Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Living and Learning

Traverse City, Michigan, is fortunate to be the home of Northwestern Michigan College (NMC). NMC hosts something called Life Academy providing education for members of the community not seeking degrees. Twice a year it holds a “Campus Day” with three sessions of classes for the senior community.

Now, I grew up in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, within 25 miles of Traverse City. After getting an Associate’s Degree from NMC, I left in 1961, at age nineteen, never expecting to return. Return I did, at age 63, in 2004 after losing my husband, because my mother was still here and needed someone to look after her. I soon decided that I needed to start a new series of mystery books where I now lived.

Always interested in widening my scope of knowledge, I have attended Life Academy classes and Campus Day regularly. This year, however, I decided to do something different for Campus Day. Instead of following my normal interests, I would take whatever sessions would increase my knowledge about this beautiful area, giving me fabric for my new series of books.

All I can say is WOW. The first session was “The North Country Trail – Your Adventure Starts Here”. The North Country Trail runs from New York to North Dakota, cutting right through my section of Michigan. Trail heads and accesses along the route allow for hikes of varying distances and varying degrees of difficulty. Now, I am way out of shape for hiking, but this is going to make me get back into it. Who knew that one of the few stands of old growth timber was located right here in Michigan, protected by its marshy location from both clear cutters and forest fires? This summer I am determined to see it for myself.

The second session was “Watershed Wisdom.” In addition to Schoolship educational endeavors, which include teaching excursions for fifth and sixth graders, high school students, and adults on the Grand Traverse Bay, we discussed invasive species like Groupies, Zebra Mussels, and Asian Carp in the Great Lakes and what we could do to protect our water from pollution. Oh, my, can I see heightened emotions around these issues in such an environmentally aware city leading to violence!

The third session, “Community Development in TC – What Does it Mean?” embarked on a subject many aspects of which are already causing angst and anger in our community. All the research in the world would not have given me the insights into the why and how of what the city is trying to do as this one class.

The lesson I learned is that to step outside my normal interest areas creates a life enriching environment in which to broaden my knowledge and excite brand new interest areas, whether I use the new knowledge in a book or not. I can hardly wait for the next Campus Day.