In Alaska, where we lived years ago, a newcomer was referred to as a “cheechako,” a novice who hadn’t yet endured a complete winter. We made the grade and endured two, but returned to the Lower 48 as soon as the opportunity came.
We’ve now gotten through two winters here (and aren’t seeking opportunities to leave). Meteorologically this past season was far better than a year ago, but in other ways we’ve come to recognize that there are adjustments involved in getting used to this area, some of them more subtle than shopping for snow boots and parkas in Anchorage.
What’s it like to live here?
I’ve wondered how to describe Lake Forest to those who’ve known me from elsewhere, not that anyone’s asked. It’s not the diverse academic village where I came from, nor the cities where I grew up.
Dogs. It’s hard to calculate the canine-to-human ratio in my neighborhood, but I see wonderful dogs every day, and some are quite exotic. My appreciation of the dog world pretty much begins and ends with “Oh what a cute pooch!” so I’m unaware of the various breeds. Our own dog was a funny-looking curly-haired mutt, which admittedly isn’t very elegant. So we decided that she would be a “metisse bouclee” instead—because even “curly-haired mutt” sounds exotic in French.
Landscaping. True, there are some amazing houses in the area, and the “wow” factor diminishes slowly. But what can be even more fun than gawking at houses is seeing how carefully the grounds are maintained. Lovingly tended small gardens and impeccably manicured broad lawns reflect both a sense of care and their owners’ aesthetic; and I’ve yet to see a displeasing one. One garden on my street made me read up on Gertrude Jekyll, whom I hadn’t thought about in decades. Thank you, unknown neighbor, for reminding me of one of England’s great landscape artists.
Metra. The commute can be a chore, but it can also be a blessing. An hour of solitude at the beginning of the day can be spent in so many beneficial ways: reading, meditating, planning the day ahead so as to arrive at work without stress. A year ago it was hard to get used to, having been accustomed to rushing to work and trying to get as much done early in the day. Now I relish the time to brace myself and the time to decompress on the way home. I recognize this because the days I drive to and from work are much less serene. Arriving at work in a bad mood because of traffic, and getting home in the same state for the same reason, is no way to live. Plus some of the conductors can brighten even the grimmest of days.
One could go on, but these would be three things I’d tell friends about. Twenty years ago people would ask me what it was like to live in Alaska, and telling them about the natural beauty always made me feel good about the place.
Without similar occasions to talk about Lake Forest-Lake Bluff, I can sometimes forget about the positives to living here. Maybe you too are a newcomer to the community: what would you mention if friends asked what it’s like to live here?
Whatever it is, I hope it makes you feel good about our special little town.