Storm Approaches
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An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

A Harbor Journal

Winter Storm Approaches

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

Fall - Winter , 2002

A New Year's Eve Meditation(12/31/02) “George, it’s time to get the light box hooked up.” So wrote a long time Harbor Web viewer in response to my last Harbor Journal entry, A Christmas Eve Meditation. Another noted my musing reminded him of the writings of a Trapist Monk, Thomas Merton, especially his Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. My o’ my, was it that transparent? I actually thought it was a sort of an affirmation of faith, but apparently many thought otherwise. Perhaps my mention that I would spend Winter Solstice reveling in the glow of a giant bonfire, joining friends in offering incarnations to placate the druids of the ancient’s Winter Solstice, suggested I’d gone off the deep end. As New Year's Eve arrives, I wonder; Have I?

Perhaps, but I relished my holiday – gathered first in the warm company of summer sailing friends about the Solstice bonfire and a subsequent bountiful table of celebratory food and drink. And then (after a brief 24 hour, Christmas Eve, stopover in Green Bay’s St Francis Hospital – nothing serious, but scary) wrapped in the bliss of family sharing the joyous bond of kin engaged in the comforting ritual of Christmas observance.

Now, I am once again ensconced in my Eagle Harbor camp, warmed and mellowed by a crackling fire and 15 year old malt, listening to the last gasps of two days of gale force winds blowing off the lake, and watching shore-side lights, softened by a light effect snowfall, play across the dark and restless open waters of the harbor. It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for taking stock, raising hope, and making amends. I have a full plate!

The waning year was certainly volatile, filled with a staggering array of glorious adventure and regrettable misadventure, but in the final analysis I celebrate the blessing of friends, better health, economic security, the love of family, and a clearer sense of self – and this past year’s special blessings, the birth of a healthy grandson and the growing strength of daughter Sarah and her three young children as they continue their recovery from the loss of a dad and husband. I’m not unmindful of my transgressions; they were many, but each, while deplorable and hurtful to others, as well as myself, has offered lessons of life that I am striving to learn - and remember.

My Solstice incarnations apparently didn’t do much to stir up our sorely missed old friend, and former local hero, Heikki Lunta. Harbor holiday visitors are universal in their despair over the poor sledding, poor skating, and poor skiing they experienced. They did, of course, revel in the fellowship of the small band of friends and family engaged in the annual “Christmas at the Harbor” pilgrimage. And, at least there was some soft new snow to brighten the landscape – not much, certainly not enough to play in, but a sensory gift nonetheless considering the bleak conditions beyond the reach of the big lake’s snow machine.

Now, with the pending arrival of January, it’s turned cold – or at least what we regard as cold. Low twenties and blustery. Raw, uninviting to all but the most dedicated of the New Year’s “start exercising” resolution crowd. Slush ice is forming once again in the harbor, sloshing about in the undulating swells of gale generated big lake waves rebounding off the harbor’s hard south shore. Unless the wind once again turns south, pushing the slush out into the lake, we’ll soon see some ice paddies form, offering a stage and fishing platform for my old friend, Mr. Oliver Otter.

Once the Packers vacate the tube, soon I think, the antics of Oliver, who I believe spends most of the winter in the vicinity of Jim’s Eliza Creek Club Med Resort, become a principal source of Eagle Harbor mid-winter entertainment for the few who turn aside the lure of tempting palms swaying in warm breezes to embrace snow laden pines bending in blizzards – especially for those of us lucky enough to have a 50 yard-line harbor-side “luxury box” ticket.

With the absence of more than a dusting of snow cover, our shallowly buried early 30’s WPA installed village water pipes are within reach of the penetrating frost. One burst today, leaving several of us with little or no water for several hours, and rousing many of our good neighbors from the cozy comfort of their camps to join our always vigilant town officials in the bitter cold to locate and fix the leak. No apparent harm done (my velvet smooth single malt is unadulterated with anything as pedestrian as water), but unless old Heikki soon gets his act together, we all better dig out our check lists for “no water” emergencies. The situation will be made more serious as the number of users on the creaking old pipes dwindles after the holiday season, reducing flow and allowing water to linger longer in the frost gripped pipes. I’ll keep my tap running. Just another facet of winter life at Eagle Harbor. (The good news is that we are not spending time up on the roof shoveling snow to ward off roof collapse.)

