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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

What makes a place home?

Wauwatosa, Nature

During the past week, my job has taken me to a place I thought I knew. 

But instead of the familiar small houses built after the war and through the 60s on grid-like streets, McMansions have mushroomed on cul de sacs. What a difference 20 years of boom building make.

It's the first time I haven't been able to get my bearings in a day or two of traveling the same neighborhoods. Friday morning I was still getting lost navigating from one street named Oak Something to another street named Oak Something Else.

You'd expect that in one of the more modest-priced subdivisions, the ones with uniform grey condos and streets named Security and Patriot. But this area showed more diversity of style and material, though all along traditional lines.

Coming home to Wauwatosa, I realized why I couldn't get oriented. Why no matter how beautiful the houses, they didn't feel like home.

The land was utterly flat and there were no trees. Or rather, the trees were few and small, staked  in lonely isolation in what had been a potato field not so very long ago.

Because our western Wauwatosa neighborhoods were farm fields much longer ago, before the vogue for flattening the earth into uniformity, we are blessed with undulating land and an abundance of mature trees. Where the roads twist, they twist for a reason: to curve around a hill or to hug a creek

My trees are all of the messy variety, mainly walnuts and what my neighbor calls junk trees, Norway maples. I love them much more than I love granite countertops and whirlpool baths.

I know I'm almost home when I see the old box elder with an odd haircut to let the power lines through, the line of crab apples that aren't doing too well this year. When I head down the hill along the rows of stately spreading oaks and past one neighbor's attempt to make his yard "up-north" with conifers, to the giant sycamore across the street.

Without nature's signs to guide me, I suppose I'll have to get a GPS. But put me in the woods--or a place where trees tower over houses--and I'm on my way home.

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