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Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.
John Muir

I can feel the woods pulling us in. We are on the move again, and although there is a lot of uncertainty as to just where we will be heading, I know it should be near the trees.

 

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Sorry Detroit, but you stink. Not as much as you did a week ago, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate that I may have a more sensitive sense of smell than some but this particular odor really bothered me.  I thought there must have been a rotting animal carcass under the deck until I realized I was randomly smelling this same smell on my walks around town.  It is flowering pear. Rows and rows of flowering pear are planted everywhere.

I admit that they are lovely to look at, but there are multitudes of them, and on a warm sunny afternoon, this is one overwhelming fragrance.  Well, it is to me. Thankfully, as  Spring moves along the pears are starting to leaf out, their white petals are dropping, and it seems we have hit our “stink peak.” Now, I will appreciate them.

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Looking out the window I see half a dozen pheasant in the vacant lot next door.

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I believe this is my first sighting of a female. Make that two females.

The rewilding of Detroit.

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I’ve been walking a lot lately, discovering parks and trails around Detroit. It doesn’t matter where I go, if I slow down and take a moment, I’m rewarded with little surprises.

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I like to think that I’m pretty good at recognizing beautiful details all on my own, but on this particular day in Palmer Park, I was guided by signs. Original and unique art was placed at various spots along the path. Like randomly opening a book in the middle and starting from there, I didn’t really know what these character were doing here.

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Why here? What am I looking at? It was creative. It was fantastic.
And there was no way I wasn’t going to slow down and look at each
of these little nature guides.

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It seems that every one of these little signs tells its own story and it can be any story I want…

Once upon a time, there was a group of kids who headed into the woods. One by one, they each were drawn to a different spot. Each sat quietly for a bit in their spot and thought about how that place made them feel, what they saw, what they heard, smelled and touched. They took those feelings and they made them into art. The art was a sign, a reminder for anyone walking by each adopted spot to recognize that they were in a special place. Nature.

People walked by these spots and many never saw the signs. They didn’t recognize that they were somewhere special— they didn’t stop and take a moment to think about what they were seeing or hearing, smelling or touching. They didn’t realize that the kids created their art signs to show the magic that can be found on a journey through the woods.
If we look.

But some people in this story try to destroy the magic. They don’t think about how a place makes them feel, or what it looks like. They don’t see anything special about this place, or any place. They are the people who come to the woods, the parks, and the streets to throw their trash on the ground.

I want to rewrite this story. Because, along with the beauty I see in all of our parks and trails, empty lots and streets, I see trash. A lot of trash.

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There are days when a word or a phrase just won’t stop playing in my head. Lately, it is  the in-between. It started with “Preserve the In-Between,” an article written in Grand Circus magazine about my neighborhood’s beautiful, mysterious urban wilds. For me, right now, in-between is exactly what it feels like living here in Brush Park. Moving from an island to a city. Seeing pheasant, fox and hawk next to building cranes, backhoes and lots of trash.

On every daily walk, as I take my lesson in patience by letting the dog choose our pace, I challenge myself to stop and really notice some unique thing. Many times, it is a detail and always, it is a nature thing. Birds, wildflowers, patterns, shapes, it doesn’t matter because I always find some beautiful urban wild thing. For now. In the rush for urban density, it will soon be plowed under and chased out. Taking the time to notice a wildflower won’t even be an option.

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This is my Detroit: I’m living in the city among construction and freeways and noise and activity and I’m living in the country among trees and blocks of green space and flora and fauna. Here I am in the middle, literally. I can stand in my living room and the windows to the east look out to green vacant lots, wildflowers, birds. The windows to the west look out to Fox Theatre, downtown, development.

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I consider myself lucky, I love this balance. I also realize the precarious relationship here between nature and the built /building environment. It’s more than just being aware of all the wild and the designed as I walk around my neighborhood. This is how we connect to a place, this is a restorative landscape. The reason I live in Detroit? I’m here to find, preserve and create this balance.

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dscn2302Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities – for success, for happiness, for really living – are waiting. Martha Nussbaum

Well, yes. It’s been 25 years since we left our hometown and now, we are back. Some decisions have been made, many miles have been traveled. We are living in the “D”.

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Our experiences here on Henry Island have been amazing and humbling, and no doubt have changed us in ways we don’t even realize yet. But it feels like it’s time to go and so we are packing up and moving on. Heading home. It’s been almost twenty-five years since we first moved from our home state of Michigan, and even after something like nine more moves all over the country, our hearts are pulling us back to where we started.

I keep thinking about a farmer’s motto I recently saw in Modern Farmer: ‘Bloom where you were planted.’ I believe we will.

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Every day, I check my Word of the Day and more than occasionally, a word seems hand chosen for me. A couple of days ago it was objet trouvét. This wasn’t a term I was familiar with, but once I get comfortable pronouncing it, you can bet I will  be using it. The definition is: a natural or discarded object found by chance and held to have aesthetic value.

Oh yes. You can step into my living space and see my objet trouvét. I’ve got a million of them. Maybe a few too many, and by that I mean they are on every available surface,  but when you live on an island, what are you going to do? Part of my self-imposed job description here is walking the property collecting the “trash or treasure.” And then bringing it indoors and calling it art.

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I’m beginning to wonder if my eye for discovering an objet trouvét has made my home look like some kind of weird science museum. Luckily, I know I can always justify all my collecting of bones, rocks and sea life with another word– one for the cabinets of curiosities that started in 16th century Europe–Wunderkammer.

 

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On a sunny day in October, I felt a strong need to bury the long-dead hummingbird. We found her four years ago while we were cleaning up the attic rooms in the log cabin. She was clinging to a wire, frozen to death. I brought her down to the shack and for a while and had her perched on a nest on the windowsill, right above all the reference books. I do like my curiosities and it was kind of cool to look at the delicate bird and to notice the colors that didn’t seem to fade. But something about it bothered me and I never felt comfortable about where I should display her. Of course, it was only after I buried her under the juniper tree that I tried to identify which kind of hummingbird this one was. I’m certain that it was female, but I can’t say whether it was an Allen’s or a Rufous Hummingbird. I suppose it doesn’t really matter if I ever figure it out and I should just accept that it’s very difficult to tell the difference between the two. I do know that I did feel better after burying her in a bed of moss under my favorite tree. An hour later I was busy in the garden and heard that familiar whir. A hummingbird hovered near my head for a moment and then moved off, up in the trees. I don’t care about identifying that one either, I was happy just to see it.