Well, our buyers reneged, just before the inspection. It turns out that the woman was overwhelmed by the thought of moving. And this isn’t the first time she’s pulled this shenanigan.
It’s A Wild Ride
Sigh. That was two weeks ago. Meanwhile, we’ve had several showings, all of which resulted in offers. And all of which have fallen through because: 1) the buyer couldn’t come up with the money, 2) the buyers decided they want a house large enough for all three of their children and grandchildren (!!), 3) the buyers decided the interest rates on loans are too high right now (they didn’t know that before they made an offer?). I’ve had plenty of time to have a hissy fit, get depressed, wonder if we’re making a mistake in leaving here, and come to a place of acceptance. Eric has pretty much stayed the course and didn’t succumb to a hissy fit, depression, or questioning what we’re doing. Thank goodness.
I have decided to not let this dictate my life. If anyone wants to see the house, they can come on by! If I’m in my kitty cat pajamas, or the kitchen sink isn’t polished to perfection (I am NEVER again getting an enormous stainless kitchen sink), or if there are two-dozen ping pong balls rolling around the house (Magnolia’s latest obsession)—I don’t care.
Anyway, I am not making the mistake again of announcing that this house is sold until we have the money in our bank account. We have no idea how long it’s going to take. Meanwhile, I’m going to distract myself by catching up on our travel adventures from last summer, which reminds me that we do have a life outside of never-ending cleaning and polishing the house and bushwhacking saw palmettos.
Returning To Madison
Rolling back time to the first of July, we settled in for a week at our favorite Madison area campground. This was our our second visit to this cool little city, which is not only the state capital, but is also home to the University of Wisconsin.
We had no plans other than a day trip to Taliesin, the home and studio of the brilliant, egotistical, and unconventional architect Frank Lloyd Wright. We spent the rest of our time biking, leisurely visiting gardens and art galleries, and enjoying some of the delicious food that Madison cooks up.
The gardens in Madison are remarkable, not only because they’re so beautiful, but because they thrive in a climate that offers only 110 frost-free days. Despite the long, cold, snowy winters, Madison is lush and green and filled with flowers.
Just like last time, we adored the sweet little jewel-box Olbrich Gardens. The garden is artistically designed, with meandering pathways, cozy nooks, and layers of plants that bloom throughout the season. I came away with some serious garden envy. (The blog header photo is of the lovely authentic Thai temple in the gardens.)
Click on photos for a larger image and captions
We also once again visited the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. This time, we participated in a free guided hike of several miles. Most arboretums are kind of like tree museums. But the focus of the UW arboretum is on the ecological restoration of native landscapes, which include Wisconsin tall grass prairies.
As we waded through the tall grass, all I could think of was how many ticks were lying in wait. Miraculously, we didn’t come home (this time) with any blood-sucking little hitchhikers.
Exploring Downtown Madison
The location of Madison is unique and picturesque—it’s built on an isthmus (a natural land bridge) that divides two crystal clear lakes. The capitol, university, museums, and dozens of appealing cafés, coffee shops, galleries, and shops are all clustered in a walkable downtown, with a generally mellow vibe.
Except for the Saturday Farmers’ Market. It is not mellow. We’ve been to many farmers’ markets, including the extraordinary markets in Eugene and Portland, Oregon. The market in Madison was overwhelming. Or maybe it was just us, after more than two years of avoiding crowds.
The market takes place on the green surrounding the capitol building, and a surging tide of humanity circumnavigated the square. We made it about one block before extricating ourselves. But not before buying a delicious sourdough rye brownie and escaping to a peaceful sidewalk café for an iced coffee. (I had never heard of a sourdough brownie, much less a sourdough rye brownie. But it was REALLY good, dense and chocolaty.)
Fortunately, we did not feel crowded at all anywhere else during our week in Madison.
Madison has two excellent art museums: The Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin campus, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, just a few blocks away. The glass stairway in the contemporary art museum is a work of art in itself. The museum tends toward exhibits that make some kind of thought-provoking social statement. It’s small, but very good.
