Hey, Minnesota: Why do we live here?

I’m looking at the same thing out my back deck that a lot of you are: A foot and a half of fresh hell snow covering my plans for gardens and landscaping that will go unrealized for a 28th consecutive year.

Not that the seed catalogs aren’t being used for their intended purpose at the moment: helping me survive another Minnesota winter.

I posted a picture of my grill on Facebook late last week. My out-of-town friends said they wish they “had snow like that.” Around the country, people are jealous of what is presently making us miserable.

Out the front window, a mailbox is about to give way to the constant battering of plows, which will present a problem for the delivery of the annual letter from the post office threatening to suspend mail delivery if I don’t make it June-like out there for the carrier, who gets to ride around in a truck.

The BlogDog’s look is withering, a canine guilt drip for passing on the daily pre-dawn walk after a look at the temperature. Suck it up, dog. The rest of us have to. And don’t think I haven’t noticed you’re peeing on the deck instead of the spot I snowblowed — how stupid do we look snowblowing the backyard? — for you.

Why are we still here?

I was invited to consider the question today and recalled a love letter I wrote to Minnesota in July 2013, when I apologized for my moments of doubts. Moments just like this.

And people have asked me if I’m staying in Minnesota when I retire. Of course, I am, the alternative being residency in a state of crooks, crackpots, and perverts. If normalcy should ever grip a southern state, maybe I’ll leave. But I’m not making plans.

Winter is our meteorological purification. If we didn’t have it, we might be more like them.

So I squint as I look in the backyard. I can almost see July. And it is good.

(Reprinted from July 6, 2013)

Dear Minnesota:

I’m sorry. I got angry with you and, really, it was my fault. For someone who spends most of the winter posting about embracing you, I turned away from you when you needed me most — spring. We all have our little tantrums and when I said in April that I’d one day “leave this godforsaken place where it snows in May,” it was my fault.

I have a friend or two who put their home up for sale on the spur of the moment around that time and they’ve left town and headed south. You know, where it’s warmer and sunnier and all. I see the humidity is 74 percent there today. I almost caved in to my pals from Phoenix who reminded me all during February that it was sweater season — the temperature might drop to 75 overnight. It’s 91 there at 9 a.m. But it’s a dry hell, you know.

Even one of my own grown kids is talking about leaving and I’ve debated whether it’s time to have “the talk” — the one where I suggest before he go, he take a long look at what he’d be leaving.

He’d leave something like this morning. I get up at sunrise on weekends in your summer. I don’t want to waste a moment. The paper was late, so it was just me, the Blog Dog, a good aviation magazine, my friends on Twitter and Facebook.

And there I sat with them and you for more than four hours, occasionally watching the ducks fly over, listening to the birds, and not hearing any neighbors in my suburb. They’ve probably left for their lake places, in search of you, apparently.

You test our faith at times and sometimes we are weak. But you reward us on Saturday mornings in July and we renew our commitment to be strong with each breeze you send that says, “hey, I’m up here.”

Bring the heat, bring the storms, and wind, and then snow if you must. Just give us a July Saturday morning like one you gave us this year, just once in awhile.

We can’t quit you. Don’t ever change.

Love,

NewsCut

  • L. Foonimin

    “Winter is our meteorological purification. If we didn’t have it, we might be more like them.”

    Perfect, period full stop

    • Guest

      “It keeps the riff raff out”

  • MrE85

    For me, the state’s appeal is its citizens inability to zipper merge, take the last piece of anything, or say goodbye in less than 20 minutes.

    Like Bob, MrE85 has no plans to leave Minnesota after retirement. This is home now.

  • Jerry

    Wait a minute, are you complaining about the mailman doing his job from a truck while you are doing a large part of yours from your couch?

  • Minnesota – It’s fine.

  • Jerry

    Minnesota can be a horrible, horrible place to live. Unfortunately, so is everywhere else.

  • Brian Simon

    If I leave upon retirement, it will be to a place in closer proximity to reliable snow for skiing. I’m pretty tired of seeing grass in dec & january. And summers will hopefully be on a lake in the region.

  • Rob

    Gloryosky, Sandy!! I am so much enjoying yet another day of our eternal
    winter! It’s Week Four of having to wear ice cleats for the daily dog walk. So much fun I can hardly stand it!

    Oh, wait…what I meant to say is that the notion of winter as purification is a bunch of booshwah. What doesn’t kill you, merely postpones the inevitable. Minnesota is a slice of heaven from May to early October, the rest of the year, not so much.

  • Guest

    BECAUSE this frontier had the cheapest land when my forefathers came shortly after the Sioux Uprising. Since then, mostly inertia and family

    • Rob

      This. Inertia and family. My wife loves winter.. : (

  • I’m already retired, and yet here I am. Could be worse.

