Contributor Post: Finding Space

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

The sound of the waves beats against the shoreline as I walk south towards the Bluff. I am looking for rocks again. My pockets are already filled with Petoskey and Quartz, and a handful of rocks and minerals I have yet to learn the names of. The air is cold, my fingers wet from rinsing rocks in the Lake to see what lies beneath the sand on their surface. I move slowly, always scanning the rocks beneath my feet, knowing that despite my best abilities I am walking past incredible treasures. Buried beneath the Lake, beneath the dunes, beneath other rocks, there are surely thousands–millions–of rocks I can’t even imagine.

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

This doesn’t keep me from looking every day. Despite the knowledge that I am missing so much, I keep my eyes peeled to the sand for what I might find. This practice of walking–this meditation on the rocks that hold the history of the earth–give my body a routine and train my eyes to stay open. It trains my heart to appreciate what I cannot have and reminds me that timing is everything.

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

I moved to Northern Michigan the first week of January this year, welcomed by snowstorms and temperatures that hardly left the single digits. I moved into a house with one single propane heater to combat the cold, and spent my first few days waddling around layered in sweaters and multiple pairs of socks. Each day I bundled up to walk to the Lake, simply to tell her a quick “hello” if the wind blew too hard for me to stay, or to walk the shore to hunt for stones if the day was more mild.

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

I hadn’t planned to be here. I had dreamt it, yes, but I certainly didn’t expect it. In April of the previous year I had moved from Oakland, California, to Brooklyn, New York, and while Michigan still beat it’s home-song in my chest, I did my best to drown it out and convince myself that these adventures were what I really wanted. That I wanted the life experience these new cities were bringing me, that I wanted the life I created in cities versus the quiet lullaby of rural Northern Michigan. I followed a man from coast-to-coast, not once questioning my decision because I didn’t create the space to. Not once questioning my decision because I couldn’t quite imagine what it would look like to be alone.

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

May came and I found myself visiting Michigan for my younger brother’s wedding, found myself skinny-dipping in Lake Michigan at 1am the night of his wedding, which had slowly faded into the morning of my 28th birthday. I spent a week at my parents’ house in Empire, the tiny town that would before year’s end become home. I picked lilacs and put them in vases on every surface of the house. I swam in North Bar Lake and took quick, frantic dips in still-chilly Lake Michigan. I laughed longer and harder than I had in a long time, and came to the realization that I hadn’t been really laughing at all.

In July I went back to California for a wedding and to vacation with some girlfriends near Yosemite. We stayed in a cabin and swam in an inland Lake. We drank bottles of wine and talked about sex and relationships, our disappointments with both, and I questioned–for the first time–my fears of being alone. We spent a day driving and hiking around Yosemite, and I began to speak into life all that I had been afraid of saying out loud. I asked myself where I would be, what I would be doing if I could be anywhere, if I didn’t feel obliged to follow my partner in support of his dreams. Immediately my answer for home was Northern Michigan, and I would be working to host people more regularly–be it my friends or by starting a bed and breakfast, or maybe a cafe. As soon as I admitted this to myself, I began to hear direction from my gut. Move to Northern Michigan. Find a space. This became my mantra. And despite all my fears–fears of being single, of being alone in a tiny village, of being wrong–I decided to pay attention. I ended my relationship and moved back to Michigan from New York.

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

I spent July and August living at my parents’ house,

riding my bicycle on wooded country roads each morning. In the evenings, I would jump in the now-warm waters of Lake Michigan as she swallowed the sun. I let the Lake and the woods heal the parts of me that were afraid and lonely. I learned to be lonely. I let myself ache. Slowly, being alone felt a little less painful. Slowly, being single didn’t seem like the worst thing. Slowly, I didn’t equate single or alone with loneliness. Slowly, I was feeling better, more like myself, more aware of the things I wanted and closer to reaching the goals I wanted. Move to Northern Michigan. Find a space. I hosted a number of friends in my parents’ home during those months, cooking them breakfast and taking them to my favorite secret beaches.

