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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Back Home and Back tto Work

Michigan — lush, verdant, overflowing! Has there ever been a greener spring? To be fair, Missouri and Illinois greeted us with spring vistas on our way home, and earlier, even before leaving the southeast Arizona ghost town cabin where we spent the winter, hadn’t we been thrilled to see the mesquite sprout green leaves and to see — at last —and to smell — a chinaberry tree in bloom, a treat that had been eluding me, teasingly, for years? 

If only you could smell the blossoms, too!
Taking our leave of Willcox, Arizona, we followed Fort Grant Road, one last time, up to Bonita, turning onto that beautiful, beloved mountain road through the Stockton Pass to where it joins the highway to Safford, and to my delight, near the end of the twenty-mile stretch, staghorn cholla were blossoming. I didn’t dare look for wildflowers on the much more challenging mountain road between Globe and Apache Junction, because I was at the wheel, but before the day was over, we had reached Carefree, north of Phoenix, where towering saguaro was in flower. And then somehow, in what seemed no time at all, though we had stayed two nights with my friend in Carefree and cruised slowly and wonderingly through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, and though we whiled time away pleasantly in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and McLean, Texas, as if we had nothing but time and would never come to its end — somehow we found ourselves in Oklahoma, with green-leaved trees and choruses of singing birds greeting us at the state line. We have returned more than once to Santa Rosa and now have added to our list of “towns in which to spend more time in on future trips” Globe, Arizona, and Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

From Osage County courthouse steps lead downtown.
Missouri was beautiful. North from Cuba on narrow, winding, charming little state road 19, blossoming tree dogwood and spreading green colonies of mayapples along the way invited us to linger, but dogwood was delicately lovely in Springfield, Illinois, too. We had crossed the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers, and now came the Vermilion and the Kankakee as we made our way north through Illinois (staying four nights with family) to southern Michigan, where the dogwood was not fully open but already lovely and redbud clearly queen of the spring. Maybe once before in my life I’ve seen so many spectacular redbuds, but that was long ago. The St. Joseph River, our own little Paw Paw River, the still-beautiful Kalamazoo, despite what it has suffered: our way home to northern Michigan is always marked by rivers, and we cross each bridge as we come to it.

Northern Michigan does not have the dogwood of the southern woods of our state, and redbud trees Up North are few and far between, only one planted as a landscape accent, not clouds of them growing wild, so north of Grand Rapids that role was taken by pin cherry’s flowering branches. Mayapple colonies persisted as far north Newaygo County. As we drove north, it was as if we were traveling back in time to the beginning of spring, finding the season less advanced the nearer we approached home, as if held back for our return. We stopped along the Pine River to stretch our legs and delight in the warm, sunny day, to walk along flowing water — our feet releasing a heady, familiar perfume from pine needles underfoot — and to take deep, happy breaths of Michigan air.

This historical marker is worth reading.
 And finally came, of course, welcome glimpses of trillium in the grass at the edges of second- and third-growth woodland.

Home at last, having imagined knee-high grass in the yard, we were pleasantly surprised to find it not yet terribly out of control … to find daffodils blooming … to realize we had not missed cherry and apple blossom time, after all. One neighbor’s apricot tree, the first to flower on the highway between our place and Northport, held its pretty flowers against the blue sky, but most of the orchards at our northern end of Leelanau County had yet to blossom and are only just now coming into their brief seasonal glory.

The last book we had been reading aloud at bedtime, John Hildebrand’s Mapping the Farm: The Chronicle of a Family, had brought us from Arizona back to Michigan: the story ends in springtime, with plans to put in crops for another year. We came home to find the straw bales for the modest garden I’ll have this year ready to be wrestled into place, and I got them positioned the very next day, because even without livestock or field crops, our country life and village businesses make heavy demands on available time and energy, especially as the latter quantity seems to decrease significantly each year. 

But we are home again and back to work after a winter of leisure, and Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner, and there is much to do between now and then — planning, mowing, planning, cleaning. In Northport I’ll be weeding out storage areas and ordering new books for the shop. Expect many announcements in the weeks ahead, the first of which you’ll find here. Just don’t expect a new post every day, because even my to-do list, as I told a friend yesterday, has to-do lists of its own right now, and when it’s too dark to mow grass, I’ll be reading Rachel May’s An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery until my eyes cannot remain open one more minute.

The bookstore will definitely be open Memorial Day weekend. If I can get enough done by this Saturday, I'll put out the OPEN flag. Time will tell....

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