When I'm visiting my husband's family in Wisconsin, glorious absurdities fly from my mouth.
Growing up in suburban Phoenix, I never got to ask questions like, "How did bear hunting season go this year?" or "Tell me about the time Grandma drowned that pillowcase of feral cats."
And yet, when in the Northwoods, I'm just making conversation.
I beg people to tell me the story of the Muskie that ate the hapless fisherman's big toe. And, of course, there's always talk of logging accidents. It isn't Christmas until we hear about Gundersen's two mile trek to his pickup. Sans legs.
I ask these questions out of genuine awe. All of the women in my husband's family ride horses, sew, plant at least an acre of vegetables each summer, and dress their own deer. Leisure activities include running 5K snowshoe races over frozen lakes, and kayaking through raging currents. With their children.
When we have a Mid-Atlantic "snowstorm" of two inches, I race to Giant with all the other drones, stocking up on bread, milk, and toilet paper. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin family cuts another cord of wood with an ax, and pulls some home-canned pickles from the root cellar. While wearing short sleeves.
I sometimes wonder what would happen to me if we moved to the Northwoods. Would I die? Or would I learn how to make venison meatballs and round my vowels?
I hope it would be the latter.
And yet, I know I still have a way to go. When I was up there in late September, the leaves were already dusting the earth's shoulders. The ground froze each night. And conversation turned to deer season.
"Tell me about it," I said. "And don't leave anything out."
"Well," replied a cousin, "First there's bow season. Then mentor-hunt. Next there's rifle shoot. And then there's muzzle-loader season."
"What's muzzle-loader season?" I pictured deer in muzzles. Who took the time to muzzle the deer first? And why?
The cousin stared. A moment stretched between us. Then, he replied, speaking as one does to such a question, "It's when you shoot the deer with a muzzle loader."
"Right," I said. "Obviously." I did not ask what a muzzle loader was. Obviously.
I sat in my lawn chair, listening to the Black River bubble away. I daresay it was laughing at me. I took a sip of Leinie's (from the can), and changed the subject as only a city girl can.
"Tell me again about Grandpa's arm-wrestling days."
And then, I listened. With each syllable, I become more rooted to this family, and this golden-kissed land.