A Dog is just a backwards God

 

One of our flaws as humans is attaching personifications to other living creatures. Dogs aren't human and they don't experience emotions in the same way you and I might. 

We create things in our image. that's just kind of the ego humanity has. Dogs don't create anything in their image. they have no ulterior motives. they live in the moment. they do feel pain, sadness, and loss, but not in the same way we do. 

Dogs and Gods are both at the mercy of humans.

Chicken Feet over Turkey Legs

One year ago today I was celebrating Thanksgiving in Thailand. This was actually during the Lantern Festival (Loy Krathong) in their country.  It was a week long festival that started while we were leaving Bangkok that Tuesday. When we arrived that afternoon, the festival was well under way within the walls of Chiang Mai where we ended up staying in one of the many *hostels.

Our day started out with Matt and I leaving Drew behind. Drew, being of Viking origin, does not take kindly to heat and humidity. The poor bastard was stuck with chaffed inner thighs and a bit of sun poisoning...maybe even a bit hung over.

We hopped on the first Tuk Tuk and ventured to the National Museum of Chiang Mai. Sadly, this was pretty run down and in the middle of renovations that wouldn't be complete until 2016. But it was free! It seemed where there was some cool artifacts there was incomplete information and where there was information, there was no artifact. Therefore any education from this experience was a bit discombobulated. Matt and I decided to take the 45 minutes to just walk back to the city and get a better lay of the land outside the walls.

Chiang Mai is great, but this is a city with some history that kind of turned into this walled up place for tourists. It was interesting to see all the variations of other cultures within these walls. We saw pizza places, burger joints, Mexican food, even an Irish tavern. I think the quisine I fell in love with the most was a restaurant called The Swan. It's actually a Burmese restaurant and was one of the first places we landed at to grab food upon our arrival earlier in the week. That Thursday after our tiny morning adventure, we had lunch there again.

Afterwards we made our way back to the hostel for naps until the weather cooled down. At one point I left to go sign up for an excursion and a **cooking class. 

The Three of us hit the road in the evening and enjoyed a little more of the festival. At one point I mentioned going to a tailor shop and getting something made. I ended up at CM Custom tailors while the guys chilled next door at a hostel and had a drink. Inside there was a large group of British people arguing about how their stuff should be free. I grabbed a seat thinking to myself that it may take a while. 20 minutes later, another gentleman walked in, sat down at the table, and got immediate help. So I ghosted. 

My anger was quickly quenched when I sat down with Drew and Matt next door. Can't go wrong with  Smoothies, beer, booze, and food. Drew, I have to admit, is very good at being unabashed in dealing with people. He was able to quickly make friendlies with some locals that frequent this particular hostel to drink. We ended up buying these guys a round of Thai White Whiskey which came to .28 per shot. We were having a great time trying to figure out what they were saying and getting our stories out. Also, we had a laugh at some hipster taking dumb-face selfies with his computer at a table nearby. 

Round after round, the matriarch of this establishment would bring us snackies. Though it isn't her name the title of Mama-san became the endearing title we attributed to her. After rounds of puff snacks, boiled peanuts, and cheap whiskey, Mama-san ladled us some bowls of her chicken parts curry. I think she tried to get as much of the "tame" bits as she could into the bowl. Luckily Matt, Drew, and myself are no strangers to strange parts in our foods. We thanked her kindly and enjoyed the searing heat and aromatic spices of these hot bowls of curry along side our newly acquired Thai friends. 

Whiskey gets you frisky.

Some Kiwi by the name of John showed up to the group. We drank, talked about tattoos, lifted some shirts, and some butts got grabbed. One, or both of us, may have gotten propositioned for sex. When things started getting too far south, we slowly parted ways. Mama-san made sure that the heavily inebriated Thai fellows got on their Tuk Tuk/walking in the right direction safely. We gave our hugs, our thank you's,  and our goodbyes to Mama-san as well, and made our way on to new adventures for the night alongside John the Kiwi. 

We got nachos at one point. The cheese was strange but oddly good. Almost like a more watered down Chihuahua brand queso cheese. Then we ventured to an Irish pub around 1am. I think John left us after a round of beer (or two?) and then I started growing weary. Matt and Drew dropped me off at the hostel before they wandered more of the dark and festive ally ways of Chiang Mai.

I'd do this all again for Thanksgiving if I could. Chiang Mai, while I may despise large crowds of people and cringe at all the tourism; your streets, your food, your locals, sure are a hell of a lot of fun.

 

* Even during the Festival of Lights we were still able to find a place to stay for the week upon our arrival.

