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Monday, September 19, 2011

True North. Where Michigan Rocks. (Or Not)


Let me take you down. . . cuz I'm going... too...
Hard as it is to believe from the multi-million-dollar mansions now sitting on its hilltops and the yachts sailing in its clear blue waters, Bay Harbor, Michigan was once a limestone quarry, sprawling five miles along the Lake Michigan shoreline, a stone’s throw from Petoskey on Little Traverse Bay.  On the Michigan “mitten”map, the location would be the tip of the ring finger (or thereabouts). 

Nothing is real. . .and nothing to get hung about. . .



Imagine, if you will, just a shot from the present fairways and over the links of the Bay Harbor Golf Club, there once stood smoke stacks and silos, earth-crushing equipment - a mining operation of enormous scale. This was the Petoskey Portland Cement company, and for nearly a century it provided thousands of jobs, grinding mountains into powder, churning product through its massive plant to build Michigan’s roads, bridges and cities.


As new technology changed the method of cement production, the plant closed in 1980, leaving in its wake a moonscape of chromium brick, asbestos, coal and 2.5 million cubic yards of kiln dust on 1200 acres of prime property along the lake.   In 1993, in what was (and remains) the largest reclamation of land in North America, the area was transformed into a marina resort community.   


Living is easy with eyes closed... misunderstanding all that you see.


As coastal towns go, Bay Harbor, Michigan would appear to be a  playground for the rich and famous who still inhabit the state. Hard to tell from the pots of geraniums on porches and the picture-perfect scenes of Americana that abound in Bay Harbor, that home foreclosures throughout the state of Michigan have jumped 36 percent from July to August.   With a average listing price of  $930,000 you can only imagine how many homes in Bay Harbor are currently under water.  So much for the wealthy in Michigan where the current rate of unemployment is 11.2%. 



Bay Harbor is not a place where we'd choose to travel. However, it happens to be the destination for an annual business retreat – a meeting my husband attends.   And so it is for me, an idyllic setting as idylls go. For two luxury-filled days, I am free: to roam, to play, to read, to take pictures, to laze in the sun. (Nice work, if you can get it.)



At the Bay Harbor Resort this past weekend the sky was cloudless blue, the wind still warm, and the coast was clear for one last gulp of summer. . .

Snap!  I catch a gull in flight along that wave.  

Snap!  With my Canon I chase children racing across the lawn.




Snap.
Snap!
I find readers beached on lounge chairs.   
Moms with babes in arms, 
rocking to the lullaby of the waves. 



 



Snap. Last chance to get sand in my shoes before the season’s end. 

Up North, as we say, in pure Michigan our summer is glorious.
Snap. Quick before it’s gone. 




Snap. From my balcony, there’s the wedding party in full view. Vicariously I gaze out at bride and groom, oh happy day, flowers and flower girls, a celebration of strangers. 
Lovely to look at.   









They come and they go.  Such is life at random in a resort town where vacationers roll in and out, riding the crest of summer weekends. There’s something I find unsettling in the large-scale luxury here. At season’s end, the village square is vacant, the streets deserted, the shops devoid of shoppers,  the houses  . . . so many houses where no one appears to be living.  

Come what may, vacationers  come and they go, leaving Bay Harbor a little bit too pristine, too planned, too gated, too quiet for comfort. 


Back home? The ground has shifted at my work place - in alignment with the economic reality of the times  -  "rocky" to say the least here in Michigan.    Snapping pictures at water's edge in Bay Harbor   -- once the site of a limestone quarry and cement plant -- I contemplate another shift in the landscape and the very real possiblilty that I am not immune. I, too, have a job that can disappear.  Snap.  Just like that. 
Nothing is real.  Strawberry fields forever.


Photos: Vhenoch
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