Ray of Sunshine
February in Minnesota can be a tough month. Technically it’s the shortest one but we’re so deep into winter it can really drag. So it’s best to look for bright spots. I found one last weekend. A lovely family asked me to meet them at the Mall of America to take some photos on their daughter’s first birthday. Normally the MOA would be a fairly quiet place at 9:30am on a Saturday, before the stores open. Little did we know there would be a Walk to Cure Diabetes happening at the same time. Thousands of walkers arrived at the mall before we did, to register and begin their event. That certainly made the shoot more lively. But we were able to go with the flow – or sometimes fight our way upstream – and get some great shots.
The Ancient Oak
Last winter seemed to be never-ending. There were far too many of those soul-sucking Polar Arctic Vortex days with dangerous windchills. So severe that classes were canceled on multiple occasions. A rare thing for Minnesotan schools! This winter has been far gentler (knock on wood). Mild enough that I was able to shoot some family photos outdoors recently. I’ve been a lifelong resident of the Twin Cities, and on and off again Minneapolitan – it’s been a tug of war between St. Paul and Minneapolis all of my adult life. Yet somehow I never knew the story of the oldest tree in Minneapolis. It was an ancient burr oak. Sadly it died a few years back but what remains is still impressive, and commemorated with a plaque. And it made a beautiful backdrop for this adorable family of four.
Salt and Light
Last weekend we attended the annual Winter Kite Festival on Lake Harriet. The weather has been remarkably mild, which makes the winter more bearable. But it’s been awfully overcast. And the mild temps might not hold so I’m adding to my previous list of activities to get us through until Spring:
- Each Wednesday St. Paul’s Union Depot hosts a free game night featuring oversized chess sets, Jenga, dominoes and more.
- At the end of this month my friend Luke is putting on the second annual Drone Not Drones 28-hour drone fest, a benefit for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The 2015 line-up looks amazing. Last year’s event was thoroughly enjoyable.
- I’ve been hearing about The Salt Cave in Minneapolis. While there are no proven health benefits, the anecdotal evidence is that the experience is quite relaxing. Especially for Minnesotans looking for a respite from winter.
- Our household has a Walker Art Center membership, so we can get in for free to the 2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards Screenings. But it’s also open to the public! Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for several weeks.
- Not exactly an activity, except it takes a lot of effort to eat…my favorite fruit is in season. Pomelo! For me, it’s one of the highlights of winter. I’ve been nerding out for them for over a decade now (according to flickr).
- For the lovers (or good platonic friends perhaps), there’s a Valentine’s Day Picnic at the Bell Museum. My partner and I enjoyed it a couple of years ago. This year’s theme is “Across the Universe” and it looks like fun. We’ve already got other plans that night. Some serious 90s riot grrrl era nostalgia, with Sleater-Kinney.
- Speaking of music, warm things up with some surf rock! Local favorites The Blind Shake teamed up with Rocket From The Crypt’s Swami John Reis, Listen here.
- For fans of Bob’s Burgers and H. Jon Benjamin, the cast will be touring with a live show.
Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere
Today we observed the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Listening to the radio this morning I was reminded that many Americans – myself included – were born after his assassination in 1968. But I’ve told my son that when I was in high school, MN schools were still in session on MLK Day. My friends and I received permission from our parents to skip school. We would take the bus from the suburbs to St. Paul, where we’d join an annual march from the State Capitol to a nearby church to listen to some rousing speeches. I always found the event equal parts disheartening (hearing about so much injustice) and inspiring. Fifty plus years after King’s march on Washington, gaps between white Americans and black have only widened. In terms of income and wealth. But in so many other ways as well. Several decades have passed since I became involved in the social justice movement and black lives are still being deprived of basic human rights and dignity. It’s overwhelming. But I try to do what I can. I am aware. I am present. I have conversations. Particularly with my son, about socioeconomic status and his privilege as a white presenting male. And he walked by my side at the Black Lives Matter / Reclaim MLK march.
Random items of note:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
The shortest day of the year is behind us now, in the Northern Hemisphere. As are the holidays and the distractions they bring. Now what’s a Minnesotan to do? Sadly it looks like the Art Shanty Projects are taking this winter off. But the St. Paul Winter Carnival is right around the corner. And the 8th Annual Art Sled Rally is happening at Powderhorn Park Saturday, January 31st.
If you are more inclined to stay indoors, there are plenty of other options.
- It’s possible to enjoy indoor activities even at the Winter Carnival. One of my favorites is the Saintly City Cat Show, held inside the RiverCentre. This year it’s Saturday, January 24th and Sunday the 25th (disregard their site’s typos).
- Minnesota is under another Wind Chill Warning. That sends me burrowing under the covers. Though I have other friends who enjoy winter camping during the deep freeze. They must be part-Sasquatch. If I were to venture out it would be for a visit to the humid Como Conservatory. Being around all the lush plant life allows me to forget the harsh elements outside, for just a little while.
