Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Up North, Looking Back

As mentioned in a previous post (compare and contrast  Ishpeming and Marquette,) we saw many small towns and cities. In Michigan, it is clear the coastal towns have thrown themselves full force into becoming the 21st century version of charming, which means spiffed-up old fashioned motels, bistros that almost compare to city-foodie trendy, boutiques with upscale resort wear and adorable clothes for kiddos run by, I imagine, the wives of men with money who don’t really need to turn much of a profit but like being a shop-keeper in a resort town and especially love going to market to source their wares. It isn’t all about T-shirts and fudge anymore, no siree Bob!


The future of these not-long-ago threadbare towns is apparently in luring retirees with comfortable incomes to move in. Yes, many will winter in the sun, but no matter. They bring money and they don’t need jobs, and following them are numerous health care providers. In one small town, Suttons Bay, official population under 700, there is both a hearing aid center and a medical supplies shop (“oxygen”) on the main street. Curious, we checked the demographics and the median age is 59. Yes, half of all residents are over 59. Let that sink in.


Retire to Boca Del Vista or Palm Springs, sure, but we had not realized that NW Michigan had much the same going on. 


On the other hand, many inland towns seem to be struggling. Copemish was simply very sad and run down and their one school had closed many years ago, it was obvious. Just down the road, though, in Kaleva, a not much bigger town, the grocery store looked busy, the Lutheran church was in fine repair and there was a community arts center that sold the wares the locals made, craft supplies and offered classes. It was all so much tidier. And the library was very large for a town that size. I like to think it is the long-time Finn influence, as the town was settled by Finns and named after the Kalevala, the epic Finnish poem that embodies their mythology. All the streets are taken from the Kalevala, and the main street in town is Osmo, my father’s name. Many years ago, he had his photo taken under that sign. I did likewise.


Could we envision ourselves Up North someday? It is beautiful and feels like home but I guess the answer is yes …and no. At this point, we cannot envision not working.





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