** Went through BaanThai Thai cookery school. Easily one of the best experiences in Chiang Mai the whole week.

 

If wi-fi is not working, please talk to your neighbor...

Concerning cheese, time warps, and weather patterns

A commercial came on the radio as I was driving home from the studio late a few evening ago. It was for a grilled cheese competition hosted by a local cheeserie (?), The Cheese Lady, that was happening on October 8th. My first inclination is to always assume I've somehow gone back in time. It's usually then that I double check certain known variables within this reality to make sure I have, in fact, gone back in time. Since technology lies and I don't know astrology enough to dare figure out the skyline on a dark night going 70 down the highway, I figured i'd ruminate on weather patterns. It was pretty warm October 8. And now....now it's cold as fuck at night.

riddle solved. 

I have not gone back in time.

Brie. The most gooiest and decadent cheese of all cheeses.

Brie. The most gooiest and decadent cheese of all cheeses.

Will-O'-the-White Guys

We have a rather jovial term for upper management. We call them white guys. I'm not sure if that's more in reference to the white collar of their shirt or the color of their skin. 

Regardless.

One man taught me everything I know about welding when I first started working here. He was ...callously pragmatic, in terms of communication. And that was something I've always respected him for. Granted, it made him a notorious asshole which was a mess for upper management. It was also a quality that made him genuine. Sadly, he's no longer my mentor; and, like clockwork, one asshole will inevitably replace another.

I've held a position here long enough to see people slowly rise up into ivory ranks and witness these developing stages. Enough so to learn that people don't change. It's really just a matter of becoming more of what they are allowed to be. It starts as a glint in their character and then it becomes their character. 

Genuine people are seldom found in upper ranks. It's a bit of a blanket statement but please note i'm not saying genuine people can't be good people. Their demeanor is just a facade that can be difficult to navigate. I think that's why I'm ok with being blue collar. Chasing lights you can't grasp are but a fools errand and i'll decide for myself when I've reached the top.

"Only cream and bastards rise"- Harvey Danger

Sean Nelson 

Sean Nelson 

The colors of fall and an internal conversation involving the evolution of human creativity.

It's Halloween. It's Monday. I took the day off as I'm still not feeling better despite the big bowl of Pho I had Saturday night on top be being confined to home and studio all weekend. I even missed out on hitting the dog trails yesterday with some friends. To make up for it, I took Penny to Aman Park this morning. It's on these solitary walks where I enjoy most of my internal conversations. 

The turning foliage brought my mind to those with color blindness and being better at seeing patterns. Most of the population with colorblindness are males. On the topic of evolution, this made them better equipped for hunting as their minds weren't distracted by color. Which made me think about what seeing color has done for our brains over thousands of years of evolutionary history. Has the ability to see color been the precursor to creativity? Humans are really the only mammals that see full color. Granted very few mammals are limited to just grey scale. Cats and dogs have a limited color range of blues, violets, and yellow. Birds, fish, and monkeys can see a pretty good range of color, though still no where near what we see in this modern age. Has seeing color just been an acid to the brain allowing ourselves to see things that aren't there? No longer seeing moving shapes as dark shadows, allowing our minds to relax, to think, to create? I'm sure my primate counterpart would have used the skills of seeing color more for gathering than imagining up the next Mona Lisa. However I can't help but think of what color has done to make things more interesting. And when things are interesting, can we make new things to be more interesting?

Naturally, when I got home, I googled that.

Interesting stuff. We also haven't been able to see the color blue until about 150 years ago. Which makes me wonder what colors we'll see next...

The one eared Penny.

The one eared Penny.

No Master

My husband initially experienced this faux pas of being called a "master brewer" when he started brewing professionally about 8 years ago. When I say professionally, that is to say, he works at a brewery in a rock star position for what is essentially a factory job. Somewhere along the line people became enamored with addressing him as "master brewer" at every introduction. He would always be sure to correct them by saying he's just a shift brewer and explain that the title of master is reserved for an individual brewer at the top of the ladder of a brewery or someone who has a record of excellence in the field of brewing after many well-involved years of dedication. To this, folks will either nod in acceptance of fresh knowledge, or attribute this explanation as testament to said brewer lacking confidence...

I happily assumed no one would ever dare call me a master silversmith. 

Until it happened the other day when one of the members at GR Makers had introduced me to a bunch of 7 year-old-or-so's as their resident "master silversmith." I really didn't care to correct him. They were kids.

They didn't care.

I didn't care.

No matter.

