“The danger of the phrase ‘common ground’ is that it is likely to be meant as no more than a metaphor. I am not using it as a metaphor; I mean by it the actual ground that is shared by whatever group we may be talking aboutthe human race, a nation, a community, or a household. If we use the term only as a metaphor, then our thinking will not be robustly circumstantial and historical, as it needs to be, but a weak, clear broth of ideas and feelings.”

– Wendell Berry, Men and Women in Search of Common Groundin Home Economics

We’re headed for Saugatuck. The day is overcast and wet without rain or snow, lit by the kind of light in which you can’t see colors. We turn left onto River off 13th Street, stay slightly to the right and wait for River to turn into Michigan and then into Washington. We pass the hospital, glistening inside and out. We’ve never visited. Directly to the hospital’s north, hidden from our view by crooked houses and lonely parks, is the aquatic center. We’ve smelled its chlorine together, with good friends. We hit the red light at 32nd. It changes, and the car pauses momentarily between first and second before we reach 40th. The light is green, and we skate through before merging onto Business 196 south. We’re headed for Saugatuck. Maybe a little sun shows through the newspaper sky. The car picks up speed, aiming for 70 but taking a while to get there. No matter—no cars are on the road. She smirks. I smile. A few leaves dangle on mostly dead trees. The rocky road snow blurs by and pavement slides underneath new tires. Business 196 becomes I-196, and we both know exit 41 is near. We’re headed for Saugatuck. One mile until the exit and a small bird flock swoops to our left. A solitary hawk hovers lazily above them. We exit, turn right, and pass the Burger King with its weeded parking lot and dilapidated roof. She laughs. The treeline on either side is disrupted by kitch motels, art galleries, and rustic boutiques. A church with one car in the parking lot comes up on our right. We’re in Saugatuck. Soon we meet the bridge splitting the still, grey waters of the Kalamazoo River. If it were summer, a small fruit shack would greet us on the other side, but now it’s boarded shut. Inside the car, we’re warm, bundled for winter but not overdressed. A Diet Coke rattles in the cup holder, and we both reach for it. I sip then she sips then we’ve come upon St. Peter’s. We turn right, notice the prayer garden, wind a bit, and turn left. Quaint condominiums surround us now, until we T at Ferry St. Another right, and the Kalamazoo flows directly next to us to the east. We can see restaurants and ferries waiting for the tourists to return. We pass the hotel we haven’t stayed at but know well, its severely steep driveway taunting our little Corolla. I laugh. I’m happy. She is too. The road narrows and we barely sneak by a truck headed the opposite direction. The dirt and stone parking lot for Mt. Baldhead suddenly appears to our left, and we park up against the failing fence near the bathrooms. We get out of the car, feel our feet on ground, and keep talking. The conversation pauses as we near the stairs. A lot has come before us here. We read the “Caution: Ticks” sign (I’m not afraid, it’s winter). She leans into me and I wrap my arm around her shoulder. This is where we’ve been. This is where we are. We look up. We look at one another. We look up. We climb.

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