Oracle speaks of turbulence in 2014 predictions

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

The Delta Connection Bombardier CRJ-200 dipped its frosty belly beneath the clouds, revealing the flat landscape of the winter bog, white canvas speckled with dark brown and black tamaracks. The captain’s voice filled the loudspeaker.

“This is your stop.”

The flight attendant had been nervously preparing my parachute since we took off from Minneapolis-St. Paul. The plane was empty. The only reason they ran flights north this time of year was to fill the plane with snowbirds heading south on the return. The cabin still smelled of hard candy and premature sun screen.

But there was another reason this flight went aloft: it was time for me to visit the Oracle of the Sax-Zim Bog for her 2014 predictions. With constant disruption by the birders and climate change researchers, the sprightly old seer of indeterminate years had moved her hut inland, farther from the roads and rail lines that led me to her in previous years. This year, I would have to go the way of the bird.

“Sky diving at this low altitude in this freezing air is very dangerous,” said Judy, the flight attendant. “But since you only paid for half a ticket, I’m afraid there’s no backing out now.”

According to the reservation agent in Chisholm, I was the first customer ever to order the MSP to BOG ticket, and it was a steal. There was just one catch: They don’t land the plane.

Judy tethered herself to a safety bar before opening the door. Sub-freezing air flooded the cabin at 200 mph. I was glad to be wearing long johns and my Stormy Kromer.

“Thanks for flying with us,” she smiled, her firm hand pushing me out the door. “You’ve got about five seconds to pull the ripcord if you want to live.”

Sax-Zim Bog at daybreak

Day breaks in the Sax-Zim Bog. Each year the Oracle of the Bog reveals regional prognostication to Minnesota author Aaron J. Brown. Today he shares her 2014 predictions. PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown

It was good I rested my hand on the ripcord, because my eyes froze shut in two seconds. Perhaps they were open and simply stopped working? It’s hard to say. But I counted to three and pulled the cord, the chute crackling like a campfire. Moments before my foot brushed the tip of a tree I heard the hoot of an owl. Then I hit the scrub brush. By some miracle I found myself on the ground in one piece.

I might well have frozen there, but sudden, crunchy footsteps dragged me someplace warm. When my eyes thawed, I was in the sod hut of the Oracle. She prepared a hot cup of coffee using a Keurig machine she somehow rigged to run on wood heat.

“Thank you, Oracle.”

“You’re welcome. I was expecting you.”

“Well … that makes sense,” I said. “I’ve come for the regional predictions.”

“Always the regional predictions,” she said. “My powers encompass the whole universe, you know.”

“But my column runs in a small daily newspaper on Minnesota’s Iron Range. My needs are specific. Unless … this is the year my fame grows?”

She stirred her cup in stony silence.

“Your regional predictions are as follows.”

I prepared my notebook.

“2014 will include much turmoil on the Iron Range,” said the Oracle, running her bony fingers through her mossy hair. “A major Iron Range mining project will change hands as though it were part of a dice game at a bridal shower. Several Range communities and school districts will begin the process of merging, stirring up all the predictable emotions.

“And the election,” she continued. “This one will be different. Many surprises await the politicians of northern Minnesota, none of them on the lips of the pundits at this hour.”

“How does it turn out?” I asked.

“You know I can’t tell you that,” she said. “But it is written, and everything that happens was always to be, before you, before me, before this bog was the basin of a mighty glacial lake.”

“What are we to do?”

“Live as though this were the last year and the first year all at once, for it is.”

Her wisdom soaked through me like the warmth of her stinky hut. “One more question, Oracle. How do I get home?”

“Follow the deer to the river and go north.”

Above, the plane streaked south, filled with cowardly retirees. I tromped north, ready for a long winter full of unfolding surprises.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This column first appeared in the Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


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