some things are simple, until they are not

Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Milwaukee - Milwauk, MilwaukEEEEE

The romance of the upper Midwest called to me in southern California when I was little. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana...they were foreign lands of chilly blazing autumn, piercing winter snow, and a riot of spring flowers. I thought I understood summer, until I later experienced the difference between my semi-arid desert heat and the sauna of the Mississippi Valley. Intense sensations, continual remarkable change, a sense of body craved them in place of what felt like stagnation.

A primary feeder of my imagination was Maud Hart Lovelace, who told her daughter of her own growing up years and then brought her memories to life in the Betsy-Tacy books. The violent history of Mankato, MN, was disregarded for the simple tales of the joys and sorrows of family, friends, and finding a place in one slice of the American world. My child brain drank it in, and my heart needed the safe sketch of a whole, connected, loving family.

Everrrry time I go to or through Milwaukee the train-rhythmed poem at the top of this is suddenly in my head. Small-town Betsy created it out of her own romantic idea of the city. 

I went to Indiana as soon as I could and became a child of those rhythms. I left it for a while, found other places like it, and sank into it, for several years. Then pieces of me fragmented back to the West. Its more subtle rhythms are returning there, feeling familiar again, pale golds and pale greens.

And being here puts me emotionally right back where my Dad grew up, in the blaze of sensations. Not pale.

The romance has faded, as more voices tell the history. My love of the seasons, intense color, continual shift of Lake Michigan laps and tides, soul-clearing winter winds and luxurious summer air has not. 

Maud Hart Lovelace eventually moved to southern California, as an adult. Our romantic ideas are predictably the opposite of someone else's.


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