So, in an hour or so this eventful year will be relegated to the archives – a reservoir of fond memories and lessons learned to draw on for comfort and guidance in the years ahead. As I write, my constant radio companion is offering Beethoven’s Ninth, a fitting climax to a year of great passion, for good or ill, and in the final movement’s stirring setting of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, a resolute embrace of my faith that the year to come will afford personal growth, gratifying adventure, and bountiful opportunities to serve my family, friends and community.

I’ll likely not await the turning of the annual hour glass, the malt has proved to be too mellowing, nor will I engage in making of resolutions likely to be forgotten by morn, but I do extend to all who have indulged in another year of Harbor Journal ramblings my earnest prayer that for 2003 you will enjoy good health, are financially secure, are loved and love, are blessed with many friends, and, enjoy good sailing, whether in life or at sea.

A Happy New Year to all!

A Christmas Eve Meditation(12/19/02) One of Wagner’s early offerings is playing on the WCPE’s Thursday night opera, apparently composed long before he hit his stride. I sit by my brightly burning fireside on this very dark mid-winter night, listening inattentively, while enjoying the sight of the holiday decorated camps across the harbor and my own outdoor Christmas tree. A beautiful wreath (one of Ace Hardware’s finest clearance items) and flickering holiday candles adorn my inner camp. It’s festive, appropriate for this annual celebration of the birth of our Lord, yet I feel a bit pensive, not unusual for me on the eve of Christmas.

My Christmas Day will be blessed by the presence of family, including a bevy of my grandchildren. In their bright and so innocent eyes, I sense the expectation of all youth that life will be good – a world at peace, lives blessed with being loved and loving, and personal security. Pray it will be so!

Yet in the course of my life, and perhaps in yours, I know that such innocence may at times be betrayed, often at our own doing. Indeed for me, the arrival of Christmas is as much a reminder of my own transgressions, the imperfections of our world, and the plight of so many less fortunate, as it is a recognition of my own good fortune and remembrance of the many saints who have so enriched my life. I often think, as I offer and receive the blessing of “Merry Christmas” to and from friend and stranger, that the ritual seasonal exchange is an offering of reassurance – given and received with the hope and faith that in the celebration of the birth of our Christ, we will receive the blessing of forgiveness, be made more sensitive to the needs of many, and be enriched with thoughtful acknowledgement of our many good fortunes. Probably not good theology, but it works for me.

I have a Harbor neighbor who each Christmas weeps unashamedly at the singing of “Silent Night.” Some may find her weeping unexplainable, but I find it endearing. It’s beautiful testimony to the power of fond remembrance and the reverence for a spiritual life. I’m too reserved for such public displays, but in my heart I share her feelings. It’s the beauty of Christmas.

Some wonder why I, living alone and a rare host to holiday gatherings, bother to adorn my end of the road camp and its inner space with the trappings of the Christmas season. (I am so seldom a host for such gatherings, or, for that matter, any gatherings, that a couple of summers ago when I loaned my camp to some friends while out sailing, and they hosted a party for neighbors; everyone came, wondering what I’d done with the place since my mother’s death. She was one of several exuberant and gracious Eagle Harbor hostesses of her era, much loved for their wonderful hospitality.) Well, I’m no match for my mom, but I haul out the lights, candles, and wreaths each Christmas because they give me comfort and allow me to share my joy of the season with any who may pass by. My offerings are meager, but hopefully symbolic of my faith and love of community.

Our little community has suffered some major losses in the days proceeding this Christmas. First, the death of my neighbor and dear friend, Dorothy Boggio, one of the most gracious ladies I’ve known. I always think of her as I pass her home, expecting her to be out tending her flowers, eager for a friendly chat, and tempting my late pooch Abby with a sinful array of dog treats. Then, today, the death of our good neighbor Bob Black, the always friendly fixture at the back table of the Shoreline, and the host of the most beautiful Christmas tree at the Harbor, perched on his dock at the far end of the bay. Their loss, on the eve of this Christmas, reminds us all of the many, now gone, who have so enriched the lives of those of us privileged to call Eagle Harbor home. This too, is a part of Christmas.

On Saturday I will journey to Aura, a little settlement north of L’Anse, to gather about a giant bonfire and join in offering incantations to placate the druids of the ancient’s Winter Solstice. Some my view my participation in such pagan rites as sacrilege, but it’s done in the spirit of recognizing that we, and our customs, are the harvest of centuries of human existence – and, in the presence of good friends, just another acknowledgement of the joy and the power of being a part of community.

