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Deposited by glaciers

DIFFICULT as it was to believe, the time had come to dispose of our big white house with its large screened porch, the comfortable den lined with books which stretched across our lifetime, the old-fashioned basement, so high one could actually swing a golf club and not hit the ceiling (if it was one of the chipping irons), and on rainy days skate around and around the central furnace, which resembled one of TV's monsters. Yes, the moment was here to bid farewell to the double yard with its immense trees, and with its memories of picnics, ballgames, or simply chatting with the neighbors. No use fooling ourselves any longer, this was a house never meant for just two people.

Not only were there several bedrooms too many, plus a screened sleeping porch but, this late, we discovered our home actually had an echo.

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Oddly, the two of us were not upset by the necessity of departure. The mourners? Neighbors, and our grandchildren. This was a shocking move to our neighbors because, we discovered, in their lives we represented ``stability.'' As for the children, it meant losing the only house where they could go upstairs to bed.

Oh, another loss -- the chute!

We'd be giving up their favorite territory. From the back hallway on the second floor, past the chute's kitchen opening where their appointed guards, with fingers outstretched, tried to intercept whatever was aimed for the bin in the basement . . . what a variety of ball games they invented for this slide! And what an array of items I'd find when I sorted the laundry.

Scarcely discussing it, the two of us knew we wanted to remain in a climate of the four seasons. We wanted to be comfortably close to our children and grandchildren. And we wanted another house. People over us, under us, or on either side of our walls? . . . no, no, no. We hadn't lived this long to start tiptoeing. And when I felt like playing the piano at midnight, then I should still do so.

What we found for our new home was almost unbelievable.

In the kettle moraine country, high on a hilltop that the glaciers created eons ago, was a snug two-bedroom dwelling, now unoccupied, with an advantage we had never expected.

After living on city streets, here we live right in the sky. I don't have to look up; I can look sideways or straight ahead at amazing, vibrant colors in the early morning or late evening. In the autumn the birds organize to travel south below us, but never on high wires between telephone poles.

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Our neighbors watch the sky, too, and phone so we don't overlook the unusual (a double rainbow) or the spectacular.

One of the first things we noticed peculiar to our new territory was the fences. Never a wooden one; none of metal material. Simply boulders, backbreaking to lift, but at some time they'd had to be lifted from the fields in order to make use of this fertile soil.

If only I'd studied geology in college!

But why was school necessary to learn about this topography? The public library has huge books with pictures and with the explanation of what a mighty force a mass of moving ice can be, creeping relentlessly over acres of land, shattering and gouging rock formations which then were pushed and dragged beneath and alongside the glacier, eventually to be deposited and thus reshape the landscape.

On at least four and perhaps as many as 10 occasions during the last million years there have been periodic invasions of ice which followed the same general routes of expansion and covered the same total geographical area.

Evidence left by the ancient ice is all around our present home, including hills of stony debris called moraines. Eskers, I've learned, are the narrow ridges of gravelly and sandy drift deposited by a glacial stream. A kame is a short ridge or hillock of stratified drift, formed by subglacial streams where the water emerged from the ice.

Then there are the gently sloping depressions that, because of their shape, are known as kettles unless they fill with water and turn into ponds or small lakes. We have a kettle below our bedroom windows where wildflowers are abundant. Never again will I call a wildflower a weed. And where there are deer, plus I've seen one each -- opossum, badger, skunk, and wildcat.

Some of my reading about nature's power with ice is hard to accept, yet who am I to doubt it? For instance, when rocks frozen in the bottom layers of the glacier pried loose further fragments that also became incorporated in the ice, they gradually scooped out a circular, steep-sided basin called a cirque. Large cirques give a scalloped appearance to the sides of a mountain, leaving such jagged peaks as Switzerland's Matterhorn and even Mt. Everest.

Suppose the ancient ice was squeezed into a narrow valley. Then it speeded up to make deep U-shaped troughs like Yosemite valley.

Particularly in Wisconsin and Minnesota, huge chunks of ice were left isolated by the retreating glaciers. The chunks then melted, creating tens of thousands of lakes of all sizes. Some of the largest in the world, including the Great Lakes of North America, were made by the drift deposited by ice, making dams.

For years the Indians profited from the glaciers' work. The thousands of small lakes and rivers left behind served as their canoe roads and fishing places.

I remember a time just before expressways, when we could drive the winding country roads in Wisconsin and discover an immense boulder perched precariously on a hillside where it had no right to be.

``Crazy,'' we children would say, dreading that the boulder might topple just as we passed below. Now I know how it got there: Not only its incredible position, but also the fact that the rock matched no other rock in the area, revealed the history of its traveling.

So here we are on our hilltop. We can't quite speak to the Man in the Moon, but we can whistle at Jupiter from our front lawn. And we're very close to the large, brilliantly colored hot-air balloons that rise over our hilltop, then gently descend in the direction of the lake where the sun is setting. They travel like butterflies, wavering over our land.

Everybody should have a glacier in the family history!

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