The Truth Is Place (A Foundation for an Artistic Life)

HD Sunset“A song to thee, fair State of mine,
Michigan, my Michigan.
But greater song than this is thine,
Michigan, my Michigan.
The whisper of the forest tree,
The thunder of the inland sea,
Unite in one grand symphony
Of Michigan, my Michigan…”
~Douglas Malloch (from Michigan, My Michigan,1902)

Late- Winter Blues: I’ve done a bit of bitching about my home state this week. More specifically, about the weather here. Which is unusual for me. I’ve written about my love of the Snowy ravinechange of seasons, and my fondness for winter, here. But what a winter we’ve had here in the Mighty Mitten! With record-setting snow levels and a near record number of days below zero degrees Fahrenheit, I think I’ve finally gotten my fill.

But I still can’t imagine living anywhere else. In fact, even after such a brutal winter, I can honestly say that if I could move anywhere, I’d move further north, right here in my home state. Give me the tall, singing pines of Hartwick, the deep blue lakes of Leelanau, the soaring dunes of Sleeping Bear, the cold, clear streams of Little Traverse Bay.

Soaring Pines That SingTighten Your Rust Belt: I so often hear that people’s impression of Michigan is not one just of inclement weather, but one of closed auto factories, high unemployment and crime. I even saw a comment on a tourism site that condemned the whole state as having a “foul, sulfurous smell.” This from a guy who lived in Chicago. Makes one wonder about the prevailing westerly winds that originate from his industry intensive area. But nevertheless, it’s a bit silly to say that an entire state can have a certain odor.

Certainly Michigan has more than its share of closed factories. We’ve had our ups and downs. But to anyone who imagines these things define our state, I simply say: You’ve obviously never been here. Or at least: You’ve never really looked around outside the somewhat rusty belt of the state’s major cities’ limits.

Been Called Home:

I wanna live in a land of lakes, where the great waves break
And the night runs right into the day
I wanna be with the ones I left, but I’m way out west
And the years keep on slipping away
I
wanna run on the sacred dunes, through the ancient ruins
Where the fires of my ancestors bur
ned
I remember that fateful day, w
hen I ran away
And you told me I couldn’t return

You made me swear I’d never forget, I made a vow I’d see you again
I will be
back one day, and I’ll find you there by the great big lake…” ~Lord Huron (aka Ben Schneider of Okemos, MI, from the song, I Will Be Back One Day)

I have lived elsewhere. I’ve lived near enough to smell the ocean in Southern California; within sight of the capital across one of the majestic lakes of Madison, Wisconsin; in a quaintHazelhust as Lothlorien turn-of-the-century neighborhood in suburban Chicagoland; and in a rural village on the edge of farmland so flat and far-reaching one can watch an errant dog run away for days.

And I love to travel and spend time in other parts of the US and the world. I’ve seen places so beautiful they take your breath. I’ve been among folks so welcoming you’d think they considered all visitors to be kin. But these old dirt roads always beckon me. No other place can truly be home for me. As excited as I am each time we get out to see the wide world, I always end up longing for the contentment of home. In all the years I lived elsewhere, I think I always knew I’d end up back here.

Finding My Truth Is Place:

“In the end, of course, the truth is place.

Place is where we first become conscious of the world outside ourselves, then outside the family, then outside the community. Place is where we draw our first and last breath. Place either smothers our spirits, or liberates it.

A startlingly beautiful and varied place like Michigan most often frees the spirit. In doing so, it is parent to creativity—sometimes to everlasting art.” ~Dave and Jack Dempsey (from Ink Trails: Michigan’s Famous and Forgotten Authors)

I’d like to think I would’ve pursued my writing journey if I’d ended up living elsewhere, but sometimes I wonder. If I had started elsewhere, I’m guessing it would’ve been quite a different journey. Certainly living here, where I drew my first breath, and became conscious of the world outside myself, has been conducive to pursuing my writing dream. Maybe I’m as rooted in my journey here as Georgia O’Keeffe was in the New Mexican desert, or as Anne Rice is in New Orleans. Not to compare myself to them, but I do feel my home is my artistic foundation. Few writers have been more closely identified with a place than Carl Sandburg with Chicago (“City of big shoulders…”), and yet he did much of his writing on his rooftop deck overlooking the Lake Michigan shore, less than a mile from my house.

