I was invited to go up north to Grand Marais, Minnesota. My first reaction to the invitation was trepidation. When my mother and I first moved to Minnesota, we tried to go up and experience the “beauuuutiful narth” (Minnesota accent included) and planned to spend a long weekend wandering around in the boundary waters…after one day of wondering what we were doing there and twiddling our thumbs, we cut the getaway short. While hesitant to run back up to the isolated north, I agreed to go up and make up medical kits for the backpacking/canoeing trips that head out of the YMCA camp Menogyn. The drive up through small towns like Two Harbors, larger towns like Duluth, and the acres of seemingly endless rows of crops was cathartic. Listening to the Steve Jobs biography on tape (my, he was a genius wack-job) and watching the minnesotan countryside roll by gave my heart a new song after weeks of previous standardized test study. I was kindly reminded, as we entered Grand Marais, that my cell service would soon be nonexistent…a sign of where I was truly headed. To be frank, I was nervous. The people at camp Menogyn are not only extremely outdoorsy, they’re ALL FRIENDS. My biggest fear was feeling rejected by the closest crowd of my three year relationship. Turns out, everyone is not only outdoorsy and all friends…they’re all FRIENDLY. The people could not have been nicer and my sigh of relief echoed through the camp, I’m sure. Setting up the medical kits got me to thinking about things…like why I would want to become a doctor. In fact, one of the questions on the AMCAS application is “Why do you want to be a doctor?” What a question…it’s like asking why I want to live or why I like to dream. But sitting and making up medical kits, listening to Dr. Logan and the camp nurse figure out what essential prescription only items were missing, I realized why I want to be a physician. I have always been one to want to help people, the first to run to the scene of an accident or the first to catch someone as the drop to the floor. The thing is, while I’m the first one there, I’m not always the one who knows what to do. Half of the items Dr. Logan listed off to me were random, organic chemistry names that held only slight indications as to their function in the human body. I don’t want to be the one running to someone’s aid when all I can give is the untrained knowledge of a curious college student with doctor parents who has once been a serious patient herself. I want to know what to do, to give someone my all and my best effort in their time of need. It’s what we all somehow hope as doctors and (albeit, cornily) healers, to be the one people come to when they have a specific problem and know that we can help them in a way that no one else can. Psychologists, psychiatrists, cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, neurosurgeons, etc…you are the world’s best, the world’s only for what you do. So, why do I want to be a doctor? Because when I give into my need to run the scene of an accident or sit beside a hospital bed, I will do so with the mind that wants to help and can help in a way that few people can. The narrower I get in my medical field, specializing in whatever, the fewer they become…those who can help in the same way I will be able to. That’s my reason, future boards of admissions. I stuck it to AMCAS and answered the seemingly insurmountable question and I did it with love. On the way home, I was filled to the brim with bliss. I was in the car with people I loved, listening to Steve Jobs live his crazy life (seriously, he was a fruitarian), and watching Lake Superior (Gitche Gumee is it’s native name) roll on into the horizon as the only freshwater “ocean” I’d ever seen. We stopped by Betty’s Pies to pick up a Strawberry Rhubarb pie for my mother and drove on to have lunch at a sandwich shop settled in a Duluth basement. One of the best Memorial Day weekends I’ve ever had, easily.
Have you ever heard it rain in Florence? If you haven’t, you’ll either ask me what’s so special about it or tell me there can physically be no difference between the rain here and the rain there. My answer is that it isn’t the sound of the rain that changes from place to place, but the voices you hear in it and great racket of the world outside. It poured here in the Twin Cities yesterday…I could not help but think of the rain in Italy as the ambient sounds had changed so drastically. Here in St. Paul, you can bet on hearing the clicking of a bicycle ridden by another St. Paul hipster out to save the world (one bike-mile at a time…but I guess I’m one of them) or the squeaking of the tennis shoes that belong to one of the many Twin Cities health fanatics. Rain is no problem. We drive in -30 degree weather for crying out loud, this is a total cakewalk. Also, the rain is beautiful here…no reason to avoid it, no true reason not to say “screw the umbrella.” To the Italians, however, raining seems like the wringing out of the heavenly laundry…avoid the rain at all costs and most certainly keep every inch of the body covered. I could always count on hearing children fighting their parents as the mama’s and the babbo’s of Florence forced on an extra layer of thickness between their precious child and the light drizzle. I could put money on hearing the cars as they honked and the difficulty the service trucks had as they never seemed to remember (to my eyes) to put their windshield wipers on. The sound of the rain in Florence was a crescendo of chaos and suddenly…the city would cease and it was nothing short of complete peace. I remember after a three days of rain in Florence during April, the Italian world was ready to come out of it’s shell and so were we. Ali and I went to Dante’s that night, a restaurant with great lasagna and free wine for students, and proceeded to get a bottle of wine to celebrate the end of rain…well, one thing lead to another and after leaving Dante’s absolutely in love with a dry Spring night, I found myself saying “Let’s climb out onto the ledge of the bridge!” Each bridge that crossed over the Arno had large, triangular portions that stuck out at either side…so clearly they were meant for punch-drunk people to sit on, right? "Okay!" said Ali, who fervently climbed over the side of the bridge and stood near at the point of the ledge, her arms spread wide, "I feel so good! Look! It’s like I’m on the Titanic!" "Just don’t fall off, okay?" I said. "I won’t!" "Do you think it would be okay if I laid here?" "Who cares?" "Ugh…feels so nice to lay down…" "I’m on the Titanic!" "I’m taking pictures." "Let’s go back…" "How’re we going to climb over?" "I got this… we’re in Firenze, anything is possible." It was about that time that I fell and scraped my knee. I still have the marks to show for it. This is what rain can bring out in people if it lingers long enough in any city. Today, I woke up to a beautiful sunrise and I only got to see the view because my cat decided that 5 am was the right time to ask for her breakfast. Sitting in my house with my dogs now and the coffee I made is total bliss. The birds are chirping and I hear the light clicking of several bicycles going by, a sign that the rain has cleared and is warded off by the promise of a great weekend up in northern Minnesota…loads of pictures to come. I miss the sound of the rain in Florence, but I’ve been missing the sounds of the sunshine at home.
It’s amazing how much I’ve missed the Twin Cities. Don’t get me wrong, I’m desperately figuring out ways how I can finagle my life’s path so I end up back in Firenze somehow…but after two days of being home, I realized why I’d originally moved to St. Paul, MN. When I rode my bike to Mississippi Market (our local organic food market) to pick up some fresh produce to cook dinner in my own kitchen I found that not only was it a beautiful day outside, all of my neighbors and local store owners were somehow out and about and saying hello to me. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting…and it was home. I’ve baked so many chocolate chip cookies in the last two days that I never want to see another one ever again, and that’s okay. Cooking, taking baths, running along side the Mississippi River, going to the Guthrie…it’s all the biggest “welcome home” a person could ask for. Now all that’s missing are all the old friends…but they’ll trickle in one by one as they finish their exams, triumphant as they all should be.