Art in the woods


Sometimes a girl just needs a day to herself.

A day without yard work or house work or bill paying or  snot wiping or litter box scooping.

Some girls go to the spa.

Some go to the mall.

Some go to a movie with a friend.

What does this girl do? She hops in the car and drives to the opposite end of the state to traipse around in the bug-infested woods for an afternoon.

Not just any woods, though. This is a special forest I’ve visited for four summers.


Nestled in these woods, standing along the sandy shores of a shallow inland lake, is an arts camp. Along this shore and through its maze of forest trials are rustic cabins named after musical composers, writers and artists. Between these cabins and through the thick stands of pines and maples are open-air studios,  classrooms and theaters, and an arts colony. The whole area just oozes creativity.

If gas prices weren’t almost $3 a gallon, I’d drive out here just to visit. This time, I had a reason to spend $500 on gas in one day: Girl from the West is participating in a camp alumni concert series. Today is the first show; the second will be in July at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

 After depositing Girl to her designated rehearsal hall, I grab my camera and sunglasses and hit the trails. Through the birdsong in the canopy above and the crunch of gravel under my sandals, I hear the sweet notes of pianos being played, of voices hitting high notes and harmonizing. As I navigate the pathways, this music seeps between the branches and boughs, rises up from the ferns, floats on the breeze,  making the forest seem almost magical. 


Awash in all this natural beauty and talent, I feel a pang of envy for my Girl, who had the privilege of three summers at this camp and a tour of Western Europe last summer.

I wish to find my own arts colony, my own creative escape. I say good-bye to this hideaway and head home, thinking this visit will be my last.

It seems that at the end of every summer, Girl from the West tosses her blue camp uniform in disgust, declaring it “the last time I wear this — I swear.”

But somehow, when the next summer comes around, we find ourselves picking up the polo shirt and skirt and heading back to this little gem in the woods near the shores of Lake Michigan.

We have our reasons.