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  • Nora Koch

My first interaction with activists was around 1987, filmed by a TV crew, participating in a flotilla of canoes protesting mining outside Ladysmith, Wisconsin. We were, floating down the Flambeau River on a Sunday morning when people were in church. Comments from the activists centered around the people of the community not caring about the environment. It seemed to me, if they really wanted to win the community to the fight, they would have found another time, other than Sunday morning to schedule a protest. I loved the people who had led the protest. I was against mining, but told them if they had another protest on a Sunday morning, I would not participate.


Nearly ten years later, I was flattered to be asked to head a community meeting in response to a proposed factory farm about two miles from where I lived. I was opposed to factory farms, having been raised on a small family farm and knowing the intrinsic value of the life we lived, now all but gone from the landscape. At that time there was still a remnant of small family farming still going on, but I digress. . . .


When I showed up at the Town Hall, I soon realized that I had been asked into the role of leader so that I could displace someone much more prepared than I, but perceived as less progressive than I. At one meeting, activists from Madison showed up to help us plot our strategy; they made me nervous. They had nothing invested in our community, it seemed to me they were there primarily because they enjoyed agitating, and they wanted to win, whatever the cause. I remained involved in the group working on the newsletter and attending meetings, but stepped away from leadership. I attended public hearings, during one I read the account of the return to the shire from Lord of the Rings (sadly left out of the movie – it is a very important part of the story), to try to get across what these behemoths did to communities. I did not have scientific facts to contribute, just my life and this passage.


There was debate over the issue on Minnesota Public Radio, ironic, since this was in Wisconsin, but being so far from Madison, we failed to register as a blip on the capital’s radar. During the call-in, a person posing as an innocent local made political points. I knew her, knew she was disingenuous in this pose; she was not a local, but a political transplant. After that I declined to be involved in the fight because it was more political than anything else. I could see how even then back in the 1990s, it was driving a wedge between community members.


In the end, the factory farm did not go in. The activists cheered a resounding victory, but failed to mention that it was not they, but the rock below the proposed site that put an end to it. The official State Geological survey, which would be done for any such proposed large farm was what stopped it from going in. The activists had nothing to do with it, but they did have a lot to do with dividing the community.



My most recent experience with activism was really not my experience, but my sister's; a reluctant activist, who along with others from her community with whom she disagreed politically, was able to put a stop to mining of sand used for fracking, by imposing new regulations in their community. This is the kind of activism I applaud, but which is rare. It was a coming together of like-minded people of diverse ideology over a shared concern for their community.


  • Nora Koch

Coffee House Press was located on 2nd Avenue in Minneapolis, near the warehouse district, on the third floor, upstairs from Nate's Men’s Clothing. On the same floor was a Pit bull, replete with spiked collar, who belonged to the drug dealers down the hall. She ran wiggling all over, to me with a big smile on her face every time I called “DAIsy!!!” They scowled at me every time this took place, which was every time I saw Daisy; it really ruined their tough guy persona.


One day, Michael, our Assistant editor came in, wide eyed, from the hallway with his hands wrapped around what looked like an olive-green basketball. It was a ball of bills that he’d found in the bathroom, stuffed into the garbage can. We assumed it came from Daisy’s place.

  • Nora Koch

Updated: Jun 13

Our culture is the opposite of the event of Jesus. Instead of discovering who we are, we are encouraged to invent who we are, based on whatever whim, especially our passions, residing in our head at the moment. Obedience is a bad word. However, I have found in my life the freedom of obedience; freedom and joy in adhering to Christ. I am almost glad I fell far away from him as a young woman so that the difference between the world’s view of freedom and actual freedom has become obvious to me.


When I was young it was very important to discover who I was. This process does not disappear as I age, but I have something to look back on that has a pattern and authority. I can see how adhering to Christ has shaped me, made me more true to myself and as I give up my conception of myself, I am able to let go and relax in the world around me, whatever the circumstances (this is obviously easier in some than others). Having been in dire need and having that need met in a variety of ways and not by my own doing, I have learned to trust God. But it is only when I relax and fall into his arms so to speak, that it happens.


I am an artist and because of that have a personality that is unusual. This does not make life easy; one does not know that their personality is difficult for others. For a long time, I tried to adapt and become more conventional so that I was acceptable, but it never worked. I could not keep it up. I tried to please my parents by being ordinary, but I wasn’t. Eventually I pursued art, even though I knew it might alienate them and was a precarious endeavor.


At the age of forty, after graduate school in Printmaking and Book Arts, I was single and had to make a living for myself. I took a position as Production Manager and Designer for a prominent publisher in Minneapolis because the work interested me and it was within my skill set, but I had embraced Christianity before Grad school. I had produced many overtly Christian themes in my work, and gotten into prestigious national art exhibits with them, so I thought I might have a chance of fitting in with the prevailing culture in spite of my beliefs. I loved the work: designing, typesetting trade books, typesetting and printing letterpress books. I was good at it.


It didn’t take long for me to be “found out” by my boss. I tried to steer the conversation to the things I could speak agreeably about in my position of design and typesetting with the book we were working on. When pressed by him about the content, I had to say it troubled me because I was a Christian. He glared at me as if I had told him I was a Nazi; he was Jewish. After that my life at work was one of constant harassment by him and others for being a practicing Christian. There were others there who were “Christian,” but did not pose the obstinate problem I did. I loved the work and knew I could learn a lot, so I stuck it out for three years, during which there was a revolt by the staff of six, including a lock out of the publisher, talks with lawyers and ultimately some leaving with gag orders. I took another job; I did not have a gag order.


I knew that the corporate publisher that I interviewed with was not the atmosphere that I was likely to fit in, but I had to make a living. So, for the interview, I created the person I thought would get the job; I dressed the part and answered all of the questions the way I figured they wanted me to. I got the job, but I could not sustain the impersonation. I had to be me, and I was not acceptable. Though I did good work, my personality made people uncomfortable, except for the remarkable Accountant, who defended me. Unfortunately I met her late in my tenure there.


I was asked to leave after ten months; it wasn’t working. Relived, I became a freelance book designer and production manager. It worked better. I made much more money when I had work, but I had to trust God every day with having enough to sustain me. A good thing to do no matter what one is doing.







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