When I first moved to the river, oh! How I loved the river. I took video after video of the way the waves bent over and over themselves. I wrote about it. I documented the status of the ice chunks on its surface in the winter, the swans in the spring, the fish of summer, the wind licking at it in the fall…
and then, just like that, I forgot about it.
Northport is a small town, in the North of Michigan. You may know of it.
I am horrible with directions so people are always trying to talk about peninsulas and show me their hands to identify where we are in Michigan. In all seriousness I like to simply ride in the car, taste the wine, never really knowing what direction I am pointing in.
It was Saturday morning, and the air felt like it was whispering signs of winter.
The Tribune had been recommended to us, and so we filtered through the small town on our legs as we waited to be seated in the restaurant with the occupancy of 24.
Northport is next to the lake where long boats sit like logs sit when trapped in by ice. The people are creative here, and everything feels comfortable and odd and aged at the same time as if everyone here have been rubbed down with the fragrance of old soul. They feel soft and ready like leather driving gloves.
The youth even look this way—with their wide brimmed hats and crooked bright smiles. They all look like they’re writers, with tiny collections of dry leaves and sling shots and seeds. I think that they all wear boots that have been passed down to them.
People sit around here. You can tell. Their bones are used to it. But instead of on couches near Netflix, I think they sit on logs deep in woods or open fields. I feel like everyone in Northport knows all of Michigan’s trails, bird-calls, and insects. It makes me feel like I have never been outside.
Nothing in Northport feels hurried,
really, except for the restaurant owners of the Tribune. They all have bad haircuts, as if their husbands took the shears to the back of their heads, because there is no salon near enough to cut correctly. The haircuts oddly fit them.
The chef sports a mullet and runs his hands through it with long greasy fingers. The host hides behind glasses and thick home cut bangs.
We pick through the shops, fingering everything. The Porcupine smells like candles, and it is a tight space that feels fragile like it was made of sticks.
I like to write because it helps me to see. So, I chart the details during this day a little, to thank.
There are only 15 minutes of our wait left to be seated, and so we stand along the walls in the Tribune, with curved shoulders hoping that it will make more room for the other people waiting. I push my shoulder into the white shiplap wall, and Leah and I run our hands along it to feel the grain of the wood beneath the paint.
I have just found Leah—it feels like. Recently. Though I have known her for a long time. She feels like a safe and deep cavern of friendliness. Last night she sat there smiling at all of us with hot cinnamon tea, the light balancing itself on her white hair.
Leah dresses in a way I appreciate. Every outfit is functional and classy and brilliant, and she wears each one as if it was as easy for her to put together as it was for me to zip up my pants.
I like the way Leah talks about leaves,
and how people’s names sit on her tongue as if they are the sweetest person she has ever met, really. She is one of those people who do not make me feel introverted, & she laughs at me, in a good way.
Ordering eggs, (on the second morning) she exclaims two times about how the waitress is “so kind,”—and it makes everyone look at the waitress as if she is kind. And I like that.
The men are with us, exchanging business talk like boys would trade cards. Information stands between them—their eyes going bigger and brighter as they use their fingers and arms as tools to emphasize. Leah and I discuss equally important things, like hair, and food. The menu.
Our waitress is bright like a strawberry, and describes the things on the menu as if we have waited our whole lives to be here. It feels like we have. Explaining what kind of cheese that comes on my eggs, I nod at the waitress as if I know exactly the kind she is talking about, but I don’t. It comes out soft and white topped with pesto.
I order it because I know the word sourdough, and potatoes.
Abbie arrives in all of her sweetness,
she is holding a cookie that moves like a stingray. Abbie is quiet sometimes, and can calm an entire room just by existing. Looking out the window at the trees, she recalls each one as if they are her pen-pals, she knows information about their branches and can tell things by their scent. Leah asks, “Why are the trees still very green here?” and Abbie, the scientist, gives us a reason to why the moisture of the water could be affecting the color of the leaves where we are staying.
Information gives me goose-bumps. So, when she rattles it off as if it were a regularly opened file, I try to take it all in. I wonder what else she has stored there, along with her softness.
We huddle like sheep-wool, tangled up and tight all day through the towns, over wine and cheese. Leah moves ahead of us, always remarking at the color of the leaves. We touch the nose of the horses. We laugh at the sheep chewing. We let the sun onto our skin.
Sometimes I wake with so much gratitude.
I have asked God for this. I have asked for him to teach me to number my days, and he has.
It is usually accompanied with a sickness in my stomach, knowing that there is so much I don’t know. So much sadness & disease, sickness & war, hurt and pain that I have not come in contact with. On these mornings, I hold my husband tighter, and thank God for every small thing that I can think of as I lay there, listening to him breathing. I wish I could put my arms tight enough around him so that he knows just how I feel. Sometimes I try.
This feeling always comes after something so beautiful, like feeling as free as I did this weekend. Like feeling free as yourself.
Have you felt this way? Oh, I pray that you will, soon.
I pray I can make people feel that way, like the bundle of themselves is a gift.
Sometimes I make lists. To make a list of everything that I see and am grateful for gives me this opportunity to hold in my hand the weight of the world and the hurricanes and chaos of darkness, and then to see that everything good is a gift from above. This is how I learn humility. This is the only way. To hold both is hard.
Abbie climbs into my car that evening & we head to meet my Mother so I can pick up my dog after the long weekend. Abbie has never met my mother and I cannot wait for her to meet her. Abbie is one of the kindest people that I know, and so when I tell her, “you’re about to meet one of the best women ever made,” she opens her door, squealing,
“Hello!!!”, she says to my Mother, & then opening her words up, she exclaims,
“I have heard so much about you,” and then she does a beautiful thing. She opens up her arms and hugs my mother.
Abbie is filled with so much wonder, so much gratitude, and in this moment, she throws it all over my Mother as if she is a queen. I choke up a little.
As we pull out of the parking lot, and Abbie exclaims,
“Your Mother is soooo beautiful.” She tells me. “Now I know where you get it from.” And now I am the queen.
On the way to small group, we discuss the trip home from Northport, and Abbie tells me,
“I like the way that Leah talks about the leaves.” There is a small silence, “she took so many pictures on the way home.” We both think about that.
And just like that, because of someone else’s wonder, we then see the wonder of Fall all over again. I think this deep gratitude can change people.
Later that evening, I think it must not be coincidence…
Abbie and I sit in a circle with our small group from church. Everyone is excitable because we are together again and we are sitting in the chilly air with hot drinks and it is Fall.
When we get together like this, each of us share individually, painting a picture of what their life looks like right now.
Little Lauren, who is always smiling, tells us about how she recently took a long walk in the woods because she is trying to fill herself with more wonder, because everything is beautiful.
“I think we just get used to seeing it,” she says with a little shrug of her shoulders. Her blonde hair frizzing slightly since it was damp.
We all listen, smiling, because you cannot help but smile when you look at her.
“I don’t really know why I’m talking about this,” she says. “But I think when we have more wonder, we see God more.”
And I agree.