Friday, July 16, 2010

Dear Michigan (Yes),

I will be out of town with Q and the mice for the next week with no Internet access, so I am posting a short poem I wrote a few months ago. Until we're back, Michigan. I'll be thinking about you and about how much I love you. I hope you have the best week!


i want to make you breakfast in bed,
want to walk, even in rain after rain,

rain after sun, hands entwined,
fingers running over across around each other,

want to pull your shoulder under mine,
hip to hip, to stop on some far off road,

no cars passing by, just you and me
and gray trees climbing sky, to turn in close,

lip to lip, just you and me and the many
sounds of birds singing, yes and yes and yes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dear Michigan (The Food of Love)

Shakespeare wrote “If music be the food of love, play on.” Music is something Q and I both enjoy very much and I’ll write about that at more length in a future post, but the reason Shakespeare’s quote struck me today is because sometimes "the food of love" is simply great food.

I’ve mentioned a few times how you don’t have to go to some elaborate shindig to have a magical moment. Q and I had lunch in a quaint village park recently and it was the best time. We took an assortment of relatively healthy and quite tasty foods (like curried rice and black bean quinoa). The sun was shining and there were ducks swimming casually in the little stream that splits the park and we sat on a large wooden swing and, in some ways, it was as if we’d stepped out of our lives for a little while. Of course, the real beauty of it was that this was actually part of our lives.

As an aside, before I get too far into this post, I’m so excited about the fact that I’m actually out here with you (for the entire month) and the only way I could be happier is if I’m somehow able to find a way to stay out here and not have to go back to NY (aside from giving my notice of course). I’m still filling out applications online and am still sending out resumes, but I’m also delivering a few “in person” when possible. I know I’ve said it many times, but I just can’t wait to be out here full-time with you, Michigan, and with Q.

Since this post is about food, I want to devote some time to this awesome restaurant Q and I discovered back in May. Since then, we’ve been seven times. Actually, I arrived out here late last Thursday and before the weekend was over we’d already been twice. I think one of the best things about it is that it’s not located in some touristy town, but in this rather unassuming town that’s just very nice, a town that has a charming main street with several shops and a variety of places to eat. And one of them, called Mind Body & Spirits, is Q’s new favorite restaurant. Now, I’ll admit, my dining experience in Michigan is still somewhat limited, but this is one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in any state (and I’ve been eating for years now). Most of the time Q and I will get some groceries and make our own meals (she’s a wonderful cook and is passionate about food, especially healthy food). I think, in some ways, food is an extension of a person’s spirit, of her/his energy. Q and I have discussed on a number of occasions how the food we eat is also one way through which we still connect to nature, although many of us don’t realize that. In addition to food that is spot-on delicious, Mind Body & Spirits is also very aware of our connection to the natural world and seems, actually, to have been created around a deep respect and appreciation for that connection.

Many of the ingredients used at the restaurant are from Michigan farms (over half a dozen local farms at least) and most of the ingredients are organic as well. They even have an organic Pinot Grigio that’s so good. You’ll find an assortment of healthy choices, including some interesting vegetarian items, but they have something for just about every palate, as well as gluten-free choices which are harder to find in restaurants than you might think.

Q and I have enjoyed Raw Veggie Rolls and have gobbled up a few orders of Third Street Potato Fries served in a cone (even the ketchup here tastes better ). Q’s especially fond of the Calamari made from longfin squid and pico de gallo which I have to admit is an excellent appetizer as it’s light and tender and so full of flavors that work well with each other. Q also likes the Heart of Palm Salad. I recently tried the Michigan Beans and Rice which had just the right combination of spice. Now, just to give you an idea of how good this restaurant is, I’ve spent most of my life as a card-carrying carnivore. I used to actually avoid restaurants that seemed to focus on healthy, organic, or vegetarian cuisines, but I’ve enjoyed the Veggie Grain Burger here so much I’ve gotten it three times now. And if you’re not feeling the greens or the grains, don’t worry because, in addition to those great fries, they have a succulent-looking burger made from organic grass fed beef. I have sampled four of the desserts so far and each is absolutely delicious, though Q and I are particularly fond of the coconut flan which is light and flavorful.

Even the menus at Mind Body & Spirits are made with the environment in mind. But it’s not just the great food, it’s also the wonderful atmosphere that makes this the perfect place to spend some just-the-two-of-you time with the person you love. Whether you’re dining inside, sitting on one of the swanky sofas, or are out on the roof sitting under an umbrella next to a pot of sprouts or wheat grass or other ingredients grown on premises, you’re sure to enjoy this wonderful find. And don’t be surprised if you see me and Q there, as I have the feeling it might be the only restaurant we frequent for some time.

