Forgot to post this song last week – a fun one I did with Nathan after we spent a day at Wild River State Park and swam in the St. Croix River (whose other shore belongs to Wisconsin).
My father-in-law’s cousin owns a cabin on Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota, not far from the Boundary Waters and the Canadian border. It was built in 1932, which seems a strange economic time to build a vacation home, but reminds me a bit of the Civilian Conservation Corps projects that began the next year.
This past week twenty of us – my husband, his parents, his three brothers and their families, and his honorary sister – all gathered at the cabin, converging from California, North Dakota, Ohio and Minnesota for four days together at the lake.
I love seeing and hearing the loons on the lake – in the day you can hear them laughing, at night their mournful calls float through the windows while I fall asleep.
I wrote week 26’s song for #songaweek2018 in the gazebo behind the cabin one afternoon while the cousins played in the water. The first lines came from the weekend before we were at the lake, when we took our kids sailing for the very first time, and I pointed out the sunlight glinting on the water. No camera can do it justice. The same is true of the sunsets over Lake Vermilion (or anywhere really!).
That evening I played the song a couple times for Nathan and his brother Micah while we sat around before dinner, and then asked my daughter to record us playing it.
Don’t take my word for it, you should go and
see for yourself how the sunlight glints on
waves of the water all around
your boat on the lake where the loons are laughing low
Breathe with the trees and the birds and the insects
so many creatures you never noticed
different from you but all the same
it’s life on the lake where the loons are laughing low
You can’t stay forever but you can drink it
deeply enough that you could keep it
down in your soul where you can always
feel the lake where the loons are laughing low
It’s been a few months. Of leaving Colorado, loading all our stuff in storage and living in my parents’ basement, looking for houses in Saint Paul (we finally got the fifth one we offered on), getting kids launched into new schools, updating drivers’ licenses and vehicle registrations, you get the idea.
We’ve been moved into our new house for just over a month now, and we’re starting to get reacquainted with living in the Twin Cities, eleven years after we left it. There is so much going on here, and I’m excited to dig into it! Last Saturday we went to hear The Salt Vine and Annie Mack at the Aster Cafe; Tuesday night we sat in on a dress rehearsal for Sam’s Son, an upcoming musical; and last night Nathan and I biked over to Humboldt High School to hear the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra give a free concert for residents of our neighborhood – and then on over to Wabasha Brewing to sample beers from our most local brewery (we were not disappointed – Cathedral Porter and Darktober, mmm!).
I’m eager to start playing music here again. We’ve got some big renovation projects happening in our house that will take a lot of our attention for probably the first year we’re here, but I’m hoping to at least get out and hit a few coffee shops soon.
In the meantime, here is a very rough laptop recording of a song I wrote this summer. (We haven’t gotten the recording equipment set up yet.) You can glimpse our gutted kitchen through the doorway behind me! Reminds me a little of this video Nathan and I made years ago in the house we gutted in Owatonna.
You’ll never recognize your life’s undertow
That subtle subcurrent stays hidden
Till what you should have done a long time ago
Meets what you are because you didn’t
Keep your eyes open wide
Wear your heart on the outside
Clowns and cynics clog our pocket scrolls
We search for angels on the airwaves
We trip and tangle in the threads of trolls
Ensconced in our respective enclaves
Reach your mind towards the light
Hold your soul through its dark night
Keep your heart open wide
Wear your eyes on the outside
Of all of this cursed and kissed existence
You may not feel it for a long hard time
But joy comes ever back around
And nothing beautiful stays in the lines
And demagogues eventually fall down
Raise your voice through the haze
Hold my hand through these dark days
Keep your ears open wide
Let the best songs inside
Of all of this cursed and kissed existence
There’s a line from a Rich Mullins song that has been haunting me the past year or so – “lonely even here in paradise.” Not that he came up with the “lonely in paradise” phrase, but the song (“Land of my Sojourn”) especially connects with me, with its images of roads and mountains and traveling and song.
For nearly four years our family of four has lived in what feels like paradise, where gray days are few and even many of those still have moments of sunshine. Where, when the trees aren’t fully leafed out, I can see snow-capped mountains from my back door. Where my man and I can walk to our choice of three really good microbreweries for a little after-work date and be home in an hour for dinner with the kids. Where we can get to world-class vacation destinations like Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park just by driving 45 minutes through the breathtaking Big Thompson Canyon, sometimes spotting big-horned sheep and elk along the way. Where winter doesn’t overstay its welcome, and snow melts in a day or two under the mile-closer golden sunshine. Where cars don’t rust from a six-month bath of road salt.
Yeah, yeah, you get the idea. It’s beautiful here. It’s been a four-year working vacation – emphasis on the “working” for my husband Nathan, who has worked full-time all four years we’ve been here in Loveland, something neither of us had done for nearly ten years before moving here – and something we are very excited for him to be finished with NEXT TUESDAY!! when he moves to part-time for a couple months while the kids finish school and we prepare to move back to Minnesota.
Yes, Minnesota. Oh, Minnesota. I didn’t know I’d miss you. Colorado has delivered on the rugged-yet-hip mountain man image it’s been given, but Minnesota, you are my boy next door. I just didn’t realize how much you meant to me, with your green growing everything and your ten thousand lakes and your rivers and prairies and woods.
Oh, I know about the snow – which becomes the slush and the chunks and the salty spewing splash on my car and my boots and my pant legs. And the mosquitoes. And the humidity. And the gray days, and no mountains to miss behind the gray anyway.
