The first US conference I attended was in 2005. I was terrified for weeks beforehand. My conception of America was entirely based on a somewhat eclectic combination of American movies, TV crime shows, the TV news, and To Kill a Mockingbird. I was convinced everyone would be carrying guns. When I confided my fears to a colleague from the US, he asked where I was going. "Ann Arbor" I said. "hmmmm", he murmured drolly, 'not so many concealed weapons there, I think. You shouldn't worry". But I still wrote out a set of instructions for my funeral just in case.
I didn't think, then, that it was possible I would fall in love with anywhere in the US. But it really was love at first sight. I remember walking down State Street, murmuring to myself "I am here!" and feeling that was all the happiness I needed. The days of that conference were a revelation: I saw a different aspect of American life, I enjoyed every moment of the conference, made a good and lasting friend (Pat, and later his lovely wife, Jo), and accidentally sowed a seed that would lead to a visiting faculty position in 2007.
So, in the Fall semester of 2007, Bruce, the girls and I spent 4 months in Michigan, while I taught a senior science writing seminar at the Sweetland Writing Center. There is not enough space here to describe our adventures, but we saw - and for a short time, lived - a side of American life that is never shown in the media. We explored all around the state, and have rich warm memories of pumpkin patches and fall festivals, popcorn shrimp and apple donuts, football and Saturday mornings at the Farmer's market and Zingermans, and snow and squirrels and cardinals, kind and generous neighbours, visitors from NZ, the UK, and other parts of the US, and living in a house we loved.
|Farmer's market on Saturdays|
|the only pink in a sea of maize and blue!|
This weekend we retraced our footsteps, and drove 12 hours across the country to visit old friends and reacquaint ourselves with favourite places.
Our girls may have grown up since then, but old pleasures remain:
|Bruce's favorite place is the Whole Food shop:"not so much a shop as an experience' says Bruce|
|Barry's remarkable breakfast muffins!|
|Joyce makes a melt-in0the-mouth raspberry pie|
As we drove the long route home, we looked back on all the places that hold memories for us in Michigan, but best of all the dear friends, and the home that was ours for a short time - and in some indefinable way, remains so.