Music with Minnesotans

Music with Minnesotans: Mary Shideler


Music with Minnesotans: The Kayak Lady, Mary Shideler

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April 27, 2011
The Kayak Lady
Mary Shideler taking a water clarity reading in one of the 1007 lakes of Itasca County she paddled over a 14-year period. She is a massage therapist from Grand Rapids and is ticking things off her "bucket list" including traveling to China and Africa.
Photo courtesy Mary Shideler

My first paddle of the year was with a new friend in Northern Minnesota.

It was beautiful that sunny March day, only slightly risky as we ventured into the very cold water still partially covered by a layer of ice. And it was the best of fun. We were like kids, pretending to be part of Shackleton's expedition, and avoid getting trapped and crushed by pack ice.

Mary Shideler is "The Kayak Lady" because, I imagine that's what everyone in Grand Rapids and environs started calling her after she took her custom-made light-weight wooden kayak into all 1007 lakes in Itasca County - every last one of them.

Alison Young with "The Kayak Lady"
"The Kayak Lady" and classical host Alison Young prepare to take their first paddle of 2011. It was sunny and warm enough to go without gloves, but the ice was still thick in places only adding to the fun.
MPR Photo/Alison Young

This would be a pretty huge achievement even if every lake had a boat launch and she could park her truck, "The Red Pony," nearby and just pop in - as we did.

But after she paddled the easy lakes, the quest for the rest was by muddy, mosquito-and-tick-infested trails through woods thick with brush and wind-fall, and sometimes across private property. At other times, the lakes just weren't located where they said they'd be according to the map.

It took Mary fifteen seasons, but she did it. And she says she grew up along the way - going from a soon-to-be-divorced woman to a strong, self-reliant, multi-dimensional person.

In her book about the journey "The Kayak Lady" she has a chapter that pokes fun at us DJ's - "For your listening pleasure..." But there she describe the power of music when she found something on the radio that was just the thing she needed at a particular moment.

Mary has long enjoyed classical music and the pieces on her playlist reflect the many moods of paddling - from serenity and contemplation, to turbulence and fear to sheer joy.

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Mary Shideler's playlist:

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Check out more from Music with Minnesotans:

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James Sewell
Next time, if you've ever wanted to move with the music, you'll love visiting with Dancer James Sewell. He has long used classical music as a source for the dances he creates, and you'll never hear these pieces the same when he describes how the vibrations move him!
Photo courtesy the Artist

Next time, if you've ever wanted to move with the music, you'll love visiting with Dancer James Sewell. He has long used classical music as a source for the dances he creates, and you'll never hear these pieces the same when he describes how the vibrations move him!