Majestic CloudinessThere is such a comforting lull to life in the woods near the shore. I even love the cloudiness—a condition often experienced living on the leeward side of a great lake. I remember longing for cloudy days when I lived in SoCal, where they are rare. Big billowing clouds have a way of filling me a nostalgic melancholy. For me it’s an ideal state for creativity—for letting my thoughts wander. I’m sure many of you won’t get it, but perhaps some of you will, when I say that cloudiness takes the pressure off.

And history is all around me. Our roads and beach paths were once trod by Potawatomi and Ottawa Indians; French voyageurs paddled our shores and rivers; and English forts originated our nearest towns—perfect for immersing myself in a historical world on the page.

Dania Looks Suspiciously Like Michigan: For those who have read my work, whether you realize it or not, you have undoubtedly sensed my world here in the Mighty Mitten in the settings. From the blue ribbon of the Danian River, to the log walls around the village of Danihem, to the pine and fir forested foothills of the Skolani Rainy day in the foresthunting grounds, and eastward to the ancient beeches and oaks of Afletam Forest and the open grasslands of Oium—Michigan haunts the world I’ve created on the page. Even the weather is familiar. There are lots of cloudy and inclement days in Dania—have you noticed?

I once thought my first novel would be a fantasy based on first encounters between Native Americans and Europeans, set here in the Great Lakes Region. In hindsight I can see how much of my interest in that history suffuses my story. It’s in the conflict between a self-identified civilized culture versus another they deem to be less so. I particularly see it in my creation of the Skolani tribe. It’s in their love of, and dependence on, their horses. I see it in their Kabitka—a moveable village of wagons and hide tents.

And I haven’t discarded the notion of writing the one set in the New World. After all, the research is right outside my door.

For Those Who See: As for our tough Michigan winter, I know this too shall pass. Past experience shows me that things change, even in the Mighty Mitten. I might even say especially here. And there’s beauty in change. Beauty that has the ability to inspire.

“To those who see bare branches –
and know they hold the buds of spring
 
To those who see stars falling in the heavens
and know the constellations will remain forever
 
To those who see long lines of geese fade far beyond –
and know they come back again to nest
 
To those who see with wonder in their hearts and know –
what glories there can be for those who see…”

~Benzonia, Michigan native Gwen Frostic (To Those Who See, from Contemplations, 1973)

IMG_0329 

What about you? Do you believe that “the truth is place”? Has your world informed your writing? When you hear the name “Michigan” do closed factories or flourishing forests and white sand beaches come to mind? How do you feel about clouds? 

34 comments on “The Truth Is Place (A Foundation for an Artistic Life)

  1. Julie Luek says:

    Vaughn, when I was in college in Indiana, it was a big deal to head to the dunes in Michigan. I never took the opportunity to go and I wish I would have. My brother attended grad school way up north in Houghton and loved its beauty (if not its cold winters!). i think most states are a mix. For example, upper state New York is way different than New York City. In my home state of Colorado, I think Denver isn’t a very lovely city, but I love living in the mountains. At 8000 feet, the winters are cold and long, but the quiet beauty and incredible summers and falls almost make up for it.

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    • I live fairly close to Warren Dunes State Park, which is the most visited park in MI, and I can attest to the fact that it’s a big deal for the tri-state area. On any given sunny summer Sunday, the cars line up for miles on Red Arrow Hwy, waiting to get in–most with Indiana or Illinois license plates. Houghton is beautiful! So much of the UP really is stunning, and much different than the mitten. I agree about the variety in most states, and I think NY is an extreme example. Such a remarkable urban center versus such gorgeous mountains and lakes upstate.

      I can only imagine how inspiring your home state must be for you. It really is a special place. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Julie!

