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Here comes Santa Claus! Took a fire truck down from the North Pole.

Hi Santa!  We’re so excited to see you around here!  Did you have a good ride down from the North Pole?  Did you ride in that fire truck all the way?  Did you put out any fires along the way?  

Snowy winter wonderland

Santa scurried inside the Arvon Town Hall to deliver gifts to eager children.  I stood around in sixteen layers of clothing (NOT Grandma’s 1970’s snowmobile suit.  We do NOT bring that out in public) waiting for the hayride.  We had to wait until Santa passed out all his goodies.  Yep.  The Fire Department puts on a bona fide hayride every year for all the kids, parents and outdoor bloggers who want to hop aboard.  It’s a wagon pulled by your standard four-wheel drive pickup truck.  Complete with hay bales for all of us hayride-participants to sit atop.  

The boyz on the hayride

Oh the kids were so cute!  Really adorable, every single one of them.  Some of them had blue lips from sucking on blue and white candy canes.  Not from the cold, mind you!  Maybe twenty of us piled on the wagon for the short ride down to the township park and back.  (I had been forewarned to wear lots of heavy clothing.  It looked like not everyone received the memo.  Without hats and gloves, it looked like some riders might have been a tad bit uncomfortable…) 

Sun illuminates evergreens

However, the weather was lovely today.  Truly lovely.  I can’t begin to share how 25 degrees seems like a heat wave after a freezing cold previous day where the temperature barely rose to 10 degrees and the wind whipped around trees with a potent fury.  Today felt balmy.  At least for those of us with snow pants, hooded sweatshirt, heavy coat, two pair of mittens, warm hat and toasty Sorel boots. 

Two cute little girls on the hayride

How many of you are thinking the beautiful snow-covered trees were spotted during our hayride?  Ha ha, fooled you big time!  The tree-photos were taken yesterday down a side road near our house.  I was leaning out the window of the car, snapping away.  The mailman followed in his car.  You could tell he couldn’t figure out what I was doing on this road.  I flagged him to drive past.  He kind of frowned as he went around.  It was a puzzlement.  What was I doing on this road?  (This is one of the joys of rural living!  Everyone knows who you are and wonders when you’re not doing something predictable.) 

Another gate in our white snow world

After the hayride, it was time to finish shoveling the deck.  I love shoveling very slowly.  When Barry shovels, it’s all done in one session.  When I shovel, it may be two or three days.  That’s because one must ENJOY one’s shoveling.  One must only shovel until it’s time to quit.  Which might be in five minutes or fifteen minutes.  Never a half hour. 

Snow-covered "Christmas" trees

Hope everyone  a) gets to see Santa coming down from the North Pole on a fire truck and b)  gets to see a little snow for Christmas.  That is, if one lives in a snow-prone area of the world.  Also hoping c) that you all get to go on a hayride this year.  Really!  And remember, if you can’t find a hayride pulled by a good old-fashioned horse, a pickup truck will do.

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Dentists recommend...playing hockey??

 

I can’t imagine dentists recommending that folks play hockey.  Only in the Copper Country of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula would one glimpse a sign like this.  We laughed for two minutes before I made Barry turn the car around to photograph the sign.  And, I can guarantee you, turning around the car on a day like today proved no easy feat. (Ha ha, I am SO slow to get a joke.  Barry says dentists recommend playing hockey because players get their teeth knocked out and dentists have business.  Now I’m REALLY laughing!) 

Looking out the car window, Houghton, MI

 

We had to drive up to Houghton.  Barry had to interview someone, and he dropped me nicely at a coffee shop to sip cappuccino and play on my laptop computer, also known as Miss Ellie.  I wore sneakers up to Houghton, the first bad decision of the day.  The good decision involved throwing in a pair of Sorel boots in the back seat of the car.  After getting a good case of frozen sneaker-feet, I switched to the Sorels and clumped around during our later shopping expedition.  

Eleven very very very very cold degrees

 

The snow was still coming down in white sheets in the Copper Country.  Once you drive across the Houghton County line, you can expect the weather to worsen. It almost always does.  Usually within a mile or so of the county line sign.  People in the coffee shop moaned that the weather forecaster predicted up to ANOTHER two feet of snow up there in the next day or so.  Yikes!  We can always thank our lucky stars for living in the “banana belt” of Baraga County, especially in our locale near the Huron Bay.  After all, our storm abated after about fifteen inches of snow.   

