a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I am participating in Teachers Write!, a summer writing camp for teachers and librarians hosted by Kate Messner.  If you haven't already joined, what are you waiting for?

Today's challenge was to write about a place, then revise for sensory details.  I couldn't limit myself to the required paragraph.  Go figure.  I guess I have lots to say.

When I talk about the Northwoods of Wisconsin, I can’t help but get a sparkle in my eyes.  The first real conversation I had with my husband was about just that—the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  I recognized the sparkle in his eyes as we talked, a reflection of my own affinity for one of the most incredible places on earth. 

The summer between my 6th and 7th grade school years, my family decided to leave the suburbs of Chicago and move to a peninsula between two lakes in St. Germain, Wisconsin.  We had a vacation home that had begun to call our names with greater and greater strength.  It was as if we were being called home.

When I stood in the living room, my feet pinched by the beveled edges of the hardwood floor, I could see water on either side of me.  Lake Content was a small, calm lake.  Perfect for a private backyard retreat.  Perfect for a canoe ride, for wildlife watching, for studying native plants and trees.  Big St. Germain Lake was just the opposite.  A large, roudy body of water fit for being noticed, for pontooning, for swimming (day or night if I was feeling bold enough).

Some of my most important days were lived in those woods.  But when I think of that Northwoods home, the moment that I carry with me is a quiet one. 

I sit at the edge of the pier, dangling my feet off the edge, into the water.  I hear the hum of boats in the distance, the voices of fisherman loud enough to float over the water, but not quite clear enough to make out their words.  I watch the minnows swim around my feet, relieved, knowing their presence is a sign that there is no bass lurking under the pier waiting for a juicy toe to bite into.  The steady beat of a woodpecker calls my attention to the tree on the shore behind me, but not long enough to miss the regal wingspread of the bald eagle dipping through the air off the point. A dragonfly buzzes past, landing deftly on the water’s surface, bobbing on the gentle waves.  I watch it carefully to be sure its wings remain dry enough to ensure its flight once again.  I am alone—a peaceful loneliness wrapped in the company and bustle of the natural world around me.  I am alone.  My eyes sparkle.


  1. I've never visited Wisconsin; heck, I probably couldn't label its location on a blank map! However, your descriptions bring my senses to life. I can clearly hear "the steady beat of a woodpecker" and feel the "peaceful loneliness. This "peaceful loneliness" is one that I would not be afraid of.

    Thanks for the beautiful imagery, Christy. I am off to find Wisconsin on a map!

  2. The North Woods of Wisconsin sound so beautiful thanks to your stellar description. I've been to Milwaukee, but that's it. Makes me want to head north. (Perhaps I can loop that in to the trip I want to take the U.P. of Michigan. Someday...)

  3. Ahh. This is my best friend's stomping grounds, and she has often tried to lure me there with tales of serenity and beauty. This adds more fuel to the fire! I will will will get to the North Woods of Wisconsin!!! (We're still in school until the end of June! So, I'm not really in "summer camp mode" yet... But writing camp sounds super fun and intriguing!!)

  4. What a blissful place you describe. I spent many summer days in Wisconsin but not the North Woods. Such specific details give this writing life. You have captured a perfect place from your memory.

  5. I had a student once who visited the North Woods every summer to a family's place. She wrote about it often, & your paragraph brought it back instantly. It reminds me of south Missouri, the Lake of the Ozarks region, same habitat, maybe not so cold in winter. Your piece is beautiful, Christy. I love that part about the minnows showing that no bass are around. It shows you know so much in your heart about this place. "peaceful loneliness" is right where I want to be. Thank you.

  6. Ah, beautiful! I've been to northern Wisconsin many times and this is a perfect description. Maybe you want to share it with the chamber of commerce -- you know, a commercial with a Tim Allen voice a la michigan.org! :)

    And your ending: I am alone—a peaceful loneliness wrapped in the company and bustle of the natural world around me. I am alone. My eyes sparkle.

    Ah, just perfection!

  7. Christy, I can picture you sitting there on that pier--alone, but perfectly content. I love the peaceful quality of the sights and sounds of your surroundings that you describe so vividly. Your writing always inspires me!

  8. I love this line, "I watch the minnows swim around my feet, relieved, knowing their presence is a sign that there is no bass lurking under the pier waiting for a juicy toe to bite into." How many times have I feared that toe being bit into? :) Beautiful description of WI. I pictured MN and our lakes as well. (PS: love the look of your blog background)

  9. You do understand my love of the lake. This is a great descriptive piece, Christy. The last paragraph is my favorite and really captures that moment of sitting alone and just letting the world take you. Glad you are joining Teachers Write!

  10. You didn't write about the writing process, but I imagine you must have loved writing about this place. It's your writer's heart that brought the right words to make this place come alive for the readers.
    Write, girl, write. I'll try to follow your camp adventure as much as I can.