September 10, 2013

Wisconsin, September.

Untitled

A photograph from Sunday — when it was overcast and cool — that I was motivated to pull out of the camera by my own comment, dropped in the post about the man who fell or was pushed off a cliff in Glacier National Park:
When we went to Glacier, I was too afraid to hike there. You have these fantastic views, but then you can't enjoy them.

One more reason not to travel: The gentler landscapes of Wisconsin are more beautiful, because they don't force you to think about dying.
There's a human scale to Wisconsin. It feels humane. The West is dramatic, and I have enjoyed many trips though those landscapes, including Death Valley, the national park named to confront you with its hostility.

Why do we seek extreme experiences, when the subtleties of our normal lives are so close by? Why would we ever want to leave their sweet embrace? Ultimately, death will drag us away from the places we love, but why do we torment ourselves with those experiments in exile we call travel?

68 comments:

EDH said...

Meade, watch your back!

bandmeeting said...

The gentler landscapes of Wisconsin are more beautiful, because they don't force you to think about dying.

Funny, I've lived in Wisconsin and currently live in a rather spectacularly beautiful part of northern Arizona. So far the state has not held a gun to my head and said, "Think about death, or I'll kill you".

dustbunny said...

Not everyone feels at home where they are. James Joyce said the prerequisites for being an artist in the modern world were "silence, cunning and exile".

BarrySanders20 said...

Throw some wiggly oaks in there and you've got yourslef a Van Gogh.

A fake one.

Inga said...

My eldest daughter who has lived on the east coast, the west coast, overseas in a few different places, says Wisconsin is still the best. She lives in SoCal now and misses the midwest's dramatic change of seasons, thunderstorms, and even blizzards. Sunny CA is quite boring to her. Unfortunately, her S.O. is a native So.Californian and could never live in "the great white north", so he says.

donald said...

Yuch. You can have it.

Sigivald said...

The West is dramatic, and I have enjoyed many trips though those landscapes, including Death Valley, the national park named to confront you with its hostility.

Why do we seek extreme experiences, when the subtleties of our normal lives are so close by? Why would we ever want to leave their sweet embrace?


FYI, people actually live in the West, including in Death Valley.

They'd consider Wisconsin a radical change of pace, and an "extreme experience".

jimbino said...

You are voicing the sentiments of Black, Brown and Red Americans, who almost NEVER visit any of the National Parks, Forests or BLM lands.

The question is, why don't we just sell them off and use the proceeds to support housing, education and other things that our minorities need or would prefer?

There is no excuse for maintaining such White Country Clubs at minority expense.

JDR said...

Pretty, but no coast. Dealbreaker for me.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Because familiarity breeds contempt. This has been known for some time now.

Sunslut7 said...

Unless I travel, I can not return HOME! In the act of come home I renew myself and I re-experience my joy at living in my hometown.*

TIA.

Titus said...

I don't travel much. There is so much within 1 hour from me: The Berkshires, Vermont, NH, Maine, The Cape. Mountains and Ocean. Fab peeps. And gay marriage! Love it here.

Titus said...

I will never travel down south. It scares the hell out of me.

Michael K said...

Some of us read and are curious about other places. I've been all over the world and have taken my children with me when they were old enough to enjoy it. Now, they travel and have friends in other countries.

Next year, when my grandchildren are older, I may take them to Alaska and rent a motorhome, as I did with my children 20 years ago.

Ann Althouse said...

"Because familiarity breeds contempt."

In small minds.

Those who don't love home... and I'm not talking about people who get stuck initially with a bad home. They should relocate to the good.

Meade and I have been thinking a lot about where to live when we retire. That explains some of our travel. I know some people live in the western places, and I love Colorado and Montana, but there is something about Wisconsin that feels better to me. Some of it the moisture and the filtered light. The west is brutal.

The Godfather said...

When I was 17, a friend and I drove from Connecticut to the "west", including the Bad Lands of South Dakota, Mt. Rushmore, Deadwood (where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered), Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and the Snake River Valley, Great Salt Lake, Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. The only thing scary about Glacier was my horse (Sam) who knew the route and tolerated no detours. My friend and I hiked half way across the Grand Canyon, and I finished the hike alone (my friend's new boots let him down, and he rode out on a mule).

These were among the great days of my life (there have been others since, many of which also involved travel). Even when I was (so far as I could tell) absolutely alone in the Grand Canyon I was not afraid (worried, yes). Of course 17 is a fearless age, thank God.

I'm sure Wisconsin is a wonderful place, although I've never been there. Connecticut where I grew up is also wonderful. But I'm glad I've seen more of the world than that; I'm glad that I've traveled as much as I have (not much compared to others), and I hope God will great me health and the opportunity to see more of the world before I'm done.

