2006.07.06 Staying at Hotel Kate

Written by David Green.

 By DAVID GREEN

There’s something all too familiar about this. We head north to Kate’s house in Benzonia. We sleep in her basement. My pillow disappears.

The last time this happened, it was gone for two or three years before I ran across it at a later visit.

We’ve been doing this Benzonia routine for many, many years, ever since our kids and her kids were young. They grew up together—well, for two or three days a year, but not every year.

We’ve journeyed further north in the past. We’ve often camped near Grand Marais or met up with friends near Paradise. But now we never cross the bridge anymore and we don’t even make it to see dear friends in Ludington. Time is so limited and Ludington somehow seems not far enough.

We need to be Up North and that’s become Kate’s house. It’s a reasonable trip for a long weekend and it’s so easy to turn into her driveway and go “camping in”—spreading out the sleeping bags on the basement floor and getting a little rest before hiking to the Empire Bluffs or driving north into Leelanau. Kate’s place is our gateway to the north.

Her house is no luxury hotel, but it’s always been just what we’ve wanted. It’s interesting lodging because Kate is always involved in some unique endeavor.

She once put an ad in the local newspaper looking for a free house. She got a call. Someone had an old cottage to get rid of and it was hers if she could move it.

She built a foundation, rounded up some help and got the thing moved. The walls have the look of what it’s always been—an Up North cottage with dark tongue-and-groove boards. Someone told her it was a cottage kit that Sears and Roebuck used to sell.

Kate’s daughter will be a senior in college this year and her son just finished high school in the spring, but you’d never know it by looking at her walls. There’s a clock—no longer functioning—consisting of a simple block of wood, the face painted by a child.

In fact, there are two child-made clocks in her living room, along with art work made years and years ago.

Her bookcases are heavy with how-to manuals to help a person with aspirations toward self-sufficiency. That’s Kate. The more she can do on her own, the better.

She has to get someone else to cut the hay for her horse and she was only a helper when her wind-powered generator was installed last year. She can’t do it all, but she does a lot more than most people.

I associate Kate and her lifestyle with Benzonia and that part of the state, although I don’t suppose she’s representative of the area.

As the years go by, the entire region is becoming more and more associated with well-do-to down-staters who are buying up property and driving up prices.

We’re certainly not among the class building million dollar cottages, but when we visit the north, we’re pulled by the sandy Siren that grabs so many other vacationers from the south. You start to wonder why you don’t live up there. Why do we only visit for two or three days and then, with a little sadness, point the car toward the equator to return to that other life?

At this time the world no longer appears flat. We experience it as the big globe that it is and we’re drawn downward. We slowly slide down the face of it. We can’t stay up here beyond the 44th parallel.

It’s like the Mary Oliver poem in which she wants to “lay down by a slow river and stare at the light in the trees” to see what she can learn by simply watching everything go by.

But the crows spot her and call out their warning. She’s entered their kingdom. She knows she can’t stay. It’s not her world.

“And I should go now.

They know me for what I am.

No dreamer,

No eater of leaves.”

No dreamer? That’s all we down-staters do. We just dream about trying on new lives in the north, but we’re probably no eater of leaves. We only get a brief taste of this life and we don’t really know how much of it we want to bite off and digest. We’re living a vacation life and trying to extend it into something else.

So we’ll be on our way, Kate, and we’ll probably see you again next year. And I’ll be keeping an eye on my pillow.

  - July 6, 2006 
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016