wanderlust and lily river

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Henry David Thoreau


When you are young, time seems to crawl, winding along in slow circles, no rush, no worry, no pressure to get things done. Youth is like riding a bicycle in the highest gear – you press hard on the pedals and you move along, wind lightly blowing your hair, the scents and colors of the world float past, tantalizing. You can afford to rest, coast for a moment, and experience. But life calls, and you must start pedaling again. As your feet push in those circles, the momentum begins to carry you, faster and faster, and soon the wind has plastered your hair back, and the scenes around you are a blur of color and light and you peddle furiously to be on time wherever you are going.

And then suddenly, you find yourself where I have found myself.  It is time to get off of that bicycle before I plow into the sea, still pedaling, until the force that has carried me runs out, and I sink under the waves with the weight of my life carrying me down.  Bubbles raising to the surface the last sign I have been here, and then nothing.

How did I get to this place so quickly, in the middle of my life?  I am trying to not let it frighten me.  I have simply decided to coast, and get off that bicycle whenever and wherever I please.  I suppose that is called “living in the moment” which one does without thinking and to great extreme, in youth.  Somehow I seemed to have forgotten that as I matured.  I suppose I was lucky, in the right place at the right time, and it has come back to me.   Along with wanderlust.

Elizabeth Eaves said in an article she wrote for WorldHum.com,

I’ve met people who can’t separate love and lust; for me the tricky distinction is between love and wanderlust. They’re both about wanting and seeking and hoping to be swept away, so lost in the moment that the rest of the world recedes from view.

Wanderlust, the perfect German word that cannot be coined in any better way, knowing there is more out there; an “ache for the distance.” It might be about people, it might be about being alone in city or in nature. It means all of those things to me. The second verse of Bjork’s song, Wanderlust:

Wanderlust! relentlessly craving
Wanderlust! peel off the layers
Until we get to the core

Did I imagine it would be like this?
Was it something like this I wished for?
Or will I want more?

Lust for comfort
Suffocates the soul
Relentless restlessness
Liberates me

I feel at home
Whenever the unknown surrounds me
I receive its embrace

Relentless craving, aching, lusting, liberating, wanting, seeking, hoping.  It’s that desire to drop out of your regular life, responsibilities, routines.  To float without tether of laundry or carpool or any other mundane albatross of everyday.  That is wanderlust.

That craving took me away for a few short days, “up north” to Lily River.  Everyone in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan, at the very least, knows what up north is.  It’s the boat, the cottage, the woods, campfires and swimming.  Each family has its own variation.  My family had my grandparent’s cottage with a row boat, a lake to swim in, woods with deer trails to follow, and no tv or telephone.  Imagine that.  Once my grandparent’s cottage was gone, I had no more up north.  I did not provide it for my children, other than the occasional camping trip.  Last year I decided I needed up north in my life again, so I started looking.  I wanted a few acres, water, trees, within a four-hour drive from home, and no motorized water vehicles.

The search didn’t take too long.  Forest County, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest blankets much of the county, along with a number of Indian Reservations.  Paper companies had leveled the forest years earlier, and reforestation along with mother-nature had replanted.  Rivers and lakes are plentiful, and many do not allow gas run engines to play on them.


Someday there will be a home on Lily River, but for now, just walking in the woods is enough.  I am a caretaker more than an owner.  Signs have been posted so hunters do not disturb the wild life that lives there.  A path, of sorts, now leads to a clearing with a view of the river, and the sound of the water tumbling over rocks.

I’ve stopped pedaling for the moment.

10 thoughts on “wanderlust and lily river

  1. Lovely post, thank you. I have been asking myself that same question “How did I get here? And so quickly?” Coast on and enjoy your lovely Lily River…even the photographs are restful.

    I tell my children all the time, “I was 27, I blinked, and when I opened my eyes I was here. ENJOY EVERY MOMENT!” Of course they don’t get it – yet.

    Lily River was absolutely lovely and calming, even when I was dragging trees around. It’s simply good to leave home.
    Thanks for visiting!


  2. What a great line: “I need up north in my life again.” I would know what you meant if that was the only line you had written.