Inga said...

Wisconsin has two coasts.

Rusty said...

Ultimately, death will drag us away from the places we love, but why do we torment ourselves with those experiments in exile we call travel?

Perhaps if you tried fly fishing.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

If you are sufficiently artistic to appreciate the simple finery of nature, this suggests an impressionable nature which means (at least if you're young) that you would make an attractive, easily twisted target of the forcible sodomizing rapist. On other hand, if you're into climbing up to the edges of cliffs to beat your chest, make primal howl, or take delight in conquering challenge, this suggests maybe you are not an ideal target worth messing with. There is interesting simple nature in the most spectacular places as well, and so to be safe you could always go the spectacular places (keeping prudent distance from cliff) and be ambiguous as to whether you are there for the thrill of looking at the spectacular things.

It's also kind of cool to go to places where many different environments have been close together for a very long time, leading to much diversity of life. And out-of-the-way places can be interesting. I am certainly glad I have visited the beach environment and also the Grand Canyon. It's like different places have a different spirit to them that one can sense and maybe commune with--that's what feels most special about travel. It really can be broadening. Though travel isn't terribly important to me, I'm not against unnecessary travel, but unnecessary moving.

Rusty said...

The west is brutal.

That's the attraction. Less civilized. More..........elemental. fewer people.

Rocketeer said...

I will never travel down south. It scares the hell out of me.

It's odd how different the reaction is in the other direction: You amuse us.

Mountain Maven said...

Ann you are getting old. My grandparents went on a 5000 mile road trip in their late 70's. Of all places to get away from is a parochial college town.

John Constantius said...

I like the shopping in New York and London. I like the restaurants in San Francisco and Paris. I like the museums in DC and Boston. I like the art galleries in Santa Fe and Durango. I like the architecture in Chicago and Miami. I like the bars in Austin and Aberdeen. I like the live music scene in New Orleans and Nashville. I like the Christmas markets in Nuremberg and Koln. I like the scenery in Sedona and Vancouver. I like the rock climbing at Devils Tower and Yosemite. I like the scuba diving in the Cayman Islands and off the Great Barrier Reef. I like the atmosphere in Edinburgh and Brussels.

I'm not sure there's anything I particularly like about Wisconsin. It's a place I've driven through on the way to other places more interesting to me. I did stay once in a Madison hotel the night of a home game -- it was hard to get a room what with all the alumni coming back. Red badger sweatshirts everywhere. My girlfriend of the time was in a very frisky mood that night, so I'll always remember the city and all those sweatshirts with great fondness. Still wouldn't want to live there.

I don't know where I'd want to retire. It's a big world out there and it's hard to narrow your options.

MarkD said...

Life is experiences, and staying home is voluntarily foregoing many of them.

Ann Althouse said...

"Of all places to get away from is a parochial college town."

Are you calling Madison "a parochial college town"?

1. UW is a big university, not a "college."

2. It's the state capital, and a city, not a town.

3. I consider the whole surrounding area part of the home base... everywhere within a day trip.

Ann Althouse said...

"Life is experiences, and staying home is voluntarily foregoing many of them."

Would you apply that reasoning generally and reject marriage to one person for life or staying at one job for a long time?

You have one life, and let's assume X amount of time (not varying based on your choices), then you can apportion that time however you want. More of the one thing you love or lots of variety.

I'm arguing that proportionately more home life and travel within a day of home is the better way to live, a better experience (assuming you live in a good place).

If you don't live in a good place, how can you make up for that by traveling some of the time?

Inga said...

People who have never really traveled thought Wisconsin have no idea how gorgeous this state is. We have prairies and elevations that resemble foot hills of the Austrian Alps. Sandstone bluffs, lots of rock climbing at Devils Lake. The Mississippi on the west coast and Lake Michigan, an inland ocean really, on the east. The Door County Penninsula jutting out into Lake Michigan, spectacular views from Penninsula state Park. Up north we have the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. The Coulee area near the Mississippi is breathtaking.

And yes UW Madison is no podunk little college. Madison is a city with a personality, quirky, fun and beautiful.

Oh well, those without appreciation for this state can stay away, more for us.

Paddy O said...


A certain brother went to Abbot Moses in Scete,and asked him for a good word. And the elder said to him:
"Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”

El Pollo Raylan said...

"[T]he great white north" sounds vaguely racist.

@Jimbino, have you ver been to Monument Valley? It's as picturesque as any national park and its populated by Navahos.

Perhaps one reason more "black, browns, and reds" (as you call them) don't visit national parks is because white people and asians go there and they don't want to "act white" (or asian).

