“Are we almost there?” The usual plea from children on a long car ride.
After a beautiful drive through southwest Minnesota farmland we gradually approached our familiar landscape, the hills and valleys of southeastern Minnesota. As Sarah drove through downtown Northfield, Mike pointed out what has changed since we left nine years ago—not much, and what appears to be the same.
Across the river, I noted The Key owned by The Northfield Union of Youth appeared to be holding its own on their hard-won, coveted piece of real estate.
On Division Street, Goodbye Blue Mondays coffee shop seemed to be thriving. For years Mike met with a group of artist friends every Wednesday morning for coffee and bright ideas. . . dubbing themselves members of “The Good Job Club.”
Across the street in the Arts Guild gallery, we contemplated the scope and power of Chuck Halling’s retrospective pottery, show-of-a-lifetime. Chuck was The Northfield Potter; he was our friend and the only person we knew when we moved to town.
Farther down Division Street is the Witt family service station, complete with one of the Witt brothers under a car. Sarah pulled in so Mike could say hello.
Past the old high school, there’s a new middle school and a new elementary school. Several miles later we hit a dirt road, approaching the boondocks. Another dirt road and there it was: Our old driveway. Mike and I punched the driveway through the woods almost thirty years ago. It almost took my breath away to see the road winding through those sweet, satisfying woods.
Sarah parked her van in the parking lot where for years she and her brothers parked their cars, loaded their boxes and bags for college, unloaded for summers, loaded up again for another year at school. They helped build the Northfield house and helped us pack our own bags when we left.
Mike sat silently in the van, taking in the changes and the familiar. The trees we planted were huge, healthy and well pruned, nicely shading the yard. The children waited quietly in the back of the van. Then Mike opened the door and the tour began.
Once out of the car Mike realized that the split rail fence was the same one we put in years ago. He never imagined it would last so long. He was conflicted about this visit, feeling a need to see it one more time, but anticipating some disappointment.
We began our journey over the limestone walk we built from the foundation of an old chicken house below the hill.
Then to the front of the house and across the yard to The Log House, where I ran a bed and breakfast for seven years. Passing by Mike’s studio we walked to the hillside pool we dug out and built ourselves. Sarah remembering the days she and her brothers mixed the concrete and Mike hung upside down over the walls to spread the cement.
Mike was content. We left Northfield with peace and confidence that this property is blessed with good and generous stewards.
Our 2-week journey was on its last legs. On the flight from Seattle to Bellingham, Mike surprised me once more. “Where should we go now?” I stared speechless, but heard opportunity knocking.
“How ’bout Alaska?” I suggested. We settled the thing right there in the air. “Okay, maybe not Alaska. Let’s go home and do our laundry and then take a road trip to Montana? What do you say?” He said, “Yes!”
Photos courtesy of Sarah Anne Conroy Lendt