Sweet Pea


november2013 047

I never have been much of a “vacationer.”

When I visit a place, I want to see it the way the locals do. I don’t want the “tourist experience;”  I want to fit in. I imagine that it’s my place, that I’m familiar with the people and their particular mannerisms, that I know the vendors and I’m a regular at a certain coffee shop.

I wanted to live on Beaver Island for as long as I can remember.

When my Dad gave up his own electrical business and started working at Chevrolet Manufacturing,  he got a paid vacation. We used that time to go to Beaver Island every summer, to the farmhouse where Dad was raised, and where my Grandpa George and Grandma Florence still spent their summers.

We played on rope swings in the barn, roamed the fields, climbed trees and built forts. On rainy days, we explored the old trunks and boxes and attic spaces. Grandma would let us help with the old wringer washer, and was always up for games of “Crazy Eights” or “Kings in the Corner.” On nice days, we’d load up and go to the beach. In the evenings, Dad told the old stories as he drove us around on the curving roads through the tunnels of trees.

I loved it all! I always imagined it was my home. When the time came to go, I was the kid hanging over the rail of the ferry boat, sobbing.

I wanted to live there.

In preparation, of course, I’d read.

The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald, plucked from my mother’s bookshelf, was early research.

E.B.White’s essays – written when he moved from New York City to a saltwater farm in Maine – were treasures. His story about trying to save an ailing pig, that would eventually go to slaughter, still makes me laugh…and cry. His sheep were named with Celtic numbers (Yain, Tain, Eddero, Peddero, Dix…)and his little dachshund was always around, investigating the goings-on.

As soon as my daughters were old enough, our bedtime reading turned to the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. One chapter a night, we went through the entire Little House on the Prairie series, learning as we went about the old ways.

An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter helped me plan my own island garden. She talked about the way Sweet Peas climbed and wound around their supports, about tiny bouquets of the little blossoms and of their heavenly scent.

Sweet Peas were added to my list of dreams for my little island home.

Eventually, I did move to Beaver Island, with a husband and two small children.

It didn’t always go as planned.

Problems arose that were never covered in the books I’d read.

Living on Beaver Island is not what I expected it would be.

It doesn’t matter.

I kind of fit in. It’s my place. I’m familiar with the people and their particular mannerisms. I know the vendors, and I’m a regular at a certain coffee shop.

I still hate to leave Beaver Island and I love coming back.

Sweet Peas blossom just outside my kitchen door.

This is home.

8 responses »

  1. Cindy, your words resound so strongly of my own childhood relationship with the island. I fist started coming here when I was 10, which was 45 years ago. I skipped several years and resumed coming in my 20’s. I was married here 16 years ago. In between the years I wasn’t here, it was my safe place, my sanctuary to go to in my heart and mind in my often way too turbulent life. While it certainly is vastly different living here versus vacationing here, I finally feel home and cherish that I made a dream come true.

    • Oh, good for you, Kim! That is a special feeling, isn’t it…to “feel home.” I can’t say that I felt that strongly “home” about the town I grew up in! Though I never planned to be single and alone on Beaver Island, though I miss my family terribly at times, this is my place. Thanks for reading, and for your comments!

  2. I agree with you on vacations or visiting other places. I could never understand spending the money and time to go to another place and stay at a resort or hotel that was no different than one I could stay at in my own country, or state as far as that goes. When I visited Africa I stayed in the bush of Tanzania working with the Maasai. When in Kenya I ate where our driver and his friends ate even had a meal in his home. Instead of buying souvenirs, I bought propane for his stove. When I went to Ecuador we went to the markets where the locals shop and eat- I’ll never forget finding a chicken foot in my soup and the locals cheering at my good luck. We also visited the homes of the people who made the sweaters and weavings. If I ever go to Europe it would be to tour it on a bicycle.
    My son and I always camped. On our trips only once staying in a motel when traveling with my brother and his son. My brother preferring 4 real walls around him.
    And when I go to Beaver Island I prefer to stay with Katy and the same farm you speak of.

    • You certainly do live it, Bob, right down to the traveling you do for disaster relief! There’s nothing like getting right in the trenches to help, to make you feel a part of a community! Thanks for reading, and for your comments!

  3. Cindy, I so love reading your posts. I can just imagine myself as one of your playmates, swinging in the barn, climbing trees, roaming the fields. I know you work harder than I have it in me to work, but when I read about your life on Beaver Island, I am envious. And very happy that you share it all with us so beautifully!

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