I was flipping through radio stations the other day, and between loud commercials, I heard a man lauding the virtues of cemeteries. I stopped to listen out of a general morbid fascination and a genuine curiosity about why people choose burial. Recently, Matt and I have been biking with Vilas in the nearby Catholic cemetery (more geese than Lake Como, but far fewer people), and I keep trying to decide if we’re being disrespectful, but since I doubt that either one of us will end up in a cemetery, I can’t summon the kind of solemn reverence for it that would dissuade me from running my dog there.
The man, whose job title I didn’t hear, was comparing the legacies left by family cabins (in his words, fleeting) to the legacies left by headstones and cemetery plots (in my words, creepy- and environmentally unfriendly). He spoke about Granddad’s cabin, sold out of the family two generations down the road and lost forever; he spoke about Granddad’s headstone, a marker for the family to visit ad infinitum (maybe a small exaggeration on his part). I did see his point, but I also think the kind of legacy he was talking about has more to do with where and how you live than where you are when you die.
So his comments made me think about places I go that feel charged with family legacy: in Minneapolis, it’s my grandparents’ church, Holy Rosary. In Wausau, it’s my parents’ home. In Michigan, it’s Little Girl’s Point.
I’ve written before about Little Girl’s Point, but on my last trip there in mid-October, I was able to share it with my good friend, Anna. Anna was our co-teacher in Hangzhou, our go-to-girl for all things school and city-related, and she also treated me to my first KTV experience. She got married in July and on September 1st, arrived at MSP to spend the semester teaching at White Bear Lake.
Anna at the scenic overlook on Powers Road in LGP.
In many ways, Anna and I are very similar: we are both short, we are both English teachers, we are both easily excited. As I watch her experience life in the US, I am constantly reminded of the Wonder Bubble I walked around in when I was in China. I love China with my whole heart (even the icky stuff), and Anna, as far as I can tell, loves the US with her whole heart (even the icky stuff). I was beyond excited to bring Anna to Lake Superior. It is- okay, arguably- our Yellow Mountain.
We spent the weekend picking apples at my parents’ cabin and touring around Little Girl’s Point, sharing with Anna the storied Oman Family History at the Point. We took her to our favorite restaurant (and yes, it might be the only nearby restaurant), Harbor Lights. She charmed us with stories of China and her husband and Chinese wedding traditions and her impressions of America. She took videos of nearly everything, including videos of the 18,000 deer we saw (which makes sense, since I’m convinced there are no animals left in China, save a few celebrity squirrels) and a 6-minute clip of How to Use a Jukebox, starring yours truly. While I chose songs, she translated for her students in her soft, pretty Chinese.
The Omans’: My great-grandparents’ home. My grandma grew up here. The lake was wild that day.
Anna taking a video of the waves.
My mom and Anna hauling discarded apples to the game camera, which later snapped some pretty pictures of grazing deer.
Anna picking apples.
Anna reaching for the high apples. She maneuvered this basket like a pro.
Sunset at the overlook.
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was Anna bonding with Vilas. She’s never really spent time with a dog, and they were in love by the end of the weekend.
Vilas is the first dog Anna’s ever walked. 🙂
Hiking along the water.
Down on the agate beach.
The waves and the blues in the sky and the water were impressive.
So to bring this back to cemeteries (smooth transition, yes?), no matter what cabins and homes change hands, I will always feel a connection here, and I will continue to spend as much time here as I can. And as far as my own legacy is concerned, repaying a small fraction of the hospitality I was shown in China to my dear friend Anna feels like a good start.