• Chris OBrien

Great Writing: Kathleen Stocking's "From the Place of the Gathering Light"

Northern Michigan thrives in the summer time. If you've been up to Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, or Leelanau, you know the beauty of those locations--especially in June, July, and August. Hopefully you can make a return trip (or first time trip) sometime this summer.

But, if you can't, then next best thing is to read the writings of Kathleen Stocking. She is a master of the craft and makes you feel like a local in each of the towns she writes about.

In the words of the famous Michigan author Jim Harrison:

"Kathleen Stocking has an intensely appealing ability to write about the Leelanau area. I don't think anyone does it better."

From the Place of the Gathering Light is the type of book where half of the pages end up with dog ears, highlights, underlines, or Post-it notes sticking out. Honestly, we could do 10 of these articles sharing different favorite passages from the book. For today, I just wanted to share two paragraphs that stood out to me earlier this evening when I was sitting outside by Diversey Driving Range here in Chicago, feeling like the sand of Sleeping Bear and the sounds of Lake Michigan were closer to me than the repeated sounds of golf balls being hit 30 yards away.

First Passage

Monarchs migrate upwards of 3,000 miles, going from Michigan to Mexico at about five miles an hour, about the rate of a jogger. Where odes such a tiny body find the energy for such a long trip? We don't know. It's a mystery. It's who they are. It's what they do, just like humans try to figure out patterns in the stars and write poetry and wear funny hats. These are the thoughts you can have in a pretty place.

Second Passage

A place becomes itself, slowly over time, like a person. Geography has something to do with this. The caliber of people who are attracted to a beautiful place like the Leelanau Peninsula, where they know there are few ways to make a living, has something to do with it. Simply by being there they have chosen nature and beauty over money and power and, as more and more people have done this, it has created a small group of people in a small, out of the way place with a way of seeing the world that is based less in the material than in the spiritual. Some of these people who now live on the Leelanau Peninsula are people who came as children in the summer. Some are Native people whose ancestors were always here. Some are world travelers who feel they have found the last, best place on earth. Some are people like me, people who had grown up on the peninsula, left for parts unknown, and returned to stay. In the aggregate, there are more people trying to make a difference for the better in this one small place than I've encountered almost anywhere. The beauty of the land, which drew them in the first place seems to inspire them.

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