Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Michigan

The Benefits of Being Snowed In

Snowed In

While getting some fresh air during a nice walk around the block is out of the question these days, being snowed in does have its benefits. Due to Michigan’s weather condition this winter, I have:

1. Finished a book I’ve been working on for years
2. Started a new project
3. Rested quite well
4. Found creative new ways to play with my kids
5. Organized the entire basement

Since this weather might resume for February, I might learn another half-dozen things. As I write this, I am reminded of my teacher Lynn Andrews, who wrote: “Once again we move into the season of winter, Mother Earth’s gift to us of hibernation, of dreaming and being within ourselves as we allow our dreams to germinate and gain clarity before we plant them in the coming spring.”

Hiking, Tribal Style

IMG_0292

Last year my cousin raved about this one park that she said we “must go to.” So we did. It was Bloomer Park in Rochester. They have a number of playgrounds and picnic areas and countless gorgeous trees to stare at. But our favorite discovery was the hiking trail we accidentally came across. We went up and down peaks, walked over fresh fallen leaves, amongst trees bunched together like parsley. The sun glistened over the small river beside us, bikers passed us by, and our children picked up sticks to use as canes as we moved forward.

The trail walk is around 90 minutes. Trying to find our way back to the picnic and playground area is usually not easy. Once we even ended up in a subdivision. It was a sight! Twenty people between the ages of 60 and 3 just roaming around a quiet neighborhood, looking dazed and confused. The experience was exhilarating and ever since that first time, we have gone back often for more hikes and picnic food or in today’s case, a barbecue.

Bloomer Park is named after Howard Bloomer, who was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1871. Later in life, he received his law degree from Detroit College of Law. After law school, he helped found the Macgregor and Bloomer Law Firm. Two of his famous clients were John and Horace Dodge, the founders of Dodge Motor Car Company.

In the 1920’s, Bloomer persuaded the Dodge Brothers to donate 11 parcels of land to the State of Michigan to form state parks and recreation areas. Bloomer and his wife donated 47 acres along the Clinton River to the state in order to create Bloomer State Park #2.

Our family is grateful to Mr. Bloomer’s philanthropy.

Frankenmuth

IMG_0961

Last weekend we stepped, slightly, into the heart of Germany when we visited the small city of Frankenmuth and had dinner at the Bavarian Inn. Frankenmuth’s population is less than 5000, and it the place to go to if you want to stroll through 13 acres of beautiful riverfront, or “Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland” which bills itself as the world’s largest Christmas store, listen to the hoof beats of horse-drawn carriages, and enjoy family-style chicken dinners and authentic German dishes.

The city’s name is a combination of two words. “Franken” represents the Province of Franconia in the Kingdom of Bavaria, home of the Franks, where the original settlers were from. The German word “Mut” means courage; thus, the name Frankenmuth means “courage of the Franconians.” The area was settled and named in 1845 by conservative Lutheran immigrants from Roßtal area of Franconia (now part of Bavaria) in Germany. The group of settlers left Germany on April 20, 1845 and arriving at Castle Garden seven weeks later.

The nearby villages of Frankenlust, Frankentrost, and Frankenhilf illustrate that the area remained a magnet for other Germans from the same region even after it lost its original purpose as a mission post for the spread of Christianity to the Chippewa tribe.

Although we didn’t get to do any beer tasting that day, we ate and ate and ate until we could barely breathe. Then we were served ice cream! Word of advice, do not wear tight jeans if you plan on eating at the Bavarian Inn.

From Paris to Sterling Heights

Last Tuesday, I was visited by three people who were so French, they caused my mind to wander to and linger in Paris. This Tuesday, my mind has returned home, so I will write about my hometown of 20 years, Sterling Heights, the fourth largest city in Michigan.

A little over sixty years ago Sterling Heights was a rural Michigan township with a population of 4,000. It was organized in 1835, two years before Michigan became a state, and it was originally called JeffersonTownship. The name was changed to Sterling in 1838. Some say the community was named for Azariah W. Sterling, a settler; others say it was named for Sterling, New York. By the 1880s, the township had become thirty-six square miles of well-developed and prosperous farms, with a mere 1,000 residents. Today the population is nearly 130,000.

Prior to 1784 there is little written history about the area that is now Sterling Heights because the Indian tribes who lived in villages along the ClintonRiver or came through here on hunting expeditions did not keep written records. The first white settlers along the Clinton were captives of the Chippewas who had been freed or escaped after years of wandering with the tribes.

Sterling Heights was ranked the sixth safest city in the U.S. in 2006 and currently boasts more movie screens than any other Michigan City.The August 2006 issue of Money magazine listed Sterling Heights as No. 19 on its list of the 90 “Best Small Cities” to live in.

Another attraction? Eminem lived here briefly between 2000 and 2001. And a phenomenon? After twenty years of living in this city and over ten years of living in nearby neighborhoods, I can still screw up directions to get to certain places.