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Roots

Finally a rainy morning. An opportunity for reflection on recent days and past years. Last night a group of friends–many going back nearly forty years–met at my place for our monthly book club meeting. As always, we discuss the chosen book as well as share anecdotes on our changing lives. One of our ‘old timers’ made a surprise visit after months of health issues, another of our membership announced his ‘semi-retirement’, and our youngest member, mentioned his chemo treatments were nearly finished. Our gathering on this night, however, was unique in another way . . . the author of our chosen book joined us for an interesting discussion of his story and of the creative life. Rick Novak’s book–‘The Doctor and Mr. Dylan’ was given thumbs up by all of us.
The perspective I’m heading for this morning is ‘roots’ . . . something I rarely give much thought to. Rick was a ’72 Hibbing High School grad and a former student of mine. After graduation, and college years, he ended up in California and a position on the staff at Stanford University. His novel is set in Hibbing, a place that remains dear to him. His Iron Range birth roots are deeply set in the hematite earth of this place. Like myself, most of our group have immigrated here from other places and made Hibbing our home. Our Hibbing roots have become even deeper than Ricks in so many ways. We chose Hibbing while Rick chose a career in upscale Palo Alto. My birth roots, like those of my parents, are in Duluth and–in the process of growing up–in Hoyt Lakes, while these ‘secondary’ roots of my adult friends have spread under the same earth as Ricks– in Hibbing. It is here where, one day, most of us expect to be buried. So, there are many types of roots, all of them shape and ground us in many ways.
The thought that inspired my blog, however, is both simple and profound. Rick, like most of the best and brightest young men and women who sat in my classrooms over the years, has made his adult life in a place far away from where he grew up. As I looked around the room at my friends I realized that we, like the town itself, are growing older and not likely to relocate ourselves in order to pursue new opportunities. I might empahsize ‘not likely’ because, of course, we never know for sure. (Hibbing, as a city and citizenry, made a big move years ago, and it’s new roots are far deeper, and probably more secure, than those of the former village. Hibbing will age like we all must.)
Yet, taking a step back, fortunately not all of our Hibbing kids abandoned the Range for other places. Yesterday I visited with one of Rick’s classmates–a professional that has flourished here, in the city where he was born. Every day I see others who have remained here and enjoyed success in almost every field you can think of. Many others have found employment in the mines, raised their families, and enrolled their kids in our wonderful schools. They wouldn’t have it any other way! And, as we know, many of our children who have relocated (mostly to the Twin Cities),now return often in order to visit their aging parents, and/or to take advantage of our many rural amenities: hunting in our forests, fishing in our lakes, and even… breathing our fresh northern air.
A last thought has crept in . . . I’m thinking of friends of mine who have kids and grandchildren living down in the Cities. In recent months several have made the life-changing decision to move closer to their own and to a place where there are so many things going on all the time. One of our book club members has tried to sell his house in Hibbing to no avail: too many houses on the market and real estate prices bottoming out. And, as in Rick’s case, children relocate their aging parents to where they are living in order to care for them more efficiently. The population and demographics here is dwindling and graying at a rate that further stiffles potentials for optimism. It makes me wonder . . .what if the taconite plants close down for extended periods–our economy has always been cyclic? Will places like Zimmy’s and the Old Howard ever reopen? Will I succumb to a boredom of ‘nothing much to do’? Or, will I be part of an inevitable cycle: have children, watch the children relocate, then relocate closer to where they have settled. I wonder these things this morning . . .

A commercial post-script: My tenth novel, ‘The Seal’ is undergoing its final critique and edit. I’m hopeful that my next blog will be an announcement of a publication date–September? And, a favor to ask of my readers as Rick did with our group last night. . . if you’ve read any of my books and enjoyed them, PLEASE put a favorable review on Amazon, Goodreads, or any book review site. It really helps!

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