Under the hood

Gifts of season give reason to reflect

While it’s customary to make resolutions at this time of year, it’s also a fine time to reflect on the gifts of the present


Certainly, the long, cold, dark Minnesota winters can spark a melancholia for some. Yet frigid temperatures and spare daytime hours can also create the mood to hibernate, as other creatures of nature do. One way to take advantage of wintertime is to retreat inside to our snug spaces.
The Danish concept of hygge refers to finding comfort, pleasure, and warmth in simple, soothing things such as a cozy atmosphere or the feeling of friends. It is a time to gather around the hearth to spend more intimate time with loved ones but also an opportunity to make time to nurture ourselves. As a writer, I revel in the fact that northern wintertime brings more hours for reading. Books, magazines and newspapers pile up around my reading nook.

Getting some ink on our fingers
In fact, the Twin Cities are a haven for local print news, boasting four dailies, two weeklies, two college, 11 specialty, and over 15 local/neighborhood/community newspapers/newsletters. Your local news heralds – the Messenger, Monitor and Connector are the Harry, Ron and Hermione of the pack – a dynamic trio bringing news and a bit of magic to each community served. From Midway, Como and Frogtown on the St. Paul side of the river to Longfellow, Nokomis, Southwest and many neighborhoods in between, the print editions have proven to be much anticipated by our readership.
I’m grateful to be a part of these independent papers assembled by our hardworking publisher, Tesha M. Christensen, who like Dumbledore, holds the entirety of TMC Publications’ “Hogwarts School” together. She’s assembled an equally hardworking team under her leadership who are grateful to the readers and advertisers for helping to keep local news alive and well.
Along the same lines, the metro is a major hub for literary arts, blessed with a vital print publishing industry. Our literary forest is populated with numerous book branches, so to speak.
One such publisher, founded in 1859, is Minnesota Historical Press with three imprints, Minnesota Historical Society Press, Borealis Books and MNHS Express, and sister publication, Minnesota History Magazine, which each abound with stories about local culture, history, Native American and Scandinavian Studies, and more.
Another, approaching its 100th anniversary, is the University of Minnesota Press, a venerable pillar of the state’s publishing industry. Topping the list of other local presses are Graywolf Press and Milkweed Editions, both lionesses in our publishing den. These organizations put wind under the wings of our copious crop of homegrown writers and authors, many of whom grace national and international booklists, as well.
Our area is rich in resources for readers and writers. According to a recent Christian Science Monitor survey, Minneapolis comes in fourth, behind Seattle, San Francisco, and Cincinnati, based on sheer number of bookstores. From the unique Open Book building that hosts a trifecta of literary gems – the Loft Literary Center, a haven for readers and writers, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and Milkweed Bookstore – to dozens of other booksellers dotted throughout TMC’s readership areas like the Red Balloon, Midway Used & Rare Books, Next Chapter, Magers & Quinn, Birchbark, Wild Rumpus and newcomer, Comma, to name a few. These literary temples often provide meeting space for community gatherings and host live author readings, fostering an array of cultural activities, serving as much more than solely brick and mortar structures.
So, when cold winds blow and we do have snow, there are many choices to curl up with a favorite beverage and get some ink on our fingers.

Or go forth into nature
Strange as it seems, I am also grateful to live in an area that experiences such robust and true seasons. Over the past year, my column has described how to embrace all that the metro area and beyond have to offer throughout the year. My January column took readers on a self-guided outdoor winter art tour available for free on the East and West Banks of the University of Minnesota, providing both exercise and culture.
Speaking of art and culture, our area features a dazzling array of free outdoor art, from the amazing Prince and Bob Dylan murals in downtown Minneapolis to Mears, Kellogg Mall Park and Western Sculpture Parks in St. Paul. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall our communities burst with seasonal art crawls, and almost every night of the week our galleries and museums have exhibitions that are free and open to the public.
We are blessed with an urban environment nestled in nature. A recent survey by The Trust for Public Land ranked St. Paul second, for the second year in a row, and Minneapolis fifth as the best park systems in the United States. The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes – Cedar Lake, Lake of Isles, Bde Maka Ska, Harriet and St. Paul’s Como, Phalen, White Bear and Carver Lakes are minutes from all urban hubs, allowing for wintertime skiing and skating or warm weather kayaking, sailing, swimming, biking, running and walking.
The World Health Organization reports that green areas are essential for ecosystems and the mental health of urban denizens. The Trust for Public Land also named Minneapolis America’s Best City for Parkland and Green Spaces, citing that “Minneapolis reserves 14.9% of city area for parkland and the 95% of residents live within a ten-minute walk of a park!”
I am eternally grateful to live atop Bohemian Bluffs, directly overlooking the majestic Mississippi River that runs right through Minneapolis and St. Paul. Our nationally protected 72-mile waterway exists entirely within our urban areas! I surely have one of the best views in the world, overlooking the University of Minnesota’s West and East Banks, with Frank Gehry’s fanciful Weisman Museum directly outside my window. This location means I can walk or bike along the ribbons of pedestrian only trails that seem to run forever.

Counting our blessings
U.S. News and World Report has again ranked the Twin Cities together in the top 30 of its list of best places to live. Our plentiful parks, lakes and rivers, trails and green spaces, affordability (I know hard to believe with current inflation, but it is worse elsewhere), clean air, robust job market, excellent infrastructure and higher education systems, and cultural richness define our area as one of abundance.
At this time of year, I take the time to acknowledge such priceless riches. I wish you and yours light in the darkness and gratitude in your heart.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here