Matthew Baxley believes in the power of story and its ability to shape how we know places and how we know ourselves.
Matthew was born in Dallas, Texas, but their family moved to the Driftless region of the Mississippi River when Matthew was a middle schooler, which was when Matthew started canoeing and spending time in the woods. Matthew then discovered the joy of storytelling through a high school media program, which gave them the opportunity to tell the stories of their peers, presenting their first video production at a high school talent show.
Matthew’s life has taken many turns, but has remained centered in storytelling. Matthew received a Masters degree in marriage and family therapy and spent years engaging in people’s stories with a new level of depth and intimacy. This kind of storytelling reinforced for Matthew the lesson that the way we share our stories shapes how we are seen in the world, it shapes how we see ourselves, and it shapes what we put our energy and our passion into.
About seven years ago Matthew relocated to the Arrowhead region, which marked the start of a passionate relationship with the Boundary Waters as well as the discovery of their own entrepreneurial spirit. Matthew started a guiding company in the Grand Marais area (anything to spend more time in the wilderness!). After that venture ran its course Matthew founded Bear Witness Media.
Storytelling is the oldest oral tradition, preceding our historical records. Matthew’s work with Bear Witness Media pairs a person’s oral story with stunning images of a beautiful landscape, and layers on top of that music which has the power to pull at people’s heartstrings – a combination of elements that truly sticks with viewers, fulfilling the purpose of Bear Witness Media – to bear witness to our most meaningful experiences.
Matthew has met a lot of people up here in the Arrowhead with similar ‘before-and-after’ stories about their own transition to life in northeast Minnesota.
The experience of moving up here seems to have a coming-of-age theme in which self-discovery is amplified and life takes on new meaning and purpose.
This observation was affirmed in the Boundary Waters Connect and Bear Witness Media collaboration to produce a series of Why We Live Here videos featuring wilderness edge residents who recently relocated in order to call northeast Minnesota home.