I am a visual artist, an oil painter, to be exact. I live in a town called Baileys Harbor in Door County in the state of Wisconsin. The population of this county is around 29,000 people.
Baileys Harbor has approximately 1,000 full-time residents. I emphasize “full-time” because Door County is a popular vacation and tourist destination. The county has a total area of 2,370 sq. miles and 1,887 sq. miles of it (79.63%) is water. The county also has 298 miles of shoreline, more than almost any other county in the continental United States. The county is often likened to Cape Cod (Barnstable County, Massachusetts) which has 550 miles. This is one of the reasons that local and tourists often refer to it as the Cape Cod of the Midwest.
Door County, with all its’ natural beauty, is a perfect place for an artist, a writer or a poet to reside… or so the propaganda and the Chamber say. I used to say the same thing. My long-term wish in life was to be an artist and writer and live in Door County.
In the mid-seventies, living in Chicago (in a high-rise apartment building) I saw an ad in a local news- paper: “A-frame in the quiet woods of Door County.” I had never heard of Door County and knew very little about the state of Wisconsin except that it was called the “land of lakes.” In my fantasies, I had envisioned such a place – a place far removed from the noise and congestion of the city, far from my business activities and the heavy travel schedule, a place of nature, cool and green, a place where I could breathe. My husband and I left our four children with grandparents and drove to Sister Bay, Wisconsin where the chalet was located.
Suffice to say, the rest is history. I won’t go into all the years of vacationing and part-time living in the Door but, in 2004, circumstances were such that we (with kids all gone off on their own) decided to become full-time residents of Door County.
Since it is now 2011, I could say, “Be careful what you wish for” but I won’t. I’ll just say that my heart may be in Door County, but every other part of me longs for life in the middle of a thriving metropolis. I miss going to the multiplex theaters (we have one small movie theater 18 miles from our home). I miss the theaters and concerts, the museums, the galleries, the antique shops and all of the quaint places one finds while meandering through the neighborhoods and ethnic communities which abound in Chicago. I miss the diversity of people, restaurants, entertainment and the myriad of opportunities for continuing education and self-actualization at the many colleges and universities. I miss looking through the classified ad section on Sunday, finding ads for and about things I couldn’t even imagine…All of this and much more…
I miss Kol Hadash and the group of like-minded people I’ve known for thirty years or more. But, most of all, I miss being able to spend time with my daughters and granddaughters– spontaneous moments together which can’t take place during a bi-monthly visit.
The half-full side of the cup…
On the other hand, the small-town environment here has been good for me. I have actually become a fairly recognized artist and sometimes writer. I have built a community of friends and participated in all that such entails. I have a few really good friends and lots of acquaintances. I read books and magazines of all kinds, so I can keep up with what is happening in the world at large. I listen to music of all kinds – and by the way, did you know that listening to music triggers the neurochemical dopamine (the same chemical that gives rise to pleasurable feeling associated with eating, sex and psychoactive drugs). I’m not a winter-sports person, so the long, cold months are not for me; I hate pot-lucks and avoid them at all costs.
I enjoy solitude and the insights it provides… all fruitful motivators for a writer and painter.
I breathe in the fresh, clean air from Lake Michigan, just a short walk down the hill from where I live.
I believe life is an evolutionary process and that change is the only constant. At this stage in my life, creativity is my beacon, my soul. As I paint, or write, I touch a secret and private space within me, one that perhaps no-one else can see.
Now, if I could just go to to the mall!