Sundays in Sawyer: Dancing With Darkness

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The house across the street when I left this morning.

It was dark when I left out this morning at 8 AM. Christmas lights sparkled red and green against the soft luminescent snow. The Winter Solstice is this week – Thursday to be exact. I love Solstice celebrations. When I think of the significance of lightness and darkness in our lives, it makes sense to me that the days with the most light and the days with the most darkness should be marked in some way. And what would Christmas lights be without the long interplay of darkness in December?

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I’ve always loved the dark. I love seeing the stars at night, and I love the long nights of winter. They are times of rest and reflection. I don’t sleep as well in the summer with the long days of sunshine. While I feel more energetic during the summer, I don’t think it is good for us to be revved up all the time. There is a reason for the season, and I believe the reason is rest and rejuvenation – of our bodies, our souls and our lives. Our ancestors felt these seasons were so important, they were the biggest celebrations of the year.

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Part of my plan for getting through the winter this year is to be open to doing something different. I signed up for an 8-class yoga pass at my old yoga studio where I completed my teacher training. And, I decided that I would start doing my Sunday blogging at Infusco Coffee in Sawyer since it is on the way to the Sunday yoga class.  When I visited their website last night, I read about their mission. This is much more than a coffee shop. They sell “relationship coffee.” It makes the coffee taste much better when there is such a good cause behind it. If that’s not a light in the darkness, I don’t know what is. So now my Sunday blog will be called Sundays in Sawyer…. until I do something different.

The mission and history of Infusco ….

A sign on their counter said their eggnog latte was divine, so I ordered one. Ashok was out in the car waiting like usual, and I thought to ask if they allowed dogs. They do! Ashok can now hang with me instead of waiting in the car. I set down her blanket, and we both enjoyed the Christmas tree and the quiet setting of this comfortable and welcoming coffeehouse.

The darkness of depression is still lingering with me this evening. But I got up and made myself a nice, healthy dinner. A task so simple feels overwhelming when I’m depressed. But, I have to say it made me feel a tad better to put some effort into taking care of me. I think I’ll turn off this computer now and go read for a bit. Surely I have something light and humorous on my Kindle to ignite a little lightness in my spirit. If not, I can always fall asleep and get some rest. Either way, tomorrow will be another day.

We got out for a hike today at Warren Dunes State Park. That helped my mood a bit, too….

 

The New Normal

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With the lake effect snow we had last weekend, I had to pull out my snow boots and heavy coat and get used to the “snow” drill again. On Sunday, I put on my boots and bundled up for a trip to Sawyer for some coffee and biscotti. It took forever to get out the door. I forgot my mittens. Then I remembered I needed my computer. Oh yeah, then I had to shovel snow to get the car out of the driveway. Finally I was off!

I spent some time reading and drinking coffee and then decided I should do my grocery shopping. I’ve been trying to save a bit of money, so I thought I would try shopping at Meijer, a Michigan-based Walmart-type store. I hate that store, but it is cheaper. This week it would be good to save some money.

Bundling up for the early morning routine…

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As I said in my Yummly blog, Yummly is changing my life. I got out my shopping list and began checking off items. Meijer’s produce is wildly disorganized, and I couldn’t find any rhyme or reason to the setup. I even asked an employee how it was organized, and she couldn’t tell me either. All she could do is point out the items when I’d read them off my list. “I hate this store,” I mumbled under my breath. “Breathe… you are saving money,” my saner brain countered. I continued my shopping which seemed to take approximately 3 hours because I couldn’t figure out where anything was. The lotion was completely across the store. It was a mile and half walk through molasses to get it and then walk back to the dairy and frozen foods. “I’m never doing this again,” I said. “Relax,” my saner self said. “It’s almost over.”

It’s 5 AM. Go shovel!

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I finally got in the line, and it was like being in a slow motion movie. The woman in front of me had purchased food for the entire state of Michigan, and the cashier was in no hurry to get finished. I tried breathing. I attempted meditating. When it came to the point where I wanted to scream and leave my basket in the lane, I had to talk myself down off the ledge. “You don’t ever have to come back here again,” I bargained. “It’s worth $100 to shop somewhere else.”

