Not having siblings makes having cousins that much more special. At least to me. They're the closest things I have to a brother or sister. I can see resemblances of our parents and grandparents and how certain characteristics dominate in one of us versus the other. I haven't been back to Michigan since we took mom's ashes to the farm in 2015. During that visit I was in the midst of separation, trying to figure out who I was. Or am. Being surrounded by family softened reality for a time and reminded me that my family in particular is especially precious.
This visit was a reunion of sorts. My dad and I both drove up separately to begin the first leg of the trip with the Lenehan side. We met at Rush Lake, all of my cousins (except one, we missed you Andrea) and aunts and uncles. There were new babies to meet and I became known as "Aunt Dee." (Though technically I'm a first cousin once removed, aunt was more understandable. You can see I'm a stickler for accuracy.) The weather was spectacular and the lake was clear and warm. By the end of the day we had erased the time and distance and it felt like I was 12 again.
After the reunion, dad and I drove up to The Farm where my aunt and uncle live. They inherited it from my grandparents and have rebuilt the old rickety house(s) ...(more on that later) into a beautiful home. My grandparents originally bought the property as an investment in order to develop a Christmas Tree farm. But since around the same time artificial trees were just being released to the market, they missed their window and it became a retreat of sorts. My dad remembers it as a place where he was always put to work fixing something.
My grandma and grandpa did what they could with the house(s), it was two mining shacks haphazardly thrown together from nearby Grindstone City, Mi. As kids, my cousins and I remember visiting during the summer and having bonfires, using the out house, picking blackberries, and taking tractor rides with Grandpa. Its still bucolic and quiet, though the addition of windmills on the landscape give it an eerie futuristic novel backdrop.
Dad and I visited mom then walked to the other end of the property. We got up close with one of the windmills, its amazing how huge they really are. They sound like airplanes when the wind is blowing in a certain direction.
The next day I packed up and headed northwest to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for a couple of nights of solitude before rejoining my dad in Grand Haven for another reunion, this time on my mom's side, for my cousin's wedding. I reconnected with my other cousins whom I had not seen in a while, it was really nice to catch up and see how well they are doing.
My youngest cousins (they're twins) and my mom had a special bond, and I couldn't help but feel her presence at Brooke's wedding. It was such a beautiful and love filled evening. I couldn't be happier for her and her husband Graham.
After 10 days traveling through Michigan I was ready to come home. I needed the time away to reconnect with my roots and remind myself that no matter what, my family will always be there for me. The trip was inspiring too, there were several stops along the way where I found some inspiration for new paintings.
Sadly though, the old barn in "Still Standing" is no longer. Its been torn down and replaced with a much smaller steel barn. I'm thankful that I was able to capture it. As time passes, old barns, and similarly the American landscape, will eventually change and slowly morph into places almost unrecognizable to our memory. Part of why I paint the old and weathered imagery that I am drawn to is to capture those places before they fall back into the earth.
Needless to say, my kitties , and my boyfriend, were happy to have me home And I was glad to be there.