Wild city // Less is more

My husband and I joked that this year we were going to spend Memorial Day weekend at our vacation home. That is, we planned to stay right here in southwest Minneapolis.

We spend so much time, money, and effort on our house and yard, but when we have time to relax, when the going is good (and on a three-day weekend the going is very good indeed), the temptation is to go off somewhere else to enjoy ourselves. When you are at home, you look around, see things that need doing, and you do them. This doesn’t feel like you are getting a break. We decided we’d resist tending, and just relax.

The Thursday evening before the holiday I felt a little panicked. We had no plans, other than to stay put. We Americans are so good at making things happen. We are much less adept at letting things happen. What you might call our lack of initiative made me wonder: Were we losers? Short of that, I was afraid that we were about to waste an opportunity to get away and be restored.

By Friday, late afternoon, though, I began to settle in. A well-kept secret: how quiet and pleasant holidays are in the city, at least in residential neighborhoods. There is less car traffic, and there are fewer construction and homeowner contraptions making noise.

I’d seen the forecast: rain. My husband and I both had good books to read. He had started Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.” I had begun “State of Wonder,” by Ann Patchett. It seemed that reading, a thing we both love to do, would be one of our pleasures, something to organize the weekend around.

We woke up Saturday morning to storms rolling through, one after the other. It was dark, wet, and cool. Our golden retriever is afraid of thunder, and it comforts her to be with us. We let her up on our bed. The three of us lay side by side, my husband and I reading and napping, the dog between us trembling and panting, as the clouds rumbled over and the rain poured down. It was a surprisingly peaceful morning, long, open-ended, even luminous.

My husband and I are both high maintenance. There are twists and turns inside us from the way we grew up. Our nervous systems are on the sensitive side. We are familiar with a particular kind of couple dynamic: You finally get a few days off, you’ve got some space in your lives, and what comes bubbling up? Couple issues you haven’t had time to address.

We opened our holiday weekend with that lovely morning this time, though. After that, we did ordinary things: went to church, took a long walk, read the newspapers, and yes, puttered around the house and yard some. By Monday we wanted to get away, to go on a small outing, so we went down to Red Wing to watch a city league baseball game between the Red Wing Aces and the Miesville Mudhens.

The ballpark in Red Wing is up the hill from the main street, in among homes, nestled in a bowl with wooded hills all around. The temperature was perfect, in the 70s, and there was a breeze. My husband and I arrived early for the game and stretched out on a blanket in the shade under some trees beyond the outfield. We made silly jokes. We dozed, too relaxed to worry that the homeruns being hit in batting practice, the ones that were overtopping the fence near us, might actually hit us.

When the time came, we walked over toward the seats. On the way we saw a butterfly neither of us had ever seen before. It was the kind of day where you might notice such a thing, and also have the ease to stand and admire it. Probably some kind of swallowtail, it had big slashes of yellow across its brown wings.

Comfort seemed to rule the day. The small grand stand at the ball field has a roof, so we were able to watch the game in the shade. Three friends joined us. We sat eating peanuts and talking, while our team, the Mudhens, was absolutely ineffectual for seven innings. It seemed what we were doing was old-fashioned, and typically American. The crowd around us was small and friendly. Over the intercom, between innings, were broadcast old rock-and-roll songs. We slipped into the languid near-trance that a slow-moving baseball game can induce.

Then in the eighth inning, against all odds, our team started scoring runs. The capstone was a three run homer. We jumped around and yelled. Final score: Mudhens 8, Aces 6. A happy ending to the game, and to the holiday weekend.

Mary Jean Port writes at home, near Minnehaha Creek and Lake Harriet, and teaches at the Loft Literary Center.