Is This the Garden of Eden?

After living almost three years in Michigan and hearing of the beautiful Dow Gardens, my husband and I decided it was time to check it out.

All the hype we had heard was true – it is an unbelievable place of peace and beauty. My husband commented that this was just a glimpse of what the Garden of Eden must have been. We laughed that we might see Adam and Eve and our daughter who was with us wondered if they would have any clothes on. 🙂

This beautiful place was once the home of Herbert and Grace Dow. They built their home here in 1899. Called “The Pines” the couple raised their family here. Herbert Dow conducted experiments in fruit-growing and developed gardens. Today the home is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Tours are offered to view the insides of the home where it is furnished with many of the Dow items and gives a good look at what life was like for them. We were not able to take a tour of the home but we did sit on the porch and enjoy the beautiful huge yard with its large expanse of green grass and flowers plantings everywhere.

My husband and our daughter taking a break on the big porch.

Herbert Dow was the founder of Dow Chemical Company and by his death had received over 90 patents for chemical processes, compounds and products. I do not understand all the science behind it, but the Dow Chemical Company website says he devised a new way of extracting the bromine that was trapped in underground brine. The company went on to became one of the world’s major producers of magnesium metal, agricultural chemicals, elemental chlorine, phenol and other dye chemicals. The company also was involved in producing plutonium, the element used in hydrogen bombs (a type of atomic bomb).

Herbert H Dow as a young man and then at age 58

The company has been the subject of several lawsuits for environmental concerns. In 2011 Dow agreed to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at its chemical manufacturing and research complex in Midland, Mich.

Herbert Dow started the gardens as a hobby. He experimented growing different flowers, shrubs and trees seeing what would grow well in the sandy soil. On his death, his wife created The Herbert H and Grace A Dow Foundation. Its charter goals were to improve the lives of Michigan’s people through educational, religious, economic and cultural means. The Foundation gave the estate to Michigan for the community enjoyment. Today the 110-acre Dow Gardens welcomes over 300,000 visitors each year.

There are multiple gardens with 3 miles of accessible hard-surface walks. In the spring over 22,000 bulbs begin to bloom and in the summer over 35,000 annuals provide much color and beauty.

Walking along the path we heard the beautiful sound of running water. Turning a corner we came to a beautiful stream. It was so peaceful we had to stop and just sit and listen to the melodious sounds of the water as it flowed through the peaceful garden.

While we were there we found they had a exhibit of glass gardens by Lansing Michigan artist Craig Mitchell Smith. Mr. Smith creates beautiful floral forms out of glass. His work has been displayed at the Missouri Botanical Gardens and the Epcot Center of Disney World.

My favorite was this one with blue butterflies

There was much more to see including the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens. This area is 54 acres of woodlands, ponds, meadows and stream. It contains the nation’s longest canopy walk. It is 1400 feet long and reaches up to 40 feet above the ground. There is also a playground for children, two pedestrian bridges and a Cafe. I would have loved to see the forest although I do not think I would have attempted the canopy walk. But my arthritic knees gave out on me and we had to call it a day.

My husband and I plan to go back at some point and check out the forest. If you are ever in mid-Michigan I would highly recommend you include a visit to the Dow Gardens. It is probably as close to the Garden of Eden that we will get in this life.

Visiting the Thumb

To celebrate our anniversary this year we took a short trip to the thumb of Michigan. Before moving to Michigan I had never heard this expression in reference to the state. However, when you look at the map of Michigan you can see that the lower peninsula does look like a mitten and – yes- the eastern part does look like a thumb.

We stayed at Port Huron where we could look over and see Canada. Unfortunately the border between our country and Canada is still closed. It was nice to see our flag and the Canadian flag flying together on both sides of the Clinton River which celebrates the two nations.

In 1836 the US established a Port of Entry and commercial ferry service began from Port Huron to Canada. It was not until 1938 that a bridge was built and opened to automobile traffic. Today the bridge is referred to as the Blue Water Bridge and is a twin-span international bridge connecting Interstate 69 and 94 in Michigan to Highway 402 in Ontario. Since moving to Michigan it has been our goal to cross this bridge and explore Canada. However, the Covid 19 has made that impossible for now. Hopefully in the future we can do that. Still, we enjoyed looking across into Canada and the bridge at night with its lights was beautiful.

We had a great lunch at Vintage Tavern. The food was great and the building built in the 1800’s was beautiful. They had the original tin ceiling with hardwood floors and brick walls throughout. There were also leaded stained glass windows and three fireplaces.

Thomas Edison lived here as a young boy and there is a museum commemorating his time in Port Huron.

