An Ode to Michigan’s Four Spectacular Seasons

Today, our great state celebrates 178 years of statehood. What better way to celebrate than to reflect on the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounds us all year long? 

Guest blogger Doug Houseworth spent 43 years creating 12 poems inspired by Michigan’s spectacular changing seasons. His work is truly a labor of Pure Michigan love. 

The Month Poems 
A Year in Pure Michigan
By Doug Houseworth

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Want to see more? The Month Poems and other works by Doug Houseworth can be seen on the Fire and Ice Photography website.

About the Poems

When asked what caused me to document the months with poetry and photography, I can only reply that inspiration is the most fitting word.  To be so captured by an image or experience, that you feel compelled to express it in words, is what happened with the first four poems.  After that, the idea of having this happen for all twelve months became a challenge and a goal.  I had no idea it would take over 43 years.  A visit from one’s muse cannot be scheduled.

At first, it was enough to write the poems, but then matching up the poems with images became both an obsession and a daunting task.  Usually the poem would come first, but sometimes a photograph would inspire a poem.  October was the first poem and came in 1971.  Twelve years later, I took a photo that inspired a new poem. In turn, the new poem inspired another photograph, but wasn’t captured until 2008.  October became an evolving collage.  The one you see in this gallery is the final product.

The second poem didn’t arrive until winter of 1977.  Driving home from work one day, I came upon a magic moment. Conditions were such that dozens of tiny whirl winds (snow devils) were dancing across the sharp edged snow drifts.  The snow was light and fluffy, but filled with ice crystals.  The light refraction was dazzling and diamond like, flittering over the farm fields and roads, against a deep blue sky.  I was so struck with the beauty, that I couldn’t quit thinking about it.  Snow Dust (January) was written the next day.  It took another two years for a suitable photograph, and even then the photo doesn’t quite match that enchanting moment and first vision.

And so it went, each month having a story and personality of its own.  It has taken decades to capture the essence of each month.  In Michigan there are seasons within seasons, and nothing is static.  Each month is always in transition.  There is a certain tension within each month, and often within the same day, as in the first line of September, “Sweater mornings with shirtsleeve afternoons.”

Many of the months make reference to dance as in January and in August.  Dance is about movement. The dance really never stops, but the music and mood change.  This is the richness and diversity of living in Michigan. There is something about being surrounded by fresh water seas, and the life force that goes with it, that sets this state apart from all others.  The interaction of sky and water, and how that plays on the land, is an ever changing wonder and fascination for those who live here.

There are those who say, “It is the land that defines the people.”  Certainly, Michigan offers an encounter with the elements unique in the world.  It does shape our lives and how we live. Trying to capture this with both poetry and photography has been a labor of love, and could only be done as personally experienced.

Meet the Author

UntitledDoug Houseworth was born in Petoskey, Michigan in 1943.  He is a lifelong resident of Alanson, Michigan, and his children make five generations to live in Northern Michigan. Respect for the land and the beauty of this region were instilled early in life.  As a graduate of MSU and a Realtor of many years, he is “all about” Michigan. 

A passion for poetry is generational in his family.  Combining photography with poetry to capture a year in Michigan became an obsession after the first four poems. Writing The Month Poems and finding the right image to fit each poem was an unpredictable process.  Inspiration comes when it comes, and usually not very often. It has been a long labor of love, that I can now share.

These 12 Can’t-Miss Grand Rapids Events Will Keep Your 2015 Calendar Full!

It’s going to be a busy year on Michigan’s west side! Today, our guest blogger from Experience Grand Rapids shares the scoop on twelve can’t miss events happening in the city in 2015. 

Happy New Year!  If you’re like me, you have a fresh 2015 planner just waiting to be filled with the fun things to do this year.  Whether it’s a summer playcation, a weekend away, a date night or a day trip, Grand Rapids is a city chock full of fun in 2015.  Here are twelve big deal events to look forward to this year.

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Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

ArtPrize 2015
What: The 7th annual open art competition covers the city in a variety of art in all mediums.  Vote for your favorites or take a tour of the juror’s top twenty.
When: September 23rd-October 11th

LaughFest
What: Gilda’s Club in Grand Rapids has one message-  Laughing is good for your health!  Remind yourself of how good it feels to cackle and check out the impressive lineup of comedians headed into town.
When: March 5th-15th

DisArt
What: This is a brand new festival in Michigan and is centered around an international exhibit in its first US showcase.  DisArt features all artists who have disabilities and “Art of the Lived Experience” will be displayed at a number of local museums surrounding the festival.  DisArt includes more traditional mediums but also features film, fashion, dance and music.
When: April 10th-25th

GrandJazz
What: This year will be the third annual Grand Jazz Festival in Grand Rapids- it’s two days of wonderful music and company in Rosa Parks Circle of Downtown GR, and it’s FREE!  If you like jazz or want to fall in love with it, check this out.
When: August 15th and 16th

Freedom Cruise
What: Fifth-Third Ballpark and the DeltaPlex Arena are teaming up to host a huge classic car and bike show to help raise awareness and funds for West Michigan veterans.  Check out the vehicles, enjoy live music, food, and say thanks to the men and women who have served so bravely.
When: June 24th-28th

Photo Courtesy of Pat Evans.

Photo Courtesy of Pat Evans.