Not very good roads today, but we're headed "south" toward L'Anse

 

I was glad Barry drove.  The roads were not stellar.  They combined ice, snow and slush into a mixture that kept us alert and cautious.  The white-out conditions in the Copper Country added to the fun.   

However, we did accomplish all our work and shopping.  After we turned around to drive home, passing by the county line, out came the sun!  Houghton County may still be getting lake effect snow, but we’re feeling like the tropics down here.  After all, our thermometer read 14 degrees!  Welcome winter!!  

The sun breaks through! We're back in Baraga County.

 

P.S.  Today’s outdoor adventure (besides running between stores) involved shoveling most of the deck.  A very good upper body workout.  I wonder if four out of five dentists would recommend shoveling?  Hmmm….

The Silver River freezes

 

I’ve been fascinated by the patterns of the freezing rivers lately.  The rivers have been donning their winter garb of ice and snow, settling in for the long freezing days and nights. 

The Silver River with long shadows on the other side of the bridge

 

Yesterday I photographed the Silver River as it passed under Townline Road, but today drove a little distance up Skanee Road to wander along the river through the woods.  How it meanders!  How the river dances around this bend and those rapids, never stopping, always moving.  Until ice renders it deceptively silent and still.  Don’t walk on it yet!  In fact, I have never walked on river ice.  The currents still run beneath the silent frozen surface.

Years ago I dreamed of falling through the ice on the Silver River, sucked down beneath the hard glass surface, unable to find a way to the hole, unable to find a way back up.  It was not a happy dream.

Slurry of brown water, white snow and ice

 

In some places the river looks muddy and brown.  If you walk around the curve, it suddenly struts its beauty in stark white.  Fascinating patterns swirl everywhere.  Rivers of ice exist within rivers of sparkling water.  

Magical swirls, magical rivers of ice

 

The camera uploaded more than fifty photos by the time it finished shooting the patterns and swirls.  It seemed impossible to pick eight photos to show you.  Each one looks so unique, so different.  In the end, I just closed my eyes and picked.  (Well, not really!  But you get the idea…) 

An angel of ice

 

We are surrounded by such beauty that we do not notice.  I have never before thought of wandering by the riverside documenting the freezing of river ice.  Why don’t we think to do such things?  

Patterned curves as the ice forms

 

There are rumors that a big snow storm is headed for the Upper Peninsula.  Maybe tomorrow?  Maybe the next day?  Some areas may get ten to fifteen inches.  Baraga County is part of that warning.  You can read about it here if you like.  Sigh…winter seems to be starting awfully early this year. 

Oh beautiful river!

 

It’s lovely to sit inside when the snow falls.  You feel so cozy and peaceful and snug.  It’s even fun to put on your warm winter clothes and go outside.  What is challenging is when loved ones (or one’s self) need to be on the road.  Driving in a snowstorm is no fun.  The snow loses its appeal very rapidly. 

How ice forms when you're looking up close

 

Back to our discussion of freezing rivers.  It’s interesting to get right up close to the edge of the ice.  Not too close!  You don’t want to fall in.  But close enough to linger at the edge of something brand new.  Something beautiful.  Something we’re going to get to know very intimately during the next four or five months…

Welcome to our little township. I thought it was time to introduce you to some of the actual buildings which comprise our lesser metropolis.  Our tiny villages in the woods. 

We live in Arvon Township.  As of the 2000 census, 482 people lived here.  There aren’t really “towns” in Arvon Township, at least in the way most people think of towns.  Most people think that a town is perhaps composed of businesses like a grocery store, bank, restaurant, and gas station, all located in a common area.  (To find these conveniences our residents have to drive between eleven and twenty-five miles into the town of L’Anse which hosts all the modern conveniences.)  

There are at least three town “areas” in the township:  Skanee, Aura and Huron Bay.  The buildings in the following photos are mostly in the Skanee and Huron Bay areas, within a five or seven mile radius. 

But we do feature a school, a township hall, a post office, a Trading Post, a tavern, a church, and a community hall within our boundaries.  

So are you ready for the introductions? 

