My Impending Adventure

2013, I do believe, shall perhaps be written about and remembered as my most momentous year yet.  In fact, it certainly will be, and not just because of circumstance, chance, and a failed marriage.  I have taken it upon myself to make some amount of momentousness self-created, rather than imposed, and as such am taking on one of my Seven Wanders of My World: biking the Mississippi River Trail.  Most importantly, I’m doing it solo.

It is my deepest intention to make this a whole person trip, to take note of my therapist’s suggested meditation and notice body, mind, emotion, and core self, without judgement.  In preparation I am planning and packing, preserving food (for the trip and for the winter, for I will miss the peak canning season while I’m on the road this autumn), tying up loose ends at my blessedly flexible job, and trying to let go.  Releasing expectation is both paramount and persistently difficult.

Kale, garlic, tomatoes and peppers.

Despite the demands of a regiment of camping and 60 miles of bicycling a day, the body is easiest to care and prepare for.  New lightweight long underwear.  Camping cookware, including the indulgence of a solo french press coffee pot.  Home dehydrated vegetables.  Keens.  There will be moments and hours and even days of exhaustion, strained muscles, a sore back.  But also skin rich from Vitamin D.  More strength and tenacity that I’ve known before.  And daily morning yoga to keep me moving.

The tarot deck, recent reading.

The mind is trickier, as I have learned that my constant analysis of self and surroundings pervades my other spheres of being.  Choosing books to accompany me is critical and impossible.  Good Poems for Hard Times is a certainty.  Novels and spiritual nonfiction are more difficult to choose from.  Knowing I will have to leave finished books behind is tantamount to abandoning a pet, even if I have never read the book before.  My tarot cards and book will join me as well, another indulgence of sorts, at least as far as weight is concerned, but what is the weight of a book to the body when its content can spark the mind to discovery?

Drying mint.

Attending to emotion is more complex still.  There is much excitement of course, but equally as much, if not more, worry.  Not so much for myself, or even for the trip itself, because in spite of my mother’s rampant concerns for my safety, I believe that the universe provides, through my intuition and more compassionate strangers than potentially harmful ones.  No, my worry is for what I am leaving behind.  My still new relationship with Sarah, growing in depth and loveliness yet strained by my attempted internal re-alignment after the divorce.  The chickens.  The garden.  My housemates.  My family.  In my current life I am so very external, leaving little room for self care, a pattern that I dearly hope this adventure will shake up and recreate.  So with mint tea dried from the yard, my journal, a box of crayons, and plans for letters and collages and exchanges with friends found on the road, I make space for my emotional self to grow and expand while I explore the Mississippi.

The last, but of course most essential, layer that is my core self I do not yet know how to best attend to.  She is there.  She is being rediscovered, reshaped, unearthed as nutrients in tilled soil.  But I cannot yet place her, in my being or in the world.  In time.  Beginning September 5th.

My lovely steed, The Parrot. She will accompany me through the journey’s end.


Places I Love: Parkway Pizza

At long last I write an ode to Parkway Pizza, the fabulous pizza joint mere feet from my doorstep.  Host to my wedding ‘rehearsal dinner’, Parkway just might be everything I could want in a pizza place.

The foundation of my adoration is of course in the pizza ingredients themselves.  Parkway has pledged to use as many local ingredients as possible, and has a sign indicating that Wisconsin is the origin of their cheese.  Gluten-free crust is available for the celiacs and gluten-intolerant among us, and they do a fabulous olive oil garlic bread for my dairy-free friend Lee.  They also just added mock duck as a new pizza topping, which substitutes fabulously for any meat on any pizza, equally and sometimes surpassing (in the case of the chicken alfredo pizza) the previous carnivore-induced deliciousness.

Beer is another obvious highlight- all beers that Parkway carries are local, and they recently began serving a handful of locals on tap in addition to bottles.  I’m more than ready for a fall/winter seasonal to return to the tap list, but in the meantime the IPA will more than suffice.

Free pool and foosball tables, rotating local art, friendly staff, and frequent donations to local schools round out the list of what makes Parkway so fantastic.  Almost.  The icing on the cake is their all the time special deal: $20 for a jumbo one topping pizza and a pitcher of Grain Belt.  Including tax.  Where else can you get something so tasty so cheaply?  Ben and I used to take advantage of this special nearly every time we visited Parkway, but the new Sunday evenings bicyclists and friends gatherings have switched things up a bit, for the better I think.  Regular friend and food events make my heart happy.

