I’m caught up in the edges, here in this island city.
I study them at night, when the moon’s lines are smeared in ripples, illuminating water and forest and rock in ancient, entangled dance.
In daylight I walk to Lake Winona, near the bluffs the Dakota knew as part of their homeland. For four years I have followed the path around it again and again, like tracing tree rings with my finger, imagining how I might carve the story of this place into my life.
I grew up in Appalachian Ohio, where I learned to love the fields and wooded hills through the rhythm of seasons and cycles of seasons that filled me with a sense of belonging. James S. Taylor describes poetic knowledge as “a spontaneous act of the external and internal senses with the intellect, integrated and whole, rather than an act associated with the powers of analytic reasoning.” Poetic knowledge, he says, “gets us inside the thing experienced.” My childhood hills are inside me.
Here in Minnesota, memories misfire, crossing synapses, disoriented.
The Mississippi River shapes Winona’s border with Wisconsin. (There’s the creek where I caught crawdads with a worm and a cane pole.)
Sugar Loaf rises 500 feet above my home in this Driftless Area. (Against the hill, behind the house—that’s my grapevine swing.)
Prairie and forest and marshland meet, and life surges from one to the other. (See that field? On summer evenings fireflies set it ablaze, and my sister and I held them in cupped hands.)
I’m in new territory—between the memory of one place and learning to love another. But edges, the land teaches, are the growth-filled occasions of encounter.
So I fry the bass and northern pike my son catches. My daughter skates spirals into ice. We run our hands over asters and goldenrod and milkweed and the curled, white bark of birch.
I try to give my children experiences with the local landscape as saturated with reciprocity as those I have enjoyed. And I wonder what stories—beautiful stories—this place will tell inside them.