09/26/2012 07:28 am ET Updated Nov 26, 2012

Monica Nassif Loves Minneapolis

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Monica Nassif is the founder of Caldrea, which manufactures Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products, and Sophia Graydon, a newly launched sleepwear line. Monica lives in Minneapolis, where she serves on the boards of the Walker Art Center and the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Carlson School of Business.


Dear Minneapolis,

I fell for you decades ago when I moved north as a newlywed. My husband and I pulled our rental truck in front of an old brownstone in the Uptown area on Girard Street. A February snowstorm swirled around us.

That day was sort of like our first kiss, Minneapolis. Since our truck got stuck in a snowdrift and our apartment floors remained wet with varnish, my husband and I were stranded in a big city without wheels or shelter. Decided to start walking and, through no intent, headed toward Lake of the Isles. As we approached the lake, the snow tapered and the sun hung low in the sky. We were star-struck -- standing in front of the most charming lake I had ever seen -- in the middle of our new city.

Not only was the lake gorgeous, but there were people everywhere -- walking, running, skating, cross-country skiing, playing hockey, chasing dogs -- ignoring the cold. I was smitten. I had found my people.

Since then, we have lived in only three places in Minneapolis and always within a 10-minute walk of a lake. I go to the lake several times a week to walk or ride my bike. I have been around Lake Harriet thousands of times since I moved to this great city. Rounding too many bodies of water, crossing inlets and wooden bridges, hugging the banks of Minnehaha Creek. I keep doubling back as though I'm trapped in a labyrinth.

How can you not love a city -- a major metropolitan city -- with so much green space and water?

Minneapolis earned its name from the Dakota name for waterfall, minnehaha, and the Greek word for city, polis. Our founding fathers and mothers had the vision to establish an independent board of commissioners for the city parks in 1883. Today, this same board is responsible for 6,400 acres of 182 local and regional parks, playgrounds, golf courses, gardens, biking and walking paths, nature sanctuaries, lakes, and a 55-mile parkway system.

A couple of years ago, in early spring on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I was making my way around Lake Harriet. I veered off the parkway into the neighborhood to take a shortcut home. An elderly man who was tall and, shall we say, corpulent, came barreling toward me. The minute we crossed paths, he turned around abruptly and starting walking right beside me. I could see his breath.

"Would you walk with me?" he asked. " I have to do a double today and I am bored stiff. I need to talk to someone." He seemed harmless enough. Sure, why not.

I learned quickly that his name was Jack and that he, too, was a life-long lover of the lakes. The reason he was doing a double, walking twice around the lake, was because he had failed to lose his post-holiday weight.

"I'm so fat that if I fall down, I may roll to South Dakota," he puffed. Jack had a goal of 30 days of doubles. Today was Day 7.

During our walk, we ended up back by the beach of Lake Harriett, where I turn right to head home. For some reason, I did not turn right. I kept going with Jack as if I had never ever intended to turn right and go home. Now I, too, was doing a double.

So here I was walking around Lake Harriet on a spring afternoon -- twice in a row. It felt decadent and indulgent -- even with a complete stranger. This must be love.

Thank you, City of Lakes.

Monica Nassif

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