But honestly, it's like calling someone without a PhD a doctor.

Makers Mark of Alice Burrows and husband George Burrows (1807)

Makers Mark of Alice Burrows and husband George Burrows (1807)

Touchstone Center for Crafts

This past weekend I was in the hills of Pennsylvania at Touchstone Center for Crafts. Typically my jewelry consists of silver and sometimes gold, copper, or brass. However, I figured i'd take a workshop on steel jewelry to broaden my horizons. Originally, the instructor for the weekend was supposed to me Maia Leppo but I received an email a couple weeks prior saying that instead, Sharon Massey would be teaching. This was pretty exciting as I've heard her name float around a few times with her involvement in SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths). 

Foot path to the metal studio. Stone shack is not the studio. I don't know what that was.

Foot path to the metal studio. Stone shack is not the studio. I don't know what that was.

Touchstone has a beautiful campus set in the middle of the woods on what is dubbed "Danger Mountain". There is little wi-fi and barely any cell phone reception. It was exactly what I needed to be completely absorbed in my craft for a whole weekend. 

The above are just some images of campus as well as inside the blacksmith and metals studio.

This was a wonderful experience and I recommend this to anyone wanting to get into a craft or to expand their knowledge within a craft. 

99 Red Balloons

I think of you and let it go...

Am I a dark person for associating an apocalyptic song with the essence of childhood? Humans don't like to let things go. That's one of the reasons why we collect so much unnecessary shit in our lives- both physical and emotional. 

Sadly, I've had to let go of a few really good women this year. Some went silently and suddenly into that good night, while others went slowly enough to come to terms with their own mortality.

What is more difficult though? The frustrations of losing someone in your life or the frustrations of losing something in your life? We can quickly jump to the obvious answer of losing someone. But if that's true why do we care so damn little about human lives? I think we forget the impact mundane things have on us- home, car, job, family heirloom, important files disappeared into the etherspace. Losing any of those can send us into deep depressions that are difficult to get out of. You lose a sense of comfort, a way of life, an identity, a purpose, a routine. I think that's where a handful of humanity can fail to sympathize. Myself sometimes included. If drinking yourself into oblivion because you lost someone deeply close to you is reason for people to sympathize with you, but losing a job or some silly knickknack? Well, just pick yourself up by your bootstraps, put down the bottle, and keep trying...

Is that thought is largely due to the prior notion that someone dying is no fault of your own and the latter somehow being a fault of your own. At least from an observational point of view. Truth is, we live in an unpredictable world. Humans are filled with both complacency and paranoia. At the same time. We leave our homes expecting to arrive back safely while simultaneously being afraid of half a dozen other things going on in our sphere of involvement. 

When we see death, we see it as this inevitable darkness that can take us at any moment. An enemy. It will never be our fault when it comes. The concerns of the tangible however are another matter. Remorse over losing things just seems frivolous...

I've often asked myself why I enjoy stories of the apocalypse/dystopias. The answer to that is simply: I enjoy clean slates. A lot. I hate the idea of holding onto something that doesn't work just because I put a lot of time into it. I also love seeing new perspectives. One of my favorite graphic novels, Y:The Last Man, goes through the devastating aftermath of the world losing it's entire male population save for 1 man/idiot. What makes it great is that throughout the entire story we see him trying to get back to his girlfriend in Australia, which seems like a trivial goal, but the whole time trying to work through all these emotional stages of being the last living man on earth. Interesting perspective for an apocalypse story other than the usual bomb, asteroid, alien invasion, disease, etc. 

There's nothing like a good clean slate of an apocalypse to put things into perspective of what matters most. Provided you survive it. Even after all the bodies pile up we still have this raw and primal desire to live, for whatever reason. Everyone we know could be dead and yet we will still see a point to wiping our ass. 

Priorities.

it's just another Banksy...

it's just another Banksy...

Melancholy and the Smells of Summer

I develop a form of melancholy in late summer and late winter that is absolutely unshakeable. Those seasons be damned, Spring and Autumn are lively enough where I don’t develop that weird sadness. It is a period of time filled with such dissonance. I want to run, climb, and burn off all this piss and vinegar and yet I find it difficult to leave my own home and enter certain social situations. I hate sitting around doing nothing, so typically I deal with this by learning a new skill or going to the library and reading up on hobbies that would be cool but probably too expensive to actually pursue (pilot license is still on the table though). Anyways, a couple years ago my husband Matt got a wild hair (hare?) up his ass and thought it would be fun to get a scooter. Just one.

