Minnesota


Like many other people, I’ve been feeling the bombardment of so many things that are happening in our lives.  I’ve been kept awake at night thinking about the divisiveness that exists in my country, my state, and my city.  I’ve lost sleep over the strange happenings of weather – fires in the west that are too huge to imagine the destruction that’s being caused, feet of rain falling from hurricanes making landfall, and the vegetation changes happening here in Minnesota and Wisconsin that’s affecting our wildlife populations of moose, deer, and loons.  Then there are the worries of a continuing pandemic that has  killed hundreds of thousands here in the US – a number that has already surpassed the combined US combat deaths of World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War; the pain sometimes seems too much to fathom.

For me, turning to nature is a balm over these anxieties.  Each morning the earth has completed it’s turn, the darkness of night fades, and the sun returns again.  The leaves are now beginning their color change as the calendar approaches autumn.  I stand out on the dock where the lake temperature has cooled after the heat of summer but is now warmer than the outside air temperature in the early dawn.  The steam rises off the lake, the sun rises over the horizon, and in the distance I can hear the geese calling.  Soon they will be leaving this area and migrating south.  The air temperature will continue to fall as we slide into winter, and the lake will ice over as our days grow shorter and shorter.  And then slowly all these things will reverse.  These are the constants I’m trying to focus on and appreciate.

The summer season is full of hardy flowers that can tolerate the heat of August.  We’ve had our share of high temps and humidity and some of the gardens are showing the stress of the late summer.  But the zinnias and sunflowers are still bright.  Their colors represent this season well and they flourish to remind us to enjoy the blooms and the time that remains before fall comes gliding in on those cool and longer nights.

It’s been a string of summer days here in Saint Paul – sunshine, blue skies, beautiful white puffy clouds, and warmth.  I took a walk to Como Park and followed the path all the way around Lake Como.  Near the pavilion there were people considering the rental of water crafts.  And they had many to choose from – kayaks, canoes, peddle boats, and paddle boards.  A tough decision, but any of those choices would bring a change of scenery and some cooler air out on the lake.

These are the long summer days we look forward to all winter.  It’s worth the snow and cold temperatures to finally turn the calendar to June and welcome the sun and the warmth of summer.

I was very fortunate to be at Como Park the other evening.  It had been a beautiful day and many people were enjoying the evening and the park.  There were people walking, biking, running, flying kites, setting up hammocks between trees, picnicking, and taking in all that our urban park offers, including a recent high school graduate celebrating his accomplishment.  The sun was fighting through the hazy clouds on the western horizon, but it threw a lovely light on the waterfall on the right side of the Frog Pond.  And that same light was streaming through the glass of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory.  How lucky I was to be there at this very moment.

It’s a dark and sad time in Minnesota this week.  Tensions have risen, actions have been taken, people have been hurt, and everyone is in a state of shock.  Our state is filled with a wonderful diversity of people which adds to the richness of this place.  We are proud of our lakes, our rivers, our towns and cities.  We take on the challenge of hard winters that linger late into spring, snowfalls that bury is in feet of snow, and subzero temperatures that settle in for weeks.  Now we are facing the challenge of grieving losses – loss of life, loss of property, loss of respect.   Sadly there are business owners, apartment dwellers, and many people that have had their places burned and have been displaced through no fault of their own.  The losses are many and spread throughout our cities.  We are mourning and many of us are saddened that our state has been rocked by the extent and severity of this week’s events, and it will take time for us to mend.

Change is inevitable in life.  We will grieve and struggle, and we will get through this, and I sincerely hope that this week’s news gets replaced with hope and understanding, love and respect.

Springtime – a season of change, a season of hope, and a season of color.  I’ve always looked forward to spring and its warmth and beauty.  In Minnesota spring seems to condense and then open up all in a small time period.  It’s as if you can literally watch the grass become green and the leaves pop out from the buds on the trees.  Everything draws deep into the color palettes as Mother Nature wakes up from winter.  One of my favorite flowers are tulips with all their styles and hues, colors and textures.  They are the precursor to the abundance of late spring and summer and all the rich colors that follow.  On a dreary day they can be the one bright spot in the garden.  And on a sunny day they glow as their colors are set off by the warmth and brilliance of the sun.