Next time you’re in the Longfellow/Hiawatha neighborhood, visiting Minnehaha Falls or the like, be sure to partake of the delights of Parkway Pizza.

Seven Wanders of My World

As we float into the thick of summer and the heart of vacation season, I’d like to finally do a post that’s been long in coming: the Seven Wanders of My World.  I’ll be heading out West soon on a road trip with friends culminating in a dear friend’s wedding in Portland while stopping at Glacier N.P., Whidbey Island, and other fabulous places along the way.  At the same time I’m dreaming of future adventures in years to come.

One of the many wonderful bloggers at Adventure Cycling wrote the original Seven Wanders of My World post, highlighting some great (albeit quite exotic) locales, and encouraging readers to make a list of their own.  Though I am now a committed bicyclist, my list is not limited to places I want to bike, because many of my dream adventures were established before I began bicycling.  In no particular order, I would like to:

1. Bicycle the Mississippi River Trail.  Benjamin and I hope to do this as a very belated honeymoon, though with shifting jobs it may be extremely belated indeed.

2. Hike the Appalachian Trail.  This has been a dream ever since I read A Walk in the Woods back in junior high, and was inspired by my father’s similar plan that has since been toned down a bit to do sections at a time rather than the 2,000+ miles in one go.  I still want to do the whole thing 🙂

3. Alaska.  Hike, bike, kayak, whatever.  Not wanting to drive might be a bit difficult though, considering the lack of a direct train route from the continental US to the Land of the Midnight Sun.

4. Hike the fjords of Norway.  I used to be infatuated with the misty moors of Ireland, but the heartstoppingly gorgeous vistas in I Am Dina convinced me that traversing one of the countries of my ancestry might be what I’m truly longing for.

5. Visit Prince Edward Island.  The land of Anne of Green Gables, a childhood heroine of mine, has always enchanted me.  Plus I have yet to go to Canada, and while my first trip will likely be to visit Ben’s family in Saskatchewan, hopefully PEI will not be far to follow.

6. Return to India.  I spent the fall semester of my sophomore year of college studying abroad in India, and while it was a beautiful experience, we visited so many cities that it was difficult to get a sense of any one in particular.  I would love to return and spend a month (or two, or three) in a city or two, likely Varanasi- the holy city of the Ganges- or somewhere up north in the Himalayas.

7. Canoe in the Boundary Waters.  I’m not as ashamed as a native Minnesotan might be at not yet having been to the Boundary Waters, despite being in Minnesota for almost six years, but the jewel of my adopted state is calling me.  Despite not being a water lover, the solace of the upstate wilderness area of Minnesota sounds glorious.

Now it’s your turn!  Do comment with a link to your blog if you do write your own Seven Wanders of My World post 🙂

The Creation of Home

This weekend marks the first visit back to Illinois since the winter holiday season.  Though still in the northern Midwest for certain, the culture of suburban Illinois is quite different than the urban landscape of my present homeland in Minneapolis.

The Land of Lincoln, place of my birth, childhood, and adolescence before leaving for college in Minnesota, was for a long time the only home I knew.  However, upon choosing to make a life in Minnesota after finishing four years of college and a year of Lutheran Volunteer Corps, I found that my adopted state and city quickly became more home in a holistic, feeling-of-belonging sense than Illinois ever was.

Minneapolis has art, theater, a surprisingly vibrant music scene, green space and biking adventures galore, and, most importantly community.  Maybe it’s that I happened upon both the biking and progressive scenes at just the right moment, but people share, create, and communicate in Minneapolis in a way that feeds my soul.  In short, I have become a Minnesotan, or at least a Twin Cities-ian.

I far too often badmouth my place of birth though, especially now that I’ve found a place and people that I feel so at home with.  Though suburban Chicagoland is just that- the suburbs, often sprawling, difficult to impossible to traverse via non-motorized transportation, nearly devoid of independent and local businesses- it made me, somewhat in spite of itself.  Now that I have extricated myself from the day-to-day elements of living in the ‘burbs, pleasant memories of unexpectedly formative experiences begin to float through my psyche.  I remember early morning bike rides around the neighborhood that I committed to for a summer.  Explorations of the ‘woods’ in several nearby parks.  Scavenging at garage sales.  The summer reading program at the library, where I almost always worked my way through all of the sheets and prizes the program had to offer.

