People often talk about life in terms of a journey. If you mapped out mine, it would be all over the place, looking as if there isn’t any thought behind a final destination. However, my starting point is plain as day.
Michigan isn’t typically “on the way” to anywhere. It might have something to do with the giant bodies of water surrounding it, the Great Lakes, making it a virtual island. Although unique, and technically two peninsulas, these mitten-shaped and running-rabbit-shaped pieces of land — although certainly scenic — still aren’t really on the way to anywhere.
Except home: where my journey began.
I was born and raised in the mitten part of the state, also known as the Lower Peninsula. The running-rabbit-looking-part is the Upper Peninsula, or the UP (pronounced as “youpee,” not the word “up”). I know: the UP looks like it SHOULD be a part of Wisconsin, but there is a massive bridge connecting the upper and lower peninsulas — the Mackinac Bridge. Mackinac is pronounced “MACK in awe.” (Yes, we Michiganders have some pretty crazy names in the state. And yes, we have a certain sense of snobbish pride in being able to pronounce them while most of rest of the country can not.) We also have Canada as a neighbor! And for what other state can you use your hands as a map?
I left the mitten when I was 28 years old. To follow a boy. Trite, yes (although we were engaged). And that turned into a marriage (that turned into 17 years), which ultimately turned out to be — hands down — one of the worst mistakes of my life. I can see that…now. Although my son did come out of that so-called marriage, so that’s a big win.
Anyway, I always missed my home state, from the time I left, to now. I just didn’t know it so early in the journey. I grew up spoiled being so close to such stunning reservoirs of fresh water. Did you know that at any given point you are never more than 80 miles from one of the Great Lakes? My astrological chart may say my sign is an Earth elemental, but I never feel more at ease, more relaxed, or more “home” than when I’m on the water.
It feels right, thinking of Michigan as “home,” even though I haven’t lived there for over 25 years. Family and friends lead me back regularly on my journey. It’s where I was born; it’s where I made the transition into adulthood and began making my life. My education — first in public schools, then a state university; my first “real” job; my first romance (and subsequent heartbreak). The entire first third of my life happened in Michigan.
Then, when I turned 50, it is where I found my first supportive writing community. And two years ago, I joined Michigan Writers (it is open to anyone with ties to the Great Lakes State and a love for the written word — I’ll take my ties wherever I can get them). I don’t want it to NOT be a part of my life.
Now it feels rather poetic to think I might go back and spend a good portion of my life’s last third there. I enjoy taking the scenic routes in life.
Where is your “home” Friends? I’d love to hear your stories.