The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on July 28, 2011.

My husband and I went up north last weekend. Except we had to drive south to get there.

We spent the weekend with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who live in the Chicago area but recently bought a cabin at Fox Lake, which is about a two-hour drive north from their house. From ours, it’s a six-hour drive in the other direction.

It was a great weekend, and other than the time we spent riding out the storms, we spent most of the weekend boating, swimming, laughing, and relaxing – everything you’re supposed to do when you go up north, which a columnist in the StarTribune recently described as more of a state of mind than an actual location. I totally agree with that assessment. And I’ve been having fun telling people we were going up north, down south.

Describing it that way made me think of a grand revelation that came to me during my freshman year in college.

In high school, many conversations every spring revolved around hopes and dreams of going downstate – which, of course, meant the state basketball tournament at the U of I. In college, especially during my first year at Eastern Illinois University, many of us still held strong ties and loyalties to our high school teams, and as springtime rolled around, we talked about our high schools’ chances of making it to the tournament that year. What threw me for a loop was the first time a friend of mine talked about the possibility of his high school team going upstate. It took a moment or two for the word to register. In the split second before my brain made the adjustment, my mind was trying to figure out what tournament he was talking about, and which northern Illinois town would have hosted it.

I realized almost right away that he was talking about the same basketball tournament I was. The state championship was the state championship, period. And it was always held in the same place. It’s just that my friend saw it – and his high school team got to it – from a different direction.

Naturally, I’d have known this all along if I’d ever given it a thought. But I never needed to. From the Chicago suburb where I grew up, “downstate” wasn’t a direction, it represented a place and an event. And it meant the same thing to everybody. Just like “up north.” It wasn’t until I was going to school with people who were looking at it from the other side that it occurred to me there was another point of view.

This isn’t just a geographical phenomenon. It applies to other areas that can be looked at from different directions. 50-degree weather can feel like a balmy day or an Arctic blast depending on what season it is and what temperatures we’ve been experiencing most recently. A new dollar amount on our paycheck can make us feel either rich or impoverished, depending on whether it represents a raise or a cut in pay. Even something like time, which is a hard and fast measurement, can seem different from different perspectives. After all, how long a minute lasts depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.

I think one of the big problems in the world today is that too many of us look at things from our own point of view and forget – or never take the time to realize – that the same facts, circumstances, or information can be looked at from the other direction, too. And that the view from the other side is just as legitimate and accurate as ours, even if it’s completely different, or simply coming from a different direction.

Recognizing and acknowledging the point of view that others have doesn’t mean we have to change our own, or that we have to alter our beliefs, opinions, or sense of direction. It simply gives us a wider view of the world. It can also give us different ways for both looking at our problems and solving them.

It can also help us in getting to that lovely and wonderful place – up north. No matter which direction we need to go in order to get there.

© Betty Liedtke, 2011