Dear Readers, It is time to meet another friend/blog reader/commenter! This time it’s Dawn King from down below the Mackinac Bridge. That makes her a troll. (I was born a troll, but am now a Yooper. Barely. The locals aren’t sure if you’re ever a Yooper if you were born a troll. Our kids, on the other hand, are Yoopers even though they don’t live here. Go figure.)
Please extend Dawn a warm welcome–and feel free to drop by her blog Dawn King and learn more about life under the bridge in Lower Michigan. Thank you SO MUCH, Dawn, for sharing the beautiful branches of your life with all of us.
Hello everyone! My name is Dawn King and I’m excited to be writing a guest blog for Kathy! I’ve enjoyed her work, both her writing and her photos, which often have me reminiscing about my own past as a “Yooper.” (Someone who lives in the Upper Peninsula…the UP… of Michigan is a Yooper. These days I’m a Troll…someone who lives below the Mackinac Bridge.)
I’m a mortgage underwriter now, living near a big city. But once upon a time, in a place far far away I was a bank trainer based in a small town located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in some of the most beautiful country in the world. For six years more than thirty years ago I was lucky enough to be able to walk to work almost every day and spend the weekends photographing and exploring the woods, mountains and lakes of the Keewenaw Peninsula. Check out a map of Michigan; the Keewenaw is a small peninsula that juts out of the Upper Peninsula into the cold and beautiful Lake Superior.
It seems almost like a dream now, those days. It was just one branch of the tree of my life, but I’ll always be grateful for the experience. I got to live in a place some people long to vacation in. And that fact wasn’t lost on me even during the first long winter when I was lonely and missing my family. I figured I needed to learn how to do something to keep me busy while I waited for the short but magical summer to arrive. So I learned how to cross country ski and how to crochet. Skiing got me out into the beautiful winter, early mornings of pristine white snow clinging to the trees shining brilliant as the sun came up, early evenings with the snow glowing pink. And crocheting kept me warm and lean as the large, heavy afghans I made covered my lap and kept my hands too busy to reach for that extra cookie.
Though I could tell you about the beauty of the country, the magnificence and power of Lake Superior, the bear and the moose sightings, or camping in the Porcupine Mountains and forgetting the tent poles, losing the car’s water pump on a remote road north of Munising on Lake Superior’s coast, maybe snowshoeing through a deserted Fort Wilkins in the middle of a blizzard – but I think I’ll tell you about some of the people who live in that hard and beautiful country instead. These are special people who make living in a remote part of the world easier for some of the most vulnerable of our citizens – our elderly.
I was looking for a volunteer opportunity when Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly arrived in the Upper Peninsula. You can read more about them at their website: http://houghton.littlebrothers.org/. Their mission is to help the community’s elderly live in their own homes as long as possible.
Many of the Upper Peninsula’s elderly have no family near, live in isolated locations and often still heat with wood that they can no longer chop or haul. Little Brothers’ volunteers chop wood, take people grocery shopping or to the doctor, and provide birthday and holiday parties. They match the elderly friends with volunteers who visit and call regularly. Little Brothers provide hugs and friendship, conversation and most importantly, love. A couple of years ago they celebrated their 25th anniversary in the UP. I’m so proud of them.
I was matched with Marie, who became my “adopted grandmother.” She was a short round lady with tightly curled hair and a big grin. She lived in a typical northern house, 2 stories tall, with a steeply pitched roof in order to help the heavy snow fall off. I would visit with her every week; sit in her overly heated living room, pet her overly spoiled and plump beagle named Shawn, and listen to her tales of living in the north country as a young mother with a small child while her husband worked in the mines. She loved to eat and we ate out often, laughing all the time. She took some of my loneliness away, and I alleviated some of hers.
That was all a long time ago. Since then I’ve moved back south to the hustle and bustle of life near a city. Other limbs of my life tree have grown. I got married. I changed jobs. I survived the loss of my parents. I became a safety advocate. I went back to school at age 50 and attempted a career change. I spend time training my dog in obedience and rally and a little agility. I play in a community band. I try to paint and sometimes I write. But the person I am today is directly related to my time in the north.
The last time I flew out of Houghton I looked down and watched as it grew smaller and smaller; then the clouds silently closed over my view of the town I used to call home and it disappeared. Being a romantic sometimes I dream about going back. But I know that nothing is ever what you might remember, so perhaps its best that I just keep it in a special place in my heart.
Though I’ve never met Kathy in person I find it interesting how the lives of our individual life trees have intertwined. Thanks Kathy, for bringing me images and descriptions of a place I will always love, for letting me share my memories of life in the north. And for showing the world what a wonderfully magical place it is.