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Upside-down icicles in the sky

 Everyone around here is waiting for that blizzard. First it was a winter storm watch.  Then it morphed into a winter storm warning.  Now it’s a blizzard warning

 In the meantime, the weather has been rather mild.  Although this morning it was snowing cats and dogs.  You had to drive very slowly.  You thought the blizzard had arrived early.  But no.  It was simply a precursor to the actual blizzard which is reputedly supposed to start…in twenty five minutes.  Somewhere around 7 p.m. Tuesday night. 

Ravens calling in the sky

 They say we’re going to get lots of snow.  The question is:  do we believe them?  The National Weather Service gravely warns:  up to twelve inches of snow will befall us.  The way the radar loop is turning a swirl of blue from Iowa north, it may be true.  We’ll see. 

My mother just called.  “What’s the weather like up there?” she wondered.  They have a winter storm watch down in Michigan’s Thumb.  They are hoping to get snow, rather than treacherous ice.  I think I would agree that would be preferable.  

A cattail which looks rather like a bird

People usually go to town the day before a blizzard.  They try to stock up on supplies.  Get groceries for tomorrow night.  Maybe some hot chocolate or a bottle of wine or maybe some popcorn.  They fill up the car with gas.  Perhaps they buy an extra jug of water in case the electricity goes out.  If they remember they buy batteries for the flashlight.  They try to think of what they might need if the blizzard keeps them home-bound for a while.  The stores always seem busier when the National Weather Service puts out a Blizzard Warning.  

What our woods looked like prior to the blizzard

I walked in the woods this afternoon.  It is a pleasure to walk in the woods in the beginning of December before the snow gets too deep.  After this blizzard, if we get a foot or more, it will be impossible to walk without snowshoes.  Then it can be harder work to navigate amongst the trees.  So are we all ready for blizzard?  Ready to cuddle up on the couch tomorrow and read a book?  Ready to snuggle in the warm house as the snow comes down outside the window?  And in my case…ready to open the door, walk outside into the great and snowy white blizzard?  Anyone experiencing a blizzard want to join me?  Yep…it’s that time of year again!

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Approaching porcupine!  Stop the car!  Try to get a photo!

Approaching porcupine! Stop the car! Try to get a photo!

OK, all you wise-cracks.  Why DID the porcupine cross the road?  To get to the other side?

There are a million answers to this one, don’t we know.  Feel free to add your opinion in the comments.  (I’ll tell you my idea if you keep reading.)

Here’s the story behind this Cutie.  We were driving back from the vicinity of Silver Mountain–do not ask which day–when suddenly the Above Porcupine began waddling across Skanee Road. 

I slammed on the brakes, excitedly grabbing for the camera.  Where was the camera anyway?  Just about nervously dropped it on the floor in the excitement of the Photographic Opportunity.

Barry, who had been snoozing at the time, was saying, “What? What?  Why are you stopping?”

Until he saw It.

And it was headed directly toward the camera!

Bingo!!

Snap, snap, snap clicked the camera shutter as the porcupine came closer.

Until there was the Porcupine, as close as could be.

Awww, isn't he cute?

Awww, isn't he cute?

And then he proceeded to waddle beneath our car.

I looked at Barry.  He looked at me.

We were stuck.  There was a porcupine beneath our car.  If we drove forward or backward, we might run him over.

What should we do?

We waited. A few cars drove by.

“Put your head out the window and see if you can see him anywhere!”  I implored my bleary-eyed passenger.

No sign of the porcupine.

(Could the answer to the above question be:  The porcupine crossed the road so he could sit under our car.  ??)

The decision to take the nature shots of the quilly fellow now seemed  a bit…questionable.  I crept forward a little, straining the ears for any sound of the slightest thump.   Nothing.

“What should we do?” I moaned.  “I don’t want to kill the porcupine.”

Neither did we want to get out and look beneath the car, perhaps getting stuck with dozens upon dozens of sharp-needled quills. 