The Arvon Township School

 

Please meet our school.  It is a K-6 school which is very dear to my heart.  Mostly because I’ve worked there on a part-time basis as the business manager for many years.  Both of our children attended elementary school here.  The total size of the school has fluctuated between five and forty students since the 1980’s.  It is one of the last two-room schools in the Upper Peninsula.  A few others exist, but they are few and far between. 

Moving down the road a few miles and turning down Town Road, please meet the Arvon Township Hall: 

Arvon Township Hall

 

OK, I have to admit the Arvon Township Hall is precious to me, too.  I have been the township treasurer there (well actually I work out of my home) since about 1984.  

We even feature a little post office!  A very miniscule post office in a trailer.  Probably one of the tiniest post offices around.  I tried to convince our postmaster to pose for a photo in front of the post office but she declined.  

Our little post office

 

Where else can I show you on our little tour?  How about the Trading Post?  John is the owner and he’s a great guy.  He wasn’t around to ask for a photo shoot. 

The Huron Bay Trading Post

 

The Trading Post is where you go when you need supplies and don’t want to drive to town.  I mean the “real” town of L’Anse.  If your gas tank hits empty you head over here.  If you need toothpaste, beer, candy, chips, cranberry juice or pickle relish…you know where to go.  Aren’t we lucky to have a Trading Post out in the middle of the woods? 

And if you want to sit down and have a beer or drink, drive just a short ways up the road to the Huron Bay Tavern.  Also known as Billy the Finn’s (don’t ask why) it has been here for ages.  Years ago we used to have another bar/restaurant called The Timbers where everyone went for fish on Friday nights, but it burned down. 

The Huron Bay Tavern

 

If you want to see the Aura Community Hall (with its famous annual Fiddler’s Jamboree please click here).  If you want to see the pretty white Lutheran Church out in Skanee, you’ll have to use your imagination.  I forgot to photograph it. 

I did, however, take a photo of our unofficial “used car lot”.  The owner has been selling lots of heavy machinery for several years now.  I think this qualifies as a used car lot, don’t you? 

Anyone want to buy a dump truck? Loader?

 

So there you have it.  I have undoubtedly forgot several businesses like our marina, a beauty shop, a fire hall and some cottages for rent down on the lake.  (See!  I’m remembering as we speak.)  

Hope you have enjoyed the tour.  Please come and visit our little township along the shores of Lake Superior some day! 

P.S.  Outdoor adventure on Day 349 of the outdoor commitment:  walked up the road in the snow and back down the road in the snow.  A little slippery.  We must start walking very carefully on the snow now.  We only got a couple inches, but there are rumors that other places in the Upper Peninsula are getting more.

Long ago and far away

Long ago and far away

Once upon a time there lived a man named Henry Ford.  Henry loved to tinker and design.  He loved to imagine.  He dreamed of something called an “automobile”, a horse buggy with tires and a motor and a steering wheel.

That was long ago and far away, and dreams sometimes do come true.

Henry designed his automobile and sold thousands and eventually millions and perhaps billions by the time his fairy tale will end.  But when he was still alive, back there in the 1920’s, Henry visited the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Our fair earth, rich with trees and minerals and two Great Lakes. 

His planning mind plotted.  He surveyed the endless miles of trees and thought (I’m sure this is what he thought):  “You know, I could use some of these hardwood trees in my automobiles.  They would make great body supports.  I will start some logging camps and supply wood for my downstate plants.”

Pequaming's old community hall

Pequaming's old community hall

Then Henry really had a brilliant idea.  He visited a mill town jutting out into the Keweenaw Bay and thought, “I am going to buy this town.  I am going to make it into a model town.  It will be a social experiment.  We’ll see how it goes.”

So Henry bought Pequaming  in September, 1923.  Went and bought the whole darn town.  The village featured about one hundred houses, a general store and a hotel.  Only a school and two or three churches were not added in the deal, which included 70,000 acres of prime timber.

Modern-day robot toy on rotting stoop of old community building

A child's modern-day robot toy on rotting stoop of old community building

And, for incentive, he decided to pay his workers more than any other loggers at the time. When other workers were receiving $1.50 per day, Henry paid his loggers $3.50 for an eight-hour shift.  He gained a reputation for “practicing forestry”–harvesting mature trees, leaving young, fast growing trees for an oncoming crop and ridding the young forest of fire hazards by removing brush.  He pioneered forest record keeping. 

