At the water’s edge on Grand Traverse Bay, beneath the blue moon of late July, I met a cluster of butterflies who fluttered and hovered and drew near to see who I was. It happened at the Friday night Music in the Park in Northport, Michigan.
While people are fighting traffic in cities or hunkering down on sofas to recover from the work week, the people of Northport are carrying lawn chairs, blankets and baskets of food down to the marina where they join friends and neighbors at the band shell for the weekly summer concerts. First class musicians fill the air with their talent. Teenagers search the crowd for crushes. Neighbors pass the food plates and share the cold drinks from their coolers. Grandmother’s in flowing wearable art vests take the hands of tiny children and dance while everyone watches – reveling in the Arcadian beauty of moving with the music on a perfect summer night.
Rows of lawn chairs spread out in soft semi circles that change shape as they are turned to accommodate a conversation that soon includes the others around.
In the midst of making an offer on a key business in this beautiful water town my daytime had been filled with the casual popping in and out of impromptu chats with shop and gallery owners that I’ve met on my previous visits. Each local person asked if I’d be at the marina that evening. “Don’t miss it, Mimi! Everyone will be there.” The statement was accurate.
Expecting to melt into the hundreds of people who gather every week at the water end of Nagonaba Street, I entered much more than a concert area. These events are the social highlight of the season when the year round population swells with summer residents and tourists. Five steps into the area and hands were going up in greeting. I watched several people rise from chairs and wind their way through the crowd towards me before I even set down the folding chair my friends had provided.
For a moment, I felt like it was 1969 and I’d just come up the steps of the bleachers at a high school football home game where everyone turns their heads to see who was standing down at the rail scanning the crowd for friends and open seats. I only knew two people well in that little ocean of faces; one for more than thirty five years, the other for twenty three years. The fast familiarity and friendly gestures of those I’d recently met took me by surprise.
Men from restaurants and art galleries waved greetings from their chairs. Women though, we do not let opportunities pass by to get to know more about the new girl. I sat for all of a minute before I noticed that making their way towards me were some of the Queens of Northport.
These women have watched every business open, or close or hopefully survive the years since a time when their grandparents were alive. They have been a part of it all since their own childhoods floated by on tanned feet with ice cream running down fingers from cones they couldn’t lick fast enough on July evenings. They are artists and poets, retired business women and heiresses, some who have lived by the bay for fifty years. They are silver haired butterflies who fluttered around me and took my hand to lead me away to join their clusters for a little while.
Like players in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, these Titanias leaned forward in chairs to listen wide-eyed as I shared my vision of how I planned to use the lovely space I am purchasing. With clapping hands and excited cues they called others of their butterfly kaleidoscope over to hear the story as well. The experience left me feeling like I’d been dusted with glitter and blessings from the queens.
By the time the music ended I was floating away on the dreamy cloudless night; the musical score- a background for those conversations and well wishes of the women who will become familiar co-conspirators in the joyful adventure I’m embarking on.
A curtsy to the Queens. Thank you for making my first Music in the Park so shiny.
Beauty, beauty everywhere.