(Mackinac City, MI – On Being a Michigander)
The Mackinac Bridge is a 5-mile span that connects Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas across the shifting waters of the Straits of Mackinac. The U.P. to downstate. The Yoopers to the Trolls. (No offense, downstate friends). I have travelled over this bridge countless times. It connects my then to my now. It is a source of anticipation when heading north, of contentment when heading south. A “hometown bound” nostalgia. A “homeward bound” satisfaction. The hallmark of a weekend well spent.
It wasn’t until the Summer of 2012 however that I actually ventured below this bridge. (Literally speaking.) Figuratively, I’ve been “below” the bridge for some 20-odd years thanks to my lower peninsula address. It makes me wonder what the statute of limitation is. When does this once Yooper officially become a Troll?
The first photo I took under the Mackinac Bridge, just a little over 3 years ago, became one of the covers for my EP, Stone Bright Solid – Volume I. The image was stamped on every CD without any need for words or explanation. “Big Mac!” “The Mighty Mac!” Everyone here in Michigan (I daresay the Midwest!) recognizes the bridge and knows it by these names. However, the moniker I identify with most would be the fairer, oft forgotten “Lady of the Lake”. Here is the less obnoxious sister, deserving of respect. Here is a title matching her dignity.
On this cold day in February, I’ve returned to that spot beneath her span. I look up and take from her yet again. Another photo. Another claim to my heritage. She towers over me with heaping piles of blue diamonds adorning her feet, a winter tribute of the Great Lakes. The glittering mass stretches out beneath her emerald arms and carries my breath with it. I bow in silence with nothing more to offer than reverence.
As I finish my vigil, I meet another young woman on her way north. She is heading the direction I had just come from. My hometown. Her homeward bound. She knows my niece Dorothy. Like the Lady at our shoulder, this chance meeting strengthens my resolve. It reinforces my identity.
This lady. This bridge. She has defined the geography of me for my entire life. And countless others before me. She has subdued the Straits of Mackinac and cemented our shared statehood, our upper and lower selves with her towering piers.
I am a Yooper.
I am a Troll.
But more than that, I am a Michigander.