We were in Milwaukee to see Bon Iver’s show for the 10th anniversary of the album, For Emma, Forever Ago—an appropriate time and place for a band whose name is based on the French “bon hiver”—good winter.
But good is hardly how I would describe winter. I am the scrooge of winter. I can appreciate the season for exactly 25 days in the month of December; once we pass Christmas, I am decidedly over winter, ready to trash it with the torn wrapping paper and leftover cookie crumbs. Most nights are spent hiding under a blanket and watching reruns of New Girl and The Office and longing for the days when the sun stays up past 4:30pm. Outside my apartment windows, tree branches that once carried armfuls of green life now look more like gnarled hands reaching up from the grave. Give me literally any season over winter, please.
This is an essay that asks, “Can winter be good?” + a few recommendations for your own Milwaukee weekend (mainly: the cutest coffee shop).
I needed this trip. I needed to board a plane and for a few days sit under blue skies rather than the lingering grey of a Tennessee winter. I’ve traveled enough (and been to counseling) to know that you can’t run away from your feelings by hopping a flight bound to another hemisphere, but I also know that, sometimes, a plane ticket can be just what your soul needs to realign your perspective from whatever worries may be disorienting it. Something about looking down at the earth below from 35,000 feet up can refresh a hurting heart.
This is an essay on redeeming a city + a list of recommendations for your own visit (hint: the most delicious tacos you will ever eat.)
On my return to the desert, I hiked dusty trails up mountains and through vast valley expanses, walking in the sunshine and in the rain and as the wind blew cold through our jackets, over rocks and through canyons and sliding down muddy inclines, under “skies that pull you into infinity, like the ocean,” as Anne Lamott describes it. I listened to coyotes sing songs of dusk and I sat on a rock as a bobcat passed casually in front of me (!!!), and I explored a cliffside cave 2,200 feet above sprawling miles of untouched wilderness covered in cactus forests and squat underbrush. And I returned to a mountain south of the city; with Bon Iver murmuring his melancholy melody in my ears, I watched the sunset—the sun sinking below a distant range, the sky set aflame—bright orange dancing with deep blues and pinks, the mountains surrounding the city cast in a rose glow.
My entire life has been a routine, a resolute avoidance of change. I literally ate a peanut butter sandwich EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. from kindergarten to senior year of high school. I only wish this was an exaggeration. (My friends can vouch for this.)
My consistency is dull. What kind of stories does routine breed? “Get this, I ate a peanut butter sandwich every Monday through Friday for lunch for 18 years of my life. Neat, right?!”
This is why I travel: to break the consistency, the mundane routine that I’m so apt to settle into.