After a week of cool, wet weather with low temperatures in the 50s overnight, the Midwest summer has hit Wisconsin. My garden is thick with arugula, and the tomato plant is growing at the rate of a jungle vine. The heat index today is in the danger zone with a high temperature of 92 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity at 78%.
I refuse to turn on the air-conditioner in the house; I have none in my car. I rely on all those passive techniques my mother taught me when we were living in the 1875 Victorian in the Chicago suburbs. I don’t have an attic here; this is a Lannon stone ranch-style house. I open all the windows and the front door at night to let in the cool air and shut everything up when the sun rises in the morning. I have a box fan in the living/dining room, no ceiling fans.
Steve converses about Buddhist mindfulness. What does it feel like in this weather? Without judgement, accepting what is, what do I notice?
The trees are swaying outside my window. As hot as it is, there is a stiff breeze. I see a million shades of green. I hear the hum of the fan. Birdsong woke me at 4:40 a.m., before I shut the windows. I noticed smells inside the house after I shut them. Melting soap in the bathroom. Coffee. My body feels slow, swollen, lazy.
I am trying not to dread the fundraising event I am working tonight. The dress is “formal”. The open bar and silent auction are outside, on the patio. My dress is made of an unfortunately synthetic material (long story). I imagine I will sweat. I fear social embarrassment…and I do not. I don’t really care that much. I like myself. I do fine work. The rest is unimportant. I will practice being gracious and compassionate, and I will come back home to my cool stone house at the end of the evening, strip down and lie beneath an open window, waiting for a thunderstorm. All will be well.
Outside, the butterflies and chipmunks, the birds and deer and Charles the woodchuck go slowly about their summer growth. I imagine that while they may sweat, they do not fret. I aspire to learn their wisdom.
The photo challenge for this week is about life’s waking after a long winter. Well, someone must have hit the SNOOZE button for Wisconsin because it’s still FREEZING up here!
I was able to see some blooms indoors at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago at the end of last month. Here’s another fern to echo Jen’s post:
I am really looking forward to the proposition of warmer days and greener landscapes. Any time. Soon. The sooner the better, really. Like…now would be good. Yeah. Until then, Northerners, this bud’s for you.
“Share with us an image, or two, or three, (or more!) of where you live.”
If you look up over this post title, you will see two links to separate pages labelled “Wisconsin Historical” and “Wisconsin Outdoors”. You will find quite a few more than three photos there!
I moved to Wisconsin 7 years ago from Illinois, and have absolutely fallen in love with my new home state. I used to summer at Girl Scout camp as a child in northern Wisconsin, but I’ve come to feel like I’ve always belonged outside, here, even after living for 15 years in California. When I first moved north, I worked for 3 summers at Old World Wisconsin, a 575-acre living history museum that recreates 19th century farm and town settlement. Last year, I moved onto a property that is owned by the land trust that employs me. I have thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by 56 acres of Wisconsin woodland, wetland, and restored prairie.
Wisconsin is a ridiculously photogenic state. It can take your breath away, fill you with pride, and surprise you at every outing. When we’re out hiking, my partner Steve very often just flings wide his arms and remarks (to nobody in particular), “Ladies and gentlemen — Wisconsin!”
Yes, it deserves your attention and applause. Here’s why:
When we broke camp in the Chippewa National Forest on Tuesday morning, the condensation on our tent fly froze instantly. Time to head south to Wisconsin!
Our destination was Bayfield and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Along the way, we stopped at Amnicon Falls State Park. The river was high and rushing mightily, churning up tannin-colored water into thundering root beer cascades.
We told the WDNR ranger that we were thinking of heading towards the western section of the Nicolet-Chequamegon National Forest to camp and to Bayfield to visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. She directed us to the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center for more information. Now, you might not get excited about Visitor Centers, but this one is truly amazing. First of all, it’s a quality museum facility featuring interactive exhibits, a National Park Service film, an historical archive library, a bookstore, and an observation deck – three floors of cool stuff! Outside, there’s a nature trail and research nursery. I’m pretty sure the building itself is LEED certified. BEST OF ALL, it is a collaborative effort of the local community (Friends of the Center), the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and University of Wisconsin Extension – which means that staff members from each of those entities are present to answer questions and amplify your understanding of the area. The two we talked to spent considerable time with us, giving us numerous maps and tips and sharing the vision of the Center, its history and unique features. If it hadn’t been so late in the afternoon, and if we didn’t have the urgency of finding a campsite before dark, we would gladly have stayed until closing. Did I mention that admission is completely free? Your tax dollars at work. I took a picture on each floor before heading out with an armload of information.
We camped at an old CCC site in the forest and planned our Bayfield outing. We rose to temperatures in the 20s and headed out for the Grand Tour of the Apostle Islands. The sun was shining, the air was cold, the eagles soared overhead, and I couldn’t have been more invigorated and elated!
We headed southeast from Bayfield to revisit a favorite dispersed camping spot in the town of Three Lakes, WI. Across the forest service road from this site is the Headwaters Wilderness, a true, federally designated wilderness. We first camped in this private paradise seven years ago. It’s in National Forest, so the site is “first come, first served”. I was leaning over the dashboard hoping no-one else was there. We were in luck, and this glorious day had a perfect ending.
The weather turned damp and drizzly the next day, so we only stayed one more night. Our privacy was disturbed once by a sole fisherman who had been tipped off to the spot and came to check it out. We had a pleasant conversation, and he left. We walked the fire service roads and revisited another spot where we’d camped one year when our favorite place was “taken”.
By this time, we hadn’t showered for eight days. I began to picture Steve as Sasquatch emerging from the forest… …which he found rather funny. On our way back to camp from our after-dinner walk, Steve suddenly told me to hold very still. A skunk was foraging at the side of the road. We waited. He crossed the road and began to forage on the other side. We waited. Then, he turned and headed straight for us. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I was barely breathing. The skunk stopped four feet from us and looked up. He turned tail and hustled away from us as fast as his short, furry legs could go! What a relief…what a delight!
Our sojourn in the forest was punctuated by encounters with wildlife of many kinds besides the skunk: beaver, deer, bald eagle, red squirrel, vole, grouse, spider, leech and slug, to name a few. Also hunter. Gunshots rang out near our campsites occasionally. Road hunters in blaze orange cruised by. We found the remains of a grouse at one trailhead. I am almost entirely ignorant of gun culture, mostly by choice. The relationship that Steve & I want to have with the world is non-violent, following the Buddhist koan “do no harm”. Our culture is, however, complex. There’s a lot that I will never understand, and I don’t want to judge. I am grateful that we were able to experience long stretches of silence and peace on this trip, in which we could contemplate our place in the cosmos. Perhaps we are atypical of Wisconsinites, or of Americans. “What do you do out there in the wild if you’re not hunting, or fishing, or riding a motorized vehicle?” We sit. We walk. We sleep. We listen. We look. And I take pictures.
I am very grateful for the land around me and for the people who work to protect and preserve it. I do my best to join in the work. I invite you to as well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my photo journal.