Yep… gotta shovel…

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I walked out to the car, loaded my groceries in and left. I had to go the local bookstore to pick up some Christmas gifts, and I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I had it when I was checking off my list in Meijer. I drove back over to see if someone had turned it in. I trudged through the parking lot looking close to where I parked to see if I dropped it. Snow and slush and water covered the area, and I knew that phone could be covered up under that or run over by a car. The customer service desk (and I use that term loosely) had no better news, and I drove back home empty-handed.

To make a long story short, I ended up having to cut off my phone and get a new one. But the whole saga took about 4 hours and $300 off my Sunday. Going to Meijers did NOT save me any money, thank you very much. I will never go there again.

It’s been one frustration after another this week. I get up, check the driveway to see if I need to shovel. Shovel if necessary. When I get ready to go to work, I have to get boots, pack a pair of shoes for work, pack my lunch and bring mittens along with my purse and phone. I inevitably forget something. Once I’ve been outside in my boots, I can’t wear them inside because they are wet. So I have to take the boots off and go back inside to get what I forgot. If I forget something in the car, I have to put my boots on to go outside … and my coat … and my mittens. Everything just takes so long!!!!

My friend Ann and I went downtown to look at the Christmas lights. We bundled up, bundled up Ashok and headed down Main Street. When we turned on the street toward the Christmas lights, the cold north wind off Lake Michigan roared right through us. It took my breath away. We walked about 10 steps, and Ann said, “I don’t think I can do this.” “Maybe we could drive by the Christmas lights”, I said … and we did.

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It’s the Degree of Enjoyment That Matters

 

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My sister texted me: It’s snowing!

WTF? In Louisiana? I looked out my window, and we had nothing. Not a flake was stirring. I pulled up the Weather Channel, and, sure enough, it was snowing in Cottonport and Baton Rouge. And I guess the whole south ended up with some degree of the white stuff yesterday.

“Well I guess you are off today then,” I stated the obvious. Louisiana would be officially closed down with even the threat of snow much less actual flakes flying through the air. The temperature was below freezing, so I KNOW the bridges were closed. And since every person in the state lives on the other side of some bridge, there ain’t no way to slip-slide to work. With the exception of my friend Ray who got to work before it started. Since he’s driving a sissy sedan instead of a truck, I hope he got back across the bridge okay.

It was fun to see all Southern snow pics on social media. Even this morning – long after the snow had melted – images of bayous and live oaks covered in snow were still populating on social media. This day will go down in history, and I mean that quite literally. It may not snow again for years if not decades.

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When I let Ashok out early this morning, we had a dusting of snow on the ground, and by the time I left home for my errands we had at least a few inches. I was able to back out of my driveway with no problem, but it kept piling up. I felt a little rusty driving, and I cautioned the car behind me to “Get off my *ss, Yank. I’m a Southerner. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” By the time I left the Saturday morning Weight Watchers meeting, the roads were really dicey. The snow removal teams better get out of their summer sleep and wake up to winter, because it is snowing sideways out my window. We will need to dig out in the morning.

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By the time I got home, there was so much snow in my driveway that I got stuck. Some good samaritan had cleaned my sidewalk, and I saw him coming toward me down the street. He helped me get my driveway cleaned off, and he helped me extricate my car from the snowbank. We have 10 inches more coming tonight and snow in the forecast every day through at least Friday.

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Whether it’s a touch of Southern snow or a lake effect snow event, my tummy starts calling for hot chocolate. Buying hot chocolate on the town is out of the question because those drinks have upwards of 40g of sugar in them – almost 10 teaspoons. I’ve discovered that I can eat about 7-9 grams of sugar in one serving without any adverse effects, but anything over 10g sends my blood sugar over the cliff. It makes me feel so bad it’s just not worth it anymore. I’ve had to accept lately that eggnog lattes (unless they are really small) are now out of the question.

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So, I’ve been experimenting. I’ve made vegan hot chocolate with almond milk, almond butter and cocoa. I’ve used different cocoas and low-sugar hot chocolate mixes. They’ve all been good. But I think tonight – during the first snowmaggedon of the year – I have discovered the secret recipe to low-sugar hot cocoa that is as good as the high sugar variety. It has cocoa, just a few dark chocolate wafers that will melt into chocolatey goodness, 2% milk and stevia. Of course I topped it with whipped cream. Perfect! 

