Turtle Lake, MN (and life for the last few months)

The serenity of a clear fall day is among life's greatest delights, clean and pure: the slightly darkened blue sky, rainbows of orange and red mums, warty pumpkins at the farmer's market. October is always my favorite. We are still in Minnesota, and it has been my favorite month here, just as it is back east. It is the feeling of the evening before your birthday all month.


Life's pacing has warped the last 6 months: long days with crackling fires and talking late into the evening--single conversations suspended in the pink lake sunset---and then whole months seemingly erased.  Sadnesses have blown in and out: my lost job, then the loss of my much beloved grandma, then my sister moving abroad without being able to say goodbye. The word pang feels so real when we cannot hug or laugh together in memory.


We have come closer to the plains and land of the midwest, most weekends spent in state parks or lake waters. The soil is sandier, the prairies fresh, now grown with fall wildflowers, purple asters and goldenrod. The beauty of this time is seeing a place anew, just as travel's glasses allow. We've been canvassing the state parks: William O'Brien, Lake Elmo, Afton, Lebanon Hills, and weekends we walk and walk, then come back to the sauna and relax our muscles.


This simple rhythm is so refreshing after years of missing the burst of fall from the city. Just being able to drive to a park has been such a true treat.


The smells and calm of this isolated time will forever be an enormous gift after 9 hectic city years. They were the balm for the moment, and the time with family here is inestimably valuable, another great gift. I am starting to feel the midwest, not judge or assume. 


The gulls settling into the center of the lake at night in herds. Fireworks slipping over the lake's surface in red streamers this summer. Insects in clouds, even now, that we vacuum off the ceiling and pillow cases at night. The shy eye smiles on hiking trails; I will never know if this is a trait of here or the pandemic. The green smell of the lake in the breeze, frog's backs and glitter of baby walleye.


In living in the center of the country, I have had a physical sensation many evenings of being almost dizzy, like land sickness. Being here at first felt like this floating. And yet the gift of being here is that I am comparing less to what I know, and knowing this new place for itself. The leaves are yellow and maroon and the lawn sprinklers right now are spritzing my ankles, and I think that either the breezes have died or my boat has found a bit of ballast. 


I'm starting to turn my face east again and I have a deep, so deep it feels like the very center of my body, longing. A pang again. The longing is for the land and the place and the people, our community in NYC, but also the salty waters and the curves of the bridges and the fire that cannot be extinguished inside New York itself. This homesickness lives within me now, perhaps always will.


We do not have an easy next few weeks, as we will be temporarily moving out of Brooklyn, and hibernating up on a lake in midcoast Maine for the winter. I have almost no imagination of what life there will be, but I dream of the taste of salt in the snow, and the uncontrollable waves on the beach. Three homes in a month; two goodbyes. 


My in-laws have welcomed us every day with new kindnesses, making us feel like this is our home, too. Saying goodbye will be so hard. 

And then the city where we grew up, where we moved over 9 years ago. Friendships which will easily outlast a pandemic. Friday nights at the best restaurant, the cozy neighborhood one everyone dreams of. Rushing down subway steps to make the train. Walking along cobbles and across rivers at all hours. Memories that have come in with the estuary and washed away. 


I wrote last of sharing snippets of poems and words, and then when I lost my job, they sunk into the lake while I tried to float. For months, the only nature I could see were the butterflies, wings yellow and orange and the light translucent onto me. Fish jumped onto my floaties on the weekend and I wiggled away. I haven't been able to write much of that, but I've still been creating, thanks to my new job, which I love, another great surprise of this year.


The world has gone wild, and we have been grounding ourselves with fireplaces and watching mallard dips, and texting those we love who are away from us. It's ok to be in the autumn of a year. Beauty expands there.