Though I entirely intend to never again live in a suburb (I’m a city lady for the present, with rural living as a possible though distant future possibility), who I am and what I love is inextricably tied to my upbringing in the suburbs.  Having a safe space to cultivate that self and those joys gave me a nearly limitless future, innumerable possibilities that at the time I could not see (covered of course in the haze of disdain for the place of my upbringing).  Choosing college, a semester in India, a number of fantastic summer experiences, and a volunteer year followed by work in the non-profit world, certainly would not have been nearly as easy or obvious without my safe adolescent cocoon.

The Chicago suburb of my upbringing provided both a safe place to become as well as something to push against, an unyielding adversary and impetus for beginning to imagine what life and place I might want for my future.  It was home, and though the physical landscape has gone through many (in my opinion, distasteful) iterations, it provided a secure foundation for finding and creating a home to fully embrace and advocate for in Minneapolis.

A place of every emotion: my home for nearly twelve years.

Places I Love: Fireroast Mountain Cafe

I have found quite the plethora of wonderful moments and places since my move into the Longfellow neighborhood in South Minneapolis.  From quiet biking routes lined with trees blissfully bursting into the fire-inspired hues of autumn, to the pizza place down the block with 2 for 1s local beers every day after 8pm, to walking four blocks to the grandiose Minnehaha Falls, I believe I am quite the lucky lady.  But discovering new neighborhood coffeeshops for reading, working and people watching provides a particularly unique joy, and Fireroast Mountain Cafe has quickly emerged as my favorite in the bunch.

Located just a few blocks West and North of my home, traveling to Fireroast is either a bike ride so rapid I almost don’t need to wear my helmet (but don’t worry, dear friends, I do nonetheless), or a walk just long enough to leave behind the cares of the day and just breathe for a bit.
One can gather from the exterior of the shop that quirkiness is immanent at Fireroast, and their eclectic menu does not fail todelight.  I usually limit myself to a cup of coffee or tea (presently I’m enjoying the Ginger Green, and will likely be going back for a refill) and a pastry- the fudgy oatmeal bars are reminiscent of my mother’s. However they also feature a tasty mexican inspired breakfast/dinner menu if one is more meal-inclined.

With rotating works of local art covering the walls, jewelry and other artistic odds and ends on the shelves accompanied by a ‘take one, leave one’ bookshelf and a bulletin board in constant disarray, Fireroast successfully fills every niche that one would expect from a local coffeeshop.  But it’s not the food or the artwork that leads me to love it so.  It’s the ambiance, a certain comfy-ness that comes from silly signs behind the counter, scattered newspapers, christmas lights in the windows year round, and feeling as if I could settle in all day and not one person would look at me sideways.  Some coffeeshops have a carefully cultivated aesthetic of formality, a business-like decor that subtly indicates to clientel that they too should be busily on their way or they must be missing something important.  Fireroast is just the opposite, a colorful and cozy neighborhood corner shop that I find myself visiting nearly every Tuesday.  Perfect for catching up with an old friend or putting together a presentation, I’m certain all Twin Cities residents would find Fireroast a lovely local haunt.


Places I love: Al’s Breakfast

Though it’s only my second sojourn to this delightful diner, I must say I’m hooked.  Al’s Breakfast is a tiny breakfast nook in the Dinkytown area of Minneapolis, just over the river (but not sadly not through any woods).  The counter boasts a mere dozen or so seats, and patrons-to-be scrunch along the wall behind those who are ordering, eating, and paying.  My first experience at Al’s with dear friends Whit and Caleb began with over an hour waiting in line- we began standing out on the sidewalk and slowly made our way through the awkward doors and into the diner- and finished with ordering more food than I could comfortably eat, but scarfed it down anyway.  While waiting in line Whit regaled Caleb and I with tales of eating at Al’s as a child, waiting in line with her parents and playing with dinosaurs at the counter (which still lie in wait on one of the shelves, just above the scattered yellow stacks of tab packets for the regulars).  Brunch at Al’s was a delightful end to a busy weekend.

Both times I’ve been there I’ve been treated to bountiful coffee to accompany delectable greasy diner food.  Anything with their homemade salsa is particularly amazing, as are the pancakes (I recommend getting the blueberry variety, either in buttermilk or wheat).  They also feature season themed scrambled eggs, though for whatever reason there is no Autumn variety, and you can order any season’s eggs any time in the year.

I’ve only been there twice, but Al’s has already made it into my list of favorite restaurants I’ve discovered in my first year in the Twin Cities, and will certainly be visited many times to come.