I’ve been stewing about putting together the 2013 edition of the Wall Street Journal, which is what I renamed our holiday newsletter (previously the Holiday Herald) after Mark and I moved to our downtown Saint Paul condo in 2006 (it’s located on Wall Street, so I thought the name a clever one). While the format of that newsletter was kind of cute, I find I am no longer able to write in the objective third person the way I used to. I’ve decided, therefore, to blog again this year. Bear with me.
I’ve also been stewing with a guilty conscience about not having blogged about the remainder of my summer travels. I WILL GET TO IT EVENTUALLY, but since I returned at the end of August I’ve been immersed in my re-entry and have focused instead on reconnecting with friends and family, as well as readjusting to living by myself.
During my first month back in Saint Paul, I definitely experienced cultural whiplash. At Svanholm I shared a bathroom with seven adults and here I have three bathrooms all to myself. Something doesn’t seem quite right. Also, it became clear that I had way too many clothes, as my closet was full before I even started unpacking my suitcases. Well, I’m not planning to move; I love my home, but I did spend a day with the help of my niece Kirstine getting rid of “stuff”. I also deliberately throw away all direct mail catalogs I receive without looking at them. I’ve noticed that if I don’t know about something, I don’t “need” it. Another strategy for dealing with excess consumerism: I opted NOT to connect my television to anything but my computer, that way I don’t inflict ads upon myself.
How’s that working for me? Okay, I guess. In spite of good non-consumerism intentions, I have replaced my camera, which broke down in the extreme heat of southeast Asia, and my netbook, which was so slow that I wasn’t using it anymore, but I’m not buying clothes or much else besides food. I did most of my Christmas shopping during my travels, so I’m not helping out alot with the economic recovery here in the States.
Okay, back to holiday newsiness. As I mentioned earlier, I returned from my magical year at Svanholm and my summer of exotic travels (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Estonia, Russia and Greece) at the end of August. I promise there will be photos and details about the travel in future blog entries.
Upon my arrival in Saint Paul, my neighbors at the Great Northern Lofts surprised me with a welcome home champagne and hors d’oeuvres reception in the lobby of our building. I love my neighbors. While the Great Northern does not offer Svanholm’s communal living, it DOES offer community living and I feel very lucky to take part in it.
I have delighted in running my old routes, even though they include hills (something I avoided while at Svanholm). My neighborhood is called Lowertown for a reason — it is the low spot in Saint Paul. But, the up side (pun intended) of running hills is that you usually get a terrific view (not to mention that you get to run back downhill on the way home).
In September I drove down to my hometown of Columbia, Missouri for my 40th high school reunion. The drive, which used to take 12 hours in the old days of two lane highways and children in the back seat, only took eight hours!
I no longer have any family in Columbia. My parents are both deceased and my siblings have all scattered, so these high school reunions are the only things that call me back. We had a small graduating class at U-High (57) and some of us were classmates since 4-year-old kindergarten. Our class reunions are like family reunions to me. I was delighted to stay with my dear friend Leslie and her husband Tim, who were gracious hosts even though they were both a bit under the weather with colds. In addition to feeding and housing me, they took me out on the “Katy Trail” (a trail on the old MKT railroad bed) to find the bench my brother had placed in honor of our parents.
I also made an emotional pilgrimage to my family homestead. “Mob Hill”, as we called it (my mother picked the name as a satiric play on San Francisco’s posh Nob Hill), was the only home I knew prior to heading off for college. When my parents originally acquired the house, it came with about 8 acres of land, but over the years they acquired some adjacent property in order to protect their view and their privacy. After my mother died and my siblings and I deeded the property over to the Missouri Conservation Commission, it totaled a little over 9 acres. In spite of being located only a mile and a half from the center of campus, it felt as though one was out in the country. Mob Hill was a special place and during my visit, I was soon overwhelmed with memories of softball games, Easter egg hunts, and my wedding, all of which took place in the front yard. The house was in dismal shape, unoccupied and ignored for years. It was almost a relief to come across a sign indicating that the place would soon be demolished.
Apparently the city has begun the process of creating a park and the house will be replaced by a parking lot and picnic shelter. I think Mob Hill will be easier to visit once the transformation is complete. The house looked so sad and forlorn it made me feel the same way.
Luckily the reunion itself was light-hearted, as 20 of us alumni, plus 10 good-natured and patient partners, and one favorite English/Journalism teacher, caught up on our lives and told stories from our shared past. I came away convinced that the males in my class had been significantly more delinquent than we females. One of their many stories was about being sent off on a cross country run and, as soon as they were out of the coach’s sight, peeling off into the woods for a smoke. They covered their tracks later by sprinting a few yards prior to returning within eye-shot so that they would be suitably winded and sweaty.
This fall also included reciprocal visits with my sister. Barb came to Saint Paul during the fall art crawl when my neighborhood, which is full of artists’ lofts and studios, is abuzz with activity. I went to Michigan when she was participating in her Potters Guild’s fall sale. We both returned to our respective homes with suitcases a little fuller. Here is a picture of Barb with her two dogs, Honey and Rusty.
Fall also brought a reunion with my son. After not seeing him for a year and a half, I was more than ready to see his smiling face in person! Dane came to Minnesota for a long weekend at the beginning of November to attend his own high school reunion. The visit was a short one, but was followed soon thereafter by my two-week encampment at his place in Santa Anna, California.
I can report that Dane looks fabulous. He has lost about 85 pounds and feels healthy. The weight loss happened over the course of two plus years when he was without a car and used a bicycle for his daily 14-mile round trip work commute. In 2013 he purchased a motorcycle and began a new fitness regimen of Muay Thai and other martial arts classes. He still works for Broadcom as a digital engineer doing computer chip layout and nourishes his creative side through writing, painting and sculpture. I look forward to having him in Minnesota over the holidays.
Although I haven’t seen her in person since August, I can report that Bryn also looks fabulous. After we parted ways in Thailand, she flew to California and by the time she stopped in Minnesota on her return to Denmark, she was sporting a spunky new hairdo. In January she enters her final semester of her master’s degree program in Technological and Socio-Economic Planning. Her thesis will look at free trade agreements to learn if they can be structured in a way that does not encourage a “race to the bottom” in developing countries.
In 2013 Bryn moved into a collective in the greater Copenhagen area, becoming one of nine owners of a large house. They have a shared food economy and she enjoys having people to eat dinner with and also enjoys making them happy when it is her turn to cook. Bryn is also still active in her member-driven, local organic food co-op and has helped to spread the concept by making presentations both domestically and abroad. Speaking of abroad, she is currently in Borneo over the holidays and will also be spending time back in Viet Nam before returning to Denmark in mid-January. As for in which country she will locate when she completes her studies, the jury is still out.
While I am thoroughly enjoying being back in Saint Paul, I will be headed to Svanholm at the beginning of March. If you have read my earlier blog postings, you know how much I love it there. I really do feel as though I have two homes now. So my plan is to fly back to Denmark on February 27th and volunteer again in Svanholm’s kitchen group through the end of June. My niece is getting married in early July, which gives me an incentive to return to Minnesota for the glorious summer months.
Happy holidays, everyone. I wish you much happiness and great adventures in 2014.