Evenings I choose to drive the scenic city route home from work along East Mill Plain Blvd through Vancouver, Washington instead of State Route Highway 14, which is like driving on a NASCAR track. On the radio Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture fills the interior with seductive, relaxing sounds, mind reflective from wet pavement after a late evening rain. Unexpectedly, where I want my ashes spread after I pass on surfaces. Odd thought but no sooner comes to mind a small village tucked away amongst the pine and maple trees in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula surrounded by Lake Superior, the same village my father and five siblings were born and raised so to their mother, Lulu Pyykkonen, the name of this Shan-Gri-La, Atlantic Mine. The scene quickly shifts from ashes floating to ground to Grandmother Lulu’s two story, grey
shingled home built around the turn of the 20th century the only remnants of a once operating farm. Just outside the front door ground rattling Copper Range Railroad trains thundered by daily from copper mines to mills during the late 1800’s to mid-1960’s; nature slowly reclaims an open space near these tracks where a train depot once stood sheltering passengers from harsh winters or a midsummer rain shower, only the wind is heard today.
The summer air is cool rarely getting HOT this far north mild winds blow through popular trees their leaves clap approval; I walk through the front door and into the mudroom crammed with winter and summer jackets, scarves, boots, hats, umbrellas, a closet if you will. Walking into the house and to the right you are in a spacious kitchen where many a social gathering occurred over strong, black coffee and homemade pastries the countertops clean, expansive. When the refrigerator era came in the root cellar went out of favor leaving the covered hole in the kitchen floor a curio for young minds, what’s down there. Through an arched door is the dining room oil furnace with its ring of fire, and finally the living room not used much with silent television awaiting orders.
From the mudroom if one goes straight ahead, there is another door that hides a stairwell upstairs to Lulu’s bathroom and bedroom with window overlooking front yard dissected by the silent railroad bed. To the left of the stairs a spare bedroom with brass bed plus heat vents in the floor where curious young minds gather and listen to muffled conversations below another door when opened leads into a world fit for a child’s imagination, the attic.
Stepping down into the room the floor creaks under foot there are no spider webs or crawly things, no signs or sounds of rodents, instead the guest is surrounded by nostalgia amongst which are three, well-used guest beds. Underneath, between, in front of and behind are wedding pictures and gifts of friends and family one of my parents encircled with and holding some the bounty from their wedding taken in the very same attic before its transformation into a storage/bedroom. Heavy metal combat helmets from bloodier times still baring cloth camouflage, well-worn ammunition belts, mementos of happier family times, of private loss, lamps, dressers, plus other mementoes. Opposite the entry is an average size window that looks out over the yard once covered in virgin wood then cut down and plowed now, like the train depot nature is reclaiming. At night nothing but spooky blackness can be seen, during the day rocks heaped in a pile can be seen left there after fields cleared for farming, partially hidden behind maple trees a neighbors lime green house showing signs of it too being reclaimed. The night sky is filled with reminders that we are not alone, overwhelming urge to reach up and touch. It is written that one can never go home expecting life to pick where you left off, it is also written that one needs to go home to sanctify memory time tripping back to Atlantic Mine not only does this for me, refreshes, and most importantly reminds me of who I am and from whence I came.