Archived column from NorthernIslander’s “Sand in My Sheets”
– By Elaine West –
My mother headed off to the milder climate of Florida in early January. The day after her departure I startled my fellow choir members at Holy Cross by showing up for church.
“But you always skip church the first Sunday your mother’s in Florida,” one noted.
“Oh,” I told them, sanctimoniously. “That would be SO childish, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, yes,” they admitted. “But we’ve come to expect it. Just don’t grow up too fast.”
I laughed at the time, but later thought about that comment in a broader context and the way Islanders of all ages seem to retain a child-like enthusiasm to indulge in mischief and play – and have the boundless energy to carry it off.
This past weekend was a good example. Snow began to fall early Saturday morning and continued throughout the day. By the next morning a blue sky was the backdrop for a spectacular cotton-candy coated landscape. Nobody announced it, no signs were posted at the crossroads in town, but everyone knew: It was a winter holiday.
I did miss the service at Holy Cross that morning despite the valiant efforts of Gordy Heiika to clear our driveway early (I think my mother may have paid him off to help ensure my eternal salvation). However, when hubby moved his truck and got stuck on the main road he announced, “You’ll end up in a snowbank for sure. I forbid you to drive today.”
Normally I’d take him down in the dirt for a comment like that. But on this morning it was all I needed to suit up in my warmest gear, grab my camera and dog family, and head off on a trek to the Holy Chapel of Hidden Valley.
By noon, the humming sound of snowmobilers in the distance was very much like the drone of bees in a summer garden. Folks trooped down the road on snowshoes and a friend called to say the ice fishermen were out and about on Font Lake. Nearby Mt. Pisgah was put to good use by youngsters sledding down its slopes.
By late afternoon all the mittens I owned were wet, limp things. My legs burned from trudging through the deep snow and the dogs were down for the count. It was time to change tactics and partake of another particular wintertime pleasure – diving in to a stack of library books.
Each winter I try to read some new genres, an attempt to expand my mind a bit. I also delve into the “regional” bookshelves at the library. These types of books, especially the novels set in northern Michigan, are always read with a healthy dose of skepticism. My reticence come from the numerous calls and emails I get from writers with questions about living on an island. Some are legitimate, from authors who need a file photo to accompany an article or to confirm a name or fact. Others are simply unbelievable.
Just last week, I heard from a writer who wanted to use Beaver Island as the location for her fictional story. Trouble was, she’d never been here. In fact, I doubt she’d ever set foot on any island. “How do you get to the Island?” she wrote. “Is there a road to get there? Is there a ferry boat like in Officer and a Gentleman? Do you have stores?” You get the idea.
Last year I reviewed one such book for the paper. Not exactly a Pulitzer prize winner, it was a Christian romance set on Beaver Island. Suffice to say it wasn’t the Island most of us know and love. The author’s attempt to find a spot for moments of high drama in the love story was Daddy Frank’s.
Now, Daddy Frank’s can produce a mean chili dog and stack up scoops of ice cream on a waffle cone like nobody’s business – but let’s face it: you’re lucky to find an empty table to sit at in Daddy’s, much less a quiet place where you can gaze into the eyes of your beloved. More likely you’re apt to wolf your meal down at a picnic table outside while under the watchful gaze of hordes of malicious seagulls. I won’t even mention the name of that book…it’s best forgotten.
But on the next snowy day that comes your way, let your mittens dry out for an afternoon and indulge in a bowl of popcorn and a really good book. That’s what I’ll be doing…see you in the spring!