Rainy impenetrable world

Rainy impenetrable world

Sometimes it seems to rain, and rain, and rain.  Wherever you walk, you’re soaked.  The wet soaks into sneakers, socks, jeans.  Droplets pour off rain jackets.  It’s a Wet World.  Wet sky, wet foliage, wet branch, wet life, wet river. 

Is Mother Nature crying at times like these?  Or is that too much of a projection of human attributes on nature? 

I pondered crying today.  Not because I was feeling persoanlly sad.  But simply because many folks in our Upper Peninsula county may be suffering right now.  Struggling.  Trying to figure out what to do next.

Stumbling upon a hidden boat

Stumbling upon a hidden boat

Here is why people in our community may be crying in the rain this weekend, lamenting the passing of summer.  Approximately 24 percent of  Baraga County’s population is unemployed right now.  Up to 90 more folks just lost their job recently at Terex, a local employer, when the company decided to pull out and close its plant.

We’ve always had high unemployment figures in this area.  Our numbers traditionally top the state’s statistics.  On a good year, our unemployment hovers around 7-8%, and during slow seasons (like winter break-up when the loggers can no longer operate their heavy equipment on the roads) the unemployment tops around 9-11%.

It’s not a job-laden area.  People make a living in the woods, the state maximum-security prison, the casino, a few companies and shops, the mines over toward Marquette.  You might work in the hospital, the school systems, the county, the stores.  But it’s not like there are infinite choices. 

Often tensions have sparked between those desiring more jobs for our people, and those trying to protect the environment from companies without sustainable nurturing practices.  It’s a fine line which brings out tension on both sides.  How do we care for the earth, but not at the expense of the people?  How do we care for the people, but not at the expense of the earth? 

Dried flower merry-go-round

Dried flower merry-go-round

In July we made national news.  Our county had the third highest unemployment in the whole country, unless you added Puerto Rico. If you toss in that little island, we were number four. 

Strangely enough, shop owners have complained that they can’t hire enough skilled workers from our area.  They insist they advertise for workers–perhaps welders–and must hire out of the area to get enough skilled employees.  Many folks do not want to work and find ways to minimize their time on the job.  Yet, for every person who doesn’t want to work, there is a person who does.  They just want a job.  A way to put food on the table.  To educate their children.  To buy gas for the car and heating propane for the house.  To realize the “American dream”.

Splash of autumn reflects in the Silver River

Splash of autumn reflects in the Silver River

As the rain pours from the heavens and autumn temperatures dip down, how is the man feeling across the bay who doesn’t know where to work next?  How is the woman feeling who is pregnant with her third child and no longer has a job?  Can you imagine the panicked thoughts which might play in your mind?  What to do next?  How do we survive?  Is our world falling apart?

Shiny leaf suspended

Shiny leaf suspended

I try to imagine what this must feel like.  What about the people who love the land, and don’t want to leave to find work in the larger cities?  What about the people to whom family ties and closeness mean everything?  How do you learn to live with the pressure of not having a job, of not feeling the safety net of employment?  What if your skills are minimal and you have no time or money to go back to school?  How do you survive?

Cedar tucked away in a stump

Cedar tucked away in a stump

The Anishnabe people who have lived on this land for centuries often turned toward nature in times of need.  Cedar and sweet grass were burned, kindled with flame, the prayers of the people wafting upwards on smoke toward the heavens.  “Help your people,” the smoke whispered to the Great Spirit, “Help us.  Help all of us to survive and thrive during time when the rains come.”

Fallen tree ~ roots exposed

Fallen tree ~ roots exposed

Blessings to those who are scared today.  Who hunger.  Who worry.  Who wonder:  what next?  May those of us with jobs keep our eyes wide open to see what help we might share, if the opportunity arises.

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