Tag Archive: Elk Rapids


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.

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Our vacation home to Michigan went well, though it was cut short by a week do to unforeseen circumstances.  The above photo was taken from a tin-type and features Erick’s great*4 grandparents (the small woman center and man just to the left of her) in front of their home once located at the corner of Seven Hills Rd. (Peninsula Dr.) and Kroupa.  The rear end of the house still stands and is now used as a shed.  

Christy and Liz threw a party for me at the Old State Hospital (GT Commons).  We enjoyed homemade chocolate pie, coffee and a walk around the grounds.  I gave the girls my “ghost-hunting” equipment and they uncovered several haunted areas.  Even my shirt was haunted!

After walking and talking, we decided to take the kids over to the Civic Center for some play-time and for us, it represented some much needed chill-out time.  

I have girlfriends who really are super-women.  They made it a point to get us out and about town.  The following afternoon was spent at Grass Lakes swimming and playing with clay.  Christy and Liz worked on teaching the girls how to swim.  The following afternoon was spent trying to teach our oldest how to ride a bike.

And then there was the slip-n-slide.  Erick made it look easy and eagerly (and gingerly) showed everyone the proper jump-slide technique.  All modesty went out the window that afternoon. 

The girls loved having the freedom to play outdoors all day long and especially enjoyed Grandpa’s extended driveway on which we created a chalk roadway for them to navigate complete with stop-signs and cross-walks.

We brought new meaning to the phrase “dog-tired,” didn’t we Celli-Belle?

And lastly, my parents threw me a second 30th birthday party in Elk Rapids where my cousin, Medora, made a surprise visit.  Dori and I are the only grandkids on my mom’s side and we’re just a year apart.  She got the looks, as you can tell.  Dori has three boys to compliment our three girls.  Her father, Craig, and I shared the same birthday.  For my birthday, my mom gave me a note my father had written the morning before my birth.  It was for my uncle and it directs him to the maternity wing.  On the back, it reads, “Happy Birthday!”

And that concludes this batch of vacation photos.  Greetings from Michigan!

 

Eight years ago this afternoon, I got married to this man in a beautiful ceremony on the shoreline of East Grand Traverse Bay on a narrow strip of sandy peninsula uncovered by low water levels that year.  Grandma Maxine (Marker) had commented to me one afternoon, as we swayed on the old porch swing overlooking the bay, that this peninsula only appears once every 75 years.  I thought it would make a beautiful spot for a ceremony!  One that would reminisce on its own long after we were dead and gone from this earth.

Josh walked me down the isle and doted on me the whole afternoon, having never fully approved of any of my male counterparts – he was reluctant to let enter into the confines of matrimony.  We walked barefoot down the beach as we had done many times before, only this time Josh wore a tux and I lifted my satin skirts above my ankles to protect the dress lovingly made for me by my close friend Kate.  Kate made all of the dresses in our wedding by hand and I love to this day that she so resembles Audrey Hepburn in all the photographs. 

Later, I would run into acquaintances from school who had heard I had finally married that Joshua Marker boy because people had seen us walking together across the street at our wedding.  Close, I would say, but not quite.

 

I think for both Erick and myself one of the most beautiful things about our ceremony was the love poured into every detail.  We had only $1200 to spend on the big event and asked for help in every aspect of preparation.  Kate’s mom made us a delightfully tasty cake (carrot – Erick’s favorite), Kate made the beautiful dresses and subsequently made them priceless, Uncle Doug made his famous ribs, everyone brought a dish to pass, the Markers outdid themselves offering their home for the reception – and decorating it splendidly, Erick’s father serenaded us down the isle and my step-father brought down the table he had crafted by hand to hold our cake.  It was such a fun occasion and I will always remember the people who made our day special. 

And it is the people still we remember more than anything.  So many have gone.  My uncle, who in the photos looks vibrantly healthy, died of cancer that winter.  My grandmother and Grandma Maxine, who called me (and everyone who joined her on the porch swing) “Darlin'”, Sandy Bottoms, Uncle Jack, Anne and others – it seemed this gathering for our family was one of the last to include so many of our elders.  And in such, we have some wonderful photos that we will always cherish.  

