As I was cranking away on deadline yesterday, I got a Facebook friend request from a man I’ve never met. This New York City actor and comedian is an alum of The Second City and the New Actors Workshop, and he’d just found and read an article I wrote years ago about his mentor: Paul Sills, the celebrated director and improvisation teacher who served as the original director of The Second City in Chicago.
Paul and his wife, Carol Bleakley Sills, also ran the Wisconsin Theater Game Center at their home in rural Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin, just an hourlong drive from the small southern Door County community I called home for almost a decade. When Paul passed away in 2008, Door County Magazine asked me to write a tribute piece in his memory. (If you’re interested, you can read the article here.)
I haven’t thought about Paul Sills in some time. When I heard from this New York-based actor, I was flooded with memories of sitting in the Sills’ farmhouse, listening to Carol’s memories and stories. And I was flooded with thoughts of home.
Door County is a unique place. Yes, this is northern Wisconsin, and it has its woods, dairy farms, fruit orchards, supper clubs and fish frys. But it also has a truly world-class art community, of which the Sills were important members. This rocky Niagara Escarpment peninsula boasts painters, sculptors, potters, performance artists, weavers, musicians… the summer calendar is full of special events and activities, from gallery walks and art demonstrations, to outdoor Shakespeare, to the Plein Air Festival, to Steel Bridge Songfest.
I live in Colorado’s Front Range now, and it’s a completely different life… so, honestly, I do miss Door County. But a new realization has hit me like a ton of bricks: I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would.
When my family and I first relocated to the Denver area, my heart was breaking… I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. We moved quite a bit when I was a child, and I’d lived in Door County longer than I’d ever lived anywhere. I loved our little folk Victorian farmhouse, I loved sailing on Lake Michigan, I loved nearby Sturgeon Bay, with its bustling shipyards and historic downtown. I loved the community and feeling as if I belonged to it.
In the months since, however, I’ve learned that you can call many places home if you take the time to actively engage with the land and people around you. My home has become little Bailey, Colorado, just an hour from Capitol Hill in Denver to the east and an hour from hardcore, above-timberline hiking and snowshoeing to the west. My home is Cheyenne River, South Dakota, with its vast prairies, tightly knit communities and warm, wonderful friends. My home is vibrant La Paz, Mexico — a true gem in the Baja desert — which has relentlessly called me back for the last five years.
And my home will forever be Door County. When you let a place into your heart, with all of its quirks and all of its magic, it never really lets go. A heartfelt thanks to my new friend for the reminder.