|Lake Wobegon Trail, central Minnesota|
It's a chilly fall morning in Chicago. I woke up early and drove through a light drizzle to my favorite cafe to pick up my standard once-a-week splurge: an almond croissant and cafe au lait to go. Now I'm back at my apartment, cozy as I look out the front windows at the sprawling maple, its green leaves pale and tired from summer, and the wet red brick of the building across the street. Between the frequent sounds of sirens, accelerating garbage trucks, and airplanes, and the muted rumbling of traffic from Irving Park Road, I am constantly reminded that outside my window is a big city. But every now and then a rare stillness sweeps through - no starting motors, no honking cars, no distant emergencies - and all I hear is the slight breeze slipping through the maple, or nothing at all.
Mornings like this are sacred to me. It's the kind of morning that, not long ago, would have intensified my love for this city and reinforced my decision to live here. But there's been a transformation, practically overnight, and now all I can think about is this kind of morning back in Minnesota.
|Backyard farm field|
Last year at this time, I was daydreaming of losing myself in a big city, starting from scratch and building a life that was wholly separate from everything I'd known. Now, my mind escapes to my mom's house in central Minnesota, where you can stand in the kitchen and watch rain rolling in over the farm field. It escapes to my favorite warm bakeries in Minneapolis, the small shops of Stillwater, and the rocky shoreline of Duluth.
In just over two weeks I will fill my car to the brim with everything I own in Chicago. I will start out early, first tackling the Illinois Tollway, then the endless hills of Wisconsin. I'll cross the Mississippi into Minnesota, and I'll be home. I will bake these, and cuddle him, and after the initial rush of being home subsides, I will begin to quietly figure out what's next. Though I'll be in a familiar place, it will still hold the unknown that I crave, the unknown that brought me to Chicago in the first place.
I may sound like a chronic escapist, but last year I felt down to my bones that Chicago was where I needed to be. I trusted that feeling, and I'm so glad I did. If I hadn't, I would have missed out on rich new relationships, unprecedented creative challenges, and a significantly altered perspective. And I probably wouldn't now be entertaining a new instinct that tells me Minnesota has what I need: more peace and quiet, more lakes, more family.
I'm going to trust my gut on this one.