    Growing up in upstate NY, we had up north, too. The family cottage on the lake, the skiing in winter, the water skiing in summer. It wasn’t so much the activities, though. It was the place, where a person had room to move around outdoor, unfettered.

    This post is extra special.

    It’s so nice, Oh! – you know the exact feeling I am talking about! No up north in MO? I have a friend who still goes to the cottage that’s been a part of the family life for 70 years. Now her kids have the tradition, and they love it too.


  3. Oh I hear you! I can’t seem to hold the days back at the moment – they speed past me. How can we possibly be in April again? Hasn’t the year just started? I agree that spaciousness is the only way to slow time down a little. I don’t have an up north in the UK, but I can have one in my mind, when I choose to leave the tasks to one side and coast. So glad you had a lovely time away and thank you for the solidarity as far as speeding time goes!

    Hi Lit love. I tell my children all the time, “don’t wish your life away!!” It does speed by, doesn’t it?
    At least you have an up north in your mind to escape to. You have a cottage or hotel on the beach concept in the UK, don’t you? Brighton and etc? Something similar, I think. I am contemplating time away again, very soon. There is still snow on the ground up there though, so camping is out. Oh dear, I guess I’ll just have to stay in the B and B and have coffee brought to me in bed in the morning. Such a trial.


  4. Oh yes, I sometimes crave an “up north” experience. And your Lily River looks like the perfect place to “stop pedaling” and coast for awhile.

    Alas, I understand exactly what you mean about this stage of life.
    Hi Becca, don’t you think we should put “stage of life” on the list of swear words, not allowed!!?? grrrrrrrrrrr
    You were just away for a little break, weren’t you? Any escape/change of pace is good as far as I am concerned.
    Lily River is gorgeous – I bought some wellies so I could walk in the more shallow part of the river, and through the marsh. It was liberating!


  5. This was such a beautiful and timely post that I had to let it simmer in my thoughts for a few days before replying. Not that my reply will be any more profound because of the wait, but still, I did not want to rush it.

    First off, allow me to express just how very thrilled I am for you that you have purchased this oasis for yourself. I am sincere in my hopes that the day arrives very soon when you can place a cabin of some sort out here so that you can spend even more time in this special place, stopping, getting off that bike, and just reveling in the beauty of the moment. And no where is that easier to do than out in nature, in my opinion.

    Your post comes on the heels of 4 of the most stressful and debilitating months I have ever experienced in my life. I have talked about this to some extent in my Take Comfort post. A job whose challenge I always enjoyed has turned into one in which I regularly battle a lack of confidence and an overwhelming amount of responsibility. Adding to that stress is that I take everything so personally, even though I am only one member of the team. My subordinates (hate that word) look to me to offer them hope that things will get better and although I do my best the words seem so very hollow. This stress has effected my health. I was started on cholesterol medication at the end of 08 and just yesterday went to the doctor after 2.5 days of non-stop high blood pressure and now I am taking pills for that. Turning 40 and falling apart physically wasn’t something I factored in! 😉 Despite it all I still have hope and dumb optimism that things will get better. They have to, because I will not choose to live this way. Getting off that bicycle has always been my top priority. Taking time to truly enjoy the moment has been one of my credos for years, and here lately I feel like the circumstances of life have taken me hostage, forcing me on a ride I do not want to take.

    And it isn’t as simple as just getting a different job. I still like my place of employment and what I do. I just want it to get back to the point of being reasonable, so that I can concentrate my efforts on doing ‘my’ job and not the job of a dozen people! I hate that what is going on right now is effecting my relationship with family and friends and even with myself. I dream of work at night and I feel stressed all the time.

    I say all this to say that a large portion of my time lately has been taken up with having similar thoughts to what you mention here. I am unwilling to miss out on life. I am unwilling to let spring pass me by in a blur just because I am going through a tough patch. I am unwilling to ride at someone else’s pace! I had one of those ‘oh my, I’m 40!!!’ moments at the doctor yesterday, wondering just how 4 decades have passed by so quickly. I do not want the next 4 to be such a blur. I want to find something, even some small something, to make each day special. That something today is starting my day reading your post again and letting you know just how very much I appreciate you. Over the last several months you have posted things that have been so in synch with what I was feeling and things that have really opened my eyes to things I had forgotten about.

