Minnesota, and a Bit of Alaska

by Britta on 5 August 2009

in Across the USA,The Norwegian Experience,Travel,Travels with Grandma

My travels have begun! I have been on the road now for 6 days, though it seems like more, and they’ve all been full of adventure, excitement, laughter and insight—just like I was hoping.

Kayaking near Portage

Kayaking near Portage

I had one last Alaska adventure before I left, kayaking with my sister near Portage. We paddled lakes and rivers that were overflowing with the recent rain, exploring reedy ponds and fingers, looking for passages to connect us with the next lake or pond. The glacier dripped over the mountain, the blue ice standing out boldly against the green undergrowth and white sky. The wind blew and the clouds hung heavy overhead, but we had pulled ashore and were in the car with the boats securely strapped to the roof before it started to rain, on our way to Whittier. I farewelled the tiny town and the mountains I knew were there behind the cloud cover so low it reached the surface of the water.

Things improved the day I left, and the air was clear for much of my flight over the mountains and icefields of coastal Alaska, where I caught rare glimpses of snaking glaciers and rivers of ice, normally under clouds. It would have been a spectacular day on the ground, too.

The light rail in Minneapolis is simple and well-marked, and I made it on with little effort save the energy I used carrying my heavy bags on board. The trip downtown took a little over 20 minutes, and I got great views of the Minneapolis skyline before my cousin met me at the stop and brought me back to her house, where we loaded up the Wild Goose Bus (my cousins’ new business endeavor—website coming soon!) to head to the Farm, her childhood home and where her parents still live.

All of my cousins were there at the farm to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their parents. Originally planned to take place during a summer festival in North Dakota, some serious health issues had caused the anniversary celebration to be changed into a low-key family affair, but positive news on the health front and the coming together of the family made it into the joyous occasion it was intended to be. We ate at the place where they met, and afterward we took the bus and toured the places where they had grown up, and where my grandmother had been raised and gone to school.

Oak Lake, Next to the Farm

At the Farm - Oak Lake

The next day, one cousin took me flying (mine is a family of pilots, after all, on both sides) and showed me all those places from the air. It turned into a regular flightsee when we saw a timberwolf loping through a field and circled it to take pictures (which, unfortunately, need a little Photoshop help).

We also talked about family history, and we found several pages in an old photo album revealing our lineage to the 1700s. They made a copy for me, which will go with me to Norway, where I plan to do more research on the subject. I loved looking at the old photos, of my predecessors and elders in their youths. I love the stories that come with them, when asking about one photo sparks a memory that leads into other memories, and soon I’ve been told a significant piece of a life story.

When we returned to Minneapolis, I called Grandma and told her what I’d done and seen, and, according to my aunt, she just couldn’t stop smiling. I now have a place to put with the stories she told me when I was with her this winter, a visual reference to add into my own renderings of the vignettes in her life.

This week, at the beginning of my travels, my world has both expanded and shrunk. I’ve seen a part of the U.S. that, for all I heard about it, had never visited, and now I have more places to check off on the proverbial life list. But, though this was new for me, I was welcomed like the cousin I am, as if it was natural for me to be there, sharing and taking part in all that happened on the Farm, and the world is smaller and closer because of it.

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