It is a beautiful morning and I am sitting outside on the deck while typing into my computer. Behind me is my mom’s house, situated in the Baraboo Hills. About ten miles directly in front of me, Devil’s Lake sits nestled among large bluffs. I can close my eyes and picture the bluffs, the subtle features of the talus, the cliffs above, the trail underfoot.
This, by my current estimation, is home. I built this house. Mom, Grandpa, and I did over the course of about three years. We did everything. I began my life path at Devil’s Lake, first by running around it while on the cross country team, and later by climbing on the cliffs. This area is as much me as my middle name, perhaps more so.
I’ll climb this afternoon. I’ll drive to the cliff on roads I have driven countless times, with the music loud. I’ll drive past Steinke Basin, the site of so many quick 5 mile runs, the pace steadily quickening in order to stay abreast of the swarm of mosquitoes and black flies. Then there was the time when I tried to ski it. I am about as graceful on cross country skis as a moose is in a shopping mall. That little escapade ended with stitches in my left knee.
It’s pretty hot right now for 11 in the morning, though my tan is progressing nicely. I used to say that my mental state is in direct correlation to my tan—the more tan, the happier. Despite initial appearances, this isn’t a vain self-image thing. This is about what the tan represents. It means that I have been spending ample time outside on nice sunny days.
It feels like summer, the slightly acrid smell of burning flesh. The sweat beginning to form on my forehead. The promise of climbing this afternoon, that is, after the cliffs go into the shade. The thought of climbing in Rifle next month, of loading the car and heading farther west, past the humidity. This is summer to me, and my most happy time to be alive.