It’s been a year and a half since I last visited my parent’s cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. Then, it was summer and I’d rallied a crew to join me from various parts of the country. We drank wine, swam in the lake, and enjoyed sunsets to melt your heart.
Now, it’s -16 degrees. Snow drifts around the house, and the lake is buried under ice and criss-crossed with snowmobile and cross-country ski tracks. The sound of the woods is silence, broken by the creaking of frozen trees in the wind. The winter sun sets about 40 degrees south on the horizon from its summer roost.
I love the seasons here: the falls with their pungency, their color, their sense of tangible resignation to the slow descent to winter. The springs with turtles rambling about laying eggs, the smell of pine and mud permeating the air.
I have spent many of my most enjoyable New Year’s Eves here, with many other close families, skiing all day, cooking chili by night, all of us trudging through the ice and snow of the lake to celebrate the new year with a toast of champagne under a cold, star-filled sky on a frozen island. This place holds so many of my dearest, most wild and fun, and some of my most painful memories. Its fabric is woven into me – the time my dog drowned in the lake and I had to pull her lifeless body out and bury her in the darkening evening as my sisters and I cried and got eaten by mosquitos; the time my boyfriend came to watch me run my first marathon and held me later that night in my exhausted soreness telling me how impressed and proud he was; the time I brought college friends here to hide away before finals and we baked blueberry pies and drank homemade wine after studying all day by the fireside; the summer days when my sisters and I would build forts in the woods and catch crawdads and snakes.
I love this place with my whole self. It’s an incredible homecoming to be here after our months of self-imposed homelessness. It reminds me of what matters to me and what I want for my own future. It is such a great way to recall my memories of family and friends, and tare the scales of my life with my priorities. Rick is not with me, he is celebrating the new year with his family before we leave to head abroad. I think for him too, this bizarre exercise we’ve been performing of criss-crossing the country in search of a home, then coming home, then heading abroad, and hoping the pieces fall into place for us, it’s all very confusing, but I think the time back home serves us well to establish a base of where we come from and what we want going forward.