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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.
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.
Much of the beach looked clean-swept with only dustings of snow. Stones and snow slumbered together, bedmates for the winter.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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.)
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.
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!)
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.
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.
We promise, “Let’s do this again SOON!” and head down the mountain.
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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?
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.
We’re basking now, folks. We’re making up for that 13 below zero day last winter. High Five! It’s SUMMER!
I’ve had a very quiet day with much outdoor time spent on the deck and in the garden. So, for once, I’m not going to worry about writing a novella on this blog.
In the hot, hot evening yesterday we lingered in downtown L’Anse, by cool Lake Superior, feeling the breeze and listening to bluegrass music. Wow, could they play the mandolin, the guitar, the banjo and the upright bass. The audience was grooving. What an awesome way to spend an August night.
Tonight we harvested lettuce and spinach and one hot pepper and beet greens and a handful of cilantro for dinner. What a gift to step outside in the garden and bring dinner inside. Then we went back outside and ate on the deck. A cool breeze blows, even though it’s 84 degrees. OK, I’m done talking now. Promise. (Shortest blog ever?)
Let’s say one makes a decision to open the door and walk outside, spending time in the great outdoors for 365 days. Suppose 232 days have passed. Through cold and hot (well, very little hot), through snow and rain, through drought and deluge…one treks outside and begins to learn more about the earth. One learns to peer very closely at the marvels of nature, at the marvels of people spending time outdoors, at the wildlife which presents itself, at the flowers and trees and plants. One learns so much.
But here’s the question: Is “outside” really better than “inside”?
What are the advantages to stepping outside? Many folks with life-threatening illnesses, confined to beds or wheelchairs, rarely have the opportunity to amble through the woods. Others spend entire lives within a house or monastery, perhaps meditating or praying day and night. Some people thrive indoors. Others thrive outdoors.
What is the gift of the outdoors?
How does it enrich us? Does it matter?
How is it better than spending our minutes inside the house? Or is it any better? Are they equal possibilities, both the same?
I have some thoughts, but would love to hear from you first. So many of you readers are outdoor folks, but others spend more time indoors. What do you think? Would you like to spend every day for a year outdoors, or don’t you feel the need? Or, looking at it the other way, do you already spend time every day outdoors and never even think about it?
Yesterday it was a great time hiking with my friend Denise and her dogs along Bayshore Road outside of L’Anse. We walked and walked. However, we were so busy talking our five to six miles passed in a flash. It didn’t even feel like exercise, until our legs started feeling it.
Today Barry and I worked in the garden. We harvested all the peas, pulled up the pea plants and took down the pea fence. Seems like a huge space opened up in the garden, a space where the squash and cucumbers can now spread. The onions have mostly fallen over and need to be plucked, as well. We’ll keep them in the basement and eat them until Christmas.
Signing off now, really hoping some of you will share your thoughts about outdoors versus indoors.
Thank you and goodnight.
Today I ended up in the opposite direction of where I thought I was going. This is nothing new. Does this happen to you sometimes? You think you have a plan. You think you are going to Place A. When, suddenly, a different idea hatches and suddenly you find yourself in Place B.
I thought I was going to the Farmer’s Market in downtown L’Anse. There were rumors of delicious succulent real tomatoes. You know, the kind of tomatoes that we only get in August in the Upper Peninsula. Juicy red vine-ripened sweet tomatoes you yearn for eleven months of the year and instead have to settle for hydroponic or fake tomato look-alikes. (Our garden is full of little green tomatoes, but we must wait for them to ripen. If the weather ever cooperates.)
Instead, I drove all the way to Marquette. Don’t ask why. It just happened. Packed up this sweet little new laptop and took her travelin’. We ate (I mean I ate) a spud arame plate at Sweet Water Cafe for breakfast. Oh, yum. The server pointed me in the direction of Marquette’s Farmer’s Market, about two or three blocks away.
And was it grand! Oh what a delightful outdoor experience! Real locally grown greens, carrots, brocoli, onions. The Earth is producing big time. Thirty dollars disappeared in an instant, replaced with bags and bags of goodies.
Such a good feeling prevailed on the square. Maybe a dozen or more tents stood here and there, filled with produce and eggs and fresh baked bread and flowers and crafts and at least sixteen other things. People wandered and mingled everywhere. Everyone had a smile on their face. I mean everyone. No one looked grumpy or frowning or perturbed.
Do you see the tree-statues behind the couple in the above photo? The trees sit in the middle of a fountain. Actually, the trees are the fountain. After taking pictures (and Denise would be proud of me because I’ve now gained enough confidence to politely ask would-be subjects for their photograph) I found a bench and just sat. Watched. Tried to leave at least twice, but kept returning to the bench to bask in the carnival-like atmosphere of the Farmer’s Market.
A slight problem eventually ensued with the Farmer’s Market visit. May we skip ahead? I returned home with a basket of tomatoes for my tomato-loving spouse. He had been dreaming of tomatoes all day. He had plans for a tomato sandwich, tomatoes on eggs tomorrow and tomatoes stuffed with tuna fish. He smiled with delight as I unloaded the bag with his precious loot…and then his smile turned to a frown as he peered closer. Oh no. Oh no! It appeared I had bought rock-hard hydroponic tomatoes. How could this have happened? Shouldn’t there be a law against them selling these? How could I have been duped? At the delightful little Farmer’s Market? Alas…well, we shall wait at least four or five days and see if they ripen into something more edible…
However, everything else tastes absolutely wonderful. The cherries are so sweet, melt-in-your-mouth sweet. And the corn looks fantastic. And the brocoli. And everything else. (Everything except the only thing I started out to find today…)
The only regret I have (besides picking out the wrong tomatoes, obviously) is that I forgot to buy peaches. Peaches are tied with tomatoes for the best taste in August. Will eat the cherries verrrry slowly and appreciate them this week. Maybe next weekend there will be peaches and tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market in L’Anse. We’ll see if I end up there.
