From the moment we came over the rise, on the roller coaster road that is M-109, in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, I knew I was home. Above us stretched a bright blue sky, on each side of us were sun-bleached sand dunes with tufts of beach grass sprouting from them, and ahead of us sat the most photogenic weathered white barn I had ever seen. I wasn't a photographer then, just a snapshot taker. I didn't know anything about good light or bad light, composition, POV, the golden hour, ISO; it would be another fifteen years before those words would enter my vocabulary. I just knew I had to get out and take a picture with my pocket-size Fuji film camera.
I have lived in Michigan all my fifty years, never living farther than twenty miles from my childhood home. Somehow though, I knew that this "up north" place, three hours from where I grew up, was where my heart lived. For twenty-five years I have been trying to figure out what it is about this place, why it captivates me so. With each return, I dig a little deeper into it and into myself.
Our family of three opinionated adults and one sassy golden retriever, just returned from a week of vacation in this place of homecoming.
Vacations tend to fall into one of two camps for me. Either they are vacations of adventure, where I have to figure the place out, consult maps, make wrong turns, get yelled at. Or they are vacations of discovery, where the place is already understood and instead I have time and space to explore who I am in it.
We tend to stay in the same small area every time we go up north, either nestled on the edge of a small lake, or the edge of a golf course. This time, our daughter, one of the opinionated adults, convinced us to try someplace new, father north than we usually stay, located in the middle of farm country, open fields on every side, a step out of our comfort zone. This put me farther from the places that I always photograph, favorite places, another step out of comfort.
Having learned the importance of the "golden hour", I was up before the sun every morning. The sassy golden retriever, hearing the creak of the wooden floorboards, joined me. I would put on my winter coat, my warm paisley rain boots, secure my headlamp to my head, and open the back door to the frozen landscape. We would crunch through the refrozen snow, climb the rise to the west of the house, and wander along the ridge line. He would pretend to track wild animals until he finally did his business. Then, we would turn back toward the warm glow of the house so he could eat and return to bed with my daughter. I would make tea in the white mug I had claimed for the week, write in my journal, then gather my camera gear that was waiting by the door, and head out into the predawn light to scrape the ice from the windows of my car.
To be continued...
Part Two of this will be next week. I have too much I want to say for one post, and too many photographs I want to share. Until then here is a short film of our first day of vacation, you can get a good sense of the farmhouse and area around it.
Leelanau - April 21, 2018 from Sarah Huizenga on Vimeo.