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You might not want to sit here.

 

 Hello reader!  First of all, these photos were taken yesterday.  I felt suddenly silently called to visit Lake Superior’s shore, filled with a desire to photograph ice-forming pictures.  Imagine my surprise to discover the ice extravaganza which coated benches, gates and poles.  

The Keweenaw Bay, December 2009

 

 Walking out the boardwalk-pier proved very very challenging.  It required tip-toeing.  The entire boardwalk lay coated with a covering of ice.  One did not want to walk too quickly, slip and enjoy a polar plunge in the bay.  I wondered which recent day furiously frosted this lake-side world with thick ice.  

Swirl of sand and snow

 

 Much of the beach looked clean-swept with only dustings of snow.  Stones and snow slumbered together, bedmates for the winter.   

The way ice forms along the edge of Lake Superior

 

 The ice is forming along the edges of the lake.  Many predict an early ice-fishing season.  (I actually witnessed a surveyor/architect fellow walking on river ice today.  What craziness!  Was he nuts?  River ice is so fragile, so delicate, so thin.  I wanted to leap from the car and photograph his insane behavior.  Yet, did not want to embarrass the fellow.  My own brand of quiet insanity, you think?) 

And the wind bent the icicles backwards

 

 Today’s outdoor adventure involved an insanity of its own.  Heading out into the woods without snowshoes.  (You see now how the river-walker and I have something in common…although it still seems his venture might be a little more dangerous.)  I followed the ridge behind the house, the snow almost cresting the top of the boots.  It was a work-out trudge.  Kind of like going to the gym.   

Up close ice

 

I emerged on the road awhile later, nicely sweating, after communing with a woodpecker.  I caught a photo of him in flight, which perhaps you shall see on Sunday.  He pecked away on a dead tree.  I begged him to come closer, closer, just a little closer, but he looked down his long beak at me and said, “You are close enough, madam” and flew away to the next dead tree stump.  

Four ice-enshrouded posts overlook bay

 

Our temperature turned so mild today and crested above the freezing mark.  The ice in downtown L’Anse will undoubtedly have melted today.  Perhaps folks can amble down the boardwalk toward Lake Superior without slipping. 

As we approach the darkest day of the year, let us remember to walk carefully if we live in northern climes.  Ice is silently forming, preparing to transform our Great Lakes.

The heavens open up

The heavens open up

Have you looked, really looked, at the sky above you lately?

How marvelously the clouds dance against the sky, changing colors, opening up, obscuring the heavens, then teasing you with flashes of sunlight?

I have not stopped to truly fall in love with the sky until today.  On Day #320 of the outdoor adventure.  Three hundred twenty days of opening the door, walking outside, and I have not fallen head-over-heels in love with the sky until now. 

Of course, I’ve noticed the sky.  Everyone notices the sky. But it’s so often the earth that demands our attention.  The little things, the unusual prizes, the flowers, the leaves, the dogs, the snow.  The Beings of the Earth.

Today the Beings of the Sky tapped my shoulder and said, “Hey!  Look up!”  and I did.

Up, up and away...

Up, up and away...

What an amazing world exists above our heads.  Cloud-creatures sway and form and dissolve everywhere.  You can lay on your back against the earth and watch the ever-changing cloud-creatures.  I remember doing this for the first time at age eight.  I saw our recently dead wire-haired terrier named Buttons in the clouds.  Even though he had choked on a fish bone and died, he was somehow floating in the clouds.  You couldn’t convince me otherwise.

Sky in heavens and on earth (OK, reflected in a pond)

Sky in heavens and on earth (OK, reflected in a pond)

Earlier this year I discovered the sky in ponds and mud puddles.  That was a revelation.  It had never truly occurred to me before that mud puddles could reflect the sky so beautifully.  (And I am not the only one!  One of my good friends, an earth-lover extraordinaire recently confessed that she had not noticed that before either.)  However, do you think I raised my eyes to the sky above and stood enraptured at the clouds and blue?  No.  I was only enraptured with the reflection.

Today I was enraptured with the Real Thing.  The sky itself.

Light, clouds, depth, sky

Light, clouds, depth, sky

This morning I left for Houghton about 8:30 a.m.  Spent a good hour or longer in the coffee shop writing on the laptop, aka Miss Ellie.  Then headed off to recycle and shop.  Felt a strong prompting to phone my nephew Doug who is attending Michigan Technological University.  Would he like to join his aunt for lunch?  I really didn’t expect to get a reply, imagining how busy a college student might be. 

