If you could live anywhere…

July 18, 2011 | My Jottings

I’ve done a lot of blathering about moving lately. Before we moved to the house we live in now, I was deathly allergic to moving and never spoke of it. I had put down deep roots at the place we lived before, and I never pictured myself leaving, except feet first.

Well now that our house is up for sale, we might move. If it doesn’t sell, we won’t move. (I ask you, where other than here can you read such profound truths?) Β  πŸ™‚

Other than the Highlands of Scotland, the Swiss Alps and Asheville, North Carolina, the one place I would like to live probably more than any other is the North Shore of Lake Superior. If you’ve ever driven north on Highway 61, I don’t have to explain a thing to you. It’s some of the most gorgeous, pristine, rugged land in the world. And it overlooks the largest freshwater lake, which is so vast it looks like an ocean.

Recently I had the pleasure of having raspberry lemonade on my back deck with a wonderful woman who has an exquisite, almost luminous gift with words — Beryl Singleton Bissell. I first became acquainted with Beryl’s writing several years ago when a friend told me about her book, The Scent of God.Β  I couldn’t put that book down and I wish I could give apt words to what it’s like — it’s the masterfully crafted memoir of Beryl’s life as a daughter, a nun, an ex-nun, a wife and mother, and the beauty and heartbreak woven through it all. I have purchased that book several times to give as a gift.

I knew Beryl’s new book was coming out soon since I check out her blog regularly, and when it was released I ordered it right away. It’s called A View of the Lake, and I’ll be giving away a copy on the blog this week!

I read the book in two sittings — each chapter is a delightful essay about what it was like for Beryl and her husband Bill to leave their busy lives in the Twin Cities area and move to a house right on the edge of Lake Superior, in the tiny town of Schroeder, MN.

One reviewer said this about the book: “Beryl’s short stories are like glimmering jewels for the mind and soul. She brings her readers into a world where humanity and nature become one. A world so thoroughly magical and melodious that we don’t want to depart once we’ve entered.”

Oh, how true this is. After reading A View of the Lake, I wanted to drop everything and find a house on the North Shore more than ever. I wanted to hike The Superior Hiking Trail, I wanted to retreat and immerse myself in the quietude of North Shore nature, I wanted to take morning swims at Bill and Beryl’s private pebbly beach, I wanted to sit in an Adirondack chair on Bill and Beryl’s private pebbly beach, I wanted their beach to be my own private beach, I wanted to see what it would be like to wake every morning to the splendor of Lake Superior, a stone’s throw away, and the serenity of a slower pace of living on the North Shore.

I don’t think we’ll be moving to Schroeder or Tofte or Lutsen any time soon. But I will pick up Beryl’s book again when I need a little transporting to a quieter way of life.

Take a few minutes to check out Beryl’s site, and I would really encourage you to get a copy of The Scent of God. Also, I have an autographed copy of A View of the Lake by Beryl Singleton Bissell, and I would love to give it away this week. All you have to do is leave a comment here on the blog answering this question: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live, and why?

Comments will be taken until 10:00 Thursday morning (July 21st), and the winner of A View of the Lake will be randomly chosen and announced then! I promise you will love Beryl’s book, and like me, you will probably end up loving Beryl as well.

Happy reading…


  1. Helen in Switzerland says:

    Hi Julie, well I’d probably choose to stay right where I am in a village in the hills outside ZΓΌrich in Switzerland! My other options would be on a croft on a remote Scottish island or somewhere in the Bay Area or in San Francisco itself.
    Hope you get to follow your dreams!

  2. Just Julie says:

    Yes, Helen….I can’t imagine a village in the hills outside Zurich being a place that you’d want to run from. πŸ™‚

  3. Pat B says:

    Three places come to mind – Scotland, somewhere in the Canadian wilderness, or Emily, MN. How’s that for a weird mix? I feel scared for the United States right now. Am very afraid China is going to end up owning us so I wonder if living out of the country would be a good thing! Of course Heaven is where I truly long to be… How wonderful that you were able to see Beryl. I just recently read “The Scent of God” and loved it.

  4. Just Julie says:

    I like your mix, Pat, and can see you in any of those three places. I’d like to visit Emily someday. πŸ™‚

  5. Jessica says:

    I don’t think I can narrow it down to one place. There are so many things I love about MN and I am emotionally attached to where we are. But something inside me longs to be somewhere where the sun shines most of the time and the weather is more temperate. And the place in this country that most meets those needs is San Diego. And I have been there and one of the things I thought was, “I could live here!”