Inga said...

Actually Wisconsin has three coasts, not two. Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and the Mississippi.

And more than 15,000 inland lakes.

Kirk Parker said...

"The west is brutal."

Whoa--and you live through the Upper Midwest winters???

FYI there are plenty of places in the West that aren't brutal like the high parts of the Rockies. For example, when are you going to include Puget Sound country in your survey? :-)

SteveR said...

I've lived in the West most of my life and never found it hostile or threatening. Mostly in New Mexico and I think cold and snow is far worse to deal with than topography. Gravity is an easy thing to learn about so avoiding falling to my death has been easy, even as a geologist and backpacker in my active days.

Titus said...


It's odd how different the reaction is in the other direction: You amuse us.

We know. All the young peeps from our office who are from the South tell us their klans think their freaks for living here. We get your young STEMs and you get our retirees.

If you graduate from the south and want to be in the "creative economy" you know you have to get out and go east or west...young man.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

As Mitt Romney summarized, the trees are the right height?

RigelDog said...

Ask Nina.

somefeller said...

Stephen A. Meigs said: If you are sufficiently artistic to appreciate the simple finery of nature, this suggests an impressionable nature which means (at least if you're young) that you would make an attractive, easily twisted target of the forcible sodomizing rapist.

Thanks for sharing your insights, Steve-o. You should publish a newsletter!

mrs. e said...

I love Wisconsin (the change in seasons, the scenery, the culture, etc.) and will probably retire here, as family is here. I love Glacier, too - we've hiked the backcountry many times. I love the seasons, scenery and culture out there as well. I also love the quiet challenge of the backcountry and don't see it as torment or an experiment in exile. It recharges me and I'm grateful for that.

A. Shmendrik said...

I went to Wisconsin to enjoy the cool fall colors, and my spouse pushed me down a glacial drumlin! Damn!

somefeller said...

If you graduate from the south and want to be in the "creative economy" you know you have to get out and go east or west...young man.

Er, no. If you want to be in the "creative economy", there are plenty of Southern cities where one can do that. Austin, Houston, Atlanta, Miami and the Research Triangle all come to mind and that isn't an exhaustive list.

Don't worry. Your new friends in Boston won't notice your red neck or they'll politely ignore it. You don't have to try so hard.

ngtrains said...

An interesting set of comments.

Last week we were in the Alps. Next week in Colorado. We live in Ohio - some hills and ravines, but no mountains We really like it all. One daughter in Wisconsin. It is a fine place to live. (We were in (Madison 1960-62.) We love the green scenery here but not the eternal brown (they call it golden) of the Far West area.
I can't imagine living in one area and never leaving it, and then saying 'my area is the ONLY place to be.'
ted

grackle said...

Our winters are mild. A couple of days a year it might get below freezing at night. We pay for that with our summers. The other nine months are great. I walk after the sun goes down when school is out. But I love this place and family is here.

My advice on where to live after retirement: Stick to within easy driving distance of those you care about. Family, friends.

I've been many places in America, both urban and rural. The wildest-looking place was the desert part of Big Bend National Park in Texas. There are places there where men were obviously not meant to live. Not hostile so much as complete and timeless indifference to anything human.

Mountain Maven said...

Ann, College towns are parochial in their mindset, worldview lifestyle, and ideology. I grew up in a similar college, sorry, University City and went to college in another one. Lived for years in blue state suburbia in the shadow of a fancy college. With the solidifying of the PC brainwashing and suppression of dissent it is much worse now. I am much happier after moving to a rural town. Not as much demographic diversity but much more independent thought.
You have a lot fun lampooning the zeitgiest in Mad City. Keep working on freeing yourself from that straightjacket yourself.
BTW we spent 10 days in DC last year and it was wonderful. Would never want to live there. Going on a tour of the mountain southwest and not afraid of heights.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Because familiarity breeds contempt."

In small minds.


Oh, I couldn't agree more. Most aphorisms are meant to instruct the small minds, who need the reminder.

I remember thinking --- the very first time I heard them (as a wee boy) --- that the final lines of The Wizard of Oz movie, were as true as the truth gets.

At least they were and have been, for me.

You take yourself every where you go. I'm quite content at home.

Lamoreaux said...

Ann, your post really struck "home" with me. I despise traveling and yet I love the experience of a new place. My husband is in Foreign Service. Right now we get to call the beautiful but war damaged city of Sarajevo our home. For three wonderful years I have the privilege of enjoying this amazing city. While our fellow FS compatriots are dashing around visiting all the surrounding countries, I am sitting tight loving what is nearby. I have seen the world without being a tourist.

