“Spring brings the rain/With winter comes pain/All my skin’s drifting on the wind”
For those of you who know me, personally, I don’t have to explain my reasons for moving from Florida to Minnesota. For everyone else, the state of my birth is one where parties, sunsets, and all manner of creature comforts come easily, if you have the means to achieve them. It’s also a place of thieves, manipulators, lovers and slow-moving traffic if you catch my drift. I will always have this gnawing feeling in the back of my throat that reminds me of a distant memory I’ve associated with potentially returning “home”, but the reality of the journey is an altogether different animal.
When you leave a place, and you know in your heart that you are leaving it for good, something inside you changes. There’s a chemical reaction in your brain that sends signals of anxiety laced with complacency at the thought of dwelling in one space for too long. It’s been six months after the big move, and I’m still a little surprised at my audacity.
My initial understanding of the inside world of Minnesota came from a breathtaking view from the backyard porch of this dream house where my cousin’s friends took shelter. They imparted in me a caring, respecting aspect and encouraged me to remember my manners for the most part when meeting people in a new state for the first time, but they also reacted to sightings of my spontaneous and infrequent barbaric tendencies with a look of pleasant surprise. They made me realize that anyone can be accepted anywhere and appreciated for who they are and where they come from, especially if you have blood ties of one of their best friends and lovers. I was so entranced with the sounds of the birds nearby, the organic herb garden they are growing, and Tim’s voice in my ear telling me I made the best decision of my life in leaving that glorified sandbar behind.
He introduced me to the ways of the world, all too swiftly, utilizing his most hospitable nature, but like I said, that was quite a few months ago and I haven’t spoken to my cousin much since.
After a weekend of staying at their home, before the shock of the brave new world hit me like a 19th-century piano falling from the sky, I ventured out and got my own place and I’ve kind of forgotten that I have not lived here for my entire life.
In the beginning, I took stock of what was around me. I moved to a street not far from Downtown St. Paul and the bars started calling my name, and I also became increasingly fond of eavesdropping on the most heartbreaking sound that can be heard through paper-thin walls, that of a woman crooning to her own song.
That’s how I met Rachel, and we’ve been almost inseparable since.
Aside from trying to maintain sanity at temp jobs that I know will end once the project’s completed, the people of Minnesota have really taken me in and accepted me for what I am, a drifter. I can’t help but toss the idea back in forth in my mind, like a ship restless at sea, there are good days and bad days, lonely ones too, and periods of much-needed introspection when wandering around town all summer provides a passing glance into the reality that nothing changes, but nothing remains the same.
That was back when I was fascinated with this street, before a certain numbness settled in. Hour-long hikes around the city afforded me false images of the people around me. That is, until I grew comfortable with them. Every once in a while I’ll find I’m a newbie to the area, when someone asks me when I moved here, where I moved from, etc. This is about the point in the conversation where I realize I’m not familiar. It’s kind of a chilling,yet liberating thought at the same time. If I can pick up and move from one state to the next, schmooze in with the locals, then leave, no one would expect anything less of me and I can learn as much about the world as possible this way. I just thought I had the ability to blend in better. Time has proven that I’ve not really taken the practice to heart.
Now, I’ve recently met a writer in a bar. It was no chance occurrence, as my neighbor invited her to Wednesday night’s Open Mic. We clicked, being the semi-solitary creatures that we are, just looking for someone we might have something in common with. As readers, writers, we might have acquired the habit of placing judgment on people and our surroundings, as if we were living outside of them. She admitted as much, after a couple of beers, the fact that she remained on the other side of the looking glass, typifying mannerisms and speech patterns as part of an involuntary ritual to mentally record aspects of the physical world only to digest and transform them into literature later.
“That’s what we do to stay warm in winter… we dance.”
This is what it’s like during winter, that topic so endlessly romantic that people are huddling for warmth to the tune of reggae music and whiskey straight and songs are being played about this most terrifying of situations while saying, “How can I smoke this cigarette when it’s -30 below with windchill?” yet we still go out and see shows and brace for the weather because we crave that sense of family, however far removed we are from their specific gene pool.
We get through what we have to do to survive, and one of the most momentous addictions I can claim as my own is that of survival, of facing a challenge like meeting new people, hearing their stories, adjusting my thought process to take in what they can share of their lives, to the very mundane act of layering up to protect myself from Mother Nature; it’s all very exciting. Everyone needs a dose of the Fear to feel truly alive and I think it takes being alone for good chunks of your life to fully grasp the severity of what it all means. It takes time to figure out who you are, where you fit in or don’t, to gather the external intel found in dreams or waking life that comprise an inkling of who you are as an individual. Who I am varies from “we” to “they” to “I” and “you”, words that journalists are taught not to confuse. This is something I do often, but I feel better about now that I’ve begun reading a book of essays by Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable. I only hope with enough practice, I too can convey such passionate emotions through a thorough inspection of my experiences not measured by how many likes a Facebook photo received, but how I am only continuing this journey of never-ending wonders sent to trip up my feet on a daily basis.
So, I say this to my friends, to those who have seen me stumbling through the streets, picking my way through burrows of snow and intimate relationships spiraling out of control, thanks for helping me in a dire time of need. I hope to see more of that Minnesota-nice mentality while I’m living here, that is until I find myself uprooted again from the collective tree of cultural antics and uncertainty.