Not being a native of Minnesota, I can’t truthfully say that this is my home state, but after giving it 8 years, I’ll gladly stay! To be honest, moving to Minnesota was not the first place I would have chosen for my family, but one goes where the job calls and my husband’s job beckoned us north. Being born and raised in a small town in south central Kansas, going to Minnesota seemed like migrating to the frozen Arctic. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Simply put, Minnesota is simply beautiful. Period. We have had a fair amount of family moves in our 28 year marriage due to corporate growth. Some places were foreign, even exotic, but there is just something about Minnesota that puts it at the top of my list of favorite places to live. One just doesn’t move to Minnesota, Minnesota moves into ones heart and soul like a welcome embrace. It imprints you with a feeling of warmth and adventure that is tough to beat. Speaking as a “quasi-southerner”, before this last move I felt that Minnesota would not have the appeal of blazing summers or mild autumn weather that I was used to….or so I thought. As it turned out, the weather in Minnesota ranked up at the top of surprises that awaited us. Summer time in Minnesota is downright enchanting. Sitting on our screened porch, I can’t count the number of times the sight of the fish jumping in the pond behind our house, the eerie call of a passing loon or the vibrant green lushness of the landscape has made me catch my breath. When it’s still and the light just right, I sometimes imagine it to be a peace like the one that a lone man must have felt once, writing about his thoughts at a place called Walden. In the summer, the flora and fauna found native to this state is awesome. More than a few times I have heard someone remark that it is not possible that a land so frozen and cold in the winter can turn into the verdant scenery that greets the eye at the height of summer. Otters, muskrats, birds of every color and foxes galore are common sights in our neck of the woods. Deer are so abundant up here that at the dim hours before sundown and sunup, there is an unwritten rule that governs drivers to be cautious, ever on the lookout for the stirring in the bushes at the side of the road, the flash of brown fur that signals the emergence of never just one. Even the young ones traveling in the car know that if there’s one deer on the road, there are sure to be several more just out of sight. Further up north from where we are, the strong, powerful sight of a moose is not uncommon to be seen wandering in or near a town. The largest member of the deer family, these massive animals are a sight to behold. Moose can stand 6 feet tall at the shoulders and weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds! Considering the tiny mouse-like vole that inhabits the fields and woodlands of the state, that makes the range of the size of animals in Minnesota impressive indeed! Because of these great summer advantages of beauty, heat and sunny skies, the outdoor activities that take place in the summer in Minnesota are literally endless in choice. The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” affords ample opportunities for a host of water sports to take place. Boating, fishing and skiing are just a few of the options. It is a Minnesota tradition for a large majority of the inhabitants to have cabins “up north” to escape to when the weekend rolls around. These cabins are most always located on water and the traffic heading that way on a Friday afternoon is one filled with trucks and SUVs towing campers, boats, jet skis, and tubes tied on roofs. Bonfires during the evening hours are a common gathering spot both “up north” and in back yards, but I promise, you will not want to forget the big spray, if you go. The Minnesota state bird is supposed to be the loon, but many disagree and think it should be the mosquito. You can’t have 10,000 bodies of water and not have a few thousand of those buzzing around! Winters in Minnesota have a beauty, too, that is hard to ignore. Where the summers are lush and fertile, the winters are stark in their nakedness, but the silhouette of a massive oak tree’s bare skeleton etched against a vibrantly blue winter sky holds a beauty all its own. Yes, those hundreds of bodies of water do freeze over, but that does not stop them from being enjoyed. Ice fishing anyone? That was a new sport for my family when we came here. People actually take augers and drill holes through the ice to sit on little stools and wait for fish to bite- and they enjoy it- immensely! The veterans of this strictly northern sport know how to do it right, too. The sight that was so amazing to me was seeing scores of pickups parked out on the ice next to fish huts set up to keep the fishermen out of the more bitter weather. They sit inside these enclosures with heaters, their favorite beverage and wait for the little flag to move, indicating there is something interested in the hook floating below in the frigid water. The crème de la crème of the ice fishermen actually have ice fishing trailers that they pull behind their vehicles and place carefully and precisely atop the pre-drilled ice holes where there is a convenient hatch in the floor of the trailer that will open to drop a fish line down into the water! Now, that’s roughing it! The white fluffy snow that falls in the winter also provides a host of outdoor activities to be enjoyed. Snow mobiling is a popular pastime that Minnesotans love. There are trails specifically marked for these rides and it can be a great way to see the winter countryside. Just remember to bundle up! Many parks have snow shoe trails and cross country skiing areas as a way to get great exercise and fresh, cold air. Ice skating rinks can be found even in the smallest towns- it just takes a wooden fence-type enclosure that has been flooded with water from a hose at the right time to freeze over solid and provide a winter long activity that is a time honored tradition. Besides the many outdoor events to be found in Minnesota, there are great indoor activities to be found as well. In the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul, there are professional sports teams of basketball, football, hockey and baseball that provide year-round entertainment. The downtown area has the world’s largest system of enclosed walkways to enjoy the wonderful shopping opportunities in all types of weather. Of course, the Mall of America is the Mecca of all malls and can provide a full weekend of shop ‘til you drop potential. There are all kinds of state-of-the-art museums in Minnesota and a range theaters to delight all enthusiasts. Yes, Minnesota is quite a place to call home. I may not be a native, but it feels like that kind of place to me now. I’d say I’m hooked on this state and plan to be for many years to come.