Hello and welcome.
With nervous excitement I'm writing to tell you about my current creative adventures. Almost a year ago I returned home. Home is a log cabin in southwest Minnesota just a stone's throw from one of Minnesota's most treasured and beautiful nature preserves, Ordway Prairie. This is where I grew up.
As an artist I didn't know what creative ideas would emerge or if I'd have time to even ask myself that. I was here to do a job. To make my mother's passing as comfortable for her as I could. I didn't plan on being in this place long beyond that. But, the longer I stayed and the more i discovered the more I felt a need to tell the story of this place. At first it was just my story; a review of my childhood and the family, friends and neighbors who I'd grown up knowing here, many who have long since passed, grown up or moved away. I pondered the simple isolation these hills offered. The same isolation my mother was so protective of from the day of my MSP arrival until the very end, almost. On that day, the day she died she told me, "you don't have to do what I did".
Aaaah! What did that mean? For 3 generations my adopted family has owned this property. Here, my great-grandmother opened up a general store, my great aunt took it over and then my mother after her. It was the community switchboard and later the neighborhood filling station. This was once the place where farmers and cattleman from the surrounding townships came to buy supplies, have a cup of coffee and generally just hang out.
To not do what she did. I wondered about my adopted ancestors. Their history was bound to this place. I thought about how the only relationship I have with that history is through this land. My thoughts turned toward what family is, identity and how fragile a thing that is. For the first time I allowed myself to think about the Dakota. This land was once free. What was stripped from them when this land became restricted?
I thought about the first norwegian immigrant families who came here. How their decisions effected my mom, her mom and now me and how their immigration story would become mine--but only should I choose to accept it. Being not of flesh and blood, it was my choice.
I needed to know more. My exploration into the land led to a study of glaciers, prairie fire, wild flowers, bison, the Dakota, Fort Lake Johanna. Back and back and back. Layer upon layer of cause and effect, terrible atrocities, super human fortitude all dramatically heartbreaking and heartwarming. At the Glenwood Historical Museum I read pages of lists showing births, deaths, marriages, taxes. In piecing together bits of information it occurred to me, I've taken my history for granted.
For 90 days I walked the prairie and listened to the wind. I watched sunrises and sunsets. I talked to the stars.
I am not Dakota. I am not Norwegian. I am not Korean. I am only 533 of 1076 moons in a place 16,000 years after melting into the prairie we see now.
I choose to accept.