To Utopia and Back Again…

The problem with Utopia is the impossibility of it ever becoming a permanent state. Luckily, I am privileged enough to be a sometimes traveler to the mystical world, the delicious idea known as Utopia.

We (hubby and I) just returned from a four day stay at my family cottage in Northern Wisconsin. The North Woods. Up North. Way Up. We went to learn the ropes, so to speak, on how to close up for the winter the fragile little house known to all in my family as The Cottage.

With the help of my family, including an Uncle, Aunt, Cousins (1st, 2nd and 4th,) husbands of cousins and children of husbands of cousins, we managed to suck every last dead bug out of the place. This was the King Tut Tomb of dead bugs. Our “to do” list was longer than the amount of time we had to accomplish everything, but as Gen. Douglas MacArthur said on March 11, 1942: “I shall return!”

How, you may ask, does this “working vacation” translate into Utopia? For starters, the information vacuum. In other words, there is no information, except that which can be gleaned from conversation sitting around a dinner table. Ah! The lost art of long, family dinners or the quiet discussion between two people who have been married 25+ years as they sit in two ancient rockers facing the fire, as opposed to listening to the talking heads facing a T.V. It is easy to list the characteristics of this particular Utopia; the woods, the clear cold mornings and evenings, the mist on the lake in the morning. No roaring boats; sublime, simply sublime.

Except for the late night crackle of distant radio stations, you can’t find much information. In fact, we kind of felt like we were in the Twilight Zone, since the clearest station we could locate on the dial only seemed to be playing old Phillip Marlow Mystery Radio Programs from the 40’s. This seemed to be a distant Canadian radio station and for the hour or two we were able to rock in front of the fire and listen, I felt like a time traveler. I could easily imagine that the same show could have been heard over the airwaves by a relative or unknown tourist staying at the cottage when it served as a resort all those many years ago. It was comforting, like receiving a postcard from the cosmos.

The good, hard physical work served as anthropological research of sorts into the past. It is no wonder (according to my Uncle) my great, greats (grandfathers, uncles, ancestors, ancients, etc.) were able to pour pure bacon fat over their pancakes each morning. Chopping wood, scrubbing floors, and sweeping the roof will burn up inordinate amounts of such ingested fuel. No, we didn’t pour bacon fat on OUR pancakes, nor do I suggest that this is a taste temptation I would recommend to anyone except the dog. I guess we have evolved somewhat, but still… you can understand why they were able to consume such… such… or, maybe not. Okay, let’s move on from bacon fat.

It is hard to leave Utopia. For a millisecond, your brain starts to churn with fantastic plans on how you can stay forever. You think how being a waitress in a homey café and writing in between shifts sounds kind of fun. Or, how about applying to become the church secretary at the darling Episcopal Church? Think about the fun you would have designing the bulletin each week! It would be far less stressful than sweating bullets as you rapidly enter short puts on the SPX. And then reality kicks in, the gas starts to sputter in the cottage’s wall heater and the truths of modern day survival start to intrude. Things like: the job you have worked at for a quarter of a century to provide health insurance for your family, the college loans lurking like a lump of dough stuck in your throat, the house, the bills, the animals…

Suddenly, your mind whirling like the baton of a 50’s beauty queen, it hits you. You don’t need to figure out a way to stay in Utopia, because you are already there! Like Dorothy in Kansas, you have had the key to Utopia the entire time! This mini Utopia, this cottage in the woods, you realize, is merely a small sliver of the giant pie that is your Utopian American Life. Utopia is all around you! It is the job God threw in your path, complete with health insurance as well as proof that trickle down economics works, at least for you. Or, the healthy child you have raised, complete with good grades and the smarts to tough it out at a college reputed to have a tougher homework load than Harvard. College loans? Pffhtgt… nothing! A mere trifle! A substitute for a shiny car, a good choice and again possible only because of the job you have held on to for 25 years. Then there’s the husband you can’t so without, who keeps all the edges neat and tidy, glue man, sticky boy, call him what you want, he is integral to holding the whole ball of wax together.

Of course, there is also your mom, the little bird, who has loved every word that ever came out of your mouth or off your pen forever. And finally, your beautiful girls, older sis, Uncle and Aunt, Cousins (1st, 2nd, 4th) and the husbands of your cousins and the children of the husbands of your cousins but most especially your little sister who ranks up there with the saints… In other words, UTOPIA.

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