Da Vinci’s Paintbrush

I think everyone reaches a point in their life where they ask themselves, “What the hell am I doing?” That midlife crisis seems to sneak up on us when we least expect it. For me, that age was 38. The age my mother was when she lost her battle with Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. The age I could never see beyond for she was my mile marker. She had put a huge roadblock on my path without even realizing it and I hated her for it. Hate is such a strong word. I hurt for her. I hurt for what she lost and would never see. I hurt for the conversations we were missing out on and I was hurting for her scent, her hugs, her anger, her pain, her happiness, her own life changes. At the beginning of the year, I decided I wasn’t going to let my 38th year get the best of me and I was going to make changes that were going to alter my mind and soul for the better. I didn’t know quite how I was going to accomplish this, but it was going to happen regardless.

As the day approached, I realized I needed to get the hell away. To become accustomed with the girl I had kept in the dark for so long. This girl was a bit annoying. She has a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them. She has low self esteem issues and battles with self doubt. This is quite the opposite of what most people think of her. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to get to know her and yet the necessity of it was there. I had once told my Dad the biggest fear I had in life was the fear of “ending up”. I didn’t want to look back on life and say, “What the fuck have I done?” Being a mommy was never meant to be my only job. It has however, brought me to the path I find myself on now and it’s so different than I thought it would be. This is not a bad thing, it’s just different. I’ve made so many mistakes. Being a first child myself, I knew I was going to mess up and use my boy as a guinea pig in the land of parenthood. What I got from this experiment of human error, is a loving, sensitive young man who although pisses me off on a fairly regular basis, amazes me at every turn. I have a daughter who makes me happy with the creative brightness that shines off of her entire being. She is emotional and kind and has a sense of wonder with her world. I have an outstanding, loving husband who supports me and understands my kind of crazy; and yet I knew I still needed to get away from all of them.

I made plans to follow back roads up and over the Mackinac Bridge and get myself up to Tahquamenon Falls. I had never seen Lake Superior or driven across the bridge on my own, On Monday July 28th, I dropped the daughter off to camp and loaded up the Honda Pilot with camping gear and food with the intention of spending each night in a different State Campground. I have never been on a trip by myself. Although I enjoy my quiet time, I enjoy conversation and this was a huge step for me. I was scared, nervous, and so very excited.

Ready to hit the road.

Ready to hit the road.

My son kissed me on my forehead while saying, “Have fun Mama” and waved as I pulled out of the driveway. Day one, I planned on being in Leelanau State Park. I headed towards the lake shore to catch the scenic route going north from Muskegon. I was able to grab some soda’s at Snug Harbor Outfitters, the shop owned by my fabulous sister and brother in-law before silencing myself until I had a local or forest ranger to talk to.

The first rule of travel is, get off of the interstate. Get yourself onto the two lane highways and see this gorgeous land we live in. The scent of the water, sweet grass, and the heat of the sun radiating off the pavement is reason enough. You can roll your windows down and stick your arm out the window. Left arm farmer tans are sexy and proof that you’re road warrior. Be proud of it.

The scenic route going north.

The scenic route going north.

I completely ignored my GPS most of the time. If I didn’t, I would never have found the gem that was my first stop. In the little town of Manistee, Michigan, there is a gorgeous beach with a sign saying the land ends before you find yourself tumbling down a small dune to Lake Michigan.

The Land Ends NOW!

The Land Ends NOW!

I kicked off my flip flops and walked down to the water. There really is nothing that compares to the feel of sand between the toes. I took a deep breath and looked up to see; vultures. Yes dear people you read that right. Vultures. I was so excited to see such large birds swarming overhead, thinking I was watching hawks. Nope. These things are huge. Turkey vultures wingspan average around 5 ½ feet. Although not as majestic as the hawk, still pretty impressive. I took pictures, closed my eyes, and smiled only to realize I had no idea what the habits of these birds were and really had no desire to start my trip off having to clean bird poop off of me for they flew low and right above me. Content with the amount of wind, waves, and sunshine in my system, I head back to the Pilot, popped in some Jackson Browne and continued on my way.

Me, Myself, and I

Me, Myself, and I

I rolled into Northport around 8pm, after taking my sweet time going down random roads just to see where they went, grabbed a bottle of wine from the corner gas station meets convenience store and continued onto the state park. I had my pick of sites that night and took the recommendation from the ranger at the gate. My site was across the road from the beach and once I had my tent set up I walked out to the water to watch my first sunset.

First Sunset

First Sunset

I was at the top of the pinky of Michigan. I could get no further north than where I was at without driving into the water. I sprayed myself with bug spray, made a fire and a humble meal of a roasted veggie brat, and filled my water bottle with wine. My cheeks hurt from having a constant smile on my face. I went to bed early that night but woke up when my bladder was about to burst. The wine I had consumed was not going to let me wait until morning before letting me know of it’s existence. As I made my way down the road to the outhouse I looked up to the sky with a deep breath and almost stumbled in shock at the night sky. I had never seen so many stars. I raced to the toilet in order to take my time getting back to my tent. Once I was done doing the potty dance, I was able to enjoy the sky. I took slow steps and kept my flashlight off in order to take it all in. When you’re that far away from any city lights, there is no end to the stars. I had a difficult time finding where the dark part of the sky was, for the stars looked as if Da Vinci had come by with his brush to shake the paint from its bristles onto black canvas, with the intention of covering it completely. It was amazing and I was standing there crying with the sheer joy of it. Before climbing back into my tent, I went out to the beach again. I stood there like a kid seeing a shooting star for the first time. I felt so small at that moment. I realized then, that some questions in life just couldn’t be answered. Some of them were meant to stay a mystery and it was okay. I fell back to sleep with the sound of the waves hitting the shore.

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