Sunday, February 11, 2007

from St. Paul. and Minneapolis: dancing with dragons

So, I appear to be stuck on this very unoriginal observation: it is winter here. And so what? It’s winter in more places than not. More of the earth’s land surfaces tilt back from the sun than toward it at this time of the year.

Still, this is indeed what I think of when I wake up in St. Paul on a February morning: we have gained a few more minutes of winter daylight. And by now, the novelty of this season has worn off. One is tired of the stubbornness of the thermometer. Climb out of the ditch already and move on! Preferably in an upwards direction.

Am I imagining it, or am I also detecting a tiredness in those who navigate this climate all day long? Stay warm, they say to me when I leave a store. Stay warm. Well yes, I’d like to.

My friends tell me that I am especially intolerant of the cold because I, too, must navigate it daily back in Madison (I walk most everywhere except to the distant Whole Foods). I think it’s that I do not have Nordic patience in the same way that I do not have save-for-retirement patience. Spring is the next season. I like the next season. Has anyone asked me if I’m ready for it? So ask me. Yes, I am ready for it.

I am hoping my host here is amused with me. The Twin Cities have such great virtues! Why must I speak of the cold as if it defines a Minnesota encounter?

But doesn’t it? Here, we eat hungrily and we eat well. Food is good here. I think to myself: it’s because you need to warm your insides. The raw food diet is not a Minnesota thing. Food cooked over a warm stove – there you go, that’s eating!

Last night’s fare: ravioli with Indian potato and squash in a Thai curry and coconut broth.

february 07 165

Brunch fare: a crustacean frittata, nice and solid. No trimmings needed, hit the core of the dish, eat it while it’s hot.

february 07 176

We walk the Skyways – paths of steel and enclosed glass connecting stores and office spaces downtown. An illusion of a hospitable climate, of a fairytale city where the temperature is always 68 degrees. Minneapolis, the Singapore of the northern hemisphere. But without the fresh air on my face, I am not fooled. I am in one big bubbleof stores and office spaces, held tightly together by a leak-proof wrap. They say there is a real world beyond this, yet no one wants to be a part of it. At least for now.

february 07 177

february 07 183

And at the end of the day, you find your car - so cold and unwelcoming. You left me out here! Go ahead, ride my chilly interior! I’m giving it back to you now. And when you step out on your driveway, you’ll get it in your face again. So there.

I remember being in Quebec last winter and thinking – full force, let me embrace this terrifically cold air fully, totaly. Let me skate in it, hike in it, stand and face the river winds, then sit by a fire and melt. (Only a hot shower would eventually take the freeze out of me.)

Minneapolis is gentler than that. Much gentler. And yet I run from the cold as if it had the power to knock me down flat.

Here’s a thought: tomorrow morning, I will do as the Quebecois and the Minnesotans do. I will step out, without reservation and face the cold. I will run, I will walk, I will dance up and down the streets of St. Paul. And she frolicked in the winter mist, in a land called minnehaha... I will celebrate its beauty, its crispness, its blues skies and pale winter light. Like this single character, dancing with the magic dragon:

february 07 189

It’s nice to hatch grand plans. Particularly for a morning that (luckily) is still many hours away.