Unexpected Shift

The niibin (summer) solstice came and went. The longest day of the year coincided with the longest couple weeks of my life. But first, as always, let’s reflect on the previous season. My mnookmi (spring) was beautiful and the seeds I metaphorically planted seemed promising. I was accepted as an intern with the Intertribal Agriculture Council and made my way from southern to northern Michigan to work at Waishkey Bay Farm for the summer.

The first two days of my internship were amazing. I was in my element, beyond grateful to be there. I got to partake in a three sisters planting event and even suited up to check out Waishkey Bay Farm’s aamoo (bee) apiary.

That second night of my internship I got a call that my dad was in the hospital, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Over 300 miles away, my only instinct was to eliminate the distance between us.

The next morning, I offered some asemaa (tobacco) to the spirit world, crossed the Mackinaw Bridge in a daze and made my way home in silence. This has all been so sudden, devastating, and shocking. I didn’t expect to experience such darkness in June, when the light has returned to the physical Earth around us.

Regardless of all the pain, the first Friday my dad was in the hospital, my siblings and I threw him a surprise “party.” We decorated his room with Hawaiian decorations, and all wore Hawaiian shirts. Through such circumstances beyond our control, my brother, sister, and I have no other option than to shower him in our love and light. My dad was so grateful for this party. We also celebrated Father’s Day in the hospital. Despite the circumstances, we made the most of it.

Through all of this, I have developed a deeper understanding of the saying “take it day by day.” With the future seeming so bleak, all I have to focus on is today. My goofy, kind, and caring dad is alive today. So, I can only make it my goal to focus on that. On him.

We plan to enjoy our niibin together. I’m grateful I have this time to have intentional conversations with him, to make memories with him, and to be able to tell him I love him.

I decided to call off my internship. Although it’s as if I’m ripping out those roots that bloomed this mnookmi, I know it is the right choice. I need to be with my family. Family is above all else. Family is who I experience the cycles of life with.

Sometimes the interconnected cycles that are a part of life conflict with what is happening in the physical world around us. Honestly, it feels like a dark winter has cast upon my summer. But I know my family and I will make the most of it.

I love you dad.


Madison Weingust is a student at Bay Mills Community College.

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