Sunday was my day off here in Michigan. So, we loaded the family into the car and headed North, to the Upper Peninsula and the Mackinac Bridge and Island. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the spot, it is where the Upper Peninsula of Michigan meets the mainland, connected by a 5-mile suspension bridge. The nearby island is an isolated bit of land where there are no motorized vehicles, plenty of bikes and horse drawn carriages, a magnificent state park, lovely hotels, and a variety of great shops and attractions. One can only get to the island by ferry. We had a wonderful day that included a beautiful 2-hour drive up North from Interlochen, A wet ride on the ferry to the island, exploring Fort Mackinac, sampling fudge in at least 6 candy stores, some great food, and beautiful views of the lakes, the bridge, and the terrain. We were also pleased to be joined by my music librarian for the week, Jacey, a grad student from UNCG who is working here for the summer.
I have been reflecting a great deal the last few days about how nice it is to have so much unscheduled family time while we are here. We had the opportunity to sign our younger sons up for classes while here. It is very tempting. The instruction is world class and the opportunities are all over the place for magnificent arts education. (Our oldest son is a day-camper and is having a fantastic time and a marvelous learning experience.) We, however, resisted the temptation to sign up for classes for the younger guys, placing more of a priority on the opportunity for unscheduled family trips, experiences, music-making, etc. I feel like such a huge percentage of our life is scheduled. We, like nearly all families that I know, have school, sports, church events, music lessons, and a variety of other scheduled commitments that keep us very non-spontaneous throughout any typical week.
The time that we are spending here, has been unbelievably refreshing as a family. We have spontaneously gone swimming, attended concerts, had jam sessions, run out to eat, gone sight-seeing, gone for walks, etc. At first, we noticed that it was a little hard for the kids. They had a hard time just getting up and going to do something that was unplanned. As the past week has worn on, they have gained some comfort in the process.
On Monday, we took the concept even a bit further. I had a morning rehearsal and the rest of the day was unscheduled. We decided to take a trip up the Old Mission Peninsula. This was quite possibly our favorite area that we have found here in Northern Michigan. A thin strip of land, surrounded on both sides by the Traverse Bay, the area is full of cherry orchards, vineyards, wineries, unbelievable bay views, a magnificent lighthouse at the northern end, and lovely homes situated on the water or on majestic farmland. Our day included a variety of impromptu stops, including wading underneath the lighthouse and picnicking and swimming on the western side at a great little public beach. Interestingly, our kids most enjoyed a little community park near Bowers Harbor Winery on the east side of the peninsula. They played soccer and created an impromptu game of tag that they could have played literally all day. My wife and I sat and ate cherries that we bought at a road-side stand, talked, and enjoyed the oncoming evening, watching our three guys enjoy each other's company. Life is good.
Yes – I believe that the unscheduled family time will go down as my favorite part of this experience. Don't get me wrong. There are lots of other great memories being created. We have seen superior concerts, I am loving my work with my orchestra, my son is having a great experience as a camper, and there are many others. But, the luxury of unscheduled family time is truly a treasure. I hope you all get a chance to experience it in your lives at some point as well. It doesn't happen often!