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

Summer changed to fall and I kept traveling and then settled in Grand Rapids for a few months in an attempt to get out of my parents’ house and figure out where I wanted to live next. Northern Michigan still stood as home, was still the place I tried to sneak away to in my free time, and yet something was holding me back from being there indefinitely. “I’m too young to move to a small town. I can’t live there as a single woman. Does moving there at 28 and single damn me to being single forever?” Little fears crept in and drowned out the voice from my gut, and I let them take the lead for a while. But in December, while visiting my parents and out for a solo cross-country ski, I wrestled these fears out of me. “What’s so damning about singleness? Why not move here when I am young?” I quickly began to realize my fears held no weight, that I had faced them and survived, coming out even stronger. And so, I did what I had done in June, and I spoke my desires into the air. I am going to move to Empire in 2017. I felt light after saying that, as if I had just found an answer to a question I hadn’t realized I was asking. I skied home, and spent the next week with my family. One afternoon just a few days later, on a quick trip to the grocery store in the village, my mom and I saw a sign for a small house for rent. “Cozy one bedroom home on a quiet village street, features additional sleeping loft, walking distance to National Park and Lake Michigan.” It was as if the sign read perfectly for me. I knew in that moment–and spoke it aloud as we drove home from the grocery store–”this is my house.” By New Year’s Eve, I was signing the lease, and it really was.

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange

I moved into my tiny house the first week of January, amidst snowstorms and freezing temperatures. I had a month-long trip to California that began the following week, one that felt ill-timed now that I had just moved. Days before I was set to leave, I began reaching out to a handful of friends, offering my home to them as a little getaway while I was traveling. I ended up having five separate groups of visitors–a young family, a dating couple, a newly married couple, a couple expecting their first baby, and a single woman who came to celebrate the start of her 31st year–occupy my home while I was away. Already, my dreams were coming to life. Move to Northern Michigan. Find a space. I did. And that space was already working its magic.

Finding Space - A story of Awakening on The Shore of Lake Michigan with Mae Stier. Read the whole story on The Fresh Exchange
I walk the Lakeshore most days. Today as I write, snow is falling heavy outside my windows–despite the fact that it’s March and isn’t it supposed to be spring?–and I’m sure visibility over the Lake is low. I still plan to go have a look, because part of the Lake’s beauty is the way she changes every day. It inspires me to be comfortable with all the ways I change, and maybe in a way I take refuge in her because she helps me see the beauty in inconsistency. I can’t help but pick up stones as I walk the shore, little reminders that the world is old and I exist as just a fragment. Little reminders to pay attention, and also that as much as I stay open, I will only ever scratch the surface. But if I am not attentive, I won’t even do that.

A big thank you to Mae Stier for being this Month’s Contributor! Find Mae on Instagram to follow her adventures on Lake Michigan. 

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  1. I JUST CRIED IN PUBLIC WHILE READING THIS! Such a beautifully Written, HeartFelt Story. I can Definitely Relate! “Slowly, being single didn’t seem like the worst thing. Slowly, I didn’t equate single or alone with loneliness.” SO BEAUTIFUL!

    Thanks for Sharing, MAE

    xo

      1. Keep these amazing posts coming! it’s currently -15 and super windy here in toronto, but you’ve got me in the spring mood. Thanks so much!:)

  2. Hey, We are neighbors! Welcome to The Fulltime life in quirky empire! See you at the beach-I’m the one with the Golden retriever named Barrett, so glad you made the leap!

  3. dearest Mae,

    I could not be more proud of you. Your imagination, story Telling and fearlessness are a few fantastic reasons why i think the world of you. Your a shimmery star amidst the wide open sky. Shine On friend

    Jillian

  4. This is so beautiful. I love, love, love this line “little reminders that the world is old and I exist as just a fragment.” Thank you For sharing!!