nature is managed better than in the U.S. You really don’t see any trees that have fallen over and been left there.

This was not my experience, and so naturally his idea of wilderness was different from mine. He would notice dead trees that looked like wilderness to me, but he would say, “This looks messy and chaotic…it doesn’t look very nice.”

I thought, this is the way it looks; it’s wilderness, it’s nature.

On the second day, we were in the wind and he seemed to have an epiphany. He looked into the woods and said, “Now I understand it, this is what it is supposed to look like. This is true wilderness.”

It dawned on him after being saturated with all those impressions of the raw untouched wilderness, and I understood in that moment that he truly saw the pristine beauty of it. It has left an impression on me to see a revelation occur in another person, not only about nature, but also about themselves, too.

From a distance it actually does look orderly when you’re in the air, flying over. But, when you get closer the beauty is made up of a lot of different things. It details the intricacies of the cycle of life and death.

When I lived in Denmark I missed the sense of chaos, of being in the wilderness and not having everything manicured. It’s heartening to know that there are still some places that look as they did before western civilization took over.

I believe that we are recipients of an incredible gift.

We have received this gift not because of anything we have done or accomplished, but simply because we were born here on this planet we have called Earth. Earth is a gift. It wasn’t purchased or earned. Every natural resource we have comes from this gift. Earth.

Our earth. It belongs to all of us and it will take care of us if we take care of it. Stewardship means caring for and nurturing.  Our relationship with earth is give and take but it must balance overall. We cannot give more or take more without upsetting the balance.

I’m a potter, a ceramic artist. My role as an artist is one of leading by example. I choose to fire my pieces with wood rather than fossil fuels. I have learned that nature has a lot of influence on my work: air pressure, whether or not the wood is dry or wet…

I had to change the date of my most recent firing from late March to early April in hopes of more favorable weather. This snow storm decides to make a late appearance for the firing. The following week another late season storm unloaded, changing our plans again.

Meteorologists are fond of reminding us that weather and climate are related but not the same thing. We see unusual events like our recent April snow storms and talk about the weather.

Single weather events are singular, but when there is a pattern of singular events, talk of climate change just makes more sense.

In my experience as an artist, I have to rely on other people to help me. I’m always learning about the craft and art of ceramics from other artists, and I hope that they learn something from me as well.

Firing a large wood kiln involves teamwork. The process of loading and firing consumes hundreds of hours of labor. Wood, which is the fuel, takes time to split and stack. Loading the pottery and artwork into the kiln takes 60–70 work hours and the stoking, or firing, can last two and a half days.

Everyone works together through the process to reach the goal. For one person this is an impossible task. In this process, the individual becomes a piece of the whole. It has given me a sense of really not having total control over the process, but being part of it; a part of something that is bigger than myself.

The experiences and lessons I have learned through my craft as an artist and as a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters has also been true in my role as Mayor of New London.

We can make a difference in our part of the world.

If we can show others that we’re keeping in touch with our environment, maybe we can plant seeds that will grow other places. Our part is doing the right thing and hoping others take notice.

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