I made a list of projects for Minnesota. Including a rather momentous one—to review and then burn most of my old journals. I thought long and hard about the hundreds of angst-filled pages that would go up in smoke, nevermore to be seen by human eye. Then I happily—and only a little regretfully—loaded the books in my bag and boarded the plane for Minnesota. Preparing to end my relationship with that young…then less-young…then older…then middle-age…woman who had pushed my inner child into some deep cranial crevice and taken over ‘me’ with worries and chaos and longings and…nonsense.
For anyone reading this and wondering if I won’t live to regret such an action—I can say pretty definitely ‘no.’ The journals begin June 9, 1975, forty-four years ago. I had been divorced two years; Scott was fifteen, Steven twelve; money, jobs and lovers were all problematic. And that’s what the first two volumes are all about; they’ve been examined before and again this week in a search of profound thoughts, meaningful actions, something…anything I could retain for posterity. Nothing. I was in my 30s, bright enough, pretty enough, ambitious enough I suppose—but not exactly practical or thoughtful or wise. I’ve ripped a few pages out of that fat journal that may contain a line or two for a future book or blog. That’s all. One’s a vision of my young son washing the car with the sparkle and splash of water spraying in the sun; one pays plaintive homage to a love affair ending….and…maybe there are only two pages worth saving?
The drama continued (with a gradual reduction of money problems and lovers) until 1984 when I took my first big trip abroad—Sue and me and the world. By then I had a fulfilling job and my kids were doing well, having survived the somewhat careless mothering they received for awhile. I had room for an inner ‘traveling’ child to emerge.
I brought scraps and pages and 1998 and 1999 journals with me to Minnesota as well on this ‘peruse and destroy’ mission—the goal being to focus on this century when back at my Albuquerque desk. Fortunately, after those early-days ramblings the books become far more mundane, drowning in daily details that I’m sure were healthy for me to record at the time but now, twenty years later, are quite possibly as boring as had I just written ‘all good men must come to the aid of their country’ a few thousand times.
So glad I wrote this post and took the photos included herein as I was feeling slightly hesitant about something as final as consigning years of words to absolute oblivion. Turns out, as I’d hoped, to be a positive move…Marie Kondo-ing a whole lot of blather might be the best way to describe the action now that it’s done. I can say thank you with heartfelt appreciation to those hardbound black and red journals that moved apartments, towns, even states, with me all of these years…you have been my therapists and best friends. Now, however, I’ve matured enough to go on without you…and, because Al Gore invented the internet, I can have blogs instead.
Join me now out at the Old Place for the burning of the books—a phrase I never thought to utter.
Love these fire photos…maybe it’s all about my inner pyromaniac?
Family really is what it’s all about isn’t it?
But now for the ROAD TRIP.
Life in Minnesota moves along just as it should. Sleeping again, visiting cousins, stocking up on moose and walleye sweatshirts and enough new shoes for all the abs classes and walking marathons of next year. And a road trip. Granted it was not of the fifteen-hundred-miles-plus kind I enjoyed so much in the past—still it did stir some slumbering road-trip genes awake. This is good since Scott, Teresa and I are road tripping across Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the near future.
My Minnesota road trip took me west on US 2 (in times past the main east-west routed in the northern US) from Grand Rapids to Deer River, up Highways 46 to Northome, 1 and 72 to Baudette, 11 to Roseau, 89 to Red Lake and on down to Bemidji and finally US 2 back to Grand Rapids. About 400 miles. It’s not the most spectacular route—no mountains, oceans, grand cities or historical monuments but there are enough aspen, spruce, balsam, and birch for my annual/biannual tree fix. Between Roseau and Bemidji the grand sweep of Red Lake keeps me occupied and the first visit in 20+ years to Lake Bemidji and Paul Bunyan and his loyal companion, Babe the Blue Ox makes me happy. Mom and Dad were married 81 years ago on the shores of Lake Bemidji.
I’ve made road trips of over 4,000 miles in the past, often by myself, and loved every dusty or rainy or ragged or scenic mile and almost every second-rate motel. The Albuquerque to Grand Rapids trip of a couple of years ago finished off that lifelong passion and, while it makes me a little sad and a little nostalgic to say that…it’s time I suppose. My first long trip was when my family moved briefly to Portland, Oregon when I was sixteen and I wound up driving much of the way, especially through anything resembling an urban area. My dad had never driven in a bigger metropolis than Bemidji and he wasn’t about to start then. The car was a maroon 47 Chevy (Robert remembered) and since the trip was in ‘55 it was a newer model than we usually owned. I lost the car in (to me) a huge Portland parking lot our first week or so there and my mom and I had to take a bus downtown and spend most of a day searching for it. Northome (300 pop.) had not prepared us well for city life.