“It will be great! You can ride it to work during the day, then I can take it to work at night!”

I told him we’ll check it out. What the heck, we’ll test ride a couple, get it out of our system, then tell ourselves the $1,200 will be better spent on paying off tuition. Little did I know how serious he was when we found one we both liked; he went up to the counter, whipped out his credit card, and bought the damn thing.

And that’s how it all started…

I had buyer’s remorse for an entire month after that. It was mostly me just convincing myself I shouldn’t be having this much fun. The other fraction was me wishing I was done repaying my student loans (which I managed to do this past spring anyways).

It was an amusing way to get to and from a location in all practical senses, but it wasn’t until this year that I really truly enjoyed “joyriding”. In my teen years we had a brief period of power toys that involved a couple quad’s, snowmobiles, a boat, and my dirt bike that all involved “joyrides” which were all kind of my dad’s way of saying “we made it to full blown privileged white people status!”. Even those Christmas Eve rides in the back seat of the car as a young stupid kid, with eggnog in hand, driving by people’s houses to check out all the Holiday lights still constitutes a “joyride”.

There is something different though about hopping on a 2 wheeled vehicle and heading off in some aimless direction.

This year, we purchased another scooter so that we could each have our own and joyride together. I think we had time together for perhaps 2 rides. That was it.

Driving alone late at night on a scooter I’ve found I’m having to re-learn a lot of things that I didn’t realize I had better knowledge of as a kid. Does that even make sense? When you’re little and you wander, you never really think about why you follow a particular direction. You just kind of flow there. It’s a tunnel vision with a view for only the most interesting path- and away you go. As we get older our perspective broadens and we see the landscape before us. The butterflies and geese focus out of image, but sharp rocks and shadows appear.

I miss that aimless wandering.

Sometimes I have to make it a game in order to keep myself from driving down the streets I already know.

Ok, next street, take a right…whatever street it is.

Hey, there’s that steeple off in the distance. What is it? Let’s get there.

In the back of my mind I’m always trying to think about the nearest major street to figure out where I’m going. Again, I have to tell myself it doesn’t matter and to just get lost.

From one end of town to the next, distinct smells take over and instantly I’m transported through space and time. A rush of over ripe fruit, fried food, and street fermenta takes me to Vietnam. One block down and I’m transported back to high school with my best friend Morgan and the smell of midnight steaks. Down another street and it’s the essence of a mothers sweater, subtle, with hints of cigarette and fabric softener.

I’m still working on trying to misplace myself in this city. Or maybe I’m just in a town I’ve lived in most my life and literally can’t get lost no matter how hard I try. Perhaps it’s a way to find new life in this city or just keep up with its rapid growth? This city of Grand Rapids is growing too fast. I think that’s one of the many reasons I wouldn’t mind just up and moving to a completely different town, or another country entirely. 

Shake off the salt of the world, set sail.

We’ve all heard alcohol is liquid courage but I can’t imagine the type of adventurous spirits needed to quit your day job, buy a boat, and set sail around the world. To most people the dream is beautiful, but the fear of actually doing so is utterly horrifying. Which is why only the courageous few are able to look past those formidable storms of the unknown and truly live for their passions.

For these two Founders Mug Club members, beer may have been a factor in deciding to set sail but truly, it’s an accompaniment to the dream. The element to give one courage to weather the storms as well as refreshment for a job well done.

Please follow them along at their website here for more adventures, and their Instagram as svtypsygypsy

 

Steady the sails. Have a brew. Mary and Tharon are on deck.

Steady the sails. Have a brew. Mary and Tharon are on deck.

From the day I was born I’ve been guided by passion and intrigue. No lie, I was once that 3 year old, half naked girl, blindly following Canadian geese through the skies.

So, when the opportunity arose to join Mary and Tharon on their newly acquired 36 foot sailboat, gloriously dubbed Typsy Gypsy, from Charlevoix to Muskegon Michigan for 4 days I couldn’t resist. Before I continue though, I hope anyone reading along can take this call of adventure to heart. These two weren’t bred within the upper echelons of society, or born into the life of sea faring way farers with silver spoons in hand. They are middle class. Their house consists of the expanse of their Nonsuch boat with the added company of 2 dogs and a cat. Like most of us, they enjoy the few select things life can afford to send their way; good food, good beer, and good friends. Buying a sailboat may not be relatable to everyone, but a lot of us out there constantly waver with how firmly we grip the reins of our dreams. This is where I am grateful to have friends with such broad associations.

