I’ve been cleaning out my Dad and Mom’s condo to sell later this year. My parents bought the condo in 1999 or 2000 to be closer to their only grandson, my son Soren. Soren was only a toddler at the time. He’s 20 now and has a brother and 4 cousins. Mom and Dad lived in Iowa. We lived in northern Minnesota but had a house in Minneapolis that we visited regularly (our cabin in the city). A condo in St. Louis Park would allow them a home base close to us. My mom hired an interior decorator and created a comfortable sanctuary that was distinctly her.
In 2001 my mom was killed in a car accident throwing all of our lives into turmoil. My dad kept the condo as a family gathering spot where we’ve celebrated New Year’s every year since. My sister lived there for a short while and my dad and his wife stay there when they come to town now. The family stayed there over my sister’s wedding and we invited my mom’s family over for my dad’s 64th birthday. Since my mom’s death, my dad sold our family home and moved into a condo in Ames. My 3 living grandparents died and their home or apartments were sold or let go. Having the condo was a way for us to hang onto my mom. It’s the only home left that she’s got a connection to and soon that will be gone.
When she died we divvied up much of her stuff amongst us and even distributed some special talismans to friends or family. But at the condo we kept family photos, books, Mom’s letters and photographs from her childhood, high school, college and beyond, and even sympathy cards from her funeral and pictures of her wrecked car. The place even smells like her still. But now the time has come to purge. The process has been painful, draining, cathartic, and entertaining. I’ve found some iconic photos and other invaluables that I can’t help but share here. So bear with me.
This sign periodically popped up on the TV screen at a restaurant we ate at in Costa Rica over Christmas this past year. I can’t imagine what they meant unless it had to do with skin color.
Maybe I should be concerned, but I had to laugh when I opened this piece of mail. Who knew that writing was such a risky profession?
These past few weeks I’ve been busy speaking about Breath of Wilderness, Sig and my passions, which has given me the opportunity to make connections with diverse Minnesotans from all corners of the state. On May 9, I spoke at an event at Augsburg College “Am I Measuring Up? Our Stories Rewrite the Rules.” I am still in awe of the powerful, interesting and passionate women I met that day. We had much in common, yet came from different backgrounds, countries, and ages. The other speakers — Kari Logan (performer), Becky Shaheen (singer, songwriter), and Tara Sweeney (artist, writer) — inspired and entertained with their compelling stories. Wow. I felt honored to talk about my writing and how it is my passion but also a platform for my passions. And, I love sharing Sig’s story with others.
The next week I spoke at Senior Fellowship at Como Park Lutheran in St. Paul. My presentation included Sig’s work in saving wild places and the process of writing the book. Everyone was so kind, welcoming and curious.
Last week I attended the North East Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA) at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Breath of Wilderness was nominated in the Children’s Literature category. Before and after the ceremony, they held a book fair. I was assigned to share a table with Nikki Rajala, who with her mother Agnes Rajala, wrote Waters Like the Sky, a book about the Voyageurs. Nikki and I connected instantly and later we learned that we were both Augsburg College grads. Small world. Nikki’s book had been nominated in the fiction category. At the event, I reconnected with someone I’d taken a writing class with, a former favorite family babysitter, and one of the first editors of my book. And, of course, we came home with some new books to read.
Grateful is the word I seem to use most often these days to describe how I feel. These opportunities are no different. Who knew that writing this book would allow me to connect, grow and learn in ways I never fathomed?