Ain’t That A Trip? …when the camera lens introduces you to a new home sweet home

Knowing that we sleep under the same sky has narrowed the miles and miles distance between my family and myself. Somehow, ‘home is where the heart is’ just doesn’t compare.

There is a true art to living and loving the longing. 

 

Visiting Detroit. My home. The Motor City. Home of Motown. “Big Cat” sport teams: Tigers and Lions. The Comeback Kids: American automakers. Detroit is no ordinary place. Nor would this visit ‘home’  be ordinary. It’s been over 11 years and I still refer to Detroit as ‘home.’ There’s a worldwide Detroit diaspora; if you travel and meet someone from anyplace in southeast Michigan, they’re likely to tell you they are from Detroit.

It’s one thing to live optimistically, inspiring yourself along the way. It’s something else to see strong, positive affirmations in big, bold letters.

Opportunity Made In Detroit. 

 

 

I had purposely traveled to Detroit to attend a storytelling event hosted by The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers.Their mission is to connect humanity, create community and provide an uplifting, thought-provoking, soul-cleansing entertainment experience that is unique through the art and craft of storytelling. This event’s theme was “Thankful.”

And thankful I was.

I absolutely believe in the healing power of words. Stories are made up of words, yet they are so much more – they connect our very beings. Words can galvanize communities or become shields that deflect change, invite fear, or cast us into the hinterlands separated from each other. 

My trip home would be check-up of sorts. I would open my heart and say “aaaaaah.” My first visit home as a travel blogger. The weekend would be fast, full of family, old and new friends, good cheer and an extreme opportunity to experience home through the lens of my camera.   

This “Zamboni” ice rink maintenance machine tending to the rink in Campus Martius Park is one more reminder: Opportunity Made in Detroit

So, on the first full day of my visit, between family commitments, a meetup with a nephew for some cheer at Flood’s, Detroit’s place “where everybody knows your name,” and the storytelling event, it would be me and my camera. Solo.   

But before I would start my exploration, I would go to Flo Boutique in the West Willis Village, near Wayne State University to buy a coveted Detroit Snob embroidered t-shirt. The store’s team made the atmosphere like being at home with family. After making my purchase perched on a seat, I asked if I could  ‘just be,’ to just hang out for a while and enjoy the camaraderie. “Of course!” was Sheila and Felicia’s response. As well as meeting a number of women, I learned a lot about the growing attractions and community between  Midtown and Downtown Detroit. When I wore out my welcome, off I went. My first stop was Great Lakes Cafe, a coffee-centric shop on Woodward & Alexandrine Avenue for a yummy sandwich.

Flo Boutique – Detroit is a lifestyle boutique for men and women. It is in the heart of West Willis Village, the hub of the Wayne State University, Cultural Center area.

After having some eats, I would be on my way to the riverfront. Once I got east of the landmark General Motors World Headquarters, I inched my way down the street that runs parallel to the river – Woodbridge. Milliken Park. New. The Dequindre Cut. New.

The Dequindre Cut is a non-motorized recreational greenway spanning over a mile from busy Gratiot Avenue to the riverfront. I was impressed by reuse of this abandoned railroad corridor. 

The Dequindre Cut is a greenway that hosts non-motorized recreational activities. I know if I lived nearby, it would be in my walking plans.

While some take abandoned resources and recover their value, others show respect for the unpolished edges of the urban landscape by using them as backdrops for beauty and culture. 

A group of young Detroit models pose in the shadow of the GM headquarters in a field near a warehouse. True grit is what it takes to forge a way into urban arts and culture. Kudos!

This warehouse doesn’t stand alone. It’s supporting cast is a blind of beautiful trees and the handiwork of graffiti artists.

I love calling the U.S. automotive industry “The Comeback Kids”!

 As I inched eastward, the hands of time were inching along with me – backward. Belle Isle Park was definitely one of my favorite places to visit as a child. When ‘the isle’ was the destination for our Sunday riding, life was good. We learned softball, cricket, and when we needed to stretch our legs, we would pile out of the car and race to the Scott fountain. 

I used to imagine the Scott Memorial Fountain to be a wedding cake. Its alternating colored-lights gave it an awe-inspiring appearance at night. Beautiful public art!

In all the years I visited Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, I never noticed the first road, the perimeter road of the island is called Sunset Strip. A well-deserved name!

A Dramatic Change: Sunset Behind Detroit and Windsor Skylines

 

In the winter, we ice skated on this pond until our toes felt like they would fall off and then we’d go inside the pavilion and have hot chocolate and Cheeze-It crackers for a snack.

There’s something about showing up to make the full impression of your life something worthy of reflecting on later. Just as the sun will not half rise or set, life’s reflection should be nothing less than that of your full self. This is the place that brought so much joy to my young life.

Something mystical happened as the sun began to set on my memories of home. The sky changed colors like the most elegant fashion model sashaying down the runway and with each change reappearing with something far more exquisite than the last change. 

It was an eerie conspiracy: the sky and the water in the ponds and the river were completely still on the surface. The Detroit River is a shipping channel with grown-up currents. I don’t know the phenomenon, but the landscape morphed into a wondrous canvas where the beauty of life was cast. 

When I stepped out of my car and walked maybe 20 feet to the pond’s bank, the smell of hops from the Windsor brewery infused the air. My heart rang out when the bell tower struck half past the hour.

Along with the reflection of the past, what I saw was the beauty and perfection of the heart: it is a storehouse of joy! What, for ages has been revealed as something that cannot be seen nor known by reasoning, poet, teacher and artist of words, Rumi captured it best.