Ann Althouse said...

" I also love the quiet challenge of the backcountry and don't see it as torment or an experiment in exile. It recharges me and I'm grateful for that."

How was the charge lost in the first place?

You have an unexamined premise, a problem that travel is the solution to, but why was there a problem?

I prefer health to curing a disease.

wildswan said...

Totally agree with those who pointed out all the different beauties in Wisconsin - the coulee country is amazing, the great river road is great.
Agree that the the desert is quite intimidating. I drove to Barstow and was amazed at how dead, no not dead, but no living creatures. Every yard in Wisconsin, every couple of hundred feet in other words, comes with a chipmunk, a squirrel, and a robin minimum.
But I still like to see things - like the Mojave desert - whether I like them or not

C Stanley said...

Sometimes the places one enjoys spending leisure time in aren't the same places one could live in. Often when we travel to places we love, hubs and I fantasize about living there. Most often these are sparsely populated areas where there is no possibility that we'd find work.

We did choose a home base that is close to many things we enjoy, but there are other, more distant places that we enjoy too. You set up a false dichotomy between living a deep, rich existence in your hometown, or travelling. There's no reason it has to be one or the other. The analogy to marriage is silly because places aren't human beings. The reason we need commitment for a human relationship to deepen is that humans are wired to need trust in order to fully open ourselves to others. You can't experience the same kind of relationship with another person if you don't commit to building that trust. Physical locations have no such prerequisite- we can explore and enjoy them without a lifetime commitment.

Sure, there are people who use travel as a crutch to avoid dealing with problems in their everyday life. So? Other people use alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, shopping, eating, and on and on. That doesn't make any of those things problematic when engaged in with moderation.

pm317 said...

Familiarity! It gets boring after a while which is why we left our country in search of challenge and excitement and most of all we were (and still are) curious. You protest too much. There must be something else, a fear or some such thing going on in your head to protest and resist the urge to travel this much. Because I can't believe you are not curious and you certainly have the means.

David said...

I love Wisconsin. Lived and worked there for a quarter century. Great core of dependable sensible decent people. Lovely to look at and more varied than one would think.

However these days my love for Wisconsin goes into hibernation sometime in October of every year. Wisconsin deserves my year round love. She has earned it. But it turns out I'm fickle.

(Here's a secret. She's frigid. Takes half a year to warm her up.)

MadisonMan said...

Complete agreement on the problem of the Rockies: not enough green, and very harsh light. Give me deciduous plants with a nice life cycle, well-defined through the year, and I am happy.

dustbunny said...

I spent an idyllic childhood in a small Wisconsin town in Polk county and my grandparents lived in Trempleau Co. Both were lovely places and I will always feel lucky to have the memories formed there. My family moved away when I was eleven and I was pretty bitter about the whole thing. Wisconsin remained the ideal place for me, for years. I have gone back a number of times but I now feel lucky to have lived in and visited many different places. I must admit though, that while Althouse is right, there is no place like home, it is very hard to go back.
Does Ann ever regret leaving Wilmington?

mrs. e said...

"How was the charge lost in the first place?

You have an unexamined premise, a problem that travel is the solution to, but why was there a problem?

I prefer health to curing a disease."

As do I, but sometimes we have to take the time to nurse ourselves back to health. There’s nothing wrong with salve or a crutch to help you heal. I know I’ve taken the long way around in this life. Cards were dealt and choices made. I know that sometimes travel is a part of that healing. Sometimes, it’s art or a book or a friend. I agree, it’s good to look at our motivations – it’s definitely a practice I consciously try to uphold.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Kant thought that a spontaneous interest in nature and natural beauty is the mark of a good soul. But this is not so for art; interest in art may be motivated by vanity.

Rocketeer said...

I consider the whole surrounding area part of the home base... everywhere within a day trip.

A day seems rather arbitrary. If that works for you, great. For me, home base extends significantly farther.

Jason said...

It broadens the mind. Also, you shouldn't swim after eating.

Smilin' Jack said...

When we went to Glacier, I was too afraid to hike there. You have these fantastic views, but then you can't enjoy them.

One more reason not to travel: The gentler landscapes of Wisconsin are more beautiful, because they don't force you to think about dying.


Another example of how bad most people are at risk assessment. You're a lot more likely to die in a traffic accident driving around Wisconsin than to fall off a cliff in Glacier.

madAsHell said...

when are you going to include Puget Sound country

hey, buddy.....it's a secret!! So, shut up!!

Ann Althouse said...

"Another example of how bad most people are at risk assessment. You're a lot more likely to die in a traffic accident driving around Wisconsin than to fall off a cliff in Glacier."