“I want to be around people that do things. I don’t want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things.”- Amy Poehler

It’s in being surrounded by those who are driven and passionate, who are kind enough to include you in their dreams, which makes me want to keep a tighter grip on my own. Following Mary and Tharon on this 4 day trip has been a wonderful release from worldly expectations. Allowing myself to reflect on what truly matters…

 

CHARLEVOIX: Thursday

I’m extremely thankful to be under the good graces of such a marvelous friend as Steve Heystead. Not everyone is always up for a 3 hour drive north and back again from Whitehall just to drop a soul off. But that’s who he is. Hell, the man even sent me off with a couple bottles of his mead.

For a sunny day in Northern Michigan it was still pretty brisk as we grabbed a table on the patio at Stafford’s Weathervane Restaurant, which was our location to meet up with Mary and Tharon. It’s an oddly beautiful place that is part of a collection of buildings called “mushroom houses”.

After a nice meal we said our goodbyes to Steve as he gave us his blessings for a safe trip South and told to keep in touch when we arrive in Whitehall on Saturday.

This is a first time I have ever set foot on a sail boat and found myself extremely giddy to be having a hands on experience with sailing one. Especially for 4 days. However, don’t let the serene looks of graceful sails flapping in the wind fool you. This shit is complicated. And I was pretty overwhelmed with absorbing all the information at once. At one point Tharon handed me a list of Terms and Operating Procedures. I tried to concentrate but found myself getting tripped up on my own adrenaline. I could barely discern between what a Clew and Tack were. There were fancy names for things that did things but towards the end of the 4 days, however, I became extremely comfortable with the terms red cord, other red cord, blue cord, raise the sail, and green cord.

It’s a system that worked. Don’t knock it.

Once out in the open waters, the waves had a comfortable thrash and lull to them that kept the craft at a playful beat. Unfortunately the wind was soft and coming from a direction that would easily have tacked on an extra 12 hours to our trip had we stuck to using only the wind in our sails.

Thank Neptune for diesel-fueled inboard motors.

Well on our way into the evening, Mary made some ramen, we had some beers, and caught up with each other. It was a few months ago at Founders when we last had a chance to hang out. Even before then it had been a while since we last grabbed a beer to catch up. Once in a great while I’ll spot them in the taproom but it’s typically during work hours, so it’s really just a fleeting moment of conversation. We’ve known each other since our college days at Grand Valley and I’m fortunate to have fallen in with their crowd, the Alpena crew. They are all a solid group of fine folks whom I still hang out with on a semi-regular basis. I’m not sure if they are even aware of the impact they have had on me, but I would have had an entirely different path in life if it wasn’t for them. It’s a long story, but not for today.

IMG_2357.JPG

The engine kept us going for the next 15 hours as we sailed through the chilly evening and on into next morning. We had planned to take shifts through the night so everyone could at least grab a little sleep. The sway of the ship put me in such a dead slumber that I was an hour and a half late to covering the night shift for Mary. So, at 1:30 am, my ashamed and groggy self, crawled up to the cock-pit. She showed me the controls and told me it’s pretty simple. Mary had continued sticking with me for the next hour. Such a graceful heart. This was of much relief when at some point I decided it would be a grand idea to switch off of auto and go into manual mode to get us back 20 degrees.

With a giant lurch in some unknown direction, the wheel took off into a rigorous spin. Keep in mind this is 2am. It’s dark. There is no foreseen horizon save for the cluster of city glow off in the distance. Getting back to our original course in the middle of the night and fully enclosed within our dark nebulous surroundings was a dreadful task. We had a few good wallows of the ship as it made a near complete 360 degrees. Tharon came rushing up to the cockpit with a look of muddled horror. He surmised that one of us had gone overboard when the turns nearly tossed him from his bed.

With him back at the wheel the ship was on course for Manistee. We would arrive there in about 4.5 hours. Mary went off to bed and I covered the wheel for another hour or so before Tharon took over.

There’s nothing quite like watching the early sunrise. It’s dark for so long with nothing but the stars; not even the moon in its tiniest of slivers that night had surfaced above the horizon. It started as a dull foreign light emanating beyond the city glow at 4am. Then, the lazy pale blue light spreads itself to cast an even darker shadow upon the world. The light is so slow you almost wonder if even the sun wants to arrive to its own day. Then, that warm honey light spills over. Those faint 2 extra degrees of heat gets lapped up by any exposed skin, thawing these chilly bones. An ethereal glacier consuming the world.

Damn, I was exhausted.

