I was blessed this week to spend three days in an area of southern Wisconsin known as the Driftless area. A place so named because it was bypassed by the glaciers of the last ice age that moved across the upper Midwest; thus leaving in place an undulating landscape, characterized by hills, valleys and waterways. I made my first trip to a small town in this region a year ago, and I returned this year again seeking the fulfillment of rest and inspiration; I was not disappointed.
There is so much uniqueness here to be explored on foot and in words that I cannot capture them justly in a single post. So this week will begin a five week Friday series on the Driftless. From the whole of the land to the intimacy of ones lodgings to the fantastical world of early 20th century artist environments; the Driftless embodies nature, art and history in such a manner that one cannot seem to exist without the other, and when there you cannot imagine existing without them.
This year I spent three days exploring slowly; writing, reading, sleeping and wandering. I think it is in my blood to wander, to explore small places, to seek out, or perhaps just be surprised by something captivating in the ordinary. I am in love with many aspects of this place, but it was the land that first made my heart stop.
The Driftless is simply beautiful. Narrow roads weave through its vibrant and varying landscape. They provide the capture of momentary vistas and then quickly lead you on to the next. The land is dotted with farms and small towns. Majestic barns stand out against the wide undulating prairie and the open sky.
I am particularly attracted to the barns. I find them beautiful in any condition, I marvel at their massive structures and how they represent the passage of time. They mark the peaks and discern the valleys. In this land they represent a way of life, an industry and a deeply rooted history. It is a life I pass through while traveling these roads and I feel privileged to do so; as though I am getting to share in a little piece of someone else’s haven.
This prairie land is gently forested, it is still green, but in this mid-September season yellow and orange tips are starting to emerge, giving a brief signal to what will soon be an enveloping hue.
I find solace here. The movement of these roads is familiar. They draw me back to younger travels; through mountains, and curvy roads that made my stomach turn. They were all I knew then. I did not know that someday I would long for them; for the next stop or the next thing to see just around the bend, to be guided and maneuvered through the land. I relish that turn of the wheel now, now that I am turning it. No longer a small passenger in the backseat, now a woman seeking my own adventure and familiarity.