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Favorite places and times can stay with us throughout life

Published: Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 4:44 p.m. CDT

Have you ever wondered why the places we travel to often seem more amazing and beautiful than the places we live? I know that I fall into this category each time I hit the road. As I was cleaning up in the kitchen this week I glanced up.

Across the top of our cabinets are rows of outdoor pictures, antlers, old ammo boxes, and a myriad of other woodsy stuff. One particular memory caught my attention. It was a photo of my dad and I standing together and we were holding a stringer of fish. The setting was the Northwoods.

The colors danced from the photo in an array of vivid blues and rich greens. The conifers bristled across ridge tops like a hedgehog on full alert. The closer I looked into the photo I could see brilliant gems of water dripping from the fish and landing back into the cool surface of Birch Lake.

It didn’t take long and my mind was leaving the cold and snow behind. It was now softly landing in a warm summer breeze far north of here. The cool water feels sharp against bare legs, like the sharp sting of a morning shower. An emerald surface glistens and beckons to be disturbed by the bow of a canoe.

Then there are the sounds.

There is no traffic. No trains. No buzz of electric streetlights and slosh of tires hitting asphalt and puddles. There is no jet engine slicing silence from the skies above. No phones, no incessant beeping from an incoming text message, yet strangely, it is not quiet.

The sounds of the Northwoods are vast. It is all encompassing and engrossing. A consistent gurgle from a rapids plays the orchestral rhythm section while randomly punctuated by the melody of loons and accented with an eagle’s screech. These woods surely are not silent

For a suburban Midwesterner to try and describe this immense difference from our home to this far placed paradise must be like someone seeing the skyline of Chicago for the first time. So big, so ongoing, it is just beyond what words can adequately express.

As I travel to the region I can’t help but to admire the locals. They fit right in to their surroundings like a perfectly placed puzzle piece. Do they realize how lucky they are? Do they take the time to notice the brilliance around them? I would believe that the answer is yes to those questions.

Besides the local born population, there are many who are transplants. When I have talked to these folks, or read about them, they all weave a common thread. The first time that they let their senses become filled with the setting something bit. Something took hold in them that acted as a taught line pulling them in. Few fought back. 

As these transplants set roots in the woods it transformed them. Their sense of urgency melted from their schedules. Many men let their whiskers loose. Everyone seems to realize that life is greater than just themselves. It is enchanting.

It is so hard to describe this place. I try. I fail. One thing is certain though, I cannot keep myself away.

Every one of us has had experiences like these. Places in this world that seem otherworldly. Places that infect our souls with a yearning to go back there. For some it is the pull of New England. Others are taken with the massive West. Yet others are absorbed with thoughts of a place more tropical.

Is there something to be learned from these feelings for other places? I think so. As hard as it may seem, we need to look at our own surroundings, here, in our locales, with fresh eyes. What is it about our little niche of the world that makes it special? Notice the little things and we can fill all our senses with wonder. Our own outdoors is just as magical.

Then, just maybe, more of our everydays can be like the somedays.

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