The patriarch of the Hendrickson family, Larry, passed away on June 15th, and I was going home to say goodbye, and celebrate an extraordinary life with my lifelong friends.
What began as very, very sad turned into one of the best funerals I've ever been to - maybe THE best. From the minister at the church opening the service by saying, "We'll begin with the hymn, 'We all hail from Richfield High'!" (our school's fight song), the ice was broken and we felt free to laugh and to truly make it a celebration of life. Darby and Danny Hendrickson gave fantastic eulogies that cracked everyone up, and the entire affair felt like an All-Richfield class reunion.
The reception at the Richfield American Legion turned into an all out stag dance, the kind that Hendrickson's company, Spirit Unlimited, used to spin for. We were all there until 2 am, and then it still kept going ... on through the next day at the Hendrickson "Richfield Pool". What a sendoff for what a guy! I'll never forget it, and though it is a massive loss, it was also wonderfully special to all be together, in the name of love.
Minnesota really shows off in the Summer, and this trip was an embarrassment of stately riches. I've had an obsession for seeing our state flower, the Pink Showy Ladyslipper, in the wild, as I never have. Nor has anyone I know. So, my Mom and I jumped in the car and took off on a whirlwind road trip to go hunt for this elusive state symbol. With major success!
The Ladyslipper Scenic Byway near Cass Lake and the Leech Lake Indian Reservation (we listened to Pow Wow radio the whole trip!) is called that, but there really aren't that many blooms ... like I almost crashed the car in excitement when I saw the first one!
I got choked up, even. What a flower! It was so satisfying to look for something, and then to actually find it. Mom had never seen one either, so it was extra special to share it with her.
During our search, we even saw the start of the Mississippi River up near Itasca, MN ... and that felt special too. It begins as a little trickle, so narrow you can nearly step across it, and as it winds down south becomes the monster of a river that ends in Louisiana. Nature is awesome.
We couldn't linger over the Ladyslippers, however, as we had a five hour drive to the place I'd booked us to stay - without consulting a map. But WOW, was it ever worth it! The Naniboujou Lodge in Grand Marais, MN (20 miles from the Canadian border - like I thought about defecting) is something else. We arrived too late to get a look at it in daylight (even with the sun not setting until around 10 pm!), with the door left open and a key in an envelope for us - because Minnesotans are nice.
A great sleep with the sound of Lake Superior waves lapping against the shore outside our window and a fireplace in the room gave us the energy to go mega-sightseeing the next morning, and the sights began with the spectacular dining room of the Naniboujou!
Painted with Cree symbols. the ceiling was so gorgeous that I would find this place if they had told me it was in Egypt or somewhere ... but it was in Minnesota! After a wonderful breakfast, Mom and I set out to see as many state parks as we could before we had to get my rental car back in the city before 6 pm! And we did it!
Morning rain made for spectacular waterfalls, and the fresh scent of pine and lake was abundant in the air.
Just breathing felt like therapy, and I find myself daydreaming about it all again today. Wow.
The next day was the 4th of July, and I got to attend my hometown parade for like the first time since I was in it back in the day. Though much smaller now days, we all sat out in the rain and cheered for the current Richfield Spartans, and swelled up with pride of place. Go Big Red!
I am constantly running when I'm home, trying to get all the things in that I feel like I'm missing out on when I'm away. Seeing friends, their kids growing up, the latest restaurants and bars, and getting as much time to commune with the beautiful Minnesota nature as I possibly can.
The Cities are also abundant with nature, with all of the lakes, and my beloved Woodlake Nature Center.
Everyone is so happy for it to be hot out and Summertime, that the paths around the lakes are full of people day and night. It's awesome.
I was there for the Basilica Block Party this year, and it was so fun to get down once again with The Revolution - even without Prince. Other highlights were The John Butler Trio, Fitz & The Tantrums, and Jason Isbell on the big stage in front of the Minneapolis skyline, just as the sun was setting. Minneapolis is the best.
No trip home in the Summer is complete without an excursion aboard the Croixation Sensation, my bff Christine's (Larry's daughter) family boat. After a Croatian victory in the World Cup game (watched at Treasure Island Casino!), we celebrated by taking the dinghy out at night on the now Mighty Mississippi to a bar on the Wisconsin side, the Nauti Hawg.
The annual locust plague of May Flies was on this day, and was extra disgusting - and kind of fascinating. The stars outnumbered the flies though, so the boat ride remains a happy memory. The sun set on my trip home, and saved its best colors for last.
I love home so much, and am always torn, because I also love Venice so much. I'm back West today, with memories for a lifetime, and the renewed strength of heart and character that I always get from visiting my roots - both the people and the place. I'm a better person for having - and loving - both.
Thank you, wonderful Minnesota. I carry you in my heart every day.