Siren, Wisconsin is a small rural town approximately thirty minutes West from the Minnesota border. My cousin owns a vacation house there that sits on the top of a large hill overlooking a few hobby farms. The vast view of the countryside is breathtaking made even more beautiful by the smell of his luscious gardens.
Over the Fourth of July his house fills up with people he knows from all over the globe. He himself flies all the way from Berlin, Germany and brings his international friends to celebrate our country’s Independence Day there. I arrive every year to be greeted by a good portion of my extended family and friends of his that I have come to know over the years and of course there are always new faces too.
Typically, Siren is a quiet place where simple hardworking people stay close to home to live their lives and raise their families. There is nothing showy about Siren but it would be a lovely place to call home. The locals are friendly and passive aggressive making it hard to distinguish whether you are in Minnesota or Wisconsin.
In the summer however, you wouldn’t recognize Siren for any of those things. Over the holiday that quiet little town becomes infested with vacationers, tourists from all over, visiting family members, lake-dwellers and cabin-owners home for the summer. But somehow, all those people pushing, shoving and fighting for the last bag of hot-dog buns does not deter from the local charm. In fact, a vacationing amateur writer can find something beautiful to write about in the most unlikely places.
Every year a few members of my family and I participate in the Freedom Five Road Race. Which I am sure you can decipher from its name, is in fact a 5K race through Siren. Now I am not an athletic person and I am certainly not competitive like the others in my family. I do not participate in the race to win medals or set records. I join the race every year because usually within the span of three miles from the starting line to the finish line I always meet someone interesting or overhear an insightful conversation or two.
This year my sister-in-law was kind enough to stay with me the entire race, which is nothing to scoff at considering her natural stride equates to about two of mine. She’s taller than me and her legs are longer so keeping up with her was not effortless for me. Because her and I stayed together I didn’t get a chance to meet anyone new but we did overhear several interesting conversations, one of which stood out more to me than the others.
Along the way we slowly gained momentum on an assemblage of four people. I was unable to correlate how the four may have known each other but it was a group of three men and one woman. One of the three men was significantly younger than the two gentlemen, he was probably in his thirties and I would say the older men were between the ages of 75 and 80 and I would guess that the woman was somewhere in her seventies. We maneuvered around the cluster with encouragement from all of them but we didn’t pull too far ahead of them for quite some time.
While we kept our pace steady in front of them I overheard the younger man being hard on himself, specifically because he was unable to walk any faster. But his companions were quick to discourage him from such negative thoughts about himself. Although I can not remember his words verbatim, one of the older men was implying that it is important to try your best and even if your best isn’t good enough just keep trying because it will only get better, never worse. It will only get worse when you stop trying altogether. And then he said “That goes for life too.”
“Life should be lived” he said, “find what you like to do and do that and then find something else you like and try new things, because you might discover you’re good at something you never thought you could be. Also you will then meet a whole variety of people from all kinds of fascinating places with intriguing things to say and you’ll have fun too.”
“Take me for example” the woman said “I go to cribbage every week with a great big group of people, do you play cribbage? Oh, you should it’s lots of fun.” She proceeded to tell him all about cribbage and the people she meets and what her life has gained by knowing those new friends and how much fun they all have and as we slowly put more and more distance between us and them I faintly heard her say…
“You can’t win them all and even if you did, where’s the fun in that?”