 

MANISTEE: Friday

We anchored and made a good rest stop at the base of the Manistee River for 8 hours. We loaded up a cooler, the hammocks, and the dogs into their dingy, aptly named Dingus. The beach where we touched solid ground on was at Douglas Park. It was a modest but clean looking park with about 5 or so pergolas lined up, complete with grills and picnic tables. The dogs, Jake and Elwood, were both incredibly relieved to relieve themselves. Full speed from one piss point to the next! Leyla the cat was content to nap in her dark quarters on the quiet ship.

It’s a bizarre feeling to have your days flipped. Your internal clocks are at odds with the body. One telling you to stay awake, the other to sleep. So, when we tied off our hammocks under the pergolas, my body didn’t know what to do. It didn’t help that the weather itself was also confused. The wind had a light chill, the sun was hot, and the shade was brisk.

When it comes to sailing, it’s not so much the waves that one has to acclimate themselves to. It’s being out in the elements for all hours of the day/night is what takes its toll. But, we all managed to get some sleep at some point.

Between our frequent cat naps, we noticed a fair amount of people coming to the park for a lunch break. They would arrive in their car, eat their sandwiches in their car, then leave. For such a beautiful day, we found this odd.

Around 3 in the afternoon, we decided to pack up camp and head back to the boat for a quick lunch before setting sail once more. It wasn’t too long after our departure when we discovered we were being tailed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

There are three things to remember when dealing with the U.S. Coast Guard.

First and foremost, they check to make sure you are safe. This includes making sure you have enough life vests, flares, fire extinguishers, and that everything is in operable order.

They check to make sure you aren’t trafficking humans or drugs. It’s a big issue, especially in Michigan.

They operate under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  They aren’t cops. They have 100% authority to search your vessel. Don’t be a jerk.

Tharon knew the drill pretty well from watching youtube videos of other sailing vessels handling being boarded and what to expect. Needless to say it all went really smooth. There was no need to stop since they caught up with us in good time and kept their pace in tow with the Typsy Gypsy. With both ships side by side at a good speed, a few of the men hopped on over. Mary and Tharon had everything in order, save for some number that was supposed to be visibly on the boat somewhere. It all checked out though. They gracefully made their way back onto their boat, we waved our goodbyes, and we continued onward into the evening making our way South towards Whitehall.

Remember when I said that it’s not so much the waves but the elements that take their toll? Yeah, all that sun and wind were getting to me. I was extremely parched no matter how much water I drank. I stayed in the shade but still felt a little more than kissed by the sun, which was now starting to set and taking about 15 degrees of warmth along with it. It was our goal to sail through the night and anchor in Whitehall sometime around 6am Saturday morning. My eyes were getting heavy and started to burn from being open. At this point I could only hope to catch a second wind. Or third wind. Any wind really…

I lasted until 2 am where I crashed in my quarters with a Chihuahua nugget at my side.

I cursed myself upon the rising sun. I had missed my shift as Mary and Tharon descended into the cabin to get their sleep at 6am.

 

WHITEHALL: Saturday

The boat was anchored at Indian Bay within White Lake. It was just a short trip to the Whitehall Municipal Marina where we would dock the Typsy Gypsy for our zero day. Tharon and I brought up the anchor which required a bit of muscle. His left arm was worn out from controlling the sails all night long but I tried my best to keep in pace with him. Mary had the motor going and was propelling us forward to give us slack as we pulled up the rope, which became more soiled with each passing heave. The chains eventually started to bring up this thick, smelly, dark sludge that got everywhere. After the anchor was up and hoisted to the bow, we tried washing ourselves off. It was futile. That putrid stench lasted with us into the evening even after many washes.

A little history to White Lake: It was the factory site of Whitehall Leather Co. tannery that had been running since the late 1800’s and closed in 2000. It was also home to multiple chemical plants- Muskegon Chemical/Koch Chemical, Hooker Chemical, and Dupont. In 1985, the lake was one of 43 Great Lakes areas that were considered to be in critical condition and labeled as a “toxic hot spot”. In 2002, efforts were made to clean up sections of the lake after finding extremely contaminated purple sediment due to the chemicals and leather dyes.

So there you have it.

Chemical sludge.

There was a bit of trouble pulling into the Municipal Marina. Sailboats don’t have the most astute steering and the quarters for docking required some sharp maneuvering. Tharon steered while Mary, myself, and the hands at the marina tried to get us pulled in without damaging the boat. We received some prompt guidance from a man from a neighboring boat who helped rope us in and put bumpers up when we realized the boat wasn’t going into quite the spot we were aiming for. But all was well and we got in just as there was a slight drizzle from the skies. The drizzle didn’t last long. We were able to get the sail cover on just as it stopped. Which was good timing since we started our leisurely walk towards Bardic Wells Meadery around 2pm with not a drop left in the grey skies.

