November 26, 1999
Beginning of the Road
By Dane Sorensen
Recipe for Happiness: Add some white stuff on the ground, wrap light poles with bows, eat lots of pie, buy things for someone else and add a dash of Christmas music. If Christmas had not been invented by the Christians, someone in Ely would have done it. It is the best way to flaunt Mother Nature's coming wrath of ice and cold. What better way to brace yourself against the increasing fuel oil prices then to share happiness with others.
I still marvel at our community spirit that is about the streets on Thanksgiving evening. It is the one chance for those who come back for Turkey to see old friends outside the scope of those invited to the Thanksgiving table. That is one thing that this community can be proud of. We love to get together as a community. All through the year there are chances to do this. I have yet to walk from one end of Whiteside Park during a festival and not talk my way across. That is the best part of our Blueberry, Harvest Moon and Winter Festivals. The same is true at any intermission of a live performance. If you don't believe me, come to any of the school Christmas performances.
Socializing is alive and well in our town. This contrast with the big cities and suburbs which are too big for community socializing. The chances of meeting anyone you know even at the market are small. Work and Church are about the only chance you have of any socializing. That is a shame and something I think people who leave Ely miss. It is part of the price they pay for big houses in the suburbs; new cars every three years and kids with pierced body parts. All the angst that urban living piles onto one's psyche is too high a price for my taste.
While other folks sit and vegetate after turkey in front of the television set, many in Ely enjoy the walking about the Downtown area. I may need a cane these days to hobble around, but I still made it up and down Chapman and Sheridan Streets this year. The hospitality of the merchants is something to be commended. Many served food and drink for the few who still were not stuffed with turkey. Others had live music for everyone's enjoyment. If you enjoyed this I hope you will remember to repay their kindness with your patronage this Christmas season.
Maybe, I am just crazy, but at work in the high school, I still enjoy eating at lunchtime with the elementary kids. It is fun to see so much energy and talk. Despite the best efforts to keep the Memorial High School lunchroom down to a steady roar, the kids definitely do more talking than chewing. It is that spirit of fellowship that you see on Thanksgiving evening while walking up and down the business district.
Walking around Ely is a fun way to burn off all those thousands of calories and to make more room for a second piece of pie with real whipped cream. This is where I think those who come to live in the woods are missing some of the beauty of living inside Ely. The neat thing about Ely is that it is a self-defined community that does not blend into any other (unless you count Winton) city or suburb. It is large enough to provide variety and small enough to allow familiarity. Like in the "Three Bears", Ely is not too big and not too small.
Even the downtown is on a humane scale. I have never been to the Mega Mall in Minneapolis. I hear it is overwhelming. If you try and "do it" in one day, it is as exhausting as trying to Europe in one day. Life was not meant to be consumed by continuous bingeing. Christmas in a big city runs the risk of being like a Nintendo game - intense and meaningless. I look forward to an intimate, yet communal celebration of Christmas. I look forward to the last day of school before Christmas break when the elementary kids sit in the hallway and sing to Mrs. Homer's piano playing. I look forward to all the Christmas plays and concerts around town. If you need to find the Christmas Spirit, it is alive and well in Ely.