Welcome to Chippewa Lake, Michigan
If you know anybody who grew up in Michigan, you might have heard them refer to "Up North." As in:
“What're you doing this weekend?”
“I'm going up north.”
No, this doesn't necessarily mean the U.P. (Upper Peninsula). It basically means anything north of Mt. Pleasant, or, if you view the state as a mitten, just below where the palm would meet the fingers. This is where we Michiganders go for short vacations. Up North usually means a cabin or a campsite, either near one of the Great Lakes or near one of numerous, small inland lakes. We go Up North to fish, hunt, hike, camp, and simply "get away from it all."
Right about where Up North begins, on the west half of the state, is my pocket-sized hometown of Chippewa Lake.
Founded circa 1870, the "community" of Chippewa Lake isn't quite a town. Rather, it is a pair of crossroads with a post office, a general store, a gas station, and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km²) of clear, blue, shimmering fresh water that comprise the eponymous lake. The population of the entire township is 1,212 people, spread across roughly 35 square miles (90 km²), with no official figures on how many live in just my tiny hometown. I would guess a few hundred.
Being such a small community, Chippewa Lake has little to boast in the way of attractions, but don't let that fool you: my hometown has a certain charm you could never find in a big city. The backyard of my childhood home took you straight to the lakeshore. You could swim every day in the summer and skate across the lake in the winter. My family had a small speedboat, as did all our neighbors, so there was always someone willing to drive you out on the lake or let you whip around on their jetski. The fishing was good year-round: in a quiet lake like the Chippewa, the rock bass, walleye, bluegill, and even pike practically leap into your boat.
People from Towns with More Than One Gas Station sometimes have trouble conceptualizing just how rural my hometown is. Here are some interesting points to help give you a clearer picture:
- The nearest real town is Big Rapids (population 10,700), about 30 minutes away by car. We would have to drive more than an hour round trip just to get groceries.
- My elementary school was 10 miles away in the town of Barryton (population 355). The district serves students from 387-square-mile area (1002 km²), so going to my schoolmates' houses was out of the question.
- We were year-round residents among houses that were considered "summer cabins." Our neighbors, like the Great Blue Heron, fled south for the winter. From October to May every year, Chippewa Lake was very quiet.
- Most of the town is not avaible on Google Street View.
It's hard to believe I come from such a small, remote town and got where I am today. When I first moved out of Chippewa Lake to a larger city, I was amazed to find a McDonald's within a ten-minute drive, and I was terrified of streets with four lanes of traffic. Now, because of my studies and my love of travel, I have visited world cities like St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Geneva; I have lived in exciting urban centers like Ann Arbor, Michigan and Honolulu, Hawai‘i; and I have studied languages from tiny villages just like mine on the other side of the planet.
My plans in linguistics are centered around travel. I want to visit as many places and talk to as many different peoples as possible, documenting the precious, hidden languages of the world along the way. No village is too small for me, and no language is too small for linguistic research.
My work at the LINGUIST List is a jumping off point for me to connect to places, peoples, and languages I might never have had the chance to experience otherwise. Now, only you can keep those doors open for me. If you believe that a small town girl can become a real scientist in the Big World, donate to the LINGUIST List now! Your donations fund my studies, my research, and my curiosity about the world beyond Up North, Michigan.