…Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
Long ago I vowed to leave Minnesota and never return–at least to live. For me, the Pacific Northwest was love at first taste–literally. I was seven years old when I tasted my first salty sip of the Pacific and right then I made a promise to myself: I will one day live here, beside mountains and salt water.
Some twenty years later that dream became manifest, the lure of my seven-year-old dreams leading me west. Life on the Olympic Peninsula delivered a gasp of salt water in the breath of sky framed by luscious green mountains. It was, truly, beguiling.
We could have stayed. There was an option presented to us to help build a new energy efficient cabin, across the dirt road from the farm, where we could live happily ever after with our dog while continuing work, at least some, for Finnriver. We thought and thought and then thought some more about how we could make it work. We teased the idea, put our house in Minneapolis on the market and then waited to see what fate would befall us. Ironically, it was not until after we put our house on the market that we both voiced what was in our hearts; we missed Minnesota, our family, our friends, our community. It was the unspoken silence that had been hanging heavy inside the 10×12. When we realized we would not be able to sell our house without taking a major blow, we both exhaled a sigh of relief. Sometimes everything has to not work out–everything has to fall apart– to find peace. To find home.
This has been a year of riding a steep learning curve, a year of plunging into the unknown (namely, farming!) and often not knowing what the hell we were doing. It was a year of letting go and trusting that the work would lead us where to go next. Through it, we have given birth to new pursuits, new joys and work that has forever changed us. We will look back on this year as a pivotal moment that shifted the direction of our lives. That, and we’ll get to brag for a long time about living in in a small cabin in the woods–or as my dad coined it, “the Menards shack.”
Finnriver was a place for us to learn and grow, a place to experience the agrarian life and commit ourselves more deeply to being stewards of the land and to building resilient communities. But in the end, Finnriver was not our home and we struggled to think of finding our place there long-term. When our house wouldn’t sell, we thought about what we wanted most: a place to grow food (our property has a large south facing lot with ample room to grow food), a home (as old and clunky as it is), a supportive community of friends and family and a place to continue our education, artistic pursuits and farming dreams. When we considered all of these things, the decision was clear. It also helps that my husband loves this place. Jim’s heart is in Minnesota. In fact, it is through him and his deep affection for this state that I’m able to appreciate it fully and experience it more wholly. The first time I took him to Park Point, a long sandy beach on the south shore of Lake Superior, his jaw dropped in disbelief that this miles-long golden beach was hidden inside the eastern edge of Minnesota. It is a joy to see this born and raised east-coast boy so in love with my native land and through him, I am reunited with its bounty.
Leaving Finnriver, has meant leaving a bucolic dream for a flat city block. Our house is located in Northeast Minneapolis, a neighborhood that has long been an industrious, blue collar community with about as many bars as churches. Down the block is a cardboard box factory which omits curious smells, railroad tracks crisscross throughout and the old grain belt brewery is but a stone’s throw away. We’re within a couple of blocks of the Mississippi River although we’re afraid to let the dog swim in it due to pollution. Our block is a mix of first time home owners, section-8 (low-income housing) and elderly folks who’ve lived here all of their lives. It is also an emerging arts district with vibrant (unpretentious) restaurants, good ol’ fashioned midwestern bars, retro-spun coffee houses (like Maeve’s Cafe), artist lofts, vintage furniture shops and home to a very hip used record store, Shuga Records, which features in-store performances by local bands and visual art from local artists. The neighborhood was even featured in the New York Times travel section in the article “A Minneapolis Stretch Reborn.” The HolyLand, only a mile away makes some of the best falafel in the city and the array of Mexican bakeries along Central Avenue provide a sweet tooth fix in a minute.
Needless to say, however, it’s a bit of culture shock reentering the city from the idyllic rural bubble we’ve just popped out of.
So why, again, did we really return to this gritty old neighborhood? I find myself asking this question over again now that we’re back.
I remind myself that we have a dream. A farming dream.
A farming dream right here in the city.
We returned with a somewhat simple goal (at least in theory): to feed ourselves and our neighborhood fresh produce.
We aspire to build our own farm that expands beyond our backyard and into the community where we can apply what we’ve learned this past year at Finnriver, as well as continue to learn and experiment within this new climate/environment. Call it a sort of FarmSpace– an intersection of food, education, outreach, community and culture, right here in our neighborhood. A space that occupies an important place in the community for food, forum, activism, and culture. A lofty goal perhaps, call me a dreamer, but we believe in it and that’s enough fuel to get started. However, it’s possible I’ll have to change the name of this blog, High Heels AND Hay…? For now, we’ve packed up our passion from the rolling fields of the verdant Chimacum valley and landed back in the dirty inner-urban city streets of NE Minneapolis with its blaring music and blowing waste to try to transform a space into something beautiful and delicious.