Yet, miracle of miracles, he had seventy-five free minutes.  Could I pick him up down by the library?  Yes.  We ate Chinese at the Ming Buffet, catching up on everything.

Afterward we agreed to meet again, hopefully before the holidays.  I then phoned my son in California (yes, the same son I’m going to visit in one week) who has the flu.  Yes, probably the dreaded swine variety.  Half of our county has the flu.  For the first time in our memory they’ve closed all of the county schools until Monday. 

Driving home, I suddenly felt achy.  Oh no, was I about to join the swine numbers?

I forced myself to stop the car behind the Pow Wow grounds and wander in the 37 degree temperatures, breathing deep the fresh air.

That’s when I noticed the Sky.

Unexpected beauty

Unexpected beauty

Who knows if it was the Sky?  But suddenly all my aches and pains disappeared.  I felt energized and exuberant and totally in love with clouds and sunlight and blue sky.

Things are looking up.

Perhaps other flu victims should spend some time with their heads in the clouds.  Just a half hour a day should do.  The best medicine on earth!  Or, rather, in the sky… What if doctors prescribed, “Take two half hour doses of the Sky for two weeks” instead of antibiotics.  Wouldn’t that be novel?

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.

Four red leaves

Four red leaves

There arrives a perfect autumn afternoon.  Warm, near 50 degrees.  Check.  Not raining.  Check.  Partly sunny.  Check.  No swine flu or sickness. Check.  Nothing much to do.  Check.  A friend wants to go hiking.  Check.

So you dig out your backpack and camera and an extra jacket, hats and mittens and head for Little Mountain.  (For all you new readers, Little Mountain is a Michigan mountain.  It doesn’t count as a “real” mountain.  It’s a rocky crag which juts up above L’Anse, a lovely little steep-ish hill with a panoramic view of Lake Superior and endless trees.)

Here's where we start

Here's where we started

Bertha and I sloshed in on a rather wet trail, narrowly avoiding getting our feet soaked.  We chatted away as if we hadn’t seen one another in months.  Which we hadn’t.  How can four or five or six months slip by just like that?  Especially since our last words were “Let’s get together again SOON!”

We used to work together, half a lifetime ago.  OK, it wasn’t that long ago.  It only seems like it sometimes.  We spent our youth (by that I mean our 20’s and 30’s) hanging out together quite regularly.  These days we try to meet for occasional walks where we try to condense months into a couple hours.

Bertha atop the mountain

Bertha atop the mountain

Here’s the best kind of friend in the whole world.  You ask her if you need to bring anything.  She says no.  She says she’ll bring some wine and we’ll have a toast to friendship and mountains and sunny autumn days.  And when she arrives, guess what she has?  Red pepper hummus.  Cut up vegetables.  And two of the healthiest yummiest cookies on the planet (with pumpkin seeds!)

Zee hummus!

Zee hummus!

So we sit and talk and the sun heats us just so wonderfully.  And then that sun dives beneath a cloud bank.  We both dig in our packs, looking for little gloves to keep our fingers warm.  We solve all the problems in the universe.  We sip our wine.  It’s a glorious afternoon.

I wander off to take photos of red leaves and lichen.  She scoots down the hill and sits quietly.

Lichen

Lichen

Bertha in silence

Bertha in silence

The sun moves across the sky, ducking in and out of clouds, playing its elusive game of hide and seek.  We munch the last vegetable and sip the last of our wine. 

What the other side of the mountain looks like

What the other side of the mountain looks like

We promise, “Let’s do this again SOON!” and head down the mountain.

Time to go home

Time to go home

I’ve been to the mountain three times this year (well, maybe four times, but I can’t remember when the fourth time might have been.) The first was last winter with my daughter Kiah.  We climbed up in the snow and admired icicles along the way.  That was the moment the idea for this outdoor commitment and blog incubated.  We had so much fun on a cold snowy day that I said, “Why don’t I go outside more at this time of year?  Maybe I should make a commitment…and write a blog…and…!!!”  That’s the way ideas get started, you know.