The main ingredient for love is quite simply love itself. Being with someone you admire, someone whose smile makes you light up inside, someone whose thoughts inspire you not merely to think, but to do things you may have never tried, someone who just by being herself makes all the good things in your life seem that much better. That's what love is all about, at least this love I have with Q. But having the right place to spend some time with that person, a place that provides ambience as well as great food, a place like mind Body & Spirits, well that's an ingredient for a unforgettable evening.
*photos courtesy of Mind Body & Spirits

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dear Michigan (New Web Address),

Not sure if I ever told you this about me, Michigan, but I have this thing for irony. So, when I first started this blog, I chose the web address as a somewhat sarcastic response to the irony of the situation. I fell in love with you and I want to be with you. The initial reaction I've recieved from people around the country (including some from Michigan) - though every one of them has been supportive and encouraging of my desire to move and they are all genuinely excited that I have found Q and you, they all wish me well - the very first reaction from nearly every one of them was this: "You want to move where? Do you realize what you're saying?" And so on. The words were different at times, the message the same. "Why Michigan?!? What are you thinking?!?" So, I decided to respond somewhat tongue-in-cheek with the web address. And I try, in every post, to explain what I'm thinking and what I'm feeling and how the two go hand-in-hand. I try to give the many reasons why Michigan. Of course the biggest reason is quite simple - Q!

But here's the one thing I've never wanted to do: I don't want to give you a reason, Michigan, to even bother thinking about how some people react. I mean, after all, that's sort of the point of the blog - to remind you of all the wonderful things about you. So I've decided to alter my attempt at sarcasm. I have created a new web address (LoveInMichigan) for the blog as it seems much more apt. And I have moved all the posts over. From now on I'll write the blog to the new address (though I don't want in any way to inconvenience any of the people following the blog, so I will also continue to post here, at least for awhile). I just wanted to let you know about the new web address in case you might like to follow me there. And I also wanted to tell you, Michigan, that I love you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dear Michigan (Once Upon A Time),

Q and I were talking on Skype the other night and she said that she thought what the blog needed was a little more me. I reminded her that I’m not the sort of person who likes to write/talk about himself. You might not think it, Michigan, the way I open up each week, but that’s because I focus on her and I focus on you. I imagine many people might still think that’s hard to do, but I think if you just sort of give yourself permission to feel what you feel in the first place, then writing about what you love most is easy. You just find somewhere secluded and you let yourself go and it sort of comes out on its own, like once you’ve opened the gate, so to speak, it can’t not come through.

I admit, when Q said that, I resisted. I said, well, isn’t that what I’m doing already, revealing a little about my personality by expressing the way I feel about you and about Michigan? She didn’t really budge. And that’s another thing about her that I love. She says it like it is. So after I got off Skype, I thought about what she said and I guess it might actually be a little awkward for you, Michigan, the fact that I write about you every week and yet you don’t know me like Q does. I mean, she’s known for four years now, but you haven’t. So, I’ll try to take her advice. I’ll try to tell you a little about my story and hope doing so won’t seem too self-centered. After all, I told her, this blog is my love letter to Michigan.

Once upon a time in a land too far away (i.e. upstate New York) there was this man and this woman and they met in a paint store of all places and they fell in love and the man got drafted into the army and they spent much of the next few years apart, but when he came home they got married and then he got called back into active duty overseas. It was the 60’s (Q said, "they don’t even know how old we are" and I told her "I’m not sure that should matter," but hopefully this helps a little). After the man came home again, he and the woman lived in a small apartment and the woman got pregnant and nine months later, after 17 hours of excruciating labor (hey, I’m shy, what can I say), the woman gave birth to a boy. No, really, it’s true.

The boy was full of light and love and happiness (he’s been told he still embodies these things, which is the only reason I mention them now). He was pretty sick as a child. Not a bubble boy exactly, but close. He spent a few weeks (sometimes a couple months) each year in an oxygen tent (which is basically just an old hospital bed with this way-too-thin mattress and this thick barely-able-to-see-through plastic tent hanging down all around it and this machine that pumps in air you can breathe because for some reason or other your lungs don’t feel like doing the work on their own). The boy had a lot of days like that, usually after he was out running and laughing in the yard, or playing under the lilac bushes, or climbing trees. Six months after the boy was born he weighed a lead-bottomed 25 pounds and there are photos that suggest he had one chin for each member of the Brady Bunch (including Alice, but not including Sam the Butcher). But that’s right around the time he started with the breathing problems and the hospitals. Of course, a year after he was born his parents had a baby girl, so maybe that’s when he really started getting sick.

