Wednesday, November 18, 2009


We arrived home safely after a whirlwind tour of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin....along with a very brief visit to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. The purpose of our trip was a family immersion into the celebration of Bar Mitzvah, which was joyous and even raucous at times. Family came from all over the country; New York, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois and other great states. There was much rushing to connect and bond again within the flurry of scheduled activities. When it was all over I wanted nothing more than to sit still in a quiet room, nothing moving about me. However, we'd promised to drive to Wisconsin immediately afterward to visit my husband's best friend from high school and his lovely wife. We were weary but looking forward to driving into Wisconsin, a state neither my husband nor I had ever seen. Because this northern experience has stayed with me on a visceral level I shall begin my travelogue at the end - Wisconsin.

The first thing I noticed were the trees. Huge, massive, stately, stout oak trees a type of which I'm not familiar. Their leaves were long gone and they welcomed us with huge arms outspread into wide, happy greetings. Rolling hillsides with old but well-maintained barns and homes and farms and beautiful fences. The architecture was stunning. It didn't take long to arrive at Lake Geneva. We drove along the lake enjoying the charm of that village and its citizens, who were braving the chilled air by jogging and biking and walking along pathways. Before long we reached Williams Bay, where our friends reside. Folks, I am totally charmed by this point. I'm ready to move to Williams Bay and/or Lake Geneva.

Their house is a block or two from Lake Geneva. We are greeted by a massive tree of their own, variety unknown. They've only been here a couple of months and are still getting to know the area. I asked Sky to stand in front of this wonderful tree that's in the corner of their lot to give perspective.

What is this beautiful tree? It has bark much like a shagbark hickory, but it isn't a hickory.

Sky loves this tree and I do, too.

After some serious tree hugging I found these lovely, exquisite leaves on the ground. Oak leaves? What tree do these belong to? Anyone? There was no choice but to bring some home with me, tucked gently into a book so they'll remain flat. These are the most beautiful leaves I've ever seen.

Leaving the leaves behind, we strolled a block to the iconic Daddy Maxwell's for breakfast. It was as Christmasy on the inside as it was Thanksgivingy on the outside. Very unusual place - great breakfast. I highly recommend it.

We were in Wisconsin less than 24 hours but are already planning a return visit and longer stay. A born and bred Southerner I've always been enchanted by the North and Midwest. (And Southwest for that matter) Never been to the Northwest but aim to. Our country is glorious in its diversity, but I'm thinking right now that Wisconsin is just a little slice of heaven. Hubby and I both loved the feel of the place, loved everything about it. Wisconsin - you rock.

Feeling adventurous we decided to drive home through Chicago. It couldn't be that bad, could it? As our daughter used to say when she was a toddler - NOT NO MORE NOT NEVER AGAIN!

So, we're HOME! I've about 2,000 photos to process. We had great fun!


Anonymous said...

The shapes of those leaves are very exquisite. Let us know if you find out what tree they belong to then. They are like pieces of jigsaw puzzle.

- The inside is christmassy and the outside is thanksgivingy. - Feels like a place filled with gifts and a sense of presence and that which permeates gratitude into the external world.

It looks like you had a fun trip. If we are open to the New, it will always be fun and exciting.

Eve said...

Wonderful! I'll be looking into those leaves. I've a book here somewhere!! That's a lot of photos, I hope you find many treasures in them!

Eve said... save you time, look up White Mulberry. "A native of China, introduced here for silkworm culture in Colonial times".
Arbor Day Foundation
That's what it looks like to me!

wcgillian said...

Interesting story but i wonder what the deal with the Arctic Diner is. made me feel right at home.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

I Googled White Mulberry and those leaves look very similar as does the shape. This tree was HUGE - like 40-50 ft. Do they get that big? Back to Wikipedia I reckon! Thanks for the suggestion, Eve - I'll let Sky know!

Randy - the diner is a typical 40's style, shaped just like an igloo. I Googled it, too, and it's listed in the Wisconsin iconic restaurants, or whatever. You would have loved it!

Bernie - we were sooooo tired from the Bar Mitzvah that we were just wanting to go home, but the moment we rolled across the state line into Wisconsin we became enchanted. This stop turned out to be crucial for peace of mind - it brought us pure joy from deep within. Always keep an open mind - note to self.

Gaelyn said...

Wisconsin's kettle maraine are is full of lovely rolling hills, lakes and streams. I learned to snow ski in Lake Geneva. Used to go there from the Chicago suburbs because the drinking age was 18. It is pretty country. Glad you were refreshed by it and want to go back.

Anonymous said...

You convinced me! I wanna move to Wisconsin also!

And thanks for visiting my blog. I really need to start posting again.

The Garden Ms. S said...

Wow. I. love. that. tree. It truly is magical. Those leaves are stunning as well. If I were a leaf, they would be the leaf I aspired to be :)

I had no idea Wisconsin was such a beauty - thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This post is fabulous to be reading on a rainy Sunday, Debi, or anytime for that matter! I felt tired along with you, but rejuvenated from Wisconsin and those giant trees. We do have a thing for all trees, but big ones in particular. I too thought the leaf looked like a mulberry, perhaps those seedlings did not come from the big tree? We have mulberries pop up here all over, far from the closest ones on a neighbor's property. Still exquisite shape to them. I love the look on Sky's face. A kindred spirit. :-)

Bo Mackison said...

Wow, I LIVE in Wisconsin and sometimes yearn for warmer climes (actually almost always when in the throes of winter) but you offered me a view from fresh eyes. Wisconsin is lovely, charming, and Midwesterners, I'm told, are soooo nice! :-) (compared to who, I always wonder!)

So funny, my husband's family has a home in Williams Bay. And I've had a few meals in that "historic icon" of a restaurant. Hmmm!

I didn't recognize the tree, might not be native, but I have a naturalist friend at the Arboretum (always handy!) and I'll have her confirm the ID.

Thanks for visiting my blog. You always leave such wonderful comments, I always look forward to seeing you in blogger-land!

Helen said...

The leaves are certainly from the mulberry (Morus alba, possibly), but a first look at the tree trunk's girth, bark and form (what I could see of it) to me suggested a native silver maple (Acer saccharinum), which has other names in other parts of the continent. Here's a Wiki link, though I find the bark on a mature tree like this one to be shaggier than the picture:


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