Since moving to Minnesota’s North Shore I’ve had people ask what it’s really like to live here year-round. In this month-by-month journal, I take you through the full year to give you a glimpse of What it’s Really Like.
Oh, July. Sweet midsummer. That time when the earth hums with activity: with bumblebee parties in our perennials, hummingbirds that peek in the window, and the distant rumble of canoe-topped cars running up and down the Gunflint Trail. Life is sweet in July. It’s good.
It’s also drier in July. And far less buggy. I’m actually sitting out on my deck as I write this, and have only had one lazy mosquito wander my way. This my friends, is ultimate victory.
June in the northwoods is a grievous onslaught of mosquitoes, deerflies, and black flies, the last of which are not actually flies at all, but evil gnats whose chomps can leave you with streams of blood running down your body. I’m not kidding. I still have scars to prove it.
To be honest, I don’t really go outside in June because it’s either raining or a bug apocalypse. But in July the sun comes out and takes care of both of those problems. We’ve had pleasant times swimming, hiking (including our first time up Eagle Mountain) and simply enjoying a good read out on the lawn.
July is also when the blueberries and raspberries come out with their bountiful harvests. I’m more of a raspberry girl myself, but people here get serious about their blueberry picking. Like, real serious. There’s even a contest going on for who can find the biggest wild blueberry. The Gunflint Trail is dotted with official weigh stations so you can take your shot at claiming the sacred title.
July is the month that introduced me to love of the North Shore. Every year at this time my family vacations in Castle Danger. It’s the most treasured time of year for us, but I’d wondered if living up here would make the week feel any less special; like I’m just headed down Highway 61 as usual, seeing all the same sights, as usual.
But it honestly doesn’t feel like that. And after two years of commuting south for our time away, I can say that there is nothing less special about Vacation Week, even as a North Shore resident. In fact, there’s a little element that feels even more heartwarming: the idea of all of us gathering in this place that I now call home. It’s deeply happy.
Perhaps living here, away from the home I grew up in, has given me a greater appreciation for those increasingly rare times that the whole family can gather together. And not only gather, but enjoy each other, in easy rhythms of slow mornings, adventurous afternoons, and contemplative evenings spent talking around the fire while the most brilliant of stars shine overhead.
It’s really magic, that thing that happens when you disconnect in order to reconnect.
But as far as the appreciation for the area goes, what really goes on when you move to your “escape spot?” Does it still feel as healing as it once did? Do you seek somewhere else as a refuge instead?
I do think part of me was worried that living on the North Shore would make it lose its charm. But it really hasn’t. I honestly believe in the goodness of this place, that there’s something almost magical in the rocky shores and cool forests and endless horizon here. It’s a goodness that goes far deeper than the novelty of only getting to see it once in a while. A goodness that will heal anyone who asks, no matter how long they’ve been here.
When I lived in the city, I wanted to escape. All the time. In college I took multiple trips home to be with my family and their quiet land. When Stephen and I were married and living downtown, we were always on a weekend trip away, coming back from a weekend trip away, or planning a weekend trip away. The constant lights and sounds and that hideous orange sky irritated me at best, and sucked my soul dry at worst.
Now to be clear, living here isn’t a perpetual vacation. I have stress days, and days I don’t leave my house, and days when I’m driving and late to an appointment and don’t notice my surroundings. That’s life, and it happens.
But I also don’t feel the need to get away anymore. I’m not constantly feeling like I need to go somewhere else over the weekend, or that I just need to escape this place for a little bit. Honestly, I don’t feel that anymore. And when I do have stress days or sad days, I can go down to Superior or into the forest or to a quiet inland lake or to my Ultimate Happy Place (Sivertson Gallery, where they give you free tea to cuddle while you get lost in the magical paintings) and feel completely refreshed.
It really is like that. So if you’ve ever wanted to move to your dream town but are scared you’ll somehow “ruin the magic” by it: don’t be! Life in your Happy Place can be just as awesome as you always hoped. You’ll have to give up some things if you want to make it your priority, sure. But living life in the place you love can be seriously worth it.
Until next time,
p.s. I’m on Instagram! Follow raepoynter for more photos of North Shore life. I’d love to connect <3