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  2. Laura K. Cowan says:

    Yes I love my Michigan too, though I have fallen in love with the central California coast nearly as much and both landscapes fill my writing, even so far as becoming characters taking part in the drama. The importance of being in a place like these with trees and flowing water and big waves and quiet prairies where the loudest sound is the squeak of bird’s wings makes me take the question of moving extra seriously, because I know the place I end up will have a great impact on me, my quality of life, and my writing. Thanks for this, Vaughn. It was lovely from beginning to end. :)

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    • Oh good, a fellow Michigander weighs in. The central coast of the Golden State really is special, isn’t it? And a lot of writers sought it out, including one of my writing heroes, Steven Pressfield. I know what you mean–as a writer you have to take any move into deep consideration. When I’m in the northern part of the lower peninsula (our annual or semi-annual getaway area), I can totally imagine transferring my writing life there. My favorite days here are when it’s quiet (no tourists), and the waves are crashing loud enough to hear at my house. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I rush to my writing desk. (It’s even better when it’s cloudy to boot. ;-) )

      Thanks for sharing you favorite places, Laura! :-)

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  3. vpchandler says:

    It’s been a tough winter.

    I don’t know about “truth is place”. I guess I’m not a deep enough thinker to address that.
    I do identify with the places I’ve lived and they affect my writing. We lived on a remote ranch for 6 years (and another one for 4) and it’s the setting for my book. I miss it. I miss looking for fossils and arrowheads. I currently live in the “country” but it’s like a big backyard, not very wild. It’s hard to explain the feeling of coming across a spot where it’s evident the Comanches camped there and made arrowheads. I miss the herds of wild pigs, raising cattle, and even the snakes. (I don’t miss the number of snakes. I’d just like to see one every now and then.) People talk about how life in the city is exciting. It’s boring for me. I miss the country.
    One of the reasons I wanted to write the book is to show the world what it was like out there.

    What do I think of when I hear “Michigan”? A hand. LOL I don’t know enough about it to make an informed decision. Well, of course I think of the beach now because of all the pictures you share.

    I like moving clouds. My favorites are the swirling ones just before a tornado forms. LOL It’s true! I miss the excitement of watching them form. Many times we’d sit in lawn chairs outside, watching those clouds.

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    • You are a perfect example of this phenomenon, Val! I agree, I’m not too excited by living in an urban area, although it’s nice to be close to a vibrant one in Chicago.

      I love hearing stories about the ranch and your snake hunting days. And I completely understand your attraction to the clouds before a tornado. It’s spooky but entrancing, watching the sky before a storm. Around here folks flock to the beach to watch a storm roll in. Sounds crazy, but we do. And we’re often sent scurrying for cover drenched for our efforts.

      Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to experience Texas through the window of your story!

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  4. I think you would write a wonderful Native American saga. Like the wild, beautiful land you describe in your novels, you have the big heart for it. It’s that heart that makes the place home.

    As for a place that features in writing, I grew up as a transplant from another land. I hadn’t thought about it until I read this post, but in most of my work my main characters are transplants from other places and they always seem to be seeking that place in their heart that feels like home. Thanks for the insight, V.

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    • Another exemplar of the phenomenon! That’s a wonderful insight about your work. I certainly feel the pulse of Southern California in your work, and now that you point it out, that longing is such an important aspect of its beauty! How cool is that?! :-)

      Thanks for sharing your fascinating relationship to place on the page, B!

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  5. ddfalvo says:

    What a wonderful post to read this morning! I enjoyed all the visuals, especially the errant dog running for seen miles.

    Last year, I walked around in the last snowfall, enjoying the feather-light flakes and snow-induced hush that always speaks to my soul, thinking how much I would miss the magic.
    This winter makes me wish our house had sold sooner and my time in IL had truly ended on that sweet note.
    Everywhere I have ever lived or visited has had dangerous beauty that draws me in and fills me with awe. NJ is home to torrential rainfalls and snowflakes the size of a silver dollar. Tornados turn IL’s landscape an eerie blue-grey like an old fashioned 8mm film. South Carolina has mesmerizing electrical storms that light up the coastline and split the sky. I love it all, and it all finds a home in my WIP.