The second time was an adventure with Amy and Dan when they visited at the end of July.  Click here to read that blog.

Hopefully all you readers have an opportunity to picnic on top of a mountain soon!

Fire

Fire

Today rain wept from the leaden sky.  Rain pounded sideways, drenching.  The great Lake Superior roared.  Waves splashed with fury against the rocks along the Keweenaw Bay.  A walker needed to step oh-so-carefully on slippery rocks.  Place feet consciously, pause, take step, place foot again.  It was a treacherous rain-sodden walk.

Sweat lodge memories have been nudging the back of my mind recently, memories kindled a couple of decades ago.  When I was invited to attend sweat lodges with local Anishinabe people here in the Upper Peninsula.  It’s a long story which involved a lot of strange dreaming in my life.  At one point I dreamed a voice said, “I want you to learn about the Native American people.”  The story took a lot of twists and turns but eventually I was invited to attend sweat lodges and ceremonies.  This lasted about seven years back in the ’80’s and ’90’s.

Rock and waves

Rock and waves

The first time I entered the lodge and sat in the darkened womb of Mother Earth, I almost wept.  It was a feeling of remembrance, of returning, of being completely safe, of being held in the embrace of an ancient culture and spirit.  Something deep in my soul remembered this sacred ceremony.  It was a ceremony of prayer, of steam, of connection with the Infinite.  It helped me to remember who I was in a deeper sense than just a little white girl who only understood white culture.  It was as if the spirit of my great-great grandmother from a native tribe in New York whispered in my ear, “Wake up, Kathy, and learn to be truly alive.”

Sweat lodge rock

Any one else see the spirit-woman on this sweat lodge rock?

In the following years I probably attended two or three dozen lodges (a handful of these were conducted by respectful non-natives).  Hot lodges, cool lodges, challenging lodges, easy lodges.  They were all deep ceremonies of prayer and healing.  We witnessed prayers come true, healings happen, mystical occurences, quiet prayers, deep connections.  I cannot share what happens in lodges, because I promised to keep that sacred, but each experience offered a spiritual gift to the participants.  Some of the gifts involved learning how to grow up, learning how to let go of ego’s relentless attachments (um, still working on that!) and learning how to surrender.  It was like the church of my childhood in many ways, although in other ways in was very different.

Cedar over water

Cedar over water

Three people died in a sweat lodge in Arizona recently.  My heart breaks thinking about this.  Immediately I imagined that lodge, imagined the heat, imagined the suffering.  So many of us want to know more…how could this happen?  You feel perhaps the terror and disorientation of the weakened fasting participants and your heart clenches in sorrow.  I, too, have fasted before a sweat lodge. This feels very close to the marrow.

And yet, another feeling also comes in. Some people hear of this horrific incident and condemn all sweat lodges.  Thinking perhaps they shouldn’t exist; not understanding.  Not understanding the sacred nature of this, a ceremony which has existed for hundreds or thousands of years.  Perhaps thinking of limiting or restricting the ceremony.  And that also makes me sad.

Stone for fire

Stone for fire

I think of how all religious and spiritual ceremonies and groups and churches can be fraught with challenges, how good-meaning folks can screw up, how some folk aren’t perhaps so well-meaning.  How we need to be alert and aware with both our mind and our heart.  How we must be careful.  How we must listen to our deepest heart.  There are no easy answers. 

Another reflection in another mud puddle

Another reflection in another mud puddle

Today I stood in the pouring rain, stared out over a churning lake, and thought about fire, rock, lodge and medicine.  Said a prayer for the people who died.  Said another prayer for the sacred sweat lodge.  Asked permission of the ancestors to write this blog.  The rocks said, “yes.”

Look closely at this picture.  More closely.  Anyone see It?

Look closely at this picture. More closely. Anyone see It?

Late this morning I was driving down Main Street in L’Anse, suddenly desiring two scrambled eggs and homemade whole wheat toast from the Nite Owl.  With a cup of steaming hot tea.  However, to my dismay, not a single parking spot presented itself.  The car was forced to turn right and steer down by the Keweenaw Bay.

When suddenly, directly ahead, There It Was!  A rainbow of beautiful colors arching across our Lake Superior.  The wild and dark rain-laden clouds filled the sky, but there was a slice of sun shining through.  I lurched out of the car at full speed and sprinted toward the shore.  It looked like the rainbow was about to fade.  I fumbled to turn the camera on and snapped and snapped and snapped, attempting to will the bright colors into the camera lens. 

