The weather was absolutely perfect the entire time, no humidity, no mosquito bites, I'm really not sure what was going on, but the whole state was working overtime to lure me back. I've never seen bluer blues or greener greens in nature ... no filters required. My first stop is almost always Wood Lake Nature Center, and that's when I know I'm truly home. The trails and animals and nature and people you cross paths with are all just quintessential Minnesota. I was happy to find out that you can now purchase maple syrup and honey at Wood Lake, both tapped and harvested right there in the woods. Perfect.
Apart from the nature, the main reason for going home is always the People. The family and friends that have been there for me my whole life, and never fail to make me feel stronger and real, real lucky. I saw my friends from high school, my friends from college, and friends that I hadn't seen in two decades, including my Augsburg College professor who had saved my senior project documentary on Paisley Park all these years! It was all incredibly special, and I was once again reminded of how fortunate I was to grow up where I did, with these wonderful people.
Wonderful People ... I had not been home since the death of Prince, and was not really prepared for how strong the emotion still is, or how big of an impact his passing still (and always will) has on Minneapolis. We went to pay our respects at First Avenue at Prince's star, and found that the city has placed pianos with Prince themes all over town. We sat down at the one at First Avenue and played a little song for Prince Rogers Nelson, as rain feel around us (not purple, but still symbolic).
Even more moving was the scene at Paisley Park. I was all choked up as we walked the fences surrounding the compound where Prince both lived and was found lifeless. Scores of fans are still there paying their respects, and the fences hold memorials from all over the world. It's really something to see, and provides a glimpse into just how much this legend meant to so many people - globally.
We brought our purple flowers with purple ribbons, and watched a man paint a portrait of Prince with a pancake for his third eye. Parents brought their children and grandparents, and you saw representatives from all walks of life, all equally affected, and all respectfully quiet. It was a beautiful day, and all I could hope was that Prince can somehow see how many lives he touched in his time on Earth ... and will continue to do so through his music (which all of the Minneapolis fireworks were coordinated to yesterday!). I read long stories (encased in plastic) from people who had life-changing encounters with Prince, and felt the weight of the loss even more. It's still so sad, it still makes no sense, but I somehow feel a little better for having gone to see it all. It's something else.
Summer is so precious in Minnesota, and everyone knows it. No one takes it for granted. You hear everyone saying, "Isn't it a beautiful day?!" and know that they all know that these days of Summer are fleeting and must be enjoyed to their fullest. It's a kind of forced Zen, with a whole state of Buddhas, all living in the very moment, and loving every bit of it.
White puffy clouds fill the sky like nowhere else I've ever seen. The blue of the sky and water is so bright it almost hurts to look at. The green of the grass and trees is so vibrant it doesn't even seem real. And no one wants to be inside. Outdoor restaurant patios are full all Summer, backyards become dining rooms, and it's tempting even to sleep outside, if not for that state bird, the mosquito (though I did return with not even one bite!). We're all aware of what a special time it is, with even the radio announcers gushing daily about how beautiful it is outdoors.
Minnesotans spend the Summer near or on water the whole time, mainly because you can't avoid it with 11,842 lakes, major rivers, ponds, swimming holes, creeks, and pools everywhere. We spent the weekend on the St. Croix in our friends' gorgeous boat ("Worth The Winter"!), and it was excellent. I slept in a comfy bed under a skylight, looking up at the zillions of bright stars until I fell asleep on the gently swaying boat anchored in the middle of the river.
We awoke to see a hot air balloon festival get underway, as if things needed to be even more picturesque. The days are filled with water sports, eating, drinking, and generally just feeling total happiness.
Boats fill the river, and the sunsets rival the fireworks that are blasted off over the water. The sunsets that don't even happen until ten at night because Minnesota is so far north. I think that might be my favorite part of it all ...
There are several must see and dos for me whenever I'm home, from special things to eat to special locations that mean a lot to my family and I. I always have to go around the city lakes, and give my love to my favorite one of those, Lake Of The Isles.
I don't know many cities like Minneapolis, where even in the middle of the city, you never feel very far from nature. The lakes are everywhere, and you could be anywhere, except you glance up and there's a skyline for a major Metropolis there too.
I try to always visit Minnehaha Falls when I'm home, because it's always beautiful no matter what time of the year it is, but also because we have a lot of family memories there, and I can still feel them. Summer is the best there though, because you have Seasalt, the great seafood restaurant owned by my Augsburg friend, Jon Blood (whom I also had not seen in like 20 years!).
It's the best to celebrate Independence Day in Minnesota, for all of the above reasons, but also because it just feels like all of the best things about America. I needed that. The real Americana. The real people. The real stuff that makes our country great. I had to leave before all of the festivities got under way to get back to L.A. for work, but what a joy to celebrate freedom and justice for all in both of my home sweet homes, the lands that I love.
Thank you and LOVE to everyone and everything back home! I carry you in my heart everywhere I go. There's nothing like you.