The view from Sputnik right now looks almost identical to Gustav Klimt’s Birch Forest. I have a collection of Klimt paintings on postcards, one of very few non-book luxury items that I own and treasure. They spark more than just joy. I hold Birch Forest up to the window to compare. I’ve been awake for about thirty minutes and half of that time has been spent looking back and forth between Klimt’s woods and my woods, Kilmt’s imagination and my reality: morning light, the Hiawatha National Forest.
Coffee is on. Fingers and brain are warming up. Now it’s time to write.
Yesterday, when I woke up at my secret waterfront spot on Rabbit Run, I knew it would be my last morning there. I’ve been on the road for two months and at this point I have developed a bit of a rhythm; I move for about week, and then I remain in one place for about a week. I don’t time it out intentionally. It just happens. It feels right. Two weeks ago, I put down similar short-term roots in Baldwin, MI, in the heart of Manistee National Forest. I loved that little town, and I especially loved Bonnie, the librarian at Pathfinder Public Library. I loved that name, Pathfinder. Bonnie told me that “Baldwin Public Library” was already taken, so, back in the day, the town held a contest to come up with a name. Apparently it was a twelve-year-old boy who suggested Pathfinder, “because reading is the path to knowledge.” How charming is that? I also loved that the password to the wifi was “readabook” and that the library was next door to an 85-year-old, third generation barber named Nols Duffy who told me all about his ex-wife while shaving me. Next door, I found an accurate compass for fifty cents.
Anyway, I had a hard time leaving Baldwin. And, yesterday, I had a hard time leaving St. Ignace. But when it’s time to go it’s time to go. In a few weeks, I’ll have a hard time leaving another great place, and, God willing, it will keep happening again and again.
I spent most of my last day in St. Ignace on Mackinac Island, after a morning trip to the Family Fare for groceries (five bucks for spinach, apples and eggs - not organic, but whatever, you win some, you lose some) and the wonderful medium-sized St. Ignace public library, which got more than enough Bill Loundy energy this week. I make it a point to never rush anywhere for anything - because why? - so I wasn’t bummed to board the two o’clock ferry, though I was initially aiming to catch the ten or eleven. I took my time packing and I’m glad I did. I brought bug spray, sunscreen, five pieces of bread, an apple, an orange, a tuna pouch, an avocado, a tomato, my blue water bottle, my journal, a small camping towel, and Just Kids. I wasn’t about to get stuck buying food on the island. Nineteen bucks on a ferry ticket was already the splurge of the month.
I finished the book just as the ferry arrived at Mackinac Island, but I felt like I was arriving to and from an entirely different dimension, an alternate reality, so intensely was I lost in Patti’s words. What can I say? It was amazing. Joan Didion’s blurb on the inside cover pretty much nails it: “This book is so honest and so pure as to count as true rapture.” I think about this book and these people for the rest of my life. Patti’s art was her life. It’s so inspiring to read about. I felt connected to her in a way that’s impossible to describe. I know what I love and I love what I do. Reading about Patti and Robert made me realize that if people think you’re crazy, you’re probably on the right track. And, it’s all about lifestyle, living your work, which is something I’m trying more and more to do. Life’s a party. Why shouldn’t it be?
I had a lot to think about while exploring the island, a strange place indeed. There are no cars anywhere on the island, and only about six hundred full-time residents. To say that these people live in a “fantasy land” would be an understatement. Making eye contact with locals is a bit unsettling. They almost smile too much. Of course I spent a lot of time imagining how wonderful and horrible it would be to live there, seasonally or year-round, especially given the uber-wealthy Martha’s Vineyard vibes, which I loathe and envy simultaneously. To get my bearings, I sat on the lawn in front of the fort, ate half my food and people-watched. The orange was the best. For some time, I observed a group of friends, seemingly my age, who were drinking beers and eating burgers and fries under an umbrella, having a ball. I let myself feel profoundly sad and lonely with my bruised vegetables in a plastic bag. Why am I living like this when I could be living like that? And then I remembered all of the answers and quickly I was happy again.
The landscape around the island was breathtaking. I foraged mushrooms and journaled on the edges of cliffs that looked out over Lake Huron. At some point, I wrote: “The seascape is like Big Sur but the waters are Key West.” I walked and walked and walked, for hours, and I felt refreshed, calm, and invigorated.
I returned to St. Ignace after 9pm. Still bright. The Summer Solstice. Auspicious. After walking a mile to Sputnik, my peace and clarity disappeared for a scary moment. I realized I was hungry and tired and I had no clue where to go. After a few moments of deliberation – comparing my road atlas to the Hiawatha National Forest map I picked up earlier in the week – I decided to head west on Route 2. Great choice. The rest of the evening transpired like a dream: An orange sky over Lake Michigan. KD Lang’s Constant Cravings blasting on the radio. A dirt road to clearing less than a mile off the highway. Mashed potatos and spiced beans, covered in spinach. A bit of an aphid problem, but no big deal. Honey and coconut shavings on a piece of rye bread. Exhausted. Bed. And then I fell asleep in Klimt’s magical woods.
That was yesterrday.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about today.
This might work.