Our third anniversary was May 25.
I finished this writing for Duane's family last month.
Today seems like a fine day to share it here.
It's a rather long one... You've been warned.
Just a month after we met, Duane and I made a mini weekend roadtrip along M22. I don’t know where the idea came from, why we jumped right in to spending the weekend together. But we did and it set us on the path to visiting every coastline in Michigan, down state and the UP. We were very good at traveling together instantly. Manistee, Onekama, Arcadia, Frankfort, FishTown, North Port. We stopped in Frankfort for lunch at Storm Cloud, what turned out to be a brand new brewery. I had their thai shrimp pizza - it was bloody amazing - I didn’t share with Duane. We were the only patrons. Someone brought the staff donuts. We were smitten with Storm Cloud and with the sweet, authentic vibe in Frankfort. We paused for a moment at Bestie River to take in the panoramic view of Lake Michigan and the hills of neighboring Elberta.
Driving across Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from the airbnb where the night before, Duane had proposed to me, we stopped for a hike. Longer than we anticipated it being, our early morning excursion down the trail led us past a waterfall surrounded by towering white beach trees, past picture perfect Chapel Rock and to a sandy beach that stretched down the coast to the rocky walls the park is known for. Not a sole was around, just baby bears (chipmunks) skittering about. Duane wandered down the beach returning to find me, wrists wrapped to my elbows in birch bark, crouched and stuffing rocks into the backpack, “I’m not carrying that thing back to the car!”, he said, while laughing and rolling his smiling eyes.
In the center of the north island of New Zealand we visited the inland lake, Lake Taupo. We wandered into town and to the shores of Tapuaeharuru Bay. As we waited for a morning sailboat cruise we strolled the tiny urban inland lake beach. I looked down to see beach glass EVERYWHERE! Millions of tiny, thin, colored glass gems. We piled ourselves into the sailboat with a half dozen other visitors to the edge of this volcano crater lake. Duane and I settled into bean bags near the bow, colored beach glass falling from my pockets.
We took a drive to Northland, a destination in mind, a beach someone recommended. We hit a detour in a residential beach town and decided to stop there. As we walked through the neighborhood toward the beach we found many people gathered along the shores. A small boat regatta was under way, people of all ages pushing boats out of and pulling boats in to the water. Needing to stay out of the way, Duane and I meandered to the right of the crowds, noticing a rocky outcrop to boulder about. The boulders continued, bringing us to a rocky private beach backed by a cliff wall with homes atop. The rocky landscape created perfect tidepools to explore. Watching the sailboats come and go, I filled my pockets with beach glass and rocks while Duane filled his with shells.
Turnip Rock became an elusive destination. The rocky structure rising from the waters of Lake Huron is viewable only via the private lakeshore property or by boat, a two mile paddle from the closest public launch. Arriving at the kayak rental location after a weekend of searching out Thumb coastlines, we learned the waters were too rough. We couldn’t visit Turnip Rock.
Attempt number two, years later, we brought our own kayaks this time. We arose very early and arrived to an empty boat launch parking lot and still waters. Paddling swiftly into Lake Huron, we eventually begin to pass rocky ledges topped with private golf lawns. Small caves carved into the earth provide crannies to explore. Continuing further along the shore, we cross paths with one paddler coming our way, “not much further,” he reassures. Then, rising up tall out of the water, topped with trees, Turnip Rock. We paddled around in solitude, enjoying views from all angles and explored inlets along the shore over a breakfast snack. A family arrives and we quietly depart, giving them their time in the rock’s shadow. As we paddle toward shore, we begin to see fleets of kayaks coming our way then a sudden rain burts. Paddling hard, we quickly make it through the rain which remained a cloud over the water we just returned from. Passing more than 100 kayaks we arrive to dry sand and clear skies and we settle in for lunch.
Driving south from Mackinaw City, beginning the east coast tour of down state michigan. Small industrial towns, footbridges over the rivers, Democratic offices neighboring Republican offices. The map shows Paradise Point, a tiny peninsula promising, to our optimistic eyes, an intimate view of the Huron coastlines. We arrive to what appears to be a seldom visited boat museum, a large industrial structure rising from the water, distant in the horizon. Wandering lakeside we find Paradise Point, the narrowest smattering of fist sized rocks extending yards into the water. One at a time, hopping rock to rock out, then back in; our sneakers wet. Paradise Point
At every stop we made, Duane would find me stooped on the ground poking at rocks, sticks, shells, then filling my pockets. The habit to collect the bits of nature isn’t a new one and I come by it honestly. Our home is filled with bowls, bottles, vases teeming with these collections, these momentos, collections of beauty and joy, from around the world.
Stooped along the lakeshore one evening, just days before the fast approaching anniversary weekend, my hands reaching for the next crinoid fossil, rock of interest, piece of seaglass to intuitively slip into my pocket. These collections belong not to me; they belong here. The hunt is the true treasure. How can I possess the magic of the lake, the sand, the serenity. THIS, this is where Duane belongs. He belongs with the treasures our lakes provide. I wandered home eyeing the bottles and bowls of shells, bark, rocks, seaglass which have settled into our home following trips abroad and to all of Michigan’s coastlines. This, this is Duane.
The years worth of collections, the momentos of travel, of my history, of our history, lying on a weather-worn wooden plank. Alongside them, the final physical remains of the man who should continue to be by my side in a blue beach pail found upon my arrival. Settled at the shore of Frankfort, 6 am, silent, still water, smooth sandy beach, a cup of coffee and bowl of instant oatmeal. Duane’s spirit, his memory, his beauty in each shell, sliver of glass, fossil, piece of bark, stone gathered in front of me, the ones afar, the ones I’ve yet to find. Layer by layer, I topped off the pail with those collected memories. With the pail in one hand I strolled the beach and strewn handfuls of the collections, commingled with Duane's ashes, back to the lake in the town he loved. Many trips later, the plank alter empty; the pail now contains only the handfuls or momentos I held onto for you, FamDamily I dove in, water gently washing over me, letting it fill my pours, my soul. Until I felt ready to remerge.
Choose a momento from the pail. Let it remind you of Duane’s spirit, his energy and his patience. But when this memento falls out of a pocket, gets lost in the laundry or swept away with life, no worries. Duane’s spirit, his memory, his beauty is in each of the beautiful moments in nature your eyes cross, your fingers touch. The ones gathered here, the ones afar, the ones we’ve yet to find.