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The Gift of An Up North 'Distraction'

"Our Road on 4 March 2012"
Earlier in March, Northern Michigan was hit with a major late season snow storm that dumped over 25 inches of wet, heavy snow here in Leelanau County -- all in a matter of hours -- before the temperature plummeted to zero the next day on the heels of a strong cold front that brought a lot of high wind with it. Not surprisingly, power to over 75,000 Northern Michigan residents was cut off for days, us included. Thankfully, our generator kept the house and our water well running while we remained cut off from the rest of the world; no phone, no cable, no Internet, no outside power (other than what we produced ourselves) external distractions of any kind. Just the crackling of a cheery fire on the hearth, and warm conversations around hot coffee and fresh baked cinnamon rolls of a morning while we remained snowed in and stranded. For those few days, time seemed to stand still as we waited to dig out to assess the damage to the pine trees on our property, and surrounding area. Indeed, we learned that almost every single tree in Northern Michigan suffered damage, or snapped in half, taking power and cable lines down with them. Not surprisingly, we were under a state of emergency for three days until power crews could at least get all the power lines off the roadways so municipal snow plows could clear a path for us to get out. Crews from as far away as Indiana and Ohio -- themselves hit with deadly tornadoes only a week prior -- drove up here in their bucket trucks by the hundreds to render aide where ever they could.

But as life for us slowed way down, we quickly discovered the beauty in such a distraction: we couldn't drive anywhere, so we walked up and down our street to see how people were faring. In so doing, we met neighbors we had never seen before, striking up easy conversations while making new friends. It was also a time to check up on the many elderly who live on the two and a half miles of country road that we live on, none of whom had any electricity, either. There was just something kind of old fashioned about inviting neighbors over to share the warmth of our cheery fireplace (which we kept well-stocked for those many days), or to offer hot, home-made soup, or whatever anyone needed to get by until the power could be restored. It's just what folks do up here.

While nobody took us up on the offer (they didn't want to chance leaving the safety of their own homes to brave the frigid elements outside) we were instantly reminded that oft times, we may be faced with an event that some may consider to be a distraction on the road of life. In reality, those things can turn out to be defining moments for what many weather forecasters now refer to as 'The Storm of the Century'. While it disconnected many of us from our normal routines, it also drew many of us together as we slowed down our lives to care for each other, to take time to read a good book by the warmth of the fire, or to just spend time in meaningful conversations with each other...without any outside distractions to bother us that we're so often not even aware of that can crowd kindness and compassion right out of our lives.

Shannon was at a weekend retreat during the storm -- she enjoyed this beautiful view, having ridden it out at a remote resort in Kalkaska, MI!

But then she had the task of digging out her TrailBlazer (2nd one in from the left)
But, as is so characteristic of Northern Michigan weather (as any seasoned great lakes mariner will tell you), it can change dramatically in an instant. While 'The Storm of the Century' was only 16-days ago from this writing, we're now basking in our fifth straight day of mid-to-high 80-degree, record-breaking  heat; the trees that were so laden with heavy snow then are all starting to sprout new leaves now. The lake across from us that was frozen solid then, opened up early just last week almost 8-weeks to the day it froze over; after one of the latest freezes ever recorded, it's also one of the earliest ice openings on record.

After taking a look at this photo, our son said he saw a girl taking a picture in this ice formation...can you see it?
An early affirmation that winter was over (well, at least we hope so) came this past weekend as an immense flock of geese, maybe a couple thousand of them, flew overhead into a spectacular evening sunset toward Lake Michigan; the back of their characteristic V-pattern must have spanned all of two miles. Soon, we know the loons will be back with their plaintiff calling back and forth across Lake Leelanau, and the familiar signs of spring -- now at least a month early -- await to welcome back our many visitors. We hope that you will be among them, as we share in the many beautiful distractions along the road of life that makes Northern Michigan such a very special place in which to live and work. Soli Deo Gloria ~
First Day of Spring - March 20th