One of my favorite memories of that evening was Erick sitting down with my Uncle Craig to play some music.  They played together well into the night.  Erick’s father later joined in and the music transported us into the same nostalgic state I feel whenever I see the photos.   

Here, we’ve just uncovered the beautiful table made by my step-father.  A cottonwood slab balanced over the base of a large cedar stump.  Wow, we say, wow!

 

We didn’t get fancy with the guys.  Just black and white with attitude.  Behind John and Andy, you can see the sandy peninsula where the ceremony took place.  We were married unintentionally on Friday, the 7th in the seventh month (July) at seven o’clock.  Lucky us.  We were embarking upon the adventure of becoming a family.  Today we can look back and see how the fabric was carefully woven to include not only our children and immediate family, but also our friends and people who entered our lives after this date who will always be a part of the journey. 

*Please note, these are some of the few digital photos I have of our wedding.  The majority of photos are still packed away in boxes up north, but whenever we land somewhere, I’ll scan and share some of them here.

 

Above is an image of the narrow peninsula uncovered for less than a decade at a time every 75 years, where Erick and I were married in 2000.  I stopped there earlier this month and the water has reclaimed a good half of what was there originally.  In another year, we’ll have to wade into the water to show the girls were Mommy and Daddy were wed. 

 

Yesterday for Popo’s birthday, we took a long walk down past Dilworth, through the historic neighborhood, catching the new old-fashioned trolley into Uptown and back to Tea-Rex for afternoon tea.  The trolley was a great experience; just us and a driver passionate about trolleys.  The driver showed the girls how to operate the trolley and let them ring the bell and even showed them how to switch tracks.  He then took us up to the trolley barn where we saw one of Charlotte’s original trolleys, No. 85, built in 1927 and still in operation today.  (Trolley photos taken with my phone.)

         

Yesterday afternoon was spent celebrating Po-po’s 7th time around.  She received art supplies, tools, and lots of requested clothes.  Her favorite gift was a set of magnets.  She spent hours playing with them.

Also celebrating a birthday was my beloved Poe House; added to the historic register the same day my own Po made her debut into this world.  Also see Poe Stairs.

  

Following our showing of the Poe House on Saturday, we drove farther into the mountains and stopped for lunch at a little bar perched on the edge of the world.  Our view from the restaurant: 

On our way home from the Poe House, I took a self-portrait.  I always glow like that after seeing historic homes and mountains in the same day.  // Erick has been practicing up on guitar and banjo and the girls enjoy dancing to the music. 

  

It was an eventful weekend and we’re about to begin the first of weekdays with Jasmine tea.  May you (may we all!) have a wonder-filled, adventurous week!

 

 


Our week back in Elk Rapids, MI afforded me some time for reflection on all of the recent changes in our lives. We spent the majority of our time near the water; either on East Bay or Lake Michigan, but I made it a point to visit the chain and made a special visit to the old willow whose boughs sweep the currents of Elk River.  We used to climb out onto limbs as thick as barrels over the water to watch fish make their struggles toward the falls.  Treasures found along the shore were tucked safely beneath the tangled roots born bare by sand.  I climbed Johnny Rock and took photos of each of the girls on the early day’s swimmer’s stone; once a goal for swimmers near the newly erected harbor: The goal, uprooted; now a monument. 

Despite a lingering chill in the air, something in the metered pulse of the waves sliding up against sand only to be swept back again brought me into the moment and gave me time to center.  It was clear all at once I have not felt centered for some time in Charlotte.  It’s also clear I’ll need to find some way of “chilling out” now that I’m back in the city.  

It is strange returning home after a long absence, but I haven’t been away very long.  For me, this trip was about saying goodbye and reveling in the emotion unveiled through the process of letting go.  It was about replacing my grief for losing money on our house with gratitude we weren’t one of the dozen new foreclosures in the paper each day.  And about recognizing my ability to travel cross-country in good time with little worry.  This trip also reminded me that no amount of distance can squelch a good friendship.  And no matter how mature we become, we can still wade ankle-deep in Lake Michigan, jump waves tracing lines in the sand, and climb trees.  

