Monday, July 13, 2009

Home from Vacation

I returned Friday evening from a trip to Lake Michigan with my almost-15 year old twins, Nick and Will. We stayed with friends in Glenn and visited South Haven, Saugatuck and Holland. The weather was ideal and the area was beautiful. I especially loved Saugatuck, an artist's colony of brightly painted frame homes, little shops and restaurants and many gardens. South Haven was a treat too, and we enjoyed the beach by Lake Michigan.

Like many East Coasters, my friends in Glenn and I marveled at midwestern places. Doug, one of our hosts and a Maryland native too, compared South Haven to what a Maryland beach resort might have been like 60 years ago. At first, I didn't understand what he was talking about as I walked around a bright and up-to-date downtown, but then I "got" it: no high rise condos or hotels, no tangle of traffic, no mobs of people. It was a pretty and prosperous-seeming place filled with framed cottages and small inns and hotels. We found parking easily and while, at the height of the season, it was definitely not empty, it was not overcrowded either. It was liveable, manageable, human scaled. I was a little surprised, as it is only about an hour and a half (I'm told) from Chicago and a watering hole for people from that city.

Anyway, we love the midwest. We were able to take a long, quiet canoe ride down the Allegan River and see the windmill in Holland, home of Hope College.

However, Barnesville also felt like home when we got here. After 11 months, it feels as if we live here and are not shell-shocked squatters. We're finally enjoying our acre of lawn. Roger hung the hammock and the boys built a swing. Last night, their friend came over and they all went swimming in the lake down the hill from our house. Because Quaker Music Camp is taking place at the school, we often here beautiful music drifting up the hill to our house.

In Michigan, our hosts commented "it's not the place, it's the people" that make you feel at home. I knew what they were saying--as their older generation of Michigan relatives die, our friends feel less drawn to travel 12 hours to their summer home in Glenn. By the same token, we miss the people back home in Maryland. On the other hand, a place can draw you.

I wonder what you think? I continue to be interested in the question of heimlich or homelikeness, and what makes a place a home. I would maintain its more than just people. But what else is it?


WestBankArn said...

Good show: I grew up in South Haven (did you walk down Quaker Street?), worked a college summer in Saugatuck, inherited two wooded lots in Glen (sold for down payment on nephew's two-flat in Chicago.)

This is first I've heard of "Allegan" river. At one point the Kalamazoo River (enters Lake Michigan at Saugatuck) is dammed to form Lake Allegan, but the only other rivers around there are both Black - one thru Holland, the other thru South Haven.

One Holland MI story I like: In the 1970s Holland MI built that new park, and they wanted a real Dutch windmill to put in it. They went to the Netherlands, and were told that because people from all over the world wanted the same thing, it got to the point they had to put a freeze on windmill exports. But after considering "the long and close relationship between Holland MI and the netherland", the legislature gave a special dispensation... thus 'De Zwan" I'm sure you saw it.

Arn Nelson
Chicago IL

Diane said...

Hi Arn,

Thanks for the comments.I could be wrong about the "Allegan" river: it was in Allegan Park. The canoe rental place was in the woods near Fennville down a dirt road. The whole area was lovely.