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Cold Comfort: Life at the Top of the Map

This book is not a confession of sordid secrets. I can’t compete with the TV talk shows, nor do I wish to. This book is about a place, the city of Duluth and the Arrowhead region of Minnesota—a place that saved my life. Or so it seems these days. For, looking back, I’m not at all certain I would have survived my midlife passage—the bewilderment and confusion, the guilt and anger, the suicidal flashes—if I had been living anywhere else. As dark as those days were, I still wanted, every day, to see what the light looked like on Lake Superior. This place, which had drawn me back to it with magnetic force all my life, pulled me through. These essays are, at least in part, expressions of my gratitude.

One hesitates, here at the close of the twentieth century, to publish anything in praise of place. Humans are so numerous now, we can overrun a good place as soon as the word gets out. So from time to time, writing these essays, I’ve suffered attacks of anxiety. But my worries have always evaporated in laughter. Who would want to move to a place where the temperature can drop to forty below? Although our summers are dangerously seductive, we are saved, up here on the northern rim, by our crummy economy; by our practical, unfashionable clothes; and, most of all, by the cold—the ferocious, unfathomable cold. As Duluthians like to say, it keeps the riffraff out.

--from “Homing: An Introduction”