As a student at Port Huron a schoolmaster called Edison “addled.” Furious, his mother took him out of the school and proceeded to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint.”

In 1859, Edison took a job selling newspapers and candy on the Grand Trunk Railroad to Detroit. In the baggage car, he set up a laboratory for his chemistry experiments and a printing press, where he started the Grand Trunk Herald, the first newspaper published on a train. An accidental fire forced him to stop his experiments on board.

While he was in Detroit Edison would visit the large library there. He said, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”

When he was 19 Edison moved to Kentucky and continued with his experiments. By the time of his death in 1831 he had a record 1,093 patents: 389 for electric light and power, 195 for the phonograph, 150 for the telegraph, 141 for storage batteries and 34 for the telephone.

Another interesting stop in Port Huron was the Great Lakes Maritime Center. Here we found a wealth of information about the history of shipping on the Great Lakes.

We also learned about the underground tunnels that run under the St Clair River allowing trains to make the crossing from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario. This tunnel was the first full-size subaqueous tunnel built in North America allowing a railroad to pass beneath a river. Before the tunnels were built trains would come to Port Huron where they would have to be loaded on a barge and carried across the river to tracks in Sarnia.

Along with all the interesting history of shipping on the Great Lakes, the Center was a nice place to just sit and watch the ships on the river as well as again glance across at Canada.

We finished our visit to the Thumb by checking out the Fort Gratiot lighthouse. This fort was built in 1914 during the War of 1812. Occupied by the United States Army until 1879 it stood guard over the juncture of St. Clair River and Lake Huron. In 1823 the lighthouse was built here and it is the first lighthouse in Michigan and the second oldest on the Great Lakes.

We enjoyed sitting here and watching the large ships coming from Lake Huron to the St Clair River.

The keepers house is large and looks beautiful although we were not able to go inside.

You can climb the stairs in the lighthouse and I only imagine what the view would be like. But my arthritic knees prevented me from climbing the 94 stairs to the top.

As always on our trips, there was so much more we wanted to see but time did not permit more exploring. There is much more to discover on the Thumb and hopefully we can return again and explore more.

Treasures Found Off the Beaten Path

You never know what treasures you will find when you get off the interstate and roam down country roads.

When my husband and I first moved to Michigan three years ago we found a beautiful old church in the small town of Muir. Passing through the town on the main road you would never see the church. But by turning off the main drag we found a church with historical value as well as beauty.

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Recently we found another interesting church in the small town of Woodbury. Again, the church would never be spotted from the main highway but we discovered it when we turned off the main road into the town itself. It’s a small town with little to offer but this unique church caught our eye.

The sign outside said it was the St Herman Orthodox Christian Church.

Not being that familiar with the Orthodox faith we had never heard of a St Herman so we were intrigued.

When we drove by the church was not open but we checked their website and found that they had services on Monday. We drove back to Woodbury and the priest and his wife were so gracious to allow us to see the church and to share the history of both the building and the Orthodox faith.

The church building is over 100 years old and was originally built by the United Brethren. In 2006 the Orthodox church family purchased the building and began converting it into their own facility. In the Orthodox faith there is a great emphasis on icons of Christ and the saints. This church was beautiful inside with the “great crowd of witnesses” they had there. The priest’s wife was the artist and she spent over ten years paintings these colorful icons. I would have liked to have taken more pictures but out of respect for their tradition did not get too many.

On learning our names, they pointed out Saint Barbara and Saint Paul that were part of the saints at the front of the church. It was interesting to me that there were no pews in the sanctuary but they explained they stand for their services.

We also learned a little more about St Herman and found that there are several Orthodox churches in the USA that are named after him.

Born into a merchant family in the diocese of Moscow, St. Herman became a monk when he was still a teenager. When Russian explorers began looking toward Alaska St Herman was part of a group of ten men that came to evangelize the area. After five years the head of the mission with several of his group were drowned. Slowly others began to leave until St Herman alone remained. He loved the children, baking them cookies and nursing those who were sick. He started a school for orphans and took the side of the natives against the Russian fur traders who were exploiting them.

After his death in 1837 he was buried in the Resurrection Church on Kodiak. In 1970 the Orthodox church canonized Herman “as a sublime example of the Holy Life, for our spiritual benefit, inspiration, comfort, and the confirmation of our Faith.”[ He is considered by the Orthodox church to be the patron saint of Alaska.

The priest and his wife were very hospitable even inviting us to share their noon meal. They also invited us to join them for one of their services. I’m not sure I would be up to it as they stand for the service and their brochure says their services are long (as much as two hours). I would never be able to stand that long on these arthritic legs. Still, it would be interesting and I have always loved learning more about other Christian beliefs.

