When I came to you in 2010, I was just 24, an intern, and eager to charge into a new city for what I thought would be three months.
When the summer ended, and I was offered a full-time job to stay, I still believed I would only stick around for two years, max. I was on a tear, then. I wanted to live everywhere and never slow down.
But you wrapped your tree-trunk arms around me, showing me a metropolitan area with so much green. A place where you could bike to sky-scrapers in 10 minutes and bike to a lake in five. A town with top-tier options for eating, drinking and the arts but a blue-collar vibe. A city with with quirky neighborhoods, charming street corners and much more diversity than meets the eye.
I made OK money and didn’t pay too much for rent. There wasn’t a place in the city I couldn’t get by bike.
I decided to stay for a while.
In the winter, things changed. I’d come from Boston and I thought I knew what cold was, but as it turns out, I had no idea. My editors realized this right away and warned me, but still I had to understand for myself.
I learned to count seconds at the bus stop. To meditate while walking. I learned the importance of a fireplace. The value of good boots. I walked around, feeling like I would surely freeze to death, right before catching a glimpse kids playing hockey on rinks frozen on top of the grass in a park, at 20 below. Inspired, I even bought a pair of ice skates for myself, in an attempt to embrace the chill. But I never used them — you guys it’s really GOD DAMNED cold out there.
On nights when it wasn’t so bad, though, I’d grab some gloves and a whiskey and walk around my neighborhood, marveling at the deep, clear sky, impossibly still air, and the way my neighborhood was still pretty — but in a different way — in the shadows.
In the spring, I understood why people endure it. The length and bitterness of the winter make the thaw all the more magical. The ice on the lakes started to melt and buds poked through the trees’ cold, brittle branches. Little yellow dandelions started blanketing the shores. I’d get a glass of rosé from Tin Fish or Bread & Pickle and sit on the lakes’ edge, the warmth of spring at my back, the frosty reminder of the winter before me with the ice slow to recede.
I loved the exploration, and that there was a bounty to explore, but I also found things that I loved returning to over and over again, and them always being basically the same. A handful of bars and restaurants. Clancey’s meat market. Magers & Quinn bookstore. A hidden, root-filled nook on Lake Bde Maka Ska. The far table and cold sorbet at Sonny’s Cafe.
I kayaked the lakes with mason jars full of premade cocktails, stopping in the middle for my own, private happy hour. I grilled in my back yard. I visited every farmer’s market I could find.
My job, too, was fun, mostly, and mostly kept me fulfilled.
The things I didn’t like — the city layout, the insane driving tendencies, the area’s segregation — I learned not to talk about. You guys really know how to jump down the throat of a complaining transplant, P.S.
Maybe deciding to ignore them psychologically dimmed those aspects in my mind.
Early on, people told me it was hard to make new friends in Minnesota — because people aren’t as interested in meeting new people, or settle down early, or already have a lot of friends because they grew up in the surrounding area.
I never felt that. I met one of my best friends, Jill, within a couple months of moving. And over eight years, I developed a network — particularly with incredible women doing amazing things — that is bigger and stronger than any I’ve had in any place I’ve lived.
When I left, the tears came fast and without warning. The place I meant to stay just three months had become my home.
I never really got used to the cold. But the warmth weaved its way into my heart, and made it tough to say goodbye.