It has been a long time since I've last posted, and a lot has happened.
It's hard to convince my friends to follow me on a blog when I rarely update, and to this I apologize. As much as I tried, posts trailed off for what I can ascertain as two main reasons: a settling of mild depression and the settling in of life as a Midwesterner.
However, being in a new place with a noticeable lack of people to share my observations and thoughts with, I felt a desire to share my experiences with you, and need to answer the twinge of guilt I feel by letting ya'll down relaying my adventures thus far.
The last weekend in June, I moved to Janesville, Wisconsin. On July 1st, I started a position as the Horticulture Educator (fancy name for Horticulture Agent) for the University of Wisconsin in Rock County, Wisconsin. Rock County sits below the capital of Madison and on the border of Illinois. To get a feel for the place, I found an apartment in the county seat, which is a few hours drive from Chicago and Milwaukee and under an hour to Madison. And thus, a new adventure begins.
Leaving Decorah was a long time coming. I had always tried to ignore the little voice that told me on a regular basis that I wouldn't be allowed to stay for very long, because who would ever want to leave Decorah? I had imbedded myself within the community, reveled in small town living, and was on the cusp of a second glorious summer of rivers and friends. But I had to seek other employment, and thus I was spurred onwards towards Wisconsin. Luckily Decorah is only a few hours away, and despite my lack of residence, Decorah touched me in ways that will forever shape me as a human being moving forward. It seemed as though I was there for a reason, and having learned what I needed to and made the connections meant to be, I was pushed onto bigger opportunities. Were I to list the things I learned and became, you'd quickly grow bored and your perceptions of me would wander into new-age-hippie-oh-my-god-who-is-this-woman bullshit, so I'll leave you on that side of the fence.
I've been in Janesville for a total of two weeks now, and it's vastly different than Decorah. I feel as though being here is giving me a truer perception of Midwest living, and challenging my California sensibilities even more so than before. I simply hope that I don't scream 'California!' that strongly ... blending in would be best. I look forward to the day that I don't feel like such an outsider.
So far, my observations are thus: many people own dogs, but few actually walk them. Most dogs live on the ends of lines or in backyards, to bark as me as I walk by. I walk often, which gets strange looks and comments from neighbors. I live a 20 minute walk to the library, and even less to work - so why not walk? Yet I see few others doing such, and find myself being extra cautious around cars not used to pedestrians. Janesville has beautiful parks throughout the city, but somehow managed to line the river running downtown in concrete so that it looks more like a Los Angeles canal. An empty grass lot sits next to the river, and a parking lot next to that ... over the river. I miss Decorah's grassy riverbanks, with bike paths curving past. But, Janesville does have paths and beautiful parks south of downtown ... I have yet to explore them much yet, as dogs aren't allowed in parks or on trails from March 15-September 15th, and most of my exploring I do with Bailey.
As I walk Bailey, I'm slowly coming to learn my neighborhood and surrounding downtown areas, and I like that. Lots of character. I'm also enjoying living so close to Target, having a 24 hour grocery store that stocks my favorite California beers (no joke, Boont and Lagunitas IPA!), and options for most things.
Last weekend, I swam for the first time in Lake Michigan. This experience has significantly affected my thoughts on salt water, because the lack of it felt amazing as I dove into wave after wave of beautiful, blue water. I cannot wait to go back. On the Fourth of July, Bailey and I explored Devil's lake outside of Madison, and I came to see what lakes are to Midwesterners, trails simply an afterthought to BBQ'ing with radios lakeside. I'm compiling lists of other places to explore, less well traveled (Devil's Lake was still amazing, however).
And of course, I had bratwurst with sauerkraut for my July 4th dinner. The folks on the radio said it would be a sin to do otherwise. Thank you, Wisconsin!
For now, I head back to California to see my little brother get married, and will hopefully return to a internet ready apartment so I can share pictures and more thoughts on adventures and life moving forward (and probably, some retrospective adventure reporting). Evermore and still, undaunted.