“The lips, the water of life, the one whose thirst has been quenched are one.”

I wonder if she knows she’s filling his storehouse with joyful memories.

Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge at Sunset

This was the most giving sunset I have ever experienced in Detroit. After beholding a portfolio of beauty, it was time to make my way back downtown to meet up with my nephew. Earlier as I traveled from Midtown to the Riverfront, I noticed Campus Martius was alive and teeming with activity. It is a magnet. The shops, the ice skating rink, the hand-warming bonfire are all people-pleasing attractions. I found a convenient parking space, went to a wine bar, perched with a nice glass of red, and watched the activity of the ice rink like it was a big screen television.On As I approached Woodward, I noticed that I became the subject of the curiosity of a man, moving along the street that would end on Woodward. He walked in a challenged way.  As I stood at the focal point of the attraction taking photos, he finally caught up to me. He stepped right in front of my camera. “Would you like for me to photograph you?” When I asked Richard if I could take his picture, he agreed with no hesitation.

Richard.

This was the first shot. “Why are you not smiling?” He was concerned about missing teeth and smiling. When I assured him that a smile is not defined by teeth and comes from inside out, this was the sweet photograph he gifted me with.

A smile can change an entire landscape.

Of course I wanted to know his story. He moved to Detroit to be close to his daughter and there had been some bad blood and they had been sorely out of contact – for a long time.

Forgive

It just slipped from my mouth and into the cool November air. At that instant, all stopped moving around me and this man who walked with a limp, carrying a cane and vet status. He shared his story and we talked. And talked. What I know is words absolutely have healing power. And, the storehouse of the heart is big enough to hold, preserve and share joy whenever needed.  

After I left Campus Martius soul-cleansed, I was still early for the meetup with my nephew. So I drove along Lafayette Boulevard to take a quick look at the primary school my daughter attended while we lived in the Eastern Market. When I made a u-turn in front of Chrysler Elementary School, I caught a flash of blue.

“Capital A. U-G-I-E”

That’s how he spelled his name when I asked him if he consented to let me take his photograph. He did not hesitate. When I asked where he was headed, I knew his answer: “Downtown.”

Augie on his way Downtown.

The brim of Augie’s hat is lined with blinking lights: a great safety device in the dark. 

My brief and enjoyable cheer with my nephew and one of his former colleagues was just what I needed  after a long afternoon of reminiscing, making new friends, and exploring ‘home’ through another lens. Then it was on to a remarkable storytelling event.

Aint’ That A Trip? …when the camera lens introduces you to a new home sweet home 

 

6 thoughts on “Ain’t That A Trip? …when the camera lens introduces you to a new home sweet home

  1. Ivory D.

    Now THAT’s what you call a trip “home”! Makes me want to leave Detroit just to come back. That’s one of the reasons and benefits of walking. You get a different canvas everyday. I like the Bell Tower you captured on Belle Isle. It chimes every 15 minutes and plays 3 set music piece on the hour.
    Great work, Michelle!
    “D”

    Reply
    1. Michelle Post author

      Thanks Ivory! I have been walking on purpose for over a decade and am intrigued by just how different each walk has been. I walk to dream. I walk to ideate. I walk to cry. I walk for strength.

      And when I walk, I look for the beauty in all things – especially people. D, some of the most remarkable flowers I have ever seen grow in the cracks of sidewalks. This past Saturday morning, here in Florida, I set out to see butterflies and rainbows. Well, seeing butterflies was the easy part. They love flitting around the blind of seagrapes that act as a natural blind to protect the ecosystem from the ocean. As for rainbows, you know you have to be careful what you ask for. What comes before ‘bows’? Rain. Just as I was walking and singing lyrics to “Turn it Around” by Israel Houghton (let it rain), the sky opened with a sprinkle, then poured down on me. It was awesome.

      It was good to be home. There’s no place like Detroit – there’s no place like home!

      Reply
  2. Gwen

    What a wonderful article about “my home” Detroit along with the gorgeous pictures. As a Detroiter who relocated to GA 5 years ago, I especially enjoyed the seeing pictures of so many familiar places, from Campus Martius, to the Belle Isle Fountain, to Flo’s, still one of my favorite places to shop! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Michelle Post author

      Thank you for visiting and receiving, Gwen! I have a special place in my heart for Georgia too.

      Detroit has a crown-full of gems when it comes to outdoor public spaces. I’m looking forward to visiting again -soon. Next time, I’ll capture some of the amazing details of Detroit buildings – interiors and exteriors.

      A close second to Belle Isle as one of my favorite Detroit places is the Detroit Main Public Library. Once I fully learned to use the Dewey Decimal System and the reference library, I was hooked. I thought all of life’s questions could be answered by going to the card catalog in the lobby of that masterpiece building. The space created by murals in the library is absolutely enchanting. I would go there and study and when I was finished, go upstairs to the atrium between floors and lay, face-up on the cool marble slab on one of those benches and GAZE at the beautiful walls and ceilings.

      Sounds kind of nerdy? Maybe, but my memories are indelibly impressed into my memory of sight and touch and smell.

      Gwen, I’m glad you visited Ain’t That A Trip? The stories we tell about our journeys connect us in ways I think we’ve forgotten…a sort of amnesia. The more I discover this world, the more I discover our voice, and begin to remember who we are – which is one.

      Reply
    1. Michelle Post author

      Thank you Satori. I’m so happy I came home and was able to particpate in the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers’ event. I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity to enjoy the art and craft of storytelling. See you soon.

      Reply

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