The first thing I saw when Dad turned our car down Grandma’s street in Merriam Park was the sky-high catalpa tree in her front yard. It was the only “cigar tree” on the block, and when I spied it, I knew we were almost there. It was a beautiful tree, with frilly white flowers in the spring that magically became long, brown seedpods in late summer.
In the spring of 1994, I was a writer in residence for Consortium of Associated Colleges in the Twin Cities. This meant that participating campuses would house me for seven days, and during this time I would do individual and group writing critiques, a workshop, and a formal reading for the entire campuses at St. Thomas University, Macalester College, Augsburg College, Hamline University, and College of St. Catherine.
We were halfway around Como Lake when I heard it—the long mournful three-tone whistle-cry that grew in volume. I stopped. What is that? What is that? I know that sound. But it was utterly out of context, and I had to think to place it. The bird called again. I stopped Doug and made him take out his earbuds. (He was listening to American Music Club on his iPod.) Doug, I hear a loon!
One of my favorite places in Saint Paul is Rachel’s Trees. Rachel’s Trees is a memorial to my sister who passed away a few days after birth. The trees are a small part of Como Park, but they are beautiful. They bloom white buds in the spring. They are only about five feet tall, but they are very important to me. Usually my mom, dad, and I go down to see the trees on my birthday.