Out and About: Northfield, MN

Sidewalk Poetry 1

I’d never been to Minnesota until recently, when my husband and I got on a plane to go to a wedding. I had no idea what to expect, but it wasn’t poetry stamped onto the sidewalks!

I didn’t have time to find all of them scattered across the downtown area, but I got to quite a few.

All the rooms at our inn had names, which of course charmed me straight out of the gate…

Reading Nook

Then I found a reading nook down the hall from our room. Win!

And when I had a little time, I went shopping. Content Books and The Sketchy Artist were both down the street, so I came home with a cookbook and some mini journals in my luggage that didn’t start the trip with me. Support independent bookstores! (And art stores!)

I had a great time, ate great food, and got to spend time with family. No writing time, but that’s why I’m glad to be home, too.

NaNoWriMo Prep #3: I Went Shopping

IMG_2145I have a single tiny jar candle on my computer desk, about the size of a votive candle, and I hardly ever burn it.  I used to be waaaaaaay more into scented candles than I am now–I had dozens in high school then gave up them when I couldn’t take them to college with me, as they were a fire hazard in the dorms.  (Not that some people didn’t have them anyway, of course, but I didn’t.)

But I decided it would be nice to have one going while I write, and I knew my little Sugar Cookie candle wouldn’t last the whole month.  Also, this happened.  So, off to Yankee Candle I went, since I was going to the mall yesterday anyway.

As my mother (my most faithful and wonderful shopping companion) and I were entering the store, two ladies were leaving, and they both had slips of paper in their hands.  “We didn’t end up using these coupons, would you like them?”

The coupons were for $10 off any purchase, no minimum.  Score!  We each took one and thanked our new candle compatriots several times before they left to continue their own shopping adventure.

Then, the in-store sale of the day was a free votive candle with any purchase.  Because, you know, that’s not what I was getting in the first place, or anything.  So I grabbed a basket and started huffing candle scents.

I wasn’t impressed with most of the special fall line this year (only Vanilla Bourbon came home with me), but the winter line was just coming out (hence Cherries on Snow, which amazingly enough does smell like snow, I’m not sure how I feel about this obvious witchcraft.)

Mountain Lodge, as promised, does smell like cuddling with a boyfriend, so of course that went in the basket.

Chocolate Layer Cake was an obvious choice for a chocoholic like me.  Midsummer’s Night was the first Yankee Candle candle scent I ever bought, and still one of my favorites.  I rounded out my collection with Midnight Jasmine (third favorite floral behind lilacs and honeysuckle) and Balsam & Cedar, which will be nice at the tail end of November when it’s really more winter around here than fall.

Though I heard today that an early winter is predicted, and since it snowed for about thirty seconds yesterday (it really did, my coat is black and I could see the snowflakes) I can’t say I’m surprised.  Summer was over about two weeks ago and now winter is knocking on the door.

Anyway, my NaNoCandles are ready.  Let’s hope my story is!

Let Me Tell You a Story #7: At the Library

Somehow I always pick the rainy days to walk downtown.

Despite getting to the library five minutes after it opened, I’m not the first person there.  A woman with raindrops still caught in her dark hair is at one of the computers checking the catalog, and a man in a battered newsboy cap is browsing the shelves.  I’m not the only person who wants to curl up with a good book on a rainy day.

But first I’ve got books to return.  The two librarians have brought in the returns bin from the book drop outside, blocking the drop at the desk.  I hand over my stack of hardcovers.  One says, “Good morning.” The other says, “Thank you.”

I head straight for the book I know is waiting on the shelf for me, unless someone checked it out in those first five minutes.  The night before, I went to request it, only to find out my local branch had a copy, and miracle of miracles, it was checked in.  No request necessary.

Only then do I join the man in the newsboy in browsing, picking one title up, putting it back, trying another.  In less than five minutes I have two more books.  Three is the right number–three books fit in my messenger bag without loading it down so heavily it makes me walk with a limp.

The booth by the window with its green faux-leather seats beckons me.  Under the rain-splattered glass is the perfect place to sit and write and listen to the librarians chat about the prizes for the teen’s summer reading contest.  Someone’s going to win a copy of Minecraft, which they probably already have by now; but still, it’s a good prize.

I haven’t done a reading contest since the fifth grade, and all I got was a ribbon.  It was the third and last time I read How to Eat Fried Worms.  It was the fifth and last time I read Island of the Blue Dolphins.  I still remember, oh, not wishing that I was stranded alone on an island, but imagining what I would do if I were.  Looking outside reminds me of the book cover–the tiny figure of a girl standing on a grassy shore under a gray sky.  At least, that’s how I remember it.  It’s been a long time.

But there are three books on the table beside me, and they need checking out, so I can head home and find new places to imagine myself.

Maybe somewhere with a little less rain.

Let Me Tell You a Story #6: The Art Fair

Rain.  Wind so strong my umbrella tries to become a kite.  The honeysuckle has faded, but the snapdragons are blooming, orange and yellow and crimson.

At the fair, the roof holds back the rain, but skylights in the plaza let in the gray, a watercolor wash that dims everything.

Everyone is smiling.  The people, at least–not the cat masks at one booth, though.  They’re sad.  No, they’re wistful.  They want someone to buy them, to take them home.

So do the giant cappuccino mugs with aliens on them, at another booth.  The same artist has vases so delicate they shiver under their own weight–how could they support a flower?  Everyone has more than one style, though.  And some people only ever learn to show the world one.

My favorite piece is a framed display of pressed flowers–Queen Anne’s Lace–over antique sheet music.  I usually like my art bolder, but this captures the ephemeral nature of beauty with more elegance than anything else I’ve seen at an amateur fair.  On the other hand, while both flowers and music can be preserved, live is better.

And yes, there’s music here.  Two guitar players at one end of the plaza, plucking notes as fast as raindrops.  At the other end, there’s a jazz ensemble with a women in a floppy green beret singing en français.  The bass is bigger than she is.

It takes me a while to find a free bench where I can sit to jot this down.  Most of them hold the artists, who pop up and down as patrons come to their booths.  I never stay too long at any one of them–I’m not here to buy.

I’m here to look.