My MN Memory: R.T. Rybak

Minneapolis’ former mayor on the trees of Lake Harriet

An illustration of former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

illustration by Michael Hoeweler


Along Lake Harriet’s southeast shore, a series of trees grows diagonally over the water. As a kid living near the lake, every summer I crawled onto a trunk at sunset, and took stock of my day, whether I had played Wiffle ball, gone swimming, or done something else with friends. I heard ducks quacking, and the Twins broadcast on my transistor radio in the background. There was something wistful about it—holding tight to the tree, realizing one more summer day was gone.

Every so often, I go back. Not a pretty sight, but it’s still a good time to reflect. My mind is on bigger things, but the Twins are still in the background, these days on my iPhone. It’s still wistful—one fewer summer left to see a sunset over the lake.

When I was a kid, almost everyone walking by looked like me. Now I see many more people from different backgrounds, speaking different languages. I think about their paths to get there and wonder what they think about such a beautiful place.

The genius of Minneapolis, with all its imperfections, is that we have a Main Street—it’s called our parks—and from the time the city was settled, the best parts have been owned by everyone.

This summer I’ll slide back onto a tree and get that wistful feeling again. When I rejoin the crowds on the path, I’ll have one fewer summer in Minneapolis, but I’ll also know it’s becoming a better place.

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