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On Beginning

Meet Lauren Dahl, a 2024 intern who will be sharing about the internship experience through a series of blog posts. In her first entry, Lauren explores the beauty of beginnings, including the many beginnings that occur daily at North House Folk School. 

Posted on May 7, 2024
by Lauren Dahl

Life is full of timestamps, or moments of arrival, that we associate with beginning. We find significance in the first days of school, birthdays, or new jobs. These occasions are deemed life-altering, and we recount them in the telling of our stories; and yet, we often overlook the small beginnings happening from day to day. These seemingly unceremonious moments of origin that surround us are essential in creating the fuller picture of our lives. We are invited, daily, to begin! I’m reminded of this each morning as I watch the sun stretch vibrant hues across the harbor.

Sunrise on my first morning at North House Folk School

A mere three months ago, I started my ten-month internship program at North House Folk School. These past months have held many memorable beginnings. I moved my life from Minneapolis to Grand Marais, and settled into my new home on campus. I met my fellow interns and North House staff members for the very first time.

These introductions laid the foundations for my sense of place and community, but it has been the smaller beginnings that have fully grounded me in Grand Marais. I made my first venture out to the grocery store, got a library card, and discovered the wealth of ski trails in Cook County. I spent an afternoon inside on a rainy day, ran out to the harbor to see a big boat passing by, and watched the sunset from the Pincushion parking lot. These more mundane beginnings continue to prompt my curiosity and nudge me along in new directions at the Folk School.

Skiing in the Boundary Waters with instructor Elise Kyllo, fellow intern Phil Stephens, and dog Bodhi.

Every weekend at North House, I see beginnings unfold. I watch as eager students arrive to take their very first class, or as an instructor demonstrates the first cut in a piece of green wood. Inaugural attempts are made at new crafts, first sips of coffee are shared each morning, and people are utterly changed.

Small beginnings in the world of craft open doorways of possibilities. When we craft together, we are connected to rich human histories, to one another, to our own bodies, and to the Earth. I’ve observed this in the classrooms at North House as I’ve baked my first pizza in the wood fired oven, learned to weave on a loom, turned bowls on the lathe, and even taken my first whack at blacksmithing. First tries are just as remarkable as best tries. We are awakened to new practices, new sensations in our bodies, and new understandings of one another.

 Something about the process of handwork draws people into a place of storytelling, and I’ve heard such a stunning variety of answers to the question, “What has brought you to this place?” We all began somewhere on this crafting journey. Even crafting materials have origin stories. Yarn begins on the wooly backs of sheep. It is sheared, spun, and dyed. Wood begins as a tree in the forest. It is harvested for woodworking projects, and its growth as a tree informs its use in craft. Beginnings, big and small, influence our pathways. When we take notice of the ways we are being shaped anew, we find that we are growing and learning.

My first class at North House: Hand Tool Woodworking with Paul Linden and John Fleck

Contemplating beginning as the spring arrives only seems fitting. I am watching as hues of vibrant green emerge along the hillside. New birds return to Grand Marais with each passing day. I continue to meet new faces, learn new things, and explore new places in the north. The sun continues to rise each day, and I am ready to greet new beginnings.