Monday, March 26, 2012
What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise. ~ Barbara Jordan
We took a recent drive along the Underground Railroad Memorial Highway. Actually, when we took the cutoff from I-94 heading south from Kalamazoo we had no idea we were on a roadway that had once been a major passage for slaves fleeing from the south. A sign along the way informed us. We came to the burg of Vandalia which was one of the stations where they'd find safety and shelter. The town is very small with a population of around 400 people, 38% of them under the age of 18, so I'm thinking it's one of those idyllic out-of-the-way places for raising kids. What we saw as we drove thru were some amazing old buildings, such as the church I have pictured above. And once we'd realized we were on the memorial highway, I spent my time thinking about what the people who'd traveled along it 150 years ago must have felt as they fled for their lives. I don't know what the landscape was like back then but since most of it is open farmland all around with groves of trees and marshy spots, I'm thinking it wasn't much different than what it is now. Out in the elements with not much more than the clothes on their backs...it was very sobering.
Before we moved here, Michigan was a state I knew existed. I knew Detroit was here, that it was in the upper Midwest, and it's the home of America's auto industry. But I never gave it much thought beyond that. I'd heard of the Upper Peninsula. I knew the Great Lakes were around here somewhere but didn't realize how the state is actually surrounded by them on 3 sides. And I never ever dreamed it was so full of America's history. The town of Monroe, not many miles south of where I live, is where General George Armstrong Custer grew up and one of the bloodiest battles took place. I've seen the church where he and his wife were married. Detroit was the second founded city in America. It was also the jump off point for slaves entering into Canada on the Underground Railroad. Detroit has been under the rule of Native Americans, the French, and the British in the past before it became part of this country. And once you get within a few miles of the perimeter of the metro area, Michigan is mostly rural outside of a few bigger cities like Lansing, Kalamazoo, Flint, and Saginaw. Detroit is also the only major city in America that actually looks south onto Canada.
I have a friend who, a while back, gently chastised me for comparing Oregon and Michigan so much. True, I do write a lot about the comparisons between Northwest living and Upper Midwest living, especially on Facebook. But I think of friends and family in Oregon and Washington and I'm sure most of them know as much about Michigan as I did before I moved here. Which is not much. So I try to share my new experiences and love for my new surroundings. As my next door neighbor Donna says, "But Oregon is so far away, Kris!" How many of those I know and love out west will ever visit here? Not many, I'm thinking. I was quite aware when we moved here there are many who I'll most likely never see again. I'm ok with that, since with technology everyone is just a click away, and once I get Skype figured out I can 'see' them on screen as clearly as I'd see them in real life. When we first learned about the possibility of moving here I remember thinking, "Detroit? Are you serious?! Are we crazy?!" But oh, how pleasantly surprised we've been. Sure, Detroit is a city in major crisis. It's filled with crime and decay. But it's such a tiny part of an absolutely beautiful state. Pure Michigan.