Fall Break

The beginning of this week was fall break at our college campus. We had the weekend off as well as Monday and Tuesday. Since I had been planning to return home to northern Minnesota for the first time since moving down to west central Minnesota in August, I decided to take Thursday and Friday off also. The few days I spent away from this desolate prairie wasteland and back among the conifers and lakes were phenomenally enjoyable.

This is my first year of college away from home and a long way from home it is. I remember the first few weeks I was down here, only vaguely though, a lot of adapting has taken place since then. The three-day dragged out orientation process for freshmen and transfer students at the end of August was intensely boring. I had been informed by mail that my presence was required but it would have been great had I known what it entailed and that I very well could have gotten away with not attending (this sounds negative, I know, but I’m sure some of you can relate). I remember the immense amount of time and effort it took to meet new people and figure out who to make friends with. Luckily the homework load had not picked up yet and there was plenty of free time to devote to this. Did I mention I had never bought my own groceries before coming to college? The first night I went to buy food I had no idea what I needed to sustain myself in a semi-healthy manner. The first five items I put in my basket had something to do with hotdogs. I’ve since learned a few things about grocery shopping and cooking. Although the first weeks were uncomfortable and sometimes frustrating, it was well worth the effort to take them on.

The drive home was long and rainy. There were a few deer that crossed as I approached them but staying attentive kept my vehicle intact. My lily plant sat quietly on the front passenger floor and when I inadvertently opened the glove box on its head I caught myself apologizing. Talking to a plant seemed odd to me so I ignored it and its personal temperature preference for the rest of the trip.

When I finally got home just before midnight, I sat in my living room with a bowl of soup, quietly but excitedly looking at everything I hadn’t seen for a while. The pictures hanging on the wall, the bookshelf filled with various things, the scent of my dad’s cooking brought forgotten memories rushing back to me. The plant atop the bookshelf with vines that had hung down half way in August had now reached the floor. My dad, who was sitting in his recliner on the opposite side of the room with his own bowl of soup, talked about things that had happened while I was gone, the new addition on the back of the garage, why our silverware was different, and how my aunts and uncles are doing.

The weekend flew by quickly and before I knew it I was sitting in neurobio again yesterday morning (we have wednesday discussions in the cafe now so PZ can get coffee). The time I spent among the seemingly infinite number of trees and lakes in northern Minnesota was enough to keep me going until I can go back again. For now it’s just good to know that everything I call home and everyone who means the most to me are still up there, safe and sound.


  1. Hank Fox says

    Very nice slice of life writing.

    One of the interesting things I discovered when I left home for the first time was that all the things we did in my little East Texas culture, and the way we did them, I thought those were things PEOPLE did, things everybody did. I found out that some of them were just things we did, and that not everybody did them that way.

    The really weird thing is that the things your people do, you just naturally assume they’re done that way because it’s the best way … but then, with the perspective of new places and new cultures, you find out that some of them are far from the best way. Weirder still, if you go back and try to tell some of your people you’ve found a better way to do something, you can’t get them to listen to you. You find they don’t CARE about the best way, they only want to do things their way.

    I still think a fork is a stupid tool for eating green peas, but I haven’t convinced a single person back home to join me in using a tablespoon. And cheerfully saying “Gesundfart!” anytime someone passes gas … don’t get me started.

    Anyway, best of luck on this grand adventure.

  2. Bee says

    Nicely written, Blue.

    I remember similar first year in college feelings about thirty six years ago. I came from a very rural area. I didn’t know how to put the fare in a bus money box. When I went further from home, and spent a year in Europe studying, I discovered homesickness has a little to do with the people you love, and a lot to do with the landscape you were raised on.

  3. says

    I agree, nicely written.

    It made me nostalgic, but not about school, because I went to school close to home. I never ended up transferring like I planned. But I had to travel extensively at one of my first jobs and I spent six months in San Diego. San Diego is lovely and I really enjoyed it. But it was so alien to me after living in NC among trees and greenery everywhere.

    Every time I would fly home I would watch for the trees to get big enough so that I could pick them out individually from the plane and then as we landed I would feel myself immersed in them. I used to drive around the heavily treed areas I lived near just to be among the trees.

  4. ctb says

    >blockquote>I still think a fork is a stupid tool for eating green peas, but I haven’t convinced a single person back home to join me in using a tablespoon.

    What in the nine hells are you talking about? A spoon to eat peas! No, man, no. A fork. And one pea at a time. Preferably cutting each pea into smaller, bite size pieces. (I drove my friends crazy with that shtick when at uni).

