Thursday, May 22, 2008

By Terry Mejdrich

With the weather turning nice and following an hour on the lake,
a Sunday afternoon found me visiting the wooded places where there’d
been morel mushrooms in the past. A diligent search of all the familiar
haunts came up empty, yet on the way back in a secluded balsam ravine
a bumper crop presented itself for picking, and I gathered enough for a
delicious dinner treat. With fresh fish and steamed nettle sprouts, I was
in Euell Gibbons heaven. The fact that I didn’t have to buy any gas to
enjoy the afternoon was an added benefit.

In 1973 there was an event called the “oil embargo”. Probably many
reading this are too young to know what it was. The Arab countries got
together and declared they’d no longer sell crude oil to any country that
sympathized with Israel during the ongoing Arab/Israeli conflict.
Gas stations closed or limited purchases to ten gallons or less. The U.S.
economy went into a tailspin. Conservation was in vogue, and government
encouraged. There was much talk by automobile manufactures of getting
on the fast track to producing high mileage vehicles. A few 40mpg vehicles
did hit the market, but oil began flowing again, gas became plentiful, and
suddenly high mileage vehicles were not cool. Enter the era of the SUV.
Now, here we are again. History repeats itself, and, no, people do not learn
from history. That’s a fact you can take to the bank.

It was during that time - when people were running scared - that the price
of gold rocketed upward. In a relatively short period of time it went from
around $40 per once to $700 per ounce. When everything seemed to be
falling apart, gold became a tangible investment that was secure.

It was also during that time that I had an inspiration. Not having my own
personal gold mine I thought I might do some research (remember this is
pre-internet), find out just where gold was actually found, and put together
a pamphlet listing the information. My scheme was then to market those
pamphlets for a modest cost. It seemed like a great idea, and I ran several
ads in various magazines.

Not to belabor the point, after the advertising costs (and not including my
time and labor) I about broke even. Probably aware of my lack of success,
a gentleman sent me a note with the attached advice: “Gold is where you
find it.” Compiling a list of all the places where gold had been found
(including Northeastern Minnesota) didn’t really do the feverish sweaty-palmed
fortune seekers much good.

The exercise in marketing did, however, teach me a few things.
One: I’m lousy at it and afterwards was thankful I hadn’t mortgaged the farm.
Two: Learn from experience. No matter how badly a new endeavor may turn
out, there will be some bit of gained knowledge that one can tuck away for future
reverence. Mistakes will be made, but not the biggest mistake, which was not to
have tried at all.

As far as we know for sure, this is the only chance we get at life, yet much of
it folks waste doing a job they hate or anxiously awaiting retirement (or summer
vacation). An elderly friend once told me he raced through his entire life and
woke up one morning realizing he’d never lived – a sad commentary but all too
common. He talked about how he’d had a chance to do what he really wanted to
do but let it slip by. After 70 years, the missed opportunity still haunted him.

Opportunities – like gold or mushrooms – are where we find them. They are
not predictable, they are sometimes only barely recognizable, they often entail an
uncomfortable amount of risk, but they do come along.
Think of a trapeze artist
swinging back and forth fifty feet above the ground. A fall would mean certain
death. Yet to get anywhere the performer has to let go and reach out to the next
swing, or to a partner. And that, of course, is the terrifying thing, because for one
brief instant the artist is holding on to nothing but thin air and faith. What if he
misses the bar or the partner is a split second off in timing. It takes courage
(or sometimes desperation) to let go of what is familiar, but in order to achieve a
dream it is mandatory.