Perhaps “pensive” mistakenly portrays my mood on this Christmas Eve. Meditative might be a better metaphor. Pensive suggests that in the struggle between uneasiness and confidence, I fall on the darker side. True, when I brood over the plight of the many adversely impacted by a distressed economy, contemplate the dreadful implications of impending war, and consider the imperfectness of my own life, it is easy to be pensive. But in the celebration of Christmas, I find hope – regain my confidence that the goodness of man will prevail, offering no panaceas, but restoring the faith we all innately hold – the same faith in the future I see in the bright and perhaps more knowing than innocent eyes of my grandchildren.

A Merry Christmas to all my Harbor Web friends.

Batten Down the Hatches (12/18/02) Wow! This is a truly a “batten down the hatches” storm. Gale force, sometimes storm force, winds have been blasting across the harbor from the SSE for almost 24 hours. If wind could accumulate, as snow does, we would be in the midst of a “storm of the century.” The three of us along the harbor’s exposed north shore (me, Tom & Jean Ellis, and Barb Been) are getting the full brunt of it. My wind speed gauge hovers between 35 and 45 mph, with occasional gusts over 50 - topping out at 59 mph at about eight this morning! (I notice the weather gurus have come up with an apparently new graphic to accompany big wind forecasts.)

There is lots of noise – the eerie juice harp sound of wind streaming across the bottom sill of the front door, much loud groaning and occasional scary cracking sounds from the old oak out front and the giant poplar alongside my camp, a constant tattoo of sharp snapping sounds from the now badly frayed woodpile cover and flag atop the whipping flagpole, and the hollow roar of wind playing in the fireplace flue. The timbers of my camp are creaking and snapping as the wind gusts produce a noticeable swaying of the old place, I’m sure reopening the seams around doors and windows that I’ve so carefully sealed for the winter. This spooky symphony of sounds, their affect accentuated by the blackness of the winter night, would send my late pooch, Abby the Wonderdog, scurrying for the sanctum of a place under my bed. I relish the sounds as I lie in bed - except for the adrenal moments of waiting for the nearby 80 foot poplar to come crshing into my space when I hear an exceptionally loud crack!

I do feel trapped in my camp, having great difficulty forcing open my south-facing door. When I do get it open, the wind roars into the house, creating a literal snowstorm of flying papers and knocking over pictures, lamps, and even piles of books. Gusts grab the storm door, hurtling it against the front stoop railing, threatening to tear it from its hinges and send it flying over the hill and out into the big lake. I don’t know where the skis and snow scoop I carelessly left outside have gone. I’ll search for them when it gets light, hopefully not finding them inside my downwind neighbors summer camp. The heavy picnic table was doing summersaults before I lashed it to the big oak.

A hike up to Copper Falls yesterday morning was almost impossible, and a bit hilarious. Going up, the steep grades combined with “in your face” windblasts made the going seem as though pushing through deep snow. But coming down, well it reminded me of Peregrine roaring down the front of a big following wave cresting under her stern. I stumbled about like prairie tumbleweed as the wind pushed me down the hill. I’m sure the few motorists I encountered thought they had encountered a drunken sailor, perhaps blown over the Keweenaw Ridge from the south shore.

Now, as a gray and foreboding dawn creeps across the harbor, I notice rain drops on my big window – the apparent precursor to an expected ice storm. Not a pretty sight or prospect for just a week before Christmas. I better run through my no power checklist – a good supply of dry wood indoors for fireplace heat, oil lamps filled and trimmed, candles dug out of storage, locate the matches, everything backed up on my computer, tape the freezer door shut (so old forgetful doesn’t inadvertently open it), wash up the dishes and myself while there is still hot water, check the flashlight batteries, bake a pie to treat myself if it’s a long duration outage, and dig out the thermal underwear and some extra blankets and throws. Perhaps I should also dig out the charcoal grill so that I might stir fry a few frozen pasties if things approach the "state of emergency" situation recently experienced by the stalwart Copper Country folks huddled together in their Carolina winter quarters. (You'll know I'm in desperate straits if I should resort to such pasty blasphemy.) Usually, when I take all these precautionary measures, the power stays on – it’s only when I don’t that trouble arrives.

