Published June 30, 2022

She's Not From Around Here: Small Magic

Written by
Amy Allender
| The Dakotan
[Photo: Amy Allender]
[Photo: Amy Allender]

When describing why I find life in North Dakota so enjoyable, I usually cite a combination of local culture, quirks, and my stubborn insistence on finding beauty in things often overlooked. Giving a singular and concise answer to why Minot, ND has become something of a muse to me, is a tricky task.

No, it’s not the winters. Or the wind.

Truthfully, there is not just one thing that sums it up. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to put the amiability of this place into words any time soon.

Much of what makes it so lovable boils down to qualities that can only be expressed through anecdotes or first-hand experience. The appeal is not found in wildly popular attractions I can easily point to, or obvious bustle. No, the things I find most appealing are those found in small, quickly passing moments. These moments can be easily missed. But catch enough of them, and you’ll find intricate charm that rivals holiday rosette cookies, or a rosemaled serving tray.

[Photo: Amy Allender]

These moments are better “felt” than described and accumulate especially quickly if we pour a little effort into seeing the good in this place and this time. I’ve found meeting people is easy and organic simply by being present, interested, and eager to understand our town. By being interested, I got to know one person. Then another. And another. Soon, I found myself not only connected to the people of Hot Dish Land, but also the community and culture as well.

Then the magic really unfurls.

I felt this magic as I bumped into familiar, friendly faces at the Midsummer Festival earlier this month. I saw the magic as I waved to acquaintances across the vibrant, green lawn while music from the City Band or accordions wafted across the breeze. It generates a feeling of awe and comfort, knowing you’ll likely see someone you know at these kind of events—because at the end of the day this is a community, and we show up when something special is happening.

[Photo: Amy Allender]

These small, but beautiful moments are found in the way others care about my children. It’s how the librarian greets my kids and patiently waits while they sloppily stack books on the counter to check out. It’s how Ms. Kristi—of Main Street Books renown—welcomes every child to story time and calls them by name. We are met with grace and patience when I have a meeting over coffee and my littlest is anything but tidy with his scone. Families are not tolerated here, they are embraced and loved.

[Photo: Amy Allender]

I see magic in the way the summer theater audience (me included) flocks to the folding tables serving $1 root beer floats during intermission, and how the sassy teenage lifeguard at the pool uses his megaphone to “score” his friends when they dive. I see magic in the level of excitement generated by the library book sale, and how I almost always run into friends at the pool on a hot day.

I try to absorb the goodness of this place when an elderly man with calloused hands holds the door for me and the boys and tells me, “These are good days,” or I’m told that zoo readmission works on an “honor system,” or I realize how utterly safe I feel in my home, our parks, and at community events. The kind of safety and security a “home” generates. Safe to wonder, safe to be kind, safe to make mistakes and apologize, safe to stockpile the sweetness of mundane moments in my heart.

Small-moment-magic is out there. Not only here in Hot Dish Land, but elsewhere too. We just have to notice it. As our world experiences strife and disagreements—as our world always will—let’s remember to watch for these humble instants and capture them. Maybe today you and I can be the ones who create a moment of good magic for someone else. Let’s try.

To connect with me further and see how I find small, magical moments in everyday life—join me on Instagram @amy_allender or on Facebook @amyallenderblog.

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