That wasn’t all he did.  He then proceeded to raise the wages of his 300 workers from $3.50  a day to $5, insisting his crew punch a time clock.  After three months, if they proved themselves, they received a $1 pay raise.

Peeking through the broken window

Peeking through the broken window

After setting the mill in order, Henry proceeded to test his private theories on self reliance and education.  He aimed to turn Pequaming into a “model town”. 

House rentals were increased from $1 to $12-15 per month, but in return all dwellings were painted and repaired.  Ford Motor Company repaired the old mill, provided a new water tower and fire hydrants, as well as a Model A fire engine. In time, electricity, running water and indoor toilets were installed in all the homes. 

Who carved her name those many years ago?

Who carved her name those many years ago?

This all happened Once Upon a Time.  By the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, after the Great Depression and World War II passed, Pequaming was a ghost town.  The bustling village had almost completely emptied out.  The windows were barred and shuttered, doors flapped in the breeze.  More than 1,000 people once lived, worked, breathed, played and danced in this town.  Now the ghosts lived here among the empty buildings and in the cemetery, ghosts who fondly remembered Henry Ford and his legacy.

Tomorrow I will tell you more about his Model town, his social experiment.  Can anyone guess why I am telling you this once-upon-a- time story right now?

This tree Remembers.

This tree Remembers.

I know some of you must have been worried.  You perhaps had a sudden premonition that something must be wrong with Kathy over at Opening the Door, Walking Outside.  Perhaps you fretted.  Frowned.  Momentarily thought about me.

Thank you.  It’s all OK now.  We’re back home, safe and sound.  We’ve taken off our sopping wet clothes and we’re celebrating a dry house, safety, knowing where we are!  After a very very hot bath, I’m sipping jasmine tea and attempting to decompress from this afternoon’s outdoor adventure.

Ready for a story?

The mud puddle we couldn't cross

The mud puddle we couldn't cross

It may be a long story with a slew of photos.  Here was our mission, should we choose to accept it.  Our friend Cathy drew a detailed back-country map with directions to reach the Rock Cut.  The Rock Cut is way back in the bush, down crazy logging roads.  You can’t reach it unless you have directions with mileages written on it.  You turn here, you turn there, you say a little prayer, you turn the wrong way, you consult your map, you plan on spending the night in the car, you ask your husband if you can build a debris hut of leaves INSIDE the car if you’re stranded.  He says, no, we’ll be walking if the car dies.  You sigh and say another prayer.

So we have the infamous map.  Thank goodness.  First, we head off the wrong way.  Bouncing along rough graded roads with Grandma’s 1995 Buick.  You see, we couldn’t take the 1949 four-wheel drive Studebaker.  It has no odometer.  We needed the odometer more than the four-wheel drive.  Or so we thought.

The Map.  The Precious Map.

The Map. The Precious Map.

We headed off down the wrong road, turned back, followed the map even more closely.  Up into the higher elevations we climbed.  The rain gave way to snow.  Yep, it was snowing up there in the high country.  Pretty soon there was snow on the ground.  Pretty soon the road began to look slightly challenging.  We hit a couple somethings (maybe rocks, maybe holes, maybe minor wash-outs).  The car moaned.  We moaned.  We only hoped we could discover the elusive Rock Cut SOON.

So we finally reached the Big Impassible Mud Puddle.  See first photo.  We might have made it, but we didn’t want to get stuck.  Our map suggested it was only a mile to the Rock Cut.  We set off through the rain and snow and mud on foot like troopers.  We had traveled all this way; we would not retreat.  We would forge ahead.

Checking the car to make sure we didn't have troubles

Checking the car to make sure we didn't have troubles

Except.  We couldn’t find the Rock Cut.  We looked and looked, climbing up roads and down roads.  You can imagine how we felt.  While we are looking for the Rock Cut in this blog, let’s take time out for a History Moment.  To explain what the Rock Cut might be.  And why we wanted to see it.

picture_huronbay_1890s_rockcut2

Here is the brief history.  In the 1890’s several Detroit business fellows joined together with plans to create a 42-mile wilderness railroad from Champion to Huron Bay.  They aimed to haul iron ore to the bay, from whence it would be shipped across Lake Superior to the Sault.  The terrain, however, proved most forbidding.  It was preferable, at that time, to construct grades at no more than 3-4%.  The engineers of this project utilized grades up to 8%.  (For you non-engineers, that means very steep grades.)

