Though this post’s title could easily be tied to a post about slow practice or something like that (which would make a good future blog post!), I’m actually referring here to the deliciously laid-back summer schedules that I’ve managed to get away with for much of my freelance career. While I have certainly had my fair share of hectic gigs in the warmer months, the past four summers (and large chunks of summers before that) have afforded me considerable opportunity for kicking back, reading some books, and just enjoying a slower lifestyle.
Summer is when I really developed my blog in the first place, and in subsequent summers I did most of the redesigning and behind-the-scenes work. It’s also a great time to do some writing and restore those creative energies, renewing my enthusiasm for another year of teaching, performing, and writing.
While I have a good time simply blogging in my kitchen (like I’m doing now!), drinking coffee and hanging out with the cats, I’ve been able to play chamber music with a dynamite group of musicians up in Door County these past several years. With more shoreline than any other county in the United States, this place is a sea lover’s dream, and the gentle breezes and pleasant solitude are the antithesis of my busy Chicago lifestyle.
Head north, take a boat….
My parents have been able to come up and spend some time in Door County these past several summers while I’ve been up here, which has been a lot of fun. My dad in particular enjoys this nautical setting (he maintains a blog on kayaking called Kayaking the Lakes of South Dakota). This summer, we took a trip up to Washington Island (requiring a ferry ride from the tip of the Door peninsula), then boarded an even smaller boat and crossed the channel to Rock Island.
Rock Island is the last island in northern Wisconsin before crossing the Michigan state line, and though it is now a state park, at one time it was owned by Chicago business tycoon Chester Thordarson. Here’s a shot of Thordarson’s old boathouse:
All the buildings were constructed with deference to Thordarson’s Icelandic heritage, and it’s quite a sight to see these grand structures on this remote island. Even in June, this part of Wisconsin can be quite cold. Temperatures hovered in the low fifties, making me shudder as I contemplated how this placed looks in December or January. People drive across the Lake Michigan ice to reach this place in the winter, and though the thought of taking a vehicle across the lake seems insane in Chicago, it makes a lot of sense up here.
After getting off the boat and hiking for a half-hour, we ended up at a lighthouse on the north end of the island, where we were greeted by a lighthouse caretaker and given a tour of the building. This lighthouse’s keeper must have had a lonely existence in this remote place on the continent.
This sign hung in Thordarsen’s bar room many years ago. I like the sentiments on it:
This bar is dedicated to those merry old souls of other days who again will make drinking a pleasure… who achieve contentment, enjoy what they drink, prove able to carry it… and remain GENTLEMEN
Sounds like Thordarsen had grown tired of bawdy drunken guests, eh?