Local author publishes book on 'Up North' life
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but when they are carefully crafted and stuffed full of wisdom, they are worth so much more.
"So far we have been able to give $1,000 to the Crisis Center in Detroit Lakes," said Jim Jasken.
The retired teacher and author who lives on Big Sugar Bush Lake is using his power of the pen to help local charities.
Jasken's book, entitled "Kayaking a Moonbeam" is a collection of poetry, short stories and essays he has written over the years.
"I chose the title because there may be nothing more calming than kayaking at night into the moon," said Jasken with a faraway look in his eye, as if he's there in his mind, "the water gives you a silver gold path that's like nothing you've ever experienced. If you look back it's black - the light is always in front of you. It's a pretty awesome experience."
Jasken also wants his readers to have an awesome experience -- not just from reading his book, but in life.
In fact, much of his material is designed to be what he calls "an up north balm" meant to sooth the modern, overloaded mind.
"It's for the person too busy in life; the person who never gets a break; the person who never relaxes and who is over worked, over taxed ... over everything," said Jasken, "Their garbage is always full."
Jasken says his inspiration comes from growing up in rural Ogema, where traditional values and the pure nature surrounding him gave him a foundation of strong, "up north" values.
"Up north is not a place, it is an attitude," said Jasken, "It is living close to the natural world, maintaining traditional values, and being comfortable with both."
Although Jasken believes a Becker County childhood is "the most wonderful platform to have entered the rest of the world from," he did go on to spend 45 years in Moorhead, where he was an English and journalism teacher for 20 years and in business for 25 years.
"My years in teaching taught me so much about young attitudes and expectations, and then my 25 years in business taught me so much about a generation and a half after those kids -- people of wealth and significant worldliness," said Jasken, "the interesting combination of those two careers brought me to a lot of the perspectives I have today."
And one of those perspectives seems to be a concern for what he believes to be an appreciation for the natural world and the rich, traditional values that he grew up with.
"The rest of the world seems to sometimes be kind of ... sliding away from some of those or leaving them behind," said Jasken, "If we reflect on today with our world changing incredibly faster than our parents' world, are we still maintaining certain values? There was a time when you didn¹t buy anything until you saved for it first. Have our values kept up? Particularly our awe of the natural world."
The short stories in Jasken's book are a bit of a hodge-podge -- everything from very serious and difficult to understand to silly and almost child-like.
Sometimes he even uses humor to make some somber, serious points.
In order to give some continuity to all these different types of writings, Jasken created a character who "makes an appearance" throughout the book -- a character who gives his opinions on Jasken's writings.
"A fellow emerged in my writing called the 'Richwood Philosopher.'" said Jasken. "He is an amalgamation of great things of rural philosophy and probably a compilation of people I know. He tells you exactly what he thinks, and the problem with that is, he's usually right!"
Although Jasken says he has always found a mind-calming solace in writing, it wasn't until a few years back that he decided to put it together for a book.
Jasken, admittedly a type-A sort of fellow, got some unexpected perspective while out on the lake one day.
"I overturned a canoe in 36-degree water and had to swim to an island and then swim off the island to walk a mile on frozen ground in my stocking feet -- and never regained feeling in my feet," said Jasken, "however, from adversity often comes opportunity, and were it not for that accident I probably never would have written the book."
That's because Jasken was finally able to slow down -- not just physically (you will usually see him with a walking cane), but mentally as well.
"I was always doing, doing, doing, and this allowed me to back off that intense lifestyle and become a little more philosophical about things."
Jasken says part of him also wanted to leave a legacy for his four children and grandchildren.
Although some of the book's material dates back to the mid-1980s, he says most of it is from the last four years while living back on Sugar Bush Lake with his wife, Mary Ann, who Jasken calls his biggest supporter.
"Mary Ann and I decided early on that we did not want to hock this book to the public to make money off it," said Jasken, "we wanted all the profits to go to charity."
Jasken, who went the route of self-publishing, had 800 copies of the book printed.
He's already sold 600 of them, which have paid for his publishing costs and made an extra $1,000 for the Lakes Crisis Center.
"I've still got 200 books left, though, so that's another $4,000 we'll be able to give," Jasken said, saying he and his wife will choose charities that encourage human dignity.
The book is available on 150 different e-book sellers, including Amazon, which offers those famous reader comments.
"You're left kind of naked as a writer because anybody can write anything on there," he laughs, although an exploration of those comments reveals nothing but positive words and four- to five-star ratings.
Jasken adds, however, to buy one of his books on Amazon means he'll get $3.50 for the charities.
To buy directly from him means he and the charities get to keep the entire $19.95.
The book is also sold at the Richwood store and the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge Gift Shop.
To order from Jasken, send $21.36 to P.O. Box 21, Richwood, MN 56577, and he will ship a signed copy off immediately.
If he runs out of books, Jasken says he could be putting in an order for additional copies in the spring, and is possibly thinking about writing another book for what he calls 'The Sugar Bush Readers."