Places, People, Poetry

Tahquamenon Falls October 16

But the water I give them shall be a well springing up into everlasting life.  John 4:14

Dad drove our family from Warren to Kentucky every summer for vacation. We came home with a trunk full of canned green beans and corn from Granny’s garden.
Our neighbor Bill Rowe drove his family to destinations such as Yosemite and Disneyland. They returned with more stickers on the back window of their station wagon. When time came to sell their car, his wife Marion stopped by our house and asked Mom if she had a single-edged razor blade to remove the decals.
“No one will buy our car if they know where we’ve traveled,” she said.
I wasn’t envious. The McCoy Bottom and The Breaks Interstate Park with my cousins satisfied my childhood thirst for adventure. I didn’t need Mackinac Island or Old Faithful. I needed kinfolk.
After my parents’ divorce, Mom reestablished her household in the McCoy Bottom. Envisioning a brood of grandchildren, she built a new home with an upstairs roost. The ideal Nana, she fed her grandkids Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast. They swam with their cousins in Aunt Kat’s built-in pool. Mom cooked a mess of green beans and corn bread for supper.
Mel and I walk up Tahquamenon Fall's 94 steps

Although my husband and I camped once with our girls in Michigan’s Wilderness State Park and spent a day on Mackinac Island, I preferred the comfort and company of my mother’s home.
Furthermore, my family moaned the only time I insisted we exit at the Natural Bridge Park off Kentucky’s Mountain Parkway. 
“Mom! Let’s just go to Nana’s,” they pleaded.
Forty years later, there is no gathering of generations in the McCoy Bottom, for most matriarchs and patriarchs are buried on a mountainside and in Lexington Cemetery. Children and grandchildren have grown and gone their separate ways. Aunt Kat’s pool stands stagnant.
Within this gradual and pervasive emptiness, I’ve come to need places and their stickers on my car’s windows. In no certain order, I’ve checked off the following on my bucket list: Yosemite. Muir Woods. Olympic National Park.  Washington D.C. Gettysburg. The Greenbrier. The Biltmore Estate.
Without exception, the places call unsolicited. Most recently, in my Monday night writing group, a friend read a beautiful poem she composed in honor of a childhood visit to Tahquamenon Falls.
I reserved our critter sitter for three days and a room for two nights in the MacCleod House B&B in Newberry. My husband drove us north with my friend’s poem on my mind—94 steps down to Tahquamenon Falls, then upward. I heard the thundering waters as we sped through the golden passage of I75 to the Mackinac Bridge.
On the road to Munising

Suspended above the indivisible space where Huron and Superior merge, I considered both bridge and lakes with awe and praise. For the Straights of Mackinac speak of the constant joining of springs and rivers that endures the winds of time.
And the Tahquamenon Falls, dear Reader, those maple syrup colored waters that submit to perpetual plunges, turn to foam, and flow to Superior?

“Come, drink,” they say. “Buy another sticker.”