An Illinois Summer

Emily Dickinson wrote in the mid 1800s:

“The last of summer is delight —
Deterred by retrospect.”

Right on, Emily. You said it so well.


I love the days of summer. When it’s time for them to go, I get a little misty.

This summer held two really wonderful things: lots of people and lots of driving around our part of the Midwest. (And all this while I undertook the aforementioned painting project — silly me.) We loved our visitors, and if you weren’t among them, we would love to have you come sometime! And — embarrassing state politics aside — we also love this region we live in: the farmland, the space, the resourcefulness, the quiet, the creativity, and the blessed beauty of unending blue and green.

Illinois Summer

As I have been remiss in my blogging life these past two months, I’ll do some summer road trip retrospect right here, via a little narration and a handful of photos. Our wheels warmed up roads through Wisconsin and a slice of Minnesota, crossed Indiana, lingered in Michigan, and laid some new tracks in Illinois. Here we go:

WISCONSIN: On our way to and from our neighbors’ son’s Minneapolis-area wedding, we drove hundreds of miles through farmland early in the growing season. Rows of short corn stalks and bean plants seemed combed into order, with one field curving gracefully and the next lined up straight alongside the outbuildings. Lovely patterns. We also toured New Glarus Brewing Company, where owner Dan Carey says, “Some people paint, some sing, others write … I brew.”

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Next up, MICHIGAN , where we spent time in Grand Rapids (home of oldest daughter and husband), Holland (home of youngest daughter), and Traverse City, where the daughters and I had a girls’ weekend headlined by the lyrical musicianship of The Weepies in the cozy setting of The City Opera House.

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Just last week my hub and I celebrated our anniversary right here in NORTHERN ILLINOIS…in the historical Mississippi River town of Galena, where native Americans and new Americans skirmished over land, and where Ulysses S. Grant lived and worked in his family’s tannery prior to leveraging his military background to recruit volunteers for the American Civil War.

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Galena sits in a small triangle of land (touching Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois) called the Driftless Area because it was mysteriously untouched by the glaciers which wore down the hills and deposited their silt, clay, gravel and stones to form the corn belt. Cutting west through Galena across the ridges of hills reminded me of up-and-down driving in San Fransisco — what a surprise! And another: The bluffs above the Mississippi have created a dandy slope for some Midwestern snow boarding and skiing. Snowless now, we played on Chestnut Mountain Resort’s alpine slide and zip line, hitching a ride on the ski lift to get back to home base.

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I started this post with one poet, and I’m going to end with another. Philip Deaver’s line about the “slant of light and the swell of humid…summer” describe how I felt as a child when we drove from California to visit our Illinois relatives. His words settle in me even more deeply after 17 years of Illinois summers and neighbors, sidewalks, maples and peonies of my own.

Illinois by Philip F. Deaver

I recall a catbird on the wire
between my house and the corner pole
and the dense green maple leaves
and the grass growing fast below
and the peonies, tulips, the sidewalks
stretching down each block to my friends,
and from out of the houses, the voices
of neighbors camped nearby for life,
those close to us in spirit,
those held at arms length, and they us,
and I know when I recall this bird
dancing on our phone line and
singing upwards toward a mate
invisible in the waving treetops,
that it isn’t exactly the bird I’m remembering
but the slant of light and the swell
of humid Illinois summer
pressing in around her.

(Hankering to see other trips? Don’t miss: The Blog Tour, featuring pics from Italy; Tour de Fall,  What I’ve Done on My Summer VacationShearing in the Shade, and The Pacific Northwest and God’s Grandeur.)