Sigurd Olson’s wilderness retreat featured in new video

View on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF5kwBkLdBM&t=4s

As I sat there on the rock I realized that, in spite of the closeness of civilization and the changes that hemmed it in, this remnant of the old wilderness would speak to me of silence and solitude, of belonging and wonder and beauty.  Though the point was only a small part of the vastness reaching far to the arctic, from it I could survey the whole.  While it would be mine for only a short time, this glaciated shore with its twisted trees and caribou moss would grow into my life and into the lives of all who shared it with me.

I named this place Listening Point because only when one comes to listen, only when one is aware and still, can things be seen and heard.

– Sigurd Olson, Listening Point

A new short film produced by the Listening Point Foundation features 11 minutes of beautiful footage of Sigurd Olson’s retreat on Burntside Lake. Author Douglas Wood narrates by reading Olson’s words describing his long search for such a place, and the wonder and connection it created for him.

Sigurd Olson was a renowned author of several books about the canoe country wilderness, as well as a noted advocate for its protection. He lived in Ely until his death in 1982.

Olson’s essay, which opened his second book in 1958, explores the property lovingly. It also shows how the features of the land connect to the vast wilderness which he felt he looked north toward from the site.

“Listening Point, located on the south arm of Burntside Lake, was Sigurd and Elizabeth Olson’s retreat in the north woods of Minnesota. They initially purchased 26 acres, and eventually enlarged their property to about 36 acres. The property, less than ten miles from their home, included a small beach, a cove bordered with alder and willow, upland stands of second-growth birch and pine, and large boulders dropped into place during the retreat of the glaciers during the last ice age ten thousand years ago.

“Most important, however, was the westward-facing point itself: glaciated greenstone rock fringed with weathered pines and partly covered with a patch of bearberry and juniper. Sitting on the end of Listening Point, Sigurd could look out over the wide-open spaces of Burntside Lake, listen to the birds, watch the sunset, and regain some balance in a life that had become more and more hectic at an age when many people were beginning to think about retirement.”

Listening Point Foundation

Olson’s words celebrate everything from the bedrock to the trees, the waters of the lake to the glacial deposits, and the long history of humans visiting or inhabiting the beautiful site in its serene setting.

Narrator Douglas Wood is the past president of the Listening Point Foundation. He is the author of several books for children and adults that focus on nature and wilderness. The video was shot and edited by Wolvenwood Studio of Ely.

The essay concludes with a call for everyone to find their “listening point.” And he says it does not have to be on the cusp of wilderness, but can be found anywhere you can hear the world.

The Olsons purchased the point in 1956, after the publication of Sigurd’s first book. He named his second book for it, with the opening essay introducing his new outpost. The Listening Point Foundation was created in 1998 to preserve the property and continue Olson’s wilderness philosophy.

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