13 Ways of Looking at Minnesota

13 Ways of Looking at Minnesota

Figure 1. Pablo & me, walking on the pond, winter 2015

Figure 1. Pablo & me, walking on the iced-over pond by my house. Pretend it’s a glacier and we’re stalking seals for dinner if it pleases you.


In graduate school, there were so many professors and classmates who focused on “writing about the land.” I always figured that wasn’t my thing because I hate camping. But I might be doing just that right now? I dunno.

1. I like taking long drives through my state. It’s very contemplative and beautiful, in all weather. Farmland in summer or winter is kind of masterful to behold. Our state feeds a lot of creatures. It’s kind of cool to contemplate, though I’m not sure I’d want that for my own life. Anyway, a long drive in Minnesota, in any season, never falls to cheer me.

2. This time of year is particularly trying. You are house-bound, and parka-wrapped, and stuffed in giant boots, talking to people from behind scarves, melting and sweating and freezing – all in the space of two minutes, sometimes. The days are slowly getting longer, but the wind is brutal. The excitement of new snow and shoveling and gregarious neighborly snow-plowing has worn off. You know at least a few people who have had furnaces go out or pipes freeze and burst. You know more who have gotten into car accidents. You’ve helped jump their dead batteries or pull them out of snowbanks. Winter is all a giant pain in the ass. Summer is so easy and bright. And short.

3. Not many bears. I don’t ever want to live anywhere that requires bear-proof trashcans. Bears terrify me. This is why I don’t live in Northern Minnesota. I think we need to go ahead and let bears own the wilderness and the mountains. Being the largest land carnivore, I think they’ve earned it.

4. Also no poisonous snakes. We’ve got mosquitoes but only in summer. The poisonous snakes thing is nice when you consider things like “water moccasins.” SWIMMING SNAKES? Sweet Suffering Jesus.

5. This is the place for people who don’t need a lot of topographical excitement. I don’t give a shit about mountains (see #3, in part) because I hate walking uphill (AKA hiking) and mountains seem kind of like a bad idea when it comes to survival. They mainly seem like a place you could fall off of or where your car could stall and then you’re fucked. If it were up to me, you’d drive AROUND mountains. Their majesty and stuff is wasted on me. Yall may enjoy them as much as you want. Maybe that’s why you’re in Colorado? Besides the marijuana?

6. Still, in terms of nature, our state has a lot of that. This is the place to ski and hunt and snowshoe and fish and swim and canoe and whatever. Apparently we’re quite bike-friendly, too? I really don’t recreate outdoors that much. I like my nature in dosages the size of my backyard, actually. Or in my local park. I guess I only bring this up because in some cities I’ve visited, it feels like you are breathing everyone else’s smoggy exhalation and there is no green space. Or really any space at all. We have a lot of space here in flyover land.

7.  Compared to the rest of the nation, you can go to public school in Minnesota and get a sweet, free education. I myself have a teaching license for this state, which took over six years of schooling to obtain. Minnesota don’t play when it comes to teacher licensure. I remember aspiring Phy Ed teachers getting pissy that they had to take a class on “Teaching Reading” and I remember laughing at them. Everyone in the school building must support literacy, yall. What the hell else are you gonna do when it’s 30 below in the winter, huh? You’ll be a reader if our state has anything to say about it.

8. This is a good place for people cowed by oceans (like, surprise, me). Lakes are oceans on a more useable scale. You can swim in them and not get stung by thousands of jellyfish. There are no eyeless Leviathans in their depths hoping to eat you whole, nor floating barges of plastic or trash. Nor pirates (which may be considered a demerit by some). Also, lakes don’t tend to foster hurricanes which is undeniably a big plus.

9. We are the birthplace of Target. Suck on that for a while, why don’t you.

10. People continually underrate and underestimate you if you come from here. You’re not expected to do more than drive a tractor or act like a simpleton from dumbassed Prairie Home Companion. So if you do anything halfway decent, everyone’s kinda knocked out. Once my husband was at a party on Nantucket Island and he told people he was from Minnesota. “And you’re an engineer?” they shrieked. “They have those there? I thought all of you were farmers.” Oh, Nantucket! Never change! (Not that you have or ever will…)

11. Minnesota is a very practical location for human survival. This is according to my non-farming engineer husband who likes to take apart car engines and makes his own hooch and bullets. It’s not on “a coast that might swallow us” like New Orleans or Miami. Unlike Arizona or California, “the 10,000 lakes offer us plenty of access to water.” Also, there’s nothing that great here, so “no worries about being a target of terrorists.” Plus, we’ve got “good soil for farming our own food.” Thank you, dear heart, for these important points.

12. For a state known for its large-handed Swedish laborers and stoic German farmers, we sure do have a lot of diversity. You wouldn’t think so, would you? Every Christian denomination makes the claim that this is their doing: “Our missions group went to ______ and brought the ______ people here!” Certainly church sponsorship is part of it, but who really cares? We’re the home of some of the largest Hmong, Tibetan, Vietnamese, Somali and Mexican populations in the nation. We’ve always got new folks coming here to keep it interesting. Which brings me to my last point…

13. Minnesota is a state that people are from but often leave. They leave for places like Colorado or New York City or California or the Pacific Northwest. To those people, I wave goodbye. Come back and visit. But in my plodding dull way, I just don’t understand them. Why do these people want to be “from” Minnesota, but not “of” it? I don’t see the need to uproot and move. You’re the same goddamn bastard wherever you live is my motto. Maybe that’s Minnesotan, in itself?





  • Shaina on Feb 17, 2015 Reply

    This article today on why the TC are better than everyone else made me think of this post: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/the-miracle-of-minneapolis/384975/

    I was at a client’s offices once in Ohio and they told me they don’t recruit at MN colleges because even if they get someone to come work for them, within 3 years they’ve left and gone back to MN.

  • Alisha on Jan 15, 2015 Reply

    I’m from Michigan, and most of these hold true here as well (except for Target… but Target is a prime weeknight wasting time destination around here). Everyone assumes we all wear flannel and shoot anything that moves, but it’s a pretty cool, and beautiful, place to grow up. But I’m ready for winter to end any time.

Leave Reply