It's not risk assessment. It's emotion. There was no reasoning about facts that would overcome, for example, my need to lean away from the cliff when I was inside the car. I knew it had no effect on whether the car when over the cliff!

The whole point of travel is to do one thing or another to your emotions.

Rocketeer said...

The whole point of travel is to do one thing or another to your emotions.

Not for me.

Ann Althouse said...

When I say "the whole point of travel," I mean the kind of recreational travel that is optional.

I exclude migrating for a better economic life and being a refugee from something harmful.

I also exclude work, including the work that travel writers and photographers do as they create propaganda enticing others to spend money going where they went to make money.

I exclude some educational things, but I suspect you think you are "learning" from your recreational travel. I'd put that in the emotion category. History "comes alive" when you travel to ... wherever... let's say Paris.

Give me a break. If you spent the same about of time reading about the history of Paris, you'd learn so much more. The idea that being in a geographic location makes the past -- which you can't visit -- real... it's nonsense. It's not an idea. It's an emotion.

MadisonMan said...

Puget Sound country

Too cloudy. Not enough Thunder.

Rocketeer said...

I exclude some educational things, but I suspect you think you are "learning" from your recreational travel. I'd put that in the emotion category.

Why would you put learning in quotes? I read everything I could get my hands on about Little Bighorn from the time I was 12 until I was 26: participants, cultural histories, context, maps, topo maps, "orders" of battle (such as there were), first-person accounts, interpretations, etc. I learned a great deal. I elected to travel there, saw the gullies and the ridges with my own eyes, walked the field, and rationally understood it in a way I simply did not and could not before from a remote distance. I will grant that at least a part of my travel was recreational, but it was certainly very educational (in the no-quotation-mark, non-"emotional" sense).

Now to be clear, I live in Massachusetts and consider Montana to be part of my home base, so perhaps I'm agreeing with you and it's simply a matter of our ranges differing significantly. Now that I type that, I suspect it to be the case. Again, "day" sure seems arbitrary.

MPH said...

Those experiments in exile help you realize how good you have it at home. Keeps you fresh and full of thanks. And if you should happen upon a place you somehow like even more, you might consider making that your new home.

Mountain Maven said...

"The whole point of travel is to do one thing or another to your emotions."

If you want to be that reductionist, then isn't everything done for that purpose?

Reminds me of evolutionary biology where every human behavior is reduced to a biochemical reaction, thus attempting to strip out any part of us that is sublime.

John Constantius said...

Since the development of agriculture thousands of years ago, most of humanity never travelled more than a day or so from their place of birth/home. Therefore it's hardly surprising that Professor Althouse and most other people feel comfortable within that space and uncomfortable about the idea of going further. They fall into the vast majority of humanity that is reluctant to be anywhere other than where they are (i.e. home and a 1-day trip around it).

Now before agriculture, the typical homo sapiens wandered extensively, but that was a "find food and stay alive" kind of thing. I doubt pre-agricultural humans migrated for fun and they probably would have been happy to stick to one spot if they could manage it.

Kirk Parker said...

madAsHell,

We do let a select few in, now and then--don't we?

[Is MadMan one of the select few? Hey, buddy: as far as "too cloudy", I take it you've never been here in the summer! But indeed, this is no place for someone who suffers from SAD. October through March can be pretty overcast...]

dustbunny said...

I have been thinking about Wisconsin and its charms all day. Thanks for the post Althouse, Wisconsin is a kind of perfection.

Donna B. said...

If the landscape is the only reason I traveled, I'd want to visit all the extremes... and "boring" is an extreme.

Eastern Louisiana and parts of northwestern Texas are boring to me. They were fascinating to my grandfather who was looking at them as a farmer.

I've never been to Wisconsin and the main reason for that is that I have no family there. Most of my travel is planned around family and I'm fortunate that I have had close family scattered coast to coast and border to border.

Michigan, Montana, and Washington are the northern border states I've visited and I've found something to like about all of them. Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are the southern border states I've spent time in and I think southern Arizona would be a great place to retire.

I've also visited San Francisco and was not impressed, but the agricultural valleys nearby are fascinating. For beaches, I prefer South Carolina.

For gentle rolling landscapes, with the occasional semi-rugged mountain, Alabama and West Virginia are my preferences, with NE Texas a close 3rd.

Though I haven't visited all of them yet, I don't think there's a single state in the U.S. that doesn't boast some beautiful geography and fascinating history.

Titus: from years experience living in the south, the personality trait you possess that wouldn't be quite welcome here is pushiness/snobbishness. We don't give a damn about your sexual preferences, but we like to think you like us too. I'm not sure how that would work out.