As a child, I once stayed at a house in Prior Lake that had a placard in the guest bedroom: John Denver slept here. I don't remember the when or why of his visit, and although I took the declaration to be true, I didn't feel like he'd left any proof of himself behind for me to behold. He was still just a face on TV or a voice on the radio, intimate yet inaccessible.

I thought of this the other day after seeing the photograph that accompanies this article, of a granite slab marking the spot where Barack and Michelle Obama first kissed, along with some modest detail that is still perhaps more than I care to know.

Inside the Mall of America, there's a commemorative home plate where the old Metropolitan Stadium's used to be. The mall just turned 20 and appears to be doing well enough to stick around for the time being. The Met is long gone, as will be the Metrodome in a few years -- those World Series triumphs rendered intangible.

And outside of the Dome, on what is now the Downtown East light-rail station but was once a parking lot, is the spot where my wife and I shared some of our first kisses, after our shifts as newcomers to the Star Tribune's night copy desk. How different we were then.

The wizened (as of course they would) say that change is the only constant, but it still comes as a shock, every time. Perhaps that's why we expend as much effort documenting events these days as we do experiencing them through our senses.

Statistically, the Twin Cities metropolitan area now covers some 6,000 square miles, but if you stretched your years on this planet end to end with those of your parents and grandparents, you'd come to a time when most of this land -- perhaps the ground you occupy -- was unadulterated. So near, really, and yet so far.


David Banks is the assistant commentary editor.