Southern California speaks to me. Sharon and I have been going there for more than eighteen years now. In my senior years, I’ve grown soft on snow and cold and anything that even hints of winter. I like to swim in January, hike the mountains in season, toe the Pacific, and go bouldering in the high desert when I can. If I could, I’d be a Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicello style surf bum circ.1965 if only in my imagination.
Southern California suits me in more ways than one. I like the crazy, creative, eccentric, unapologetic far-out types that seem to inhabit a lot of my regular haunts there. Sharon has found a cadre of fellow artists willing to try new painting techniques and share both their success and failures with her. It is her ‘new thing’ and it suits her to a T in the desert.
Yet for all that California has to offer, it still isn’t Minnesota. A lot of folks have a special place in their hearts for where they were born. My affiliation runs deeper than that. It was born of an early morning below-zero paper route, a high school steeped in military tradition and a lake that mimicked the ocean if only in my imagination. It was hard times and healthy living. It was the first tinge of make-believe romance and the emotional rollercoaster that tender love gone south entails. It was growing up in a world shaped by basic values and an appreciation for hard work. It was dreamed-about opportunities limited only by the extent of one’s imagination.
Minnesota was where I found stability and a healthy foundation upon which to lay down my roots. It was where we raised our children and now watch some of our grandchildren grow. It was a hundred million other impressions that nudged and pricked and scratched and broke through my memory bank. That was then. This is now. California has captured a large part of that creative environment that I need to exist in now.
About a decade ago, I started my new career as a writer. Minnesota became the birthplace for that effort. It was four focused years that produced four novels, four plays, four screenplays and dozens upon dozens of treatments. It was home for my first two produced plays. Soon to be my fourth.
On the flip side of that success, Southern California has become a great playground where I can ignore creeping age and continue doing fun things snow-bound seniors can’t do back home. It is warm winter nights that nurture creative thoughts and ideas bursting on paper. It is ocean and mountains and out of the way places that Minnesota can’t offer a soul still unearthing a fractured imagination. It is a playground for those of us still in total denial of life’s fading curtain.
Yet for as much as I love California’s fast pace and changing emotional scenery, it is still Minnesota that brings me back to reality. Both places offer Sharon and I wonderful friendships, a boatload of memories and creative ventures. But Minnesota also offers us something else. History that is all good.
I was born of the tundra. And though I avoid the snow and cold as much as I can, it is still in my blood. I don’t know where I’ll write my final draft whether it be in the surf or in the snow. But it doesn’t matter. There really is no contest.
Minnesota is a good place to be from and a good place to be.