June 24th, 2007 writerspice
The more I travel the more I find places I want to return to.
This occurred in Kentucky, exploring former coal mining boomtowns reshaping themselves into historical destinations (Now Magazine, June 21, 2007), and now it’s happened with Michigan.
Michigan, you might be thinking, as I was when I first contemplated heading off to visit one of our nearest neighbours to the south. Yawn.
But after that first evening spent sampling locally-made strawberry wine while digging my toes into white sand and watching the sun burn behind the local lighthouse, I knew this was a place I could come back to, husband in tow.
There are a few reasons. One, of course, is the water – the state has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world. Another is the amazing array of artists producing a wide and interesting range of work in ceramics, wood, painting, pottery and jewelry. Art is taken seriously here. How many towns of 1,000 permanent residents do you know that have seven galleries?
But most delightful of all is Benzie County.
Dubbed with the tagline Northern Michigan Preserved, the state’s smallest county has one street light and 25 miles of sandy shoreline. Here, dogs can still run free on many beaches (provided, of course, their poop is scooped) and permits aren’t required for bonfires.
And like all places that verge a bit on outback, Benzie is home to lots of quirky people and places.
Instead of your average fast food joint, you’ll find the Cherry Hut, an 85-year-old restaurant that sells hearty dinners and a plethora of cherry products, including jams and other preserves. The nearby drive-in movie theatre plays vintage trailers before the evening’s film. Refined tastes can sample a few of the thousands of
mostly German wines in the cellar at the Brookside Inn while dining on Michigan smelt. Upstairs, each room has a hottub. Some even redefine luxury, with sauna, steam shower and wood-stove alongside the bubbling bath.
Add to all this a mysterious hill where cars seem to defy gravity, an old-fashioned printing press once run by a woman way ahead of her time and still churning out her legacy of block-print images on notepads, place-mats and coffee mugs, an award-winning resort with a nearby sculpture park, a dog-oriented artist’s shop where organic, fair-trade coffee and Cuban sandwiches can be purchased on the way to one of the
most beautiful beaches, and you’ll begin to get an idea of just what this place has to offer.
My advice: go there before it’s discovered and the crowds force a few more streetlights on these quiet country roads.
June 18th, 2007 writerspice
My uncle died on Saturday. At the end of a ceremony with my aunt, he lifted his arm to embrace her, relaxed and slipped into peace.
It was expected, it was a good death, but that doesn’t make it less difficult for those left behind.
I was not prepared for the memories that came flooding back, the realization that emerges over and over again that he is gone. That his body, bounding through that door with his grin and wit and energy, is empty now. That he’ll never return to the Island, armed with some hot sauce he wants us to try. The stroke he had two years ago took much of that away, but now he’s really disappeared.
On Saturday night, we gathered – minus my stepdad, up north, and my brother, who jumped on a plane to try to get out to Oregon in time to say goodbye, but missed him. My cousin, when she picked him up at the airport, told him how sorry she was. People don’t die on our time, he said.
On the back porch, overlooking the choppy water of the lake, we lifted bottles of Sleemans and Mill Street Stock Ale in his memory. My mom read aloud the last chapter of William Least Heat-Moon’s PrairyErth, an account of a walk they took together through the wide open lands of Kansas. When I’m an old prune of a man on my deathbed, he told Heat-Moon, I’ll remember the longest walk I ever took, because it was the time I connected the most. We cried. We cried so hard.
I like to think that my uncle, dubbed the Venerable Tashmoo by Heat-Moon, is rambling now, traipsing effortlessly through some amazing landscape with a history he knows inside and out. Postulating, pontificating, he has an audience of admirers and the company of those he loved and lost long ago: his father, his mother, his son.
I like to think this but I don’t really believe it’s true.
What I do know is that I feel him with me. Yesterday, as I brutally scrubbed the bathtub to escape from grief, I almost heard – in light of the fact that I’m not much of a housekeeper – the joke he would have made. Geez, people should die more often, he’d say. I laughed outloud. And I felt how much I love him, again, as I always will.
For those who knew my uncle, a funeral service will be held in Utah on June 30th and a memorial, probably next year, will be held on Manitoulin Island.
Donations in Clive’s name can be sent to:
Michaels Bay Historical Society
c/o Ed Sagle
P.O. Box 7
Southbay Mouth, ON
A charitable donation receipt will be issued.
Email me at laurenc AT laurencarter.ca for more information.
June 6th, 2007 writerspice
A short post this week, my beloved readers, as I’m way too busy updating my status every few hours on Facebook (some delectable recent samples: ‘lauren is smelling the lilacs’, ‘lauren is getting creative with organic bokÂ choy’, ‘lauren is unsure what she is’ – that last one a statement on the existential angst that is Monday) andÂ pitching my brains out.
I’ve sent out six story pitches already this week, while also finishing final edits on myÂ article about the pilgrimage in Argentina soon to appear in the Georgia Straight, writing my piece about Silo’s Message and the Humanist Movement for Geez, andÂ checking Facts &Â Arguments daily while I wait for myÂ essay to appear. All that plus taking time to sip tea andÂ plug away on the Joyce Carol Oates book I’m enjoying but desperately trying to finish so I can get onto Paul Auster).
The summer season is also starting to heat upÂ withÂ a press trip to Michigan (watch for it in i-94 magazine and other pubs thatÂ have expressed interest but haveÂ yet toÂ confirm) and my own journey back to Jason’s and my honeymoon spot in QuebecÂ (that one for National Geographic Traveler).
But this life isn’t for everyone. I realized yesterday that I rarely talk to anyone other than my husband and my dog (and heÂ just gives me the shut-up-and-give-me-a-cookie treatment), which is perhaps why I like Facebook so much. It’s my pseudo-watercooler.Â Â Â
Still, next week at this timeÂ I’ll be touring galleries on Lake Michigan’sÂ northwesternÂ coast… Who’s complaining? Not me!