Finding Light

One of the best ways for me to get to know a place, I’ve found, is to get to know it’s bookstores. Traverse City, apparently, has a bunch of them.

Brilliant Books (with a brilliant name) is right downtown and has an active blog and a couple of book clubs that look really interesting and they carry local music! I’ll have to look to see if there’s a good coffee shop nearby to imagine sitting in with a cuppa and some new tunes to listen to while gazing off into the distance (probably across the street, it’s not a very big town).

Higher Self Bookstore – because if a town doesn’t have a spirituality centered bookstore, then I am not interested. They have a really active calendar, too. I imagine that it has that amazing smell of crystals, wood, tea and the combined effects of all those essential oils bottles being opened during the day. Oh. I kind of want to be there.

Hold the Phone: Landmark Books opened in 2013 in the historic Traverse City State Hospital (and that place is getting a whole blog post of its own because you know the internet is super excited about it) and I Am In Love. What could be more inviting to a bookish soul than a converted hospital with a Used, Hard-to-Find and Out-Of-Print bookstore in it. I may have just started saving up for my trip there….

I wonder if there are tours of the old spaces of the city. I wonder how much of the city is old and can be explored. That may be for next time. Well, we’ll see.

Also Blue Vase Book Exchange?!? What a fantastic name for a book store! Also it is an active and interesting looking sort of a place. I like a book exchange, it’s the kind of place that reminds me of the many lives of books. They have a main site, but their facebook page is where the action is.

I am a huge fan of downtowns and have fond memories of Kroch’s and Brentano’s in downtown Chicago from when I was a child. But there are a couple of really well-visited stores outside of downtown and that’s healthy.

But here’s the one that got me – really got me:

Horizon Books captured my chatty heart with their video series Up Front Fridays that features local folks and updates about upcoming events in the city. It is exactly what I want out of a bookstore video series: informative, informal, organized, and friendly. This is some serious community building and uplifting work. I am completely in love with it and am also deeply invested in the Candle Factory and its story now even though I’m not actually that much of a candle person (don’t steal my single lady card, please).

Hans spoke about the location of the Candle Factory as having been built in 1901 as Traverse City’s first power plant. I’ve been looking for it, mostly have managed to sign up for the Downtown Traverse City newsletter and discover the best thing ever: The Tax Parcel Viewer – this is really interesting, although there isn’t anything in the record that would help me find out more about the building. I think this might be it?


According to the timeline on offer by the Traverse Area Historical Society, the Boardman Light & Power began in 1894, HD Campbell produced steam power in 1889 and in 1921 the Brown Bridge Power Dam was built. A Google Search for “Boardman Light and Power” brings up the link to Traverse City Light & Power which doesn’t list the building at all.

Well. What a fun mystery.


Of all the gin joints…

The beginning is a card, a card of farewell. Someone found a poem for the inside, something to inspire me on my way.


A Walk Near the Lake

don’t think about early when the sun is

shining through blades of beach grass

I chose the long way to the beach,

hills with low valleys and dark horizons

aspens throwing me off with their mountain rustle

and out of sight of waves bearing no salt

only soft crashes and shatters and rhythms

sand underfoot, bearing branches green and gray

to step between and around

insects and birds buzz and chirp

whir whistle flutter into gold in the morning

silence is relative

I wasn’t alone when I read this, which was probably for the best because when I was alone, I cried. In the summer of 2002, I spent a few days at Sleeping Bear Dunes measuring native thistles, exhausted, eating cheese, lettuce & sand sandwiches at the car.

It was before. In another job, another city, another life. I cried.

That memory is a joyful one. My boss and I were there during a cherry festival (but really, you guys, a cherry festival!) and there was fresh fruit exactly everywhere.

You know those highway fruit seller stands? Bought stuff at three of them.

Sore stomach from too much fresh fruit? Yep.

For a 16 hour drive, though, it was good to have something fresh to eat.

So here’s the idea: we’re at the beginning where the ideas hang out.

I learned a bunch about the city I now live in by walking around and going to museums and parks and the local library. How much can I learn about a city that I don’t live in? I’m curious, in that warm feeling in the writer part of your brain way, about the story of that city as it can be found through library resources and whatever online archives I can find.

This blog will be my attempt to tell the story of a place that I only barely remember, and that mostly in between the words of someone else’s poem. Welcome!