“I had a deep interest in history from Day One,” Fel Brunett says. “I was born in the house my great-grandfather built in 1881.” Fel still lives in that house—not far from Fife Lake where he is Curator of the Historical Museum.
Walking through the Museum, Fel points out an old ballot box with its sealing wax. “They took to Traverse City for the official count,” he says. Other showcases feature cranberry harvesting equipment, blacksmith bellows, sawmill blades, and a local still from Prohibition.
Sitting in the bow of the canoe, I pick up the old wooden paddle. For the first few strokes, I have to concentrate—plunge, pull, lift, twist—but soon the familiar rhythm takes over and I can just watch the river and feel its buoyant grace.
When I was learning this skill, it seemed impossibly complex. Plunge the paddle into moving water—deep enough for purchase, not too deep to maneuver. Plunge without clanging against aluminum, without splashing myself or my partner.
Homer asked if I wanted to go to Stonehenge. “We’ll have to hitch-hike,” he said so we took the London tube as far West as we could and stood in the rain with our thumbs out. A lorry driver waved and shifted his enormous semi down, down until it finally stopped and we climbed into the cab.
I sat backwards on the gearbox and admired the driver’s cranberry vest, the tattoos on his forearms. At Amesbury, he found us a ride to Salisbury Plain. And suddenly, there they were—the gray giants in a sacred circle, standing stones that had been standing there since the dawn of time. Built to calculate the dawn of time, in fact, the return of the sun each spring solstice.
The sun had returned for us, too, and dried off the grass where we sat with some cheap wine and bread. We put away our cameras and brochures. I knew there were lots of theories about the history of this prehistoric site. But I wanted to absorb its mystery first.
“Maybe we should all just worship the sun,” Homer said, “It’s the reason for everything. We could stop fighting and sit together on the grass.”
“I got my first pair of glasses at age ten,” Nathan Baas recalls. “I really liked my optometrist and he said, think about this for a career. So he planted a seed and it grew.” By the time Nathan was in high school, he’d decided to take his mentor’s advice. “He told me it was something I could do the rest of my life and if I didn’t have the answer, I could refer a patient to someone who does.”
Fresh out of college, I took a job teaching eighth grade English. One of my classes was a group of students who were struggling, academically and socially—and I learned I was not well prepared for this challenge.
Especially not for Eddie. Tall and slouched, Eddie was sixteen years old because he’d been flunked twice. His vacant blue eyes scared me a little—but I wanted very much to help him.