Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Life in the Woods

Why in the world would you live there? What are you thinking?
We get that a lot. And truth be told, I asked myself the same thing ten years ago, when living in the Northwoods was but a mere pipe dream. It happened one night at a supper club, while I sipped on a Brandy Old Fashioned, and looked around at people clad in Packers gear noshing on traditional supper club fare: roast chicken. Grilled steaks. Thick cut pork chops. Lamb shanks.

I sat there and really contemplated the future, a bit of panic creeping into my psyche. I looked across the table and shared my concern. "Babe, how are we going to do it? How will we live here?"
"What do you mean?" he barely looked up from his plate.
"Look at us. We're eating comfort food atop a mound of mashed potatoes in the dog days of summer. How will we survive without sushi? And fish?"
"They have fish here," he argued back. "Friday night fish fry, Babe."
"I mean FRESH fish - from the ocean - that isn't fried in a vat of peanut oil that hasn't been changed since God knows when."
"Well you're just going to have to get your fill when we visit the big cities, like Madison or Milwaukee."

His words did little to dissuade me - I was perturbed. It really bothered me for awhile - giving up all the big city amenities in order to live Up North. However, over the ensuing ten years, my outlook changed dramatically. Now I dine out far less for the food and more for the overall experience of someone else preparing my dinner and serving it to me. I so appreciate the people who grew that food, and the ones who transformed it into a hearty, satisfying, and (hopefully) eye appealing meal, not to mention the fantastic beverages we sip before ordering. And allow me to permanently enter this for the record: no dishwasher = eat out at least twice per week.

But the move here is about so much more than food. Every day I look forward to what I'm going to do outside. At the beginning of summer, a simple walk to the dock is distracting, thanks to the moth outside the door,
the frog lounging on the tiniest of windowsills,
and the gorgeous widlflowers that lazily wave their heads around in June breezes. I ask Mr. Musky to spare them when he cuts the grass.
When I finally do arrive to the dock, I throw out a line at dusk, ambivalent about actually catching a fish. Sometimes I bring a book along and become so absorbed I forget my original intent, jerking back to reality as a large mouth bass tugs furiously on the end of my line.
The first things I search for by both sight and sound are our Echo Lake loons. My head swivels madly like a rubberneck on that inaugural boat ride of the season, anxiously searching for their nest. I spy it in the channel.
And thrill in the prospect of two chicks joining the adults - something we haven't seen for a few years now.
But sadly, flooding rains destroy the nest and dash my dreams of watching babies grow up this summer, leaving our dock underwater for nearly a week.
On picture perfect days, I move my office outside and listen to the squirrels chatter in the trees and play chase all over the yard.
And in the evenings, if it's cool enough, we build a campfire and roast ribeyes and potatoes over the flames, then serve them atop a bed of lettuce with goat cheese and a honey lemon drizzle. It's my most favorite meal in the entire world.

Guests breathe new life into us when they arrive, seeking solace, relaxation, and adventure. We enjoy time with friends and family, and those moments are always golden highlights on our reels of summer. We horse around and act half our age,
 treat my parents to some fun and relaxation, grateful for all they've done to help me live this life,
and BASK in time spent with our own brood. First with Kahley and Nick and naturally, a random horse alongside the road,
and then at Jake's 10 year camp celebration.
Gratefully, the kids were here to help us break in a new toy.
We're still tossing names around for this beaut.
Front runners include Get Rhythm, Sweet Escape, The Remedy, Valkyrie, and How Sweet It Is. Let me know what you think! I'm taking any and all suggestions and/or opinions on our choices.

Probably the saddest moments for me all summer came in the form of goodbyes to lifelong friends - people who showed up on our patio with less than 24 hours notice to have a final apéritif with us before we moved North for good.
And saying goodbye to my tribe, half of whom are extremely uncomfortable with hugs and kisses. Once I got that memo, it was far too late to modify my behavior.
It's rare to cultivate a group of friends who you trust and struggle alongside every single day and can sense from one look whether you're in a great mood or if you're bothered by something. My workout friends are some of the best people I've ever met.
But we move on, and I have done just that with my fitness journey (drink). I found a new home, which I call the Stairway to Hell.
I kid (sort of). More to come on my ongoing adventures in training. I'm still working on connecting with a new tribe in this place. For now I'll just leave it as my dork flag is flying high, but thank God there are no candlesticks here.

That brings us to now. The air is crisper today, the leaves change daily to deeper hues of orange, yellow, and blaze red, and they're already beginning to fall. Squirrel and chipmunk behavior escalates in urgency as they pack away nuts and seeds for the winter months. Boats no longer lazily amble by, and we only occasionally see the dedicated musky fishermen trolling along. But one thing remains constant. Everyday he asks me:

"Are you having fun?"
And my response remains the same, every single time.

"I am. I love it here."

XOXO,
Jen


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