Wish You Were Here

As much as I complain about the weather in Michigan—the horrendous heat and humidity in the summer and the feet of ice and snow in the winter—this time of year is truly something special.


(Sorry my pictures are small. You can click to enlarge.)

The colors are spectacular, and if you don’t live in an area that experiences the changing of the seasons, I sincerely mean it when I say I wish you were here to enjoy them.*

*Unless of course, you’re an emotional vampire or just plain annoying, in which case I would dive behind my couch ninja-like to hide when you rang my doorbell.

At any rate, we’ve had unseasonably warm temperatures the past week that have reached the 70s, and I’ve taken advantage of that by enjoying the incredible mum display at the botanical gardens, going on a hayride and mini-color tour and just generally taking the time to appreciate the fact that nature will constantly leave me humbled and at peace.


I don’t know where you are from, but I can tell you that Michigan—and my city specifically—has a lot to offer. We might not have a Trader Joes or Whole Foods within 300 miles or many celebrity sightings, and we only have one vegan restaurant and the aforementioned craptastically unpredictable weather—where was I going with this?

Ah yes, those issues aside, we do have things distinctly our own, things that make Michigan—and Grand Rapids, specifically—not only a great place to visit, but a great place to live.

The mayor and a panel of community leaders recently ran a contest—My Grand Rapids in Six Words  (MyGR6) — inviting anyone “who has lived, worked or played here to share their sentiments about the city using only six words.”

They won’t announce the winners for a couple of weeks, but almost 8,000 people submitted entries, which says something about community pride. Mine was initially related to sports, but serves as a theme for the city as a whole:

Minor league city. Major league feel.

But if you’re into sports—as you know I am—right now is a great time to be a fan. The Tigers are in the American League Championship Series, the Lions are undefeated, the Wings have started their season 2-0—and the minor league baseball and hockey teams for those parent clubs are right here in Grand Rapids.


In other words, we see the stars before they’re stars.

If you’re into art and culture, we just wrapped up ArtPrize, the world’s largest art prize based solely on a public vote. Artists take over and cover the city and venues with their work, visitors come from around the world and conversations result about community, creativity and possibility.

Sports, culture, natural beauty—those are just a few of the things we have going on right now where I live. I’m not trying to sell you on the city—as I said, winters and availability for overpriced hippy food sucks—but rather share with you a little piece of fall where I come from.


And the changing of the seasons also serve as a reminder to me that no, I don’t have control of everything in my life, but sometimes the most beautiful things happen when I let go and simply enjoy whatever may be.

At least until the snow comes.

Then even I wish I wasn’t here.

But for now, I’ll simply wax poetic about the colors and hope that if you aren’t able to enjoy them where you are, you were at least able to enjoy a piece of fall from where I’m at—which unfortunately, is not Trader Joes, but you take what you can get.

And for now, we get major league beauty.

I’m glad that I’m here.

How would you describe your city in six words?

24 responses to “Wish You Were Here

  1. I almost like Michigan after reading this. Too bad I have to dislike them for at least another week or so since I still have a sour taste in my mouth from them knocking my Yankees out of the playoffs 😉

    In all seriousness, this post was heartwarming. It just exudes hometown pride. I was going to post a six word description of New York but I do not have the creativity or control of words that you do and my summary would invariably fall flat. So I guess Michigan wins over New York again!

    Nicole G

  2. true story: I’ve never been to Michigan…or anywhere in the middle of the country.

    Philadelphia: such hometown pride it’s almost obnoxious.

  3. Your entry is great! What do you get if you win?

    I’ve got nothing as someone already used: Portland. Keep it weird.

    • Portland is actually a city I would love to visit and then talk about moving to when my Consolation Wife plan goes through. Great veggie food culture, artsy, etc. and a lot of options for creativity. I know it has it’s issues, but every city does. Plus, you know, you’re there.

