When I was 11-years-old, I inherited a paper route from a boy down the street. The route bordering Minnehaha creek encompassed the dead-end block of Sunnyside Road, Browndale Avenue between W 44th Street and Country Club Road, and Edgebrook Place in Edina, Minnesota.
My digital alarm clock began waking me up at 5:15 with rude blares and I would push the snooze button 3 times until 5:30. Once vertical, I would begin the process of layering, which in the dead of winter meant 3 pairs of socks, a full set of long underwear, 2 turtlenecks, a full sweatsuit, ski pants, snow boots, a ski jacket, glove warmers, gloves, a few scarves, and a couple hats.
The winter air was so cold, my eyelashes often froze together when the wind was strong enough to make my eyes tear. When that happened, I had to take my gloves and glove liners off to manually pry my eyes open.
This was heaven. For seven years I began my weekdays in silence and solitude with my faithful black lab Tom. Before loading the Minneapolis Star Tribune into my newspaper bag, I would make a wish on the first star I saw. I remember wishing for easy tests, “hi” from a crush, and a good book to read. Once I made it to the corner of Browndale and Edgebrook, I would leave a stack of papers to carry down the end of my route and hug the massive tree on the corner. Hugging a tree is a heavenly experience.
Since then, I have believed that heaven can be found and created here on earth. We don’t live in a perpetual state of heaven, but we do catch sustaining glimpses and glances. We get to heaven when we smell the roses, taste the sweetness, wish on the stars, greet the friendly stranger, crank the tunes, laugh at the jokes, wonder at the sky, and appreciate what we have. Heaven breaks through in home runs, warm rains, apple pies, and passionate kisses. We don’t need to die to get to heaven. We need to live.