Life is much more interesting when you get off the interstate and explore!

Old Mission Peninsula – A Vision of Cherry Blossoms!

With the easing of restrictions in our state and since we have received both doses of the vaccine for Covid, we took a trip north to Traverse City, Michigan. Grand Traverse Bay created by the glaciers is a beautiful bay 32 miles long and 10 miles wide. In the middle of this bay the glaciers left a 19-mile long peninsula. This area is filled with beautiful small hills and rich, fertile soil. The moderate climate is ideal for farming.

Long before the white man came this peninsula was the home of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. There they raised corn, pumpkins, beans and potatoes. They also had planted apple trees.

In 1836 the tribes made a treaty with the USA in which they surrendered much of their land in this area. In return the USA agreed to provide the Indians with missions, schools, and Indian reservations.

The Presbyterian Church sent Reverend Peter Dougherty to the region in 1839 and he established a church and a school for the tribes still living there. The federal government paid the Presbyterian Mission Board $3,000 to maintain the mission. In 1842 he built his home which is believed to be the first frame home north of Grand Rapids in Michigan.

This is a replica of the original mission church. Originally built directly on the Bay it was moved up a hill to be safer from the water.

Solon Rushmore bought the home from Dougherty in 1861. For approximately 100 years it remained in the Rushmore family and was at one point turned into an inn.

Over the next ten years more and more European settlers came to the peninsula. In 1852, Dougherty and the tribes decided to move across the West Grand Traverse Bay to an existing Native American village. Situated on Leelanau Peninsula, this became the modern city of Omena. Calling this place “New Mission” the community they left became “Old Mission.”

During his time there Dougherty planted cherry trees. It quickly became clear that this was an ideal place for the orchards and cherry trees began to be planted all over the peninsula and the surrounding area. Lake Michigan moderates the Arctic winds in the winter and cools the orchards in the summer.

Today the whole area – both the Old Mission Pennisula and the Leelanau Peninsula are beautiful every spring as the many cherry trees produce their beautiful blooms.

In July Traverse City hosts a Cherry Festival. The population is just over 15,000 but during the Festival the city greets over 500,000 visitors from around the world.

While we would avoid the city in July (too many people for this old couple) visiting it in May when the trees began to bloom was a trip worth taking.

Exploring Southern Michigan

Almost two years ago my husband and I moved to Michigan.  Situated close to the middle of the “mitten” we have spent the last two years exploring this beautiful state.  We have fallen in love with the many small towns around the state that are full of arts and crafts, charming down towns that have preserved the older buildings and, of course, the many towns built by Lake Michigan with their beautiful beaches and historical lighthouses.  While it would be hard to pick one town over the other, I must confess I especially loved Holland during the tulip festival and Frankfort was probably my favorite.

Some of our trips started out with a particular town in mind but most of the trips we just got in the car and headed north – east – west.  Getting off the interstates and taking side roads led us to discover many lovely towns and beautiful scenes that we would have missed if we had stayed with the main road.

Yesterday we decided to head in a direction we had not taken – south.  Heading south we discovered the area looked more like our home in Illinois.  More corn fields, more open areas with fewer trees.  The majority of trees were – like back home – deciduous.  While there were evergreen trees they were in the minority.

It was nice to get the sense of being back home, but I must confess in my opinion the southern part of Michigan does not begin to compare with the beauty up north.

However, we did discover two interesting towns.

  • Jackson Michigan

The town of Jackson claims to be the birthplace of the Republican party.  (I have found other towns making that claim.)  There is a plaque commemorating a meeting held in 1854 that Jackson claims was the start of the party led by anti-slavery men.  oaks

 

 

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Jackson also lays claim to having the first prison in Michigan.  Today the old prison area has been turned into the Armory Art’s Village.  Situated behind a 25-foot stone wall, these apartments are home to emerging artists and musicians.

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They give tours of the old prison site, but due to the virus restrictions we were not able to take the tour.  Something to put on our bucket list for later.

Jackson also has several buildings/areas that were part of the underground railroad – but again because of the virus we were not able to visit them.  Add that to the bucket list.

  • From Jackson we headed west to Hillsdale.

Hillsdale College sits in the heart of the city.  The school was established by Free Will Baptists as Central Michigan College at Spring Arbor in 1844.  In 1853 it moved to Hillsdale and changed its name.  It was the first American college whose charter prohibited discrimination based on race, religion or sex.  Hillsdale was the second college in the nation to grant four-year liberal arts degrees to women.