    I also think of a lot of great places “out in the country” in various locations that I would love.

    And San Antonio calls me name now and then too…

    And though I’ve never been to any of them, I can’t help but think I might like a little Scottish, Irish, English, something type village. I don’t know that those places are exceptionally sunny though so they’re probably out.

    Maybe the reality is that I just need to move to the sun!

  6. Just Julie says:

    San Diego has a fine climate, Jessica. For the time being, I’m glad we’re both in MN. Except on days like today….sooooo hot!

  7. Kay says:

    Hi Julie!
    I just finished this book as well…LOVED IT!! I am inspired by Beryl’s intentional approach to all areas of life. It struck me that this is a woman who is truly living…and seeing…and feeling…and learning. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

    It may be lack of imagination on my part…but there is no place else I’d rather live. Though I love to travel and experience other climates and cultures, I feel so blessed to call Duluth my home.

  8. Just Julie says:

    Your reply doesn’t surprise me one bit, Kay. You have contentment in the marrow of your bones, and it shows. Very enviable. I love how you described Beryl’s life and writing too – so true! LY.

  9. Savannah says:

    Oh, I love this question!!!

    There are several places that I would like to live…

    1. Duluth, MN. Of course, I want to move here. How long has it been since I’ve wanted to move there? Hmm… One or two years. I can’t remember when I first visited you, Aunt Julie. And if you move up North…. how far away is that from Duluth? It better be close so I can visit.

    2. I think I would enjoy living on the East Coast somewhere in New England… I would love to visit Maine… and Rhode Island

    Honestly, I could be happy anywhere. I just need people, and a home.

  10. Just Julie says:

    You are such a delight, Savannah. πŸ™‚ ILYTCAF.

  11. Carolyn says:

    I can honestly say that if I could live anywhere (and couldn’t we all, really?) I’d live in Duluth. It is beautiful, cool, full of green space, friendly people and a love for the arts. Not too big, not too small. I never stop admiring the lake. It has good schools and relatively cheap houses. It’s a wonderful place to live.

  12. Just Julie says:

    I agree with you Carolyn….well said. I think you should contact the Chamber of Commerce and see if they need a new ambassador. Ambassadress? Ambassadrix? Ambassadette? You could be any of those.

  13. Lloyd says:

    I ordered Scent of God, Julie. Someday I’d like to meet Beryl.

    Are you familiar with Bill DeRoche, Knife River? We published his Lake Superior poems. I’ll give you a copy.

    Probably you know I have family roots on the North Shore. My relatives founded Larsmont and owned Encampent Island.

    I trust you’ll find your dream home.

  14. Just Julie says:

    Let me know what you think of Beryl’s book, Lloyd! I did not know about your family’s North Shore roots….maybe we can arrange a teeny little luncheon…. πŸ˜€

  15. Ganeida says:

    Given I live in a remote & semi isolated place already I think Beryl & I might be sympatico. What do you think? Scotland…..The top of Kosiosko…..the island…?

  16. Just Julie says:

    I keep learning new things from you, Ganeida! Kosiosko – I had to look that one up – now THAT would be a “unique” place to live. And of course Scotland! πŸ™‚

  17. Ember says:

    Anywhere in the world… thinks hard… I would make it come true that I could buy that extra bit of land on the end of our garden, then for my own personal use, hidden among trees and with my own compost loo (bathroom) I’d have a house like this:http://www.dormen.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/shepherds-hut2.jpg

  18. Just Julie says:

    I knew your link would lead to something small, Ember, but I didn’t think it would be that small! If I lived alone I think I could live in a tiny place too – something more like this: http://www.greenrightnow.com/wp-content/uploads/tiny-house-tumbleweed.jpg. πŸ™‚

  19. Ember says:

    Oh yes – very practical! You wouldn’t have far to go if you got up in the night for a drink and a pee! πŸ˜‰

  20. Just Julie says:

    Exactly! πŸ™‚

  21. beryl singleton bissell says:

    What’s that old saying “Home is where your heart is”? It would appear that most of your connections who commented have their hearts in the right place. A gift indeed. And thank you, all who have read or are reading my book (books?). And of course, thank you Julie. By the way, I will be reading and signing books at Barnes and Noble Duluth on Saturday, August 6 between 1 and 3 p.m.

  22. Just Julie says:

    I have put August 6th on my calendar, Beryl! And will tell others too….God bless your week.

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