  4. Wait, there really are towns west of the Mississippi? I thought that was a rumor!

    But seriously, looks beautiful The leaves here haven’t changed much yet, though the food is overpriced, so we do have that.

    I like your 6 words!

  5. everytime the Pure Michigan commercials come on, I think of you. My city in six words (currently): colts won’t play in 2012 superbowl. It seems like all we talk about….

    • Oh my god. That’s priceless, and you have my sympathies. There was talk of Peyton for MVP this year despite not playing, and I could totally make that argument at this point.

  6. I rarely visit TJs or WFs. You don’t really need them. We are surrounded by them here in Los Angeles, but meh. They’re overrated. I still wish you were here though, Abby. I LOVE L.A. I love my neighborhood for its excitement, its diversity, its history, its freaking amazing food and its warm, sunny weather. I’m always learning something new and fascinating about this city.

    Come visit sometime!!

    • I’ve been to both TJs and WFs, so you can’t tell me I’m not missing anything! They’re “meh” to you because you have options and excitement 😉 The truth is I’m sure I would become obsessed with LA the second I landed, and not just for the food. I could fall in love with a big city or a small town–both have their ups–but for now, I’ll take right in between.

  7. I love towns that have their own quirks and charm. Bigger cities are always fun to visit, but I am definitely a small town girl.
    …Livin’ in a lonely world…
    ok, I’ll stop now 🙂

    • Agreed. The good thing is that GR isn’t a small town either, but rather somewhere in between–a little bit of both. Don’t stop believin’…

  8. What a pleasant, happy post, Abby! (You know, minus the little tangent about winter, etc). I love hearing about the best things places have to offer, because they stick with me when I end up randomly traveling there.

    As far as my town in 6 words? I’d say “Six words isn’t enough for me”

  9. Those colors are awesome. 6 words where I live?

    Oakland: We have TraderJoes and Sunshine
    Oakland: You’ll never get speeding tickets
    Oakland: Crime reputation equals rent control
    Oakland: Fifteen minutes to San Francisco
    Oakland: Come…cheap rent, stay… culture

  10. Change of seasons? What’s that? We were stuck in a monsoon all weekend–I think 5-8 inches of rain. And for the second act today: heat and humidity. Whoo hoo!

    The changing leave look so lovely. Jealous.

    orlando: we’re more than just theme parks.

  11. I love your phrase for Michigan! And oh, those red trees. So beautiful.

  12. Boulder: Ride bikes, eat organic, vote democrat.

  13. I truly love Michigan in the Fall but it’s followed by our craptastic winters, Which I hate, so I usually don’t enjoy it much. I have really been into Fall this year, though. We were just in Grand Rapids a few weekends ago for a soccer game and we tore up South Haven last weekend. And yes, Michigan sports ROCK right now (don’t forget about the Wolverines!)!

  14. My boss lives alittle north of Lansing. I have been there twice for meetings. Once was during the spring, another during the fall. I really enjoyed the scenery. My boss hunts and fishes more than some of the redneck good ole boys i live around in Georgia.

    Those are beautiful pictures.

  15. I think you should win! Can we vote for you like in American Idol?

    I can’t recall if I’ve ever been to GR in Michigan, but I do recall taking a photo by a giant Tony the Tiger in Battle Creek! It was not even an ounce as breathtaking as your fall photo, but still really cool.

    Fall is my favorite season precisely because of moments and landscapes like the one you’ve captured. You’re lucky to be surrounded by such awesome views. Enjoy it before the snow comes!

  16. i cannot believe i was so close to you last week.

    ugh. FAIL.

  17. I can’t remember a fall being so incredibly beautiful. I love this post.

    Traverse City: Four months of beauty and bliss.

  18. Looks gorgeous. We had 80’s all last week. This will make our sub zero temps that undoubtedly will come in the next month even more horrible. The leaves have been amazing here as well.

    • Well, this morning it’s cold and rainy and most of the leaves are stuck to the wet pavement and my car, but it was nice while it lasted…

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