Neither did we want to sit on the side of the road all afternoon.

Finally my passenger said,  “There he is!” and pointed to the grasses moving in the nearby ditch, our little fellow waddling away looking like he had not a single care in the world.

Why did the Porcupine cross the road?

Aspen grove in sunlight

Aspen grove in sunlight

Answer:  To nibble the aspen bark for dinner.  Porcupines, as some of you may know, dine on plants, inner tree bark, twigs and leaves.

Anyone else have a better idea?

**My husband just said the porcupine crossed the road to star in his on-line debut in this blog. 

Hmmmm…..

Our weekend motto

Our weekend motto

This blog is Part II of our weekend attempt to Climb Silver Mountain.  For Part I, please click yesterday’s post. To summarize:  we did not Climb Every Mountain yesterday.  We searched high and low and followed every rainbow but did not reach Silver Mountain. Instead we were sidetracked into a delicious dinner at the Hardwood Steakhouse. 

 This morning our conversation went like this:

 Barry:  Let’s go back and climb Silver Mountain.

 Kathy:  No, I don’t want to drive all the way back there.

 Barry:  OK, let’s not go.

 Kathy:  Wait a minute, maybe we should go.

 Barry (a few hours later):  No, it looks like it’s going to rain.  Let’s not go.

 Kathy:  OK.

 Barry:  It looks like it’s not going to rain now.  Let’s go.

 Kathy:  Arhggghghghghghghghghgh!!!!! 

Prickett Dam

Prickett Dam

This time we drove directly there.  We did not drive through convoluted backwoods roads.  We were civilized.  We took the paved highway and followed the nicely marked signs.  There was no question of getting lost.  We knew where we were 99.9% of the afternoon. 

Kids, I’m showing you the picture of Prickett Dam.  Can you believe how low the lake is?  Remember when we camped there?  When all four of us crowded in that tiny rowboat along with our tents and sleeping bags and food and fishing poles and camped there for a weekend?  Didn’t we have fun?  Wasn’t it a lifetime ago?

 Excuse me, all the rest of you.  Needed to break for a Nostalgia Moment.  Prickett Dam was built ‘way back in the 1930’s…the construction of the power dam resulted in the death of hundreds upon hundreds of trees as the river was damned.  One can still see the stumps sticking out of the lake even when the water level is high; this year the stumps themselves rise out of the lake like giant wooden beasts with octopus-like wooden legs stretching out in every direction. They are repairing the dam; the water level will magically rise again to cover up the stump-creatures come spring.

Silver Mountain mine entrance

Silver Mountain mine entrance

 

The famous Silver Mountain steps

The famous Silver Mountain steps

After our view of the low water levels of Prickett Dam Lake, we proceeded easily to Silver Mountain. What were we fussing about yesterday?  So easy to drive there.  How could anyone get lost?  Several other vehicles parked along the base.  Darn, we didnt have the mountain to ourselves.  (We are so spoiled way up north.  It can be so isolated that you hardly cross the path of other folks in the backcountry.  How many other places in the country can you sometimes have a whole mountain–albeit a Michigan mountain–to yourself?)  

Our first peering:  at the closed-off mine shaft built into the side of the mountain.  Back in 1847 miners built a shaft 150 feet into the mountain looking for silver.  A sign says the miners were probably drawn to the area by rumors that the Chippewa had discovered silver particles along the riverbanks.  The Chippewa, however, believed that Silver Mountain was haunted, or at least bad luck.  This may have been well-founded (according to the sign) because the mine was abandoned by the fall of 1847 and no precious metals were ever found there. 

 

The Exquisite View

The Exquisite View

Up the steps we climbed.  Heart pumping faster with each set of steps.  Keep your eyes on the steps, keep your feet square on them.  Hold on to the rail.  In between the steps your feet pound upon the earth.  It almost sounds hollow, like a drum.  The mountain isn’t really a solid mountain…it’s a mine.  And keep your eye open for ghosts!

