An Ode To Glen Arbor And The People Who Live There


Pyramid Point, Glen Arbor, MI

When I think of northern Michigan, I am automatically overcome with an unwavering sense of peace. M22, the dunes, the unsalted Great Lakes, the pure water, the golden fields, the cottages and cabins lining the shore and the farmland. While the land is beautiful and it brings its own sense of serenity to the table, I find the most peace in the memory of the people who lived there and their life stories that live on.

Zoom into Glen Arbor, a little town protected between the shores of Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. On the Crystal River, which flows through the town and the woods, lies my grandparents’ home.

When I was little, my feet would bounce impatiently during the three hour car ride to Glen Arbor. When we arrived at the road where my grandparents cottage lay, my mom would roll down the window. The air would be be so crisp and fresh and dust from the road would fly into the car but I would never care; I loved the familiar sensation. The air and the dust reminded us we were close to my Grandma and Grandpa.

I remember getting to their home and busting through the doorway. The scene inside was always predictable; Grandpa would be sitting in his big leather chair with the sports channel on way too loud, and Grandma would be in the kitchen doing different tasks to ensure that her home would be the epitome of hospitality. First I would run to my Grandpa and jump on his lap to give him a huge hug. I was always afraid of hurting him, even though he was one of the strongest men I knew.

One of the countless lessons I have learned in that tiny town of Glen Arbor is that sometimes the weakest people on the outside are the strongest people on the inside. Take my Grandpa, for instance: he was old, he had multiple surgeries, and he didn’t get around as much as he did in his younger years. Even though he was weak and could possibly get hurt, I couldn’t do any damage; I was simply a scrawny kid. Sitting on his lap I heard stories of how he owned his own business, his endeavors, his kindness and hard manual labor. What I didn’t hear straight from his lips into my ears were the stories of his time as a forward observer in WWII, something I learned about many years later.

What I heard from his lips were shenanigans my mother would pull as a child, the good times at the old meat company and the history of how our family traveled across the sea through hardships and settled in Glen Arbor. Hearing his stories made my childish brain realise that there are years of life truly lived through seniors. I learned to look past the outward appearance of people and look into there hearts. My grandfather gave me not just respect for humans, but respect for the my elders.

Plopped up on my Grandma’s kitchen counter I learned that compassion is a very important character of your heart. I spent countless hours watching the retired home economics teacher pour love into many dishes she prepared. She would pass out dishes to those whose hearts are hurting, those who are unable to care for themselves and most of the time, she would give them to people just to make them feel loved and special. The grin that would emerge on the recipients face and the hand letters of gratitude that filled up my grandmothers P.O. box really showed me the impact a small gesture of pure kindness can have on a person’s life. My Grandma taught me many more lessons from her live, as did my Grandpa, and as did the citizens and tourists who came and went by the wind in that tiny town.

I have learned many more things from many more people in Glen Arbor. I have learned from the free spirit who chose to live her life authentically, the one who started a business from his passion, the one who lives off of the land, and the one whose business empire has flourished from the little shop he started years ago. I have also learned from the pastor at the church, the waitress at the tavern and the friends who have flowed in and out of my grandparents home. All these people from Glen Arbor are like supporting characters in a story about my grandparents.

I feel like each year, I grow with the trees that reside in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Each year, we grow a little bigger from the circumstances around us. And sometimes destruction comes, like the storm that uprooted large sections of the forest a couple of years ago. Even after the disaster there is rebirth. New pine trees and foliage is growing already. Glen Arbor symbolizes growth and peace. I have learned how to live safely between the shores of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan, protected by the Sleeping Bear Dunes.