Back to yesterday.
Terri and Brian’s land is probably about 2/3 open field and 1/3 fairly dense woods. Brian is with Polaris so he gets a new vehicle or two to drive and evaluate every year. This year it’s a large ATV Ranger, first time I’ve ever seen one of those noisy toys I liked! Terri took us for a ride in their woods and I wanted one…to go to the three blocks to the grocery store in Albuquerque perhaps…but I don’t think they’re legal in towns are they?
Terri’s been a horsewoman her whole life, roping and barrel racing and like events on quarter horses and now trail riding with Dandy, her Tennessee Walker, a most gorgeous animal. Her grandchildren eager to hang out and become the next generation of riders. It’s encouraging to see kids and horses so happy with each other. Photos aren’t great but they’ll do what photos do best…take one back to a moment in time…one summer day in Minnesota.
One should only eat walleye in Minnesota at a cousin’s house. Oh sure, some number of restaurants serve walleye but, even though good-enough, it won’t taste like it does at Terri and Brian’s.
The walleye has white flesh. It has a less murky taste than bass. Fish fillets which are fine and flaked have a sweet, thick, succulent and mild flavour. These terms basically describe the taste of the walleye. This means that if prepared following a great recipe it would turn out to be quite a delicacy. Actually, most culinary communities highly regard it for its flavour and delicate flake.
Who would enjoy eating a bonny fish which puts one at the risk of chocking any minute? Who would want to concentrate on getting rid of the bones other than enjoying a delicacy? I bet every other angler would want to dig his or her teeth deep into some flesh without any worry of injuries or worse fatalities and enjoy the meal as a reward for their hard work during the fishing spree. The walleye has very few bones, and this makes it quite appealing for consumption. https://deepwaterfishery.com/what-does-walleye-taste-like/
You’ve heard the story. Marsha gives me a gift certificate for Bender’s in Grand Rapids every birthday and every Christmas. So, if I miss coming home a year (four certificates!) there’s a shoe binge on the horizon and Bender’s has great shoes, kind of like a mini-Dillards. Travel is a indeed enlightening, enriching, good for one’s soul…sole…whatever.
Insomnia not quite gone yet…but leaving. Up to Roseau on the border tomorrow for cousin time and walleye.
This was intended to be a meaningful post about the importance of home and how fortunate some of us are to return often and to celebrate safety, heritage, family, memories. I wanted to say something about the millions in the world who can never go home again…the refugees…I always think about them when I’m here.
It’s late now though and there’s only time left in this day to thank Dr. Minnesota for alleviating my insomnia of the past two-three weeks. It was beginning to frighten me just a little—why?—maybe yet one more permanent gift from the gods of ageing? Then last night, with the June-green woods all around, I slept soundly…no pills, no scratchy-eyed scanning of one more page of a book I won’t remember in the morning, no extra trips across the hall to pee, no hot milk, no scary thoughts…….only sleep. Just to say again…home is a seriously important place.
Of course we went for a morning walk in the woods along the Mississippi. And of course I took the first of hundreds of tree leaf fern branch river pictures. There’s supposed to be a mama bear with her two cubs in the neighborhood but we didn’t see her. But here are some leaves.
Remember , earlier in this ‘year of ageing dangerously,’ I outlined a series of ‘mostly’ small journeys, each with its own peculiar personal meaning. Well, Trip #2 is about to commence. While the first of this 2019 travel series was the California Black Mountain birthday climb fueled by a promise of borscht and cucumber vodka at the end, this trip is all about Home/Real Home/Me and the Real Home. The old nourish-the-inner-child routine mentally; reboot the dwindling energy supply physically. To accomplish those objectives there are a few challenges: Start sleeping again for example—insomnia having struck for the first time in my life. I am imagining the cure will be breathing the pure green air thick along the birch-crowded Mississippi river banks. Then there’s my difficult relationship with food—what better place to jump-start hunger than the land of white food and, let’s face it, much of my favorite food is white: Mashed potatoes, walleye, marshmallow malts from Dairy Queen. Hard to understand how my children and grandchildren became such dedicated kale and cauliflower eaters. If I get sleeping and eating under control it’s time more than well spent; it’s time turned golden.
