Michigan & Wisconsin

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To be honest, I found myself wishing I ventured south through Kentucky and Tennessee and then across to Colorado before heading north to Wyoming instead of the northern route through Canada. Given our time constraints, we didn’t have time to explore the more beautiful parts of the Canadian countryside. The foggy cool temperatures, drizzling rain and expensive petrol prices pushed us forward so we ended up in Michigan a day early. We discovered a quaint blueberry farm with homemade jams through an adorable gray haired couple on the way before we reached Sault Saint Marie on the Canadian/Michigan border.

The beginning of the trip was somewhat of a blur – my mind was on unfinished business, links to past lives through music I had not heard in 10+ years, and quiet time. Most of what I needed at this stage was time alone taking quiet walks with empowering books, reflecting on whatever nature was around me even when I happened to be in the middle of an industrial sprawl.

On one of my walks in northern Michigan, I discovered a young Canadian skipping flat rocks on Lake Superior. Having never set foot on a great lake before, my first reaction was not far from the one I had when I flew over one of the lakes with ex-beau Jason in his 1945 Beechcraft Bonanza plane a few years ago — “Freezing cold – avoid swimming.”

While the size of Superior was the imprint that was left in my mind as I drove through northern Michigan, I reminded myself that it was only one of five great lakes that give Michigan 3200 miles of shoreline, second only to Alaska.

I hovered in the Northern Pennisula of Michigan which is shaped like a slipper.
The Lower Pennisula is supposedly shaped like a mitten, but this I didn’t quite see. They’re both connected by the Mackinac Bridge (such a cool name), which once in Mackinaw City, you can ferry over to Mackinac Island, today an island without cars. Quaint, travel on the entire island is done by horses or bicycles, including the police who patrol the town on bikes. I had to laugh when I learned that the islanders call incoming tourists Fudgies.

I managed to weigh Hamilton down even more by adding a bag of discovered colorful but jagged rocks that I picked up along Superior’s shore. It was peaceful and empty with the exception of this one boy who was eager to tell me his life quest, dreams, goals and all the bottlenecks to achieving them. Perhaps just twenty, his innocent boyish grin and sparkling eyes glowed as he relished on an abbreviated trip to Europe and his dream of one day living there – as a poet, no, an artist, no an underwater photographer. He reminded me of my ex-husband when I met him so many years ago – a wonderful and inspiring dreamer of all things good.

It was still August, so the sun was warm, the skies clear and the water remarkably translucent and blue. And yet, being around Superior made me “feel cold” but also so marvelously awake. Since the trip didn’t have enough symbolic transitional rites of passage, I decided to run into the lake with my clothes on, splashing and gawking like a frustrated fish stuck on a young fisherman’s hook. It was as if the trip had not yet begun and I needed to wake the senses. All of them. The numbness continued through Wisconsin – through cow and cheese country. Cows, flatland and cheap diners with plump waitresses. The music started changing here.

It probably wasn’t until we crossed the Wisconsin/Minnesota border that I felt some sense of renewal – looking forward rather than behind me to the East. I dropped off Benny here and ventured off on my own for a few days. Refreshing and freeing, I longed for the time to be feminine, to ponder in funky antique jewelry stores, chat with women hanging out on bar and diner stools about the history of the town, families, the local men.

When you’re alone, the universe comes to you rather than you seeking it. I have traveled both ways and this has always been the way – through Africa, Europe, Australia and SE Asia. So when the universe automatically comes to you when you travel solo and you still choose to seek it out, experiences are often magnified. Wisconsin and northern Minnesota was somewhat surreal for me – the cows looked animated, the farmers and hay stacks didn’t seem to have any color, but the diners and bars had twice as much. I also started to crave meat which I rarely eat and found myself wolfing down two Buffalo burgers in one seating. There was something very raw, aggressive and yet weary about my time in Wisconsin and northern Minnesota.

Another odd quirk is that I searched for a barber stop in every town to photograph. I’ve had this odd longing to photograph barber shops in every town across America for well over ten years. Many didn’t live up to my expectations as they had been modernized and moved into tacky strip malls on the main streets. The conversations in the barber shops which resulted from “why I was moving to California,” was probably the most interesting part of the shoot. Talk to a barber sometime – many have amusingly witty perspectives on the world and stories about the town.

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