With this post I’m speaking directly to Wisconsin folks, although no matter where you live I’m sure you have your own version of “Up North”. I hope you enjoy this piece I wrote a few years back when I worked for a little local newspaper and still drank. Mostly, I hope it takes you “Up North” no matter where you live!
Up North”. I bet many of you traveled there over the Fourth of July weekend. If not, you’re probably headed there now. Whether you tent it in the rough or stay in a cabin on a lake, I’m willing to bet Up North is where nine out of 10 Wisconsinites spend their summer holidays.
Going Up North is more than traveling to a different physical location, though. If you take a poll asking folks where Up North begins and Down Here ends, their answers would be as varied as Wisconsin’s landscape.
Writer Susan K. Wendorf is one person who agrees with my little assumption. She starts off a refection aptly titled “Up North” with the following observation:
Like a winter chickadee flitting from branch to feeder to fir, Up North refuses to settle down in one place. Up North may be Minocqua or Metonga, Crivitz or Couderay, Shawno or Shell Lake. Up North defies delineation but welcomes discovery, as long as you know what you’re looking for.
Ah, therein lies the question: what are we looking to discover when we head Up North? I think we’re looking for a place that’s not Down Here with all Down Here’s worries and responsibilities. Up North is a place we’re allowed to wander away from it all so when we come back Down Here life’s stresses don’t lead us to wander away from them all for good.
But how do you know you’ve arrived Up North? After all, what’s your Up North is probably not mine. In fact, this past weekend my family and I camped near Mauston and considered “Out West” Up North. If its location is not geographic, how do we know we’re there?
After giving that very question a lot of thought as I sat mesmerized by a Saturday night campfire, I came up with a list of things that may tip you off that you’ve arrived:
1) You get up in the morning and you walk outside missing at least one piece of clothing you find wearing essential at home.
Have you ever found yourself wandering out to the outhouse in the morning without pants? You were Up North. Have you ever worn a bikini top to run to the gas station? Only Up North.
Along these same lines, if “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” becomes your anthem, you know you’re Up North. (Really, if you find yourself humming any country song you know you’ve arrived.)
2) Sunscreen and bug repellent application become the whole of your daily beauty routine. Bathing between treatments is optional when you’re Up North.
3) Any other activity besides fishing becomes optional Up North. These optional activities include eating and sleeping. However, if you do fall asleep (preferable by a campfire)…
4) Waking up if it’s raining becomes optional. That is, of course, unless you really did manage to nod off in front of the campfire. If you find yourself in this predicament, then you must wake up long enough to grab the nearest beach towel or tarp so you’ll be comfy hunkered down in your lawn chair for the storm’s duration. Getting up just long enough to grab a beer or two isn’t such a bad idea if you find yourself stuck in this spot either.
5) If you become thirsty enough to get off the chair at any point during your vacation, drinking anything but beer is definitely optional Up North. However, a side order of deer jerky is required.
6) The only music you listen to is the melody of the birds singing and the cicadas chirping.
7) Your main source of entertainment comes after the sun goes down while you’re snuggling in the dark with your sweetie–shining for deer of course!
8) The phrase “taking it easy” takes on a new meaning as splitting wood, building a campfire, and pitching a tent are looked upon as relaxing activities and not work Up North.
9) You find yourself questioning your kids when they don’t return from outside full of mud and grime.
10) And finally, you know you’re Up North when you find yourself smiling more over silly things such as your son doing a cannonball off the pier and stressing less about silly things such as getting up “on time”.
At the end of her essay, Wendorf sums up Up North best when she writes, “Down Here is home for now, and I accept that as it must be. But my spirit, my inmost being, pulls me back Up North time and time again, even if the loons call a million songs between my visits. Up North is always worth the wait.”
Thankfully, it’s summer in Wisconsin and nine out of 10 of us don’t have to wait long.