There are People Out There
I first arrived in this area years and years and years ago. At the time I was in a relatively miserable situation, much of it my own making. One day the phone rang in my tiny apartment and on the other end of that call was a friend from college asking me if I wanted a job. Though I currently had a job it was not working out that well so the answer from me was, of course, yes.
A short time later I was working at an environmental analytical chemistry lab in Kalkaska, Michigan and living, temporarily, with a buddy from college in Elk Rapids. It was quite an adjustment but, eventually, things settled down and sorted out and life got better.
Not long after arriving I couldn't help but notice how much my friend spoke about the area. Not just Elk Rapids but the entire Northern Michigan area. So, one day, we hopped in his bitchin' Camaro and took a drive and in the space of a few hours we hit some of the too many to count beautiful places to see around here. It was so long ago that I don't remember exactly where we went but one place stood out. Empire. I can't really put a finger on it but when we pulled into the park in Empire it felt as if some sort of 'spiritual realignment' occurred within me.
I wont try to explain since I didn't understand it myself but if pressed I would say it was an internal reckoning and acceptance of what had come before in my life. As we watched the distant waves drink in the setting sun it was clear to me that no matter how bad things might get there were two realities--things could always be worse and, if I so desired, they could always be A LOT worse. It was strange and odd but, there it is.
It's not always easy being a cynic.
Eventually the job in Kalkaska ended and I found myself headed to a new job in Ludington. I think I was there for a year or so and I got another phone call, this time from a lab in Traverse City, asking if I might be interested in a job...
Not long after I found myself back up here in the Northern Parts but, for some reason, things were different this time. I didn't really travel around much or visit any of the places I had become so fond of nearly a decade before and, truth be told, I was living a very selfish life. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and damn the consequences.
And damn, those consequences.
Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't like I was out robbing banks and causing general mayhem wherever I went. I think, for the most part, I was filled with an unexplainable anger and a feeling of grand entitlement that left me feeling that life was cheating me on a daily basis. Life owed me and I was not happy that the debt was not being paid and because of this state of mind I found myself once again miserable and unhappy. Of course none of it was my fault. How could it be? Life owed me.
This went on for several years and then one day I had had enough. I finally saw myself for who I really was and was left wanting for something more. Something satisfying. Something normal. The first thing I did was let go of the anger within me and it was as if the weight of the universe had been lifted from my soul. Looking back it was a pretty easy thing to do but it wasn't enough. The anger was gone but it wasn't long before I realized that nothing had taken it's place. I was fortunate to recognize this and realize that I needed help that I could not give myself. I'm not going to go into that here as that's another book in itself but I will say that the entire situation presented to me an interesting fact of life--we need other people in our life if our lives are to be all that they can be. Life is hard enough but going it alone is a special Hell all it's own.
Slowly I began to rebuild myself and during the course of this process I met and became friends with someone who had been in this area for most if not all of his life and one day we were talking and I told him about this mythical place that I had come across years before but for the life of me couldn't remember where it was. All I remembered was that it had a lighthouse...something something...beach...something something...really cool place. He said "Let's go" and when I asked where, exactly, we were going he said "You'll see".
About a half hour later there we were, parked next to the Robert H. Manning lighthouse at the beach in Empire and all those feelings I had felt years before came flooding back. It was almost too much. Almost. I thanked my friend for reuniting me with this magical place and promised to never again forget where it was.
I've since taken countless photographs of the beach in Empire but if I had to pick just one and never another it would be this one. For a place that can't be put into words I think I got as close as I could get with this image.