Reflections on my time away

Detour Reef Light

It was great to get away and it’s good now to be back home. Most of my time away was spent reading and relaxing. Daily, I would take long walks, enjoy coffee on the porch with a book and an eye out for freighters. In the evening, after returning from a walk I would do the same with a bourbon.  The air remained mostly cool and even the days of rain felt good. I preached twice at the Union Presbyterian Church in Detour Village. 

Reading while away

My stack of books (I didn’t get to them all)

My reading varied greatly. I spent a lot of time with the Bible and a couple commentaries on Daniel in preparation for preaching on the book this fall. I finished reading a wonderful book on reading and writing poetry (Gregory Orr’s, A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry). This book had many exercises, some of which I did, leaving notes in my journal such as the poem I printed below. 

I also enjoyed Casey Tygrett’s As I Recall: Discovering the Place of Memories in Our Spiritual Life. Like Orr’s book on poetry, this book had many exercises, of which I did most as a way to ponder memories. Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, was eye opening. Thurman was a classmate and friend of Martin Luther King Jr’s father and this short book written in the 1940s captures the meaning of the gospel for those who lived in a segregated world with many opportunities denied. Another book that I just finished yesterday is Christiane Tiez’s  Karl Barth: A Life in Conflict (Victoria Burnett translator) Barth, probably the most influential 20th Century theologian, best known for his opposition to the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s, provides an insight into how the church should behave when oppressed. This reading fed into my thoughts that arose from my study of Daniel. 

I also read some poetry along with the first half of Richard Lischer’s memoir, Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery. 

Sandhill cranes dropped in for a visit as I read under a tree in the yard

Traveling to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and around the area gave me plenty of time to listen to books on Audible. I began with Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, John Ketchmer, Sailing a Serious Ocean; Sailboats, Storms, Stories and Lessons Learned from 30 Years at Sea, and Carl Hiassen, Tourist Season. Having read many of Larson’s books, Isaac’s Storm lived up to my expectation as he captured both the event of the Galveston hurricane of 1900 along with providing insight into those involved in the storm and into how such storms are created. Ketchmer’s book is a first. I enjoyed it and it provided me with a refresher before sailing.  Hiassen is another favorite author. I have read or listened to eight of his books. This was his first novel and while not as funny as some of his later ones (Skinny Dip remains my favorite), it’s still good and has humorous moments. 

Sightseeing and other activities

I spent two days sailing with a friend in Grand Traverse Bay. We left out of Northport harbor on the Leelanau Peninsula. The first day was rough with 20 knot winds. It was scary when I couldn’t get the main reefed quickly as the lines were dry rotted. Finally, I was able to get it secured and we sailed for a bit that afternoon before enjoying a good meal on the town. On the second day, it was lovely with winds in the 10 to 12 knot range. We sailed out passed Mission Point and up the east side of the bay toward Leelanau Point before coming back to the marina. 

While in the UP, I spent one day on Drummond Island.  There, I enjoyed a morning hike in Maxton Plains.  The plains are an “alvar” landscape, which consist of flat limestone pavement with little soil to provide growth for plants. In the cracks are many different species of grass and flowers along with paper birch and spruce trees. Next time I visit here, I need to bring a bicycle so I can explore more of the plains. After lunch and a visit to the island’s museum, I enjoyed a shorter but refreshing walk under the beech trees of Clyde and Martha Williams Nature Preserve.  To reach to Drummond Island, I took the ferry which was just a block from where I was staying. 

Whitefish Point light & fog horn

I also took another trip to Whitefish Point, a place that many know about from Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  

The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.

          -Gordon Lightfoot

Leaving the UP, I visited friends from Skidaway on Mullet Lake, then old friends in Grand Rapids and Hastings. There’s never enough time to see everyone.

A poem I wrote in the UP

The freighter
rides low in the water
its screws pushing 70,000 tons of ore
southbound toward Gary or Cleveland.

Behind the stern trail
angry ripples of water, 
a turmoil of whirlpools
and danger for small boats that cut behind too close.

There are people like the freighter,
those who churn the air
and leave a path of emotional distraction.
Like the ship,
they’re best given a wide berth. 

A 1000 foot freighter heading south (go here to see a photo of an older style freighter)

32 Replies to “Reflections on my time away”

  1. I have never seen a sandhill crane. That must have been a thrill! I enjoyed the images in your poem. Fortunately in this year plus of being at home because of the pandemic, I haven’t had to deal with emotionally trying people. Terry is so even keeled. I’m not sure how he puts up with me sometimes. It sounds like you had a restorative vacation, Jeff!

