Rolling on the River

Twenty minutes northwest of Madison, nature, art and history combine to motivate Jody Kapp to be a pioneer—not a settler.

Twenty minutes northwest of Madison, nature, art and history combine to motivate Jody Kapp to be a pioneer—not a settler.

I remember it as if it were yesterday: my six-foot tall self being exuberantly pulled through the streets of Europe by a five-foot-five-inch Jack Russell Terrier-like friend. With his Gay Guide to Europe in hand, he continued to urge me on through jet lag and the unknown, “Girl! Be a pioneer—not a settler.”

It’s ten years down the road and although my traveling companion is no longer at my side, I have adopted this simple string of words as my daily mantra for life and travel. I gravitate towards places that have a sense of exploration and adventure; places that aren’t fully developed, perhaps a little rough, but with a feeling of past hopes and future potential.

So here I am in Sauk Prairie, the combined villages of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac, twenty minutes northwest of Madison. From my lookout at the Blue Spoon Café I glimpse eagles as they spiral down into the cold Wisconsin River and ricochet up with large fish in their talons. I spend a few hours this way, cup of coffee in hand, meditating back and forth between the river and the local artwork gracing the walls. And this is where I find my favorite place—in between the ancient forms of the beauty of nature and the stories told through art.

On my path through the Prairie I stop by the local River Arts Gallery and happen to catch a thought-provoking show by UW-Madison fine arts graduate Arthur O. Mohagen III. His humorous critique of young society’s identity through fashion and sexuality is the butter on top of the pancake of my day—a show that allows me the opportunity to explore a new side of myself; a chance to rethink my own identity.

As I cross the bridge to Wollersheim Winery for a taste of wine mingled with history, I find myself growing attached to the spirit of the area. Perhaps it’s the fresh zest of locally grown grapes or the rush of wind over the bluffs going to my head, but I feel a sudden rising of inspiration to join a board, to get active, to become a pioneer, to live life soaking in the full local flavor, to find ways to move my fellow settlers stuck in their tracks onward with a new perspective. It’s amazing what a little time out for retrospection and relaxing along the river can do. With a striking combination of nature, art and history as the backdrop for the coming year I have a feeling 2008 is going to be a very satisfying vintage.