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.
Those images are lovely, especially the first of the birches with the grass. I enjoyed your “Little Brother” story.
Sorry you had to leave your little piece of heaven.
Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia (my little piece of heaven)
I haven’t been to Novia Scotia, but my parents did…and they said it was beautiful! Isn’t it cool when we get to live in a tiny bit of heaven, even if it’s not forever? I hope you never have to leave your pretty place!
Dawn – My favorite creatures on earth are trees so these photographs really touched my heart. And then of course, your shared about the volunteer work of “Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly” and made me cry happy tears. Whew! You threw one heckofa punch with this wonderful guest post — thank you!
Do you know the Little Brothers’ work? They are wonderful. Last year when their annual report came in the mail I stood in the driveway after getting it out of the mailbox and read it cover to cover because it ws chock full of stories of their work. I sat out there and cried. It was wonderful.
So glad to find you here today. Love the photos, of course, and the words. I have lived in Michigan, but never the UP. There are so many beautiful areas in this country of ours if only there was enough time to visit them all every few years. Kathy’s blog, and yours and some others are wonderful ways to do that without taking the time or suffering the expense.
Hi Carol, good to see you here! I thik of you often, you and Lily and the hub and all…Hope today was a good day!
Ah, Kathy, you have suuuch lovely blogfriends. Hello Dawn – How wonderful to meet you through Kathy’s blog! Loved your stories of the UP, and particularly of the Little Brothers initiative – I wonder whether they have something like that here, in the big city, where the elderly are often neglected and forgotten…
Reggie…they might. They started in Paris France, and when I was on the board they had an office in Morocco, France and several other countries besides the US. I should probably check on them and see where they are now!
I first heard about the friendly, down-to-earth ways of Youpers from my brother, who once lived in Grand Rapids.
Dawn, when you first commented on my blog, I wondered why you refered to yourself as a troll. Now I know 🙂 You certainly don’t look like one 🙂
Thanks! Sometimes I do look like one. Particularly after a long day of work. But never on the shore of one of my favorite Great Lakes!
Ah, Dawn, how delightful to meet you after so long a time enjoying your comments here! Love how you expressed yourself through the branches and how deeply insightful you are. I don’t think you’ve left the U.P. after all … I can see your footprints! Hugs to you 🙂
Nice to meet you Susan! Glad you enjoyed my branches story!
Hi, Dawn! What a fine post. I never knew about Little Brothers before, and it’s a really good idea. I love visiting with you and Katie on your blog, and it was very moving to read more about your background here.
Thanks Gerry….I enjoy visiting YOU on YOUR blog! 🙂 Yes the Little Brothers are really special people, as are the friends they serve.
What a surprise to find you here instead of on your own blog. Well, there, too. I was intrigued to learn about your Yooper years, part of your background I didn’t know about. Little Brothers sounds like a fantastic group. Good idea!
Little Brothers is a fantastic group! It’s an idea that really could be done anywhere…but it’s a BIG coordinating effort. They’ve grown by leaps and bounds. When I was there we did a couple of locations for holiday parties, and now they have multiple locations, mostly by volunteers.
Welcome Dawn! It was wonderful to hear your memories of the UP. I also hold it fondly in my heart while I’m away.
Well nice to meet you Kiah! I’m sure you do miss it…but it’s just waiting for you to stop on back any time!
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Hello Dawn. 🙂 It’s always such a treat to meet one of Kathy’s blog friends and I have to tell you I became mesmerised by your words today. I loved your story and wanted to keep on reading some more! It has been a pleasure meeting you. 🙂
Nice to meet you too Joanne! I went over and read your piece on being authentic. So true!
Little brothers sounds a bit like Big Brother/Big Sisters in reverse. I think it is probably needed in more areas of the country than just the great north. What a great idea, and I know Dawn was one of their greatest volunteers of all time.
Awwwww…… thank you Sara!
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Dawn. It’s so interesting and everything seems so new to me as I haven’t been to any other places of the States except California.
But isn’t it fun to learn this way Priscilla? 🙂
Hello, Dawn. It is very nice to meet you. You have such an interesting story, and your images are beautiful. Looking forward to getting to know you better over at your blog. 🙂
Nice to meet you too Robin! I’ll go check out your blog too. Kathy was so nice to share hers with me so I can meet new people!
Hi Dawn! I think we’ve said hello to each other a couple times at each other’s blogs when something has drawn our attention that way. Nice to meet you with more detail! Your story of moving to a place than many long to vacation reminds me of my own mother’s story and her big move, on her own years after my parents divorced, to our little vacation penninsula here in Massachusetts, Cape Cod. She, however, still lives in that vacation spot.
Yes we have said hello a few times! Nice to meet you again. Cape Cod sounds heavenly, glad your mother is still enjoying it!
Hello Dawn, it’s such a pleasure to meet you! I’ve always enjoyed what you share on Kathy’s blog. Your wonderful insights and the word images of life both above and below the bridge. It’s always such a treat to see another part of the country (or the world) through the eyes of someone who truly loves and appreciates it.
Isn’t that the truth Colleen…one of the benefits of the internet is to let us experience through others all parts of the world, immediately and almost personal. Nice to meet you too!
Nice to cross paths again with you, Dawn! Your tree pictures are so lovely and enchanting! I thoroughly enjoyed your story about Marie, your adopted grandmother – it’s wonderful to find someone whose companionship enriched your life as much as yours did for her.
“It is difficult to realize how great a part of all that is cheerful and delightful in the recollections of our own life is associated with trees.”
~ Wilson Flagg
Nice to run into you again too Barbara! Marie was special.
Great story, and a background that I didn’t know from reading your regular blog. But the photos, as always, are quite familiarly lovely.
Dawn, thank you again for sharing of yourself here. It always seems we learn something so different about a person from reading a guest blog. It feels like people try to summarize parts of their lives–and it can be so fascinating. I liked learning more about your time in the Upper Peninsula and your wonderful heart-melting relationship with the Little Brothers and, especially, Marie. Hopefully, someday you will make a return trip to the U.P. and we can meet or go for a walk in the woods. I so appreciate your willingness to do this guest blog. Hope you are enjoying these nice spring days.