In my twenty-five years of life, I've lived in four states. I've traveled to eight countries. I've seen so much of the beauty that the world has to offer.
I spent just under two years in California. I was a baby then. I didn't like the water. I lived in a house I do not remember with two parents and a beautiful yellow labrador retriever who enjoyed eating the fruit that fell in our backyard.
Then I lived in New Jersey. I remember that our house was "upside down" with the kitchen on the second story. My brother was born in New Jersey. I made friends with a set of twins. I dressed up as a mermaid for Halloween. I hid behind the couch of the twins' house the day my family moved to Texas.
Then, it was off to Texas. This is where I grew up. I picked the smaller bedroom with wood floors and clown wallpaper, though my parents tried to persuade me to take the larger, carepeted bedroom. We later took off all the clown wallpaper and painted the walls a light pink. Then years later we painted the walls a pepto bismol pink and sponged the walls with a lighter pink. For years, I was the only little girl on the street. I did my best to keep up with the boys by playing football and cowboys/indians.
I grew up in Texas. I found myself and lost myself. Then found myself again and eventually lost myself again. I made friends. I rode the bus to school, something I was not able to do in New Jersey. I swam in the pool in our backyard. I had sleepovers with friends. I stayed up chatting online and writing. I thought I fell in-love in Texas, but I didn't know what love meant. I don't think anyone really does at that age.
After a year of college in Nacogdoches, TX, I spent three weeks in Europe and then moved to Oklahoma, where I now live.
Through these moves, there has been one constant. My constant has been Michigan. Both my parents were born and raised in Michigan; both left after graduating college and neither moved back. I always hoped to experience Michigan as a resident, but it was not meant to be.
My relationship with Michigan is one of summers spent swimming in cold lake water, of walking into town for ice cream, of sleeping in the converted attic with sheets sticking to me some nights and shivering under the sheets some nights.
The cottage began as a one-bedroom home. My grandmother visited the home with her parents as a child for long weekends and week vacations. Eventually, my mother visited the home with her parents and siblings for long weekends and week vacations. My grandparents later purchased the cottage. It now has a bedroom and two bathrooms on the main level. There are narrow, creaky stairs to walk up that open to an attic. There are three twin-sized beds and a full-size bed in the attic.
There's a guest house close to the garage with a bed, a sink, and a toilet. The water only runs cold, and there's no heater or air conditioner in the guest cottage.
This is my favorite place in the world. New York City might have bright lights and Broadway. Paris offers the Eifeel Tower. But I would much rather be in Suttons Bay, Michigan.
I see it more clearly that my childhood home. I hear the creaks of the stairs and the waves of the lake. I smell the fresh corn and the mint and the plump tomatoes. I taste the clean air. I crave the homemade ice cream.
It's my home in so many ways. When I am there, my heart is at rest. I feel at peace, like I belong. It's the place that inspires me to write. It's where I want to be almost all the time. It's my Northern Star, the guiding light that brings me home when I lose my way and forget what is the most important in life.
I learned to daydream here. I wore hula skirts with my grandmother and pretended the creek was Hawaii. I went on adventures with friends, exploring the secret passages in the houses aroun the cottage. I scraped me knees crawling through the sewer system. I kayaked from the cottage to the library and walked the boardwalk. I made friends here with myself and with others. I combined my past and present with the past and present of my family. I pretended like I could play the piano, like I could sing. I dressed up in my great-grandmother's clothes. I watched the weather change in the span of five minutes just like I so often changed.
Suttons Bay has grown. But it has stayed the same. Just like I have grown but also stayed the same. It is my heart. It is my guiding light. It is the one place I know will always be there. It envelopes me like a hooded sweatshirt just out of the dryer.
Sometimes, if the wind blows right in Oklahoma and the clouds cover the sun, it feels like I am there. And I let that feeling wash over me again and again.
(title from "been a long day" by rosi galan)