I hoped to take Ashok for a walk under the Christmas lights on the bluff, but the weather outside is truly frightful. I think I’ll stay hunkered down inside and read a nice book. I’m pretty excited about the snow myself. I’m only a year and a half away from being a southerner. It looks like everybody got snow this week. It truly doesn’t matter the degree of snowfall that you get, what matters is the degree of enjoyment you get from it. And Southerners may just have Michiganders beat on that count.

Go grab some hot chocolate and enjoy a nice winter night. Wouldn’t it be fun if everybody got a white Christmas in 2017?! And, don’t worry, Louisiana friends, you’ll be in shorts by the end of the week, I’m sure.

Owning The Story of Your Life

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On this beautiful 55-ish degree day in November, I am very grateful to have run a 10K down to the lighthouse from my house. Fisherman lined the catwalk manning the lines plunging into the clear green water that was uncharacteristically still. One smiled at me as Ashok and I ran by so I stopped to ask him what kind of fish they caught out there. Trout was what he was hoping for, but he said that they weren’t very big this time of year – not like in the spring when salmon might be running. He assured me that being out on such a beautiful day in such a beautiful place was its own reward.

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We have our rituals. Mine is sitting in coffeehouses writing and watching people. On other days, my practice might be walking in the woods. When I’m at home, curling up on the sofa by the reading lamp with a hot cup of tea and my fur babies listening to Enya and writing or reading is my favorite pastime. As I ran past the fisherman bundled up on the catwalk, I imagined that this is way they like to wile away their days when other responsibilities don’t intercede. It seemed so peaceful, and it seemed that they knew each other … each one in their chosen spot with their chairs and tackle and creature comforts.

On my headphones, Ginger Zee, a meteorologist who reports on natural disasters, was being interviewed on the 10% Happier podcast. Her latest book, Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I am One,  details the story of her life and her experiences and misadventures with depression. I listened as I clocked off miles 3, 4, 5, and six. She called off her wedding after she and her fiancé had mailed the invitations. She waited at the post office until it opened the next day, and the postmaster helped her pull the invitations out of the stack of mail. “This has happened before,” he reassured her. And I thought of the desperation and embarrassment of having to undo marriages and bad decisions and failed attempts at life. We all have had those moments of pulling sent invitations out of the mailbox – in one way or another.

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In yesterday’s 12-step meeting, a man said, “The only thing we own is our story.” I was taken aback by the truth of that statement. Money and relationships and careers and belongings come and go as easily as water beneath a bridge. But it’s the stories of our lives that define us and connect us with others. I feel most alive and spiritually connected when someone shares their deepest, darkest story with me. I live for the communities in my life where the stories are welcome and embraced.

We are living in a time where truth is being tested. Whether it’s sexual predators facing the truth and consequences for their choices, or the victims risking honesty for the first time, the secrets of the past are being unearthed. Reality was not what we thought it to be. I’m listening to at least three podcasts where people are being liberated through their storytelling. Addiction is rampant across all segments of society, and we are being brought to our knees by lies and deceit. Secrets make us sick, and our culture has been sick and disconnected for a very long time. We were a world of pretenders. Even though the truth alarms and shocks us, it will be the only thing that heals us. The truth tellers will save the world. Those who harbor their sick secrets will perish.

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The fishermen dress for the weather in the morning, pack their tackle, find their spot among compadres, bait their hooks and fish. This ritual is part of their story. It is where they noodle the problems of their lives and feel moved by gratitude for the present moment. They each have a story running in the background that has nothing to do with their sport. Yes, they may be fisherman on a catwalk in the morning sun, but this is only one thread in the tapestry of their lives. Are they addicted to painkillers? Have they endured a blinding loss? Have they recovered from an astounding mistake? While talking about fish is interesting in its own right, I would love to know more… and I KNOW there is more.

Where do you hear people’s stories? Where do you tell yours?

Podcasts where people tell their stories:

 

 

 

Downshifting to Winter

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Almost as soon as Labor Day rolled past, the Lake Michigan winds started to blow. The temperature has dropped slowly but steadily since then. Sunday, we’ve got highs in the 30s, and there’s a chance of snow in the forecast tomorrow. Thanksgiving is next week, and that is what I’ve always considered the marker of winter here in Southwest Michigan. Tonight Saint Joe has their Luminary Festival, and, of course it is spitting rain outside. I’ll probably head over there a little later if the rain hasn’t doused the event.

