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Thursday, May 19, 2016

On Not Being Gone, Being Gone, and Coming Back Again

January orchard

Did you know we didn’t go away this winter? That the farthest we got from home was Traverse City? That Dog Ears Books was open four days a week straight through January, February, March, and April? I am mildly disturbed by the number of people (at least half a dozen) who have exclaimed, “You’re back! Will you be opening soon?” I told one of my loyal summer customers and year-round blog readers that I sometimes think people miss me more when I don’t go away! She suggested that would make a good theme for a blog post. It will not be the theme of today’s entire post, but I’ll lead off with it and see how far it will carry me into other themes.

When we live in one place month after month, it’s easy to think we’ll find the time “pretty soon” to get together with a special friend or visit a new restaurant or walk a trail we have yet to explore. The friend, the restaurant, and the trail aren’t going anywhere, are they? There’s plenty of time. And so time slips away, one day and week after another.

What a shock when a friend dies! How disconcerting (though not as deeply shocking) when that restaurant closes. Then we visit the trail at last and find it alarmingly crowded with other walkers. “We should have come here this last fall,” we say sadly.

Going back to visit the town where we used to live is different, because we know long before arrival that our time there will be limited. There are only so many people and places we can revisit, and we make the most of our time.

* * *

We expect the places we see every day to exhibit a certain degree of stability and sameness, and when changes occur, most alterations to the landscape seem to come about gradually, and gradually we adapt. Again, it’s different visiting scenes of former lives. We did not see the gradual changes that took place there. Instead, we are confronted with massive, disorienting newness in every direction. Even the old neighborhoods seem different, somehow changed, in the time since we knew them.

And then there are the memories.

An old friend once commented that he had “ghosts” on every street in town. This house, that house, this and that street or road, the field where sheep used to graze – a thousand memories rushing forward!

Change and memories come together in family and friends, too. How is it possible they have been married fifty years? That he planted that tree from a seed? That that little girl is now a science teacher?

But wherever we travel in our home state, whether to an adjacent county or farther afield, I always fall in love all over again with Michigan. There are all the wonderful little rivers -- the Pere Marquette, the Crockery, the Thornapple, the Rabbit and the Gun rivers, to name only a few. The larger rivers – the Grand, the Kalamazoo, and the St. Joseph – are exciting to see again, too, as are the lush, rich pastures of Barry, Allegan, and Kalamazoo counties, with cattle of all breeds grazing contentedly. 

Plant life is noticeably different from that of Leelanau County, too. 

Central to southwestern Michigan have abundant mayapples, bluebells, and tree dogwood (above), along with this little member of the mint family (below) that neither I nor any of my friends could identify with any greater precision.

Foremost reason for this spring’s trip, however, were these adorable little guys. Could not get enough of them!!!

How long has it been since my son was that young?! He and I had brunch together on Monday morning and visited the bookshop next door afterward. With every visit, time raced by way too fast....

David and I made a lightning (less than one hour) visit to the expanded and breathtaking Kalamazoo Institute of Arts to see the latest Area Show, where several friends had taken prizes.

Sarah also had her share of socializing. The lovely Nadine was her gracious hostess.

We only left last Sunday and returned on Wednesday, but before going to sleep Wednesday night we agreed that our trip seemed like a major expedition. A “big trip.” All the visits, the family and friends, the changes, and the memories made it major. A very big, very good trip!

Although darkness was falling as we neared home, and we had put the car windows up against the cold, I could smell the perfume of the cherry blossoms through the closed windows! How wonderful this morning to see the trees flowering in the sun!

May orchard

So yes, we actually were gone for a few days. Now we’re back, looking to a busy, full summer in gallery and bookstore.


Gloria Veltman said...

Pamela: Beautiful, thought provoking. I can relate. When I come home - here - from a trip "downstate", I am always glad to be home but I also feel like it has been a major trip even if it has only been a long weekend. I think it is the emotional or psychological over load that comes from being with loved ones, sometimes in old stomping grounds, and so visiting not only the present but the past, too. Takes me a few days to process it all.



Barbara Stark-Nemon said...

Lovely post!

P. J. Grath said...

Thanks, Barbara. And Gloria, you know JUST how we felt! Mr. & Mrs. Rip Van Winkle!

Dawn said...

What a wonderful trip! You fit a lot into a few days, so it qualifies as a grand adventure. And wasn't it lovely for the trees to bloom for you as a welcome home. Congratulations on the little ones. They are adorable.

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, it's been a nice, slow spring this year. We were gone four days, but it felt as if we'd only missed maybe a single day of spring. Cherries coming into bloom on Sunday morning, and now, a week later, in full bloom (in our part of the township).