Smitten with the Mitten

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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I am definitely “smitten with the mitten,” as the saying goes. I love being a Michigander and, more specifically, a troll being born under the bridge (Mackinac) as opposed to living in the Upper Peninsula and being a “Yooper.”

It is a law of nature, but I wish it didn’t take most of us most of our lives to figure out what was really important. When I was younger, the grass was always greener on the other side of the fence. Even though I loved growing up on the farm here in southern Michigan, I always longed to live in more exciting places.

I was intrigued by the western movies and thought it would be so neat to live on the sprawling ranches out west. Then there were the cliffs along the two oceans with breathtaking views. The charming little New England towns and rolling countryside in Vermont and New Hampshire intrigued me, too.

But it didn’t stop there. I remember when I was a teenager I watched a documentary on Australia and was in love with a whole other continent for an entire summer. I even researched land and prices and availability and begged my parents to see all the advantages of moving there. I think that by the time I got out of the notion they were ready to ship me there by myself just to have a little peace.

Even through my adult life I did not realize the treasure that I had right here in Michigan. I really had the life that I never imagined. I never moved more than a couple miles from where I was raised, but that all changed when I met Jim. He was originally from Pennsylvania and soon I also had family and friends out there. Over the course of 29 years we made several trips back to his hometown of Mercersburg, a charming small town nestled in the Tuscarora Valley. I fell in love with the place and the people there, so much so that at one point I wanted to move there.

Then, since Jim’s passing, I have spent quite a bit of time at Ron’s hometown of Economy in central Indiana. It’s safe to say that lies in the middle of nowhere, in particular amidst fields and fields of farmland. That is home to me, too.

Even though Mercersburg and Economy and so many dear people in both of those places will always hold a special place in my heart, I now realize just how special my southern Michigan home is. Sometimes you have to leave to appreciate what you have.

You know the seashores that I thought I wanted with the two oceans, well Michigan is the Great Lake state, surrounded by the five Great Lakes, all of them unique in their own right.  Michigan can boast 3,288 miles of shoreline, second only to Alaska. Of all this shoreline, much is secluded; some offer popular beaches and some are so crystal clear that you can see almost to bottom.

We also have rolling hills and our version of mountains in the Upper Peninsula. We have sand dunes as well as sprawling farmland that raises just about any and every crop imaginable. Farmers not only raise the traditional corn, soybeans, oats, wheat and rye, but also sugar beets, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, mint, kale, tomatoes and many more vegetables. Then there is the fruit belt along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Peaches, apples, cherries and so many more types of fruit can be found right here on Michigan ground. And did I leave out grapes? Michigan has her share of vineyards and wineries.

As far as things to do to enjoy the great outdoors, we have ATV trails, bike and hiking trails, some of the most pristine snowmobile trails, and all sorts of waterways for kayaking, tubing and other water sports. Speaking of sports, whatever kind of fishing strikes your fancy can be found here in Michigan from trout and salmon in the streams to deep sea fishing on the Great Lakes. Hunting is no exception either. At various times of the year, folks take to the woods to bag their deer, elk, geese and bear.

If you are not into the sport of taking wild game, there is breathtaking scenery in just about every part of the state. The Upper Peninsula has some of the most beautiful waterfalls to behold. For all of us rock hounds, Michigan offers pudding stones, agates and Petoskey’s own Petoskey stones, just to name a few. On top of all of this, if nothing strikes your fancy, you can always go to Hell…literally there is a small town in the Upper that carries that name.

Not that I am bragging, but Michigan does have it all. Isn’t that always the way, that sometimes we spend our time longing for something else so badly that we fail to see what is right in our own backyard. It took me my whole life to realize how blessed I am to live where I do.

Just like Dorothy of the classic “The Wizard of Oz” fame, I don’t have to wander any further than my own back door. I know I will, because other places do hold a piece of my heart and I like to explore new places as well, but I will always call this home. Yes, I am “smitten with the mitten” but, in a broader sense, I am a die-hard Michigander…I love everything this great state has to offer.

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