Blue tea kettle

Blue tea kettle

The ancestors walked this land before us.  They built their houses from logs, erected their barns, plowed their fields.  In the corners and edges of their property they tossed items long used.  A blue tea kettle.  A bottle.  A piece of machinery.  Precious items, returned to the earth.

Those of us wandering through their forgotten worlds find remnants of their lives.  We step back into time in the silent echo of the forest.  Between the trees we hear memories in the wind.  A little girl’s laughter.  The sound of an axe ringing on a frosty morning.  The sobbing of a mother who has lost her infant son.  The birth of another child.  The peal of the far-away school bell.

Can’t you hear?

Look deeply into the green world in the bottle.  Deeper now.  Still deeper.

Look deeply into the green world in the bottle. Deeper now. Still deeper.

My dad used to take us children out bottle-hunting when we were young ones.  We dove into long-forgotten ditches and searched for tell-tale green bottles, bottles with bubbles, bottles with certain markings.  We loved those ditches.  If you found a certain bottle with raised lettering:  what a find!  Or a specimen where the neck and the body revealed it as an old-time bottle.  We were taught the secrets of antique bottles in our formative years.  Still I thrill to a find in the woods.  The heart beats faster.  Treasures yet hide at the edges of fields, in dumps, in secret places.

Leaf soup

Leaf soup

Fences lay tangled everywhere in this underworld.  Fences which divided the world into “my property” and “your property”.  Fences which said “this is mine” and “this is not yours”.  Fences which kept the animals in.  Fences which kept the wild animals out.  (Right…that is, if they worked!)  Fences which drew the lines on the earth and helped the settlers claim a patch of land to produce perhaps beans and potatoes and corn and a couple of cows.  Some chickens.  A family. A place in the New World.
Fallen fence

Fallen fence

Finnish and Swedish and Norwegian farmers settled in our fair Upper Peninsula, alongside the loggers and trappers and Native Americans and miners.  Everyone sought to find a right relationship with the land, with the pounding Lake Superior waves, with the endless expanse of forests, with the underground minerals. 

Apples they planted

Apples they planted

They planted apples everywhere.  You can see the orchards as you drive through Skanee and Aura, through L’Anse and Pelkie and Elo.  Arthritic old trees, heavy-laden with red and yellow apples.  Some taste crisp and tart; others bitter and sharp.  You nibble carefully in the early morning frost.  Taste gingerly.  And then taste some more.

Don't trespass where ghosts roam

Don't trespass where ghosts roam

Watch your step in this back-country.  The settlers built deep wells, some of which rot and trap unsuspecting deer running through the woods during hunting season. Tread lightly.  Look left and right.  Do you hear the voices of the children shouting and playing in the open field?  Hear them singing at Christmas?  Feel the joys and the sorrows, ripe upon the land?

This is sacred ground we walk.  It has seen us in our birthing and dying.  Walk respectfully.  Hear the voices in the wind.

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