Place Based Healing
I had a pal in highschool who referred to the gently rolling hills of east Portage County as “God’s Country”. My dad often reminds me that all the water running West of Custer Hill ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, and everything running East ends up in the Atlantic Ocean.
My parents both grew up in Arnott, just east of Plover. My dad tells me stories of how he and his brothers would work in the summer moving irrigation in the potato fields. Afterward, they would go trout fishing in the Little Plover River, a creek that no longer exists. My grandparents used to own a bar in Arnott, most recently called the “Hitchin’ Rail Saloon”. You can still see “Werachowski” etched into the stone above the chipped front door.
In high school I took many car rides down the county highways of Custer, Stockton, Amherst, New Hope, past Polonia, Rosholt, even up to Bevent. I’ve spent hot summer evenings mowing down on corn cobs drenched in butter at the Iola corn festival. I’ve laid under the stars along the Tomorrow River with friends and loose conversation. I’ve listened to many crooning songs flying out my car windows as I found my way to Lake Elaine, Emily, or Sunset for a high season dip. Often times I was alone, but sometimes I was with others that seemed to pass through my life with intensity in the moment, and a bitter but happy ache upon reflection. They’ve taught me a lot, but these rolling hills have taught me more.
And now, after decades of riding these roads, I find myself and others of a like mind on the site of a foreclosed dairy farm. What we’re doing is a lot – feeding others, ourselves, building community, questioning, and visioning an alternative but not that impossible of a future. And from time to time, usually as I’m pulling out of the dusty drive, lending a happy wave out my window to my compatriots as I head to the nearest watering hole – I realize that what we’re primarily doing is healing – healing the land. We’re cultivating and rebuilding the very hills that have helped, and continue to help, heal my own soul.