A Shepherd’s Coat & Pure Michigan


I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.

-John Burroughs

Lately I have felt a finality in the sunset. Like each one could be the last. I’m not sure what’s causing this feeling, this intense desire to lasso the sun and pull it back up into the sky, to reset the day for just a few more hours. But every evening it’s the same. Outside the golden hour produces the most serene calm and gratitude I could possibly muster; inside a panicked and futile pleading with the cosmos to just slow time this once, because I’m not done yet. Because I haven’t finished lingering in the orange and gold glittered light.


I meant to get this post up on Friday, as has been customary for these types of posts lately, but didn’t quite get to it in time. By midday we were headed north. We’re not big Halloween people, and I’ll do almost anything to get out of trick-or-treating so a couple months ago I booked us a room at Great Wolf Lodge for the weekend. We wanted to get in early and spend a few hours in the waterpark before it closed for the night so we headed out a little before noon, and though I took it with me I didn’t open my macbook again until Sunday night when the hotel room was strewn with towels and flip flops, and the beds covered with chlorinated kids passed out cold. It was a terrific weekend. One that reminded us that even rapidly growing girls are kids at heart, and that while Mom and Dad are, too, our legs are not and those big slides are at the top of a lot of stairs. (I’ll update you when we’re walking, rather than hobbling along, again. But for now, suffice to say: the limp was worth it.)

Early to mid-October is considered peak fall-color time in and around Traverse City, but we really got lucky this year and the colors were still breathtaking. Tons of orange and red maples, and vineyards striped with chartreuse vines still in the process of settling in for winter. Late Saturday morning we took a few hours and drove up Old Mission Peninsula for lunch at the Jolly Pumpkin.

20264329891_107e90e2b4_b-2This is a photo of a Romanian Shepherd taken sometime between 1892 and 1907 on Ellis Island. And would you just look at that coat! If I’m not mistaken that’s a tanned sheep pelt turned inside out and sewn to fit. The detail stitching and the buttons and the patches on the arm… the whole thing is just incredible. And leaves me with so many questions: Did they wash the lanolin out somehow, or was it left in there? Were these coats exclusive to shepherds or did they make and sell them to other folks, too? How many sheep did it take to make one coat like that? And most importantly, where can I get one like it?

The photo is from a series by an amateur photographer who worked on the island processing immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ellis Island itself is such an important part of our nation’s history with regards to how we handle immigration. It set a tone that we are living and struggling with to this day, where rich people were often shuffled through without a second thought, but poorer people were held up and detained for days. This shepherd was, like most if not all of the others pictured, probably a poor man. The photo was probably taken at some point while he was being detained, waiting for family or friends or some way to get money to get himself off the island. I only wish more of his story were known. Was he eventually released? To whom? Under what conditions? Where did he end up?

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