Festival of the Arts
What: For 46 years, Grand Rapids has reserved this first weekend in June to celebrate food, music, art, and the beginning of summer.  Six stages are reserved for poets, musicians, storytellers, dancers and film, while Calder Center is transformed by art sale tents.  Check out the juried exhibitions around the downtown area as well.
When: June 5th-7th

Japanese Garden Opening
What:  The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden has been in the works since 2012 and will add eight acres of beauty to the already breathtaking Frederick Meijer Gardens.  Have tea in the authentic Japanese Tea House, walk amongst the waterfalls, or sit and rest in a zen garden.
When: June 13th

LPGA
What: This year, West Michigan’s Tullymore Golf Resort is excited to host 144 LPGA hopefuls in the Symetra Tour.  The top ten women will win tour memberships for LPGA 2016 and the winner leaves with $15,000.
When: July 3rd-5th

 KBS Week
What: Kentucky Breakfast Stout is an imperial stout brewed with chocolate and coffee and left in the caves beneath Grand Rapids to age for a year in oak bourbon barrels.  It has made beer lovers into fanatics and now merits its own week of celebrated releases.  Kegs are sent all over town in coordinated releases before bottles hit the shelves so try it first in Grand Rapids!
When: March 9th-14th

Experience Pink
What: Susan G. Komen of West Michigan brings you the 2nd annual Experience Pink, a whole month of support and fundraising for the foundation that has brought so many breakthroughs to breast cancer researchers.  Watch the GR Drive, dodgeball between local hotel employees, an exciting match from the GR women’s roller derby team, and a four-course wine dinner at the Holiday Inn in downtown Grand Rapids.
When: February!  An assortment of events on the 9th, 11th, 21st, and 26th

Photo Courtesy of The Electric Cheetah.

Photo Courtesy of The Electric Cheetah.

Cool Brews. Hot Eats.
What: If you like beer AND food, this event was designed for you.  Purposefully planned around GR’s Beer Week and the MI Brewer’s Guild Winter Beer Festival, CBHE marries beer and food in unique ways as chefs get creative in their kitchens.  Dozens of local restaurants are participating so plan to eat out…a lot.
When: February 16th-28th

Restaurant Week GR
What: Just a few short months after CBHE comes Restaurant Week, GR’s proudest culinary weeks on the calendar.  During the peak season for Michigan agriculture, chef’s around town are challenged to produce MI inspired menu items that will wow their guests.  Many design multiple courses or gear the tasting towards couples so grab a partner and try to decide where to eat!
When: August 12th-23rd

What events do you have penciled in your planner for 2015? 

Eight New Year’s Resolutions for the Avid Traveler (with a Pure Michigan Twist!)

The beginning of a new year opens the door to new travel possibilities. Today, guest blogger Aaron Cruz from The Awesome Mitten shares some New Year’s resolutions for the avid traveler looking to explore new horizons. 

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Great Lakes resort town it up. Wherever you are in Michigan, you are within 85 miles of a Great Lake. Go for the day in the summer or a long winter weekend at a bed and breakfast in Lexington, on Lake Huron, or in Grand Haven, on Lake Michigan. Regardless of  what lake you are on, a beautiful sunrise and sunset is sure to await. The resort town possibilities seem to be endless.

Eat and drink local. Forget the chains: experience something not found around home. Go to the most popular spot in the town you are visiting or discover a hidden gem. If you are in Detroit, stop at Slows BBQ. Visiting Grand Rapids? Forget Starbucks in favor of checking out to Rowster or MadCap Coffee. Don’t go to a bar in Holland and grab a beer you can get anywhere; visit New Holland Brewery and experience some of Michigan’s finest craft beer. If grabbing snacks for the car, go Michigan with some Faygo Rock & Rye and Better Made potato chips.

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Set out on a mural walk. You will find public artwork painted on the walls of buildings in Michigan’s biggest cities and smallest towns. It’s a great way to get outdoors, to explore off-the-beaten path areas and to learn some history. “The Water Cycle” mural in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit and the Community House Mural in small-town Harbor Beach should be on your list to visit.

Go on a trip with no plans. Take a road trip with no Michigan destination in mind. That means no maps, no GPS and no idea on when you are going to stop. It will be just you and whatever randomly comes up. Live in the moment. Your best travel stories could come from this unplanned adventure.

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Spend more time with nature by visiting a Michigan State Park.  Get away from it all at one of the 97 parks scattered through the state. Many are along one of the Great Lakes, while others are inland and in the country. You can even hang out on an island at Mackinac Island State Park. Bluffs, sand dunes, long hiking trails, forest, vast beaches and wildlife lie straight ahead.

Collect mementos from every place you visit. Purchase a postcard, magnet and other souvenirs.  Grab a free local magazine, flyer or business card and keep your receipts and event tickets. Put them all in a box at home. Later on, when you go through it, you will remember all the great Michigan and travel experiences you have enjoyed.

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Head to a lighthouse. Michigan has more lighthouses than any state with over 115, each with its own history and unique design. Some of them contain museums where people used to live as well as stairs you can climb to see the light up close and get panoramic views. Tawas Point Lighthouse is a beautiful example. Where there is a lighthouse, a shoreline and beach to explore is usually waiting.

Putting many of the other resolutions together and a great way to checkout numerous lighthouses and points of interest at once is to experience a Great Lakes Circle Tour. Each route/tour circles a Great Lake, so water will always be nearby, with much of the route following Michigan roads. You’ll find plenty of signage to help you along as you bounce from town to town, country to forest and from the Lower to Upper Peninsula.

What are some of your New Year’s travel resolutions? 

Aaron Cruz

Aaron Cruz is a lover and long time resident of The Mitten. When he is not out on the open road, he’s probably drinking coffee in a random indie coffee shop. He loves taking  photos and road trips, along with checking out skylines, the seasons, shorelines and  hanging around water which makes Michigan the perfect place to live. You can find him  on Twitter Instagram and on his personal travel blog.