I spent the labor day weekend this year "up north" (any Michiganders out there will understand this to mean anyplace in Michigan north of, say, Mount Pleasant, the middle knuckle of Michigan's mitten). "Up north" is a place that I hold dear, it is a place that reminds me of family, of solitude, history and a place I always considered to be my favorite place ever since I was young.
[The view from the cottage porch--feet up, rocking chair]
That said, I've been spending the last two years trying to put into words what this place means to me--most specifically, my grandparents' cottage near Cheboygan, about 20 minutes from tourist-y Mackinaw City. The cottage sits on chilly, clear Lake Huron, yet is tucked away by a winding dirt road, thick pines and bushes. For two years, I've had pieces of a poem playing in my head, with talk of beach grass like snakes, birch trees unwrapping like the paper on a present, and the springs that trickle from the woods into the rocky lake.
[Clear waters, smooth stones]
But still, still, I can't seem to catch the poem. I've written out numerous drafts, started from scratch, and had workshops and helpful comments. The question keeps coming down to: what is this poem about? why do you want to share this place? what does it mean to you that makes you want others to know?
And I can't put my finger on it.
Maybe the poem is meant to convey the calming lullaby that the scenery of "up north" is to me. But, still, the cottage is "Kabibanoka" (the cruel north wind) and the cold, refreshing, harshness of the cottage, of "up north" is something that needs to be conveyed as well. But, how can something be a soothing lullaby and harsh and cruel? How can I explain this to people who've never experienced Lake Huron's white sands, and freezing creeks, its wildflowers sprouting on the beach, and the dark runoff that looks like amber?
I guess I'll keep trying. Maybe this poem just isn't meant to be written yet. Maybe, for now, I need to let it sit, let it bob like a piece of driftwood, let it get smoothed down like the broken bottles on the beach until it turns into beach glass. Maybe then, the poem, and I, will be ready.
[Sandy beach, wooded trees]