Then people ask, “What is it like?” Sometimes I think of cold winters with the sun splintering off the snow and the crisp air that burns your lungs. Of the jolly sense of solidarity that one feels that time of year, chatting with neighbors about the weather, as if to say, “Hey, we’re all surviving!” (The lifers don’t complain about the winters, though. In fact, they’re quite defensive about it. Yes, you are.) I think of playing in the snow and how my children don’t know the feeling of soggy mittens or being sheltered by a snow fort with icy walls. Of sledding and skating and games of “Ditch” in frozen creekbeds. Of the astonishing delight of the first warm Spring morning, after waiting for so long.
But usually in my mind it is summer in Minnesota. I see rolling hills of waving grain and feel the still settled calm of a windless evening on the water. (Until sunset, when the windless evening fills with the ruthless buzz of mosquitoes and the frantic slaps of harried fishermen.) We hadn’t always a lake place, my Minnesota kin and I, but my dad had a boat since I was a child. We’d clean it out and soup it up and plunk it in and spend a day of sun and waves and wind. Cruising and fishing and swimming and at last curling up in sweatshirts in the bow for the chilly ride dock-wards, Mom and I sipping hot coffee from a thermos.
Minnesota is farm country, but wooded, I say. And lake country. Our license plates say “Land of 10,000 Lakes” and it’s not hyperbole. It’s insular perhaps, being so landlocked, but it’s neighborly. My family have lived in Minnesota since my great-grandfather’s grandfather and my great-grandmother’s grandmother on both sides of my large–and largely Minnesotan–family.
And I’m Minnesotan too. When I say “bag” and “flag” and “egg” they don’t all rhyme with “plague” anymore, but I’ve held onto my long northern “O.” When I meet people from other places they all seem slightly unfriendly at first, until I realize they just aren’t from Minnesota. And though I’m (sort of) seeing the world, I get suddenly homesick for sights like these . . .