STORIES

God’s Country

This morning there was a definite chill in the air signaling our approaching fall.  I always look forward to this.  The changing of the seasons, it is almost a changing of the guards here in Minnesota.  I know that most people do not understand us “northerners”, and our love for our inevitable cold (and most often long) winters.

With each season there is so much that changes.

Right now, all of our summer growth is starting to give way and relinquish to the approaching fall.  The leaves will soon start to change color and the cool winds will blow.  The summer plants are more than grown out, and even they look ready for a restful hibernation.  I find myself nostalgic every season, and this is season is no different.

As a child, I also loved the seasons.  Each one brought new outdoor activities.  Spring was always a welcome relief from the long winter, with renewed games outside, like tag and hide and seek.  Summer brought about swimming and more sleepovers with friends (school break!).  Fall was playing in piled up leaves, and kick the bucket at night with our shortened days.  And winter, a season that I both longed for and loathed.  I loved the the first snow fall, and even looked forward to blizzards.  The blizzards meant lounging in the house, wrapped in a  blanket watching cartoons all day.  Of course, sledding and building “ice forts” was a favorite outdoor activity!

When my boys were little, it was much the same.  I loved that they grew up still embracing the outdoors and spending so much of their time outside!  From morning to evening they would play outside, if given the opportunity!  Today, it seems there is not enough of that.  Children tend to stay indoors, playing video games and watching TV.  When my boys were young, the seasons brought them new activities that they looked forward to each year.  Winter was a mix of outdoor and indoor activities, always weather and temperature permitting.  Spring was always a welcome change after the bitter cold!  Spring found us getting out the bikes and outdoor toys that felt “new” again after months of storage!  Spring seemed the most fun for them after a long winter.  Summer brought neighborhood friends out in droves, and together they ran between each others homes and yards endlessly.  And fall found us planning for school and Halloween costumes.  Every fall brought about the unenviable task of raking leaves, something we had the boys help with, but most often I would find them playing in the large mounds of leaves, giggling and hiding from each other!

Recently, we had a conversation at work, and some shared that they grew up in warmer climates, where there was no “seasons”.

“How do you celebrate Christmas?”, we asked.

“We still decorated, and still had a big dinner but then often we spent time outdoors (no snow and temps about 70)”.  <all of us at the table, who have lived in MN much of our lives, looked perplexed, as though it was a theory we couldn’t quite wrap our heads around>

“Weird”, we all stated at once, and in unison.

It is such a foreign thought, not having snow on the ground at Christmas.  The rare times that has happened here in MN were almost a bit sad, and dreary.  A landscape brown and in hibernation, without snow, a white, glistening powder to bring it new life, never seemed like Christmas.  Instead, there is something awe inspiring about celebrating time together, with food and a warm fire, while the kids play outside in some of the first snow of winter that makes Minnesota……well, home.  Christmas’s around the fire opening gifts.  Christmas dinner each year spent with whomever can make it given the roads and snow.  Warm sweaters, comfy jeans and evenings on the couch with popcorn and a good movie!  My nieces and nephews sledding down our local hill (okay, and us adults!!) or playing outside in the snow, only to come inside and enjoy hot chocolate with rosy red cheeks and glistening hair.

As with most Minnesotan’s, we get a few months into winter and we start to grumble, ready for the spring.  But there is also beauty in that, the patience to anticipate new life all over again.   Warm spring rains washing away a cold winter, and readying the ground for planting and harvesting.  Birds returning from their vacation down south, with the music of their chirping as they find new homes.  Our minds busy with ideas about our flower and vegetable gardens.  Our anticipation for the fresh fruits and vegetables, and readying the grill for a few months of intense grilling.

