You can take the Buttercup out of Milwaukee, but you can’t take the Milwaukee . . .


Life as we know it
Pull of a Place Division

Buttercup writes: “I was impressed by D. Ziner‘s post about feeling the pull of place. I understand exactly what he/she was writing about.


“I grew up in the Milwaukee area and moved to the Twin Cities 40 years ago and have lived in St. Paul ever since. I met, married and buried my husband here. I rarely go back to Wisconsin now, as there is little reason to go. My family is all deceased or moved away, and I have lost touch with everyone else. If I were to move back there now, I would be very lonely and would soon regret leaving Minnesota.

“Last year, after many years’ absence, I returned to Wisconsin for my 50th high-school reunion, more out of curiosity than anything. As I was driving east and passed through Madison, I started to feel a visceral pull. Was I hungry? No, I’d stopped to eat a little west of Madison. Did I need the restroom? No. I’d taken care of that, too. But the ache was strong and getting stronger, and I started to realize what it was. I was homing. For some reason, without my even thinking about it, my body knew that I was close to the place where I had been born and raised. I was the salmon, and I-94 was the Columbia River.

“Four days later, I was driving in the opposite direction. As I crossed the Minnesota border, heading towards the city I have lived in for two-thirds of my life, I felt nothing. The city and state are full of people and places that I love, but there was no visceral tug. The only thing I felt was relief and happiness that I would be able to stop driving soon, pet my cat, eat some dinner and sleep in my own bed. These are good things, but they aren’t at home. Home is Milwaukee; it’s hard-wired in my brain, and it seems there is nothing I can do to change that.”


Mounds View Swede:D. Ziner’s ‘Pull of a Place’ really hit home for me, because it felt so similar to experiences I have had.

“I grew up in a Chicago suburb back in the 1940s and ’50s and learned at a fairly young age that I was Swedish, but that was all that was ever said about it. My parents and all the other older-generation members could speak Swedish, but when I asked if I could learn, too, the answer was ‘No.’ My sister and brothers and I were to sound American. No one ever said anything more about it. Nothing about where in Sweden our people came from, or when — nothing.

“When my wife, infant daughter, and I moved to Minnesota in 1969 for my first school-district job here, we lived in Southwest Minnesota — farm country. I knew nothing about farming, coming from first a Chicago suburb and then a Milwaukie suburb, but I realized I like living near the farms. It felt ‘right,’ somehow. And because I was doing a lot of photography and teaching kids how, I wanted to get a ‘good’ farm photo. I would drive out west of town when the crops were full and the sun was setting and the light was beautiful to get my farm photo. I never took one picture. I didn’t know why, but ‘my’ photo wasn’t there. Nothing resonated with me.

“When I started doing genealogy research in the summer of 2000, I learned that all my great-grandparents came from farms in Sweden. I thought to myself: No wonder living by the farms felt ‘right’ to me. As I continued my research over the years, I got in touch with a genealogist in Sweden who would take all my research and go forward with it in Sweden, where he had access to current records not available to people outside the country, to see if I had any living relatives there. Of the eight great-grandparents, two lines still had living members in them, and he sent me their names and addresses.

“I wrote to men about my age in 2006 and told them I was coming to Sweden in 2007 and asked if I might meet them. I explained I also wanted to visit my ancestors’ farms to see the land, or at least the churches they had belonged to.

“I sent them a copy of the family tree I had made from that great-grandparent that showed how I was related to them.

“One cousin sent me an email right away with a photo of his family and a photo of the church my great-grandmother had belonged to and through whom we are related. He said he knew where those farms were and would take me there. Paydirt! I felt like I had struck gold.

“When I met that cousin, Jan-Eric, the first thing he told me about was that his father told him there were dark-haired, brown-eyed businessmen who had come to Sweden from Belgium in the 1700s, from whom we are descended. My father was a dark-haired, brown-eyed businessman, as were Jan-Eric and his father. Our fathers looked like they could be brothers.

