SOLSC #16: Ode to Bougainvilleas

Revue Horticol – Botanical Print – Illustrated Book Plate Illustration from Revue Horticole 1800s

The harsh winters of Minnesota produce a hearty, stoic people. As soon as one is welcomed into the world, they are prepped to endure.

Infants are capped and stuffed into Patagonia fleece complete with hood and built in mittens, placed into a covered stroller that provides shelter from biting winds and whisked off for a walk around a frozen lake or down a snow covered sidewalk.

Toddlers learn to walk and ice skate concurrently. Of course walking isn’t necessarily a prerequisite, true Minnesotans wouldn’t dream of waiting for their toddler to walk before slapping skates on their feet.

Bundling up is an art that is mastered early on. Pre-school children learn quickly that mittens are essential if you want to handle the alluring white matter that can be molded into oh so many shapes. Hats prevent the stinging of ears as you thaw when retreating indoors, and thermal undergarments, doubling socks, and snowpants allow for increased hours of fun outside.

Creativity abounds as older children learn to assert control over the domineering, suppressive substance. Flooding a backyard with water creates a private ice rink, snowbanks can be transformed into houses replete with snow furniture, and of course the vast blanket of snow in your front yard can be sculpted into an exhibit featuring a variety of snow people or animals.

A bounty of winter sports provide the exhaustion every parent longs for to stop their children from pinging around the house when too much time is spent indoors – snowshoeing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, hockey, tubing, figure skating, curling, cross country skiing and more than suitable.

Winters create endurance. Winters are magical.

Until you become an adult.

The beauty of the first snow that silences the sounds of summer and blankets the land with promises of peace is fleeting. Many adults see snow as an enemy to conquer – shoveling driveways and walkways, scraping windshields, white knuckle driving, frigid temperatures and imprisonment only serve to hold us back.

As the months of winter drag on, the ache for color becomes intolerable. We are forced to wait patiently for Winter to say its goodbyes so Spring may release its multitude of colors, ever so appreciative when we spot that first hint of color.

My new home in Kuala Lumpur reminds me of my appreciation and admiration of color. Malaysia’s tropical climate, without fail, offers me a gift of color. In particular, I have developed a close friendship with our resident bougainvilleas. Daily, I’m greeted with hues of pinks, reds and whites round every corner I turn. With a respectful nod, I return their greeting.

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I do not miss winter.


SOLSC #7: Home

Someone recently asked me where I am from, and I found myself grappling with the answer. I am fortunate to come from more than one place, both places share equal space in my heart as home.

Over 14 years ago, my husband and I sold our much loved home in South Minneapolis, Minnesota, packed up our belongings, bundled up our children, said goodbye to our families, and headed off to Malaysia to teach at the International School of Kuala Lumpur. We are still here.

Although the early chapters of my life were written in Minnesota, Malaysia presented me with fresh pages in which to record new memories. When in Malaysia, home is Minnesota. When in Minnesota, home is Malaysia.

Home is neither here nor there; it is simply yonder.

Inspired by poet George Ella Lyon’s poem, “Where I’m From” , I present Minnesota,

From Marshmallows to Mosquitos

I’m from hot, humid summers and long daylight hours.

From drives “up north”, 

With conifer lined roads, crisp, blue skies,

the wind racing through open windows,

as the city falls behind.

I’m from cabins nestled up to chilly, spring fed lakes, from fishing, horseflies, mosquitos and sunburn.

I’m from bonfires, fireflies, roasted marshmallows and the Northern Lights.

I’m from forever, cold winters and fleeting daylight hours.

Plummeting temperatures of −60 °F that freeze your eyelashes,

as soon as the wind touches them.

From heaps of snow that beckon snow sculptures,

and snow forts complete with snow furniture.

I’m from shoveling snow, sledding and cross country skiing.

From layers of warm clothing,

to hot chocolate that warms you from the inside out.

I’m from patience and anticipation,

that green will once again grace the canvas I call home.

My home of Malaysia to follow in a future slice.