Today is Easter – a day filled with promise, hope, and spring.  Yet this year is not like other years.  Many of us are celebrating the day without friends and family and without the many traditions that we have come to associate with Easter.

And usually Mother Nature is on board too, but that’s not the case in Minnesota today.  I’m looking out the window at snow coming down and collecting on the grass and trees.  When the temperature was 60 degrees yesterday I thought the 3-6 inches of predicted snow was wrong, but that just may hold true.  Somewhere there are lovely small pasque flowers that are keeping their blossoms closed to protect themselves from the snow.  They too know what’s necessary for survival.  And yet I know spring will turn the corner, and these flowers will open up again and be thankful for the moisture and the sun.  There is promise and hope.

 

The last few weeks have brought a world of differences to many of us — a new physical view from the inside looking out; a new vocabulary that includes medical terms of pandemics, viruses, curves, ventilators, and COVID-19; an appreciation for things that previously we’d taken for granted; and a feeling that the world’s turned upside down.  With the barrage of news and seemingly constant updates it’s hard to look too far forward.  Like many, I’m trying to take things one day at a time.  Today the sun is shining and there are signs of spring outside my windows.  The birds are migrating back into our area and their calling hangs in the air.  There are people walking in the neighborhood and soaking up the sun’s warmth.  There’s a young girl that’s riding her small bike next to her dad who is running; they’re chatting and singing as they go by.  Sometime ahead the tulips will be blooming here in Minnesota.  Somewhere ahead, the struggling and the uncertainty we’re dealing with now will be behind us.  Somewhere ahead I’m hoping we will have learned lessons from this time; perhaps we’ll appreciate the beauty all around us – in nature, in family, and the people we interact with.  And somewhere ahead I’m hoping our world will no longer seem to be upside down, but instead will be more kind.

The past two weeks have humbled me quite unexpectedly.  I took a bad slip on a frozen sidewalk and landed on my right leg and ankle.  A ride with the EMT’s took me to the local trauma hospital’s emergency room and a set of x-rays were taken.  Turned out I’d dislocated the ankle and had a trimalleolar fracture with breaks in three bones.  Surgery was scheduled the next day and I came out with plates, screws, wires and lots of hardware holding all those bones together.  Yesterday the plaster splint was removed and I got to see the results of the good surgeon’s work.  Luckily the breaks are healing and the stitches on both sides of my ankle were removed.  I’m now in a boot keeping my ankle immobile, but I cannot put any weight on the foot.  I’ve learned many lessons in these two weeks and some that I’m still learning.  Patience and slowing down are essential now — I couldn’t rush to do anything if I wanted to.  I’m unable to put any weight on my right leg, so I’m reliant on the walker to give me the support I need when I’m upright.  Friends and family are wonderful — flowers, phone calls, text messages, gifts, food, and visits have all brightened my days and given me something else to focus on.  I appreciate our medical system, doctors, nurses, assistants, PCA’s, EMT’s — I’ve been treated and taken care of by people who were smart, experienced, knowledgeable, and kind.  People who saw to my comfort and needs as they were dealing with many other patients too.  Yes, I’m not happy with the broken leg and the distant horizon of the end of May before I can walk “normally.”   But the past two weeks have given me a different perspective on the things that I have taken for granted so many times in the past – something as simple as walking, getting outside to enjoy the fresh air, and the people who I am lucky enough to call family and friends.

We are in the midst of the coolest celebration on earth – the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.  One of my favorite events to attend is the snow sculptures.  Teams work for hours taking a huge block of compacted snow and cutting and carving and sculpting it into a work of art.  In years past I’ve only seen the sculptures after they were completed, but this year I decided to take in the actual carving.  I found some teams with elaborate hand drawn sketches and plans for their sculpture, and other teams that had small dolls or toys that they were using for their design.  The tools, measurements, and time that go into these works of art is amazing.   The temperatures have been warmer than usual which created some challenges for the sculpting but the end results are always amazing.

Next Page »