'Keep going' mantra helped newcomer


July 7, 2023

It was just before 10 p.m. and the seeping dark was thickly enveloping the road. Even the density of the surrounding forest had been swallowed by the dark shadows of the night. The high beams from the car provided little comfort, for beyond their reach, the world was dark and empty, pitch black, eerie and lonesome — with a tint of fear. I started having that familiar sinking and panicked feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was lost.

This night would be my last chance to see the northern lights before our family moved from Minnesota to California. It was important to me to enjoy all the things the north had to offer one last time. I wanted the aurora to serve as a final farewell to a town that I have come to love so dearly. A town that in the height of the 2020 pandemic gave me a sense of safety and security — a place to call home.

It’s sad to think of Cloquet no longer as home.

I had booked a photo session on a sort of retainer with Carla G. Photography of Esko to capture this existential wonder and beauty of the north. So, when Carla texted me one evening saying conditions were good for northern lights, I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately, my husband was away in California for work and we couldn’t experience this together. But I had made a promise to myself that if I was given the chance I would go, even if I had to go alone.

At first, I thought I was lost. After a few more minutes driving out in the dark, I found I was exactly where I needed to be. Down another dirt road and onto a dock, there was Carla with her camera.

Sometimes, you just have to keep going.

That phrase, “keep going,” had become motivation when hiking along the beautiful trails of Minnesota. When the sounds and movements of the trees start to feel ominous and oppressive, or fear of a large bear dashing out at any moment, or maybe that snapping of a twig from behind you is a less than friendly host, I have learned to trust my instincts and keep going. When I get that sense of panic, a little voice inside pipes up and reminds me to keep going, keep going, keep going.

The same can be said of my next big adventure. Having to leave Minnesota has placed me in constant ebbs and flows of grief. I am mourning the loss of all the adventures that were to come and, in some cases, never had the chance to have. There is just so much wilder beauty here — hiking, wildlife, and northern lights — I feel I could have spent a whole lifetime discovering.

That is why I am glad I trusted my instincts and pushed myself to continue down that dark road when I felt lost. I trusted myself to keep going and I was rewarded with a priceless memory of seeing and experiencing something wonderful.

Watching the lights is nothing but amazing. It makes you feel small in the larger waves of the world, yet never feel so alive. Their physical appearance is probably best described as pillars of light dancing in the moonlight. It’s a series of mesmerizing, crystalized curtains, twinkling in hues of green, violet and indigo.

While Carla took photos, I gazed up at the stars, admiring the beauty. I took a moment to reflect, remembering all the things that led me to that point and when I first arrived here.

We moved to Minnesota back in 2020, as the pandemic spread across the country. I was five months pregnant. My husband, 2-year-old son and I had to normalize life with the quarantine restrictions while living in a foreign town, miles away from our home and family back in Canada.

It was also when I found out my dad had been diagnosed with cancer. He ended up passing away a couple of weeks later. With the border closed due to the pandemic, I wasn’t able to return to Canada to grieve with my mom and sister. Sadly, I never had the chance to say goodbye.

At the time, moving to Cloquet and being so far away from our family felt the most awful. Then, on Sept. 11, 2020, my daughter was born and our little family was complete. The tension and fear of living in a new place faded. When I brought that sweet bundle of joy home from the hospital, Cloquet started to feel like home. Covid restrictions eventually lifted and we were able to adjust and socialize with members of our new community. It was like a rebirth.

Living in Cloquet and raising our young family, I have never felt so at peace with myself. I have grown a lot — more self-assured, determined, and fearless. For that, I will forever be grateful.

Of all the things I learned and experienced living in Cloquet, the most valuable and rewarding is to just keep going.

Yes, the winters are long and harsh, but the love is strong and deep. So, keep going to connect with your true self, and, in turn, you may be surprised at what uncovered adventures are discovered in the journey. Keep going and you will be amazed.

Laura Campbell wrote this in dedication to the people of Cloquet and the wilder beauty of Minnesota, which became a home when she needed it most.


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