Columns

2002.08.07 Heading for the north

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

I finally realized what I’d left. The last full day of vacation, the tent flapping in the wind rushing in off Lake Michigan—suddenly I could smell Morenci.

This seemed like an odd vacation for us. In recent trips, we’ve headed east across Ohio and Pennsylvania to reach New York City. We’d been on a string of those visits, and a week Up North was missing from our lives.

In New York City there’s not much time to lollygag. It takes a long day to get there and another long day to get back. There’s so much to see once you’re there, so there’s little time to waste. You have to be on the downtown train by midmorning and then it’s full speed ahead until dark.

By contrast, none of us even thought to bring a watch when we headed north last week. We had no definite plans about when we were leaving, where we were going, when we were to return. We finally settled on a visit to our friend, Kate, in Benzonia. We swam and floated down the Platte River. We paddled kayaks down the Betsie. We swam at Elberta and Cathead Bay and Peterson Park.

But we also sat around reading and talking, and we usually never left Kate’s house until after lunch. There was just no hurry.

Benzonia was our base and from there we traveled around Leelanau County. This included our favorite town, Sutton’s Bay, where Bruce Garland moved back in the early 1960s.

Did that name sound familiar to anyone? Mr. Garland was my seventh grade geography teacher. I have a couple clear memories from that class, although Mr. Garland would probably be disappointed to know that neither was connected to his teaching.

Geography class was the first one in the afternoon. It was that class in which Keith Walker returned from lunch and proceeded to throw it back up onto the floor.

It was that class in which I killed a fly by quickly snapping my textbook closed. When I reopened it, I discovered the dead fly posed on the tip of a Watusi warrior’s spear.

But take heart, Mr. Garland, I’ve always had a fascination with geography, and I’ll be glad to attribute it to your class.

I tried to tell him that last week when I went to Sutton’s Bay, but all I got was an answering machine. I learned from a post office employee there that she, too, had Mr. Garland for a teacher.

I learned from a local potter that Mr. Garland is a highly revered man in Sutton’s Bay. He’s retired from teaching, but he’s still regarded as one of finest people in town. There’s even a track meet named after him. Whenever they pass on the street, Mr. Garland always asks the potter how his children are doing. He has a sincere interest in his former students.

The potter said he would probably have an interest in a former student from Morenci, too, and so I called once more on our way out of town. Just the answering machine again.

When I got back to Kate’s, I rechecked the number in the phone book and discovered I left two puzzling messages on someone else’s machine. I reversed a couple of the numbers.

The rain came down in sheets Thursday as we left Sutton’s Bay. This was the one night of the week we planned to camp, and the weather didn’t look promising.

We lollygagged. We visited the town’s beautiful library. We headed up to Northport. Then over to Leland and by now the rain had stopped. Then we traveled back to Northport and on up to the state park. The storm was gone but the wind still whipped through the trees, and it continued all night long.

In the half light of early morning, I could see that our tent was in constant motion despite a windbreak of pines between us and the open water. The air was loud with the sound of wind blowing through the trees and waves crashing on the shore.

Thinking about weather transplanted me home to the rain gauge—still empty, I imagined—in the back yard. Right then I could smell the dried-out grass and feel the humidity back in Morenci.

And then the wind gusted hard and it was gone.

    – Aug. 7, 2002 

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