The prospect for a white Eagle Harbor Christmas is diminishing. About the best the weather pros can come up with is offering a feeble “chance of snow” in their extended daily forecasts. Sure, there will hopefully be a light dusting, say on Christmas Eve, but it appears that those who need big snow for skiing, shoeing or snowmobiling will be disappointed. I’m beginning to think that all the “cold, low precipitation” talk of the El Nino devotees has merit. Perhaps the skating on Rich and Kelly's ice rink will be good. No matter, the families gathered for an Eagle Harbor Christmas will revel in the joy of their togetherness. Snow would be a nice extra touch, but isn't necessary (or so my rationalizing neighbors say.)

Enough complaining. I better get to my “power out” checklist. These are surely “batten down the hatches” days. (Hm'n, I wonder where I stashed the charcoal grill?)

Mid-Winter Fun (12/15/02) We’ve had a heck of a northeast wind blowing into the harbor all day, but as evening arrives it’s lost a bit of its strength and my dancing outdoor tree lights have slowed to a slow waltz. The lake is still very noisy, its roar a pleasing backdrop to my time at fireside. The constantly sailing ice is now back in the harbor, filling all but the lake exposed center. If it were not for the bare yards and beaches, this would be a classic Eagle Harbor winter day, but it’s difficult to feel anything but yearning when the yard looks ripe for mowing. I did wander up to the lighthouse to watch and listen to waves breaking across the outer reefs and onto the rocky shore. The light is out, its rotating gear mechanism broken once again. The Coasties say it may be some time before the brilliant beam once again sweeps around the harbor and out into the lake. Seems the Coast Guard is a bit strapped for maintenance funds – apparently another casualty of the War on Terrorism. Yes, even Eagle Harbor is not immune to feeling the affects of international events.

This has certainly been a day to hunker in, and given the total absence of any movement about town, that’s what we all did. As I write the Packer faithful are likely huddled about the tube, but I expect for most of us it’s simply been a day to catch up on our holiday preparations, escape into a good book, pursue an avocational pursuit, or try out a good recipe (I baked an apple pie) – sort of training for the many quiet weeks we will experience after the holidays. I often suggest to Eagle Harbor retiree wannabes, that if they are not comfortable having themselves, their imagination, and their avocational interests as their primary companions for weeks on end, they might consider a more urbane area, or the cruise boat like atmosphere of Florida or California’s warm coasts, as a retirement alternative. Nothing wrong with these options, they work for most folks, but anyone expecting such rubbing of community shoulders during the long late winter months of Keweenaw will be terribly disappointed.

Today was also a needed day of rest for my tired and battered body. I mentioned in my last Harbor Journal entry that we “reap what we sow.” Well, Friday, I reaped! A Copper Country summer sailing companion called Thursday evening to remind me that in the course of a two bottle of wine communion while anchored in the back end of Isle Royale’s Tobin Harbor last summer, I vowed that I would ski down the slopes of Ripley before Beethoven celebrated another birthday, providing my friend would accompany me in a bikini. Seemed like a safe vow at the time, given that Ripley rarely is skiable before the master’s birthday, Monday, December 16th, and my summer crew mate, sobered by winter’s cold blasts, would certainly wish the bikini vow would be forgotten. Just another of several misjudgments I’ve made over the last several months.

I tried to beg off, reminding my friend about the bikini, suggesting I hadn’t downhill skied in several decades, that my heart wouldn’t tolerate it, and that I possessed none of the paraphernalia needed for such youthful activity. No avail – skis and boots were offered, a call to my doc had apparently confirmed my recent absence of heart trauma (isn’t anything beyond snooping anymore?), I was reminded that downhill skiing, like swimming, is a skill, once mastered, is innate, and that the bikini, since I wasn’t committed to one (thank God), should not be my concern. Trapped!

So we met – first in Houghton’s Library Bar for a bit of brunch nerve settler, and then to the slope. I laced up (actually it’s all Velcro and snap buckles now), felt a bit antiquated in my relaxed jeans in the presence of many tight latex lathered Tech snow bunnies, and closed my eyes for the ascent to the ridge line. As I settled into the T-bar, I thought that maybe Friday, the 13th, was not a good day to attempt to recapture my youth, but my bundled up provocateur (assuring me that under it all was the bikini), pointed out several other senior citizens on the slopes, suggesting that with age, comes experience, and thus grace on the slopes. I wasn’t so sure, but before I could bail out the T-bar pressed into my behind and up we went. At least, I thought, I could keep my skis on the snow covered terra firma (Ripley has snow making equipment now) and not be dangling precariously in mid-air from the chair lift serving the steeper slopes.