But no.  Only a faded arch showed up against our tumultuous sky.  My camera sighed and turned to look for other possibilities. 

Red bench, lake and sky

Red bench, lake and sky

At first, I only noticed the lake and clouds and benches.  Breathed in the fresh October air and thought, “Ahhh, it’s good to be here in downtown L’Anse along the lakefront.  I should stop here more often.”  (How often do we think that?  Once we’ve actually veered off our usual route and stopped some place where we don’t interrupt our routine often enough.)

How close can we get?

How close can we get?

Then I noticed Them.  A beach-full of seagulls.  They looked so intriguing.  And then my tracking instincts from Tom Brown Jr.’s Wilderness Survival School came back.  I would track those seagulls.  See how close it was possible to sneak before they burst into flight. 

Seagull Track in sand

Seagull Track in sand

Perhaps a “real” tracker could sneak close enough to stroke a feather.  Maybe a tracker with some experience could approach within a foot or two.  You move very slowly when tracking, very slowly.  I moved way too quickly in this attempt, although paused repeatedly to look nonchalantly out to the bay as if to reassure the gulls.  She’s not really getting that close, they certainly thought.   She’s just admiring the waves. 

Seagull feather and stones

Seagull feather and stones

Feathers littered everywhere on the sand.  And other seagull remains, of which we shall not discuss in a polite blog.  The birds shifted.  Began to look a little perturbed.  The stalker was getting much too close.  A few creatures waddled away, squawking.  I really should have stared longer and more nonchalantly at the clouds and waves, but suddenly the thought of scrambled eggs and homemade toast re-surfaced.  The Nite Owl has really good homemade toast.  What am I doing stalking seagulls anyway?  Surely there are available parking spaces now.

Fly away!

Fly away!

Off they flew, a flurry of white wings rising in the sky, gulls flapping and squawking toward the disappeared rainbow.  I turned back toward the car, headed for strawberry jam on homemade toast.

Hear the honking of geese overhead?

Hear the honking of geese overhead?

Yesterday, magically, we heard the first geese honking in the sky.  Barry heard them down by the bay; I heard them directly overhead (but was photographing leaves deep in the woods and couldn’t see the clearly).  They are lining up in their V-formations and heading down South. 

Every year they begin migration mid-September.  By early October they honk regularly, like minstrels, urging us outdoors to admire their flapping wings and goose-language.  They like to rest on the Huron and Keweenaw Bays, gathering energy before venturing across the interior of the Upper Peninsula. 

The heart soared yesterday to hear the familiar honking.  Hopefully the camera will succeed in recording an image of a low-flying flock before the autumn ends.  Unfortunately, many groups fly high in the sky, looking like little black specks in the classic V-formation.

Sky at dawn

Sky at dawn

I took the above photo at 7 a.m. on my way to work.  By 9 p.m. these days the sky is dark.  Our days are getting shorter.  The trees around here are still mostly green, although shocks of red or orange or yellow sometime decorate certain branches or trees.  Tomorrow I will be driving to Marquette, and those leaves along the way usually turn color before our closer-to-the-lake variety.

Last night Nancy called with suggestions to capture the dozens upon dozens of bees buzzing in her gardens.  That sounded like a good assignment!  So on the way home from work, I paused to meander throughout her flower gardens, praising bees.  Since word of the honeybee scarcity hit the news, many of us have become more appreciative of the buzzing humming creatures.  Except when they sting.  Then we’re a little less appreciative!

Two bees

Two bees

It is very challenging to photograph bees.  I have been trying for two months.  This is the problem:  the lens on the camera thinks you want to photograph the flower.  So it focuses on the flower.  It usually refuses to focus on the smaller bees.  So the bee ends up looking blurry against the flower.  Then there’s another problem.  The bee almost always refuses to show its face.  (That’s because its face is burrowed in the flower, drunk on pollen.)

Bee on pink

Bee on pink

I enjoyed a lovely half-hour in Nancy’s gardens.  What a delightful stop!  So soothing, so relaxing.  There is this certain chair where you sit overlooking a small pond.  It’s mesmerizing.  Lulling.  The bees buzz and lull you almost to sleep.  Perchance to dream with the fragrance of hundreds of perfumed flowers mingling in the breeze.