- My pal Theresa brought her signature series, Trash Film Debauchery, back to the Turf Club last night with a showing of Masters of the Universe featuring Dolph Lundgren (A LOT of Dolph – ooof, that outfit). Looks like this will be a regular event every first Monday of the month at the Turf. Along with the other screenings at the Trylon.
- Another more physical option is SkyZone – the chain of indoor trampoline parks. A great way for the kids to burn off excess energy but also good for grown-ups. Possibly in smaller doses. And I’m seriously tempted to try their trampoline aerobics class, despite the injury/embarrassment risks.
It’s far too tempting to just stay inside all of the time. Especially since Netflix made the Fireplace For Your Home series available. What are your winter coping strategies?
The Weather Outside is Frightful
What a funny Fall. The fine weather stuck around a good long while which was fabulous. We enjoyed a lovely long weekend in Lake Pepin. But then, BAM. Sudden cold snap. January in November. Thanksgiving was bitterly cold. Naturally all the snow melted just in time for Christmas. And didn’t return until Boxing Day. Go figure. Before the holidays hit this year I squeezed in one more family portrait session. And it was a fun one! Three adult siblings, their partners and/or children. The solo shots of the kids wound up being my favorites. Here they are trying out their best The Thinker poses.
A Tribute to Tim Burton
Some years my son and I intentionally coordinate our Halloween costumes. Like when we were Mario & Luigi. Or Squid & Frog. Or Inspector Clouseau and the Pink Panther. This year we opted for costumes from different fictional universes, but created by the same person. Tim Burton. My son perfected his Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas while I tried to pull off Lydia (played by Winona Ryder) in Beetlejuice.
We also hosted our annual pumpkin carving party the weekend before Halloween. Lucked out with gorgeous weather so we were able to enjoy the backyard firepit, while keeping most of the mess outside. Some friends brought turnips to carve (which is traditional) in addition to pumpkin and they turned out really well. I’ll have to remember that for next year.
September Swan Songs
We’re on borrowed time people. This is for real. Summer is OVER. There were a few more bursts and blasts of summer-like weather but nope. It is Fall. Today the region is being drenched in a cold rain that may morph into a rain-snow mixture all too soon. Frankie Teardrop’s song End of Summertime Blues is appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, I adore autumn. But last Winter was beyond brutal and I have no desire to endure that again (fingers crossed for a milder one). It feels like Spring and Summer 2014 flew by in the blink of an eye. But I know it was action-packed. Our household moved from St. Paul to Minneapolis. We traveled quite a lot together, and a bit individually. We attended area arts and music events. There was some camping. Just one Pizza Farm visit. My son started HIGH SCHOOL. We ran out of time and missed out on the Renaissance Festival, but I see that as a once every five years thing. And now it’s a race to the finish line, trying to pack in some other activities before the snow flies. I’d still like to get to the Fawn Doe Rosa wildlife park. On the way there is Franconia Sculpture Park. And there’s a corn pit and pumpkin patch at Country Sun Farm. We had season passes for ValleyFair but barely used them. The Halloween themed Valley Scare is running for several weeks yet though. A return to the Landscape Arboretum would be lovely, particularly for the apple tastings. But time is limited. Winter is coming.
Thankfully there are plenty of happy memories from the warmer, lusher times.
Seattle, with my son
We rented a lovely AirBnB house in the Ballard neighborhood, hung out with my friend Kim and her family, and my son’s Aunt and newborn daughter.
Square Lake Film & Music Festival, Stillwater, MN
Total Fest 2014
Random Out and About in MN
Go ahead, jump.
Making the commitment to get married is no small thing. But many friends have made the leap this year. It’s already been a fun summer of wedding celebrations, with more to come. One lovely couple eloped over the winter (smack dab in the middle of the polar arctic vortex) and saved the celebration for the most perfect summer day ever, at our favorite lake. Another couple picked what should have been a lovely June day but turned out to have the craziest weather ever. Torrential downpours, wall clouds, high winds. But we had just enough of a break to shoot some fun portraits on the front steps of a mansion before the chaos kicked in again.
Other friends wanted to keep it casual. A beach party with their nearest and dearest. And the bride shotgunning Hamm’s beer in the lake. No big deal. It was an all around beautiful day and a good time.
Doctors Without Borders
My friend Luke Heiken organized a benefit show for Doctors Without Borders (donations are still being accepted here). But it wasn’t your usual sort of benefit show. It was a 28-hour long drone fest. And it happened last month at The Cedar Cultural Center. I managed to be present for about half of it. Though I may have been sleeping for a portion of that. I brought along a comfy bean bag chair from home and did some serious lounging. It was a dreamy event.
Naturally my photos are below. Conspicuously absent? Photos of my boyfriend’s “6000 SUX” project. Because he and our friend Paul went on after 2am. I was awake for most of their set but not perky enough to grab my camera. Sorry honey.