The Early Days- A reflection of Kelley’s Time in Michigan

I am not a writer. But I am a lover. A lover of nature, a lover of wild food and a lover of melancholy romance. I love tools that work. Projects that get completed. My family, and fishing.

Born in Michigan and raised in Traverse City. Where the winters are merciless when they are not lovely. This is a land of extremes. Extreme snow. Extreme fog. Extreme winds. And either too long, or too short days. Until it’s not. And then at once. It is profound and perfection.

This is where I learned that there are no bad weather days just bad gear. 

On the cold bluebird days, we skipped school to ski. And dare each other to a polar plunge. And on during blizzard weeks, we shared food from deep in our freezer which held lake trout and venison soon to be chili eaten in front of the fire as we wrapped up in wool camp blankets. Someone would pick up a guitar to start cheesy camp songs. time would stop. Just for a few days. Or maybe a week. Spirits were high and spirits were shared. Nothing could stop us from playing outdoors and making tunnel forts beneath the pungent hemlocks. If only we had the gear then we have now, I might have never come back indoors.

Eventually winter would lose it stronghold and spring would slowly take over our weather. A little more each day. And we would wait. Impatiently. for the news. Someone found a Morel Mushroom. This would usher in the all too short summer season. 

Summer days were endlessly long. With the sun setting well past 10 pm. The gardens and berries would grow before your eyes. Wild berries down very turning trail. First the strawberries tiny and tart. Raspberries sun warmed and swollen, followed by low bush blueberries deep blue like the inland sea not far off. The blackberries either juicy or seedy and dry – depending on the rainfall earlier in the season. Lastly the wild grapes which still define my standard of flavor. Finding all of them became my passion. I would preserve the domestic version with my mother who would purchase by the lug at the grower’s co-op not too far away. Summer was the time of great explorations. We didn’t call it hiking then so much but we would pack a picnic lunch and head out to anywhere. The woods and the water there were abundant and each had its own specific reason to visit. Each morning and evening were saved specifically for fishing. We would sleep under the stars, on the beach, trying to stay awake to see the Northern Lights.

It truly fascinates me how much of that is still on me now. I sometimes wonder if I perpetuate or if I need it. Either way, I see no reason to change from the early days. They have done right by me so far.