Well, its high summer, and I find myself in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan visiting family over the 4th of July holiday. It has now become a tradition to spend Independence Day out there, surrounded by Yoopers, living the DIY lifestyle in the back country.
This year I drove, not because of the pandemic like last year, but because of cost and convenience. I’m using the Midwest as a spring board for my summer travels, and it is just easier to have my car so I can get places from here. Aura, Michigan, where my parents live, is about 4.5 hours away from any major town (Marquette excluded) – so its essential to be able to come and go.
With the lifting of gathering restrictions from COVID mostly gone, the good ole’ UP was and is a happening place. Driveways of many a neighbor were full of cars, the beach was crowded with people, and the Skanee Parade had a line for the potluck buffet afterwards.
That potluck was also quite epic, so many “salads” made with pasta and meat. There were also over 16 chickens cooked for the crowd.
Juxtaposed with last year, it was almost shocking the number of people that were everywhere. I honestly don’t remember there being that many people in the area in the years before the COVID lockdown. Perhaps a year of sitting still has people just itching to get out and see the world, so families are gathering at their cabins in the woods.
Here are a few shots from the parade – which is really just the community volunteer fire department, a few towing companies and the local trading post lining up with some do it yourself floats. But it has a certain charm to it, and is authentically Yooper. You also spend an hour waiting for a 10 minute parade, but that is part of the whole tradition.
Honestly, this visit, I am just happy to see my family, hug my parents, and spend some time out of the city. It feels like its been a long winter and spring without gatherings or travel.
What I didn’t know about this trip is that I would get quality time with a rooster named Rodriguez who likes to sneak up behind you when you turn your back. He is fast, and as a result of his shenanigans, there are many sticks on the farm to protect yourself with (as Rodriguez stops in his tracks when you wield a large stick in his direction). Princess Charlotte and I tried to meditate outside our camper one morning, but it just ended up being me with one eye open on rooster watch. The photo below is Russell (holding a big stick) going to do something on the farm, perhaps put the chickens away, or water the garden.
Princess Charlotte also got to hang out with some of her favorite little people, who helped her experience new things – like driving a power wheels jeep. She looks so thrilled in this photo.
My sister just purchased a house with 55 acres of land this spring, roughly exactly a year from the date when they made their great escape to the UP from South Carolina at the beginning of the pandemic. On opening night of the holiday weekend Nathan, my brother-in-law, gathered some firewood, so we could have a fire to sit around and await the coming of more guests.
There is something quintessentially Yooper about this photo above – the tractor, the cigarette hanging from a man nick named “Farmy” mouth, the 906 cap slightly off-kilter on his head. Or the fact that behind this photo was someone saying “be right back” followed by the sound of a chain saw in the woods for less than 10 minutes – and before you know it he emerges with a tractor load of firewood to plop down by the fire pit. It was a good night, everyone arrived safely and I only got about 5-10 mosquito bites.
This is the chihuahua enjoying country life. I got her a bandana so she could blend in. Also a life vest so she can go on a boat or swim at the beach. She does not like the water, but we keep trying.
The UP is a special place. I say this every time I visit, but I repeat myself because its true. The woods are dense and filled with woodticks. The roads are wide and see very few cars – mostly pick-ups, side-by-sides and four-wheelers grace there black and yellow lined spaces. The people speak in long Os and strange staccato sentences to the untrained ear. My UPS store calls this place “very rural” every time I ship something here – I just nod and agree with them. Because it is, but life on the edge of Lake Superior has a very special magick and beauty. My family is so blessed to be able to have this and all of the abundance it brings and we get to experience here.
This place, strange to the city dwelling me, is home, and not strange at all, because it is filled with family and things I know. The wildflowers, the wind in the trees, the people, Lake Superior and its bounty. It is not Duluth, Minnesota where I was born and grew up, but it feels more welcoming, more comfortable, warmer even (the water in Lake Superior definitely is in these parts).
And this is all true because this place that I visit, is home. Even if I didn’t choose it, my family did – because they know a good thing when they see it. And I choose them along with this beautiful place.