Summer is here in Michigan, and it is my absolute favorite season! Mid-June has arrived and I feel myself coming alive with it. I love the rain and the blast of bright green colors from the fresh, new plants. I love the warmth from the sun, which feels so different in June than it does in January. When the occasional day arrives that is warm enough to lay in the sun, I grab my favorite book, dig out my most comfortable flowy dress from the back of my closet and disappear onto the roof. Oh hell yes- this is my bliss.
There is a part of me that feels joy from this shift and there is another part of me that is a bit resentful about putting up with winter for so long. Winter and I are not great friends, and so it is usually six-months of high doses of vitamin D, space heaters and a LOT of yoga.
When spring arrives, it usually leads me to the question of why I still live in Michigan when I could live somewhere warm year round. I love the idea of spending an entire year of my life in fresh air. No air conditioning and no heat for a full 365-days. No more cold, bitter winds. I’d live in an open, eco-style home and work with the temperature of the world. Maybe in Central America. Or Africa. Or southeast Asia…. there are so many options
I went for a walk outside last week and I found myself daydreaming of these far off, warm all year places.
I am pretty great at daydreaming.
I spend a lot of time learning about beautiful locations in our world while thinking about where I’d like to go next. I don’t just want to see pictures. I want to read about what it feels like to be there. What is the climate? What is the elevation? What are the animals that live there? What sounds might I hear?
And away I go…
Sometimes I daydream of places I’ve already visited, and on this occasion, I was daydreaming about the Dades Valley in Africa. I was wrapped up in the memory of how beautiful it was, with tall red canyon walls cradling a beautiful, green valley. Red clay homes were built up the canyon walls and at the base of it all was an oasis of deep green palm trees and gardens of roses, which are a major export product of the region. Donkeys pulled farm carts, the air smelled like flowers, and the sky was blue.
I remember looking around in awe. I had no idea this place existed. I hadn’t done any research on it, and somehow I found myself there.
It is stumbling on places like this that send my itchy feet into overdrive.
What else is out there?
I began to think about a group of children we interacted with during our time in the Dades Valley. They were on the side of a country road and selling woven grass in the shape of camels for a few dirham. The kids played on the ground, wove their grass camels and happily ate the Pringles chips the two other girls in our car offered them. They were totally un-phased by the land that surrounded them.
This isn’t surprising, obviously. The land is their home and they see it every day.
In a flash, I snapped out of my daydream and back to where I was in Michigan. I was walking on a small private college campus near my home, along creek in a strip of woods. The sun was setting through the trees and I could hear church bells. The birds were singing in mass chaos, but in the best kind of way. It smelled like dirt and water and spring. The leaves were almost full size, new plants crowded the landscape.
If those kids were here, there is no way they would be walking along and daydreaming of other places. Just as they sat, completely un-phased by the surroundings in their home land, I do the same.
For them, this land with tall hardwood trees, flowing water, moss and mushrooms and squirrels would be magical.
It has me thinking about the land where I live, how it has shaped me, and how I interact with it.
I have always lived in Michigan. I know this land in a way that I will probably never know another land in my life. I grew up here and experienced the nature from the perspective of a child. I was a teenager here, in all my angst and drama, but one of my favorite activities was still reading on the hammock under a tree in our backyard. I’d stay on that hammock until it was too dark to read or too cold to stay. In the summer, I’d last until the mosquitoes came out.
As I grow and travel, there are little pieces of Michigan that have settled deep within me.
I love to hear the tropical birds in Central America, but Mourning Doves will always been my favorite bird call.
I love the sound of fizzing sea foam after a large ocean wave crashes to the shore, but growing up in the Great Lakes state, it will ALWAYS be weird to me to swim in salt water.
When I am stressed, I crave a hammock and the scene of big expansive oak trees. I think of the summer nature I grew up with.
If I’m traveling in another state or country during the warm season, I have to pay special attention to remember to put on shoes before I go outside. From June to October in Michigan my feet are calloused and pretty much always covered in a thin layer of dirt. I go barefoot in my backyard, which is a mini deciduous forest in the middle of the city. It’s an explosion of plants and wildflowers that grow where they please – no grass in sight. A giant tree grows in the center and several smaller trees, including an ancient lilac, grow along the perimeter. I step around the yard blindly with the knowledge that the ground beneath is a soft bed of leaves and hummus from the previous autumn. I don’t think twice about stepping on something that will seriously bite or poison me. So- remembering to check my shoes for scorpions or worry about stepping on a bullet ant or rattle snake? I have to set myself reminders.
I went for another walk last night and I didn’t daydream this time. I walked barefoot, not watching where I stepped, tea in hand on a beautiful 70ish degree evening. I watched the birds fly from tree to tree, and I listened to the first cricket I’ve heard all year. I remembered that the fireflies will be out soon! It is one of my absolute favorite things to sit on my front screened in porch and watch the hundreds of fireflies light up the street at dusk. It is seriously freaking MAGICAL!
There are some people in the world who have never seen fireflies.
To me it feels the norm, but it is not the norm at all.
I dream of other places so often, I forget that the land where I live is beautifully unique, ALIVE, and special. It has shaped me in more ways than I can acknowledge.
I’m kind of falling in love with it for the first time (…well, first conscious time).
I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to wander. But maybe for the first time of my life, I’ll also truly respect what I’ve been surrounded with all along.
If you’ve read this far, maybe this resonates with you. What natural sounds can your hear right now? Did you notice them before I asked? What are you so accustomed to that you can naturally tune out its existence?
Taking a minute of respect for the nature that is woven around us.
One day, I’ll have that 365-day experience.
Michigan in June is feeling pretty special.