We found ourselves among ponds, strewn with cattails, broadleaf arrowhead, and lilypads. Songs of birds with a bass line of bullfrogs filled the air. Ducks paddled about, and monopolized the walking paths.
The Tollgate wetlands are a quiet backwater, little known even among the residents of Lansing. They’re not large, about 12 acres or roughly 5 city blocks, with a path around the perimeter. Our hosts tell us they are man-made, and have a cascading group of ponds designed to offer the benefits of a wetland and to act as a filtration system for water runoff.
Perhaps these marshes contribute to a phenomenon I hadn’t seen since I was a kid – fireflies! While on an evening stroll through a Lansing neighborhood we were treated to a show; periodic flashes of light randomly appearing in mid-air as if by magic, then after a brief streak disappearing again until the next magical moment. Fireflies are actually winged beetles, and are often found near wetlands.
But Lansing is much more than a quiet backwater. It is a city of importance, both culturally and politically.
Perhaps I should back up. Some of you may recall a recent post describing the grueling rigors of a cross-country trip. That story left us in western Wisconsin, visiting with family and enjoying a nephew’s wedding. But that was just part one of the trip.
Part two begin with a 500 mile drive, from deep in the green countryside of Wisconsin farmland, across the state into Illinois for the joys and perils of Chicago’s traffic and [insert rude adjective here] toll roads, then northeast across the tip of Indiana and into Michigan, following along Lake Michigan then inland to the city of Lansing.
We were there to visit with my wife’s sister and her husband. My wife had been there on several occasions, but it was my first trip.
Lansing, in addition to harboring the breeding grounds for a duck dynasty, is also a center of government – it houses the state capital. Depending on who you talk to, this might imply at least half of those in power are a bunch of quacks.
I jest. Being a government center has its benefits, one of which is housing the Michigan History Center. This museum runs the gamut from prehistory (alas, the mastodon exhibit was missing due to construction) to the Viet Nam era.
The museum included exhibits on the settlement of Michigan, the Civil War era, a 1920’s street scene, WW II, the automotive scene going from the Model T days to the 60’s, Motown, and much more.
Side note: on occasion, my wife and I watch a show on the Travel Channel called Mysteries At The Museum. Since the trip, we’ve seen artifacts from the Michigan History museum featured in two episodes.
How many of you have visited your state capital? Those with 20-20 virtual eyesight will note my hand is not raised for Oregon, but now I can say I’ve seen Minnesota’s (field trip when I was a kid) and Michigan’s. The legislature was not in session so I could not verify the myth that quacks don’t echo in a large chamber (yes, I know, that jest grows weary), but I could admire the architecture, and especially the dome.
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears, and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call – The Twilight Zone. — Rod Serling
Oops. That’s a whole different trip…