as i walked down the stairs wiping the sleep from my eyes, kris excitedly told me that she had a vivid dream in which she was hanging out with some friends and they were talking about a place west of grand rapids that had rolling green, lush hills and for reasons that made perfect sense in the dream, but which she couldn’t quite recall upon waking, it was where we were going to call home.
the timing of the dream couldn’t have been more, er, interesting because it came just days before we were supposed to officially compose the short list of future places to live which were to be picked from a longer list of locales that had been generated by methodically ranking areas based on a set of desired attributes such as job growth, quality of living, good schools, affordable housing, access to outdoors recreation, a strong sense of community and a dozen other factors that we’ve come to appreciate over the years.
“ummmm. ok. so, where is it?” i asked, slightly irritated that she was basically throwing a monkey wrench into the plan which could potentially delay the decision on The Short List.
“that’s the thing. i don’t know. all i can remember is something about sleepy hollow.”
but the sense of the dream was so strong that she interpreted it to mean that the list of potential candidates was all wrong, even if the reasons didn’t seem to make much sense, at least when she was awake. and through a process of inspired serendipidy, she happened upon an article about a small town in southwestern wisconsin called viroqua that resonated strongly with her, since the reasons the author eloquently articulated as to why he chose the town after three years of planning seemed to be related to many of the factors that we were contemplating as we composed our short list. and as an added dreamy bonus, viroqua is near sidie hollow park, which is at least somewhat similar sounding to the sleepy hollow of her dreams.
as is her way, she had already booked a hotel for the next day, a friday, and i reluctantly agreed to make the long trip to the town to check it out, thinking that at the very least it would make for a fun weekend. and so, the next morning we set out to visit a town that we’d never been to as i donned my skeptic hat, convinced that as lovely as the town sounded on paper, it probably was just a small town like any other.
after a full day of driving, we pulled into the hotel and smiled the big smiles that we alway smile when The Universe likes to play games with us; i kid you not, right next the the hotel there was a sign for sleepy hollow auto mart. so, Somebody has a sense of humor, but i was still wearing my skeptic hat because i’m too jaded and rational to uproot what little roots we have based on a magazine article and a dreamy coincidence. we had a little chuckle and i decided to go for a drive along the rolling hills to get a better feel for the scale and scope of the area while kris put odin to bed.
with impeccible timing, as i headed out of town, one of the largest great horned owls i’ve ever seen tracked the car and followed me for for some distance. now, i’m not superstitious, i don’t even think about owls very often and i don’t have any idea what it means or if it means anything, but i swear whenever A Big Change is coming Somebody cues the appearance of a great horned owl. i know it sounds corny, but it is what it is and i’ve stopped trying to figure it out. ten minutes later, as i’m heading east through the some of most gorgeous terrain you’ll ever see in the midwest ( which is saying a lot since it was mid-april when everything is normally in a drab gray ), i must have temporarily lost my skeptic hat because i was struck the strength of the sense that this was going to be where we’d call home.
the next day, as we strolled around the downtown, we stopped and talked with quite a few locals at the coop, a local cafe and coffee shop, the independent bookstore and the public market and heard story after story after story about how serendipity and a bit of luck had led people to the area and they could never, ever imagine living anywhere else. ultimately, it was the genuineness and sincerity of the stories that won us over. amusingly, we’d later learn that the story of accidently finding viroqua and deciding to call it home is so common that it’s not even considered the least bit extraordinary.
that evening we found a for-sale-by-owner house in an absolutely perfect part of town that was a rental home and we scrambled to arrange a visit to see it before we had to leave the next day. on sunday morning we finally made contact, convinced that it would be impossible to get in to see the place on such short notice on a sunday. the nice person on the phone told us that they were just on their way out of town, but that we could come in and walk around while they were gone! kris asked if we should lock up the house when we left and he just laughed. we fell in love with the house and instantly knew it was going to be our new home.
we’ve already had countless experiences that reinforce what a special place viroqua is, from the teenager who races in front of you to smile and say “hi!” as he opens the door to the bookstore, to the offer to throw a community bar-b-que so we can meet all the parents with toddlers and offers to take care of mauja if we have to leave town and babysit odin if we want a night out, to the neighbors who invited us to come over for a fantastic dinner and homemade pie and the crew of strangers who showed up with perfect timing to help me unload the moving van before kris arrived with one very tired odin. it’s really no winder that it’s been highlighted as one of the best small towns to live in a various media, including the wall street journal, the cbs evening news, smithsonian magazine, reader’s digest and the chicago tribune.
we’ve both lived in small towns and know that they can come with their own set of challenges and we’ve heard rumors that not everyone is equally happy to see their hidden gem of a town being discovered by “transplants”, but we’ll be working hard in the coming months to give back to the community that has already given us so much and prove that we intend to be good citizens 🙂