They were very close despite the fact that the sister had a propensity to tick off three neighbor boys who were older and bigger and who hit a lot harder than her brother did. They hit the brother, that is, he didn’t hit her, though he did finally threaten to do just that. He used to hide during recess at school so he wouldn’t have to go outside, but the teacher always found him and made him go. He knew what would happen. He’d be playing and having fun with his friends and then he’d hear it from across the playground, his sister’s voice calling for help and even though he knew better he couldn’t stop his legs from running, couldn’t stop his hands from curling into balls of let-her-go fury and he’d hurl himself like a bundle-of-bones missile through the air into the boys. And that was usually the best he did. Two of them would hold him and the other would pound away (they took turns holding because they’d been taught to share). Until one day the boy came running to his sister’s side, but he stopped there before unleashing his tazmanian-devil self and he told that her he’d hold her while the boys swung away if she kept doing what she did to antagonze them (flirting the way eight-year-old New York girls tend to do). And it stopped.

I suppose that’s one thing about the boy you should know, Michigan. Someone can pound him and he'll take it, he's got a very long fuse, but if someone tries to hurt the ones he loves he’ll throw his body through the air to stop them. I don’t know how much to tell you. So I’ll just share one more thing today. Maybe, if you want to know more, I can share other anecdotes along the way. But I’m much more comfortable talking about Q and about you.

The boy’s first true love (almost three decades before he met Q) was this round leather ball and this hoop that someone had hung a bit too high and he had to dribble the ball (which was easier to do with two hands, but that wasn’t allowed) and he had to push it up into the air with all his strength like it was this small moon that had fallen and needed to get back into the sky and he’d push it up and it would rise a little and it would hang for an instant and then it would fall back down to earth through that hoop if he was lucky and it was the most exhilarating thing making it fall through that hoop and the most rewarding thing the boy had ever known (this was in a land far away and long before he had ever felt what it was like to hold Q’s hand, of course, or to kiss her tenderly or to sit with a big window behind them, her head on his chest, and talk about so many things).

In less than a week, Michigan, I’ll be out there with you and with Q for the entire month. I hope to find a job while I’m there. I hope to see as much of you as possible and to introduce myself more fully. I can’t wait to see Q and the mice and the rest of her family and her friends. I can’t wait to just be with her.

I don’t think love is one of those things that’s beyond words simply because it’s abstract; I think it’s beyond words because we use the words we know for such common things that they lose their potency and their magic. And love – this love I feel for Q and for you, Michigan – is the sort of thing that requires potency and magic. I miss you! I love you! Soon! xoxoxo

*Michigan photos courtesy of Anjan Reijinders

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dear Michigan (Some Things Just Stand Apart),

Every now and then you encounter someone who just stands out for some reason. Maybe it’s their sense of humor or their kindness or even their smile (and I don’t mean overall physical appearance as much as the way some smiles seem to reveal a true sense of character that’s more than charm or sex appeal, that’s more a manifestation of spirit for lack of a better word). It’s ironic, but for all the time I spend with words, they seem to abandon me most when I try to write about Q and how special she is. What I’m left with it seems are the ordinary, everyday words that never quite capture the essence of what I feel. Sometimes I tell her, “thanks for being you,” and sometimes she responds with a quote she came across once and she says, “Everyone else was taken.” But that’s one of the most beautiful things about the woman I love, her humility. It’s sort of like in the musical Billy Elliot when he shares the letter his dead mother left for him with his dance teacher. The letter reveals just how much Billy’s mother loved him and the teacher says, “She must have been special.” Billy says, “No, just me mum.” She was special and it’s easy for other people to see that. But, to Billy, that’s just the way she always was. That was just mom being mom. Q looks at herself that way. She doesn’t see anything that she thinks or says or does as special in any way, even though it’s easy for others to see just by watching the way she is with the mice or the way she genuinely wants to help people. It’s just her being her. And that’s part of what makes her so special to me.

Now, I mention this in part because you’re a lot like that too, Michigan. Not all of you, I’m sure, but there are parts of you that are special just being what they are. For example, you can go into any liquor store or wine shop in most states these days on a Friday evening and sample wines. Heck, Q and I just learned about a grocery store where you can drink wine while you shop (wonder if people buy more after imbibing). As fun as a wine tasting can be, some places make it an experience. Black Star Farms, in Suttons Bay, is one of those places that stand out just by being what it is. Q and I had the pleasure of stopping by the winery over the winter when we pretty much had the place to ourselves. As summer approaches, however, more and more people are looking for wine tasting experiences. I’m not sure you’ll find too many more memorable than Black Star Farms. As a matter of fact, I hope to take Q back there sometime soon and overnight at the Inn.

