Guest author Lyn Cote tells us why she lives in the wild - otherwise known as the boonies!
Of course, the boonies is short for the boondocks. According to the online dictionary, the origin of the word is:
Boondocks- 1910s, from Tagalog bundok "mountain." Adopted by occupying American soldiers in the Philippines for "remote and wild place." Reinforced or re-adopted during World War II. Hence, also boondockers "shoes suited for rough terrain" (1953).
Remote and wild? Well, my cottage is in a remote area and there is a lot of wildlife around us
Wisconsin is where my husband and I, and our two cats, live now. We live on a lake in a pine, maple, oak and birch forest. Within a fifty mile radius of our home there are 2300 lakes. No wonder, it’s called the Lakeland area. Two national forests, the Nicolet and Chequamegon are also nearby. Also, Sylvania Wilderness north of us is one of the few old-growth forest preserves in the Midwest.
I suppose that some might wonder why it is important to mention where I live. I think that is because most Americans live in many different places in a lifetime. I was born in Texas, grew up in Illinois, raised my children in Iowa and now live in Wisconsin. And I don’t think anyone can argue that where one lives makes a difference to a life. Whenever I plan a story, I always start with a place. What a person does for a living, and where, are a big part of a person’s life. Very few lumberjacks in Manhattan, right? Places draw a certain kind of people. And the north woods drew me—unexpectedly that is.
Since the Lakeland area is also near Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, French fur traders in birch-bark canoes arrived in the area in the 1600‘s. I personally arrived here in the 1970’s when I became engaged to my husband. His family—as did mine—lived in the Chicago area and had been coming to the north woods of Wisconsin since the 1920’s. I had been to Wisconsin plenty of times, but never north of the Dells.
Anyway I fell in love with the many sparkling, blue spring-fed lakes and thick forest. It was wonderful.... Except for the mosquitoes. But why dwell on the insect many call the Wisconsin state bird?
My future husband let me know that living here would be his first choice. It was not my choice at all. I loved it for a vacation spot, but had no intention of moving north. In fact, I told him I never intended to live farther north than the Wisconsin-Illinois border. He married me anyway.
But times change. We were able to buy an old—and I mean built in the 1930’s old—fishing cabin on a rise over the lake near a swamp. (I know many use the nicer term ‘wetland’ but swamp does it for me.) Eventually we tore the old cabin down—which carpenter ants were feasting on—and built our present retirement home on it.
Due to a lay-off in the economic tidal wave after 9/11, we ended up “retiring” here in 2003, much earlier than anticipated. Many of my friends wondered at our decision to live in the boonies. I mean, I have to drive over an hour to a mall. I can’t get cable TV or super fast Internet. Except for Walmart, all the stores in town are for tourists. So why do I live here?.
Well, blue heron, loons, sandhill cranes and other birds enjoy wading, or swimming, out in front of our cottage. Hummingbirds swoop in to drink at feeders on our porch which overlooks the lake. Every spring at least one large—I’m talking three feet long and almost as wide—mama turtle climbs our hill and lays somewhere around 300 eggs in a nest in our drive. With a snow shovel we try to carry her to a less busy area, but she gets really testy with us.
Black bear live nearby but avoid us assiduously, and there's an eagle’s nest three docks west. It’s huge and high. Every evening we’re serenaded by hundreds of peepers (our name for tree frogs that ‘peep’) and amorous bullfrogs which sound like a symphony of large rubber bands being snapped.
And that’s just a small sample of the wildlife which abounds. I don’t need to mention the deer, do I? Oh, okay, I will. I’ve seen several speckled fawns this spring and never get tired of watching them chase mom. Recently on her way to visit us, our daughter stopped abruptly on the nearby two lane highway. Another car had parked in the middle of the road and the driver was waving cars to stop—all to protect a newborn fawn lying in the middle. Baby fawn slips and falls on the asphalt and it takes them some time to get enough courage to rise again. The mother-doe waited by the side of the road, anxiously watching her little one. Cars were slowing to ease around the precious newborn.
Moving here brought me other new experiences. I had never lived in a small town before. I also had never lived in a tourist area. Which has proved even more interesting. In summer on a holiday weekend, the Lakeland area might host twenty to thirty thousand extra people. The idea is staggering. I avoid town during the busy, crowded summers, taking the back roads to avoid traffic. Summers are busy here, and noisy and exciting—especially when they tear up the main highway.
We actually live on a lake in a chain of several lakes. So in the summers, I always sit and watch what I call the “boat parade” go by, especially on those busy weekends. I hear snatches of music from the boats, giving me a wide variety—hiphop, country/western, hard rock. No opera though. Perhaps boating and opera don’t go together. Anyway I see and hear a lot of people having a good time. Consequently I’m in a good mood. It’s hard to be grouchy when practically everyone that goes by is smiling or laughing. I especially loved it when recently a group of bare-chested young men went by waving their hands and singing, “Rosanna, Rosanna” at the top of their lungs. Funny!
However, the main satisfaction of living here is simply the beauty that surrounds us. I sometimes have to remind myself not to take it for granted. I mean, many people save all year and look forward to spending a weekend or a week here once a year. And we LIVE here.
Fortunately our cottage faces north so we get the sunrise and sunset views from our porch. Last November I captured a moment on film where the water was still, a vast mirror, and the dawn turned the trees to gold. My husband and I, still in our robes out on our front porch, gasped, gawked and snapped photos.
Almost silent, the winters are the opposite of the noisy, busy summers. And boast unusual sights, some that dazzle. One January night my husband and I stepped out onto our porch. The temperatures had risen near freezing so the air was soft and “warm.” The sky felt as rich and soft as black velvet. Huge fluffy snowflakes drifted, floated down among the evergreens—not a sound was heard.
Another phenomena I’ve witnessed twice—both times on Christmas morning—is sublimation, when a vapor becomes solid, skipping the liquid stage. Doesn’t sound very lovely, does it? But when it happens “diamonds” fleck the snowscape, dazzling in bright sunlight, and falling snow appears like diamond dust cascading from a clear blue sky. Both of these sights are special “Ahhhh” moments. Beautiful. Breathtaking.
And that’s the kind of moments that make the long winters, something to be thankful for too. This holds true though the winter of 2013-2014 broke all records for cold—average temperature 4.5 degrees F—and snow at 110+ inches. For the first time I discovered the true meaning of cabin fever.
But the north woods Lakeland area presents me with a unique setting for stories. My Christmas novella, Loving Winter, is part of a boxed set of holiday novellas, Sweet Christmas Kisses 4. It is one of 14 novellas by NYTimes and USA Today bestselling authors.
So where do you live? Did you choose it or did you just end up there? Tell us in the comments or use #AtHomeWith on Social Media to join the #PHS community's discussion.
Lyn's latest book, Loving Winter, is part of a box set called, Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 available now. To find out more about her and her writing visit her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.