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.