You can tell a lot about a winery by the wine. That’s a given. But you can also tell a lot by the place itself and by the people who work there. If you’re looking for one of those eye-catching-do-a-double-take-when-you-see-it places, you’ll want to stop by Black Star Farms. As you turn off the main road and enter the drive, for a moment, at least, it’s like being in Kentucky with the charming horse fence framing the soft slope of land. The drive curves down a slight hill and there you’ll find the Inn which is stately and grand, but never feels like too much. It fits the setting well and is really quite inviting. As you drive to the tasting room, you’ll pass the small café (aka Hearth & Vine) and farm market and the stables and you might even witness some sleek equine grace. There’s something majestic and potent and yet calming about the beauty of a horse. As an aside, I’ve never ridden myself, but that’s another of the many things I hope to do with Q one day (maybe in Wyoming or Colorado or Traverse City).

Black Star Farms is one of those places where you could spend most of the day. After a luxurious evening sleeping in the elegant Inn and having breakfast, you might be tempted to take a stroll and watch the horses. Apparently “the facility is designed for training,” but guests at the Inn are also encouraged to stable their horses. If you’re one of those guests, you may want to enjoy the grounds from a slightly higher point of view. Later, stop by the tasting room and watch cheese being made through a large window. You can even buy a sample of cheese to enjoy while you sample wines. The tasting room is spacious, yet comfortable.

And if you’re all about accolades, if you only take time to indulge in the best of things, well, Black Star Farms might just be your place. In addition to award-winning cheeses, the farm itself won an award for the work environment. That’s right, they seem to have figured out how to make work one of those things employees look forward to doing. And you can tell by the way they treat you. Q and I enjoyed an educational and yet fun tasting. When we were done, we mentioned that we were hungry but weren’t familiar enough with Traverse City to know where to have dinner. Two of the tasting room employees asked what we liked and then, in concert, suggested the same restaurant which turned out to be perfect. It wasn’t a big thing really, but it was the manner in which the two girls approached the situation. They didn’t just blurt out their favorite spot, but inquired first about our preferences. And that’s the way they made us feel during the tasting. Of course, if the results at the Great Lakes Wine Competition are any indication, 22 award-winning wines might suggest they’ve got pretty good wine too. I know Q and I enjoyed their wines enough to buy a few bottles. I work in wine country so I’m very familiar with wine tastings. There’s no question the biggest reason I enjoyed Black Star Farms was because I was there with Q. It’s that simple really, but the other reason that day stands out to me is because Black Star Farms is an experience.

We weren’t there when the café was open and we didn’t have the chance to enjoy the farm market (which I know Q would love), nor did we stay in the beautiful and tastefully done Inn, but I know we’ll be back and we will see what those elements of the overall experience are like. Q mentioned a quote to me last night that she encountered at the yoga studio and it was about the fact that you don’t go to yoga for this specific experience or that specific experinece. You just go for an experience and you allow yourself to be there in the moment and it’s that genuine experience that is meaningful (I paraphrase rather poorly). The same could be said of our visit to Black Star Farms. It was unexpected. We went to another winery first with no idea where to go next. We started our adventure late in the day and only had time for two or three stops. The girl at the first winery said, you should stop by B.S.F. and we did. From the moment we turned onto the property we felt drawn there. The fact that I’m writing about the experience months later indicates that I’m still drawn there.

When I write about how Q is this and how Q is that, I am of course very biased. But there’s a reason for that. I’ve met so many people over the years and few of them these days seem genuine. Few of us, I dare say, are just ourselves all the time. We usually have roles and responsibilities and for one reason or another they sometimes influence our personalities. So when you meet someone who doesn’t even know any other way to be, it’s more than refreshing. It's inspiring. Q says I’m sweet and romantic and wise. I don’t actually feel like I’m those things when I do anything in particular. It’s not something of which I’m cognizant of being or doing. And maybe that’s why it means something to her the same way watching her being a mom or listening to talk passionately about nutrition or about the many ways she wants to help people as a health coach all strike me as special. She’s just being herself and I just happen to find that self to be someone I want to be with. Black Star Farms is a small part of you, Michigan. But it’s one part that stands out. It’s one of your many wonderful bright spots. And I thought you should know that I see it for what it is, that I appreciate it for just being itself.

*photos provided by Black Star Farms

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dear Michigan (what is love but an opening of the possible),

This post is my attempt to make up for not posting last Friday. I'll post again tomorrow and this Friday, but starting next week I'll just post on Fridays. I hope that's okay. Working overtime, trying to find a job out there, and coming to see you when I can make writing two posts a week a little challenging. Once I'm out there, Michigan, I'll have more time to devote to bi-weekly posts, as I won't be looking for a way to get out there to be with you.