Of course we took time to smell the wildflowers and admire the world’s tallest weathervane along the way. Seriously, it’s impressive. Steve boasts about it constantly.

As we walk through the door to the meadery, we are received with a spirited greeting from Steve Heystead. He has plenty of company and predictably all are lively and laughing, half tipsy with mead. Three are in town for their friend’s wedding party- Abbey, Emily, and Kyle. And then the lone wolf Kory who is biking his way across America.

You can follow him here: www.bikingdude.com

Kory stayed for a spell but had to hit the trails in order to keep time. He had already stayed longer than anticipated due to the good company and provocative nature of Steve. The three of us found hearty conversation with the other 2 ladies of the wedding party. I especially admired the drunken sass from Abbey as Steve brought up how the mark of a good mead maker is to have a baby boy born after the honeymoon. The party all spoke fondly of Founders (except for the parking situation) and hang out there semi-regularly; so I hope to encounter them again for more shenanigans.

Bardic Wells Meadery. Never filled with too much downtime and blessed with a few good original songs from the iconic Steve Heystead!

Bardic Wells Meadery. Never filled with too much downtime and blessed with a few good original songs from the iconic Steve Heystead!

 

There is an ebb and flow to Steve’s tasting room. As people leave there is this brief void that the universe delights in filling with interesting people. So as Abbey, Emily, and Kyle hit the road to go back to the wedding festivities, an older gentleman walked in. He stated he only had experience drinking “regular” wines, as in wines made from grapes. Steve claimed he only makes “extraordinary” wines.

That being said, a humble man at his core and not one to boast or turn mead into something pretentious; whom has only two rules when finishing a mead, ultimately determining its worthiness:

Will it get you drunk?

Yes.

Will it get you laid?

Yes.

Then that’s all you need.

Steve sold him two meads and a cherry cyser.

The measures of mead through the afternoon were starting to hit when two young gentlemen walked in. Stephen and Eddie. These two would come in throughout the week to assist Steve with the racking and packaging of the mead. They had just gotten done with their work on the cranberry farm laying gratuitous amounts of plastic down in the fields. For being college students I was really impressed with their mannerisms- amiable, well-rounded and brilliant individuals. They started helping at the meadery earlier in the year after some hardship really relied on their good graces and hard work. More on that later.

Too much mead was setting in fast for the three of us on our empty bellies, so Steve ordered a couple pizzas. As soon as we downed some slices, Steve brought out the brandy. A while back, he took a batch of his traditional mead and froze it; ultimately distilling it.

It was heaven with concentrated flavors of honey, warm with the smooth glow of alcohol. This was a huge treat and I’m glad he shared it with Mary, Tharon, and myself.  A delicious cap to our wonderful day!

Night had set in quickly. It’s easy to lose track of time for 6 hours while under the influence of Steve and tiny samples of mead. Tiny samples are very misleading.

He drove us all back to the boat and was even given a tour of the Typsy Gypsy by Mary and Tharon. Even introduced him to Leyla, Jake, and Elwood. For a man who loves cats, the dogs seemed more interested in his affection. We talked a little about plans for the next morning to visit the Heystead property, then said our goodnights.

Crawling into bed felt so damn good…

 

WHITEHALL TO MUSKEGON: Sunday

Around 2 in the morning, or was it 1am, the propane alarm started to beep. I knew it was the propane alarm only because all throughout our trip it would randomly trigger itself. Only Tharon knew how to shut it off, so I assumed it was him shuffling about the cabin. It was.

Later, he told us that he had decided to completely sever the wires. He regretted it when the time came to fix it…

Other than that it was by far the most solid sleep I’ve had since this trip began. We took our time waking up. Steve planned on picking us up at 8:30.

It was 8am.

I managed to hurry my grungy self into the Municipal shower to wash off the salt and crust of being out in the elements for 3 days. Mary and Tharon were a bit behind, but honestly I can’t blame them. Those two were the powerhouse that managed 2 all-nighters followed by a day of drinking at the meadery. I could incur that Steve had predicted our molasses morning state but, the reality is, Steve isn’t much of a morning person either. He arrived at 9am to take us to the Villa Venafro for some of the finest eggs benedict around.

Infinite wisdom. Right here.

Infinite wisdom. Right here.

