I have always defended the Midwest. The lands may be flat, but the forest preserve by my house growing up had a slight hill, and try telling 20 Midwestern kids that their sledding hill was small. And the water… a Friday fish fry on a lake in Small Town, Wisconsin, a sunset over a lighthouse on Lake Michigan, maybe even a waterfall in a truly exotic Midwestern state park. I love the Midwest. I love the people, the food, and the farmlands. But after visiting Montana and Colorado this summer, I was afraid that “love” of Midwest had turned into a past tense “loved.”
Driving back from the Milwaukee airport to Madison, I thought about the mountains but only saw corn. So much corn. My roommate and I always play “red barn” when we’re driving around Wisconsin. It’s really fun… when you see a red barn, you say, “red barn.” I’ll let you in on a secret: the game has never lasted for more than 5 minutes. When I was driving out west, we drove for hours without a word because the hugeness of everything out my window did the talking. When I came home, I missed that greatness. I missed being in awe. And so I kept driving to a place right outside of Madison, looking for some awe.
Right off of Route 12 down a rolling country road there is Indian Lake Park, a forest and much more nestled in the farmland. A tiny chapel from the 1800s sits in the woods on top of a hill, and a little beyond the chapel is a view that even in deep January could warm a Southerner’s heart.
The first time I went to the park with my friends, we drove up, screaming (because of the beauty, naturally); hiked up, oo-ing and ahh-ing; and when we stopped at the lookout, there it was; silent awe. A glittering pond, and I don’t use the word “glittering” lightly, is surrounded by actual rolling hills and pristine farms. It is a quiet park, with a dog owner or two appreciating in their own ways, although maybe less screaming on their part. The land lies in a way where it looks like there are no roads. It looks like an actual painting for a puzzle.
When I went back there on my drive home, all the fond memories I had of cheese curds and happy cows and sailboats on a Great lake and the way the snow sounded playing outside the night before Snow Days growing up flooded me with greatness just like the mountains did. There is something incredible about vast landscapes and national parks but the vast comfort of your true home is something incredible as well.