Meander North Today

Meander North Today

Earlier this fall, I had the honor of being one of the final pre-publication readers of my friend Marie Zhuikov’s new book, Meander North, which is on sale now!

Book cover image for Meander North by Marie Zhuikov.

Although Marie is a member of my writer’s group, this was my first time reading Meander North. The book is a memoir-in-essays of life in Northern Minnesota, pulled from over a decade of posts on Marie’s blog, Marie’s Meanderings. Because our writer’s group focuses on speculative fiction, and because the time I spend online plummeted precipitously after the birth of my first child in 2017, much of the content was new to me. And reading the essays I’d previously encountered on Marie’s blog was like bumping into an old friend.

Reading the book, I was filled with longing and nostalgia for the north shore of Minnesota, where I lived for seven pivotal years — the years in which I Learned How to Be an Adult. I was impressed by how vividly Marie had captured the landscape of the Northland, both literally in her gorgeous nature descriptions, and culturally in her stories about encounters with others who call northern Minnesota home. And reading the book made me jealous in the best possible way.

I admired Marie’s ability to find the narrative beauty and humor in the moments of her life that someone without her keen writer’s eye might have tossed off as “mundane” — seeing a rabbit in the snow, chatting with a twelve-year-old stranger during a dog walk, liberating a mailbox from a frozen snowdrift. Sometimes we can get so bogged down with living that we forget to capture, or even notice, the stories that we are part of. I have struggled with this particularly since having my two sons; I rarely have those moments of quiet or reflection that allow me to make sense of the world as it happens around me. Marie’s book was a reminder of what writing about our own lives can be, and it allowed me to see the stories in my own life again, to coax some cohesion and meaning out of the daily grind of making meals, answering the endless questions of a toddler and a five-year-old, holding screaming children until they calm down. It made me want to take up a regular writing practice again, to make note of the moments of my life before they are gone.

For a long time, I kept this blog as just a blog about writing. For most of my life, my primary identity was as a writer and, later, an editor. This blog lay mostly dormant since that fateful July of 2017 both because I lacked the dedicated time for writing that I used to have and the mind space for reflection; and also because when I was doing less writing, I fell into the mistaken belief that I didn’t have much to say here, anyway.

Marie’s book reminded me that my blog is my blog, da** it, and I can tell the stories I want to tell here. I can have the reflections I want to have. Writing is what makes me a writer, not the subject matter I write about. I may be writing less these days, but I am still living my life’s stories, and Meander North reiterated the beauty that can come from noticing and capturing at least some of them. So I’m writing here more, and writing in my journal more. And I credit Meander North with giving me that nudge in the right direction.

Give it a try for yourself. You might just fall in love with Minnesota again (or for the first time). Or, if you’re as lucky as I was, you might appreciate your whole life anew.