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Up North

September 10, 2007

Mr. Karen and I participated in the grand Michigan tradition of going Up North this past weekend. As far as I know, there’s not a map that shows where Up North starts, but I know it when we get there. Up North means the Mobil station has a Jerky Outlet instead of a convenience store. Up North means signs at the end of driveways with the names of the owners and/or the name of the property on them. Up North means chainsaw art in front yards. Up North means propane tanks in all sizes. Up North means shops catering to hunters outnumber drug stores. Up North means going walking and waving at people in cars and having them wave back even though there’s no way you know each other.

We stayed with friends in their second home (they joke that it’s their IRA) on a little lake about four hours north (of course) of Detroit. The weather was gorgeous and the lake was post-Labor Day quiet and it was all very relaxing. I sat on the deck and knit. I went for several walks and saw a fox on one and a woodpecker on another (the same walk on which I saw a guy with the rifle strolling out of the woods). I sat on the swing by the water and watched Mr. Karen paddle his kayak around the lake to retrieve the model rockets our friend Ben launched from the dock. I enjoyed the meals Jeni cooked (and refused my help with, probably because she knows menus with that many side dishes just confuse me and it would be easier to do it herself). I rode on the fastest party barge I’ve ever seen; the engine was powerful enough to pull a person in a tube (Ben was disappointed he didn’t manage to get Mr. Karen to fall off, but Mr. Karen has lots of practice keeping his wits and his balance in moving water). I declined to try sailing after seeing Ben tip the boat over sideways but did paddle our hosts’ sit-on-top kayak around looking for fish who decided to hide from me despite having swum right up to Mr. Karen earlier. (Fortunately, I did not learn until later that this very sit-on-top invariably dumps Ben into the water whenever he tries to use it. Maybe the problem is Ben, and I should have tried sailing.)

The weekend was very nearly perfect. One exception was the movie we watched Saturday night, Eight Below, which was entirely too sad and kept me up late thinking about the fate of dogs in the movie and the fate of the dogs in the true story that inspired the movie (but it was the only one Ben had brought that even remotely interested me—our taste in films is about as different as different can be). I also wasn’t delighted to be faced with the TempurPedic mattress we’d gotten rid of and given to Ben and Jeni because they thought it would be just the thing for their guest room Up North. Per Jeni, her mom likes it, but I still don’t. At least sleeping in the warm and sticky embrace of the space age foam again gave me comfort that I’d made a better choice when buying the mattress I’ve got now.

I spent part of the weekend envying the property and wondering if I should give up on my ski condo dream and start trying to talk Mr. Karen into looking into getting something similar, but then I realized it’s much better just to have friends who have property Up North. They have to cut the grass and stain the deck and powerwash the dock and worry about winter storms taking down their trees and bears knocking down their lawn ornaments. All we have to do is be good guests. Works for me.

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