Who is this “Miss Roth?” She is both petite and diminutive in stature – barely more than five feet tall, and somewhat gnarled now, at the age of 93. Her eyes are bright and intelligent, with an underlying glimmer of mirth and goodwill. She speaks with an authority that belies her size, and she’s always ready to talk about the latest book just added to a prodigious reading list (she has concentrated heavily, over the years, on her favorite historical figure: Winston Churchill).
During the year of focusing on writing a book, recently, I had a hiatus from wandering (ok, except for Egypt in December…). It helped me realize just how much I love being at home. I really do. It’s seductive to have your things in a semblance of order and routines well in hand. There’s something to be said for sticking around and showing up for all the stuff of daily life. You get to be with friends, of course, including the four-footed sorts. There’s time to attend to various stacks of neglected detail. I even got to chip away at that accumulated pile of good intentions.
At a certain point, however, when the intensity of the project died down and the demands on my time took a turn, I was reminded of the road…and it has been calling to me ever since.
We come today to the north shore of Lake Huron, near the eastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Waves lap in a relaxed fashion onto the cobblestone beach just a few feet away. Ash-grey sky blends with blue-grey water on the southern horizon. There is a gentle, welcome breeze of air, like silk. Sunshine dances onto the deck like patchwork through the green of the cedars overhead. Seventy-something degrees. Morning. Some places on earth are magic, and “Up North” is one of them.
Being a big believer in listening to those quiet whispers in your soul that serve so well as guides, I found myself driving yesterday to Frederick Meijer Gardens for a bit of Gray Tunnel Relief (GTR). The Gray Tunnel was named by the man formerly known as my husband, who loathed the day-after-day grayness of this lake-effect affected patch of terrain known as western Michigan.
It seems worst at this time of year, even though the optimist in me knows that the days are, in fact, getting longer. Although it’s personal policy never to complain about the weather, it can be challenging to maintain a chin-up attitude when confronted by the monocolor of late January—especially when a warm front adds fog to everything in sight, from the dirty old snow to the unyielding grey-scale of the sky.
The billboards proclaiming relief at the end of a flight to the warm, sandy beaches south of here are not helpful when that’s just not in the cards for whatever reason, so, my soul whispers, why not go to the Gardens?
As I was driving home along the quiet streets of the middle of the night from a medical call at 0330 (that’s 3:30 a.m.) recently, that old Army pitch came to mind: “Join the Army, See the World.”
We had been summoned to the bedside of an older man newly-confronted by a cardiac situation which has involved being cardioverted (shocked) two times in the past couple of weeks. When he awakened with that sense of a racing heart again, it was understandably freaky–especially in the wee hours of the night. I’m glad they called; it was reassuring to the family for our trained eyes to come as first responders and help him and his wife cope until the ambulance with its paramedics arrived.