    Let us all commit to feeding that wanderlust on occasion. That Thoreau quote at the beginning of your post could not be more perfect. I am going to print it out in a nice font and put it on my computer at work so that it remains my focus for awhile.

    Thank you!
    Well Carl. This is not good! It doesn’t seem to me that much is going to change with your job, at least for a while. I think people saying the economy was going to take a down turn added fuel to make it happen even more spectacularly.

    You said about your work, “I just want it to get back to the point of being reasonable, so that I can concentrate my efforts on doing ‘my’ job and not the job of a dozen people!” That may not happen, you know. I think you have to take a step outside of yourself for a moment, so you can look at the situation with a little less bias. Hopefully you will then realize, you can only do what you can do, and if you do it at the expense of your mental and physical health, pretty soon you won’t be around to help anybody. That was a key concept I learned a few years ago, when I was in a frenzy to save every young person who crossed my path. Someone older and wiser said to me what I am saying to you now, and I eventually accepted how sensible this was. You can’t do the job of 12 people, you can only do the job of one, so stop torturing yourself.

    I hope you stick to your promise of doing something nice for yourself every day – what a great way to start the day! I am so pleased that this post touched you; these are issues I have struggled with myself for a long time.


  6. qugrainne,

    It was such a joy to find your comment on my blues blog even as I gave in to my own wanderlust, and headed off to Mississippi. It was a difficult leaving, with Mom greatly opposed to my foolishness and not afraid to say so. But with a kitty-sitter and a Mama-sitter engaged and my customers told not to look for me for a few days, I just left. Now, of course, there’s the catching up to be done – but that’s all part of the process.

    There is nothing I enjoy more than travel, especially when driving. The sense of possibility, the freedom to stop or move on, the knowledge that surprises await around every corner are invigorating. Deep curiosity about other people and their lives is a key that opens doors into unimagined worlds, and one gift that’s come with increasing age is a certain fearlessness about approaching strangers encountered on the road. Even in five days, it all can combine to slow down that forward motion.

    In my first post after returning, I quoted rather extensively from something I’d never read – Tennessee Williams’ essay, The Catastrophe of Success. I think this paragraph fits here, too.

    “William Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having. “In the time of your life – live!” That time is short and it doesn’t return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition.”

    I was so pleased to read, Linda, about your wonderful trip and that you indulged, against your mama’s better judgment. I have not read The Catasrophe of Success either, but your quote fit perfectly. Our hearts are definitely in opposition!
    And indeed, the “gift that comes with increasing age is a fearlessness…” extends beyond approaching strangers, doesn’t it? No censor here, for anything I decide I want to do, or anything I want to learn. You are absolutely right, there is some beauty that comes with age. Thank you for reminding me!


  7. Linda, loved reading your comments here and look forward to popping over to your site after I leave this comment. I had not heard of The Catastrophe of Success so I went and found it online and read it. Very interesting! Thank you so much for mentioning it.

    ““In the time of your life – live.” That purity of heart is the one success worth having.”

    Those two lines alone were well worth reading the essay for! 🙂

    Carl, I think that is another perfect quote for you to hang near your computer for daily reading.


  8. There is no place, in America at least, that I crave more than Up North. We go to a little cabin which was built in the 1920’s in Lac de Flambeau, Wisconsin. It sets my heart at rest, dispells all wanderlust building up within me.

    This line of yours particularly struck me: “Relentless craving, aching, lusting, liberating, wanting, seeking, hoping”. I thought that was only me. Apparently not. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, that you understand the feelings I feel, too, as well as teaching, and reading, and sticking one’s feet in the cool rushing water.

    Hi Bellezza – and do you still go “Up North” for weekends in the summer? Lucky you, to still have that little cabin!
    Carl and I have been having a conversation this past week about that line you quoted above…. I think there are lots of us having those feelings. I guess it happens when you reach a “certain age.” Yes, it is nice to know I am not alone, either. 🙂


  9. Time is certainly moving at a different pace than it did when I was little. What’s up with that?? And wanderlust is something I occasionally suffer with myself. Especially in May, and on those first cool days of autumn. It becomes all I can do to stop my car from heading towards the airport.

    Congratulations on your new escape hatch!!

    Hi Pamela. Now all I need to do is escape!


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