William Kent Krueger
William Kent Krueger

A Valentine to Home: Minnesota

I’m not a native of Minnesota. I moved here when I was thirty years old so that my wife could attend law school at the U of M. Before that I’d been a gypsy kid, living in a lot of places over the years, never really able to call any of them home. I tell a lot of tall tales about my life, but here’s something that is the absolute truth: The moment I stepped foot in Minnesota I felt as if I’d finally found home. I fell in love with this state in a way I’d never fallen for any place before.

The why of it something I’m not sure I understand completely. I’ve lived in other areas that, on the surface, seem more dramatically beautiful. Hood River, Oregon, for example, on the banks of the Columbia River and in one of the most stunning geologic formations in North America—the Columbia River Gorge. The building where I went to high school sits on a hill with a grand view of both the river and the white crown of the volcanic Mount Adams, which looms in the distance. I loved growing up there, but it never really felt like home.

So what is home? The place where you’ve sent down roots? I had no roots when I moved here, no family, no history, and still I felt profoundly drawn. Is it the place where you feel most welcomed and comfortable? For me, that’s certainly Minnesota, but this seems too easy an answer. I’ve begun to think it’s something in my blood, some elemental part of me that resonates with the Midwest and with the North Country, something that goes back in my lineage, my genes, and that I may never fully understand. If I had a good grasp of my ancestry, maybe I’d find the explanation there.

As it stands, this is what I know: When I find myself in the middle of a rare section of wild prairie in southern Minnesota and the wind is blowing in from South Dakota and the tall grass moves in swells like the sea, I know I’m home. When I’m on a country road that drops into a sudden hollow where the branches of the cottonwoods meet above the pavement like the arch of a cathedral, I know I’m home. When I walk a trail through a forest of evergreen and the ground is a soft bed of fallen needles and the scent of pine resin is a pungent perfume, I know I’m home. And when I dive into a lake that’s liquid crystal and it washes me clean of summer sweat, I know I’m home.

I’m happy to have been a bit of a gypsy when I was young. But as I’ve grown grayer, I thank God every day for leading me to Minnesota, for guiding me home.

5 thoughts on “A Valentine to Home: Minnesota”

  1. I enjoyed reading this, especially since I’ve had a similar experience. I was raised in Chicago, but when I moved to New England 40 years ago at the age of 21, I knew I’d come home. Something about the combination of ocean, mountains, forests, farmland and history moved me. I love the winding roads, the anything other than 90 degree intersections, the surprises around the bend. We live near Boston, but in a small town that has a common, a classic gazebo and it’s own organic community farm! I love it.

  2. I am a native of Minnesota. I now find myself living in Pennsylvania with my Manteca High alumna wife. (And you chose Hood River as a beauty spot over Manteca?) I expect to spend the rest of my life in this area near both Maryland and Delaware. It is beautiful here. My kids are all nearby, and we have a lot of friends. I am at home here.
    On the other hand, I consider myself a Minnesotan. I am a fan of the Twins and Vikings, as are my kids who grew up primarily in Sacramento and Pennsylvania. Whenever I visit my sister, brother, aunts and cousins I feel like I am coming home.
    I thoroughly enjoyed your appreciation Minnesota.

  3. Your words, as usual, ring true to home.

    I am a native New Yorker having grown up in the city, on the beach on long Island and in the Catskill Mountains. I loved all of my experiences but I remember specifically feeling a real connection to the mountains and the smell of the earth there. Interestingly enough, I remember promising myself that I would return to the Catskills to live and walk through the woods I loved so much as a child. I will never forget that yearning and feeling of love for that area it as long as I live. I have not been back to live but recently visited and my childhood friend lives there now with her son. I promised her I would return for Thanksgiving this year. Who knows, maybe a door will reopen!

    It is the most important thing the world for me to live in a place that rocks my soul. I am not where I want to be right now but I feel in my heart that will change someday soon.

    Your words made me reflect and want to share. Thank you.

  4. Kent, I have you bookmarked to watch and wait anxiously for your next Cork novel. I can very much appreciate your feeling of finding “home”. I left Virginia just out of high school and found myself in New Mexico in 1960 on assignment with the USAF. Unhappy the first year of desert living (I had just been reassigned after a year and a half in Turkey), I thought I belonged in the rolling, green hills of Virginia. Things changed dramatically when I met Judy in Albuquerque. Suddenly the desert seemed like a nice place in which to settle. Judy and I will celebrate our 50th anniversary this year and I can say it is because of her that I found my home. She is not just my wife, but my best friend. She’s made our house a home wherever we’ve been during these past 50 years. Living now in Goodyear, Arizona, I am so very, very content to live in the South West part of the U.S. We can escape the urban area is such a short time, and I absolutely love the feeling of the wide open space that you find out this way. I do miss New Mexico during the golden Aspen Fall and the aroma of roasting fresh Hatch green chili, or the magnificent mass ascension of 700+ hot air balloons during the International Festival held there in October; but, Arizona, too, has so much to offer in the way of scenic vistas and history.

    I’ll always be a Virginian…I’ll always love the Land of Enchantment, but I have become a Zonie and truly feel blessed to be home in Arizona.

    All the best…looking forward to seeing you out this way for Northwest Angle…

Leave a Comment