My coats are hanging on my porch for ready access, and I’m starting to bundle up for my walks with Ashok. This year I’m running, so I’m starting to remember how many layers I need when it is 50, 40 or 30 degrees outside. I haven’t seen the 20s yet, but it’s coming. And snow is just on the horizon. I’m trying to decide if I’m going to run in snow and ice or take to the dreadmill in the gym. I hate that damn treadmill. But, it’s better than busting my arse.

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My energy changes in the winter, and my mood begins to drop. I find myself changing my self-care regimen a bit. I still need to exercise, but I find myself wanting to come home and curl up on the sofa with a couple of fur babies and a cup of hot tea. I still do my fit camp circuits, but I’m trying to add more yoga to the mix. I signed up for a yoga workshop Saturday, and I attended a friend’s yoga class last night. My body feels like it needs to stretch and breathe more in the winter. And I try to listen.

I’ve made the switch from coffee to tea. I drink lots of chai, and this year I started making my own homemade almond milk. It tastes lighter and sweeter than cow’s milk, and it perfectly compliments my chai. Lately I’ve been drinking gallons of green and black chai and a herbal turmeric chai. Turmeric seems to help my achy knees and joints and the ginger in this one is very warming. I’m having steel cut oats for breakfast instead of summer’s granola and yogurt, and I’m preferring cooked apples and pears to chilled fruit.

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I’m enjoying the warmth of being in the presence of people. I like the yoga class instead of practicing at home. The comfort of sitting in a coffeehouse is more attractive than being at home. And I’m craving the holiday lights in busy Chicago. I hope to make it over there next week.

I feel more reflective in general. I have the urge to blog and have long conversations with friends. My friend Ann and I have spent a good deal of time together the last few weeks, reflecting on our lives and our friendship. We’ve eaten soups and pasta and warm toasty bread. We’ve both shed tears. I sleep more and better this time of year, and there are mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed. I never really sleep late, but I certainly do enjoy cuddling under a warm wool blanket when it’s cold.

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When I was in the Upper Peninsula this summer, I saw lots of sauna dealers. It occurred to me that people up here probably like saunas more than we do down south. I remembered that the women at the spa were always asking me if I wanted to sit in the sauna for awhile before I got my facial, and I didn’t understand the draw to that. After spending 3 years in Louisiana, the last thing I wanted was to be hot. But I realize that the warmth will probably be good for my skin, my joints and my mood. So, I’m going to take advantage of that this winter.

I plan to talk long walks in the snow among the twinkling holiday lights with the roar of Lake Michigan waves in the background. Ashok loves rolling in the snow, and we’ll head out to the woods where it will be still and quiet. The deer in the neighborhood will start grazing in my yard again, and I’ll watch them from my yoga room upstairs. I hope the Collective has a toasty meditation or gong bath at the winter solstice where I can curl up and rest among friends. Winter sets its own pace in Michigan. Let the downshifting begin.

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Lazy Sunday Afternoon in Saugatuck

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Gloomy, beautiful Saugatuck

Wednesday it got cold. It’s been pleasant and jacket-friendly but not cold until Wednesday’s rain ushered in a really cold north wind. I walked out of the Mother Ship at lunch, and I shivered as I pulled my lightweight wool jacket around me. “Time for coats and gloves,” I said to myself. Last year I eagerly anticipated winter. This year it snuck up on me. It is almost November. It’s definitely right on time.

This week I cooked pears, made applesauce, roasted butternut squash and drank enough chai to sink a battleship. I took my wool blanket out of storage and put it on my bed, wore gloves on a run and made a run to Trader Joe’s to get some sipping chocolate. Alas, they were out as I guess many others had the same idea. It’s probably just as well since I’m trying to limit my sugar intake substantially. We even got a dusting of snow Friday night. Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, and some of the businesses here have already hung Christmas lights. And the whining about the weather has begun.

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It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since I arrived here on the shore of Lake Michigan. It’s passed so fast. I’m starting to make friends, and I’m even dating a little. Work, because of a lot of different reasons, does not feel comfortable yet, but every day before I walk into the building I remind myself of how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work here. The company is having some challenges, and a downsizing has been announced, but I’m tucking that away in the back of my mind assuming I won’t be impacted. There’s nothing I can do about it anyway. Besides, that’s part of the deal when you work for a consumer products company. I knew it when I came here.