A giant stone cracked in two

A giant stone cracked in two

 After surveying the vista from the top of the mountain we descended the stairs.  An odd synchronicity met us at the bottom.  First I need to back up to yesterday.  When we were approaching the restaurant last night I said to Barry, “Wouldn’t it be fun to meet Karen and her husband at the restaurant?  I know they live out here.”

 Of course we didn’t see them at the restaurant.  I haven’t even glimpsed Karen since last June or July, when we abandoned our Artist Way gatherings.

 As we descended the last of the steps down Silver Mountain today, guess who drove up in their truck and came walking toward us?  Karen and her husband! 

 I love when this happens!  🙂

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?

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.

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.”

Exhibit A.  What's left of the garden.

Exhibit A. What's left of the garden.

I warned you, didn’t I?  Said that if you didn’t pick those brussels sprouts when the temperature baked in the 60’s and 70’s…you would be sorry.  So very sorry.

And did you listen?  Did you harvest?  Or did you think “Oh, the weather is sure to be nice and warm for at least a few days in October” and happily wander around in the woods without a second thought for the garden?  Did you think that maybe, oh just maybe, those teeny tiny brussels would grow into full-sized globules like you buy in the grocery store? 

Well today you have to fact the facts.  It’s 37 degrees and freezing every night.  Time to get out there and pull up the root-bound heavy plants and see what marbles you can rescue from the stalks.  After all, the marbles taste good.  Especially when you think of some sauce or vinaigrette to marinate them in. 

Get on out in the garden.  Don’t think about the temperature.  Remember to layer.  And remember to put on some kind of gloves this year.  Or your fingers will freeze solid during this task.

The brussels awaiting harvest

Exhibit B. The brussels awaiting harvest.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to find a pair of work gloves.  You look EVERYWHERE.  In this closet and that closet.  They’re AWOL.  So you finally settle upon a black yarn pair of gloves (half-way decent) thinking you’ll wash them in mild detergent later. 

And out you go to pull the plants and toss the leaves into the woods for deer lunches.

Admiring the brussels marbles, up close

Admiring the brussels marbles, up close

No complaining about those icy cold fingers!  Not a WORD.  You have gloves on, after all.  Be a strong woman.  Take a deep breath.  Keep plucking.  We’re not going to say, “I told you so!”

Some of us have a problem with the words:  Brussels sprout.  In common English we call ’em:  Brussel sprouts.  We’ve called them brussel sprouts all our life.  But then you discover that’s incorrect.  They are Brussels.  So you try very hard to call them by their proper name, by the name they want to be called.  You know how you call somebody “Tommy” all his life and suddenly you have to remember “Tom”.  And how hard you struggle to not say, “Tommy, how you doing?”  It’s the same with brussels sprout.

Deer food.  All those brussels leaves for the hungry deer.

Deer food. All those brussels leaves for the hungry deer.

So you strip all the leaves off the tough stalk and throw them diligently into the woods under the oak tree.  You rub your icy fingers together to create heat-friction. You know the hungry deer will stop by eventually and munch the scraps, hopefully putting on a bit of fat for the long winter.  We try to keep the deer in their Proper Areas.  We feed them under the oak tree but if they dare attempt to scale our electric fence and eat our garden produce:  watch out!  We won’t be so kind if they eat all our vegetables.  No.  They’ll be zapped up into the heavens.  They know where to place their hooves.  And it’s not in the garden.

Brussels "art"

Brussels "art"

Because you know how very very icy your fingers will become cutting off the marbles from the stalk, you come up with an idea this year.  In fact, come to think about it, maybe one of your blog readers suggested this.  You bring the stalks into the warm cozy basement.  You will cut off the brussels from the comfort of your rug, dozing by the wood stove.  Yes!  It’s a plan!  If you ever get motivated, you will do this.

There they are downstairs in the basement.  Waiting.  And they're still waiting.

There they are downstairs in the basement. Waiting. And they're still waiting.

