Skip to main content

Pocket of Joy: Michigan Seasons

Michigan's four seasons can be dramatic, especially as climate change progresses, but I've learned that I just can't quit them. Their rhythm is embedded in my soul. Without them, I feel adrift.

 
When I was young, I had that itch of wanderlust that comes naturally to young people everywhere. Although Michigan boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth, I needed to see what else was out there. I longed to sample the nuances of other cultures, other kinds of lives, other fields of human experience. After I traveled and spent weeks or months at a time in faraway places, I realized that getting far, far away for long, long spans of time and coming home again was the only way I could fully appreciate the place where my roots had formed.
 

My husband and I agreed: It was ourselves that needed to expand and grow and change in order to put down deep roots in the first place we had ever learned to take for granted. We married young for our generation, at 23 and 24, and already we felt like old souls. After our childhoods and early adulthoods spent chasing novel experiences and opportunities to wander, we agreed that there's no place like home. With that iconic 20-something blend of irony and authenticity, we invested everything we had into buying and developing a little homestead where we could finish growing up and start a family of our own.

We learned to value traditions and respect the land. We cultivated vegetables and fruits and replaced our landscaping and more of our lawns each year with native flora. We learned to appreciate the seasons more deeply as we learned to support the growth cycles of vegetables, flowers, and fruits and to attract beautiful animal neighbors such as monarch butterflies. We joyfully mixed human food crops and pollinator gardens in happy, maximalist symbiosis.

 
This year, I planted a block of corn, Potawatomi beans, and sunflowers, all crops developed by the first Americans for hundreds or thousands of years, with seeds harvested from my very local area in mid-Michigan. A squash plant volunteered to spring forth from one corner where I'd spread compost, completing the traditional Three Sisters combination of corn, beans, and squash that complement one another nutritionally as well as supporting each other's growth in a shared garden. 

And over the past ten years, we've raised our own little human sprout in this beautiful and nurturing environment! 

 
Through her, my husband and I have been able to revisit the wonder and awe and excitement of each season and the dramatic weather that arises in each one. Our daughter adores thunderstorms.

And rainbows. And fireflies. And swimming at the beach.


 

But she also loves the winter, with all of its sledding and cozy fires in the wood stove and glittery ice and bubbles that freeze into crinkly, iridescent globes on the coldest mornings.



 

For those whose favorite season is summer, spring, or winter, there are places where you can go and find a more or less perpetual climate of heat, temperance, or freeze. But for those of us who love the autumn--and there is nothing quite like fall in the Great Lakes region--it can only be found at just the right time, in a place that cycles through all four seasons of the year. 

It is hard for me to go without the autumn. I always liked it, but I didn't know how much I needed it until I had the opportunity to skip it. 

When I was in college, I had a long-term boyfriend who also grew up in Michigan and then went to California for grad school. The weather there was gorgeous; I loved visiting him and soaking up all the intense sunshine that doesn't often penetrate Michigan's protective, low ceiling of hazy clouds. But when fall came around, things got weird. My boyfriend started to have a serious mental health breakdown, and the absence of a recognizable fall season drove him crazy. Time didn't feel right. There was a creepy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind feeling of memories and depth of experience being repressed or erased somehow. I mailed him photocopies of autumn leaves that he cut out and hung around the window of his lab cubicle, and it helped--maybe. Almost.

Then I studied abroad in Rome for about half a year, and while September and October brought mercifully less hot temperatures than summer, nothing looked or felt quite like fall in the city. There were few deciduous trees that changed color, none of which were in my neighborhood and none of which did anything more than fade to blah and drop a few quickly scattered leaves into the "lesser summer" air. My roommate's family mailed her a photograph of the spectacular fall colors at their home in the Upper Peninsula, and I swear we felt like we could breathe fully only when we gazed at that image.

After I married my husband, we spent late October and early November in central Mexico through the Day of the Dead celebrations, and although there were definitively autumn-themed festivities going on, it still felt like summer. There were no fall colors; I kept seeing flame-colored bougainvillea flowers spilling over walls out of the corner of my eye and turning to look at them, repeatedly startled that they weren't autumn leaves.  

It is unsettling, to say the least, to miss a single Michigan fall. Although the changing seasons and their extreme temperature shifts and weather patterns can present challenges, I don't think I could ever feel whole without them. Like family, they sometimes annoy me, and I sometimes wish I could get away from them, and yet, I miss them as soon as they're gone. The four seasons infuse my life with constant changes of scenery that give me a sense of traveling through time even while I'm staying in place. As soon as I start to get tired of a season, it begins changing into the one I've begun to miss the most. Each season brings its own unique challenges, but each one brings special joys, along with the subtle reassurance of rhythmic change itself. 

So have a happy summer solstice! Take a walk in a shady, green forest. Hit the beach. Have a late night bonfire and catch some fireflies. The challenges of each season aren’t so bad when you remember they’ll soon make way for a different kind of weather. And the joys of each season are sweeter when they are transient and layered with memories made at this very particular time in years past. 

Michigan’s four seasons move me so much that I’ve decided to stay.

Comments

  1. You're right, totally right. You always are, of course. But the fact of the matter is, I don't really miss MI Winters.

    I'm going to go lay in the sun now, thanks. :P

    ReplyDelete
  2. Can you please save up and buy a house in Las Lomas so me and Justin can retire in 15 years and live with you and spend our days basking poolside with palomas in our hands?