The cooler weather runs off the tourists, and the locals are settling into routines in the haunts of the lakeside towns. I’m in Saugatuck at my favorite coffee stop Uncommon Coffee Roasters. It doesn’t have the ambience of Magpie Cafe in Baton Rouge, but it is nice, and the coffee is really good. Saugatuck is an LGBT-friendly village, and last night they had an adult Halloween parade. People seem to be just getting up and about after noon, so they must have had a good time. The parade was on my list of things to do this weekend, but I chickened out with the weather forecast. It seems like I missed out on a good time, but there’s always next year.

I ran four miles yesterday!

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I have a lot on my mind these days. I’m trying to be kind to myself. I’m giving myself plenty of time to exercise, run, practice yoga and meditation and socialize. Me and everybody I know seems to be suffering from a low-grade depression. My goal this week is to get back to regular strength-training and continue my running. That usually helps me reset. Getting off Facebook and meditating regularly has helped as well. I’m considering a few acupuncture treatments or some energy work to jumpstart my energy and my mood. And I really need to get out in the woods. Today it was too wet out for hiking, but I did some yoga and strength-training this morning.

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Well, I think I’ll try to be present and do some people-watching here. There’s a lot of young beautiful people on their computers sitting around. I wonder what we did before we sat together in front of screens? If I try to remember way back, I think we talked. Maybe that has something to do with the depression and the disconnection in our society. There are 10 people in this room, and not a soul is saying a word. We are all on our computers. I, for one, am getting off here.

Talk to you later….

 

 

 

 

 

Summer … It’s Back!

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For some reason, it’s now in the mid-80s in Michigan. I had already mentally and emotionally moved on from summer. I even packed up my summer clothes and got out my fall wardrobe. My heavy winter coats still hang in the closet upstairs for it’s not time for that yet. It’s time for fall. The leaves are turning yellow, orange and red, and I’ve spent most of my outdoor time in jackets the last few weeks. But, this week, 80-degree temperatures returned with a vengeance. Everyone is complaining up here… and sweating.

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Ashok likes it cooler, too.

I’m not a fan of summer. I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up in Louisiana where summer was present for 6 months out of the year, or if my constitution is just not suited for it. It doesn’t really matter why. I’m just not a fan of hot, humid and extremely long days. I don’t sleep well in summer, my energy flags and my mood tends to err on the irritated side – especially when I can’t breathe.

I have to admit I’ve liked my temperate northern summer more than my southern summers of the last 10 years. The season is very short, so it almost feels novel after winter and a longish spring. And I’ve been productive this summer. I’ve established a solid meditation practice, met many new people who may eventually become friends and joined a book club. In fact, I’ve been so busy living my new Up North life that I’ve slowed my writing pace significantly. I’m distracted … and in a good way.

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Summer vacation in Copper Harbor

The meditation practice has made me more mindful, and I’m working on changing a number of habits. I’ve started running again, making homemade almond milk and have cut out coffee and sugar yet again. I don’t sleep well in summer because the long days upset my circadian rhythm, but my new habits have helped me get better quality sleep. I actually don’t even feel like I need as much sleep as I did before because I’m so rested.

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Summer Road Trip – I think this one is in Holland?

My gal pals at work are complaining about the heat, and I roll my eyes at the thought of the mid-80s being sweltering. All the while, I’m saying “WTF” as the sweat rolls down my face on a 5 AM run. Yesterday, it was very hot with very little breeze, and I was reminded of Louisiana for exactly 5 seconds. “This is not Louisiana,” I laughed to myself. And I thought cooler thoughts.

I’m ready for fall. I’m dreaming of cozy winter sweaters, knee-high leather boots, hot chai and chili. I discovered a shop downtown that makes a mean chicken and sausage and gumbo. I saw it on the menu, and I asked the lady behind the counter if it was good. I warned her I was from Louisiana, so my gumbo bar was set pretty high. She said it was really popular, but she was telling people that it had jalapeños in it until she was corrected. “It’s okra, I think,” she said. “Do you want to try it?” I did and was very surprised at how good it was.

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We have several more 80-degree days ahead of us. I’m visiting my friend Nancy in Chicago this weekend where we will see Hair. Supposedly there’s live nudity. That should be interesting! The concrete will make it hotter still, so I need to get some of my summer clothes out of hiding for the weekend. I’ll need to call on my new mindfulness practice and accept that summer has not yet breathed its last gap. One day in January, I’ll look back at this with longing.

