Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Holland, MI

Holland is an interesting town. We're spending a couple of days here, as per Lewis family tradition, and it's a place that, like Kalamazoo, I believe deserves a lot more attention that it gets. Now, to those who live in Michigan, you're probably aware that this town exists, and have maybe even spent some time here--particularly in the summer, when the beaches are ripe for sunning and swimming. If you don't live in Michigan, you've probably never heard of it, and are scratching your head as to why a town would be named after a country in Europe (or at least, a colloquial name for a country in Europe, which is officially known as The Netherlands).

To give you a little back story: Holland is so named because of the large Dutch population here. A lot of West Michigan is primarily Dutch in heritage--myself included--but in Holland, you can be Dutch unabashedly. There are many tulips, windmills, and wooden shoes here. Also lots of families with LOTS of children. Holland has become a pretty snappy tourist spot because of its convenient location on Lake Michigan, so it's rather busy in the summer but not so much in the winter; however, because Hope College is here, that keeps things going economically in the winter as well.

We went to the beach today, as well as a tour of the dunes that are located just south of Holland, between it and the neighboring city of Saugatuck. This tour consisted of clambering into an open truck chassis that's been converted to hold a dozen people or so with a loose seat belt, and then a young, tan driver careens around on the dunes at a speed that would be wort of The Fast and the Furious. Every so often he stops to give you information about the dunes--ecosystem, history, etc. And every so often you go down some serious hills that make you feel like breakfast was a bad idea.

But it's the dunes themselves that really got to me....what a beautiful, fragile place. How interesting--the way that glaciers are interesting--they're so much older than any of us can imagine, have seen so much, have done so much to our landscape. Without trees around, dunes could shift over 5 feet per year. There's a whole city covered by the dunes now--an old logging/port city, that got abandoned when the timber ran out, and the dunes just moved right in.

And that a forest can live there as well....there's only about six inches of topsoil, but trees grow there in the valleys.

I had to write about this....want to remember the awe I felt sitting under that canopy of trees, knowing that beneath is only sand....moving sand that won't even be in this position a year from now.