The cities I loved had to be very big cities. Too-much-ness doesn’t happen enough in small-ish cities. I thought St. Louis, Albuquerque, Reno, Detroit, Atlanta were all fine little cities but they didn’t have the too-much-ness I needed, I craved.
I craved too-much-ness because I am an animal of extremes and because I’m a severe extrovert and because I thought I needed a completely different energy from the energy that I was born into, that I was raised with. Going to New York or Chicago or San Francisco felt like plugging my body in to a life-source. I felt turned on, literally, awake and alive and able to breathe and see.
Now, something so unexpected has happened to me throughout these past ten years. And there are any number of factors to blame. My age. My settling down and into parenting. The steadiness of my job, my work. The so so small place I have chosen to settle down with my family, where I finally got the job I had worked so hard for so long to get. My gradual awareness of the value of the values I was raised with: hard work; family; the beauty of the outdoors; home-grown food; diy everything; being close to what is natural, what is from the earth.
My parents were not crunchy by any means. They weren’t hippies. They weren’t environmentalists. If they had serious political affiliations (and now that I’m older, I am aware that they did) they did not wear those affiliations on their sleeve. They never TOLD me that it was important and good and wise and wonderful to be outdoors as much as possible. They never TOLD me that it was important and good and wise and wonderful to be in awe of nature’s beauty and power. They never TOLD me to grow my own food or buy locally grown produce or be as natural as possible as often as possible. But they DID these things. They were outside, we were outside, ALL OF THE TIME. Beaches and woods, gardens and ponds were my playgrounds. My parents gardened, canned, composted, cooked, fixed their own broken things, remodeled their own homes, took me on vacations to lakes and waterfalls and mountains.
Of course, I wanted none of it. Of course, I thought all of it was boring and stupid and lame. Don’t worry, the Universe has paid me back for this shitty rebellious attitude by giving me a son who also disdains all of our values too. Yay, Universe!
Adults always told me when I was a teenager and a young adult that I would “grow up” and “mellow out” someday. This, too, I saw as a death sentence – to be avoided at all costs. And trust me, I have raged and raged and raged against this growing up and mellowing out as much as is humanly possible without becoming a serious addict of some kind. I have done what I can to avoid growing up.
But, a couple of weeks ago now, I found my body at the shore of Lake Superior in the smallest town I think I’ve ever stayed more than one night in. Grand Marais, Michigan is the opposite of too-much-ness. And the opposite of too-much-ness is NOT (as I had always been so afraid of as a teenager and a young adult) not-enough-ness. Not in the least. The opposite of too-much-ness is nothing extra.
My god, Dear Reader! How I wish! How I wish how I wish how I wish I could grab you by the hand and the heart and make you FEEL how very monumentally awesome “nothing extra” is.
Do you meditate? Have you ever come to a place in your meditation where you feel it working? You are present. You are absolutely present and there isn’t a thought or a worry or a plan that passes into your brain without getting blown, like, poof! away by this momentary absolute clarity. You are in the blue sky – above the clouds. The clouds of worry and constant thought and planning and regret, etc… are passing beneath your feet and you are far above them. You are all blue sky, clarity, peace, presence. THAT is nothing extra. Just you. Just what you need and all that you need in this moment. Nothing extra.
That was Grand Marais for me, this summer. Even when we walked into the general store. Even when we sat down to eat at the bakery for lunch and the next day, the brewery for dinner. Or when we visited the pickle barrel museum. Or when I went on a little mermaid shopping spree at The Little Fishnet House. But especially on the lake, in the harbor, digging for agates in the sand – especially when we were close to the physical land, the powerful water. There was never anything extra. Pure simplicity. All blue sky.
I first really came to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as an adult when my brother Mitch invited me to come stay at a cabin he had been renting every summer for years and years. This was just a few years ago. Mitch knew this physical land, this powerful water so well – and was so intimately connected to nature – that he guided us through back dirt roads and what looked to us like just an uncharted woods, to this tiny spot on the yellow dog river where there were no other people for, what felt like, miles, no other sounds but birds and that buzz and hum that the deep woods gives off. He showed my husband and kids where to cast their fishing poles while I waded over the rocks and took pictures. After a bit, he sat down next to the river and just sunk in to his love of this little spot. He told us stories about it; how he had been bringing his own kids there since they were babies. This was the first time I really let it dawn on me how connected my brother was to nature; how absolutely at home in it; how much at peace with everything he could be in this spot and all of the natural spots like it that he had claimed over the years. This was also the first time I really let it hit me how disconnected I had been for so long. How unable to settle down. How I couldn’t tap into that same energy that he was clearly tapping into. I was awed by the beauty, yes. I found it all very charming, yes. But I didn’t understand the blue sky thing yet. I didn’t understand that too-much-ness is not the cure for not-enough-ness. I didn’t understand that only an acceptance that there needn’t be anything extra would cure me of constantly craving too much.
I am still often excited by the possibility of too-much-ness but, finally, I am wary of the way too-much-ness over-stimulates, confuses, clouds, garbles, makes me feel lost too. I am growing up. I am realizing that when we are very young or still very unaware of ourselves, we are often drawn to that which only feeds what we should be trying to rid ourselves of. I am realizing that often we shun what is most healthy for us, most necessary to the growth of our souls. I rebelled and raged and ran toward too-much-ness over and over and over again when I was younger. Until these past couple of years even, I was still convinced that too-much-ness held some kind of key to self-actualization, to finding my life’s ultimate calling, to being truly “at home.” But, on the shores of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Michigan a couple of weeks ago, I took a deep breath and felt every bit as “turned on” (like a light switch!) as I ever did on the bus into Manhattan from LaGuardia or walking toward Lake Michigan from Union Station in Chicago.
For a brief, ridiculous moment, I said to my husband, “let’s move here.” But – though Grand Marais is stunning and I hope to go back many times – it wasn’t Grand Marais itself that turned me on. It was the nothing extra. It was the lake. It was the simplicity. It was the woods. It was just being close to nature, out-of-doors, watching the sun rising and setting, not rushing. THAT feeling is home. And I can have that anywhere. Even... at home.
I have been slow – stupidly slow – at embracing Michigan – especially Midland, Michigan – as “my home” but it is. It is. And I have everything I need here to be who I am. And, nothing extra.
Find your own blue sky, with love, Teamies!