But I guess, after a lifetime of not really knowing where I’m from, I might just call you home. I might just say I’m a Minnesota girl after all, though I will always be eager to travel, even to leave you again and live somewhere else for a while. I’m an adventurous hobbit maybe, like Bilbo and Frodo, loving my cozy Shire, and itching for the road.
But the heart of it is, my people are in Minnesota, and I miss them dearly. It’s magnified because I have two children who are very close to their grandparents and cousins and it got harder and harder to feel so many hearts breaking each time we piled back in the car to drive 800 miles away from those people who make Minnesota home for us.
And I began to feel terribly lonely in paradise. Like living in a beautiful mansion all alone. No calling up my mom for a coffee date on the weekend, no possibility of grandparents attending soccer games or orchestra concerts. I know this is the reality for many families in our highly mobile society – it was my reality as a child – but I’ve decided to opt out, and I am grateful for a husband who is willing to leave this paradise even though he doesn’t share my feelings of homesickness. Maybe we’ll be back some day when the kids are grown. Loveland is a popular retirement destination after all! Or maybe we’ll go further west – all the way to northern California, where mountains and ocean converge.
For now we’ve decided to live in Saint Paul, because we have some good friends there, there’s more access to bike trails around the river, and we’ve already lived in Minneapolis (which was great, but why not try something new?!). It’s been eleven years since we lived in the Twin Cities (we were in our hometown of Owatonna for seven years before moving here to Loveland), and there’s a lot I’ve missed about being there. So I’m excited to rediscover the familiar, and explore the new.
But for now, I live in Colorado, and I’ve got at least two months left to enjoy this place.
Last year I wrote and posted a song a week on my blog. It’s been good to take a few months off, but now I’m ready for a new challenge, and this time I’m going for a DAILY one. I’m going to post a photo of something I love about Loveland (and surrounding area probably) every day starting today until the day we load the moving truck or unplug the wifi or whatever I deem the end of our sojourn here in paradise.
Obviously this will probably be the longest post in the series! But here we go.
Today’s little piece of Loveland is my own back yard. I just missed the full blossom, but here is our little cherry tree, next to the chicken coop (that’s our neighbor’s house in the background):
Loveland has a cherry festival every summer – apparently there are a lot of cherry trees here! This one hasn’t produced all that much fruit, but we have gotten a few bright red handfuls each year, which never make it into the house – we just pick and eat!
I like to sit at that table on weekend mornings with a cup of coffee. It faces east so I drink in the morning sun too.
Our house is on a corner lot, so most of our yard is in front of or along the outside of the house, but I did make a small area between the garage and the deck into a more private nook (every introvert needs her private outdoor space!) I even dug up a spot and laid all these rocks down to make a little patio:
And that’s blue-eyed grass, the first thing that flowers in our yard, the first bit of spring color we get to enjoy.
*tl;dr: Absence makes the heart grow fonder and I’ve come down with my first big case of homesickness since moving to Colorado from Minnesota three years ago. So I took a jokey Minnesota cliche and made it into a sad song.
**satcv: You know that feeling you get, how, after you moved away from your small town to the big city up the road, got a job, learned to ride public transportation, bought a house, started a family, then moved back to your small town when the second baby was on the way so your small children could grow up in the same town as their grandparents, then after seven years back in that small town you got the urge for adventure and packed it all up and moved out west and drank in the sunshine and craft beer and hiked the mountains, bought a house, got a dog, and then three years later started feeling a bit lonely in paradise and then your kid (after riding on his uncle’s pontoon boat in Ohio) started obsessing about getting a boat, and then somehow while you and your beloved were drinking mojitos on the front porch and your kids were jumping on the trampoline and your boat-loving kid was going on and on about boats, you started reminiscing about your days owning a sailboat and taking it out on Lake Minnetonka and the Apostle Islands, and then somehow (you can’t recall exactly how) the conversation morphed into the big dreamy idea to buy a houseboat and live on the Mississippi River in downtown Saint Paul, and now even though the houseboat idea is quite enough to get you dreaming, you’re finding that the living-back-in-the-big-city-in-Minnesota idea has not stopped working on you, and you miss your family terribly – all of whom live in that understated state of winter and mosquitoes (and brilliant cultural landmarks and rivers and lakes and the Boundary Waters and fireflies and friends you miss and family you love) – yeah, you know that feeling?
Well, that’s what my song for week 37 of #songaweek2016 is about. And in writing this blog post, I discovered I’m not the first to make a song called Minnesota Goodbye. Oh, hey, that reminds me of another blog post . . .
*too long; didn’t read
**sitting around the campfire version
Anyhoo, here’s the song:
the yellow truck filled up its belly
and now we’re on the road
and the rain starts on the windshield
across the plains we’re making good time
running for the west
we’ll sleep tonight in a halfway hotel
i’m going away, the mountains are calling me
going away, and your river rolls on
I never knew quite how to say a
here the sun shines nearly every day
winter’s just a cool breeze
and the canyons open deep spaces in my heart
your prairies never sang so loud
your big woods kept their distance
and your lakes just held their peace
the years have passed in golden moments
here in paradise
but I wish you all were here
and now your river has been whispering
in my dreams of late
or maybe the mountains are helping me to hear
I’m so far away, the mountains will always call
so far away, but now your river calls back
I never knew quite how to say a
no river, no mountain, no golden sun paradise
can hold me like the people who love me
we’re so far away, and mountains keep calling us
so far away, and rivers call back
we’ll never be better at saying these