    I will forever think of MI as warm and inviting as your beautiful craftsman home and the breathtaking shorelines of mercurial Lake Michigan. (And this makes me wonder, are lakes feminine? The Lady Lake Michigan?) Dania’s fearsome beauty, ever immortalized in your books, is as inspiring and compelling as any real earthly paradise.

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    • Wow–what a lovely comment. Clearly your work is infused with your sense of place… Or should I say “places.” ;-) I particularly love that pre-tornado sky description, D–you nailed it! I think you’re right about her (Lake Michigan). She can be so placid. But look out for that tempestuous side! In any case, she’s always beautiful to behold.

      I’m glad you agree, having visited both my “place” and Dania. Let’s me know I’m on the right track. :-) Thanks for sharing your poetic insight, D!

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  6. Thea says:

    I love this country. Whenever I travel when I get back I want to kiss the ground. It’s place. It’s home. It’s got a hold on me

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  7. How I love your writing, Vaughn, and I was thrilled to read this morning’s post as I have been ruminating about “place” in my own fiction. Your post was a gift.

    I lived in Chicago for eight years, and fell in love with both Wisconsin and Michigan while I was there. I don’t miss the length of the winters or the humidity of the summers, but there was also something about the extremes that bonded me with my neighbors . . . camaraderie for sure. And the photos you post of your home and the water and the woods are stunning. I always lean my head close to my screen and inhale the fresh air, peace, and truth. And cherries. I miss Michigan cheery season.

    Bravo, friend!

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      • Well, cherry season *is* a very cheery one! :-) I do recall you saying that you’d “done time” here in the Midwest. I love all of the seasonal produce. Down around me it’s peaches, but I love going up to Traverse for cherry/cheery time.

        I think you’re right–the extremes do bring us together. You’ve reminded me of a June storm a few years ago. It came through at about 7 or 8pm, just as it was getting dark. It wasn’t a tornado, but straight-line winds from the lake felled scores of trees here, and knocked out power to the entire region. Everyone in our neighborhood ended up on our screen porch. So many roads were blocked, and we were honored that our neighbors said they just naturally gravitated to our house (we’re among the very few who live her full time). The whole community spent the weekend either on the safe end of a chainsaw or in work-gloves hauling branches away. It’s that kind of environment.

        Thanks so much for your kind praise, Sarah! It means a lot coming from one of my all-time favorite bloggers! :-)

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  8. Lovely post. :) I think place certainly is a vital part of Truth. Place can color Truth or just shade it, depending on one’s openness to it. I was born and grew up in the Los Angeles area. But I don’t find that LA particularly influences my work. I’ve spent time living in a gaeltacht in northwest Ireland. The days I spent honing my language skills and hill walking, the nights I spent singing, listening to Donegal fiddlers accompanied by a pint and the amazing scent of peat smoke informed my poet’s soul and will never leave me. The music of words is an integral part of writing for me. I’ve lived in Minneapolis for a long time, and the beauty of the lakes, the magnificent open sky, and the vibrancy of the seasons have all found their way into my being, and from there, into my work. I think if you are truly awake and aware in the world, you can’t seperate yourself from place. it is a part of you, as is the work.

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    • When we went to Ireland I shocked my wife by saying that I could imagine living there. I’m not even Irish, but the place definitely spoke to my soul. Having been to Minnesota several times and having read your work, I can see it in there. I love your point about being truly awake and aware. I agree, you can’t be separated from place–not completely.

      It’s funny but my brother has lived in S. Carolina for years, and can’t stand being in MI. We grew up in the same house, but not in the same place, if that makes sense. When I go down there, I can see that he has found his place in the world. So it’s not necessarily just about where you were born, or where you spent your childhood. I grew up in the suburbs of a mid-sized city. But the nearby forests parks and beaches are where my spirit flourished. Hence my seeking a forested shoreline.

      Thanks for the sharp insight, and for your kind praise, my Sister! :-)

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  9. deedetarsio says:

    Oh, Vaughn. *shakes head sadly* Growing up in Ennui, Ohio, your neighbor to the south, I couldn’t wait to get out of Dodge! You know I joke about only going home for two days in early October (because I’m equally petrified of tornadoes and being trapped in blizzards). But I can appreciate your homage to the beauty of home (from afar!). (BTW, we had another little ditty we used to sing about Michigan at Ohio State football games!)

