I don’t know if you noticed, but North Dakota’s sort of popular right now.
In the last few weeks, it seems like every time I turn around I’m returning a call from a press source interested in this economic boom on the western edge, or I’m reading a story about how cool it is to be living on the eastern edge (and by cool, I don’t mean ear-flapper-cap cool, I mean like, actually, you know, cool).
Perhaps you’ve caught some of the blurbs in the news about our low unemployment rate and our endless job opportunities. Maybe you’ve heard about Western North Dakota’s boomtowns and eastern North Dakota’s revitalized downtown culture.
Maybe you’ve got a gramma or a great uncle who lives here (seems like everyone has a gramma or great uncle who lives here).
Maybe you’ve just heard we’re home to the World’s Largest Holstein Cow. And the World’s Largest Statue of a Turtle. And the World’s Largest Bison. And the World’s Largest Metal Sculpture of Geese Flying Through an Enchanted Sky….
Or maybe your only impression of North Dakota is from that movie turned recent TV series Fargo, which, now that I think of it, could be responsible these days for all the recent buzz about our great state, even though it’s based in Minnesota, but hey, we’ll take it…
Anyway, I’ll tell you it’s pretty exciting for the residents of a state like North Dakota to get any attention that isn’t based solely on our accents, our sparse population and our subzero winters followed by explanations that Mt. Rushmore doesn’t live here.
And neither do mountains really…just badlands. Miles of beautiful badlands. And that’s good enough for us…
When I drove up and down the country singing for my supper, I spent much of my time on stage explaining to inquiring minds that, yes, we have running water up here and no, this is not a Canadian accent.
Talking North Dakota (in my North Dakotan accent) has always sort of been my thing, my roots running so deep and holding so strong that no matter where I traveled I couldn’t quite shake the red scoria from my car or the pull to head back North to the buttes when the day was done.
A strong sense of place has been as much a part of me as breathing, and in this part of my life I can say I owe my living to this place.
Not just because it grew me, but because it inspires me, and inspiration, it seems, is how I’ve come to get and give back to this world.
Chasing cows on the back of a good horse through tall grass in a wet year; singing on a flat bed trailer in the middle of small town Main Street while a community visits and walks by, dipping corn dogs in ketchup on paper plates; walking out into the hills to places with no human footprints but my own; sledding parties and long winters spent writing music and fishing for walleye on a giant lake, a lake so big it has more coast line than the state of California. Quieter coast line I imagine. Quieter and muddier and with a few more cows…
This is how this place made me.
These are reasons I wanted to come back.
Now there are many theories about what it means to be North Dakotan and what’s so appealing about a place once known as nothing but a sort of abyss of open plains, a place people left, a place once proposed better left back to the buffalo…
How do such warm, hospitable people spring out of such a brutal climate? How did North Dakota become so happy? Like top of the list happy?
There are many theories, the economic boom, simple living, low crime, clean air, healthy people…
North Dakota has always had some good people.
And I met some this week as I washed the cat prints off my car and headed east to Fargo to attend and speak at a North Dakota Bloggers and Writers Workshop as one of almost forty women (and two or three men) who came from all over to discuss writing North Dakota’s story.
There were travel writers, food writers, fashion writers, gardening writers, culture writers, writing writers, mommy writers, photography writers, cooking writers, farming writers, restaurant writers, poets, journalists, well dressed city girls and country girls who could relate to the whole cat print on my car thing…
We exchanged stories and tips between sips of cocktails, bites of bratwurst and convincing each other that another dessert and another beer was perfectly acceptable.
I have to tell you it was wonderfully inspiring to gather this way. In this life out here I spend much of my time formulating ideas and writing in the quiet, miles away from these women who are working and searching and formulating and expressing their own ideas about life and love and food and work on the prairie, between the sidewalks or in the oil fields of our great state.
And what these writers reminded me of is what I’ve always known–that North Dakota is a different type of home, a different destination, for each and every one of us. We all see her and know her, discover her and love her in our own ways…
In the sink of the sun below a wheat field. In the cheers in the gym of a small town basketball game. In the taste of a dish made from the wild pheasant in the brush. In the long road that brought her back. In the eyes of a man who loved it first.
Yes, right now the world seems to be looking our way, eyes fixed to the North to see what all the fuss is about, and I’m so happy to share what I know to be true of this place.
And proud to know there are so many other beautiful stories being told…
Thank you North Dakota Tourism for presenting me with the North Dakota Ambassador Award, I’m happy and proud to sing the praises of my home and thank you for your work in promoting all this great state has to offer!