“My mind drifts like the snow.”
–The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
I visited Nunica in Michigan last month not to look for popular tourist destinations, but to find healing. If you’ve been following my story, you may remember how I lost my boyfriend to depression in 2012, and the difficult journey I’ve had since.
His mother and younger brother live here now. As soon as I stepped out of the Grand Rapids airport and into the -9° Celsius countryside, I knew that this was no usual vacation.
During the last two weeks, I immersed in the life of Tom and Cherry of Nunica, where the only restaurant in town is a few blocks from their house, and the local bar isn’t a safe place for women to go on a Friday night.
I ticked a few things off my bucket list, such as having my first real Thanksgiving dinner (which they organized for me a few days ago) and trying out one of Michigan’s lost sports, Pickleball (a cross between tennis and Ping-Pong).
Tom, mom Cherry’s new husband, amazed me with his Superman skills—fishing, truck driving, sailing, flying a plane, carpentry, and plumbing, among many others. He renovated his century-old house with his own two hands.
Cherry, on the other hand, has adjusted well to this domesticated life that is the complete opposite of her glitzy social life back in Alabang, Philippines. She’s kept a tight group of Michigan friends who bond over Pickleball every morning at Spring Lake Fitness Center, and she gives back to the community by teaching hula dance for free at Four Pointes Senior Center.
I braved the winter weather to explore the frosted trees outside the Schmidts’ barn, tried my darnest to look for moles and wild rabbits, lured the wild birds and deer with leftover bread, and groomed Pusa the deaf rescue cat who is too attached to the house furnace. I met new friends (mostly twice my age) who understood my story and even shared their own. I took water aerobics classes with a dozen senior women at Spring Lake’s pool. I remember charming the instructor Lucy to let me end my session by sliding down the multi-level water slide that’s usually closed.
In my photographs, I was smiling again—the kind of smile that I thought I completely lost in 2012. This town has taught me to live life simply—that coffee with friends is better than drinks at a night club, that it’s sometimes better to mail a card instead of a Facebook message, and that all you need is a pair of steady hands to get work done—a refreshing change from the fast-paced and anxious city life I grew up with.
Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks, but I’ve finally learned to handle it not with despair, but with hope.