 

We were looking forward to grounding ourselves at Steve’s property after breakfast. He has one of the best views in Montague. There have been a memorable few nights spent on the hammock at the top of his dune. There is nothing quite like being awoken by the beautiful sun rise spilling over all the hills and farmland, or some random stranger in the middle of the night on a full moon.

There is so much care and heart to this property.

I don’t wish to take a mournful turn to this story of adventure, but Steve’s late wife as of this past March was an enduring woman whom sadly passed away unexpectedly. It was a huge blow to all of us close to them, and especially so for Steve himself. There is so much of these two wrapped up in this breathtaking parcel of land. Jan would walk for miles on the spans of these 25 acres and Steve would tenderly carve out trails with his lawn mower twice a week just for her. Even still, he tends to the trails keeping these sacred spaces alive; either due to the hope that someone might enjoy them, purely out of habit, or just his love of mowing. Perhaps all three.

It was a blissful scene with Mary, Tharon, and myself and 2 tiny chihuahuas cavorting about with a contented Steve leading the trails, pointing out whatever tree, shrub, or wildflower he was familiar with.

“That’s a Spanish Broom over there with the tiny yellow flowers. I have no idea how the hell it got there, probably some bird ate the seed, shit it out there, and it decided to grow.”

After walking the trails and acquainting ourselves with all the flowers of Jan, Steve showed us his woodshop, where you start to see a little more of the inner workings of a man who really only cares about the end result of his craft- be it wood, mead, or beekeeping. An avid craftsman with no fuss about orderliness and whose only concern is with the finished piece. It was a magnificent space with cobwebs, old tools, whispers of his late father, and tiny staircases for all his beloved cats- Kenny, Libby, Pearl, BooBoo, Bruce, and Bob.

After a fruitless attempt to introduce us to all 6 of his cats we sat down at his table for a few beers. For a man that never drinks alcohol, I’m amazed by his knack for always keeping a few beers in the fridge. It’s uncanny. There we sat, at his table, with some good discussions on life, adventure, and where we’re all going. Steve Heystead in all his infinite wisdom, I’m not sure if I should call it even that. It’s really just his own way of speaking that allows you to dig deeper into the subjective and draw out conclusions for yourself. It’s become a way of receiving advice that is truly authentic and I’ve come to appreciate. Especially for those of us who try so hardheartedly to carve our own path in life. The last thing we need is to be told what we should or should not be doing with our lives. That’s why I’m really glad Mary and Tharon were able to meet this man that I so much admire. I think everyone left this experience being slightly more evolved.

As a last farewell to the Heystead property, Steve gave us a taste of his cherry mead brandy to put us in higher spirits for the sail to Muskegon. We soaked in all we could of the land and soul of this beautiful space.

With grey skies above us, Steve dropped us back off at the Municipal Marina in hopes that the weather would hold until Muskegon where he would meet us again.

We fired up the motor, unwrapped the sail, and cracked that last bottle of mead for our final sail. As we made our slow exit out of the channel, the skies were split in two with nothing but clear skies and a strong gust of wind before us!  Typsy Gypsy was bouncing off of 4 foot waves as we entered Lake Michigan and it was engine off sail up all the way to Muskegon! The perfect weather and lively waves provided us with spirited conversation the whole way there.

Captain Jake McCrustygrump.

Captain Jake McCrustygrump.

little mishap with the sail cord getting wrapped around the thingy...Mary fixed it.

little mishap with the sail cord getting wrapped around the thingy...Mary fixed it.

It takes two...

It takes two...

Steve was right on time in meeting us in Muskegon at 6:30pm. We all loaded up in the car where he drove Mary and Tharon to their car in Walker Township. Steve dropped me off at home not too much further. It was a late sunny evening in Grand Rapids and it was good to be home after my adventures. I missed my husband, Matt, and looked forward to catching up with him and cuddling with my own doggies for the evening.

Those 4 days were such an intense adventure being out in the elements that I still feel the constant rocking of Lake Michigan as I write this even a week and a half later. This experience has become a foundation from which new and great things can harbor. It’s fascinating how having absolutely nothing to do except sail and think can make you think about what truly matters in life.

No wonder these two found solace in the sails. 8 months ago they tried something new and now their house is up on Airbnb and they live on a boat. When you truly know the direction in life you want to take, you don’t hesitate. It’s a frightening piece of work in the world out there today. The skies are sunless, seas are black, the stars are unfamiliar, and your compass is spinning. But I hope to whatever Gods are out there that we all find a way to at least follow some light of ours. However tiny it may be. 

Grab those reins, hold tight.