At the excellent Chazen Museum, I was delighted to find a piece by the Ghanian artist El Anatsui. He creates large, intricate sculptures from recycled materials—mostly bottle caps and pieces of folded metal, often from discarded liquor bottles—woven together with copper wire. We’ve seen his work in several museums, and it’s incredible to see how pieces of metal can be woven to look like richly textured fabric.
The museum offers an extensive collection, from ancient art and antiquities to contemporary art. It’s all beautifully curated and displayed, and just like the Museum of Contemporary Art, it’s free to visit.
As much as we enjoy the small town where we’ve lived in Florida for three years, it is not a culinary destination. Fresh seafood abounds, but creative restaurants…not so much. Hence, we’re inordinately thrilled when we’re somewhere that offers interesting food choices. In Madison, we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast at Marigold Kitchen (including buckwheat ricotta pancakes that I’d like to try making at home), beautiful Thai food at Ahan, and excellent tacos at Bandit Tacos, where they serve up creative fillings wrapped in handmade stone ground blue corn tortillas.
While in Madison, we visited Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in nearby Spring Green. Wright spent his childhood there, and harbored a life-long fondness for the landscape of rolling green hills and prairies. But the main reason he built a home in this remote locale was to escape the scandal he caused in Chicago when he left his 20-year marriage and six children for his neighbor and client (who left her marriage and two children).
Ask anyone to name the most famous American architect of all time, and they’ll likely say “Frank Lloyd Wright.” In the early 1900s, Wright’s design ideas were revolutionary. He built low-slung homes wrapped in windows, with open floor plans and simple furnishings. We take these design principals for granted, but Wright’s innovative ideas changed the face of American architecture forever.
Not only was Wright a brilliant architect, but he was quite a character. Fond of capes, broad-brimmed hats, and canes that he used for dramatic gesturing, he loved fancy cars and expensive Asian artifacts. He consistently lived beyond his means, and skirted paying debts. He was extremely charming, enjoyed entertaining, and loved attention. And he thought very well of himself.
“Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.” ~Frank Lloyd Wright
Scandal and tragedy followed Wright to Taliesin. An insane servant burned Taliesin to the ground, and murdered Wright’s lover and six other people. Wright rebuilt, and soon after got involved with a woman who turned out to be a morphine addict. He spent years trying to extricate himself from her (that woman was vengeful!), meanwhile getting involved with a woman three decades younger, who turned out to be a steadying influence.
Together, they created a live-in apprenticeship program for architects on the property. This provided them with income during the Depression, and a pool of strong young people to build and rebuild Taliesin.
Taliesin was a laboratory for Wright’s design ideas, and was never meant to be finished. He had no qualms about tearing down walls to try something new. Design mattered far more to him than engineering. For example, his roofs often leaked, which he didn’t see as a problem. His attitude? “If the roof doesn’t leak, the architect hasn’t been creative enough.” And he once told a client who complained about the roof leaking over his dining chair to move his chair.
A fire once again destroyed much of Taliesin (this time electrical) and it was again rebuilt. The architectural studio was spared in the fire, and Wright supposedly remarked, “God obviously doesn’t approve of my personal life, but he approves of my work.” It’s amazing that Frank Lloyd Wright managed to live to 92 years old and to be so incredibly productive while continually being embroiled in drama and scandal. He designed at least 1,000 buildings throughout his career, more than 500 of which were built.
Despite all of the drama and tragedy that unfolded there, Taliesin is a relaxing, beautiful, and fascinating place to visit.
Where We Stayed
Lake Farm County Park is close to town but out in the country. Bike trails from the campground lead to downtown or into the countryside along dedicated paths. Either direction is a pretty ride, and you can bike for many miles.
The campground offers electric only sites with water conveniently located throughout, clean and private showers, and a dump station. The sites are gravel, surrounded by grass, and spacious. Although the campground wifi is weak, Verizon is decent. This was our second stay at this campground and we would happily return.