Minneapolis Skyline

I was very happy when I first moved to Minneapolis seventeen years ago. I recall a sense of elation as I stared at the distant cluster of downtown skyscrapers while running around what was then called Lake Calhoun. I had discovered a place that felt like home, a new home without all the baggage from the old one. The last two years have been frustrating and disturbing. My children were quite needlessly locked out of their schools and placed in Google classrooms where their mental health suffered and they learned practically nothing. Businesses a few blocks from my house were razed to the ground in the George Floyd riots. It has been a strange time. I hear many folks say that. I know I have felt persistently hopeless and overwhelmed since the pandemic began. The teacher’s strike seemed like the final betrayal and I told my wife we could buy a bigger house in the suburbs as she has long wished. We made steps in that direction, but I’m not confident we will follow through with that plan now. My roots run deep in this place with the memories of so many experiences I’ve shared here with my family. Transplanting myself elsewhere at this juncture in my life feels traumatic and I am really about avoiding trauma right now.

Yesterday afternoon, I hauled five large bags of trash out of the nearby gorge where I often take my sons fishing. Readers will remember this as a redux of a story called “Trash Fishing” I wrote exactly a year ago. Spring arrived a bit later this season. Cold rain and sleet pelted my face as I worked to clean up the site from another vacated homeless encampment. This is my neighborhood. I am a caretaker of this land and this river. I discovered clues that it was a Native American mother living here along the Mississippi—a water bottle with the words “MINNESOTA INDIAN WOMEN’S RESOURCE CENTER OUTREACH” printed on it and a Baby Bjorn bassinet. She kept a large knife with her inside the tent, presumably for protection. It was not easy hauling these items out of the gorge. Her blankets were sodden with rain and melted snow. I was breathing hard and snot was streaming from my nose. I do not know how to help the most destitute of my neighbors. I can only clean up after them, and the fact that I care more for the land than the people displaced from it, is distinctly characteristic of my Minnesota niceness.

I had a talk with my youngest son recently about the importance of hard work. People tend to assign blame to politicians for societal failures, but ultimately a country cannot function unless individual farmers, policemen, nurses, and store clerks go to work each day and do their jobs. I was angry at the teachers when I said that. A lot of people have let my kids down. My wife and I are about all they have left to look up to. Sometimes the burden seems impossibly heavy. But as Tom Waits says, “you got to get behind the mule, in the morning and plow.” So that is what I do–one block at a time, one bag of trash at a time and one sentence at a time–until my sons are men. Then it will be up to them.

The illuminated spires of our downtown skyline are still visible from each of our urban lakes, and I still gaze at them with hope and wonder. The city still stands, as do I, each of us a work in progress.

One thought on “Minneapolis Skyline

  1. In my opinion this is one of your best stories. It felt like I had just peeked into your soul and found a man in great agony. Your pain for and love of the land and its history is evident in every sentence you wrote. The Native American people who once owned the land are often overlooked in the history of land grabbing. I was touched by the comments on the woman that once lived on the lake and how you took time to think about her and her trashed property. That gesture was like a tribute to her life.

    Is it a relief to put your words on paper? Could it be as I hear quite often, “It’s both a blessing and a curse?

    It’s NOT too late to make changes in our lives. You are making a difference by teaching your sons to appreciate and maintain their environment. I truly believe ALL the blame should NOT be placed on the government or big business while we sit back and do nothing. You give reference to the waste and destruction of our planet in many of your stories and I can feel your frustration in the words you write. By cleaning up the trash you give an example of what we can all do to help. This particular story, I felt, was very powerful and I would like to send it to some of my friends.

    Your stories enable readers to know a husband and father who is involved and caring. One who uses guts and emotion in real life stories. We see¹ someone not afraid to expose his inner thoughts and feelings. Readers will also experience the remarkable skill you possess as a writer. Keep penning stories of your thoughts, memories, and experiences. I enjoy them very much and I believe Mother Earth thanks you!

    Liked by 1 person

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