I have lovely little conversations with my mailman in the entryway of my building. I don’t know his name, but he knows mine (it’s easier when you deliver someone’s mail with their name all over it every day, I suppose) and my dog’s. He gives me my mail and packages without putting them in the box if I’m passing by, something my carriers in the various other cities I’ve lived never have.
I have a favorite donut shop. Bogart’s has delicious and creative (but never over-the-top) donuts for a dollar or two and coffee for the same price. Every one of the handful of staff comes out from behind the counter when they’re working to pet Gus and give him a treat. We chat casually about our lives from time to time before I head to out enjoy their delicious confections on the patio when the weather permits, especially on slow Saturday mornings.
My friends consist of people from the dog park who I never would have otherwise met, bound only by the commonality of owning a dog. I had this in Brooklyn, too, but the conversation was different — it was about our jobs and how they were killing us, how cruel the city can be sometimes, and the fabulous trips we were taking to other places to escape. Here in Minneapolis it’s about lovely movies we just saw or things recently read, how it’s wonderfully 30 degrees in December, and the mild neuroses we carry courtesy of our quirky families.
These are beautiful, indispensable and completely priceless occurrences to someone whose nature leans towards restlessness and travel, never staying anywhere for longer than a year or so. There’s something really wonderful in seeing the same faces and the same places everyday after seeing new ones for so long; it just took me living in seven different cities across three different countries and tearing through experiences at warp speed over the course of a decade to realize it — to understand that home isn’t where you find it, but where you build it.
Eventually starting the search over again in a new place every year or so grew exhausting rather than exciting. Eventually being far, far away from the little place I was raised in that still contains my family began to weigh on my heart rather than exhilarate it. So I began to build my home alongside the realization that, like all good things, the home I wanted was never going to be handed to me — I would have to work for it. I’d have to create, invest in and tend to the home I wanted, so I began to create my Midwest nest branch by branch, collaging pieces I loved about the places I’d been and assembling them into a whole.
The place in the world I’ve carved out for myself isn’t perfect in the way that nothing is. My beautiful apartment that I labored to find and fill is a contested space, caught in a battle between the city and my landlord. Some days, particularly those filled with bitter winter winds, I still long for the streets of Brooklyn and the waves of Nicaragua and the people that fill them. But there’s something about the Midwest, something that lends itself to the crafting of a home and a community in a way that these and other places don’t.
Maybe it’s the “Minnesota nice” notion that everyone talks about, but somehow genuine connections with your mail carriers, donut shop baristas and dog park comrades are little bit more possible here. I, however, like to think that there’s a natural unity that develops between everyone who braves the weather here. There’s a sort of automatic bonding that happens as we all continue to make our worlds go ‘round, even when it’s -45 degrees outside because, for whatever reason, this place is worth it. I like the idea that it’s the extremity that keeps the ease of living (and the inevitable taken-for-grantedness that accompanies it) that one finds in other places at bay — it might just be the special sauce that makes Minneapolis and the Midwest as special as it is.
The perfect place to set down some roots.