The view from the ridgeline was indeed spectacular (no, not the bikini clad companion – instead the grandeur of the Portage valley and ice covered waterway.) There is not much one can do at the top of a ski hill, once the idle chatter of prognostication and delay have been exhausted, than push off – hoping the gods will intervene and assure safe passage. I’d selected what appeared to be the closest thing to the “bunny hill” slope, but at Ripley the bunnies are obviously either precocious or fearless, and I quickly realized that I was overmatched. We had the slope pretty much to ourselves, a good thing, since I in my ineptitude and my friend in her attire, were pretty much a hazard to anyone else on the slope. By the time I tumbled down to the base of the hill, looking, I’m sure like the Abdominal Snow Man, my sailing companion was once more suitably attired (Tech apparently has a rule against such voyeurism, I’m sure as a result of the Mt Bohemia ruckus of last winter.) Ennobled by the lack of broken bones, and sensing the return of the exhilaration I experienced during the heyday of my long ago downhill life, I rebooted and jumped back on the T-bar. And so it went, for another couple of hours. We topped off this bit of exuberance with a couple of pasties from Shelton’s (pretty good) and a nice bottle of Merlot (even better), and vowed to once again share an Isle Royale anchorage – but not another day on the slopes!

So I paid the price of this “off plan” activity today as I nursed tired muscles, weathered a few body bruises, and held a serious discussion with myself about “acting my age.” But I simmered in the warm glow of having been tested and survived.

Next weekend I’ll join some other summer sailing friends for a celebration of the winter solstice. This, the most ancient of mid-winter celebrations and the precursor to the Christian Christmas, is to commemorate the day when the northern hemisphere ancients, particularly the Celtics, thought the sun actually stopped, perhaps never to return, as it hovered low in the horizon at the end of its journey south. We will build a huge bonfire on that night, December 21st, as the ancients did, to dispel the long darkness, and offer runes to placate the druids of old.

See how much fun you can have, even at mid-winter, in this remote and challenging place.

Heritage (12/10/02) I’ve just loaded up on mac & cheese, the mainstay diet of grandchildren and live alone grandpas, (topped off with a Vollwerth’s smoked bratwurst, a local favorite), thrown a bevy of logs on the fire, and poured myself a nice glass of Russian River Chardonnay. My cardiologist would be appalled, but I’m a happy camper. A bit late getting going tonight as I’ve spent a couple of delightful hours helping my good friend, ninety plus Charlotte Catoni, unravel the mysteries and experience the wonder of her first computer. Such a thrill, reminding me of the joy I experienced at my first successful email exchange many years ago. I’m “on call”, making several trips a day around the harbor to provide a fix for the many dead-ends we all experience in becoming “computer literate”. For someone who grew up without electronics, not even phones, the computer and its Internet capabilities, must seem like magic. The sparkle in her eye as new visions are unraveled, is more than ample reward for my meager assistance.

I write often in this journal of the grandeur of our physical setting. In truth, the many moods and awesome power of the big lake, the dominance of the spectacular Keweenaw escarpment, the beauty of our harbors, beaches and bays, the vigor of our summer and winter storms, and, the serenity of the bush are all much of what makes this place so special. But the diversity of our culture, the richness of our history, and the stories and lives of the people who inhabit this rocky Superior shore are equally appealing. Charlotte, for instance, beguiles me with stories of her childhood in Painsdale (named for Paine, a Painsdale resident, who established the first Paine Weber investment office in that little mining town), and the joy of spending teenage summers in the 1920s and ‘30s at the Goodell family camp in Grand Marais. Last winter I was captivated by the diary entries of Emily Getchel (sp?), Frank Raley’s grandmother, as she recorded her daily life as a late 1800’s and early 1900’s privileged Houghton, College Avenue, matron. (According to her, 30 below winter days were common.) The stories our Historical Society are compiling of Eagle Harbor’s lightkeepers and gold medal awarded lifesavers are equally fascinating.

I thought of these earlier Copper Country people as I sat in the little Episcopal church in Calumet last Sunday and was bathed in the colorful light cast among the pews by sunlight flowing through the church's beautiful stained glass “saints of the church” windows – each window a gift of a “pillar of the church” family of long ago, a time when the pews, now occupied by not more than a dozen on a good Sunday, were full. We have a rich heritage.