  2. Ooh, this sounds like a wonderful vacation. Coffee, bourbon, views of and travels on water, lots of reading… Idyllic!
    I’m interested in Karl Barth through having read all of Marilynne Robinson’s books, but I haven’t read any of his writing yet…

  3. Pleased you had a good time away.
    I enjoyed your photographs, especially seeing the Sandhill cranes.

    All the best Jan

  4. Not sure if my comment went through my email was wrong. Lovely images in your UP poem and great photos from Michigan! Looks like a great trip.

  5. Wow that is some stack of books! Lovely UP images in your poem and great photos from Michigan!

  6. A lot to enjoy about this post, Jeff. The sand cranes who dropped in while you read… I had an eagle do that the other day. It made me feel special. Two days sailing–can’t even imagine that. The poem, its metaphor–perfect.

    1. Thanks, Jacqui. While I love being in the hill country, I really miss sailing on big water and the Great Lakes is a wonderful place to enjoy the water.

  7. Read “Tourist Season” while working night shift back in 2004. It might have been the circumstances at the time but the book totally pulled me in to the point I saw Skip Wiley’s point about unrestricted tourism and development.

  8. Those cranes – wow!

    Sounds like you had a wonderfully contemplative trip. I could do with some time near water myself – so calming.

    I commend you for working both Cleveland and Gary into a poem. The Rust Belt could do with some lyricism.

    1. Those are huge and beautiful birds. I’d never seen them in residential areas, but have often seen them in places like the Okefenokee Swamp.

  9. Good post, Jeff, and I like your poem. So true! Glad you got to sail and see friends. That is a formidable stack of books! I am about to read a biography of Pope John Paul to Jim. It is long; with small print. Wish me luck.

  10. That’s a nice book stack.

    I used to see Sandhill Cranes all the time where I live, but I haven’t seen them (it seems) in years.

    I like the turn your poem took, comparing people to the freighter. Very clever. And true.

  11. Hello Jeff, and greetings from Suffolk, UK. Thank you for your kind comment on the Crafty Green Poet blog about ‘Driftwood by Starlight’, my poetry collection. I followed the link you left, and here I am, delighted to read about your adventures. What beautiful Sandhill Cranes. We now have a few Common Crane over here once again … and I shall never forget the sound as a group took off in unison. I hope your sermon preparation on Daniel has been going well. My husband is a lay preacher in our Anglican church. Best wishes, Caroline Gill

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Your poetry collection does sound delightful–I hope to be able to find it in the USA. My first sermon on Daniel will be Sunday (and I will probably preach 18 sermons on the book, if it goes as planned. That’s neat that your husband is a lay preacher. Does he serve a church? Or just fill in when the priest is away?

  12. That’s a great selection of books. I’ve read and enjoyed Isaac’s Storm but the rest are new to me, though Gregory Orr’s book sounds particularly interesting (speaking as a poet). I enjoyed reading your poem,

    1. I was blown away by Orr’s book. It is the best I seen, even better than Mary Oliver’s book on poetry, in my opinion. He also has a memoir that’s on my TBR pile.

  13. I’m glad you had such a productive time away! Isaac’s Storm was my second Larson book (after The Devil in the White City), and the next one of his I want to read is Thunderstruck.
    Very nice poem!

    1. “The Devil and the White City” remains my favorite book by Larson, followed closely by “Dead Wake” (about the sinking of the Lusitania)

  14. I remember reading Isaac’s Storm and it kept me from having any thoughts of riding out a hurricane along a coastal plain if opportunity presents itself in the future.

    I need to schedule a vacation like yours of nothing but long walks and reading with some bourbon in the evening. I would probably skip the coffee though.

    1. The death in Galveston is haunting! Isaac’s Storm is a powerful book that I’m glad to have read after leaving an island along the coast!

  15. Glad you had a good time. I like your poem.
    I finally finished The Man Who Moved a Mountain. What a great book about a life well-lived! Thank you for sharing that with me. I’m so glad you did because it gives me a great sense of the history of your churches and the people who used to live there.

    1. I love sandhill cranes. I used to see them when paddling in the Okefenokee Swamp in the winter. In southern Michigan, they would gather by the thousands in the fall as they prepared to migrate south. To hear a 1000 of these birds with their cry is something to behold.

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