Have a great weekend, y’all!

 

Yoopers, Fudgies and Trolls: North Country Trail Conference

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Two years ago when I was hiking in North Carolina, I ran into a couple who was very active in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They told me I should check it out. Promises of meeting like-minded people and getting inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail really attracted me to the idea but I never got on the ball to make plans to go. So, when I saw that the North Country Trail Association had a conference, I registered on the first day it was open. I was so excited!

I planned my vacation around the weekend festivities in Marquette, my new favorite place. I also prepared myself to create a Plan B in case I got there and didn’t feel comfortable. I do get socially anxious sometimes when I’m around new people, so I never know how it’s going to go. Besides, all these folks know each other, so I was a little unsure if I’d feel like a fifth wheel. So, Plan B was in place, and I showed up Thursday morning for the first hike.

It was a lovely hike to Little Garlic Falls in the Little Garlic River. The trail reminded me so much of the Appalachians. The beautiful little stream snaked through a dense forest with rocks and evergreen trees. Although it wasn’t as hilly as North Carolina, it was every bit as beautiful and not nearly as well-traveled. We sat on a boulder and had lunch at the waterfall while the others crawled over the boulders and crossed to the other side of the stream.

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It was easy to talk to people on the hike, but I was a bit worried about dinner. I arrived at the social hour at 5 PM, and there was no one there but me. Eventually, a few other people arrived, and I started to talk with a couple from the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Pat and Bob were long-time members and very active in trail work. We talked for awhile, and they invited me to sit at their table. I met the rest of their group, and happily I met my “family” for the week. Every night we dined together and enjoyed the programs. I even took Ashok to their campfire at the campgrounds on Friday. They were very nice and were very excited to have someone new to add to their hiking and trail work group.

As we talked, they each held up their hands to show me where they live in Michigan. If you’ve ever noticed, Michigan is shaped like a pair of mittens. The Lower Peninsula is one, and the Upper Peninsula is the mate. They also informed me that there were two kinds of people in the world – Yoopers and people who want to be Yoopers. ( A Yooper is a person from the UP.) Furthermore, they said that anyone from below the Mackinac Bridge (me) was a troll. If a Troll moves up to the UP, they are then called a Fudgie. Apparently, you are only born a Yooper……you can never become one.

So, any dream of becoming a Yooper was dashed at that point. However, I can certainly visit. I liked pretty much everybody I met up there, and the conference was highly educational and entertaining. The first night we had a phenomenal presentation on history of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. It has the largest stand of old-growth forest in the country. I cannot wait to get over there and do some hiking.

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I attended a long distance hiking session, a “comedy on the trail” session and a fascinating session where Alex Maier showed his documentary about hiking across the UP. I gasped out loud when I saw the stars and the Northern Lights, and I made a mental note to get out to see that as soon as I can. I’m going to include the links to his documentary below for your enjoyment. It is worth watching to see this beautiful country through the lens of a great filmmaker. He even has some great footage of his winter backpacking. I don’t know if I’m up for that yet, but it was really interesting and beautiful to see!

Have a great week, y’all! Don’t ever be afraid to try something new. You never know how it might change your life.

Yooper Tours Teaser 

On Da North Country Trail: Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4

My Best Cup in Marquette: Dead River Coffee Roasters

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While some people go on winery tours in Michigan and others explore the various breweries that populate every little small town in the state, I look for the best and the yummiest coffeehouses. Coffee is my drug of choice – mainly because the rest of my drugs of choice no longer serve me. Gratefully, there are people who are passionate about roasting dark and mysterious coffee beans and turning them into a deep, luxurious vehicle for transporting caffeine. It makes me thirsty just thinking about it. Luckily, I’m in a coffee shop now. The elixir beckons….

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Today’s coffeehouse of choice is Dead River Coffee Roasters on Baraga Street in Marquette. I asked the barista, “What’s your specialty?”, and he suggested a cup of their Brazilian brew. I laced it with half-and-half and commenced to enjoy. It is smooth and dark and deep-flavored. It is not too acidic. I wish I could tell you all of the flavors that are in it, but I don’t possess a sophisticated palate. I just know what I like, and I like this.

