Autumn’s Migration

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Autumn in Northern Michigan is typically a time of migrations. The summer tourists have all fled for warmer climes by the the end of August, of course, but those who come to marvel briefly at the leaves in October find themselves ushered away by November’s northerly winds following those last remnants of color. Meanwhile, those of us who call this place home have the unique honor of quietly witnessing these migrations and some even grander ones.

The chipper birds of spring and summer pack up their bags and head south while the hardier birds dig in their heels and huddle together in the forest, finding in themselves a willingness to cooperate they sorely lack in times of warmth and plenty. The sun changes its path across the sky — it, too, migrating more toward south. The daylight becomes more fleeting and yet — due to its scarcity — more beautiful.

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The sound of wind rushing over the lake, the calmest of whispers in summertime, becomes a moan of longing… occasionally a shout of might cutting through the layers of your winter clothing, unhindered, right to your soul. All that is great, terrible and beautiful is contained in the singularity of that voice. You can’t help but shiver!

I guess that’s one of the things I love about winter: its harshness, its reality. Before the snow sets in, blanketing the world in white and silver, November gives you a chance to reminisce in autumn while exploring among the ruins of summer.

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We were fortunate enough to be able to host my mom for the month of November. Just before first light on a warm November morning in the Deep South, we stole her away, carrying her back north with us. It was a lovely time to share with her all of these transitions and migrations.

While she was here, we dragged her up and down the dunes — hurrying to stay with the daylight to catch the often fleeting glimpses of winter blue dappled across the silver and grey sky. On one of our excursions, we traveled to the northernmost point of the peninsula at Leelanau State Park and toured the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

Standing there where the peninsula narrows and gradually sinks beneath the immense blue of the lake was a special treat on such a clear day, the blue of the water and the blue of the sky mingling so closely together.

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The Grand Traverse Lighthouse sits at the tip of Leelanau County where Grand Traverse IMG_5922Bay opens out into the vastness of Lake Michigan. Touring the lighthouse and climbing the tower was a fun adventure. I’m glad mom shook off her fear of heights and followed closely at our heels so she could enjoy the view as much as we were able to.

Inside the lighthouse is an interesting museum which guides you through the living quarters of the light keeper and his family. There was a lovely Christmas Tree in the living room, candle-making supplies at the ready in the kitchen, and a book of Christmas carols sitting open on the stand of the old pump organ.

Later that same day, we also took a walk through the woods in the state park. Being surrounded by the woods in late November’s stark display of wooden sculpture is such a contrast to being shrouded by summer’s cloak of green. With the leaves gone and the sun shining through the forest, the evergreens in the undergrowth and the blue skies above were a beautiful counterpoint to the study in grey and brown before us.

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The trail was carpeted by countless fallen leaves warmed by the sun, sending up the sweet smell of late autumn. Winding up and around the dunes of the Leelanau coastline, the trail beckoned us further through the quiet woods until at last we could hear the voice of the lake again. We sat on the overlook platform for a while, just taking it all in.

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And now, somehow, it’s December already. November passed as swiftly as the ever elusive daylight. Snow has fluttered down until every stark, outstretched branch is softened and brightened by its arrival.IMG_4731 The carpet of brown in the forest is now a puffy blanket of white. Though she left before winter was officially settled in, Mom was able to frolic about in a bit of snow for a short while before heading back south.

Autumn gathered up its belongings as winter was politely unpacking and settling in. In the darkness of early evening, mom was able to relish a few of those quiet evenings by the fire as snow swirled past the windows, muffling out the sounds of a world that resists silence much as a child who is beyond tired fights sleep.

Winter’s first gift is quiet, followed closely (if we’re lucky) by peace. Hopefully, while lost in that quiet peacefulness, we’ll soon find energy to ponder daydreams of a bright and green spring to come.

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~ by Jason on December 11, 2012.

4 Responses to “Autumn’s Migration”

  1. Oh how I enjoyed my time there in Michigan with you and James. Laughs were so great and so were all the meals and trails and shopping. Sitting by the fire (far away)… was so peaceful. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was there. I didn’t miss all the sounds of trains, building of bridges and roads, and all the sounds of the city life.

    Something I was scared of was the Chicago airport, but overcame it as well (thinking of it as a mall) šŸ™‚ Flying is the way to go and I pray I can return soon. šŸ™‚ I love it in Michigan. I love being with the two of you. I love both of you. Thank you so much for sharing things with me and the things you both did for me. I miss ya’ll šŸ˜¦ Love mom

  2. Hi James & Jason. I was thinking of you over the Thanksgiving holiday and wondering back to the memory of your first Thankkgiving meal in your new house. What a long way you’ve progressed. The land you’ve clearly made your own now and it seems to have enfolded both of you into its magic. I never doubted for a minute that you would ‘get it’, the secret of living up here.
    Now that a new year is about to begin, how about sharing the magic of your home with us? I’m so curious to know if I’ve imagined it correctly.
    Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas.
    Always, Lynne D.

  3. Jason, your photos are lovely. I lived in northern Michigan for a year, stood on those shores and beneath those trees, and it truly is beautiful. I can’t say I miss the cold and the snow, but I do miss the beauty. Thank you for sharing your beautiful November.

  4. I love seeing your journeys through these wonderful places… Your images are just lovely. And your mom sounds so kind ā€” I wish mine would comment on my blog, haaaa!

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