Below is a poem I wrote back in December. It still needs a lot of work, but I thought I'd share it with you. I hope you don't mind. It's a winter poem I guess (hence the winter pic), but it's really an anytime poem, an every day I see her poem. It's a poem about love, but even more it's a poem about loving youself enough to let yourself love. Anyway, Michigan, I ramble. You should probably know this about me. Chances are you've figured that out already. I miss you more than I have words to say, but I'm searching for those words. And I'm searching for a way to be there, to watch her spin that I'm-so-loved-for-just-being-who-I-am spin. For just being!

Tomorrow's post will focus on a special place up north and on Friday I'll write about other fun adventures. I'll also write about you, of course, and about Q. Until tomorrow, I hope this poem will work. I miss you Michigan. Each time I'm out there, coming back to NY is harder and harder. It's like my lungs adapt to the air out there, so when I'm here it's so much harder to breathe.

What is love but an opening of the possible?

– from “Target” by Jason Koo

I watch thru the window, you
on the pond moving snow,

trickle of coffee at my ear,
watch you hesitant

to stay where the surface is clear,
as if your feet might fail you,

so you push on, mind the edge
and all its hidden dangers,

but then you’re done
and you glide out to the spot

where you once went down,
you spin, there, arms wide,

pulling them in as you build up speed,
pulling them tight to your body,

like a long embrace,
and I’m at the door now, breathing

some of that same cool air,
steam rising from my hand

as I drink, and I watch,
and I hear you call my name.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dear Michigan ("Nature is what we know, yet have not art to say")

I know it’s been a few days since I last wrote, Michigan, and I’ve already fallen off my schedule, but I’ll get back on track. I would have written Friday, but I was driving out to see you. I have to say, there was something wonderful about waking Q when I got there, the way she wrapped her arms around my neck in the dark and pulled me to her without saying a word. The way she kissed me in the silence, as if she’d been holding her breath since I’d last seen her and needed me to fill her lungs. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was soft and sweet and the sort of moment forever’s made of. I had planned to focus on a few other topics this week, but how can I not write about a part of you many people might not even be aware of, a part somewhere deep inside of me I want to keep to myself because Q and I had such a great time there? But that would be selfish. And the purpose of these letters is to remind you of just how special you are, to let you know that not everyone takes for granted the beauty and the strength and the love that you possess.

It was such a contrast to the previous weekend in the city, as we spent hours Sunday at Holly Park hiking one of the many trails. At times the natural world was so thick around us it felt as if we were hundreds of miles from the nearest people, but then the path would open slightly near the water and we’d be reminded that it was a holiday weekend as people kayaked and fished and splashed about here and there. But on the trail itself, it was mostly just me and Q and all that natural beauty (hers and yours alike). Q and I share quite a few things in common, like the fact that we love the hum of the city, the electricity you find there, as well as the solitude of being smack dab in the middle of nowhere and knowing, all the while, it’s really somewhere special. Sunday was one of those days where being removed for awhile from the rest of the world was exactly where we wanted to be. And the more I learn about you Michigan, the more I realize there are all sorts of beautiful places where I can be alone with you, where I can be alone with her.

I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this, but just being outside among the trees and the water and all the many animals, and stopping every so often to just be there with you in the moment, I fill then with something more than me, something pure and vital and that thing is love. It may sound odd, but I don’t really have the words. Like Emily Dickinson said, “Nature is what we know yet have not art to say.” But it’s like that when I’m with Q. It’s like there’s this deep invisible connection from the roots, like below our feet, deep down in the earth, part of us has been connected all our lives and when we’re together the rest of us catches on, the rest of us comes alive. I’m not talking passion (though I am very passionate about her) as much as I am this almost ancient essential part of us that has no name and doesn’t just exist inside us, but through us, around us. It’s a lot like the movie Avatar and the way the entire planet was connected, not just the life forms to each other, but even to those of the past, to all life. And in Holly Park, this past Sunday, Q and I stepped away from my job search and from the kids and from work and from the stress of all those miles that keep us apart some days. And it was then, while we were together with you, that I could feel what I feel every time I hear her voice over the phone, every time I see her smile, every time I hold her hand, only magnified. I could feel myself fill up, not just with myself, but with that something more, with that deep love that connects us at the roots. It was a simple day really with the woman I love. And it was wonderful!

Thank you for that, Michigan. I love you.

Here's another Emily Dickinson quote that I find relevant with regards to my feelings about Q and about you, Michigan: “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all.”