A few weeks ago, I came to the realization I needed to get away, to unplug, to clear my head. I couldn’t really put into words why. I couldn’t explain my plan as I really didn’t have one. Nor could I express the purpose or goal of the trip. I just knew it was something I needed to do.
The closest thing to an explanation I could give was, “I can’t take it anymore. For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of/embarrassed by the country I live in.” Knowing I needed some space and time, I planned for a week in the Upper Peninsula without internet or TV.
As I raised this with my wife, she was confused and worried. Was there something wrong with our marriage? Was I having emotional issues she hadn’t recognized? I did what I could to assure her that we were fine, that this was about me, but she still worried.
When presented to family and friends, some seemed to understand while others couldn’t fathom why I would need to do anything like this. All expressed their support, concern and worry. I appreciated their support and fully understood and valued their concerns. I cannot begin to express how truly grateful I am to be surrounded by caring people, and I did not feel good about worrying them.
Heading out, I knew there were a couple of visits I did want to make. The first was the Dark Sky park west of Mackinaw City. If you can ever visit it, do so! It turns out the night I stopped to visit was the busiest this year. There were over 1,000 people there that night, and that is about 800 more than the site can hold comfortably.
I understand why so many were there. It was the last weekend of the summer, and there was a new moon (i.e., no moon, so no moonlight to get in the way of the pitch-black sky). Fortunately, there was an astronomer there who pointed out planets, stars, groups of stars and galaxies that I’ve never seen or heard of before. For the first time, I saw the Milky Way in all its majesty. In looking through one of the telescopes they provided, I got to see the rings around Saturn. It was all truly extraordinary and what a beneficial start to my journey, helping to put things into perspective.
Another visit I hoped to make was to touch base with a friend in Paradise. He and I grew up together, and while we don’t really keep in touch, we do check in every 20 years or so. And since it had been 20 years, it seemed like it was time. If nothing else, I was curious as to why someone living in Florida would retire to the U.P. My goal was to check in, visit for a couple of hours and move on. You know you are enjoying the visit when two hours suddenly becomes eight hours. What a relaxing and enjoyable visit we had! Reminiscing our youth, sharing stories of our lives and just reconnecting. What a phenomenal way to be reminded of my roots and the values that I learned early in life!
A visit to Fayette Historic State Park for a peaceful and scenic hike is a calming way to start any day. And then wandering the historic town and industry reminds one that as a nation we have come a long way.
However, it was the discovery of the beauty of the U.P. through various hikes in the woods and on the beaches of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior that really help put things into perspective. I came to recognize that I had been sucked into the hate and disarray that is the current political climate. I had forgotten about the natural beauty that surrounds us and the beautiful people in this state.
About halfway through my trip I realized the purpose of the trip. It was simply to get back in touch with my soul. To remember who I was and what was important to me. To remember that I have always been the positive one, the one who found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The kind and gentle one.
I am recharged and have not forgotten what I care deeply about. And what I care most deeply about right now is the future for my children and grandchildren, and for all generations to come.
I recognize that the next 14 months will be the most important months of our lives for their future. Will we continue to be a country easily divided by an ignorant, hateful huckster, or do we go back to the path (as imperfect as it is) of proving that democracy is attainable? Do we isolate ourselves from the world and all the issues it brings with it, or do we remember that we are all in this together? Do we recognize that we have limited time to save this Earth, or do we ignore the facts and destroy that which we were given?
I will continue to do everything I can to put this country back on a positive track and will refuse to be distracted by the circus that is DT. I will continue to fight for our communities, for the Earth and for our place in the world, with the goal that someday we may once again demonstrate our ability to be the leaders of the free world.
Not for me. Not for you. But for future generations.