For now, I focus on less meaningful tasks of preparing for the holidays, including cleaning up my camp to avoid embarrassment when holiday visitors stop by, and completing the financial record keeping and membership management chores of our very active and successful Historical Society. It’s a bit hectic, but strolls along the ice capped shore, walks or skis back into the bush, and hikes up the hill to Copper Falls and Central are great diversions. Many of my Harbor neighbors gather for small informal pre-holiday dinners and parties, with the major events on hold until our many holiday visitors arrive. I’m a bit too reserved, too inner focused, for this scene – perhaps the product of too much solo time at sea and in the bush. (It’s also unfortunately a reality that by virtue [actually, lack thereof] of some of my conduct over the last year, I’ve abused my welcome among some of the participants at these gatherings. We reap what we sow.)

In any event, most of the town, along with Harbor Inn regulars from throughout Keweenaw, will gather at the Inn tomorrow evening for Mary and Dick’s annual open house. Lots of Christmas toys and gifts will be collected for Keweenaw’s needy kids. This is a much-anticipated event in our early holiday season, and always a wonderful and enjoyable evening for all, with Mary and her galley crew serving up an exciting and so delicious array of treats. The place will be packed.

As I close this journal entry the night sky has cleared, a waxing moon is dipping into the western horizon, and I see for the first time my winter nighttime companion, the constellation Orion, sparkling in the southeastern sky. A clear December night sky is unusual, and a treat. Not a good omen for the snow we badly need for the holidays, but a sampling of the brilliant star lit skies we can look forward to and enjoy in late January.

Gale Flags (12/7/02) The Coast Guard has raised the gale warning flags and already the lake is roaring. Light lake effect snow swirls in from the lake, slightly obscuring the dancing in the winter darkness Christmas lights I’ve draped around the adolescent pine just outside my harbor view window. I’m tucked inside my cozy camp, the sweet smell of brightly burning oak mixing with the temping aroma of a couple of pumpkin pies baking in the oven. (One is a birthday present for my neighbor Mid Willoughby, the other to placate my sweet deprived palate and share with my primary pumpkin pie aficionado, Doug Schubert.) The town is quiet. Many of my neighbors are up in the copper town on this Saturday eve enjoying the revelry of the annual Miscowaubik Club holiday shindig. I’m content – swirling snow, a noisy lake, the comfort of camp, a music box of opera (Saint-Saens’ Samson et Delila tonight), and a blank and begging Harbor Journal document are more than sufficient for my soul.

The radio scanner is alive with the chatter of laker skippers comparing notes on gathering storms and plans for winter ship lay-up. Road Commission plow drivers are reporting Keweenaw snow conditions to their foreman. The skippers are efficient messagers (until they start sharing notes on retirement and planned winter layover travels – none have signed up for warm water cruises), but the plow drivers, alone (with their wingman) in their dark truck cabs on deserted roadways, seem to yearn for the comfort of another human voice. The skippers speak the King’s English, or at least the lower lake version of same, but there is no mistaking the more interesting and lively “Mohawk Finnish” dialect of our local heroes.

My last epistle, challenging the doom and gloom emulating from snow and ice bound Durham, NC and environs, provoked a rash of protests from the afflicted. I didn’t realize how serious things really were down there until I learned that Harbor natives and converts, temporarily stuck in the ice laden Learned Triangle, had resorted to frying frozen pasties, smuggled in from the Copper Country, on propane grills to stay alive – a situation compounded by locall water systems being shut down in the absence of electrical power, and thus no flush toilets. I weep at the news of good Cornish pasties being put to the torch, but chuckle at the image of cultivated Cornish cousins out digging pit privies in their very immaculate back yards.

Tomorrow, the few of us who inhabit this forlorn bit of Superior shore between color season and holiday will gather around the still struggling Harbor Christmas tree to commemorate the advent of the holiday season. Kids, there will be some thanks to the lively Clevenger clan, Ann’s Kipfer’s delightful Ashley, and Don and Patti Keith’s nieces and nephews, will brave our near zero windchills to decorate the outdoor tree with bird treat decorations. Less brave adults will avoid the cold and cozy up to the inside Township Hall tree. I’ll tuck Abby’s favorite rag pooch among the branches of the outdoor tree, a tree she loved to harvest after the kids left. Santa, aka Wayne Sickler, will ride in on his Keweenaw sleigh (a fire truck or 4 wheeler) to everyone’s delight. We’ll have lots of treats (including my monkey bread), and much good fellowship and caroling, assisted by good neighbor and local music impresario, Paul Freshwater. The township hall crew, Ann and Jeane, will be our hosts, arranging our food offerings and, thankfully, cleaning up our mess. It will be another very precious Eagle Harbor moment!