The biggest fattest bee of the day

The biggest fattest bee of the day

So, you may be wondering where I’m going now.  It’s time for another trip!  This time I’m flying out real early Friday morning (that would be 6 a.m.) and winging down to Detroit and then on to Atlanta, Georgia.  Once there, I find the shuttle and ride two hours to the Holiday Inn in Athens, Georgia, where my in-laws will be waiting.  It’s going to be a wonderful vacation on red Georgia clay, exploring the outdoors and spending hours talking, reconnecting and just plain having fun.  My brother-in-law lives nearby too, and he’s an avid reader of this blog (along with my mother-in-law) so he’s coming up with ideas for outdoor sights.  I’m trusting that he’ll come up with some good ideas.  Some of you may remember the Craig came up here ice fishing this winter.  Check out this blog if you’ve never seen the fun we had.

Looking through the garden fence

Looking through the garden fence

And here’s the best part!  I am taking Miss Ellie along.  Any one know who Miss Ellie is?  I have just named this little laptop.  Someone asked a few weeks ago (when she was brand new) “Are you going to name your computer?” and I replied, “No!  You have to be kidding!”  But guess what?  A name just presentd itself tonight.  This computer is now Miss Ellie and she’s coming traveling.  How exciting!  You can go online in airports when you’re drinking Starbucks and sitting around.  You can post a blog anywhere!  I am way excited.  Even bought Miss Ellie a sporty maroon traveling sleeve to fit in the backpack last week. 

She’ll match the Georgia soil.  Stay tuned starting Friday for some southern outdoor adventures.  Bet I even beat the geese!

Reflection of "Third Bridge" in water

Reflection of "Third Bridge" in water

You know how you travel the same roads, day after day, or month after month, or year after year?  And how many times do you actually stop the car, open the door, and go outside to explore? 

We travel “up the road” to the Houghton-Hancock area maybe 40 times a year.  Two weeks rarely pass without one of us traveling  north on US-41.  We’re headed for the Keweenaw Co-op to buy our organic vegetables or other natural foods.  Maybe we’re aimed for Walmart to purchase something we can’t find easily in Baraga County.  Or perhaps to a coffee shop (that would be me) or a restaurant (that would be both of us) or someplace else.  This year, thanks to this blog, we’ve explored more interesting places than in the previous ten years.

But we rarely simply stop several times along the way.

The problem is this:  when you see an interesting sight, you’re already past it by the time the brain registers.  You’re 50 or 100 feet down the road thinking, “Hey, that would make a great photograph!”

Today I decided to turn around at least four times, back up, get out of the car and actually take the pictures and, sometimes, explore.

The first stop:  Third Bridge.  I never knew that was the name of the bridge at the Head of the Bay, but Barry insists.  I was acting like a tourist, trying to capture the bridge reflected in the water (have wanted to do this at least a dozen times this summer but never mustered the energy to actually stop the car.)   While moving around and changing the angle of the shot, a car whizzing by on the road started honking.   So who was that person?  Which friend was it? 

Now close your eyes or scroll down the page really fast if you don’t want to see a dead coyote.  That was the next stop.  It was lying in the road across from Carla’s Restaurant.  I did a huge backing-up maneuver and walked over to the animal.  It was really sad.  It was probably just crossing the road last night and a fast-moving car clipped it and killed it.  It could have been any of us drivers.  The animals sometimes move so quickly it’s hard to see them.   However, it’s unusual to see a dead coyote on the road.

Dead coyote

Dead coyote

Next I drove by a beautiful garden filled with sunflowers waving in the breeze.  However, just kept on driving, not wanting to tun around.  So I vowed to stop on the way home, and did.  And the gardener-lady herself was working in the hot sun.  We enjoyed a lovely conversation.  She moved here seven years ago from her former residence in Ohio and is amazed about how many people appreciate her garden alongside the highway. 

Sunflowers!

Sunflowers!

A bit farther down the road, the eyes spotted a turnoff near the Keweenaw Bay which I have never explored.  Ever.  Hard to believe you can live in an area for thirty years and there’s still new places to explore!  The eyes had never seen this particular view of Lake Superior.