This little project became known as the Million Dollar Railroad.  They built the railroad (with up to 1,500 workers at one point) and then constructed a huge wood ore dock down on the Huron Bay.  And guess what happened? 

The project failed.  Here’s where two stories come into play.  I don’t know which one is true.  The local legend says that the locomotive made it downhill to the bay, returned and could not climb up the steep  8% grade near the Rock Cut.  Other sources say that the trains never even ran at all.  It was a failed venture. The company spent $2 million in four years and went bankrupt.

The Rock Cut is a place where they dynamited an almost-impenetrable wall of rock and workers carried away the debris in wheelbarrows.  For all you history buffs, check out more information here or here.  (The first site is rich in information; the second site has great old photos.  Look under Photo History Pages, Huron Bay.)

One of the last remaining railroad tracks

One of the last remaining railroad tracks

Just when we were about to return home (and I already had the title of the blog:  Our failed trip to the Million Dollar Railroad) Barry decided to hike up a hill.  And hurray!  He discovered the elusive Rock Cut.

The Rock Cut!  Site of the Millon Dollar Railroad.  Finally!

The Rock Cut! Site of the Millon Dollar Railroad. Finally!

Later we discovered the sign on a tree.  The Boy Scouts put this sign up many years ago, to help challenged souls like ourselves find the way to the old cut.

What do you know?  There IS a sign.

What do you know? There IS a sign.

And, finally, Barry snapped a photo of me.  Maybe to prove we were there.  We have to let our map-friend Cathy know that, despite our crazy detours and challenges, her map actually was correct.  And we have returned safe and sound.  We didn’t have to spend the night in the woods.  The car still runs. 

Even though the Million Dollar Railroad didn’t make it, we did!  🙂

Yep, me and the Rock Cut.  Jeans, socks & boots are soaked.

Yep, me and the Rock Cut. Jeans, socks & boots are soaked.

Lost?  Found?

Lost? Found?

Let’s face it.  If you live in the middle of the woods and like to wander…you’re going to get lost.  Sometimes a little bit lost and sometimes you start wondering if you’ll ever find your way home. Sometimes that fear of being lost begins to rise like the inland tides and you suddenly remember the Wizard of Oz.  Like Dorothy clicking your magic red heels together you begin to chant, “There’s no place like home.  No place like home.  No place like home.”

They say the mineral deposits beneath our Keweenaw earth will confuse even a compass at times.  Your trusty reliable compass might suddenly go wacky, refusing to point to True North.  What can you depend on when the compass fails you?  Or, worse yet, when you’ve stupidly left the compass at home pointing to True North in the cluttered desk drawer? 

You gauge the sun (if you’re lucky and the sun is out) or the slant of the ravines.  All of our ravines near the house run down to the bay, so you’re pretty safe if you remember this.  You listen for far-away cars.  This can help identify the location of the roads.  This helps when there is ocassional traffic.  Doesn’t help much when one car crests the hill every half hour.  You become alert; you look for signs.  You try to remember the landscape.  You remember that you know how to build a debris hut out of leaves from your Wilderness Survival class.  You know somebody might come looking for you if you’re not home to cook dinner. 

But, best of all, you can surrender to a Higher Knowing.  And let that Higher Knowing guide you out of the woods.  Thank goodness we have that!

Yesterday.  Enjoying the turning leaves...just before I got lost

Yesterday. Enjoying the turning leaves...just before I got lost

Just so you know…I haven’t been lost walking in the woods…at least not in the last month or so.  But yesterday came another encounter with Being Lost.  Sigh.  Do we ever get used to it?  Do we ever simply laugh and say joyfully, “I’m lost!”  Hasn’t happened yet to me.  Usually you have to deal with low-level fear, even if it never blossoms to full-fledged panic.

One lone tree at end of road to...where are we now?  Hmmm.....

One lone tree at end of road to...where are we now? Hmmm.....