I derive much satisfaction from my outdoor tree lights. Certainly no match for the beautiful displays of some of my Harbor neighbors (Marilyn Marshall in particular – I’ll get a picture), but in their miniscule and isolated “end-of-road” setting they seem so fitting for my place in life. Not trepidation, but assurance, a guiding star, yea a lighthouse, safely guiding me to yet another safe port in my life’s voyage. I know, a bit too romantic, but comforting. When I stop frockling about the holiday tree, no longer sharing my joy with the season and my hope for the morrow, that’s when you need to start praying for me. For now, I’m fine. No gale flags in my life.

Merry Christmas! And, if you are on your way to the Harbor to share our holiday, we who mind the store while you are gone, wish you a safe journey and look forward to having you in our company during this blessed time.

Curfew (12/5/02) A snow curfew? I’ve tuned my radio to my favorite cable classical music radio station, WCPE, from Raleigh, Durham, NC (thanks to Bill Jackson’s Harbor cable), and the announcer just reported that the mayor of Durham has declared a “snow curfew”, ostensibly to keep people off the road as the community grapples with an apparently paralyzing two or three inch snowfall. I hope our harbor regulars, Bill Medlyn and Chuck Davidson, safely tucked in their Durham winter residences, have called city hall to advise their mayor to “get real”. Can you envision Jim Boggio or Doug Sherk, our town supervisors emeritus and illustrious, respectively, posting such a notice on our local static news hour, cable channel 28? If they did, we would all snowshoe over to their camp to share in the single malt!

This startling news from Durham arrived as I returned from this winter’s inaugural trek around the Harbor ski trail. Not enough snow cover yet to allow Bruce and his grooming crew to do their thing, but just enough to temp a snow playboy like me to get out and test my ski legs. I thought I might be first on the trail, but the presence of an uphill herringbone track pattern with a big pooch running alongside, told me that once again our Inn impresario, cross country champ Mary, had already earned the season’s trail breaking honors. I took more than the usual allotment of tumbles as my skies hesitated on bare spots as my body lurched ahead, but I made it around the course without major damage to body or reputation. Once again a bit of a crisis at “calamity gully”, as trailside saplings, seemingly turned giant first growth pine, jumped out into my path. A few bruises on my butt as I bottomed out, but no sprains or fractured bones. Lots of small critter tracks in the day’s fresh snow, but surprisingly few deer tracks. The hunters must have had a productive harvest.

The trail time was peaceful and refreshing. No wind whistling through the tall pines, no mummer from the placid big lake, and no noisy machines charging by on the nearby snowmobile trails. A lightly falling snow softened the track left by Mary, silencing the slide of my skies. I’m not a seeker of monastic silence, the WCPE “curfew time” Thursday night opera now flooding my fireside space is a delight, but few sensory experiences are as satisfying as the silence of the bush at rest. For me it’s a tonic, something like a steam bath, drawing from the mind and body all the tension and distraction generated by life’s daily encounters. Perhaps escapism, but there’s a clarity, a pureness, a sense of newborn innocence, that’s so appealing. The opportunity to bath in its presence is one of the true joys of my life at Eagle Harbor.

Things were not quit as peaceful during the latter stages of my drive back to the Harbor last evening. As winter darkness enveloped the roadway near Twin Lakes, I encountered a heavy snowfall that persisted until I dropped down the Tri Mountain hill into South Range. The roadway was obliterated, and I crept along at 10 to 20 MPH, eyes seeking the roadside snow windrow and pavement edge stripe. I seemed to be the only fool on the road (perhaps a curfew had been declared.) My only encounter was with a big log hauler – a near disaster. I’d wandered into the approaching lane, mistaking the roadway center stripe as the right edge stripe. Fortunately for both of us, the log truck driver had made the same mistake, and we made a two toot pass. For you landlubbers, that’s starboard to starboard, or right side to right side. Not good! I was badly shaken by this encounter and pulled off the road at South Range for a brief respite and a prayer of thanks to whoever was looking out for me. I thought about checking in at the “Corner Bar” for a tension reliever, but pressed on.

