A package arrived in the mail recently. It came from Cindy Ricksger, a long-time reader and frequent commenter on this blog.
It also came all of the way from Beaver Island, Michigan.
I must admit, I had never heard of Beaver Island before “meeting” Cindy. It’s not the sort of place that comes up on my analytics page, the feature in which the WordPress folks add color to all of the home countries of readers and visitors.
While the United States is certainly in color on this analytics page, as are South Africa and India and England, Beaver Island is a bit too small to receive any colorized treatment.
But that in no way lessens its wonder to me.
With some help from Google Maps, Beaver Island is a rather small and remote dot of land at the northern curve of Lake Michigan, the body of water that separates Wisconsin and Michigan.
Let’s zoom in for a closer look.
As someone who has always lived in the middle of suburban and urban congestion, I am amazed — and in awe and even a bit envious — that people can live in far-off places and small towns, where there are Milky Way nights, quiet conversations on porches, and friendly hellos along the sidewalk.
It’s a big reason why I try to create that life in my own way, no matter how congested my surroundings. Joe and I dine several times a week at a local coffee shop to talk with Nelson, the owner and short order cook, and any other diners who might be sitting at the counter. I also go to the same cashier, Carrie, at the nearby supermarket just to catch up. And each day, I take a few moments to chat with my postman or to talk to neighbors as they walk their dogs in the early evening.
World events sometimes intrude, though, and one such event was the November terrorist attack in Paris. I wrote a post, “We’ll Always Have Paris,” about that moment and my desire to retreat into my garden.
People from all over the world read that post — and I have the colorized analytics map to prove it. One of those people was Cindy from Beaver Island, where she not only gardens, but also owns and edits the Beaver Beacon, an island journal.
Cindy contacted me and asked if she could include the Paris post in the Beaver Beacon. I was flattered, to say the least, and so proud to be a part of her work, which chronicles all of the happenings in her small-island small-town, from births and deaths to local events and local characters.
It also meant in some way that I would be a small part of small-town life, all the way from the full-of-traffic streets of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Well, the article appeared and Cindy decided to send me not only a few copies of that issue, but some past issues, as well, and two books: Dirt, William Bryant Logan’s celebration of Earth’s amazing skin, and The Beaver Island Columns, a collection of essays by David S. Broder, a New York Times and Washington Post columnist who vacationed on Beaver Island for decades.
“And happily, some things do not change,” wrote Broder in one piece. “It [Beaver Island] is a place where you can look up and down a magnificent sweep of beach on a sunny midafternoon and not see another soul, where deer and fox and wild turkeys become your neighbors, where the sunset over Indian Point, never loses its beauty, where the Big Dipper seems to wheel directly overhead and, occasionally, the northern lights mount their awesome display.”
To round out my taste of the island, there was also a bag of Beaver Island Gourmet Blend Taffy, looking very much like sweet jewels.
Cindy had thought of everything — and because of this, I now know more about Beaver Island, a small and remote dot of land with a tremendous heart. I know, for example, that Nathan and Ashley were married, that the banquet for the graduating class was a smash hit, and that on the first day of spring, the town holds a “Wake for Winter” festival.
It’s my small-town dream in a small box from Beaver Island, Michigan.