Sunday, near Germfask.

Sunday, July 14th, 1996

It’s a quiet Sunday morning here in the Helmer/Curtis/McMillan/Germfask/Newberry metroplex, way up above the 45th parallel, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where all the corn is good looking and all the people are, well, almost uncomfortably uniformly white.

Yes, there is a town named Germfask up here. Sounds to me like some sort of biochemical experiment gone horribly wrong, but that’s the name, don’t wear it out, and on this morning, there’s some sort of Strawberry Festival or bazaar or something where blankets and quilts are sold (among other things) with the handwritten admonition, "Remember, winter is just around the corner."

Yep. Indeed. There is no doubt. We took a look at the Mills family’s photos of last winter, a winter particularly cold, harsh, and in ways subtle and less so, debilitating. Snow higher than small children. That kind of icy cold that drains the color from Kodak film and gives these shots an overall pallor. Yes, the winter survival mechanisms up here—both for body and mind—are second to none, but still, I think about when the lake a couple of hundred yards off my right shoulder finally unfroze—mid-May—and shudder just a bit.

You want hardiness of spirit? You’ve got it here, in warehouse store quantities. You want a decent bagel? Well, that’s another hunk of dough entirely.

But this time of year, folks thoughts are well removed from snow and cold. It’s warm, with cool nights, and a nice place, if you don’t mind mosquitoes in your eyebrows. More often than not, though, the insect life can be held at bay from a healthy breeze from the north, and because of how Our Wacky Planet works, it stays light up here a very very long time in the evening, lending a certain timelessness to the day’s activities.

Our days have been generally ones of rest and relaxation, although when hanging with the Smiths, r and r has to be punctuated by the rigor and ritual of meals consumed at noon and six, on the dot, and certain chores that at times, if you don’t mind my saying, seem just a teensy bit compulsive.

But it’s a treat to just relax and sync up to an entirely different set of rhythms and explore some back woods with Sammy and family and see some people that we really regret seeing just once a year.

I hope your summer is turning out to be all you expected it to be. If you’re visiting Atlanta for the Olympics, I have one piece of advice: remember, this is all just a big act. Come back and see the place after all the hoopla and you may well have a better, calmer and..uh, cheaper Atlanta experience.

Email me some sense of what’s happening up (or down) your way. And thanks for clicking by.