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The college was very active in the fight to end slavery with more students enlisting to fight for the Union than any other western college.  More than 400 students fought for the Union and sixty gave their lives.  Four students earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, three became generals and many served as regimental commanders.  In honor of that heritage the college had a statute of an Union soldier on its campus as well as Frederick Douglas.

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We also saw statues of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

Leaving Hillsdale we headed back home.  While I must confess my trip south was not as beautiful as the trips we have taken north, still it was good to have discovered more about our adopted state, Michigan.

I vote that our next road trip takes us back north!

 

 

 

 

 

The Chautauqua Movement is Alive and Well Today

After a quick drive through Bay View Michigan where we discovered beautiful Victorian houses, we learned this community was part of the Chautauqua movement from the late 1800’s.  Although the movement slowly died out in the 1920’s this community has remained active from its founding in 1875.

Always interested in our country’s history I have done some research since coming home on the Chautauqua movement.

I found the word is an Iroquois word and means ““a bag tied in the middle” or “two moccasins tied together.”   This name apparently was given to the movement because the first such meeting took place near Chautauqua Lake in New York where the word described the shape of the lake.

Started by John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller in a Methodist camp meeting site, it was used as a summer school for Sunday School teachers.  Although it started in this religious setting, it was more than just religious teaching.

It quickly spread throughout the country and attracted families to enjoy educators, preachers, musicians, orchestras while also enjoying camping and other outdoor summer activities.

Politicians also enjoyed speaking at these gatherings.  The large crowds that attended these summer programs gave them a way to get their message out (before the days of television, Facebook and cable news).  One of the most famous of those politicians was William Jennings Bryan.  A Democrat who ran for president three times, Bryan was very adamant about the importance of making education available to all.  He found the Chautauqua Movement an excellent way to make educational, religious and cultural programs open to all.

Theodore Roosevelt called it “the most American thing in America.”

The movement began to die out as television and other modern entertainment venues grew in popularity.  However, today it is experiencing a come back.  The idea of lifelong learning has gained importance again and the desire for cultural experiences is returning.  There are existing Chautauqua communities throughout the USA.

The original Chautauqua is now a 750-acre education center in New York State.  During the nine-week summer season at the Chautauqua Institution, over 7,500 persons enjoy the all the programs which include the four pillars of the movement:  religion, recreation, arts and education.  Courses are offered in art, dance, theater, writing among many other psecial interests.

The one we found in Bay View is definitely one I want to visit next summer.  In addition to the beautiful homes and the programs they are offering, I look forward to enjoying the  sunsets on beautiful Little Traverse Bay just across the street.

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If you do not live near Michigan, check the map to find one of the many Chautauqua facilities and check it out.

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Southern Victorian Houses in Michigan!

On our last road trip of 2019 we headed to the top of the lower peninsula of Michigan to see the beautiful fall trees.

Just outside Traverse City we came across a beautiful little community with huge Victorian houses.  They were so picturesque we had to take time to drive through the community.  From the look of the houses I thought I was back in Charleston, South Carolina.  All the homes have large porches – and not just one porch.  These two-and three stories houses had porches on the second and third level.  I am a lover of porches and could not stop taking pictures of all the homes with these porches just inviting me to stop and sit awhile.

 

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Driving through the streets and snapping pictures it appeared a lot of the homes were closed for the season.  The porches on many of the homes had heavy plastic covering the front.  Since the community sits directly across from the Little Traverse Bay I can only imagine the cold and snow they must get in the winter.

Fascinated by the community I did some research on my return home and discovered this community’s history goes back to the late 1800’s when it was founded by Michigan Methodists “for scientific and intellectual culture, and for the promotion of the Christian religion and morality.”

It began in 1875 as a camp-meeting where families would gather in the summer, pitch tents and enjoy revival services.  The first building erected on the grounds was the preaching stand.  Today it serves as the Bay View Historical Museum.  We saw the museum but it was closed for the season.  Slowly the area was developed with streets, parks and public area and simple cottages were built.  As time passed, the simple cottages became these beautiful Victorian homes.  At the same time the members of the Association organized a summer university, a home study program enrolling men and women across the nation, and became part of the Chautauqua movement.

In 1987 the National Park Service designated the Bay View area as an National Historic Landmark.

Associated with the Methodist Church it claims to be open to anyone and today has speakers from different denominations during its summer program.  The summer programs look very interesting and along with the speakers and musical events the Little Traverse Bay is just across the road with its beaches and beautiful sunsets.

