Category: Michigan


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“Springer Barn” Photo by Carl Johnson

I met Evelyn Johnson in 2006 while speaking out in support of saving the barns at Maple bay during a city council meeting.  She was full of energy and described herself as “the barn lady.”  Later, I purchased her book, The Barns of Old Mission Peninsula and Their Stories, and found myself immersed in a delightful series of stories stored for years beneath the rafters of these great structures.  

Earlier this year, as I began research for my own historical narrative on Old Mission, I received and invitation from the barn lady to work on quilt barn squares for some of the historic barns out on the peninsula.  Quilt barns can be found throughout the Appalachian States, where they originated as a way for people to tell the story of their community and family history and display it proudly on the side of their barns.  These barns are found traditionally off the beaten path and quickly spur the most adventurous to explore less traveled roads to learn more about the region.  

We’ve been painting all week alongside some wonderful people from our own community, all committed to sharing our story with future visitors to the Grand Traverse Region.  Yesterday, my mother-in-law, an artist, accompanied me and helped detail a square featuring cherries at its center.  It’s wonderful to see this coming together and in the next few weeks, as the remaining squares ascend, we’ll see the beginning of a new chapter in our history – a manifested adventure for people from young to old.

Photos by S. Tengelitsch

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Anne and Christy demonstrate their technique to Popo.

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Evelyn, Tina and Samantha work to finish the first coat on a square.DSC_0007

Windmill pattern.
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Choosing yellows.DSC_0012

Popo at 2Ladds Winery overlooking East BayDSC_0022

Stacia works on the cherries.
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The tape still adhered, two squares take shape.
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Child of the Sea

County of Michilimackinac, 1st day of October, 1850

Dwelling # 242

Andre Courchane – 48 yrs old. Fisherman born in Canada
Abigail – 24 yrs old, born in Ohio
Lucy – 8 yrs old, born in Mich
Emily – 6 yrs born in Mich
Margaret – 4 yrs. born in Mich

I was looking through some older posts and came across one about our family tree.  Above is the Courchaine family (“Heart of Oak”) and listed are my great, great, great, great, great grandparents and their three daughters.  Andre and Abigail died five years later on St. Helena Island (just west of Mackinac) during the cholera epidemic of 1855 and were buried on Round Island.  Margaret, the youngest, moved with her older sisters back to Mackinac Island where she grew up and later met Captain Alexander Ranville.  Together they began the Homestead Hotel and the rest, as they say, is history.

I was noticing the similarities to our own family.  Even some of the names are the same, the spacing of ages, all daughters and we are still near the Straits.   In her book Child of the Sea, Elizabeth Whitney Williams writes of the Courchaine family from her recollection as a small child leaving St. Helena for Beaver Island:

While more people were coming as more help was needed to finish the ship, all was busy bustle among the neighbors for there was to be a great gathering to watch the launching of the ship.  Soon another family came, old friends of my mother’s, a Mr. and Mrs. Courchane.  The man had come from Montreal, Canada, to Mackinac Island a few years before and there met and married pretty Miss Abbie Williams.  Aunt Abbie we children always called her.  Mother was so happy to have her friend with her.  They had three little girls.  Mr. Courchane was a ship carpenter by trade and came to help finish the vessel.  They were very kind neighbors to us.  Their little girls’ names were Lucy, Emmeline, and Margarette.  They lived just a few steps from our house; we children were all very happy together.  …

I remember it now, so white and clean with mother sitting near in her sewing chair, sewing and joining in the singing.  Then pretty Aunt Abbie coming in; she always looked to me like a picture, with her great dark eyes and black hair braided so smoothly and pretty red cheeks with white teeth just showing between red lips.  She, too, would join in the singing, which was pleasant to remember.  …

I remember our neighbors coming to the beach to see us off.  Aunt Abbie took me in her arms; the tears fell fast on my face.  I thought it was raining and held out my hand, as I had seen father do to catch the drops, but no, it was not raining, it was tears falling from our dear friend’s eyes.  When father called out “all aboard,” I was clasped in another tight pressure of her arms.  …

Mother said afterward I looked everywhere calling “Aunt Abbie,” and cried when I could not find her and Baby Margarette.

