“Oh!” — as in, oh boy. I’m still feeling stunned at the events of September, and I don’t mean that simply on a national political level. September started off like any other month and ended like no other. In between, I found myself preoccupied with my real-life job, because, like the vast majority of writers, I have a paying day job. Twice a year, I write a white paper of about 20 pages, and now that I think back, the last time I did one was at the beginning of January, just as I began living like Prince. I’m here to tell you: Living like Prince and writing white papers is not compatible. I’d forgotten how all-encompassing a white paper project was, and it turned out that all of my writing energy went there. Then, in the midst of this huge, enormous, gigantic workload, it became apparent that my husband’s time at his job needed to come to an end. This is the job that brought us to Minnesota in 2016, so it was very emotional to see my husband through the process. Because we haven’t lived in Minnesota long enough to have grown deep roots, but rather, are beginning to feel integrated and part of the community, watching that job unwind left me feeling untethered. In yoga, it’s like the moment when you’re holding tree pose beautifully and mentally patting yourself on the back, when suddenly you start to wobble and sway and make all kinds of tiny muscular adjustments to try to stay upright.
Yoga is exactly what I needed, as I couldn’t help but wonder if my husband’s search for a new job would result in another move. We hope not, but how can you stop the thought from entering your mind, given the situation? That thought was a stark juxtaposition with September’s theme of going local and appreciating all things in your backyard. While I wasn’t posting a lot of blog posts, I was doing personal journal writing on the subject, and my thoughts took a slight turn from living local to the meaning of home.
In my life, I’ve moved 13 times. Not all of those moves were to new states: Many of those moves were within the states of Wisconsin and Illinois. And, for purposes of counting moves, I decided that if I lived somewhere six months or more, it could be considered a move, so I included Madrid and Phoenix, where I only had brief sojourns. When I looked back on all the varied places I’ve lived, my first thought was: How lucky am I! Like Stevie Nicks, I must have a gypsy soul, because that’s far more than the average. While most Americans have moved to a new community at least once in their life, a notable number of Americans — 4 in 10 — have never left the place they were born. In the Midwest, this number is higher, and nearly half of adult residents say they have spent their entire lives in their hometown.
Poet Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place that, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” I like that pragmatic feeling about home. Home isn’t just a place where you feel like you belong. To me, each place I’ve lived has created a different sense of belonging by providing an opening for me to explore an aspect of my personality. I thought of the different people I was in the various places I called home. I recalled the adventurous person I was in New York; the carefree person I was in Chicago; the creative person I am in Minneapolis.
And now, it’s October. While I didn’t get as much writing done in September as I expected, I did get out into the community and do. I especially have to give myself kudos for fully embracing the local music scene, something that’s essential to Princely living. I saw one of Prince’s former bands, fDeluxe (formerly known as The Family) at the Dakota Jazz Club while sitting an arm’s length away from Prince’s former table (#299, where Prince’s nephew President was seated). And, I attended two fabulously funky new music release parties for local bands — one for St. Paul Peterson and the MPLS Funk All-Stars and another for Nooky Jones. I hung out and wrote at the local library, and a kind librarian showed me how to get “The Rise of Prince” into the collection of works by local authors. I shopped at our local food co-op and bought tomatoes and dahlias grown nearby. I faithfully wore my purple Minnesota wrap bracelet made by a local artist and gifted one to a friend who had recently moved here. I joined my neighborhood book group. I even made a point of eating Minnesotan when I went out: “I’ll have the walleye, please.”
While I’m still far from a Leslie Knope, the indefatigable and idealistic hometown deputy director played by Amy Poehler in the show “Parks & Recreation,” I did prioritize the local and made sure not to take the wonderful things that Chanhassen has to offer for granted. Hey, it was not for nothing that Tyka Nelson said shortly after Prince’s death that “Prince loved Chanhassen.” Community is vital to well-being, whether those communities are built around proximity and geography, like neighbors in Chanhassen or church or an open studio art class at the arboretum — or a shared interest, like the many Prince fan groups I belong to online.
September taught me that you can’t know all of what is to come and the time to appreciate where we live is now. What’s more, while local is important, so is finding a home in our own heart. I recall the story about Matt Damon trying to make small talk with Prince, as told in Vanity Fair magazine in July 2016.
Julia Stiles: After The Bourne Ultimatum came out, there was a premiere in London. Prince actually came to it, then got tickets for the cast to come see him [perform]. We were summoned into a room to meet him [after the show]. Matt said, “So you live in Minnesota? I hear you live in Minnesota.”
Matt Damon: Prince said, “I live inside my own heart, Matt Damon.”
October brings a fresh start with its theme of “Love God.” You could spend the month living in your own heart and be perfectly Princely while learning a whole lot about not only God but yourself. In October, I’m excited to let go of the security of physical geography and to dive into an exploration of the human heart and soul.