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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hardly a "Grand Tour" Kind of Vacation

There it is, a corner of the pretty little sheltered harbor on Lake Superior that is home to the small village of Grand Marais. This is my morning view when I walk from the Superior Hotel down toward the West Bay Diner. Trips to the Upper Peninsula, ours or anyone else’s, are nothing like London-Paris-Beijing-etcetera travel. While David and I (and now Sarah, also) explore a few new corners each year, much of our time away is taken up with revisiting old, familiar haunts. We are still in Michigan, after all, our home state, and Grand Marais is our “home away from home,” having a lot in common with Northport--and, as always, it is the little homey things that mean the most to me.

For example, Bess had loaned us one of her birthday presents, a fat notebook bristling with pictures and stories from old Grand Marais, and we took it along to the West Bay Diner with us to enjoy at a table by the window with coffee and peanuts while waiting for our meal.

Oh, look, there’s author Ellen Airgood! Well, yes, she is a bit of a blur—and so would you be, too, if you and your partner ran a diner seven days a week! Unlike vacation visitors, Ellen doesn’t have time to hunt for agates on the beach. That is, she would have time if she weren’t such a dedicated writer, but her new YA novel, Prairie Evers, is due out in May 2012, and she has already begun work (South of Superior fans, take note) on another adult novel and another YA novel. Anyway, it's good to catch up with friends' news, even if the news has to be shared in hurried bits and pieces.

We already established on the report of Vacation Day 1 that Sarah is good with cats. The cat pictured here below, Phantom, belongs to Bess’s daughter, Vicki, and often visits the picnic table outside the back of the hotel, where hand tools for gardening were posed as a still life on Tuesday morning. You see what I mean? Doesn’t it all look like home?

An old log cabin on the first road above town was getting a facelift, and the steps down to the side street were not being neglected. Simple. Homemade. Rustic. Old-fashioned. And do you know the Up North wild clematis? When it blossoms in spring, it is called virgin’s bower, while in fall it takes on the name old man’s beard. Same plant. Go figure. Discussing one aspect of a new story with us, Ellen remarked, "I like concrete details." Me, too, and it doesn't matter how small they are.

I found a juvenile “chapter book” on the shelves at the hotel and bought it from Bess. Read it quickly. Loaned it to Ellen. Shoeshine Girl was a very satisfying book to read on vacation. Later in the day I bought Agates Inside Out and began educating myself on how to find these magical beach stones for myself. This is true R&R reading.

The light takes my breath away. Nothing looks “ordinary” to me with the warm, intense September sunlight descending to drop its benediction. Who needs mountains when simple grass stuns the eye like this? But we took in larger vistas, too, as Day 3 will reveal. Day 2 was just our resting-up, here-at-last day....


Deborah said...

Pamela, what a wonderful commentary! The photos, people and places make me want to leave right now to visit Grand Marais and Lake Superior.

P. J. Grath said...

Well, Deborah, it's a beautiful day today in Northport, too. Morning rain cleared off, and we have blue skies, clouds, warm temps and a balmy breeze. Wish you were here!

Anonymous said...

Pamela, these small things do put such a sparkle on our days. Looking forward to reading more about hunting for agates :)

P. J. Grath said...

Amy-Lynn, I'm thinking I need to do a whole separate post on Lake Superior agates and Lake Michigan Petoskey stones and books to help people find and identify them.

The rest of you can read Amy-Lynn's hymn to the small delights of her Nova Scotia summer at

Gerry said...

It is a lot of fun to drop in at the West Bay Diner this way. I think that nothing ever looks ordinary to you, PJ. It's a gift.

Now I have to go hunt up my little stash of what might be agates.

P. J. Grath said...

Hey, Gerry, think how my gift for enjoying small pleasures would be wasted if I were a rich woman!

I have a stash of maybe-agate stones, too. One of these days I'll find out, but until then I'll enjoy believing they are at least partial agates.