Place Where You Live:

Watersmeet, Michigan

Home provides rest for those weary of negotiating with the world who they will be, or appear to be, in its eyes, sanctuary among kindred spirits who accept you as one of them. I first had this in my thirties, at Sylvania Wilderness near Watersmeet, Michigan. I went there at a difficult time, because it was easy, a short drive from Madison, Wisconsin. This time I went alone simply because no one was available to join me. It was a four day trip, because that’s how much time I had.
This expedient choice had surprising rewards. A forest of old hemlock, pine, birch and maple trees surrounds thirty four spring fed lakes. It is Wisconsin’s backyard wilderness, carefully managed to provide small portions of untrammeled space for a few days at a time. Motors are not allowed. The choice campsites are separated from each other by miles. The shaded forest floor, white sand beaches, and clear, cold lakes are beautiful and the stillness is profound.
I camped under old growth pines with almost no understory, forming a cathedral ceiling hundreds of feet high. The whispering wind and waves flopping onto shore stilled as the late summer afternoon faded. Linear pools of pale golden light fell onto the deep brown forest floor. As the sun dropped, they melted into rich copper. The pine branches sparkled like faceted emeralds.
I did little more than walk, swim, read and sleep for days. I breathed more freely, stood taller and saw more clearly. My mind expanded to fill the space, miles in all directions. The solitude was refuge from the world’s critics and from the constant work of my inner critic to anticipate them. In that place, I felt at home, for the first time.
I have been to Sylvania wilderness dozens of times over two decades, on foot and by canoe, with people, with dogs and alone. I go elsewhere for longer trips, for challenge and adventure. I return to Sylvania, alone, when I need to go home.