The grey morning after the last day of deer season, 2009, that I left Duluth for lower Michigan was a lifetime ago, by my reckoning, the four and a half actual years overfilled with new jobs, new friends, my marriage and several others, and four addresses. But finally, this spring my wife and I moved home.
I’ve heard it said that home is where your stuff is. True to a point, but not absolutely, as discussed over late beers in Escanaba, Michigan, while all my stuff was in the U-Haul parked outside.
Home has always been the North Woods. Growing up on their southern edge, where the Laurentian Plateau descends into Lake Superior, made them the bedrock of my concept of home. Of course, I have grown to also love the sand country of Michigan and its jack pines and trout, its predictable hatches and rich dry-fly heritage, and its three coastlines with sight-fishing flats. But I am not really home until I've seen the sun set over a rocky, tannin-dark lake and watched the stars spin around Polaris – near directly overhead – next to a spitting fire of spruce and birch.
Lastly, and most naturally, home is where my people are. As I consider this, it is clear that I've left behind a home in Michigan, now, too. Friends met and made over moving water – or at least the discussion of it – that will keep a home for me in Michigan when I return, even if only occasionally.
My last weeks in Michigan were filled with fly tying, trip planning, and even some long-shot fishing, made more poignant by the impending move. And the first weeks here in Minnesota have been filled with reunions, over water and over beer, made more cheerful by not ending with “see you next year,” but instead “see you again soon.”
I suspect, however, that I’ll be returning home, if only briefly, to Michigan soon as well. When the spring flood passes, there will be Hendricksons and Isonychias and drakes and Hexagenia. And friends to chase them with.