Leland. I think I left my heart there.
We stumbled into Fishtown on a rainy, Friday afternoon with the hopes of picking up a CHEESE sandwich and grabbing a few harbor photos. Steven and I stepped out of the old Buick (which just topped 200,000 miles after our Canada rendezvous) and begin unloading the kids, throwing sweaters on them, grabbing our backpack full of camera stuff and “dankees”, translated as “blankets”. That’s how we travel. An odd mixture of parents and young creatives determined to see and experience the world.
Steven and I began to walk down to the harbor and I just kept shooting double takes all around me because I couldn’t believe it was all real. That places like this actually existed. It was like a dream world I had created in my head since I was a teenager, played out right in front of me and down to the very details. The planked boardwalks, the crisp air, the ships named “JOY” and “JANICE SUE”, the boat shoes, the tanned faces and windblown hair. I kept whispering to Steven, so the locals would not instantly know we were gushing tourists, “This place is AMAZING.”
We began walking in and out of the little shops that are right on the canal, with ships tied up outside their back doors. There is no fence, nothing keeping the schooners from falling in, so we had a serious talk about consequences and what not. Those always go over swimmingly. They start bringing up sharks (too much Shark Week, apparently.) and orca whales and jellyfish. Where they got their vivid imaginations from, I’ll never know, but it ruins about %80 of our teaching moments. Ruins them I tell you.
Without the risk of sounding dramatic, Steven and I just kept looking at each other with big grins as we walked…we didn’t want to leave this place. At all. We stumbled on a little hole-in-the-wall motel right on the canal and decided to see if they had an opening for the night. One room left. So we nabbed it. Nothing fancy. Nothing glamorous. But it had a loft for the kids and a little balcony that overlooked the canal and the beach was right outside our door. It was perfect for us.
What followed was 24 hours of total bliss. Picnics on the beach. Naps in mum’s arms. Sunset and sunrise. Sandcastles. Sand angels. Books and stories. Songs and conversations. I soaked up every dang minute. And tried to hold on tight to the memories. I kept looking at my three schooners, and my Steven, and thinking how lucky/blessed we are. To be together. Happy. I kept watching Shiloh singing at the top of her lungs, collecting sea shells. I listened to Emma Claire’s breaths as she slept in my arms. And noticed every single thing Keller told me to “Look, and SEE!”
I got up early the morning we were there to go out to the beach by myself and read. And think. I’ll be the first to admit, I need my alone time. Not manicures or pedicures. Not hair appointments or retail therapy. I just need a diet coke and someplace quiet so I can wrap my brain around the day-to-day things that overstimulate my mind. And as I sat there on the beach, me and the lone metal detector guy who was walking up and down the shoreline, I pieced together a few things about myself….
And it was good. To know myself and pinpoint the raw edges. The parts that make me sensitive to the world and easily hurt by it. To remind myself that I have nothing to prove and very few people to answer to. I finally saw after months of working and staying so so busy in my office, where I’ve gotten out of balance, the things I need to invest in, the areas I so desperately need to fill up with God’s grace, and not my own hard work. I finally saw the good in my sensitive nature. And accepted it. I finally saw that the very thing that I thought debilitated me, in actuality has enabled me. To create. To view the world through a lens and find the beauty. To write the things I see. To learn about people and the world from a raw place of observation.
And that is why it’s a risk.
But so worth taking. To put yourself in positions outside of your comfort zone, meeting new people and places. Being willing to look at your own self with a fresh perspective. With new eyes. And an open mind.
Some notes on Leland, Michigan: It’s a small harbor town in northern Michigan, built around Lake Michigan. The beach is out of this world private and gorgeous! I almost want to keep it a secret because it’s not built up and touristy, and I would love for it to stay that way. Go to CHEESE for sandwiches…they’ll blow your mind on their pretzel bread. Get fresh fish from one of the local fish places on the canal. We bought a smoked salmon fillet for around $9, ate it on the beach with our bare hands, and it was unbelievably good. There is a boat that runs on Saturdays and will take you to Manitou Island for the day. We didn’t have time to do this, but we put it on our list for next time. You can also camp on the island for around $5 a night, I believe. There’s a lots of little shops with cool coastal things to buy or just be inspired by.
The locals told us that Fishtown gets a little crowded on weekends and holidays, but the Saturday we were there it was nothing compared to any beach town I’ve ever been to! The motel on the canal fills up fast, so I wouldn’t just walk up like we did and expect to get a room. Keep in mind, they rooms are not glamorous, but the location is unbelievable and outshines the 70’s look. 🙂 You can read more about Leland HERE.
A HUGE thank you to Megan Gilger for giving me recommendations. We are going to make this a regular summer spot!
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