After you bring the brussels inside you happen to glance down at yourself.  Oh my, what a mess!  Mud everywhere.  On the shoes, on the jeans, on the socks.  What a muddy venture.  You decide to return to the garden to pull some carrots, just to be Truly Productive.  And you determine to take a picture of the mud-spattered formerly nice-looking knit gloves.  Except the camera suddenly refuses to open and close.  You hope it’s a battery problem.  You truly hope it is.  In the meantime…time to change clothes!  And you really should get downstairs and finish those brussels sprouts.

Messy muddy harvester

Messy muddy harvester

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.

Hawthorne and sky

Hawthorn and sky

Let’s not discuss the demise of the garden yet.

Let’s instead backtrack to yesterday afternoon before the frost decided to ice the land with its cold white fingers.  The frost was still plotting back then.  It was chortling, “If we can just get that temperature to agree, to go a bit lower…  If we could just coax it below 32 degrees then…goodbye gardens!  Hello bright autumn leaves!  It’s Time.”

I may have some frost photos for tomorrow’s blog, but we’re backed up in photos right now.  We’re backed all the way up to our little jaunt to the Arvon Slate Quarry yesterday afternoon.

1 p.m. yesterday:  jump in 1949 Studebaker pickup truck and drive up the Arvon Road.  We’re aiming for the Bush.  That’s what they call the backcountry around here.  We’re aiming to put the truck in 4 wheel drive and slog through muddle puddles that may or may not have a solid bottom.  We’re aiming for the Quarry.

1:15:  drive past a Ghost Town.  The Ghost Town of Arvon.  (That’s where those hawthorn berries are growing up to the heavens.)  I wish I could show you abandoned buildings, old footings, anything.  But no.  Arvon has disappeared into the earth; swallowed whole.  There are simply old apple trees and hawthorn bushes.  And the singing of the wind.  Ghosts may be dancing there at midnight, but we didn’t see any yesterday.

Should we or shouldn't we?  Let's tighten the hubs & put her in 4 wheel drive, shall we?

Should we or shouldn't we? Let's tighten the hubs & put her in 4 wheel drive, shall we?

1:45 p.m.: It  took us a little time to forge through the rivers of water which covered the two-track road.  Want to know a little history about the Arvon Slate Quarry?  More than 300 people lived in this area during the quarry’s heyday.  Waste slate piles and a water pit remain from the Slate Mining operations that began in 1870, ending in 1892.  Henry Ford pumped the water from the pit and mined slate for his operations in the 1920s.  One can see the foundations of some early slate buildings, drainage ditch and piles of waste slate.  The pit makes for a peaceful small lake.  (Or so say the local history pages, anyway.)

A mountain of "waste" slate

A mountain of "waste" slate

I can’t tell you how many locals have taken advantage of the Slate Quarry over the past century, gleaning the beautiful slabs of “waste” slate and lugging them home in pickup trucks.  Of course we wouldn’t do such a thing.  (Or would we?)  Sometimes, in the old days, one might see a half dozen other trucks backed up to the quarry with the tailgate open.  Nowadays, it’s much rarer to see folks pilfering slate.  However, come to think of it, how would I know?  We haven’t been up there in twenty years, perhaps.

Yesterday it was hard to even figure out how to forge the rivers which blocked the two-track.

Slate quarry lake

Slate quarry lake

Years ago Barry remembered seeing the foundations of old buildings.  We searched for a good half hour, but only found one pile of slate which looked like it might…I repeat might…be an old building.  What do you think?

Maybe?  Old building?  Guess you would have to see it yourself.

Maybe? Old building? Guess you would have to see it yourself.

What a lovely afternoon we spent rambling in the slate.  Slipping and sliding in some places.  Snapping photos.  Sharing a memory or two.  Excited about what was happening on the blog back at home (with the little unexpected publicity from the WordPress folks.)  Completely in the dark about the cunning plans of the frost.  Completely!  Well, not entirely completely, because we both heard the words “frost warning” but  brushed it off lightly thinking, “Oh not us.  We’re too near the lake.  We won’t get frost.”

