Of Water Towers And Mountains

Musings inspired by a drive through Southern Minnesota

Mountains of Kodiak Island rise up seemingly straight from the ocean.

Mountains of Kodiak Island rise up seemingly straight from the ocean.

Last weekend's quest for just the right display freezer to showcase our fish led us on a wild goose chase involving almost three hours of driving. But it was a beautiful goose chase. With eyes still partially dilated from the morning’s optometrist visit, I relaxed in the passenger seat under ridiculous clunky shades while Tollef drove, taking in the subtle grace of southern Minnesota’s gently rolling snow-bright farmland and endless cloudless skies. 

Out of the corner of my eye a white water tower broke the horizon, momentarily confusing me into thinking a mountain existed. I laughed at the thought, knowing how far we are from that kind of topography, but I supposed my brain was just using its unconscious mental shortcut, built over a lifetime of living in Alaska, that turns a mindless glimpse of something white and taller than all of the surroundings into a “snow covered peak,” especially since there are no water towers that stand out like this in Kodiak.

While my Alaskan soul is filled with water and mountains, I am grateful to be putting forth roots and deepening my sense of the spirit of this part of the world. Perhaps there’s a kind of similar energy between the wild ocean-meets-mountain makeup of Alaska and the vastness of wide-open former prairie of Minnesota. And perhaps that energy was permeating my psyche when my brain turned a water tower into a mountain. 

As my mind wanders, Tollef is also lost in his own thoughts, both of us captivated by the  passing landscape.

The fields flash by on the way to Rochester, not familiar to Adelia but full of connections for me: Cannon Falls, where my grandma was born near where we would stop at the landmark Cannonball gas station on the way to visit relatives in Wanamingo. My great-grandparents lived in a little white house there in the 1980's after farming for 40-some years in the area. The next exit, Pine Island flashes by and the urge to pull off is stronger, with more vivid memories of visiting the same great-grandparents in a nursing home there in the 1990's, and of Grandpa showing me his "crooky" finger after it was slammed in a cattle gate many years prior. I look at my own hands and think it would be interesting to compare our hands, fisherman to farmer; though I have a significant scar from ripping a halibut hook out of my finger, I bet he would have won the gnarly hands contest at this point. Another exit is coming up, this time for Red Wing where that same grandpa had worked at the Red Wing Shoe factory until he was 30 and said the heck with that life and took up farming his wife's family's small dairy farm.

As a hawk soared over an undulating wave of farmland, the intrinsic connection we share with those who derive a living off this land of water towers was strong in both our thoughts. Whether it's from the farm or from fishing, both supply raw food to people, and there is the similar satisfaction of accomplishing what needs to be done with one's hands, of experiencing the full-body tiredness at the end of the sun-up to sun-down kind-of-work. The productivity of both farmers and fishers fuels people for their daily lives and our work fuels our souls, allowing the raw elements of mother nature to permeate our skin cells, whether that's the dirt of the land, or salt from the sea. All of it soaks through to the core of our being, building who we are and forming our energy into dreams, the impetus for fashioning the world around us for future generations. 

-Adelia and Tollef