“He took us to three farms, and when we got to the last one, where my father’s mother had been born and had left from for America and Illinois at age 3, I saw the yellow house in the distance and the forested hill behind it and felt I had found the farm photo I had been looking for those many years before in Minnesota. The area in Minnesota I was in was all flat. I needed hills and trees in my photo for it to feel ‘right.’

“The mystery, of course, is how such specific feelings get into us.


“And that yellow house with the front door in the middle and upstairs bedrooms looked very similar to the yellow brick house I had grown up in in Illinois. My sister had the bedroom on the similar end of the house shown here, and I had the bedroom on the other side. So perhaps the house my mom and dad bought felt ‘right’ somehow to him, too.”


The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

The St. Paul Teacher reports: “Subject: A giant B-M.

“Today while at the gym, I was watching ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ and in the episode one character, Washington, who is in Brooklyn, New York, is told to meet some friends in or at ‘dumbo.’ She (and I) didn’t know what that meant, and another character told her: ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.’

“I finished my workout, went home and, among other things, checked Facebook. One of my cousins had just posted a picture of herself and her family in Brooklyn that said their travels took them to ‘Soho, Dumbo, and Williamsburg.’ Whaa?? Twice within an hour! Crazy. It was a highly satisfying B-M if ever there was one.

“And who says TV and Facebook can’t provide educational information?”

Our birds, ourselves

Lola: “Subject: Cannibal birds.



“A couple of summers ago, this dove and his mate built a nest in a planter on my deck. They settled in, and soon there were two eggs, and then there were two baby birds. The parents rotated being in the nest, but one day they were both gone for a little while and a hawk swooped in and got the babies. One of the parents came back and was met by the same fate.

“Nature can be cruel sometimes.”

Life as we know it

Al B of Hartland: “The wind blows me away, but rainy days and free-pie Mondays never bring me down.

“A cardinal was singing in our yard on February 20. I saw red-winged blackbirds and eastern bluebirds on February 21. Chipmunks were out and about, hoovering up dropped sunflower seeds from under our feeders. They were using the seeds not only for their current energy needs, but also for restocking their pantries. I saw chickens frolicking outside on the same day. I recall the apparent joy of our chickens after they were released outside after being cooped up all winter.

“Horned larks were evident on the sides of our rural roads. I see them all winter, but some of the birds now are migrants. The brownish horned lark is identified in flight by a mostly black tail. The horned lark walks instead of hopping and sings from slight elevations on the ground or in the air. The song, a clear, tinkling ‘tsee-ee,’ is high-pitched and often prolonged.

“J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in ‘The Hobbit’:

“‘This thing all things devours:
“‘Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
“‘Gnaws iron, bites steel;
“‘Grinds hard stones to meal;
“‘Slays king, ruins town,
“‘And beats high mountain down.’

“Tolkien was writing about time. Time makes winter go away. Time makes winter return.

“Weather in the 60-degree area had eliminated most of the snow, but it came back. The world became available in limited colors: white, brown and gray. If the weather had been perfect, it would have been a lovely day. I reckoned we received a foot of snow. Black became evident in the flocks of red-winged blackbirds and common grackles. Their calls were welcome sounds.”

Now & Then
Baseball Division (responsorial) (responsorial) — or: Everyone’s a (ballpark food) critic!

Inspired by Friday’s Bulletin Board, here’s Lucky Buck: “Peters wieners at the Met were the worst: steamed soggy buns with an awful aftertaste; State Fair were the best; and I must admit Target Field dogs are very good.”

The bumper crop

Raindancer of North Oaks: “Subject: The back ‘bum’per gallery.

“Leaving my doctor’s office this morning, I saw this bumper sticker advertising an extremely valuable medical specialty.


“I had to chuckle, but it reminded me how fortunate we are if we can get regular checkups, which isn’t the case for many people around the world.

“Out of sight/out of mind does not work as long-term health strategy.”

Band Name of the Day: The Interstate Salmon

Website of the Day, recommended by Birdie in St. Joe: A beautiful word: saudade.

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