Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stay-Cation: Day Two:

Country shopping, Harrison and a dream deferred:
Like hordes of other Michiganders, the Brandt contingent headed north. First stop: Pride and Country. Just north of Frankenmuth on M-46 are a couple of barns filled to the rafters with country items. If your country-decorating mind can envision it, Pride and Country sells it in one of its three barns and converted house. A stop at P&C usually means I catch up on my reading. However, I didn’t want to be the Stay-Cation ogre so I strolled the grounds. Beyond the various wallpaper and border options, beyond the antique window lights, beyond the place settings that Ma Ingals probably used to set the homestead table, beyond the farm implements that Pa Ingals used to break the sod, was the most inviting, comfortable, overstuffed chair I have ever laid eyes on or buns in. Usually, I’m not that ecstatic about country tables, couches or plates but this chair was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. This overstuffed body glove, promised great naps, great reads, great comfort. Actually, I should be typing this blog post from this delicately woven haven from heaven but it wouldn’t fit in my car or in my wallet.
Stop two on this Sta-Cation tour was Harrison, Michigan to visit my mom. We always drive by Wilson State Park and I’m baffled about why people choose to camp there. I’m a camper and nothing beats living in the remote wilderness for a few days: no electricity, no television, no cable, no satellite dish, no droning machines blowing grass bits into the street. Wilson State Park is five feet from the road, with only a chain-link fence separating the campers from Harrison residents. How can you call it camping when out your tent window you can see a flea market, McDonald’s, a pet salon and Jack’s Tree Stump Removal/Manicure Shop? I might as well throw up the tent in the Hall Road midway and name it Brandt State Park.

I’ve been plagued for years by one dream: Stevenson Lake is now a shallow puddle and the cottages I visited as a youth no longer exist. I always wake depressed after this recurring dream. As a youngster I learned how to water-ski, fish and dodge barn swallows on this small inland lake. Kid Stupid can shriek all he wants about summertime in northern Michigan, but Stevenson Lake was my summer paradise. E.B. White crafted “Once More to the Lake”, an essay where he reflects on his boyhood summers spent on a lake and the bittersweet changes he sees now that he’s an adult. If you’ve ever spent any time in a summer cottage on a peaceful lake, immediately stop reading this blog post and read E.B. White’s essay. Charlotte may have magically webbed “some pig” but after reading this account you will know this was “some lake.” I digress.
While touring nearby Clare, I decided to find Stevenson Lake and rid my sub conscience of these haunting images. I found it magically preserved. Former seasonal cottages were now year-round houses, but the lake was the same, complete with meandering docks and makeshift diving boards perched atop rafts. The glint of the water was still mesmerizing and the green darkness across the lake still mysteriously intriguing.
"Summertime, oh summertime, pattern of life indelible, the fade proof lake, the woods unshatterable, the pasture with the sweet fern and the juniper forever and ever, summer without end; this was the background, and the life along the shore was the design, the cottages with their innocent and tranquil design, their tiny docks with the flagpole and the American flag floating against the white clouds in the blue sky, the little paths over the roots of the trees leading from camp to camp and the paths leading back to the outhouses and the can of lime for sprinkling, and at the souvenir counters at the store the miniature birch-bark canoes and the post cards that showed things looking a little better than they looked. This was the American family at play..."

Needless to say, I slept well at the close of Stay-Cation Day Two.

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