It’s something special to read of your ancestors in such detail at a time when there were no photos to capture the image of a person down to the subtleties of their smile.  I consider this text a gift and it is the only description I have of Abigail and her family.  

Without ever knowing the history of our family, I have always felt a special connection to the Straits of Mackinac and specifically to the islands.  It’s hard not to, but my mother always said, “It’s in your blood,” and now I know precisely what she meant.  

 

Yesterday afternoon, we headed over to Empire to witness the release of an adolescent eagle back in to the wild.  Despite not having the characteristic coloring of an adult eagle, she was still a beautiful, powerful presence.  A few hundred people were there and we all cheered as the magnificent bird soared skyward.  

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Following the eagle, Erick and I took the girls over to the big lake and collected stones and watched a lone freighter pass quietly in the distance.  The water was a vibrant hue – a turquoise blue.  

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The sun was setting as we left for Boones in Glen Arbor (yum).  And on the way back, I captured my farm at dusk.  The wind turbine moved slowly on a light breeze.  Love that place.  

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The girls were sleepy on the way home.  

And finally, a photo of Grandpa and me at Thanksgiving.

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Yesterday, Dianna and I went out to a farm west of town and met a couple who have two beautiful horses boarded there.   It wasn’t all that far from the house, but off the road a ways and tucked between other larger farms so that you felt like you were in the middle of nowhere.  I befriended a thoroughbred gelding who was cribbing.  When my hands reached through his new winter coat, I found nothing but ribs.  His hips protruded through his new coat.  He had no muscle mass on either thigh.  

Cribbing is defined as a “vice in which the horse bites or places its upper incisor teeth on some solid object, pulls down, arches his neck, and swallows gulps of air which go into the stomach, not the lungs.”  It generates a high for the horse and can kill them over time when the air in their stomach makes them feel “full” and reduces their urge to eat.  

There are cribbing collars which prevent the horse from angling their necks out and taking in large gulps of air.  Why this horse isn’t wearing one at this stage is beyond me.  I hope to find out in the next few days if there’s some way of getting him one to save his life.  Unfortunately with the economy in this shape, horses in particular are suffering. 

I’m also wondering about animals seeking out a high.  I’ve seen hot-blooded horses do this by pacing – they get a sort of “runner’s high” from it.  And I wonder how anyone could think horses aren’t intelligent when they search for the same way out so many humans seek out when it seems there is no way out.  

For now, my focus is that gelding.

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I bought this froggy as a storage compartment for all of the snuggly-toys the girls have collected over the past year, but my youngest prefers to carry it around like an over-sized teddy bear. While the other girls were sick, the Gug brought Froggy “mebicems” and took its temperature with a pen. Here she has sat it down beside the couch on its very own chair.

This train appeared on an area of track that leads to grassland and a broken rail-line. It was brought to the area for a reason, and I’m determined to find out why. I would love to purchase one of the cars and convert it into a work area or retreat. It’s beautiful. The “Metropolitan” or the Metro.

What’s black and white and likes knock-knock jokes? Our friend, Mr. Woodpecker.

Ta-da! The kitchen in the lower-level is finally complete. It’s cozy and cute and I’m amazed at all of Erick’s ingenious thinking that made it possible (and in only a few weeks!).

After 21 months on the campaign trail (longest in history), Barack Obama still inspires.  Please listen to Sen. Obama’s closing arguments (full speech).

What exactly does it cover?  I have a great vision plan (thanks), but no coverage for any of the scans I should be getting quarterly and today, while at an office visit with my sick child, I learned I have no coverage PERIOD at our local hospital – the main hospital for all of Northern Michigan and the upper peninsula.  I paid nearly $300 just for our Urgent Care visit ($98 for my child + $98 for me (these charges included the discount for payment up front) + $65 in prescriptions. 

