"Kuwait on the Prairie"

As far as we can tell, there is no oil in Minnesota.  Mostly, as we observe what having oil can do for and to a community, we have been grateful that the place that we call home would not be used and abused by the boom and bust cycles which plague the modern oil economy.  During visits home, I have been happy about the lack of random derricks and rusted out equipment lingering in fields.  I have felt grateful that prices of food, fuel and housing do not feel as artificially inflated resulting from oil companies temporarily pouring money and people into a place.

On the other hand, there is the Bakken formation, in western North Dakota.  Growing up, all I knew of North Dakota was Fargo, where my parents were born and raised.  I knew that it was cold, even colder than where I had lived in Minnesota, and that many people I knew from the area around our cabin lived in Fargo during the times they were not enjoying the Minnesota lakes, where we all spent as much time as possible.

My life with my husband's work has been largely separate from my life at home.  If we are home visiting,  the language and rhythms and energy of oil production feel distant and far away, a separate existence.  However, a few weeks ago, there was an article about western North Dakota oil production in my favorite magazine, The New Yorker.  I read The New Yorker not because I care about New York, which I don't particularly, but because it is consistently some of the best writing around.  The articles are detailed, relevant, thorough, intriguing, and help me feel connected to the world.  I read about the Arab Spring, the development of an American art museum by the Walmart family, the history of cancer, the possible viability of insects as a viable source of protein for developed nations, and all manner of other random things which I would normally only catch headlines for.  And on that day, I read about places and a topic already partially familiar to me.

I had recently made the drive between Minnesota and Calgary, and had been comforted to see the physical space between those two places.  It made me much less homesick to understand that in one day, propelled by forces mostly within my control, I could traverse the chasm between our oil-soaked life in Calgary and our family life in Minnesota.  During that drive, I was also comforted, for the first time, by the presence of an oil industry.  I saw with my own eyes residue of oil and gas world linked to a place that was very close to home.  It struck me as a possible long-term way home for us, and have thought of it frequently since that trip.

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