While it may seem like a strange activity (and, looking around, I certainly seem to be the only guy with a laptop out here!), there is a certain kind of strange satisfaction that I get writing out on the beach, surrounded by nothing but Lake Michigan’s sandy shores and the spruce and pine forests of northern Wisconsin. Talk about solitude! For me, this is an ideal place to write, and I’ve been interspersing sessions of work on my new book My Car Caught Fire and Exploded! with hanging out on the beach and taking some long hikes in the forest.
I am currently at the northern tip of the Door County peninsula on the Lake Michigan side, hanging out in the the wild and rarely visited Newport State Park. Though many of the other parks up here in Door County are packed with Illinois tourists escaping the smog and stress of Chicago, this park is pretty far off the beaten path, and I am one of only a few cars parked here. I’ve got a great view of the beach, joined at the moment only by the seagulls and the mosquitos (note to self–buy better bug spray).
Man, if only I could live this kind of lifestyle year-round! Alternating some top-notch chamber music playing with solitary sessions on the beach, writing for the blog and working on new books, and taking time to kick back and enjoy the pleasures that this part of the country offers (I’m beginning to remember what I like about the Midwest after a long season of traumatizing drives through ridiculous snowstorms).
I never enjoy the Midwest more than I do up here in northern Wisconsin, though my wife an I are stlll leaning toward a relocation to the Southwest, West Coast, or (long shot, but we’d love to make it work) Hawaii in the next few years.
The big problem with any of the aforementioned areas is having to re-establish myself as a bassist and teacher….but I have a plan for this! I’ve been working for the past couple of years on a teaching certificate, and I’ll be spending the last 16 weeks or so of 2008 student teaching.
Will I look for a school job and quit/dial down the freelancing and private teaching? We’ll see, but it’s a very likely possibility if we move out of Illinois, and my wife and I are both leaning in that direction. This is a great place to live for about four months of the year, a questionable place for about two months of the year, and a wintry mess the other six months. I’ve spent my entire life in this kind of climate, and I’m sick of it. Though cutting back all my driving (from 50,000 miles a year to more like 10,000) certainly makes a difference, I think that my Illinois-o-meter may be full. Plus, my wife Courtney is from New Mexico, and while I may get annoyed at 40 inches of snow (areas of Wisconsin had over 50 inches this past winter), she positively hates it.
Of course, we may end up staying in Illinois long-term after all. Who knows? Courtney’s going to be entering medical school in the near future, and we may end up staying local for that. Up here in Door County, sitting on the beach and watching the waves come in, I am pretty darn content with this area of the country, but 15 years of Chicago winters have caused me to look across this big beautiful blue lake and imagine it six months from now, frozen solid and lifeless, with the wind whipping across its surface, my tires spinning across unplowed roads as I make my way across the icy northern tundra, gripping the steering wheel white-knuckled and praying that I make it home safely.