Running in Michigan. With a stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.

71° F. An intermittent breeze blows off Lake Superior.  Upper Michigan…a half step slower in pace, and a full step-and-a-half ahead in balance.  With skies so blue, clouds so white, water and air so clean, you can taste the Pure emblazoned on the license plates on the cars that pass me by.

I run under the bridge which towers overhead. Rail cars roll out on the ore docks.  A massive freighter sits silently waiting for the iron ore pellets to fall down the chutes into its belly. One can’t pass this scene and not be filled with Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of Edmund of Fitzgerald:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

I enter Presque Isle Park. I’m hearing horns through my ear buds. Can’t be.  I tuck my earbuds into my pocket and follow the tune. A man, in his 70’s, in a kilt, stands in the woods with his bagpipes – he’s alone and belting out Scotland the Brave. Goosebumps pop on my forearms. I must have Scotland in the gene pool, must have.

Genes. Family history. Family trees. DNA testing. The purpose of this family get-together was to celebrate my Father-in-Law discovering his full Sister on a genetic service. What’s bigger than meeting a sister you never knew you had?

He was given up for adoption as an infant. Over dinner, he stood next to his Sister raising a glass.  He opened with “nothing is stronger than family” and then from memory recited a poem by R. Lee Sharpe:

“Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common people, like you and me,
are builders for eternity?

Each is given a list of rules;
a shapeless mass; a bag of tools.
And each must fashion, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.”

An 86-year old man, unflappable in hundreds of toasts and speeches, has tears streaming down his face, his body trembling with emotion – with his Sister reaching to comfort him. Given away as an infant. A Sister he never knew he had.

And each must fashion, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.

And there sitting around the dinner table was The Family.  A writer for a local paper. A Librarian. An elementary school teacher. An elected city official. An Architect. Two Doctors. A farmer. Two home schooled boys. And 17 others in the Family watching the scene unravel in slow motion.

And so it was. Marquette, Michigan. The week of the Blueberry Festival. The weekend of Art on the Rocks and the Outback Fine Art Festival.  The Saturday morning Farmer’s Market.

And the Peters’ family reunion.

As the plane climbed to 30,000 feet, I think of Amelia Boone (and me and our lives) in this backdrop: “I felt so much external pressure to keep winning. You have to keep winning, Amelia. You have to keep winning. What happens when you don’t win anymore?”

What happens?

You head to a small town…
You surround yourself with your family and other wholesome people…
You slow-the-hell-down.

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  1. You slow the hell down AND listen

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes…Yes

      “Home was indeed very dear to me. You know of course that the very air of one’s native place seems different from that of anywhere else. The smell of the earth, even, seems to have a special quality of its own. Besides, I found there to comfort me the tender memory of my father and mother. I looked forward to the months of July and August, when I could live like a snake hibernating in its hole, secure and comfortable in familiar surroundings.”

      ~ Natsume Sōseki, “And Then” (1909)

      Liked by 5 people

  2. All the hats off to your father-in-law.
    And thank you for posting.
    I cannot thank you enough and can’t say anymore right now! You made my day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is beautiful, pal. My mother-in-law passed away this week, so family dynamics have been top of mind. So important to treasure what you have while you have it, because it can go in the blink of an eye. Glad that you had this time with family…sounds just about perfect.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. yes. that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just imagine the storing of this scene for all the children present! They might pretend they weren’t changed by it; but, oh how they were. We grownups should be more brave and shout it for all to know…life despite whatever your whatever is, is always always worth continuing!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As one who was abused and abandoned as an infant, but adopted and raised in a “perfectly dysfunctional” family, I have only recently begun to ponder some of these “what if’s?” I think though, that I’ll wait until my adoptive parents are gone from this earth, and they are in their late 80’s. (“perfectly dysfunctional” is a reference to the fact that there was only one family named The Waltons)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. To find your sister at age 86 has to be the most amazing thing. I am quite moved by this post and happy for everyone. xo

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Perfection, David. From Gordon Lightfoot (song is STILL playing in my head) to the bagpipies (I DO have Scotland in the gene pool) to your wonderful father-in-law who accepted with joy what life has given him and is not afraid to show it and recited that beautiful poem…
    Yes. Slow The. Hell. Down. Glad you did! And then shared it with us…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Anonymous says:

    How wonderful for everyone. Happy slowing down, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow and wow again – this is YOUR family’s story?! How amazing this is, and THAT it is possible at all, is amazing again – I do hope it teaches YOU to think maybe more of your family, the one you love and cherish and maybe it makes you slow down a notch or two…. you’re not James Bond, you only live once! Happy Sunday, dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a moment & memory to be part of. Life never seizes to amaze!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow! Thank you for sharing the family with us! Very touching, and we can all be a part of what others share with us–all Blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wonderful. I remember an earlier post from here. I was thinking you should do this often. Slow-the-hell-down – a stepping stone into the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Yup. Choices and their inevitable consequences. 🌈

    Liked by 1 person

  15. So Wonderful that your father in law was able to meet his sister, that Susan meet her aunt and that your children their great aunt, that you meet a family member and all the other family members present witnessed, felt, with hearts and amazement engaged in the joining of welcoming a new life into the fold…and I think how fitting under the setting of “Pure” Michigan sky and wrapped in the “Pure” air..each breath is a True Gift…

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Little miracles are everywhere, waiting to be found. They touch our lives and open our hearts again. I’m glad your father-in-law found his. 🌈🌸🌈

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Perhaps that is the greatest win of all. Thank you for this heart-touching post,

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Christie says:

    Tears flowed as I read this again…I am so grateful your father in law, Tom was able to meet his sister before he passed…and he was a “Man of True Value”…

    Liked by 1 person

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