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    • I really do consider Ennui a neighbor. And as they say, good fences make good neighbors. I would even cross the border during those two magnificent days in October to see you. Then you could still “admire” the Mighty Mitten from afar. And I have heard the ditty. A Buckeye once sang to me at a party (in SoCal of all places). I take solace in the fact that most of that ire is directed at the greater Ann Arbor area.

      And the animosity goes way back, since our home states are the only two US states to actually declare war on each other. What was that all about? Toledo? Really? And we got the UP as placation. Yeah, score one for the Mighty Mitten. You guys got Cedar Point, et al. And we get the bastion of culture that is the UP. (As any good youper will tell you: “Say ya to da UP, eh?”)

      [Please note that in singing the praises of my Midwestern home I didn’t even feel the need to resort to mentioning socks.]

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  10. Damn, now I’m really homesick for Maine again…you with the evocative prose and poetry. I’m still writing about Maine, even though I’ve left. Maybe eventually I’ll write about the South but I don’t know it nearly as well yet and don’t feel I can do it justice. I don’t love it, yet, although I love many things about it. As for smells…Georgia has a smell (no offense to any Georgians who might be reading your blog) and I think it comes from the soil. Clouds? Yes, I love clouds (even joined the Cloud Appreciation Society on Facebook) in any form, but especially fog – clouds so low you can touch them – and towering thunder clouds.

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    • I loved visiting Maine. It’s just so… Maine-y! We traveled with another couple to your glorious former home state, in two cars (we both brought our dogs). We would text each other along the way, offering “scouting” reports to whichever car was lagging. “Looks like Maine,” we’d say. (Which got to be a joke, but only because it is ALL so beautiful!)

      I almost made an Indiana joke during the writing of this, but thought better of it. The nearest corner of our neighboring state does have a bit of an odor. It’s all that steel production and lovely highway-side waste management and sewage treatment. And Georgia’s soil must be fertile, smell notwithstanding, for it to produce those famous peaches. (We all have our ups and downs.)

      Yay, another cloud fan! I had no idea about the Cloud Appreciation Society. Must head over there next. :-) Thanks for weighing in, Rhiann! I hope you find your love of your adopted state, but writing about Maine is no hardship. Might even require a few trips back. ;-) Happy Saturday!

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      • Yes, Maine is one of those places that, at the risk of sounding redundant, exudes a “sense of place”. It’s one of the things I love most about it. New England has been very helpful these past few months in terms of making me not miss northern winters AT ALL :)

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  11. I was through Michigan once when I was a teen and thought it lovely. For me there was never a place that seeded itself in my mind as home because we moved so often. I was a child vagabond. As an adult there was more of the same. In the process I saw many beautiful places, Michigan included.

    I’ve stood in snow up to my waist in Maine. I’ve relaxed on a gentle beach on both Florida’s coasts and on the coast in California. In Seattle, Washington I stood in awe, tall buildings around me, the Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound, and Mr. Rainer towering over it all. There was even an adventure that took me as far north as Fairbanks via Canada.

    Through it all I came to realize that this earth doesn’t lack extraordinary locations. Yosemite Valley nearly brought me to my knees. New York’s ancient Adirondack Mountains left an impression that lingers in my writing. Cities like New York, are also remembered, but it’s perhaps the rivers that left the biggest impression: the Hudson, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and many others. The planet is a wonder and no location is more extraordinary than the rest.

    What matters is the fit, and I believe we each have our own. It took me most of my life to find mine, but the journey there was worth the effort, for it paved the way for the journeys my characters must make. Missoula in western Montana, first glimpsed when I was a young, is that place. Its rivers, endless mountains, and gorgeous Flathead Lake are forever in my heart. It shall remain my home base for travels I hope have not ended.

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    • I agree about finding the fit. I don’t think you have to be born somewhere to know in your heart it’s home. I smiled and nodded as I read your list. There is something so magical about rivers, isn’t there? I’m grateful for the wonder of it all.