    But I do like “Gesundfart!” Might just have to adopt that one.

  5. Rey Fox says

    Fall break ptooie. When I was in college we got nothing between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

    Of course, now I work for the state government and thus get Columbus Day and Veterans Day off. Still, ptooie I say!

  6. says

    Thanks for the flashback, Blue. Very nice to read your thoughts…

    Did I mention I had never bought my own groceries before coming to college? The first night I went to buy food I had no idea what I needed to sustain myself in a semi-healthy manner.

    Can one still get a 36-or-so box of mac-n-cheese for $4?…

    (It scares me that I no longer know this)…

  7. Dwimr says

    Hank Fox,

    Whether you appreciate it or not, “Gesundfart” is pure gold. I hope somebody in my family farts tonight so I can use it.

  8. Cynthia_inPDX says

    I can’t believe that I’m looking forward to someone farting tonight.
    As for homesickness, usually going back for a visit cures it, because it’s never the same as you remember it.

  9. YetAnotherKevin says

    I hope this doesn’t come across as mean-spirited, but I find it mildly amusing that two parts of Minnesota are perceived as so radically different.

    I’ve lived in quite a few different places, and I have noticed two things about myself. First, I have found something that I really enjoy about every place I’ve lived. Second, there comes a point at which I return to the previous place I lived and it doesn’t feel like home any more.

  10. L says

    I have the same question as YetAnotherKevin. Does halfway across the state feel so different?

    I’m here now from halfway across the world. But I don’t feel at home anymore when I go back home and I feel guilty for that.

  11. Michele says

    Thanks for the nostalgic post. I remember the first time my roommate & I went grocery shopping. We took our change jar and counted out the pennies. We didn’t have enough money so we put back the bread. Neither of us had ever lived on our own before. That seems like a lifetime ago.

    In a previous life, I had to take a business trip to Brainerd, MN. I enjoyed my time there (even though every night walleye was the featured dish). That too, like college, was a different world. Visiting from a big city, I thought it amusing that the excitement about town was the new Walmart at the other end of town!

  12. says

    I can’t believe that I’m looking forward to someone farting tonight.

    You’re not the only one, Cynthia, and I got my wish.

    Hank, thank you for another small contribution to thalarctos family vocabulary, as well as a greater contribution to family concord.

    Mr. thalarctos certainly looked surprised at being wished “Gesundfart!”, instead of the usual kabuki that plays out: Mr. thalarctos farts, thinks nobody notices, looks around furtively, and says nothing. A few beats pass, and when he’s finally asked “Aren’t you going to say ‘Excuse me’?”, he does so, then mumbles something about the “fart police”.

    This time, I just wished him a merry “Gesundfart!”, to everyone’s delight.

    Hank, you’ve done wonders for the overall Fartvergnügen in the thalarctos home.

  13. jeffox backtrollin' says

    I can attest to the veracity of two halves of Minnesota. You see, I’m originally from Babbitt and was born in the Ely Clinic. However, I’ve lived most of my life in Minnesota in the central area, about an hour south of St. Cloud. So I do know. The southern half is fertile prairie and quite boring. The northern half has the fishing. Primo, no questions asked. It’s just too bad there’s no work in the north, really. I consider it heaven. Anyway, very nicely written story, BlueExpo. Thank you!

  14. dave says

    There are more than two parts to Minnesota. There may be more than three, but that’s how I think of it. The Northern Coniferous Forest has clear lakes and pine trees. The plains of the Southwest (Morris) is mostly flat prairie grassland. The Southeastern part of the state is part of the Eastern Deciduous (I’m not going to look up the spelling) forest. Three very different regions. As I was recently reminded…Minneapolis is closer to Missouri than it is to the northernmost region of Minnesota.

    I’m curious…what part of Northern Minnesota does Blue Expo call home?

  15. jeffox backtrollin' says

    Dave carries a point above. Perhaps a good way of putting it is that there is a marked difference between the northern coniferous forested area and the southern mixed forest/prairie area. Heck, one could go so far as to write that the northwest portion of the state is pretty unique, also (Red River valley) as well as the entire metro area. Not to mention the only driftless area of the state, in the extreme southeast.

    Minnesota is a good place to live. All over, imo. Still, I call the northeast home, and it will ever be thus. Let’s all have a hearty “hat’s off” to the entire “star of the north”, eh? :) (Sorry for semi-hijacking the tread, Blue Expo.)