Traverse City is on the southern most tip of Grand Traverse Bay, on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. I moved there in the late 1990′s.
I was making and selling hats in Bastion Square, Victoria and sold the most expensive hat on my stand to a woman from Traverse City. She loved my hats and thought they’d do really well in Michigan, and told me if I ever decided to give it a try, she had a little house on her property where I could stay. Up for an adventure, I loaded my wares – and my cat – into my small station wagon, and drove to Michigan.
Me selling hats in Bastion Square, 1996
Bonner, the cat, was a great companion on the trip. He was used to car travel and on the journey either sat on top of the seat watching out the front window, paws and head resting on my shoulder, or stretched himself out on top of the luggage loaded into the back, and gazed out the rear window into the cars following us. As cars passed, people would point and laugh – their faces full of glee and astonishment.
Bonner sitting in the bushes.
He was almost destined for a life of endless mousing on the American plains when I stopped to have a pee and he slipped out of the car and got left behind! I`d driven for about 15 minutes when I realized he wasn’t with me, so went back and there he was, sitting where the car had been parked, meowing and trembling.
When I got to Traverse City, Bonner was welcomed by our hostess, who had two golden Labrador retrievers. The Labs were only allowed in the family room, and would lie in the doorway leading to the main house, their paws just over the boundary, with the tips of their noses on the line. Bonner, who had lived and played with a chocolate lab as a kitten, had no fear of the dogs, and quickly copied their respect of the boundary line.
Bonner always found a great place to curl up. This basket was one of his faves.
He also quickly proved himself to a good guest and was invited into the main house. Being a sly, intelligent puss he invented a game that mercilessly tormented the dogs. He’d politely lie in the doorway, respecting the dogs’ restriction, and when one of them joined him, he’d wait until they were settled, then stand up, saunter across the line and stretch lazily in front of them. The dog would whine a little, which would make Bonner even saucier: he’d roll around on the forbidden carpet, then wander over to a chair, jump up and start washing himself. We lived with the dogs for about a month, then I rented my own place.
I lived in Traverse City for a year and a half, making and selling hats at craft fairs. I made hats from dawn to dusk, five days a week, and sold hats on the weekends. It was hard work – loading the hats into the car, driving to the market, building my stall, selling all day, then loading it all back into the car and driving home. In the off-season, every couple of weeks I drove to Ann Arbour, and sold at a local Sunday market. On those days I’d start at 4:00 in the morning and arrive home after midnight.
I did get to go cross-country skiing a few times, and that was great. I also did some children`s shows – variations of Carmannah’s Magical Forest – at Chapters Books and City Hall, got out to a weekly open-mic poetry event, sold a few articles to the local newspaper and coached the kids` swim club. I also enjoyed the scenery while driving to craft fairs. The people of Michigan were warm, generous, open-hearted folk. I liked living there.