DULUTH — I just returned from a road trip. It was time, before the COVID delta variant invades, for a little adventure and renewal.

Most people, when they think of road trips, envision wide-open spaces and places not seen before. That may not necessarily be the case. Sometimes it’s to check in with people who matter or who have played an important part in our lives. This can be family or friends not seen in a long time, or those who shaped our life by their guidance; being there when we needed them.

Our most recent journey started with a trip out-of-state to attend a remembrance party of sorts for an old friend and neighbor from our time living in Iowa. There was, and never will be, another person quite like Richard. He was a brilliant and warm person who was able to see irony in everything, woven into everyday interactions with a dry sense of humor without an ounce of bitterness. One person who worked with him, smiling, said, “Richard was Google before there was Google.”

After attending this event, we swung through southeastern Minnesota to the river town of Winona, so I could spend a little time with Charlie, a mentor from my college days at St. Mary’s University. He resides in an assisted living residence, paying the unwanted price for a stroke some 20 years ago. While he may not be able to get around like he once did, there’s nothing wrong with his ability to thoughtfully consider the questions I have about life. Every time I see him, he seeds the space between my ears with enough material to think about until I see him the next time.

An added bonus from the stop in Winona this time was reconnecting with a college friend and colleague and his most gracious spouse. Sharing and comparing life experiences in the years after graduation, I caught up on the people and places we had in common. Again, my head was sown with thoughtful and humorous reflections on the state of the world, reflections that were original and not soaked with prejudice and the junk that comes from a 24/7 news cycle. We will see more of them.

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The last stop on this odyssey was to touch base with old friends who live in a college town south of the Twin Cities. These folks are craftspeople in the richest sense, taking and shaping with great care what is readily available around them and enriching it in a variety of ways, from textiles and music, to carefully crafted wooden utensils that have a shape and soul. They bind the materials with their spirit. Their yard and garden would challenge an English garden’s beauty and diversity while springing from the rich soils of the southern part of our state.

Road trips should bring new insights and renew our own sense of purpose and reasons for living. This one did. More and more, the precious lives that have made my life worthwhile are abruptly or slowly ending. I hope, like the obituary I read recently of a friend from out west, to be as grateful, and say it as humbly as he did for all the people who have made time here rich beyond measure.

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and psychologist. Write to him at lewandowskidoug@gmail.com.