It started because I was looking for photos of stunning leaf colors.  Trees turning red and orange and yellow.  The color-changing season is upon us.  The trees are starting to zing!  Just beginning to peak, but I wanted to document the way the woods is starting to shimmer.  Especially when the sun shines bright between rain showers.

So the car turned here, and there, and around this corner, and up that way, and down this hill.  I thought I knew exactly where I was.  Isn’t that always the case?  Until suddenly the road petered out into a muddy two-track and it became apparent…I only vaguely knew where the car might be.

Road and shadow, and what is that in the distance?  Is it the lake?

Road and shadow, and what is that in the distance? Is it the lake?

Then some niggling thoughts began warning, “It’s been so rainy, what are you doing back here in the woods without four wheel drive?  You’re going to drown in a mud puddle!  You’re going to be shot by hunters!  You’re going to be lost here FOREVER.”  

Oh honestly.  Here’s what you say to reassure niggling thoughts, “Calm down, you guys.  I think we’ve been here before.  I think that’s the lake up ahead.  We’re somewhere near Pike’s Peak. We thought we were on Ford Farm Road, but we must have turned on Haataja Road.  There really aren’t any challenging mud puddles and since when do we worry about hunters?”

So the thoughts calmed down and I didn’t even have to start remembering how to build a survival debris hut.

Deep in the backwoods, cattails and trees

Deep in the backwoods, cattails and trees

And ten minutes later, there was hard pavement and familiar houses.  I was “found”, yet once again.  The magic clicking heels or the Higher Knowledge or the road had wound its way back to comfort, a sense of safety, a Knowing of Where I Was.

But truly, folks, do we ever know where we are?  Is it possible to simply relax and know that we’re always lost and we’re always found?  Ooops…getting way too philosophical on this outdoor blog!  I’ll leave you with a photo I may have already posted on this blog.  Can’t remember.  But Jessica of Jessica’s Nature Blog asked to see some photos of pebble-faces or shell-faces.  This is the only one I have.

We shall call it “The Scream”.  How we sometimes feel when we’re Lost.

The Scream

The Scream

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.

Wild rice moon shines on the Keweenaw Bay

Wild rice moon shines on the Keweenaw Bay

The September full moon shines upon us now.  With her lovely white orb, she brightens our nights.  Some call her the “Harvest Moon” honoring that many of our plants reach their full zenith now.  The garden produce finds its way into our kitchens, canning jars and freezers. 

The Anishnabe or Ojibway people of this land called this the Wild Rice Moon.  It was time to harvest the wild rice, known as manoomin, growing to full maturity in the small lakes or slow-moving streams.  The natives would often utilize their canoes harvest the staple seed which would nourish them through the long, cold winter.  They would bend the ripe grain heads with wooden sticks called knockers, threshing the seeds into the canoe.  For a more detailed explanation click here.

Many folks think that wild rice is a grain, but it actually is a seed.  We’ve been eating it more frequently in the last three or four years.  I like to add it to long or short grain brown rice and cook for 50 minutes.  In a separate skillet, saute some vegetables such as chopped onions, garlic, diced carrots, celery or other favorites.  Toss in the cooked rice, your choice of spices, and perhaps some soy sauce or vinegar.  Very good.  (Thinking about having some of this tomorrow with veggie and shrimp shishkabobs on the grill!)

Wild rice in wooden bowl

Wild rice in wooden bowl

The wooden bowl in the picture belonged to my grandpa.  It was a bean bowl.  I am not sure what that means, except he grew up in farming country in Michigan’s Thumb where navy beans grew plentiful.  We often enjoyed meals of baked beans while visiting on Sundays and holidays.  I am wondering if they sorted through the beans in this bowl, picking through the beans to discard the blemished or rotten specimens.  I am also wondering if the natives had wooden bowls like this in which they picked through the wild rice in the same manner. 

High school football game

High school football game

Right before the full moon rose last night, I traveled with Barry for an hour west to Ontonagon.  He had to take pictures at a Baraga High School football game, and  wanted to keep him company.  Even though I was tired of traveling.  It was kinda like a date.  We ate fish at Syl’s Cafe and then caught the first half of the game.