What about the mental, emotional, spiritual side of life? That seems a bit lackluster as well. What are the chances Minnesota is the fix for that as well? The question might be whether I can write my way out of the year’s fixation on age (accompanied by mild cases of … fear … despair … confusion)? Two weeks at my undemanding bro’s Minnesota home will surely give me the impetus to begin. To write steadily and smartly, all the while knowing I can write my book…the one over which I’ve been obsessing these last years. It was quite a number of years ago in a small bedroom in my cousin’s house in the far north of Koochiching County, Minnesota that I had my best writing success in terms of concentration and imagination coming together. I was living on California unemployment insurance, sharing the room with a thin bed, books in stacks and piles, drawers of sweatshirts and wool socks, a table-desk and my dog Max. I wrote a third or so of a book called Bitter Sanctuary. But then…life in the form of work and moving on brought those months when I was a ‘real’ writer to a halt. However the finest bits and pages from that book have found their way into my present writing project…nothing writers write is ever in vain…isn’t that the morale of this story.
Tomorrow. Up home we say. Going up home.
A long time ago in a … downtown nearby, some friends and I made a festival called Downtown Saturday Night (DTSN). Forty-one years ago to be precise. I was contracted by the City of Albuquerque to produce arts activities/events in the downtown area as part of a nationwide effort to bring city centers back to life through the medium of culture. It all started with a City Spirit grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and Mayor Harry Kinney hiring me just prior to the end of his term. He was replaced by Mayor David Rusk, who said in my first meeting with him, “Instead of spending a year thinking about this (the grant funded a ‘planning’ year) why don’t we actually do something?” So we did.
DTSN was wildly successful that first year but when forced uptown by a jealous City Councilor who wanted a festival of her own, it worked less well. By then I was already moving into a new position, charged with bringing the KiMo Theater back to life after its closing and purchase by the City, so DTSN was relegated to the history files.
Last Friday night (forty-one years almost to the day from the first weekend of DTSN), the North Fourth Art Center hosted Four Directions, a gallery opening and poetry reading. It just so happened that one of the artists, Jane Sprague, was part of the original small but wildly imaginative…and wild… DTSN staff and one of the Friday night poets was Larry Goodell, who must have been one of the DTSN participants at a coffeehouse we set up in a vacant building along Central. Kathy Schwartzman, my main program assistant lo those many years ago was in town and Bill McHugh, a friend/historian, who did ‘stuff’ for the festival also came over for the evening. How fine it was.
Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a (gallery) quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy [plus]
Old friends, memory brushes the same years, silently sharing the same fears
(Old Friends/Paul Simon)
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
(T.S. Eliot/The Waste Land)
Before leaving, with some measure of relief, my birth month in this watershed year (the month and year I got old…) of 2019, I must speak to Eliot’s April meditations—which do perfectly reflect my April mood this year.
I declared my travel passion ‘cooled’ in the last post. It’s true and the doldrums into which this frightening birthday year have dropped me get most of the credit. I’ve felt fragile and forgetful and finished. Thanks April. Dead land, dull roots, dried tubers. Yeah, I know, April showers are presumably stirring those dead dull dried things back to life but sometimes I wonder if there’s enough rain in the world for that much stirring.
Now. Finally. The month (merry, merry) of May has arrived and I declare all mention of age over and done with. In fact it may be impossible to find a bad word about May in poetry, quotation or song. Here are two examples:
“And a bird overhead sang Follow,
And a bird to the right sang Here;
And the arch of the leaves was hollow,
And the meaning of May was clear.”
(Algernon Charles Swinburne)
The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.
(Edwin Way Teale)
And is it possible…that only eleven hours into May, travel is back on my mind? Phew! What a relief. On the very last day of this month I fly off to Minnesota, to the bottomless green of early summer in the north, the easy availability of caramel malts and sour cream raisin bars, the fine-tuned hum of mosquitoes and the haunting cries of loons (the feathery kind). I feel the happy anticipation of Going Home buoying my spirits already. Indeed, my inner child is already celebrating a much needed visit out to the ‘old place’ where the voices of summers past and apple pies cooling on the roof of the old car and sweet peas preparing to scent our warm weather content haunt me (in a good way). My outer old-child is looking forward to evenings with Robert and Marsha, chatting happily (or grumpily) as the bro endlessly channel surfs; shoe-buying at Bender’s; visits with an old schoolmate, old neighbor, old cousin and Bob Dylan’s old house in Hibbing (shameful that I’ve never paid homage in the past). Lots of ‘old’ but that doesn’t bother me now that it is May.
I know…I know. I always do these sentimental tributes to Minnesota before, after and during my visits ‘home.’ Can’t help myself. I love it there.
And…welcome back May. It’s been way too long.