    Thanks, I'd appreciate it. <3

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

TBT: The Magic of Essential Oils

Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from. I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in t

Pocket of Joy: Renovating to Love, Not to List

My mom and I have watched Love It or List It for years, and it's no surprise to us that most families choose to stay in their own, customized home rather than move into a new, blank box. The qualities that make a house a home are not the same qualities that make a marketable real estate property. Houses sell better when they are whitewashed into sterile, blank boxes where a new homeowner can come in and add their own personalized color and texture. If you're rich like the people on LIOLI , you can custom build a personalized home from scratch or personalize a market-fresh house in a short time, but even so, it's easier to stay in an already-customized house than to start over.  For regular people who aren't rich, turning a house into a home takes even more creativity, hard work, and time. But working class people certainly can create beloved homes. I've seen dream homes created from the tiniest of tiny houses in the humblest of neighborhoods, in trailer parks, in a

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

A Lightbulb Moment

All the lights are on! This weekend, my dad finished installing our kitchen cabinets as well as three pendant lights that hang above them. Hallelujah, let there be light! Now we can finally see what we're doing, giving us a boost of productivity by providing both visual access and a more pleasant work environment--which will soon become a warm, welcoming place to cook and eat and converse! This bright, warm light is a great metaphor for something else I've realized over the course my month-long home renovation staycation--which, though hard and busy, has been a clean break from my nonprofit work, my novel-writing creative work, and most of my social life too. I had an "aha" moment about illuminating the kitchen that my family has designed and built ourselves with a set of clear, warm lights that my husband and I chose together, as well as the fact that we are no longer living in other people's stuff. We're approaching 40 now, and we've finally been able t

No Cook Summer Snacks

We've been living without a kitchen for over a month now while we renovate, and while I miss baking and cooking, it's also a little bit nice to not have to cook. My family doesn't have a daily takeout budget (or else we'd be paying someone else to renovate our kitchen, obviously), so we've relied on my parents to share their kitchen and home-cooked meals with us in addition to setting up a makeshift pantry in our living room filled with foods that don't need to be cooked. During a hot summer, even when we have a fully functioning kitchen, it's nice to have some things on hand that don't need to be cooked with a stove or oven--or even a grill outside on scorching days. Whether or not you have a lovely kitchen that works, anyone can stay a little cooler and enjoy a little more time to relax this summer by stocking up on no-cook snacks such as... in-season fruits and veggies that can be enjoyed raw hummus, salsa, liquid nacho cheese (no judgment), or any ot

Pocket of Joy: Heirloom Tomatoes

Among the joys of homegrown veggies and fruits, heirloom tomatoes rise the highest above their grocery store cousins. Nothing cultivated to survive mass production and shipping to supermarkets can compare to the flavor of a homegrown heirloom tomato. Heirlooms come in a startling variety of shapes, sizes, and colors with great variation in flavor and texture as well. The bright, shiny, red, smooth, uniform-looking tomatoes that show up in grocery stores have been hybridized to enhance production and durability at the expense of flavor. There isn't anything wrong with eating grocery store tomatoes in terms of health, but once you taste the sweet, brilliant complexity of an heirloom tomato, you understand right away how different and special they are. If you can't or don't wish to grow heirloom tomatoes yourself, and if you don't have green-thumbed and generous family or friends willing to invite you over for grilled bruschetta this summer (oh, the tragedy!), you can usua

Pocket of Joy: Old Books

Old books! You can judge them by their shabby chic covers, because they function as objets d'art and objects of desire on a shelf no matter what stories they tell inside. Books with leather bindings, books embossed and edged in gold, books with plates and illustrations and fancy lettering inside, books that give off the subtle scent of an aged library, books with fraying ribbon markers and tactile spines. Old books are charming, comforting, and, when they aren't first edition antiques, they are usually cheap. The stories told inside of old books can also be wonderful and so thick and rich that you can revisit them again and again, each time discovering something new or forgotten, as fans of Jane Austen and George Eliot know well. Those were stories built to last the ages. An old book can be a roundly multi-sensory experience. I once picked up an old maiden volume by Anthony Trollope that had never been read--and I know, because I had to rustle up an antique book knife to cut ap

Pocket of Joy: Hot Gourd Summer

The corn has grown past "knee high by the Fourth of July," and so have the sunflowers. The delicious bean plants keep trying to climb up their tall sisters' stalks, though the cute, fuzzy creatures of the neighborhood keep trimming them down. And in one very green corner of the garden, the zombie trash gourds have returned! Last year, they volunteered to take over my compost and apple wood stick piles, and this year, they popped out of the front yard garden (after I spread compost there) to say: it's time for another hot gourd summer! The Fourth of July fireworks are all used up and done; it is now legal to look forward to Halloween. Pumpkin spice girls and bog witches, rejoice with me! And pray to every curly shoot and warty bump that by the time these decorative gooseneck gourds ripen, my witchy kitchen will be finished and ready to display them on rustic cherry open shelves against shady green walls. Until then, it's a joy to let the gourd plants' broad gre

Check Out My...

Pantry! We slapped in some fun and easy, removable wallpaper and dug around in the garage until we found this functional beauty, a commercial-grade speed rack abandoned by a former roommate long ago.  The wallpaper is also pretty old, leftover from a project in my parents' former house. Weirdly, I just saw it featured in a bookcase in an episode of Love It or List It . As seen on TV! While we renovate, we've been going through lots of old stuff in the garage, attic, and shed to donate, throw away, or, occasionally, use in the new kitchen. I've unearthed some VERY interesting and exciting treasures from deep inside the garden shed, which I hope to show off soon.  Things are getting very bog witchy around here indeed!