Why I Love North Dakota

My childhood home, Carmel by the Sea.

Ok, most of you know I’m a transplant, from Carmel California of all places–that ideallic village by the sea. Home to artists, writers and movie stars–Clint Eastwood, Robinson Jeffers, Ansel Adams… It sits amongst a breathtaking landscape of Monterey Pines, Cypress trees and white sandy beaches. There are galleries on every corner, wonderful resturants, and shopping.

So how can I make rural North Dakota my home? When its -30° degrees I do question my sanity. When I first came here, in my mid-20’s it was just a grand adventure. I stood by the “Welcome to North Dakota” sign and took the obligatory photograph. It was December 1988 and there was snow. That winter Fargo received the “most snow ever” in a one-time event. I won’t lie, the novelty wore off, I wasn’t happy during those first months–I hated it.  It was foreign to me, environmentally hostile and lacking in what I considered the most basic of amenities–like leaf lettuce and sushi–I mean, ‘come on’ how do these people survive. Ok, I didn’t “bolt” mostly because I didn’t want to hear my parents tell me…”I told you so.”

Current Arts Center exhibit, Creative Spirits–an explosion of colorful art.

It was the ARTS that enabled me to stay. I came from a family art enthusiasts, I had a masters in art history and much to my surprise I found there was an active (though not necessarily appreciated) arts community complete with museums and galleries. Today, 26 years later, the ARTS in North Dakota are considered “cool” and people are working to use the ARTS to transform our communities. Its been rewarding to be part of this evolution in both Fargo and now Jamestown. I need only think of my own life when we question the difficulties of making people understand how important the arts are to attracting and keeping people…it kept me here.

Now, you might ask, “don’t you miss the beaches, warm weather, etc?” Yes, I do, but beauty is abundant here, its just different, and unlike the intense drama of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s crashing waves, the North Dakota beauty is subtle and sublime. I’ve made a commitment to seek this beauty in both summer and winter and all I need to do is walk out my front door. It is a beauty I get to experience in solitude–no people, no traffic just nature.

While snowshoeing…a prairie relic, homemade shooting target.
My favorite…Arts Center Board Members and Jamestown contractors, Nick Sherbenske and Dave Hillerud turned red gloved wine stewards.

Here is an example of why I love “my version” of North Dakota. I’ve learned that you take advantage of every nice winter day. Last Saturday morning it was beautiful, sunny, approaching 30° so I headed out with the dogs and my snowshoes. In my 90 min trek I saw no less that 50 deer and disturbed a family of five coyotes. I saw one, airborne–pouncing on what was probably a mouse–before it headed off, fearful of my approach. How cool is that? Two hours later, I was at The Arts Center preparing for an evening of Wine & Cheese. Snow was falling now and getting heavier, would people still come out for the event? They came in record numbers, who wouldn’t? Brave the weather, try 27 different wines and 20 different cheeses from 11 countries–this is my kind of cultural exploration. To complete the “weekend’s” experience, I found myself stranded in Jamestown until Monday with snow and 50 mile per hour winds rendering travel impossible. Wonderful friends (Taylor and Sandy Barnes) took me in for two nights. We enjoyed freshly caught walleye, homegrown sugar peas and tomatoes rendered into a family favorite called tomato pudding. The banter about cooking methodology for the pudding was enlightening, white or wheat bread, 3 or 6 Tbs. brown sugar, bourbon or not, 30 minutes or an hour, nevertheless, the result was tasty and I’ve added the recipe to my iPad. Now if I can only figure out the gluten free version…Life is good.