My narrative trailed off as I drove through the bleak forever of the rolling plains of South Dakota. Shortly thereafter, I made an all-out push through Minnesota and ended up back home in Madison, WI at the beginning of December. After completely unpacking my car, I settled in for a four-week period of stability, filled with family, friends, and more than enough relaxation. I had grand intentions of rolling out a few new ideas for the blog amidst a steady stream of posts. Whoops.
Having spent the better part of four months vagabonding around Eastern and Middle America, I had formed rhythms more akin to those of a long haul trucker than a nine-to-five desk jockey. My life passed by in tanks of gas, chapters in books on tape, and bananas consumed, rather than daily or weekly hour quotas. For December, however, that would all change. I quickly grew accustom to the luxury of having four insulated walls and a roof, to the warm deliciousness of oven-roasted veggies, to the simplicity of hours spent vegetating on the sofa, to the comfort of centralized heating, to the decadence of a frigid run followed by a steaming shower… the list goes on and on. Sometimes it was the subtlest things that made me somewhat envious of the lives of people with a steady routine, a consistent community, and a home base.
My transition to sedentary life, however, was not without the occasional hiccup. At this point, I have become so accustomed to the perpetual motion of my lifestyle that remaining stationary hardly feels like an option anymore. To combat that feeling, I spent a few days exploring Chicago, a city I hadn’t visited for quite some time. There, I connected with friends from college and high school, wandering through its labyrinth of concrete monoliths, sampling its vegan fare, and marveling at the icy waters of Lake Michigan. Having just listened to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, I welcomed the opportunity to compare my imagined vision of late nineteenth-century Chicago with its contemporary visage.
A few weeks later, one of my best friends from high school, Robyn, and I set off for an entirely different destination: Bayfield, WI. Although it may have been heralded as a “New Chicago” in the mid-1800s, the property speculation and population boom never came… thankfully. Perched as far north as you can go in Wisconsin, Bayfield is the gateway to the magnificent Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets. Famed for its access to an archipelago filled with intricate, sand stone sea caves, welcoming beaches, and pristine waters, Bayfield bustles with summer tourism from June to August. The winter months, in stark contrast, are a sleepy, snow-covered time when kayaking and swimming are replaced by snowshoeing and skiing. Robyn and I braved the cold each day to let Otis, her massive canine companion, experience the lake effect snow, but our exploits always landed us back in front of the new gas stove. We played endless games of Mancala, Palace, Yahtzee, Pente, and even a round of Scrabble. Cooking was a priority, but drinking tea was what we excelled at the most. It was everything that a few midwinter days in Bayfield should be: utterly relaxing and cozy with the occasional frigid exploit. Ending our trip with a meal at the Radtkes was the icing on the cake. After that, with the realization that real life would soon be upon us, we headed south once more.
While I may have felt the need to travel beyond Madison’s borders, I would say that my time there was the perfect intermission for my trip. Beyond the comforts that city life affords, I got caught up on the movie scene with frequent trips to the theatre: Star Wars (so good… all three times), The Big Short (unorthodox, but brilliant), Sicario (ruthlessly unrelenting), and Spotlight (investigative reporting at its best). I watched House of Cards, finally understanding what all the hype is about. I showed both my parents Meru, one of my favorite films of the year. On top of my cinematic explorations, I got to spend time with my family over the holidays, something I hadn’t done in years and checked in with a few of my high school friends who still call Madison home. I even got to go to one of our family friend’s Christmas parties that I had never been able to attend because of Bates’s break schedule. All in all, it was a December well spent, filled with all the generosity, love, and kindness that the holiday season conjures within us.
Now, let’s see what 2016 has to offer!