  • jon

    Because I haven’t won the power ball yet…

    • Postal Customer

      That’s the main reason for me. A big windfall would be followed immediately by seeking real estate in La Jolla.

      • Rob

        Love La Jolla. If I could afford the cost of living, the San Diego area would be at the top of my list.

      • jon

        I’m thinking pacific northwest…
        I like having 4 seasons, but I’d like to have a muted version of them compared to what MN gets.

        • boB from WA

          Umm. depends on where you are, E. WA/OR much like MN. ID the same. MT worse. Western WA/OR dark rainy skies most of the winter. If you want snow you have to go to the mountains. Or occasionally the snow comes to you, but no one around you knows how to handle it.

    • Barton

      when I win the power ball (“when” not “if” ha!) I’m buying a place on Lake Superior. I can visit other places when needed, but I’ll be staying right here.

      • KariBemidji

        Same here maybe leave in January and February but my heart belongs here. JK Rowling had a great response to when someone asked her why she didn’t move to a more tax friendly country than Great Britain. She said (in effect) that she is who she is because of Great Britain – education, welfare, healthcare… And it is her turn and responsibility to give back.

  • gus

    Four solid seasons. Just as one becomes a bit old, the next moves in, although sometimes one holds on a bit too long. I love winter–no biting insects and I catch up on sleep. Always hot water atop the wood stove.

  • boB from WA

    Wow! And I thought we were going to get a rant, judging from the beginning of your post. Ahh, but you continue to surprise us, helping us to realize that everyplace has its good and bad aspects, and that we should (and can) make the best of where we are at in this moment.

    BTW I mentioned at the end of last year that I was without a call to a parish. In the last 2 months I’ve had interviews with churches in Athol, KS and Lamberton MN. Looks like I may be leaving the Left Coast to experience what you all are going through.

  • Justine Parenteau Wettschreck

    My husband and I chose to come back to MN after a decade of letting the US Navy tell us where to live. Yes, we did this on purpose. After 20-something years of landing on the prairie instead of going back to our native area north of the cities, we’ve adapted to ground blizzards, a constant breeze, and general confusion over whether we are eating lunch or dinner at noon.

    But I prefer all of that to the time I caught my 5-year-old daughter playing with a cottonmouth snake in Pensacola, Florida. It was 28 years ago and the thought of it still makes me twitchy.

  • loveswinter

    Snow, cold, blustery days, more snow, more REAL cold! I love winter. I am not from here, but we chose to move here and have never, ever regretted it since. Sure, there are times that I talk to Mom Nature and ask her to stop snowing in May. But really – where else but the upper Midwest can you have absolute bonkers cold with a bright blue sky that screams…………..July is coming – hang in there!

    You are right Bob – we ain’t goin’ no where, neither.

    • Postal Customer

      Maybe it’s because I’m not a natural-born pollyanna, but I’d rather just have July than “hang in there.”

      • That’s the most Minnesotan comment ever on NewsCut.

      • Rob

        Right? Let’s have twelve months of July – I could totally deal.

        • Jack

          Nope, we need some variety. I liked the rainy seasons myself with dry in between.

          The icy roads these days remind me of the muddy roads of my past. When we heard the tractor going out at night, we knew the school bus had to be pulled out of the ditch again.

          • Rob

            Good times.

    • MarkUp
  • Camille Beach

    When I was in high school, I swore I was going south for college. I went 40 miles south, to a nice Lutheran college on a hill. But, I investigated and discovered that the University of Hawaii at Manoa had a top-notch nautical law program. I was from the land of 10,000 lakes, I could be interested in nautical law, right? And I ended up at the U, which was fine, because after law school, nothing would hold me back from seeking kinder winters. Except I married and had children, and Minnesota was a good place to raise children. I’m now 10 years from retirement, and it’s time to face the truth. I belong here.

    And Minnesota’s not too bad a place to be.

  • Mike Worcester

    The weather gives us some sort of weird metaphysical unifying trait; we pretty much all talk about it in some form or another.

    That being said, I live here because I like it here. There’s a lot to do, a lot to see, and a lot to experience. I guess the weather being as well-rounded as it is around these parts, makes us well-rounded people also. Or at least that is what I keep telling myself. 🙂

  • Postal Customer

    I won’t feel the least bit guilty when I escape this frozen black hole next week. It won’t be 90s where I’m going, but it will be nice.

  • Barton

    We’ve reached the period in winter when I (frequently) say to people: if you don’t like it, move. Get a job somewhere else and leave, no one is keeping you here.

    And then they each come up with a reason they think isn’t a choice (“my parents live here” – so you choose to remain close, “my kids play hockey” – they play hockey in Atlanta these days, etc) but really is a choice as to why they stay. I do have two friends with whom I will not yell at about their complaints with winter: because they have promised not to yell at me when I start complaining about temps above 85 and humidity so high you could reach out and touch it.

