Monday, May 26, 2008

The View From Up North

Cherry blossoms. Dune grass. Sailboats. Wooded hillsides in patchwork shades of green. Rows of grapevines.

We had a lovely time in the Leelanau. As always, we didn't have nearly enough time to do everything and go everywhere we'd planned. And, right now, we are both utterly exhausted as we face the coming week in the everyday world of Outer Podunk and surrounds. But it was worth it.

Whenever we travel up north, FT and I like to drive through the countryside and ponder the possibility of ever moving there. We'll see some modest cottage tucked away off the beaten path, or a quaint older home in one of the villages, and say, "We could live there..." "Oh, there's a nice place..." "I can see us in that house..."

Right now that seems like a pipe dream. It annoys me, in a way; this wanting to live somewhere else. Sometimes I wish I could be more content where we live now.

And sometimes I second-guess my love of northwest Michigan. This weekend, for instance, we found ourselves constantly contending with the sort of moneyed yet astoundingly tacky, conspicuously consumptive, rude vacationers whose East Coast counterparts my partner knew as "Massholes" when she lived in Maine. Our enjoyment of Leland's Fishtown, for instance, was so ruined by these people and their equally annoying, whiny/sullen children that we made one pass down to the docks and fled for the hills.

The great irony for me is that these Lexus-driving, Gucci-sunglass-wearing, Jimmy-Choo-shod denizens of a higher income bracket than I can ever hope to aspire to exhibit the same type of crassness, bovine conformity, complacency and empty-headedness as their NASCAR-watching, trailer-dwelling fellow citizens here in Outer Podunk. Yin, meet yang. There's no there there.

But on the other hand there are glimpses, up there, of a lifestyle we want to share. We love finding local cottage businesses with wonderful, unique goods, like the Great Lakes Tea and Spice Company in Glen Arbor -- we bought a variety of handcrafted seasonings and teas there for the same price as mass-market supermarket products. We bought locally roasted Fair Trade coffee that was also of equivalent price to the same-ol, same-ol -- and knew we were supporting a local small business as well as the coffee cooperatives with which it trades. We love supporting Cherry Republic, knowing that they dedicate a percentage of their profits to conserving local farmland. We bought asparagus at Norcronk's Farm's roadside stand, where you pays your money on the honor system, into a box, and bag and weigh your veggies yourself. We love the mix of entrepreneurship and artistry and social conscience that drives so much of the small business and farm culture up north. How I wish that could somehow be transplanted down here in the blue-collar belt of the state.

I read in our local paper last week that a half-dozen farmers in Podunk County and the county next door would like to start a farmer's market to support local, sustainable agriculture. Maybe the tide is turning here in the middle of the mitten; maybe some new ideas and new optimism can start to push through the malaise of the embittered auto retirees and backwoods underclass. In the meantime, though...we'll keep feeling the beckoning of Michigan's "little finger."


Julie said...

Oh! I love the Leelanau! Love the YouTube snippet below. Love your processing and sharing. And I'm too tired to be more articulate, but I so enjoy your POV on our shared church, as well as other topics.

P.S. an after-thought said...

Are you not over-generalizing? I live in a touristy area and the things you say don't generally ring a bell. Although I will say, I don't find the sustainable/green stuff here either.

P.S. an after-thought said...

OTOH, my sister lives in an area with lakes in the state between you and me and when she talks about the people in her area, all I can think of is Red Necks who don't give a rip about the environment or following the laws. Maybe it is just the people she knows.