north shore getaway + thoughts on leaving minnesota (pt 1)

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Two days after we decided to move from Minnesota to Maryland, I texted my oldest friend and asked “what’s been the hardest part about leaving Minnesota.” He answered, “Leaving Minnesota.”

On Monday, I turned 26, and on the Tuesday before, my partner surprised me with a two-day getaway to the North Shore, so I could see Lake Superior one last time. He knows this lake is sacred to me (as it is for so many). Growing up, my parents called it our “happy place,” and it remains a place of peace and power for me.

His plan was for us to spend Tuesday in Duluth, and Wednesday visiting my favorite spots along the shore. A day to connect, a day to explore.

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Duluth is special to Chris and I as the place where we solidified our budding relationship. As much as this getaway was about my birthday and saying goodbye to Minnesota, it was a quiet celebration of us. It was easy, once we reached the lakewalk, to slip into some of our nostalgia. Last summer, the bay sparkled. We arrived at the golden hour, and the sun lay on top of the water like a silk. This year, the bay was stained red from iron and mud kicked up from weeks of torrential rain. Different a year later, but so are we.

We did what you do in Canal Park: Walk to the piers, walk the lift bridge, watch it rise for sailboats, walk the boardwalk until the crowds thin. We visited Vikre Distillery in the shadow of the lift bridge, and sampled gin, aquavit and whiskeys distilled in sight of the cocktail room. Later, we ate at Canal Park Brewing, a brewery with an excellent menu. Vikre was beautiful, the spirits an homage to passion and knowledge, and Canal Park Brewing Company is always a treat. (The food in Duluth trends heavy and American.)

We talked about everything. This next year will be big for us, but the way we talk about moving reminds me of what a friend once said about her pregnancy: it’s too big to talk about every day. Having hours without agenda let us roam. This is the beginning of something we can’t fully see. We agree that Maryland is temporary, but how temporary? And what comes after Maryland? We’ve each had thoughts about school or about my writing that excite me as much as they scare me. It’s the most fantastic learning curve to have a partner who actively supports the dreams that, six months ago, I didn’t think were worth pursuing.

As the afternoon stretched into evening, I grew quiet, so quiet Chris asked me if I was upset. Of course not, of course not. I process the world through words — if I’m not talking, I’m writing — but their volume can sometimes be an assault.

Admittedly, I barely understand how to be present in a moment, but I think it’s something like this. The experience of the evening — cool air off the lake, and lapping water, and his hand in mine — was too complete, too exquisite for more words. It was enough — it was everything — to just be in it. Happy, I told him, so happy.

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I wrote too much for anyone to read in one sitting. Part two coming soon.

odds + ends: holiday weekend edition

I had something else entirely written about the five day weekend I’m starting today, but my partner showed up as I was leaving work yesterday, and whisked me away to the North Shore.

The days are passing fast, and while I loathe the refrain of “I’m so busy,” it comes to mind frequently. We’re in single digits for weekends left in Minnesota (including this one). Three before traveling, then one before we leave with a trailer. Alongside all the work of moving (packing, sorting, donating, selling, measuring, etc.), I have an almost anxious desire to soak up as much of Minnesota as I can. I love my home. I love being from here, and as excited as I am to be leaving (for a while), I sometimes can’t believe I actually will.

We’ll be north today. Being here, in places that have grown sacred to me, I feel sensitive and humble. All this beauty, all this history, all these places my own ghosts haunt. There’s so much more to say, but I’m not saturated to find the words. Already I’ve yelled for Chris to stop the car so I can walk the fields of lupine.

I’m finishing researching our upcoming trip. I’ll forever love my Lonely Planet guides, but I’m scouring travel blogs for the spots the guidebook missed (or, on the flip side, the guidebook hotspots that should be avoided). I love reading travelogues, but dislike prescriptive advice. Hand-Luggage Only is my go-to for quick lists + recs, followed up by A Lady in London for, as the name suggests, all things London. For food, I’m hounding friends to give up their favorite joints, and checking out everything French Foodie in Dublin + Canal Cook recommends. I’m whittling my list of literary haunts, because if it were up to me only, we’d spent all fifteen days chasing literature’s ghost. I’m not researching New York with the same fervor, as that leg of the journey will be a different beast. We’re visiting friends, and soon we’ll be on the right coast to visit more often.

Chris laughs at me when I explain to him that I want our trip to feel like the freedom to play. Turn down that street, take a rest in that cafe, visit this bar or church or open gate. He knows how much I crave a plan, and how badly I manage change. Maybe a better way to say it is: I want to know everything while maintaining the freedom to do anything.

I’m slogging through Star of the Sea, which started promising, but is dragging on, while craving the slimness of short stories. Elsewhere, I’m reading career advice to alleviate the fears of leaving my first job, catching up on the newsletters I subscribe to (then fall behind on), and building an at-home yoga practice (because that studio life is expensive). An essay of mine was published to the Invisible Illness site, and I’m starting to feel the stirring of fresh creative life after finishing my novel. I’m scribbling down fragments of sentences and stories, hoping they’ll become something.

Finally, because it’s Independence Day, let’s take a moment to feel patriotic. Last Saturday, demonstrators gathered in 700 different places to protest inhumane immigration practices. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s workout is intense (because fighting fascism takes work, y’all). Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the face of hope this week, and midterms are coming soon.