Yet another view of Slate

Yet another view of Slate

Famous last words.  Barry was heading in to the house from the garage near 1 a.m. when he saw the frosty world.  ACTION!  Time to scurry!  He dove into the garden, rescuing every last tomato, cucumber, pepper.  Faster than a speeding bullet he worked to save our meager harvest before the claws of frost pierced the vegetables.

And he did it!  Good man!  Good husband!  What a trooper!  (Except for the basil, but we’ll forgive him.  As I was sound asleep and would have inadvertently allowed the garden to freeze solid.)

The circle of life -- on slate

The circle of life -- on slate

We hear much of Michigan had frost last night.  So it’s officially autumn.  It’s also officially October.  And, as my mom pointed out today: I have been incorrectly calling our September warm weather days “Indian Summer”.  No.  That was a mistake.  Indian Summer happens after the first frost.  Now that I have that straightened out…Let’s have a little Indian Summer, shall we?

Single impatiens flower reclines on the front porch

Single impatiens flower reclines on the front porch

I incorrectly spelled the name of the above flower when typing out the cutline:  Single impatient flower reclines on front porch.  That of course gets one thinking.  About how nature simply doesn’t fuss.  It knows when the leaves must fall, when the flowers wane and die.  It knows when the apples ripen and the squash grows its hard thick green acorn-y skin and when the geese fly south.  It knows.  It refuses to be impatient.

Unlike some of us humans, hurrying and scurrying here and there with ideas of our own, and timetables during which everything must be accomplished.

Fallen apples asleep in the sunlight under autumn apple trees

Fallen apples asleep in the sunlight under autumn apple trees

Autumn is the season of letting go.  The trees release their leaf-children.  Their firstborn fruits tumble to the earth.  The plants and ferns dry up into brown crackling creatures half-resembling their former vibrant green selves.  We sigh.  Winter lurks closer than we’d like to imagine.  Frost prepares her white fingers in some underground burrow, taunting the sun to move lower, to edge away from the earth’s protective blanket.

The Transformation of Ferns

The Transformation of Ferns

If the leaves refused to stain red and orange and yellow, would we think autumn so beautiful?  If the plants simply shifted from vibrant to brown, would we write poetry to this season?  Around here the leaves are turning nicely this fall, not too fast and not too slow.  On their own luxurious timetable.  When I peered downward from the airplane a couple days ago, the tree-colors looked muted and tame, like an artist mixing the lightest shades of orange and red.  Just wait!  Give it two weeks!  We’ll be in a riot of color, shocking bold color…and give it another month and the stark bones of tree-people will line the horizon watching the ghosts of Halloween stalk the land.

Oh look at the pastels amidst the greenery!

Oh look at the pastels amidst the greenery!

I have another photo to show you, a sign of the season.  It’s not a pretty picture, at least for some of us.  It’s those darn flies.  The kind that invade our northern houses at this time of the year.  They’re seeking refuge in every nook and cranny.  They’re crawling into holes and through cracks in windows and attempting to find a winter’s hiding place.  Why, one asks, do they trap themselves in windows, between the screen and the glass?  Surely that’s not where they aim to be.  Surely not.

Flies in a window  (not OUR window, of course...)

Flies in a window (not OUR window, of course...)

If it was OUR window, I would have opened the screen and let them fly away outdoors.  However, knowing flies, they would find another window to squiggle within and then buzz frantically about.

Hmmm, any other photos to show you?  Which illustrate the changing seasons?  Perhaps only a single mint flower, viewed from above.  It stretches on a stalk at least a foot above the mint-leaves down below.  This flower has just now formed; it’s a late-comer in September.  Imagine how sharp and pungent the mint field smells, how enticing! 

Perhaps it’s time for freshly-steeped tea?

Sweet peppermint dreams to all...

Sweet peppermint dreams to all...

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