|St Paul from the High Bridge by Greg Benz Photography |
on Flickr. Click to enlarge.
My life has changed so much since I moved to South Dakota. Not only did I move to a completely different location, I also traded in my life as a teacher for life as a retiree. My memories of the Twin Cities are inextricably bound together with memories of being a student at the University of Minnesota, and later, being a teacher with the St. Paul Public Schools. While in the Twin Cities, I also began to write, and joined a cadre of other writers, and I started to study the art of Japanese flower arranging, called ikebana. In addition, I formally joined Eckankar, a spiritual path I'd been studying for years. Now I have all these (mostly mutually exclusive) groups of friends: U of MN cohort friends, teacher friends, writer friends, ikebana friends and ECKist friends. I have realized this weekend that it's not the places in the Twin Cities that I miss so much as all my friends.
On Friday evening I stayed with a writer friend who was kind enough to read the entire manuscript of my book, and who gave me some fabulous ideas for taking the manuscript apart and putting it together in a different way. She also helped me see what parts I could cut from my bloated manuscript. We also talked about the memoir she's writing, and about our experiences as new retirees. The conversation flowed so freely, and I wished heartily that I could have had more time with her.
On Saturday morning, I spent over three hours chatting happily with a teacher friend. How I miss the education shop talk, even though some of it can be a little depressing from time to time. As we said good bye, I thought for the millionth time how sad it was that we had been too busy to get to know each other well when we were both working at the same school. In addition to the education talk, we chatted some about retirement in general, as she is looking at retiring in a few short years.
On Saturday night I saw an ECKist friend of mine who is single, as I am, so the conversation included spiritual topics as well as issues that single women are interested in. Like my writer friend and my teacher friend, this ECKist friend is dealing with issues of middle age, so some of the conversation included comments about retirement and various health issues.
Although I am not necessarily attached to places in the Twin Cities, I did enjoy the feeling of knowing the area well, and not having to worry about getting lost. I enjoyed visiting familiar restaurants and driving by the school where I once taught to see how the building has been upgraded since I worked there. I hear that the building now has air conditioning. Why, oh, why did they start that project after I retired? How I remember having to teach in a sweltering classroom in early fall and late spring, as well as during summer school!
I noticed that much of the construction for the Light Rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul has been completed. The light rail line between downtown Minneapolis and the airport and Mall of America, called the Hiawatha Line when I left town is now called the Blue Line. The Green Line, which will connect the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul, is officially considered 94% complete, and trains are expected to be running starting sometime in 2014. There was a recent article in the Star Tribune complaining about cost overages. Some things never change.
A number of long-term highway construction projects have also been completed since I left. It's nice to see how efficient the traffic pattern has become on Interstate Highway 494, the southern half of the loop highway around the Twin Cities, as well as the interchange between Highway 62, also known as the Crosstown Highway, and the section of Interstate Highway 35W that leads to downtown Minneapolis. The new I-35W bridge across the Mississippi River between downtown Minneapolis and the northeastern suburbs was completed just before I left, but I didn't have much chance to use it. The bridge seems to be lower and less curved than the old one that collapsed, so it's possible now to see the river as you drive across the bridge. Because the new bridge is wider, there is less lane-changing on the deck of the bridge, itself, which is probably a good thing.
I noticed that there were workers present at the Minnesota State Fair grounds in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. (The Minnesota State Fair, the largest state fair in the United States, will open in three weeks.) I have fond memories of the fair from earlier years, when I was strong enough to walk around for hours. I miss the fair food, but these days I wonder if the resulting (albeit temporary) weight gain is really worth it. Probably not. I do miss the option of going, even for a couple of hours, and the option of watching the nightly fireworks show from a parking lot nearby. (You can't see the ones lower on the ground inside the grandstand, but the ones up in the sky can be viewed from quite a distance away. In fact, when I lived in Roseville, a suburb directly to the north of St. Paul, I was able to see the fireworks from my living room window, a late summer evening treat during teacher workshop week before school started for the kids.
I have been fortunate to be able to visit the Twin Cities at least a couple of times a year since I moved to South Dakota, and fortunate, as well, that my friends are willing to reserve time in their busy schedules to spend chatting with an old friend. :-)