Grace of Michigan

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I was back in Michigan for the second time in three-and-a-half weeks. Knowing that it was a long drive to our ultimate destination of Lake City, my family left Nashville early on a  Thursday where we reached Grand Rapids that evening and stayed the night with friends, Paul and Lyn, Michiganders who have been kind enough to host the traveling Peters clan in their warm and inviting home on more than one occasion.

I must mention here that two gentlemen helped me in the laborious and ridiculously long 3-month process of painting the exterior of my house: my neighbor Matt who, of his own accord, took up brush and pail when we had to rush to Louisiana in early September for a death in the family, and tall Michigander, Paul, who spent five days high atop a ladder slopping Grandiose Green on the wood siding of our 1925 cottage. As their names might imply, they are saints and true friends of action. I could not have finished the job without them.

After eating a pair of cheddar dogs at Yesterdog and racing through a most excellent but pricey used book store in the historic Eastown section of Grand Rapids, we drove the remaining two hours north to Lake City on Friday evening, where I was to play at a Young Life camp. It snowed the entire weekend, and on the drive up I could barely make out painted pavement edges from off-road uncertainty. I gripped the wheel with a firmer grasp but we arrived safe and sound.

Ellis, currently in possession of a dull black and blue shiner from falling down the concrete porch steps at home the other day, does remarkably well considering that he must sit strapped in his car seat for long jaunts owing to his wandering parents who can’t seem to sit still themselves. I’m paranoid that folks who see the black eye might automatically assume the worst of us. It’s one of those worries that comes with being a parent, I suppose, but I’ve actually taken that fear and followed it to a very disturbing, albeit fantasized, conclusion, one in which county social services shows up at the door and removes Ellis from his “unfit” parents. Fear ruins and makes us slaves.

The weather continued to deteriorate throughout the weekend. Saturday, the snow fell sideways, abundantly, and often. It was cold enough for me to conclude that it was far too cold to be outdoors, and that I possess none of the appropriate clothing for life in such a setting. Sunday, conditions were much more bearable for the drive out of camp where we encamped another night at Paul and Lyn’s. We left their house the following morning and pulled up to the curb at our abode later that evening, a mere 10 hours in the car with only non-stop country or Christmas radio to listen to.

Home to stay is a good feeling to these weary bones, these red eyes which have seen many road skies lately, and my carpal-tunneled wrists which always seem to bother me more when I’m driving, than when not. I opened our front door and immediately plugged in the Christmas tree lights, eager to visually begin this season of rest with my wife and son (along with our soon-expected second child). As Michigander Lyn often states, you learn to see grace in the small things:  a break in the winter gray clouds, a small ray of sunlight, a pause in the cold, a safe and firm step on uncertain terrain. The small graces always add up to the big Grace of rebirth. When that time comes, there is rejoicing. Until then, we hope. Happy holidays, everyone.

Eric Peters, affectionately called “Pappy” by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He’s a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he’s not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he’s touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.


8 Comments

  1. Tony Heringer

    Merry Christmas to you and yours Eric! Thanks for the visual of Michigan. I’ve had friends of mine from that area describe it that way too. I’m with you on the snow my man. I’m in the Atlanta area and since I grew up on the coast of Texas, I think this is too far north most of the winter season. I know I couldn’t take several months of snow and such.

  2. becky

    Eric, I must confess to being one of those cruel non-southern mockers in the past. But if you were driving in Michigan and the midwest in the last couple of weeks, you have earned my respect. I am very familiar with the white-knuckled grip, and the tense search for the elusive road markings. Here in Nebraska in the last week we have had ice, about six inches of snow, ground blizzards, sub-zero temps, and even lightning and thunder while sleet fell from the sky. Even with my 30+ years of winter driving experience I have been sticking close to home as much as possible. And by the way, I wouldn’t trade winter on the Plains for hurricane season and humid summers in Louisiana. I’ll stick with what I’m used to, thank you very much.

    I really like what you said about “grace in the small things.” Today I am seeing God’s goodness in the 22 degrees heat wave, and a close parking spot at Target on Dec. 24th. But every day I need to be looking for those little flags that mark a spot where God has blessed me. Thanks for the reminder.

    And welcome to the ranks of winter weather drivers.

  3. jon mac

    Eric!? What the heck were you doing in Lake City? I live in Cadillac, 10 minutes away, my wife is from LC???

    Ohh man, did you play a show? Im gonna be ticked if I missed a show so close!

    jon

  4. Christopher Hopper

    Just had to chuckle about the “hand.” My pastor and about half of our church are immigrants from Michigan (to NY) and all I ever heard about was “the hand.” About to release a new live acoustic project with a friend from Michigan, and in planning our tour dates, we had to, yes…consult “the hand.”

    Well done, and a belated, Merry Christmas.

    CH

  5. Jen

    Eric,

    From a Michigander, firstly, nice hand-map. I’m quite impressed. Yes, we really do use our hands to give directions or point out our hometown ALL THE TIME. Secondly, kudos to you for surviving the weather on the roads. Normally, I would tease you Southerners for even blinking at the snow, but really…we’ve had a lot of snow this December and the weather’s been wacky (warm, cold, warm, cold, WIND, cold). The roads haven’t been nice to us Michiganders who are used to driving on them, so you deserve to take a little pride in handling them well yourself.

  6. eric

    jon mac:
    i did indeed play in Lake City — at a Young Life camp just on the outskirts of town. a private event, so no worries, you didn’t miss anything.

    to all:
    let me give full and due credit for the hand map to our very own russ ramsey. nice touch, russ.

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