      Good on you, Christina, for seeking out and moving to your writerly fit! I wish you many happy travels in the years to come! Thanks for sharing your journeys. I’m looking forward to reading your worldliness in your fiction. :-)

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  12. As a child, we spent several weeks each summer in the locations where my parents originated. One was Jasper, Alberta, which you can see in the large photo on my Facebook page. The other was the shores of Lesser Slave Lake, which looks a great deal like your photos of Michigan. I adore both places, feel like they’ve made their way into my DNA.

    But as an adult, I’ve felt called to visit and comfortable with the Sonoran desert and temperate rain forests. The commonality is nature, of course. I live in a moderately sized city and call it home, yet that’s because it contains my family. I’m not necessarily fond of it in its own right, though I appreciate its many amenities.

    As for clouds, I know what you mean. My favorite season is fall, and it’s in part because of the scents and colors, but it’s also the promise of indoor rest without guilt. Rainstorms, provided they carry on for long enough that I can almost ignore them, provide the same relaxation.

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    • I have long loved that panorama on your facebook page, Jan. It just calls you in. You can almost smell the pines and fresh water. There is a benefit to those city amenities, as I learned last night. I was making my famous artichoke dip for a dinner party and discovered I was out of mayo. The nearest grocery is about 25 miles, so I went to our local garden center. Yes, it’s a garden center with mayo on the shelf. But a you pay a hefty price for such convenience out here in the sticks. Almost $5 US for a tiny (6 oz.) jar of an off-brand. :-/

      And yet it’s that distance that keeps our hometown what it is. It’s the reason people want to come here. I always remind myself when the tourist arrive, quadrupling our population in July, that I was once one of them.

      Yay – another one who gets my cloud thing! :-) And I totally agree about a nice, steady autumn rainstorm. Those are the best reading/writing days! Thanks for sharing your heart’s homes, Boss!

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  13. Nicole L. Bates says:

    Having grown up in Northern Michigan, I can completely connect with this post. The forests and vast lakes have become a part of me. Even though my husband and I have traveled all over the U.S. and been fortunate enough to see many other beautiful places, Michigan is home. It’s sad that most people think of closed factories and the negative stereotypes of one rather small part of Michigan. I think of vast stretches of green that I can explore for hours without seeing another soul and of fresh water so plentiful it’s like sitting on the shore of an ocean. I’m certain that this place has shaped me, and my stories. Thanks for sharing and the pictures are gorgeous!

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    • Having read your stories, and having often visited your area (it still calls to me), I can attest to the influence. And it’s delightful! Once you are published you will be one of those auto-buy authors for me. I know I’m going to be swept away in a story both excitingly foreign and yet comfortingly familiar. It’s a special part of your gift. And I’m pretty sure it was born in those lovely forests and on those pebbly shores.

      Thanks for sharing your take, Nicole! They say spring will be here Thursday. Doesn’t quite seem like it just yet, does it? Hoping all is well with you and yours, and that warmer air finds its way to your shores soon! Have a great weekend!

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  14. liz says:

    Gorgeous tribute to your state, Vaughn, including the photos. Even the bravest can grow faint of heart after a winter like this one — and I know yours has been even worse than ours. I love the idea that the home of your heart runs through your fiction — a way to keep it close to you forever.

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    • It’s pretty clear to me that your love of New England is behind your gorgeous rendering of it in Evenfall. Thanks, Liz! Hope you had a wonderful weekend (looks like it). Here’s to spring! :-)

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  15. Amy Hewitt says:

    Your love of place here in Michigan is so refreshing to read! I live about 3 hours up the coast from Chicago in Whitehall and have many fond memories of walking to The Big Lake just down the street every summer when my kids were younger. We feel incredibly blessed to have the sand dunes, lakes and sunsets to calm and center us.

    Michigan is a place you must intend to visit – it is not a drive thru but a destination! The area I live was once called Michillinda for Michigan – Illinois and Indiana. There are generations of families that have summered here and call it home to their heart!

    The west side of Michigan is really very different from the Detroit side. Where else can one find so much natural beauty, four distinct seasons, beaches Florida envies and friendly people!