He suggested that I might want to title my blog “This was Once My Life”.  Because for many long years it seemed like we spent many a fall evening at football games.  Our son played for maybe five or six years before a knee injury required surgery.  And then I continued to attend many games that Barry had to cover for the newspaper.  Just so we could spend time together, you know?

The enthusiastic cheerleaders

The enthusiastic cheerleaders

On to today, Saturday.  Here’s the wrap-up.  The most delightful indoor activity of the day was going to the new coffee shop in L’Anse.  I have been so excited that we have been blessed with the first real coffee shop in Baraga County.  Yes, the restaurants serve coffee.  But we haven’t had such a selection of lattes and cappuccinos and wireless internet service.  I parked myself down there this morning for an hour with Ms. Laptop and we had a great time.  People in big cities (or even medium-sized cities) don’t understand what it means to get a coffee shop in a tiny little town.  It’s big.

Outdoor activities today:  harvesting the garden and sitting on the deck.   Yep.  And I’m sitting outside on the deck right now with the traveling laptop and it’s still 74 degrees at 8 p.m.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.

Happy Labor Day weekend, all.

Today is a very sad day.

My dear friend and former co-worker died this morning.

It’s a day awash with tears, and the drenching rain (2.60 inches since it started early Friday morning) mirrors the tears.  The skies are weeping because the earth misses Mary’s presence already.  The heavens may be rejoicing, but the earth weeps.

Because I spent most of the outdoor time today mourning, shall we return to yesterday?

Scot, Karen, Keely and I decided to try the fine sport of letterboxing.  It’s a pastime (like geocaching which is apparently done with the aid of a GPS) where you follow Internet clues to discover a waterproof box hidden in nature.  An on-line friend suggested that I try letterboxing ‘way back last spring when she first read this blog.  Because the only hidden treasure in Baraga County was posted at the Canyon Falls, way out of my usual path of travel, I decided to wait before following the clues.

Yesterday’s trip with family proved to be the most opportune moment.  We put Keely in charge.

Keely and Karen study the clues

Keely and Karen study the clues

Here is the website you can visit to learn all about letterboxing, and perhaps discover hidden treasure near you:  http://www.letterboxing.org/

This box was hidden by someone called The Dragon back on July 11, 2003.  Here is the website where you can see all the clues we followed, attempting to find the hidden box:  http://www.mathdragon.net/letterboxing/MI_boxes/canyon_falls.htm

The first of the clues read:

Trail end.

View falls.

Head back.

Bench to left.

The infamous bench

The infamous bench

The clues continue:

Tree with roots showing on the left.

Roots.  Don't you love them when they're exposed?

Roots. Don't you love them when they're exposed?

It continues:

First boardwalk.

Second boardwalk.

One of the many boardwalks

One of the many boardwalks

I won’t lead you through all the clues, but we followed them diligently, aiming for the hidden letterbox at the end.  Finally we reached the last clues:

Right 15 paces to giant log.

(Lying parallel to the board – perpendicular to the boardwalk)

Crevice in the top of the giant log

Under a fallen tree and leaves and twigs.

Let me tell you, this was the hardest three minutes of the treasure hunt!  We looked.  And looked some more.  And still couldn’t quite locate the box.  There was no way we were going to leave without finding it!  And finally, yes, digging under a few leaves…there it was in its camouflage.

The box itself

The box itself

We opened the box to discover some more instructions:

The first note in the box

The first note in the box

However, the best was yet to come!  You open the little index-card book and there are all the people (most who stamped the book with their special rubber stamps of perhaps an evergreen tree, or a wild bear, or a dazzling sun) with their hometowns and some penned words of interest or wisdom or fun.

The little notebook which reveals the winners of the treasure hunt

The little notebook which reveals the winners of the treasure hunt

I had brought some colored ink and a set of tiny stamps, so we all added our names and a few words and a colorful stamp.  (I even put the address of this blog, just in case anyone might want to read our in-depth story about our day.)

It was such a fun time.  I discovered that there is one more letterbox somewhere in Baraga County, behind a local cemetery, and one day might decide to attempt to find it as well.

In the meantime I am thinking about death today.  And wondering about the “hidden treasure” which may have met Mary today.  While the rest of us are still on the path, following the boardwalks of life, looking at the roots and rocks and waterfalls. 

Blessings, dear friend, wherever you may be tonight.

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