Summer is a glorious, activity-filled time of year in southwestern Wisconsin, and a perfect time for visitors. Doors are opened everywhere to family and friends from near and far to come experience our communities and landscape. It is an opportunity to share our special places, and to walk around our towns with no agenda save showing someone new the places we call home.
My family has recently been honored with visitors from both San Diego and Chicago, towns a bit larger than Spring Green! From California was my 13.5-year-old niece (the .5 matters when you are 13). She spent a week here and through her eyes the greens of our valley shone brighter than usual. For her, the rumble of our thunderstorms brought great excitement (apparently thunderstorms are rare in CA), the flash of a field full of lightning bugs delighted immeasurably, and a deer meandering across the road on a drizzly night was a thing of wonder, not the usual fright response it brings me! What a treat for me to see my everyday through her eyes. And what a lesson in the value of sharing. Her visit enriched the familiar for me.
From Chicago came my 19-year-old son and his girlfriend, Natalie. For Matthew, coming here is a return to a place, and a way of being, that is familiar, if no longer where he lives. It is a place where he knows the grocery store closes at 6 on Saturday, and where there is only one movie, and it only shows on the weekend. My niece shopped in a community, not a mall, and went to a play, rather than a movie. For both my niece, and Natalie, these were odd new experiences. Natalie has only lived in Chicago where everything is always open, and there is a myriad of choices for movies at almost any time. I felt pride in our community.
Their first morning in Spring Green, Natalie and Matthew walked through town as Matthew told her stories of living here. As they walked, Natalie was struck by the way in which everyone they passed said hello, even if they were people Matthew did not remember knowing. She wasn’t sure that she liked it. It made her world seem unfriendly and yet that world, that urban space, was her comfort zone. In Chicago it would be “creepy” to have a stranger say hello to you. But here it seemed just normal. As her visit continued, it seemed that most everyone did know and trust each other. For her that was odd. For us, it is our everyday. Through Natalie’s eyes I am reminded of how fortunate we are to live in communities that are safe, kind and friendly, even toward strangers. What a treasure we have.
The beauty that a late summer drive affords was not lost on any of these visitors, either, and the pace of life, while slow, was quickly embraced. I am thankful that I got to see and feel my home through their new eyes. I hope that you, too, can cherish this view of our beautiful slice of the world.
Jennifer Moore-Kerr is a mom, a free spirit and a barefoot dancer living in Spring Green where she can walk to the river and commune with friends. In her spare time she leads discussions on meaningful topics in order to foster better civic, civil dialogue in the River Valley. She is delighted to share her thoughts on kids, time and nature on a rotating basis with other columnists focused on creativity, education and kids.