On my way home to Charlotte, I occasionally glanced back in the rearview mirror at the thin horizon and worried about when I would return, but mostly my eyes were trained forward on the adventurous mountains ahead, and on the road immediately before me.  When I was a child, it was the road that moved as our car stood still, but yesterday, I accelerated past those reservations I’ve had about moving forward in this new life.  Despite warnings about dangerous cross-winds and steep grades, I was determined to make this trip work- determined not only to reach the destination, but as the saying goes, to enjoy the journey. 

And now for some theme-appropriate Walt Whitman: 

O living always, always dying!

O the burials of me, past and present!

O me, while I stride ahead, material visible, imperious as ever!

O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not – I am content; )

O to disengage myself from those corpses of me which I turn and look at where I cast them!

To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind!

Please click photos to link to flickr photos of our travels.

 

Silent Night

A few minutes after I gave our Emma bird to a new family, a major crash occurred on Cedar Run in front of our road. Within a half hour lights and three ALS units showed up along with an extrication vehicle. The dogs began crying and whining and I wondered if they sensed the tragedy unfolding so near the house.  In contrast, our girls skipped about blissfully unaware of the seriousness behind the dancing lights and sirens outside.

As I tried to fall asleep on the couch, listening to the large trucks outside, unable to sleep while I knew they worked in the bitter cold to free some unfortunate soul or body, I remembered suddenly this was the anniversary of another fatal crash.

While in the eighth grade, waiting for someone to pick me up, after all the buses had cleared the parking lot and the school had quieted. In walked a young boy, Nick, who was in the sixth grade. He played around the trash barrel and amused himself while he waited for a ride. I smiled and watched him. He smiled back.  His eyes were a remarkable blue hue. I thought to myself, “You have a full life ahead of you.”

The next morning, my stomach hurt and I stayed in bed. A call came in around 8am. It was a friend who told me a boy had been struck by a hit-and-run driver and killed. Another boy was in critical condition. The boy who died was the same boy with bright eyes who played before me without a care in the world. The same boy with a future before him.

It just so happens, I was with someone involved in the crash yesterday. The crash did not come up in conversation and yet later that day I was reminded of the fragility of life and reminded of the little boy who first taught me about the finality of death.

At Nick’s funeral, they sang Silent Night while they carried his casket out of the church. To this day, I cannot hear that song without feeling the same sense of horror and sadness I felt in that moment watching the casket; not a large casket like I had seen at funerals of relatives, but one that was my size; small, thin, fragile passing in the quiet space filled with the mournful voices of a community grieving.

Connected

On Saturday, I was sharing with friends the story of a young man who had died a few years previous. He was a distance-runner with incredible talent. We were in CC together, but I never saw much of him because he was always that small figure in the distance running away from me. That’s probably what most of his competition saw.

Chris died when he was 25 – a self-inflicted death. I had just told my husband about him; about this guy in school who was really sweet. I had a slight crush on him at one point and then my husband came home the following day and asked for his last name again. It was my husband who gave me the news.

After lunch on Saturday, I came home to do more sorting and came across some articles I had saved on another distnace-runner, Ryan Shay. He was once a neighbor of mine and was up there with the likes and talents of Chris Vranich – always ahead of the others. I didn’t know in that moment, reading over the articles on Ryan, that he had died that morning. He fell during the Olympic trials in New York at the 5 1/2 mile point. It’s suspected his heart gave out.

This morning, while processing, I realized both Chris and Ryan seemed super-human to me.  They were incredible athletes, students, people and to lose both of them represents a huge loss to the sport, to our state, to our communities and in our hearts individually.

My favorite memory of Ryan: I was collecting the mail at the mailbox and I heard a swish and turned in time to see Ryan pass. He nodded a hello, but his focus was clear. His body glided over the road in long strides; it was supernatural. When I discovered those articles, I thought to myself, Ryan will make it to the Olympics some day.

It doesn’t matter that he didn’t, he would have. The beautiful thing of it is that he was living his life until the very last fraction of a second. And he likely died flying, the way he ran; a sort of miraculous leap from the hard ground into endless blue sky. Each step appearing at once the last. Each leap infinite. And this last race won.