Last week I surprised Katharyn by taking her to a delightful local attraction about which she had known nothing.
I no longer remember where I came across the Lake Harriet Elf in my reading and browsing on the ways of the Twin Cities. (The term for such forgetfulness is internesia.)
Lake Harriet is one of five large-ish Minneapolis lakes, each 300 to 400 acres in extent. Four of them are encircled by parkland with walking / bicycling paths all the way around, and they are all popular destinations for three-season recreation. I have seen these lakes characterized this way: Lake Harriet is the “small-town, family lake.” Calhoun is the “active, jet-set lake”; and Lake of the Isles is the “intellectual lake.” (Louise Erdrich’s bookstore is a stone’s throw from the latter.)
On the south shore of Lake Harriet, you will find an elf’s house in the base of an emerald ash tree. I will not reveal exact location; if you need to know, stop any child you see in the vicinity and ask. The resident, whom no human has ever laid eyes on, is variously called the Lake Harriet Elf, Mr. Little Guy, or Thom the Elf. He has been in residence for 21 years now. People leave comments or questions for him behind his little oak door with the lion’s head knocker. He answers each one, usually within a few days, leaving notes smaller than a Post-It in little plastic bags behind the door.
At present Mr. Little Guy answers between 1,000 and 1,500 letters per season. Each one ends with a reassuring “I believe in you.” (In the wintertime a note appears on his door saying he has removed to his “castle in the east,” and he returns in the spring.)
Here is what we know about Thom the Elf: he is shorter than his older brother and taller than his younger. His wife’s name is Martha and their daughter is Alta Lucia. The elf eats minnow cake and pizza and loves baking chocolate chip cookies. He cooks on a grill made from a walnut shell. He gets a lot of his jokes from ladybugs. His bicycle is the size of a mushroom. His bedroom is wallpapered with notes written by “big people.”
Mr. Little Guy has a website. The domain was registered in 2000 and the most recent content is from 2003. There are a couple of Facebook pages that pretend to be the elf’s, but there is strong evidence that they were created by impostors.
Well, Katharyn was captivated by the elf house and by Thom the Elf’s story, of course. She couldn’t wait to tell her brothers about the find. They already knew all about it.