“Up North” in Michigan

A county of farms

A county of farms

When we tell people we are living Up North, they often respond, “Oh right. The UP.” But Up North is not the UP. The first time I lived in Michigan, I was in college and learned to use the top of my left hand as a map.

  • Where do you live?
  • Right here, just north of the middle finger knuckle.
  • Oh, Gaylord?
  • Yes, exactly.

The round peninsula on the lower eastern corner of the state is known as The Thumb. The tall thin peninsula in the far western north, is The Little Finger.

Beaches we have to ourselves

Beaches we have to ourselves

All the land above the middle knuckles is Up North. (To map the UP requires a complicated two hand maneuver, completely unnecessary as we won’t be venturing over the Mackinac Bridge.)

With this as reference, we are living on The Little Finger, close to the inner base of the nail. (Separate the little finger from the ring finger in order to create the bay).

The village of Suttons Bay

The village of Suttons Bay

Leelanau County, is known for wine, apples, cherries, and the colors of fall. One is never too far from a body of water be that a

Hence the word

Hence the word “fudgies”

lake or bay. During our time here from September through November, Michigan will slip from summer into winter at a breathtaking speed while I boil up batches of applesauce and shift my meal choices to soups and stews.

When we first arrived, we biked to a vineyard 100 yards off the bike path which cuts behind our farm. We avoided the weekends when fudgies flock up to swarm through the county, preferring a Tuesday. At Shady Lane we bought a bottle of red, drank a glass completely alone, and then biked home with the recorked bottle tucked into my backpack.

By the time we leave, snow will fall. Right now, the leaves are at their prime, but the next windy rain, and that will end. Pat spends most days capturing the peak of the color during the few weeks it lasts.

Tuesday at Shady Lane Winery

Tuesday at Shady Lane Winery

This is the first time we have spent two months in an area we know intimately. Pat’s family lives here; he lived here briefly at the end of high school. We needed no “moving in” acclimation week as we normally do. The first day, we tasted at the best wineries, drove the most scenic roads to the most secluded beaches, and stopped at the stands with the crispest apples. During this last month, with no need to learn the basics, we have relaxed and worked at those things we now call “our jobs.”

Often Pat comes home after dark... but here's why

Here’s why Pat comes home after dark — Point Betsie Lighthouse at sunset

We are living in a 100-year-old cabin behind a similarly aged house on a horse farm—perhaps the most peaceful of our homes so far. The cabin was once a granary, then the birthing center of a midwife, and finally a rental unit available on VRBO. It is warm and cozy and peacefully quiet–minus the rustle of the wind in the trees or the occasional neigh of a horse.

A mile away in Suttons Bay, we work out at a gym every other day. On Mondays, we drive around the bay to the distant town of Petoskey for salsa lessons. Wednesday evenings, I am taking a Novel Writing class at a community college in Traverse City (much, much more on this to come).

The M22 color tour

The M22 color tour

Suttons Bay is a tourist town molting into that time of the year most would agree is the best. With the hoards of weekend travelers behind us, the locals are out in the town, inclined to stop and chat, and enjoying the periodic sunny and warm days. They talk of the upcoming winter with a ‘band of brothers’ mentality, boasting of their love of snow and a frigid wind so biting it freezes their nostrils shut.

Reflection in the Suttons Bay harbor

Reflection in the Suttons Bay harbor

Come the bitter days of January, we will be perched on our deck overlooking Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and checking the Up North weather every day as snow birds tend to do. When people ask where we came from, I’ll point towards the back of my hand at the base of the fingernail. A little place which for these past two months has been our tiny patch of heaven.

Best tasting view at 2Lads

Best tasting view at 2Lads

Categories: The United States

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4 replies

  1. Hard to believe such a quaint place exists! Looks absolutely charming and what a great time of year to be there. I particularly like Pat’s “Lighthouse at Sunset”. Tell him that Li is taking a black and white photography class at college and has been spending much time taking photographs and developing in the darkroom – so glad darkrooms still exist!

    Keep writing and we’ll all be expecting a novel soon!


  2. Such a beautiful part of the world! Those farms, wow.

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