As of this last August it has been four years since I’ve been home for good. I’ve only left the state once since I came home (No, Fargo doesn’t count) and that was a brief trip to Montana that I won last year. I am one of those northern Minnesota chicks, there’s nothing terribly sheik about it and, no, we don’t really sound like the movie Fargo. Actually a lot of us took offense to that movie when it first came out but now that I’m older it’s one of my very favorites – perhaps its because I now know how to laugh at myself. We’re a pretty unique bunch up here in north country, folks from the Dakota’s are close neighbors but our accents are different and we see things really quite differently. In fact, in all of the US, us in northern Minnesota really are our own breed. That’s not necessarily a good thing but it does seem very much so a real thing. As my dad would say when it comes to the pickings for single folks up here, “The odds are good but the goods are odd!” Yes, we do know how to have a sense of humor about our own selves for sure :)
When I wasn’t here I found it amazing how roots in people didn’t seem to run very deep when it came to places. In a ten year period I heard of whole family’s heading to other states. When I asked about cousins most of the time no one had ever met their cousins or, at the very least, had only ever met them once or twice and had no idea what town they were living in, never mind even the state! It was all very strange to me and it also felt sad. No roots? You don’t even talk to your cousins? But where did you all come from? And it always felt like “no place” or, at least, “no place that matters.” That’s not how it is up here… My first cousins and I (and the majority of my family) all live within less then fifty miles of each other. This is where our grandparents settled and none of us left and, usually, the old family farm is still in the family. In fact, I’m renovating our family farm with my fiance as we speak. And that makes sense to me. Roots are tangible things here, the ground matters and every time I see an old farm I feel the love. When I was gone, I never was in the right place until I came home. It became apparent that maybe I could belong somewhere else but I certainly didn’t want to.
I felt like Kevin Costner in the end of Waterworld, nothing moved right after I left Minnesota and I was dying without it. Maybe not literally but it certainly felt like the rest of the US that I had met just didn’t understand – and certainly didn’t want to. Roots meant something to me, something I couldn’t articulate. It was the still, small voice inside of me that finally took the one chance I finally gave her and she drove me home without delay. It was a long drive (over 1,000 miles) and it was a very hard drive but it got easier with every mile closer to home I got. When I pulled into the driveway of my childhood home, went to greet my dogs, my horses, I could feel my family, I could feel the roots and, for the first time in years, I felt support. And I also felt regret, I had missed so much and so many had missed me, what a waste of years it felt like, as blessed as I was to have these roots, this support, what moron would ever leave it?
We are an odd bunch though, after mastering the cooking of a wild turkey it dawned on me that if my fiance and I played our cards right we may never have to eat store bought meat again. Between fish, venison, and wild foul, I was more then happy to never eat beef again. I can clean a deer as well as any man (and better then a lot of men I know) same goes with fish though I haven’t yet had much practice on birds. We don’t waste and we don’t kill animals for sport and I, frankly, have grown to not even like the taste of beef. So, yes, we are a bit odd compared to the rest of the country but my man is incredibly happy and so am I.
This last Wednesday the weather changed dramatically. No, I can’t say I like our northern Minnesota weather, it certainly is varied (*cough*) and it certainly can be cold (literally deadly) but it is worth it. I live in an absolutely beautiful place, but it is dangerous and it can be tragic. Last winter we had weeks of over minus twenty degrees below zero at night and days when it literally never got above zero during the day. Hard to imagine? Yeah, it is. And it’s depressing and its shocking. Every time. I have no doubt that there are some people who are capable of getting used to that kind of cold. Most of us up here don’t appreciate it. Last winter was too cold for even us when it came to ice fishing or snowmobiling, or skiing, seriously. It was bad. And it was looking kinda rough for us this winter when November came around and our temperatures dropped well below even the averages. I think we’re starting to feel like cold weather refugees, begging the skies for just twenty above zero, c’mon!
And then it happened, last Wednesday was a high in the thirties – wow! It was forty five degrees above zero last night! I wore my spring/summer/fall shoes and coat! And then it rained! It was incredible! The snow completely disappeared and it felt almost miraculous to be outside like that, in December. So, anyway, now all that rain is freezing and we’re in a full on snow storm but, honestly, I think we would take even this slippery mess and still thank the skies that we could stand outside for a while last week without the air hurting our faces. I took some pictures last week with the hoar frost clinging to every last branch and twig and needle and the dampness of the warm weather settling down in close and cool. These photos are an aspect of north country that I cherish that most folks don’t talk about. So much of what you see about northern Minnesota are the lakes and the pines – all stunning but there are the prairies too and they have an aspect of beauty all their own. Here are my horses, enjoying the fog, the warmth of the wind, here is the christmas tree on our main street (yes, that is center parking, no I don’t think they do that anywhere else but here…) and, of course, the hoar frost taken on Wednesday afternoon.