    I’ve moved away 5 times now (always south of here, which I grant you isn’t saying much), and I always come back. I really love the snow even though I don’t ski anymore and barely snowshoe. I don’t care for the -20F though, but I can handle a few weeks of it thinking about the wildflowers hibernating under the piles of moisture.

    • Brian Simon

      Yeah. I definitely don’t get the incessant bellyaching about it. If you don’t like it, do something about it.

      • JamieHX

        I hope you will try to accept that for some people, it really isn’t a choice. For some, economics and/or physical ability can take the choice away. There are probably other factors, too.

  • Jeffrey

    I have lived in WI/MN all of my 57 years. In the past 5 years each winter has been getting harder and harder for me to endure.

    I think like one the other posters said inertia has been keeping me here. I was also too broke to move when I was younger. I also had medical issues being taken care of at the University. They are/were a leading institution in treating my condition.

    It is the extremes that are getting to me, you either freeze or bake. If you are lucky you get one comfortable day a year.

    • merry_rose

      I was born in Madison and transplanted here at 16. Frankly between the bugs and critters that bite and chomp down south and the less than stellar education systems making for less than stellar citizens (do I really want someone who thinks reading is for elitist intellectuals caring for me in my twilight years?), I’ll stay here.

      Besides, where else, outside of the big, coastal cities, can I get the variety of ethnic foods and wonderful entertainment that I have here?

  • The Resistance

    I live here for the same reasons I moved here when I left high school. Good higher ed, an educated population, affordable housing, good public services, strong diversified economy, a mix of urban and outdoors amenities, health care, engaged citizens. The weather was always part of that equation.

    While some things have gotten worse in those 30+ years (sprawl, roads) others have gotten better (diversity, food). Others might have fantasies of unaffordable real estate on the future desert island of La Jolla; we will likely stay here.

    If we ever do move, it would likely be because Minnesota becomes more like the rest of the US, and we’d pack our bags over international not state lines.
    Or better yet, my fantasy is we stay put and be part of a sane country. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d3d4c99d822fe3fc36fda44d45d8883e14a76803311ba3a5b1cd5728e6662e77.jpg

    • Rob

      Love the graphic

      • The Resistance

        We could be the Canadian Calabria…the Snowboot of Canada…Luverne-the Heel of the Dominion.

        The marketing possibilities alone make it worth pursuing.

        • merry_rose

          I like the way you think.

  • Doug

    Good question.

    I lived in San Francisco for about 10 years and loved Northern Cal. I swore when I left I’d be back. But I ever made it back, and considering the Bay Area now, it’s a good thing I didn’t go back; I’d probably be homeless. So here I am, in MN. But I look at the rest of the country, and there isn’t any place else i’d rather live. Except for the winters, it suits be just fine.

    I maybe do wish my ancestors had had the courage to cross the Great Plains and settle in the Denver area, however. But they apparently looked across all that flat land and thought no way! Typical Minnesotans.

  • chlost

    Grandkids, that’s why.
    But hopefully will be able to escape the worst of the winters when retirement hits (soon?) and will be off to exotic places for a few months at a time.

  • AL287

    I’m a Louisiana native and I’ve been forced back down there a couple of times due to aging parents and a job loss.

    Never again.

    I don’t care if there isn’t any income tax in Texas or Florida.

    The lack of creepy crawlies is enough to keep me put.

    Has anyone here ever seen a black, 3 inch tree roach with spines?

    Africanized bees? No thank you.

    Rafts of fire ants floating in flood waters?

    Those are just a few of the natural species you’ll find down there.

    If our winters ever warm enough to let these critters gain a foothold in Minnesota, I guess I’ll have to move to Labrador.

    • merry_rose

      You’re not kidding on the fire ants. My dad and stepmom, stepsister, nephew and his girlfriend, aunt and uncle, and two cousins with their families live in Texas. Four of the pairs and my stepsister all live in the Houston/Galveston area. Stacy and her fam are in the Austin area. They’ve all had one experience or another that you named. And let’s not forget hurricanes.

      Nope. It’s nice to visit, but they can keep it.

  • theoacme

    Where else do above-average children run the risk of getting brained by a huge icicle on the way to school, and getting posthumous gold stars from their teacher?

  • Rainy

    I live here because I came here for grad school. What keeps me going through the cold season? I don’t know. How do people live through difficult situations? Somehow we manage. Dying for spring!

  • Let me count the ways…MN is so beautiful in how she dresses up for each season, it takes my breath away (sometimes quite literally). Outdoors is home, indoors is where I go in between times.

  • JamieHX

    Great post/s, Bob. Hilarious!

  • lusophone

    For a sample of our summer, take a stroll around the Como Conservatory, go during the weekday if at all possible. They have wifi or you can bring a book.