Outside a plane lands on Howey Bay. The familiar whir of the propeller resonates off the water and finds its way into my ears as I sit inside the tiny office building of The Northern Sun News. It’s not much to look at. Three weeks ago there were five of us, but now just three inhabit the main floor of an oddly shaped rental with people living above and below.
The interior walls are painted muted shades of turquoise and red and covered with maps of the lakes that we sell to the random tourists that wander in.
The old building comes with its share of quirks, like a bathroom with a toilet and another with a shower. You can’t plug in the coffee maker without shutting down my coworker’s computer. And don’t you dare touch the light switch covered in duck tape. We’ll all lose power.
My personal office isn’t so much an office, but a windowless box that I’ve livened up with my grandma’s retro lamp and motivational quotes like “Learn to do common things uncommonly well.” Thanks, George Washington Carver. I’ll try.
Wedged between my desk and the wall is a perch I made for Daisy from old wood in the backyard. Even though it’s covered in a sheepskin throw, she prefers to lay underneath my desk with her head resting on the tangle of wires.
There are some days when I feel so damn lucky to be able to shut the door to my own little slice of peace. To put on my own music, lean back in the chair with my feet propped on the desk, wireless keyboard in my lap, and just write.
Today is one of those days. Yesterday all three employees of The Northern Sun News got three weeks notice. It’s been a comically horrible chain of events leading up to this moment. Over the last month, our general manager of 13 years left town, our third sales person in a year got another job, and the long-time owner of the company that owns our newspaper passed away at the age of 86.
Maybe someone will swoop in at the final hour and buy this place up (and rehire me), but for now I’m using this change as a chance to reevaluate.
This morning I sat in bed with my coffee and read Lily Stockman’s latest essay on summer in Joshua Tree and the type of people that set up their lives in the Mojave Desert—the people, she says, who for all their differences “seek out a basic animal solitude.”
I think of Red Lake’s spectrum of people.
The floppy haired kid diving off the dock. The Native woman who got caught with a can of hairspray down her pants. The sturdy German woman hunched over her garden, admiring her bumper crop of zucchini. The man passed out, face down, in the Laundromat parking lot. The miner headed back to camp after a 12-hour shift underground. The family out picking blueberries, swatting mosquitos and smiling. The man who sits in the coffee shop everyday, flipping through the paper I write (soon, wrote).
Back in the office, the glow of the computer starts to wear on my vision. I step outside and watch the dockhands load up another plane with supplies for one of the fly-in fishing camps, a place even more isolated than here. Sometimes that’s hard to believe.