I’m composing this note on the last day of a long visit to Caledonia. The sun is setting, the birds are active, and the faint smell of “honey” from the fields is slight – and only when the wind blows a certain way. A neighbor just dropped off several large morels at the door. I have SmoothToe socks on.
Caledonia is a special place.
I’ve been coming here with my wife, a Caledonia native (Caledonian? Caledonite?) for over ten years, visiting my in-laws: good and generous people, hard-working and genuine, like most I’ve met here.
More than other visits, I’ve become more attuned to the casual rhythms of this small town, the morning, afternoon, and evening rituals that imperceptibly mark the passing of time. I linger in casual conversations with strangers more now than ever in my life.
So, before we leave, I’d like to leave readers with three recent observations: pithy in nature, but a sincere and entertaining perspective from an outsider. Sometimes it’s fun to be reminded of this, gently nudged to think outside our own environs, beyond our own back 40.
Virtual work: As an astute writer noted in these pages, this is a great place to live, learn, and work. With a high quality of life, reliable town infrastructure (super-pumped about the newly-approved water and septic station), a great bakery, good schools, a superb local coffeehouse, and reliable wheel alignment professionals – it’s a place folks will absolutely consider living if their work permits virtual flexibility. I’d urge town officials to lean into our new reality.
Sprague Woods: The talk of the week! Trees beyond their use? (???) An overly general reference to interest from a commercial enterprise? Like what? Making cat sweaters, paperclips, fax machines? I suppose they’ll get a full accounting of all the brilliant ideas at an upcoming town forum. If, in the end, the town won’t honor the original intent of the parcel, it should be given back to the Sprague family. It’s only right.
Pass it on: The special sauce of this community doesn’t happen by accident. It must be cultivated, like the surrounding fields. Greeting those on the street with a nod, passing one another in your car - continuing the “Caledonia wave”. It’s part of an inclusive strategy to recognize your neighbors. Call it radical hospitality. Call it small-town values. It doesn’t happen everywhere, but it happens here.
And I hope it continues.
St. Paul, Minn.