What? you say. SNOW? Wait a minute! This is summer! What is a snow picture doing in this blog? It can’t be snowing in the Upper Peninsula in July!
Although some of our local folks are grumbling mightily about the chilly weather this summer, don’t worry, it hasn’t started snowing. Yet…
Settle down for a story. This photo was taken by my daughter back in early December. We hiked up Little Mountain, south of L’Anse, on a cold winter day. She was staying with us for a few short weeks and we wanted to enjoy the outdoors and experience some of the local sights. We trudged up the trail, happy that the snow measured only a few inches.
We reached the top of the mountain (and ok, you guys, no comparison to the Rockies or Smokies. These are Michigan mountains after all. You might choose to call them ‘rocky hills’ with more accuracy.) Then we began to wander around, looking here and there, admiring the view. I sat down to meditate for awhile and she snapped this photo which she titled “Hidden Meditation”.
It was on that hike, that very hike, that the idea for this outdoor commitment and blog incubated. It was such a lovely day and I mused, “Why don’t I do this more often? It’s really pleasant outside, not that cold, and look at how wonderful we feel spending time outdoors…” You know the rest of the story.
Today, our guests Amy, Daniel and I hiked once more up Little Mountain to its panoramic view of Baraga County.
There is something about reaching the top of a mountain. As we neared the summit, we ceased talking. Silence settled comfortably among us. A sacred sense of reverence filled our awareness.
Each of us wandered off to view different landscapes, to feel the energy of the mountain. I fell into the silence of meditation, as if seven months had not passed.
It felt like the mountain was meditating.
And the silent climber could sit still and meditate with the mountain, if he or she chose.
The mountain told stories of rock: granite, quartz, slate. The mountain tossed the mane of her flowered hair as the wind blew ragged through the pines. The wind moaned and muttered around the crags. The mountain’s jewelry was sumac, buttercups, daisies, blueberries.
The mountain takes the long view. No short judgments. She assesses the landscape before she makes a decision. And her decisions might take eons and eons.
Branches lie scattered all around. Trees are always losing limbs in the wind and weather on the unprotected mountaintop. Perhaps lightening has seared them off, but more likely the wind blows away that which is unsecured, weak, tentative.
Humans being humans we try to interact with the mountain in our own ways. While some of us choose to meditate to hear her silent voices, others of us build rock cairns. Rocks lie atop one another, marking the ascent of previous travelers. There is also Rock Art. Men and women have knelt and sketched their name in stone, scratching the surface with a sharp instrument. Someone had scratched “Dan ‘n Me” on one rock, which seemed apropos as another Daniel now walked across the stones.
But my favorite almost-invisible stone was a face grinning up at us, from a modern-day human perhaps delighted by the mountain hike, the expansive view, the endless sky, the bays of Lake Superior:
If you have a chance to meditate atop a high hill, or mountain, please do so. You will not regret the time spent in silence, feeling the wind on your cheeks, the rocks hard and etched with lichen, the scent of summer wildflowers close by.
Another blog about singing outdoors. How many of you have actually opened your door and belted out a song recently? A good tune with lyrics like “Summertime and the livin’ is easy…” or even “If I were a rich man…” or “Dream a little dream for me…”
Show of hands? Well, I haven’t sang outside all year. Not a single song. Maybe a hum or whistle on walks, but nothing which resembles a complete song. Which is probably a good thing, unless I’m way back in the woods or swamp. Because it’s always been a bit challenging to carry a tune.
Last night, however, music aficionados in Baraga County were able to listen to the White Water family stringband from Amasa, a town two hops and skip down the road near Crystal Falls. Do listen to some of their clips especially some of their popular folk songs like The Log Driver’s Waltz and Windigo. Unfortunately, you can only listen to really short clips of their songs.
At least a hundred or two hundred folks gathered, mostly wrapped in blankets, as a cold fog moved in over the Keweenaw Bay. It added a mystical edge to the songs. The voices of Dean and Bette Premo, and their college-aged daughter Laurel weave together to create fabulous harmonies. (Their son, Evan, another member of the band who plays the stand-up bass, and his new musically-talented wife Mary will join them next month for another concert down in Crystal Falls.) They play all sorts of instruments such as the fiddle, the guitar, the hammered dulcimer, the mandolin and the banjo.
They sing tunes about people who lived and settled in the Great Lakes. From the Native Americans to the loggers to the Finnish folk…their music tells stories of those who have known these trees, these winds, this Keweenaw Bay, this fog.
The audience knew all about the fog, so a song could have been written about our evening.
Dean did note, “I was thinking only in the U.P. could you have an audience in blankets and sweaters and kids swimming in the Keweenaw Bay!” (I did not glimpse the swimmers, but have no doubt they existed.)
Here is what I saw:
Years ago, when our son Christopher and their son Evan were attending the University of Michigan, Bette called up looking for a ride for her son down to Ann Arbor. It never worked out because Evan was transporting his upright bass which wouldn’t have even fit in Chris’ tiny car.
They have been playing at the Aura Jamboree since the kids were small, and we’ve watched them grow up. Every year they kept getting better and better! I think they’re one of the treasures of the Upper Peninsula.
P.S. After writing this blog, I think it’s time to sing at least one song outside. So that’s the assignment for this weekend. Just have to decide what to sing…and where…