I'm a little behind in my New Yorker reading but thank God I didn't just skip the last few issues because then I would have missed one of the more lovely poems that has been written about my state. Bob Hicok's "A Primer" was published in the May 19 issue and it perfectly captures the complicated feelings I have about my state.
is thirteen months long in Michigan.
We are a people who by February
want to kill the sky for being so gray
and angry at us. "What did we do?"
is the state motto.
...daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives...
This is such a gorgeous place to live and such a problematic place, too. The economy, much of the business mindset and the politics are so ass backwards that sometimes it makes me want to pull my hair out. It's easy to love California, but loving Michigan is like loving a smelly little cousin who happens to have a beautiful singing voice. You really have to convince people to get to know him. I know people who moved here to teach at the University and who really never get this place--they stay in our little People's Republic of Ann Arbor and flee to other places for vacations. If they don't get tenure, they leave the state with a feeling of relief. And sometimes I understand where they are coming from. There are days when I wish we lived someplace else, someplace where I could celebrate what is obvious rather than defend what is (mostly) hidden or spend a lot of energy finding and promoting the pockets of goodness and hoping that we can turn the messed up parts around. But other times, my love of this state is so strong that I can't imagine another place providing the same level of satisfaction.
I'm feeling particularly tender towards Michigan since we just got back from a 50 mile 3 day, 2 night canoe camping trip on the Au Sable river, from Grayling to Mio. It was exquisitely beautiful, perfect weather, pleasant and well-kept camp grounds, and lovely people, none of whom rolled their eyes when our 7 year old was eating his 5th s'more and running in circles singing the melody of Ode to Joy at 9:30 PM.
The river was moving (at least until we got to the Mio dam pond) and we played dodge-the-fly-fisher-people and discovered that whistling while paddling is a good way to give them enough acoustical warning that you are coming so they don't hook their waving fly lines in your head. We saw huge beaver dams and trees that were in the process of being chewed through. We found snails and crayfish and played with June bugs and caterpillars. We saw people in their racing canoes training for the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon.
And best of all, we got to know another pocket of Michigan that is exquisite, but humble.