So, the next time someone asks me how anyone in this country is uninsured or why anyone would have medical debt with “full” coverage with a major insurer, I’ll scream first and then tell them.  It’s enough to make you sick.

Listen here at the Daily Beast.

Since coming home, we’ve all been busy unpacking, finding documents, getting documents, licenses, registering to vote, etc.  During this busy time, whenever I start to feel a bit stressed, I am able to step out onto the back porch (if home), or look out the window while driving, at some of the most beautiful horizons I’ve ever known.  It is a constant reminder of why we came back even as the temperatures quickly slide to near-freezing.  

In particular, I’ve missed the sound of wind in the trees.  How I love that sound; a song that brings the spirit of the woods to life.  And while in Elk Rapids the other day, I went on a search for wind-chimes – something I’ve missed since selling our house and packing up our old set.  After a number of stores failed to carry the larger style chime, I walked into a newer novelty store in town that looked hopeful.  The woman who greeted me was new to the store and told me she hadn’t seen any chimes, but motioned over to a side door with a sign overhead that read, “Bargin Basement” and said, “You may find them down there.”

I thanked the clerk and began walking down the steep stairs.  The basement was long and narrow and not terribly well-lit.  I stood at the bottom of the stair surveying the numerous articles sent to the seasonal discount bins to wait out the long winters replaced by fluffy white sweaters with sparkly letters spelling out “Elk Rapids, MI.”  The thought had just crossed my mind that I might not easily find a set of wind-chimes amongst so much stuff, when suddenly I heard the sound of chimes coming from one corner of the room.  

As I walked toward the sound, I was startled to find a set of smaller chimes swinging wildly on their own. The clerk began walking down the stairs and I met her at the bottom, “Are you doing that?”  I asked.

She saw the chimes swinging wildly.  “No,” she answered and held her hands out around the swinging pendant to see whether unseen breezes might be at fault.  “No wind,” she confirmed.  We both stared dumfounded and assumed it must be some shift in the building or movement from the nearby street, but secretly I hoped for something more mysterious.  

Today, as I sat wrapped up in a blanket beneath my new set of chimes with little wind to move the heavy pendant, I couldn’t help but move them just a little as I had just stopped the girls from doing moments earlier.  As they made their music, I watched leaves flickering in the forest and and smelled the faint scent of cedar on the air mingling with the rich, earthy swamp smells.  I pushed the pendant again.  

As the sound flattened to inaudible tones, another sound took over.  It began as a hushed low rumble and moved through the swamp in a swarm of leaf-flapping fury until it touched the pendant and spun it along each bold note so they sang in unison.  I actually *giggled* with delight.  What I pixy I’ve become returning to Michigan.

Today I drove out to Lake Norman to see a house for rent.  The house was beautiful, but moreover, seeing the lake got me thinking about something Erick said about Lake Norman being the largest fresh water lake other than the Great Lakes.  It’s an enormous sprawling lake with roads crossing at various points.  In fact, I believe it’s the only site in the US where a fatality occurred when a boat came out of the water and hit a moving car.  

Erick had to work late, so I drove to the house with the girls and brought Celli in place of him.  He asked me why I like taking the dog whenever he’s not in the car and I explained that while I’m driving, she leans back into the seat sideways and spends half her time concentrating on the road and the other half giving me kisses or puppy-dog eyes.  Who could ask for more?

On the way home, as I pulled onto Moorehead, I saw a man holding a cardboard sign on the side of the road.  In grim economic times, we see a lot of men asking for work, but this man’s sign read simply, “God bless you.”

I’m not religious, but it felt good to know someone believes in something enough to stand on the side of a dirty and dangerous road with such a simple message.  

I thought if I were to dedicate an afternoon to a message, my own sign would read, “You are loved.”

Click here for the last lecture.