    The only downfall is that Lake Michigan has become my compass. I know where I am in relation to the Lake. Put me in another state and I have absolutely no sense of direction because I have no sense of The Lake!

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    • Hi Amy, thanks for stopping by. We once rented a house on White Lake. It’s so lovely – really nice and laid back. There was an old-timey restaurant at the end of the road toward Lake Michigan. People were so welcoming. It was the kind of place where the regulars sang songs together over a pint on a Friday night. And the cottage we rented had a book about all the great history there. You’re right, folks have been going there for generations, from all over the tri-state area!

      You’re right–there’s something very special about our “sunset coast,” isn’t there? I know what you mean about orienting everything by the lake-shore. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. Your love of our state really shines through! :-)

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  16. John Hooge says:

    “Discovering” your blog and website, Vaughn, and reading the other comments here has truly been refreshing. I can hear the rustle of leaves in forests and the waves lapping on the shores of lakes that have captivated me so often throughout my 63 years. Your love for the beauty of nature and specifically your native land and lake is clear and easily visualized from your writing. We have a number of mutual interests and joys, including your great state and lake. I will be fishing for salmon and steelhead with my Indiana brother-in-law in the big lake the first weekend of May although in the far southern end near the smokestacks of steel mills and manmade walls of rock and concrete. I enjoy the fishing but that seashore does NOT evoke the beautiful state I have enjoyed over and over in the past. My wife is from Indiana but both her parents are from Michigan and with our children we have camped throughout Michigan numerous times, including several times in Hartwick Pines which you mentioned, on and near the Strait of Mackinac, and above the thumb on Lake Huron. Almost 30 years ago, we circled the big lake on a camping trip beginning at the Indiana dunes. We camped in numerous beautiful spots in both Michigan and Wisconsin, including the UP, and spent an extended stay in Door County, WI which reminded us of the coast of Maine. My wife and I returned to Door County years later after dropping off our son at art school in Milwaukee. On that trip we spent an unforgettable evening in a humble cabin at the far NE corner of Washington Island a few steps from the lake, mesmerized by the waves lapping on the rocks. Although we have resided in Lawrence, KS for many years (a great college town with an emphasis upon art), it is trees and forests that enthrall me the most. I spend much of my time hiking and drawing trees. Our son, his wife (both artists) and children reside in Portland, OR where my wife and I visit often. We have spent much time in the Northwest. Northern California and its redwoods is magical but then so are all forests. I am working on my first novel I am writing and illustrating, a fantasy centered upon a forest and its inhabitants. But, I also enjoy woodworking, having made one cedar strip canoe I use regularly in local lakes and streams. I design and make wooden toys for my grandchildren each year, including a tree ship in my back yard (yes a tree house shaped like a ship) that may never be quite finished. I grew up in Kansas and Nebraska, working on farms and hunting and fishing with my father and brothers. My parents took our family each summer to a small cabin on a lake in Minnesota to fish. The outdoors and TREES are forever in my view and thoughts. I appreciate your desire and need to write and create. It takes courage and conviction to share your writings with others. But, it is obvious you have a gift as well as the heart for it.

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    • I’m so happy to be discovered, John! We really do share a lot of common interests, don’t we? You mention so many of my favorite places, including Oregon, which is so beautiful. I agree, it was a shame what happened to the Indiana shoreline. On very cold, clear days, we can see the shoreline down there from the top of our dune, and it sort of breaks my heart to see the smokestacks of US Steel and Chicago Bridge, still spewing into the blue skies. I understand the economics, and don’t want our steel to come from China, but it doesn’t stop me from wishing it could be different for our Hoosier neighbors. Thank goodness for the Indiana Dunes National Park, and the protection that’s been afforded to those lands.

      Wow, the canoe and the ship-tree-house sound amazing. Your grandchildren are lucky. It sounds like you’re living the dream. Woodworking and writing are great companion occupations! It’s amazing how working with your hands makes for the free-flowing of creativity.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for the great comment, John! And for your kind praise. Please come again. And best wishes to you in all of your endeavors (particularly the writing–it can be a tough gig, and you’re right about the courage it requires, but it’s so rewarding). And enjoy that fishing trip!

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