James Lileks
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Last Monday, noon, downtown, on the sidewalk outside an office building: two strangers having a Minnesota Men's Moment. Just standing there. The introductory nod had been made, so there was little else to do, except perhaps wait for a useful conversational sally.

If they'd been farmers, one would have said, "Flax doing well?" Or perhaps just a one-word summation that said it all: "Dry."

"Yep" would be the response.

"Not as dry as last year," the other might say, which would make the other stranger wonder if he should turn around so this chatterbox can talk his other ear off.

Obviously, I was one of these guys, and I'm usually chatty with strangers, but not this time. Still, I'd seen him before, and we had shared the Nod of Recognition. So when I left, I said, "Beautiful day." Because it was! Blue sky and strong sun and green all around us.

The other guy nodded, said something that stuck with me the rest of the day: "I think we made the turn."

The turn! Even if you're hearing the expression for the first time, you know exactly what it means. The point from which we cannot be pitched back into winter.

Sure, it might get a little colder, but that's a slight spring nip, not the clammy hand of a snowstorm grasping from the grave of a snowpack. It might be cloudy tomorrow, but the sky won't feel like a leaden lid over a pot of brown broth. If it's a bright day, the light will have strength, unlike the weak tea of a winter sun.

Spring is here, it's ours, and we're going to savor all 17 days of it.

We make a turn into winter as well, but it's different. It's a sense of absence. The green is gone, the geese have fled, the wind grows thin and the world seems to be waiting for a new ruler. No one ever remarks on that turn. We note this one because there's a victory implied, and a sense that this is our reward.

I almost wanted to share the observation with people in the skyway or elevator: "Nice out, eh? We made the turn!" And people would nod and smile, but one guy new to Minnesota would think: What the heck was he talking about? He asks a friend: "There was this guy in the skyway who was skipping around and waving his little arms and shouting, 'We made the turn!' Is this some weird Minnesota thing?"

The friend, who also moved here last year from the East Coast, frowns and says: "It could be regional cuisine. Isn't that a bird? The tern? Like a gull? He was saying they made the tern. Like, Tern Hotdish. Or maybe you misheard him? We flayed the tern? Because you'd have to take off the feathers before you cooked it."

And so on. The newcomers keep working the phrase to figure out its meaning, and a week later one is standing outside the building having a vanilla vape, and there's a taciturn man with a gray beard having a smoke, and the newcomer decides to try his hand at the Minnesota Men Moment.

"Looks like we splayed the fern," he says.

The other guy, who has no idea what this means and has no desire to find out, nods. A short one, though. No need to go on and on about it.