After the disaster: Returning to Itasca after 3 years

August 16, 2013

I’ve been telling my coworkers about my impending trip to Itasca for a 4-day weekend.

“We haven’t been there for three years,” I say. “It’s Becky’s favorite place on earth, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

It’s funny to me how much can go unsaid with such a statement. On the surface, it’s pretty banal. The sort of thing you overhear at work or at a YMCA locker room. I want to say more, so much more, but such things aren’t meant for casual conversation with co-workers or even friends. Verbally explaining how much this trip means would be a tax on their patience and still wouldn’t quite get at the heart and soul of the situation.

I’m writing this post from a screened porch at Itasca State Park. The last time we were here was the weekend before Becky’s world fell apart, when her professors suddenly decided she wasn’t good enough and she was kicked out of her chosen life profession.

It has taken three years of job searching, semi-employment, battling severe depression, a move, a marriage, three new jobs, countless applications, a hundred interviews, and near bankruptcy to reach this point where we can both sit on a porch in Itasca and write without having to worry about how we will afford rent next month.

Itasca is where Becky and I took our first vacation together. It’s where she had gone for years to get away before meeting me. It’s where Becky is most at peace. Just driving into the park, with a bright classical piano number on the radio, I look over at her, and she looks as relaxed as someone getting her first sip of water after days in the desert.

Becky in Itasca

We’re one month into our new life – both fully employed at the same time – and we have chosen to spend our first extra bit of money on returning to the one place where we last felt entirely whole and hopeful. We still have lots of bills and credit cards to pay off from our years of scraping by, but right now I feel like we can handle them. We’ll return to our regular belt-tightened approach to living next month.

Earlier this summer, when Becky was still unemployed, I started to save 10-20 bucks a paycheck to try to fund a trip to Itasca. I did this behind Becky’s back since we were already paycheck-to-paycheck. She found my hiding place almost 2 days after I started this and I had to come clean. She loved me for trying to save money for Itasca, but didn’t believe it would ever happen. When you are unemployed, it’s hard to believe anything good will ever happen again.

Two months later, we are here. The weather couldn’t be better. We have hope for the future. And Itasca is a physical manifestation of that hope. Green. Full of life. For the first time in years, we can relax.

Itasca dock Itasca boat Itasca lake lilypads

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4 thoughts on “After the disaster: Returning to Itasca after 3 years

  1. The real story here is each of you staying there for the other. Tough stuff so early in a relationship. But the kind of stuff that will carry you through the rest of what life dishes out.
    As for Itasca State Park… one of my favorite places. Don and I used to backpack there, and once dragged two friends of ours along with their 8-month-old son. We spent the weekend fending off mosquitoes and skinny-dipping with the babe rather that have him in diapers. We also, if I remember correctly, carried in a six-pack of beer to cool in the lake… when you backpack, that’s a huge concession to beer. But Itasca will do that to a person…make them feel capable.

    1. Jacqui, Thank you for being a great supporter of Becky and I. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Your gift of empathy is part of what makes you such a wonderful person.

  2. This looks (and sounds) so beautiful. I can only imagine the feeling of calm you get there, I find being on a lake extremely meditative. You two have such an amazing devotion to each other. I’ve been reflecting on my parent’s 40 years of marriage and they certainly took some intense roller coaster rides (and got off to a wild start as well). They too had an escape in northern Minnesota and they still have a strong and visceral connection there. I’m so happy that you have a feeling of hope and rejuvenation and how cool that you have a magic place like this that you can share with each other!

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