Growing up my family spent a lot of time ‘up north’ either camping at Boulder Lake or at my grandparents’ cottage on the Wisconsin River in Lake Tomahawk. As soon as my dad got home from work on Friday we’d pack up the Jeep and head out for the weekend.
Everything was different when we were up north. Things were slower and it felt like we stepped back just a little bit in time. The fact that we drove miles down winding, tree canopied roads and clattered across an old wooden bridge to get to our destination definitely set the mood. The smells were different- earthy pine mixed with campfire smoke, and the air was always fresh. I loved the water, and spent much time swimming in it or on it in some type of boat.
Early mornings by the water were the most inspirational. Every little noise echoed through the quiet- the splash of a fish jumping or the call of a loon. And the smell of the dewy, morning air was like no other. My grandparents were sure to be the first up with their coffee on these weekends, enjoying those most peaceful hours. I think fondly back to these moments with them.
Breakfast started with fresh brewed coffee, and no matter what we had to eat, there was always bacon. Though I’ve had bacon many other times in many other places, somehow, the smell still takes me back to those woods. As we crowded around the breakfast table, my eyes were sleepy but my nerves felt wide awake and jittery. Perhaps because I was allowed my own cup of coffee… or maybe it was my mounting anticipation for the day’s activities that played a part.
Day trips to the nearby little towns were exciting as we made time for mini golf and go carts and followed up touring the unique vintage shops. The stops at the candy and ice cream stores were my childhood joy, though now I’d much more appreciate the flea markets and antique shops. It was down the boardwalk that I had my first encounter with a leather goods store and a shop dedicated only to handcrafted soap of every color and scent- talk about overloading on the smells!
Winter was also different up north. All the little shops closed up, therefore trips to town were only for necessities. Instead we spent our time exploring the Northwoods on our snowmobiles. There was always more snow there, and while the air was frigid, it seemed to have less bite than it did back home. I loved how the evergreen branches hung low with snow and the river continued to flow with its constant, low rumble despite that all around it was frozen. Ideally, there was the perfect sledding hill lined with pines- steep enough to give a thrill but not so much to be scary. And still the best part of these winter weekends was coming in to warm up by the heat of the wood stove… again, that wonderful smell of woodsmoke.
It’s undeniable that my family being together and more intentional with our time was the reason I treasure these memories. Still it’s difficult to detach them from the northern locations where I experienced them. The word ‘North’ will always stir so much in my soul.
I now live farther north than I ever ventured in my youth and it still amuses me to think about how it all played out this way. Life feels slower here, almost of an earlier vintage, and the opportunities to connect with nature are much more convenient. I’m thankful to be spending my days and raising my family in this place and I can’t help but take it all in! I love being ‘everyday north’, and it has been my aim to infuse a little of this spirit into all that I craft.