Fallen tree in Keweenaw Bay

Fallen tree in Keweenaw Bay

Red and brown and yellow and gray rocks littered the shore everywhere.  But the find that seemed the most interested today was green beach glass.  Don’t you love how glass looks when it’s been in the lake for a very long time?  No longer sharp and cutting, it now shines like a jewel in the sunlight.

Beach glass

Beach glass

Then…be still my heart!…the absolute best gift of the day.  Two symetrically stacked piles of stones sitting upon a log.  Oh, enchanting!  I took photos from eight different views, but like this one best:

Just look at how high that pile of flat rocks is!

Just look at how high that pile of rocks is!

My question is: did Cindy (faithful blog reader, commenter and friend) stack those rocks?  Cindy, was it you?

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.

Beaver pond along the "Triple A" road

Beaver pond along the "Triple A" road

Once a year we make our annual trek past Big Erick’s Bridge, down the Triple A two-track sand road, and out to the Yellow Dog Plains to pick wild blueberries.  Today was the day.

The sun was shining and the temperature slowly warming into the 60’s.  You have to drive really slowly down the logging road to reach the blueberry-picking land.  I drove out there, and apparently drove too fast, according to the passenger.  I was bouncing along at 25 miles per hour (over pit-run boulders, according to the passenger who is piping up in the background as I write).  The passenger drove home at a leisurely 15-20 mph.  We high-tailed it safely through a couple wash-outs which covered the road with murky rainwater.  We probably met about fifteen other vehicles during the course of the adventure:  a regular traffic bonanza!

Here’s what you have to do as you’re creeping along and another vehicle approaches:  you slow to a near standstill, hugging the shoulder of the road.  You have to watch to make sure you’re not about to drop off the side into mud, or run into boulders.  The larger vehicle preferably gives way to the smaller vehicle.  Since we were driving Grandma’s old 1995 Buick, we were kindly given the right-of-way quite often.

We laughed about this sign for five minutes.

We laughed about this sign for five minutes.

Congested area?  Who put up that sign?  This is one of the most remote areas in the state of Michigan! 

One of our several stops this afternoon was at “Eagle Rock”.  This jutting protrusion of rock which overlooks the Triple A road is a  Native American sacred site; Keweenaw Bay tribal members hold ritual fasts here during the spring and fall.  Kennecott Minerals proposes to build a copper and nickel mine in sulfide ore in the vicinity of Eagle Rock and this mine has been a controversial subject in the community for the last several years.  When sulfide is exposed to oxygen or water, it becomes acid and many folks are afraid of irreversible contamination of the land and water back here on the Yellow Dog stretch between Big Bay and Skanee. 

I could write a whole blog describing the entire scenario, but won’t.  Here is the Kennecott official page.  And here’s the point of view from the group Save the Wild U.P

Up on Eagle Rock (see the sandy road down below)

Up on Eagle Rock (see the sandy road down below)

It was peaceful to sit on the rock and breathe the fresh air and feel the cool late-summer breeze.  It was not-so-peaceful to imagine a time when this area might be filled with mining trucks and possible pollution and lots of people.  On the other hand, our county hovers between 20-26% unemployment.  My fervent desire is that people can find jobs, but in a manner that will not desecrate our natural environment.  I added that prayer to Eagle Rock and we ventured down toward the blueberries.

Sweetest blueberries on this planet

Sweetest blueberries on this planet

OK, we didn’t pick five quarts of wild blueberries like our 93 year old neighbor and his son.  Maybe if we didn’t have all those grape-sized cultivated blueberries (tiny grapes, anyway), we would have hunkered down for a long while between the pines.  Barry and I each carried a sour cream-sized container and filled them up.  After a short while, we smiled at a quart of wild blueberries.  And looked at each other.  Ready to go? 

Amazing find!

Amazing find!

But first, look at this find.  Do you know what it is?  You are looking at the underside of a shining copper-colored insect shell.  It lay hidden among the blueberry plants and I turned it over to discover this strange-looking “face” peering up out of the copper.  You really can’t tell how copper-colored the shell looked:  it shimmered in the sunlight.  The upper part of the insect’s body was black and smooth.  It felt like Magic.

So was it worth it to travel forty miles for one quart of wild blueberries, a sojourn on Eagle Rock and the sighting of a Magic Beetle?

You betcha!

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