Spring will give way to summer, and there is always something so exciting about summer.  Almost every summer finds me nostalgic, remembering back to some good school memories with some invaluable friends.  It also is a reminder of bitter times, and the lessons that they bring to mind about the importance of family, and friends.  It never seems to fail that two songs pull most at my heart when I hear them in the summer, 8675309 and The Boys of Summer.  One a constant reminder of my brother Daren, ever a summer tragedy, making every summer bittersweet for me.  The other a reminder of so many good memories with my friends growing up back home.  Swim suits and “laying out” with my girlfriends, bronzing our skin with the sun, and lightening our hair with lemon juice!  The rare times that I could join them to do things on weekends (parties and sleepovers) were always fun (probably too much fun!)!  BOYS!  Parties!  #memories ♥  Each year usually in the spring/summer, these same friends, 8 of us in all; my high school homies and my sisters by choice, get together.  We pick up with each other as if we had all just been together the day prior.  There is no time lapse when we are all together, just catching up and enjoying friendships that have carried us through the 80’s, 90’s and the new century!  For more than 3 decades we have shared each others joys and heartaches, and carried each other through seasons of change that have brought us closer with each year.  I look forward to this every spring/summer, it’s such a blessing, these wonderful ladies with the best of hearts, and who are the greatest of friends!

Now I look forward to summer for different reasons, and yet similar ones.  It is a time for us to enjoy the outdoors and sit around a late evening fire in the back yard, all of us enjoying S’mores by fireside. 

I love spending time around my flowers, picking weeds and nurturing some of grandma’s flowers that she gave me so long ago.  I will never forget how much time we would spend outdoors when I would go visit her, walking through her gardens and her digging out some plants for me to take home and plant myself.  I cherish those plants and often think of her gardens when I am tending mine!   Grandma had the most amazing garden just outside her front door, in the summer it was an explosion of color! <unfortunately I could only a find a black and white photo, this is Roxy in the pic, grandma’s little “Susie” as she called her>My grandma used to say that we lived in Gods country here in Minnesota, and my dad would offer the same sentiment.  Truly, it was a beautiful place to raise children and establish families with good morals and values.  In my own neighborhood I find that to be the truth.  There is a sense of community where we keep a watchful eye to the goings-on in the neighborhood.  I often find myself chatting with my neighbors as we are outside, or walking the dogs.  And long walks with friends talking, laughing and commiserating about whatever life events are going on!  And we feel a sense of safety and security here in our beloved Midwest, sheltered from so much around us, giving us our Minnesota “nice” label.

“Gods country” here in the Midwest pulls at my heartstrings, and I can say that I have never wanted to move away from this amazing part of the country.  Through the years I have adopted the saying, Gods country from my grandma and my dad.  So much so that Darien and his girlfriend Kayeson gave me a couple of gifts for Christmas reflecting my love for Minnesota.

How can you not love ‘Home to Henry Ford’, cheese curds, The Great Lakes, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and our countless other sporting events? We have more acres of farmland than anyone cares to count, giving way to bountiful crops and beautiful landscapes. It is a remarkable place with steamy summers, and frigid (and long) winters, with pockets of heaven during the spring and summer where fishing becomes sport for most of the upper Midwest, but especially here in Minnesota. My dad never had time for fishing it seemed, but he loved it and on occasion he would grab the boys and away they would go to a nearby lake.  Minnesota (and most anywhere in the heartland of the country) is the definition of ‘American’, with apple pie and stadium hot dogs a seasonal must!  It is one of the best places to call home in the U.S!

But back to now, and our approaching fall.  I almost giddy with the excitement!  I love putting away the summer essentials and looking at my warmer wardrobe, and planning for a few new cool weather essentials!  I also love to change up my decorating scheme in my home just a little, by putting away the bright summer elements and changing those out with deeper, richer accents that welcome fall.  Of course, that soon gives way to ‘winter white’ elements and holiday accents.  It is the idea of giving and receiving as the holiday season approaches.  There is also something to the kids (my nieces and nephews) being back in school and the routine it offers that is also a welcome change.  When I ask them if they are excited for school, they all say a resounding, “yes!”.  I laugh now because that only lasts a few months!  Soon the long school days, (seemingly) endless gray skies, and getting up early will quickly get old, and we will all once again start to dream of….Spring!

And that is the beauty of the Midwest, looking ahead to each season as they carry us forward, giving way to years of memories.

 

 

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