Northern Minnesota is a soaked sponge. I see a local paper on the breakfast counter in Two Harbors and scan it while I’m waiting for breakfast sandwiches. I notice the weather stats and that the snow gauge totaled 91 inches for the year. That’s nearly eight feet, all melted, and now it’s raining.
Michelle and Mo are sitting quietly in the Bus and I’m not too concerned since I’ve seen three police patrol cars in just ten minutes. This town is not very large, and I wonder why they need such a street presence at 9 AM. Unless I’m being observed since the “incident” in Gilbert! It’s fun to imagine things like that, puts you right into a movie, so to speak.
Sandwiches vanishing rapidly, we head down the lake towards Duluth.
It’s a dismal day and all views are truncated by low clouds. We make our way below the lake leaving the very industrial port city behind us. Lots of bustling history there, you can feel it, lots of poverty too which is the quiet history, the history that goes unrecorded. I have the GPS set to avoid highways; so we drive right through town seeing what it’s like on the other side of the tracks.
More wet sponge land, saturated, the rivers overflowing. No leaves on the deciduous trees that mix in nearly equally with the evergreens. Spring is just springing here. But I did read that warmth awaits us in Minneapolis which is just a couple hundred miles to the South.
As we descend the globe the leaves begin to appear and by the time we reach the outskirts of the Twin Cities the trees are bursting with new leaves and the towns are exploding with golf courses. They seem to be at nearly ever intersection, an arrow pointing off to this Lake Club or that Pine Course. Lots of ruined walks in the park. (I’m the world’s worst golfer.)
Finally, we arrive at my cousin’s home and pull into the driveway. He lives just a few blocks from where we would fish the Mississippi when we were kids. The night before we would sneak out and catch night crawlers and then, poles over handlebars, ride the few miles to our spot and catch whatever would bite. Good times, still clear in my mind, but clear in the way that memories are, which is both real and completely unreal. Nothing remains of those times now. There is no sand bar and little trail leading to it. Houses dominate the shoreline and what was Huck Finn like adventure through thick snags, would now be trespassing through manicured yards.
We’re all older now but look pretty good. We make a circle in the driveway in front of the house because Michelle can’t get into this one, way too many stairs. The plan is that we will sleep in the driveway and garage so as the group of about a half dozen arrives, I’m busy cleaning up from the rains up north and setting things up for the night. Michelle walks in serpentine patterns in the driveway, happy, and all the worry about screaming goes away. Her legs get stronger as the afternoon wears away and I see that this is “it.” If she walks, she is much calmer, it’s just about that simple. If only finding places she could walk were that simple!
And we “catch up,” which is largely catching up on memories, reliving moments from the past, consoling someone who has lost someone. We all have. We keep the lost both here and not here with details of their passing, questions about the “process” of moving on. These are important. How the person remained the same and how they changed as this curtain fell. How it changed us.
The words are kind and heartfelt and sometimes funny. We have brats and dogs cooked by my cousin’s expert hand and I break out the Betty’s rhubarb pie and some of that disappears. Seems many know of this famous place. It’s 90 degrees and slightly breezy and then, just as a smart phone chimes a warning and we discover there is a tornado watch, the winds swirl, and the temperature drops 15 or 20 degrees in an instant. We all grab our chairs and move into the garage.
It passes nearby, we can hear it. Not a tornado, and a few drops fall.
The night is lovely, and I highly recommend sleeping in a garage. Michelle got a solid 10 hours on the cot and I did pretty well in the bus.
I love these remnants of the Minneapolis kin. We used to be an army of youths, taking over city blocks with trikes and bikes and lakesides with tossed-off towels, dozens of cousins close in age running through moist sand and into the shock of water. Aunts and Uncles and station wagons and drive in movies and bottles of beer and bright red lip stick. Swimming all day and fishing for crappies and sunnies. Getting a sun burn and playing at days that had no time in them, only watermelon and mustard.