Sustaining our Dreams

One of the great pleasures of life is to fulfill one’s dreams. I have been very fortunate to fulfill a number of my dreams, including finding my wife, Sheryl, with whom I have had a loving 34 year marriage; raising a deeply thoughtful and caring son, Josh, who is turning into a mature young man; engaging in a successful career as a public interest civil rights attorney for over 31 years, and living in a lovely nearly 100 year old home in welcoming neighborhood for nearly 25 years.

Sustaining each of those dreams takes effort.

  • Marriage is a constant set of intricate negotiations that, when successful, allows each partner to maintain their own independence, while simultaneously allowing the partnership to flourish.
  • Raising a child is perhaps the most difficult and rewarding thing one can do. As I have told my son on many occasions, parents do not receive an instruction manual, and all the parenting books in the world do not anticipate every single situation parents encounter while raising their children.
  • My legal career has flourished in many ways, but it has also had its challenges, particularly when two employers chose to terminate my services, failing to appreciate my efforts for the greater good.
  • While we cherish our beautiful home and neighborhood, its age requires annual maintenance and we anticipate losing some of our dearest neighbors in the coming year.

Perhaps the dream that continues to fulfill me the most is our ownership of 86 beautiful acres of land in Adams County, Wisconsin, on Goose Lake. The sparsely populated area was made famous by Aldo Leopold in his iconic environmental tome, A Sand County Almanac, the descriptions therein could truly be descriptions of our land and the wildlife that we share it with. We keep a copy at our home on Goose Lake which I regularly re-read.

When we bought the land, it was completely undeveloped. There were 2 farm fields which had not been farmed in many years, acres of virgin oak forest, acres of wetlands, and a 2 track road to a camp site with a fire ring of rocks. Initially, we started with the basics, drilling a well and installing a hand pump, building an outhouse, and putting up a full time wall tent for camping.

Eventually, after saving our money, we were able to build a dream vacation home, which of course, needs regular maintenance. Around the same time that we built that home, about 13 years ago, we engaged in another dream fulfilling project. The location of our home is about 1/3 of a mile in from the County Highway along a gravel driveway. The initial part of that driveway was prone to snow drifts due to the slope of the hill and the emptiness of the farm field to the north of the road. We did not want to install an unsightly snow fence, so instead we planted 2,500 spruce and pine saplings in the scrubbier of the 2 farm fields we own that abuts our driveway.

Watching those tiny saplings grow into a forest full of trees, many of which are over 20 feet tall now, has been truly inspiring. However, like all dreams, it takes work to sustain the forest we planted. This past weekend, I thinned about 15 trees, giving 3 of the spruce tops to friends for their holiday decorations.

I will leave the cut trees to dry and cut them up for firewood next year, as I did with last year’s cuttings.

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While this may seem idyllic, it takes hard work and I feel my body’s age increasingly each year. Although somehow, doing hard work to sustain a dream always seems a bit easier than other chores.

In addition, sustaining this dream includes unanticipated work, such as dealing with invasive species. After cutting firewood and thinning our spruce and pine forest, I turned to attacking the invasive Buckthorn that appeared for the first time this fall, at the edge of the spruce and pine trees we planted along the county highway. I prefer to avoid using toxic chemicals on our land, so I was glad to discover that someone at the University of Wisconsin developed a non-toxic method of suffocating the Buckthorn stumps with black bags. Fortunately, I was able to accomplish this task before the snow came down the next day.

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For as long as I live, I will continue to dream. Accomplishing and sustaining my dreams is what makes life worth living.

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For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact him by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.