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Disappointed that the area was basically closed for the season, we will definitely check it out come summer.  They have a beautiful inn, The Terrace Inn, built in 1910 that is now a Michigan Historical Landmark.   Their summer program runs from May through November.

This winter when we are hibernating from the snow and cold, we will make plans for a visit to this beautiful community where just maybe someone will invite me to sit on their porch.

 

Bier Art Gallery

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On our recent trip north to the tip of the mitten to see the beautiful fall trees, we also found some great art galleries.  Just south of Charlevoix is the Bier Art Gallery housed in a beautifully restored school house.  The gallery is owned by Ray and Tami Bier.  The Biers were both artists when they met and after marriage they began selling their stoneware pottery.  As time passed and they met many other artists they decided to purchase a place to showcase not only their art, but that of the many friends they had made through the years.

They purchased an old school house and turned it into the beautiful gallery it is today.

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Among the many different galleries in the school house is the pottery gallery which features the Bier’s art.  So many beautiful artifacts.  Since we have downsized this past year I had to just look but not buy.  It was so tempting though to purchase something.

The sculpture gallery was such a fun place.  So many different characters and ideas!

 

Beautiful pieces in the glass gallery – but I was afraid to even touch them lest I break one.

Many of the works in the metal gallery were actually displayed outside.  We thought of our youngest granddaughter, Zoe, and how she would love some of the displays.

Being a jewelry nut – a woman can never have too much jewelry – it was hard to walk through the jewelry gallery without buying something.  But I am proud of myself!  I resisted these beautiful pieces of art.

What a nice addition this gallery was to our trip.  Seeing the beauty God created in nature with all the fall colors and then seeing the beauty God also created through the talents He has given to men and women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wait Was Worth It!

Home again after taking a trip to the top of the mitten to see the Tunnel of Trees.  Since moving to Michigan last year I have heard a lot about this short section of highway (approximately 27 miles) that follows the shore of Lake Michigan and the Little Traverse Bay.

Told by many how beautiful it is in the fall when the trees all turn beautiful shades of red, yellow and orange, I have waited all year to make the trip.

Was it worth it?

Yes – and no

Basically I was told three main things about the tunnel.  Two of which I found to be true.

The road was said to be very narrow.  Boy was it!  There is no center line painted on the road.  Many places were so narrow when we met another car one of us had to pull over on the tiny shoulder so the other car could go by.

I was told it was very windy.  Boy was it!  We would just get through one stretch of curves when we would find another one waiting.

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But there were no colors!  No oranges, reds or yellows!  The website for the Tunnel of Trees indicated that this time was the peak for the colors.

Disappointed!!!

I am guessing if we returned in a week we would find the colors and the beauty they talked about.

However, the trip was not in vain.  While there were no colors in the tunnel driving across the middle of the mitten getting to and from the tunnel there were colors everywhere.  We discovered that the trees near the lake turn colors slower than inland.

So – now we know.

While the tunnel was a disappointment – the trip was not.

 

Acres and acres of trees – as far as the eye could see – brilliant colors!

What an artist God is!  And what variety!  He could have made one tree – but look at all the different trees we have.

The wait was truly worth it!

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Off to the Tunnel of Trees

Last year we moved to Michigan in October – just in time to enjoy the beautiful fall colors!  The street we moved to had big trees up and down the block and every time we went somewhere I loved driving down our street.

 

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We were told about a place on the northern part of the lower peninsula called the Tunnel of Trees.  It sounded like it would be gorgeous and I wanted to make the trip up north.  But, just moving in and trying to get settled that was not feasible  We did not have the time or the energy to make the trip.

All through the winter (which was not all that bad considering our home back in Illinois got clobbered with lots of snow), the dreary spring (where I came to understand the warning I had been given about Michigan cloudy days), and the magnificent summer with all the road trips spent exploring the state I waited for fall to come.

Today we head north and I am excited about seeing all the oranges, reds, yellows in the trees up north.

We made some trips up north this summer so I know there are lots of trees to see.  On one trip we stopped to get pictures of all the trees when we saw this sign.

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Seeing that warning we decided to just keep driving for awhile before stopping to take pictures.

While I do not want to run into any bears, I am so ready for this trip.  Like all things I have heard pros and cons about this stretch of road.  Most reports have been very positive telling me it will be beautiful and I will love the small towns along the way.  A few have said it was not that great and not really worth the trip.

Well – I will soon find out.  Knowing how I have always had a love affair with trees – and how I have so enjoyed my new state of Michigan because of all the trees, I think I will enjoy it.

Stay tuned for pictures – and you can decide if you think it was worth the wait!