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I also like the shop. It’s a bit unruly in design with the coffee roaster sitting right up front. I hear the mechanical whish whish of the beans as they are stirred for roasting. It is a masculine-looking place in comparison to most coffeehouses with their bakery goods and feminine decor. Their website design is simple, too. Its one and only page says basically what it needs to say – We take good coffee seriously. There’s nothing fancy to see here. It’s just a place to sit with some really good coffee. I have to respect that.

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So, I’m almost done with my cup, and, with my sensitivity to caffeine, I can only have one cup this late in the day. I have an event to attend tonight at the University for the North Country Trail Association. Tonight’s presentation is on the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Area. They are trying to make it into a National Park. I’ve hiked there in the past. I’d like to go again. I guess I’ll need to make yet another trip to the Upper Peninsula in the future. And now I have a superb place to grab my coffee as I’m driving through. I might even sit awhile… but there are NO DOGS allowed. Sigh…..

 

Going Up and Up and Up: The UP

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“Go West, young man,” is the rallying cry that drove many of our forefathers to the Western U.S. to find their fortunes. For some reason, my compass always tells me to “Go North, young lady”. Now that I live north, the only place to go is to the top of the world that ends at Lake Superior – the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I went from Calumet to Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor….

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Because I was heading even further north this time to the Keewenaw Peninsula, my GPS sent me around Lake Michigan on the Wisconsin side. I drove up to Green Bay on Sunday. My friend Dan who is visiting in Michigan this week told me to be sure and explore Door County. I thought it might add too much time to the drive, but when I realized it was only about an hour and back out of the way, I jumped at the chance.

Sturgeon Bay

 

I only had a few hours there, but we stopped at a cherry farm to score lots of cherry yummies and had a cup of coffee and a potato pancake in Sturgeon Bay. Sturgeon Bay is a lovely sort of canal that runs across the peninsula. Big ships were parked at the docks alongside one of the biggest yachts I’d ever seen. I spent a little time watching the water go by and then took off to Cave Point which was recommended in a brochure.

 

I thought I’d go by Cave Point and Whitefish Dunes State Park, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that they were right next door to each other. In fact, I walked in and out of the parks as I strolled along the almost-California-like shoreline. This was a stunning rugged place that sounded almost as beautiful as it looked. Water crashed and popped under the cliffs like small explosions. I can’t even imagine the intensity of a winter storm.

Scenes from Door County

 

After dragging myself away from the peaceful place, I set my GPS to north, and up, up, up I went. I ended up in Calumet MI. On my itinerary it was just a place to stay, but Calumet was much more interesting than I imagined. The Keewenaw peninsula was a rich copper mining area in the days when America was installing electricity all over the country. Native Americans first mined copper here for tools. Then immigrants landed in the frozen land to find their fortunes in copper mining.

Calumet MI

 

Eventually greed, the Great Depression and a big strike dealt a blow. It didn’t kill the industry, but it would never bounce back. I would have loved to have taken some of the tours provided by the National Historical Park, but most of them were not scheduled while I was there. It was fascinating to run downtown through the mostly empty magnificent old buildings. The city’s population was over 60,000 in its heyday, and now it’s only about 1,000. But all of those beautiful buildings and mining operations are still standing. It was like a big, beautiful ghost town.

The Drive to Copper Harbor

 

I continued to drive north. This last stretch is the narrow peninsula that juts out into Lake Superior. Even though the UP is remote, this area is even more remote than the rest. It is also extremely beautiful. Known for its outdoor adventures, the upper Keewenaw is just as crowded in winter as in summer. People are either snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking or hiking. And there is always fishing.

And then there is the Jampot…. a monastery of baking monks.

 

I stayed in Copper Harbor which is a tiny little town on Lake Superior. The entire village wasn’t more than a half-mile long. I stopped at an ice cream parlor and talked to the teenage girls that worked there. They said summer is fun, but they get out and snowmobile and ski in the winter. They said there are always kids playing hockey on the lakes, and snowmobiles are constantly flying by. They spent a little time talking about some of the boys they know and which ones were dangerous snowmobile drivers. In the summer they find natural diving boards for diving into the freezing waters.

Copper Harbor

 

The whole trip has been interesting to say the least. It’s been beautiful, too, but I’ve enjoyed learning about this area. I bought myself a pendant with greenstone, the state gem. Apparently, it’s hard to find now. I suppose now that I’m a Michigander, I should have one!

I’ll be in touch later….