Now as the opera ends, and the announcer has upgraded the Durham curfew to a “state of emergency”, the soothing strains of Massenet’s Meditation from Thais distant me from the North Carolina trauma and lull me to sleep - a sleep no doubt destined to be deep and peaceful thanks to the energy depleted and serenity experienced during today’s inaugural ski trail trek.

As I douse the lights, I note a thin vale of lake effect snow falling through the shimmer of light cast by the street light down the road. There is no movement about town. Eagle Harbor is in its perpetual “winter curfew.” Ah, such peace!

. Thanksgiving (11/13/02) I’ve just returned from a stroll through the quiet darkness and fresh snow of this mid November early evening. The new snow, just an inch or two, is so soft, and so beautiful. Except for a single car track along M-26, my erratic trail of footprints in the light snow blanketing the road is the sole evidence of human presence in our little hamlet. Most of my neighbors' camps are dark, adding to the sense of solitude and remoteness. The pesky street lights are doing their awful thing, but the lightly falling snow has softened and diffused their light to that of a full moon, producing a brilliant array of diamond like sparkles among the fresh snow crystals. The lake has temporarily paused in its noisy change of season transition, now just a soft background mummer. It’s cold, at least by our banana belt standards, a few degrees below freezing, but I felt comfortable without cap and gloves. I returned to camp reluctantly, but compelled by the woefully long list of tasks I need to complete before travelling to Minneapolis on Friday to jump the freight to California.

The opportunity to gaze upon and hold my now month old new LA grandson, and see the happy smiles of daughter Mary and husband Bert, the proud parents, is a prospect I relish. Equally appealing will be the stop in Milwaukee on the way home to visit with my widowed Sarah and her three fascinating children. Sarah, her children and I will then gather in Minneapolis with Carol for Thanksgiving – not the happiest of times given the still lingering pain and difficult ajustments resulting from our son-in-law David’s tragic death just over a year ago. But we have much to be thankful for. Ethan’s new life, Sarah's inner strength and she and her children’s slow yet steady emergence from their grief, our collective good health and financial security, daughter Mary’s new job (with benefits!), our many and so valued friends, and the precious cache of warm memories of our many happy times together.

So, the Harbor Web will be in limbo until a few days after Thanksgiving. I’ll miss the opening of deer season, the pleasure of helping at the Little Brother’s Copper City Thanksgiving meal for the elderly, some of the several and much cherished pre-holiday gatherings of “quiet time” Harbor neighbors, and, regretfully, what I’m sure will be the first big blizzard of the new winter.

I Plan to pack Peregrine’s log book (along with the captivating Memories of Cleopatra), in my train duffel, and tug my laptop aboard, so that I might, upon my return, carry out my promise to share the log entries of one of this past summer’s Superior cruises with Harbor Web readers. I’m not sure the travel through the mystical badlands and rolling buffalo hills of the Dakota’s and the grandeur of Montana's awesome big sky country, the fascinating ride down along the bank of the wild and historic Columbia River, the breathtaking views as the train twists through the Cascades, the beauty of the fertile California valleys, the chug back over the snow laden Rockies, or even the mesmerizing "clickety-clack" as the train speeds across the grain fields of America's heartland on the way back to Chicago, will each afford much opportunity for key tapping, but I’ll do my best. Perhaps, by the time the ice has closed cozy summer anchorages, we will be able to share some of the many adventures and wonderful moments of a summer of sailing on the big lake.

As I pause for a minute to gaze through my freshly washed windows at the beauty of this evening, I see the lights of Barb Koop’s home reflecting off the rippling harbor waters. My heart leaps across the darkness. The challenges in my life seem insignificant compared to the trauma she and Don, and their entire family, are enduring as they cope with the consequences of Don’s major injury. They are strong and caring people, but as this Thanksgiving arrives, it must be difficult for them to find much to be thankful for. Yet, Barb’s note of this morning, posted on this web site, offered thanks for the outpouring of concern and support they have received from neighbors and friends at this very difficult time in their lives. Her capacity for thanksgiving, and Don’s, even as their lives are struggling to cope with this life-altering event, is a lesson for all of us. They will be in my Thanksgiving prayer, as I’m sure they will be in yours.

The snowfall is lessening as the evening progresses, but it’s even more beautiful outdoors. Looks like three or four inches of fluffy snow. The heck with my waiting list of tasks. I’m heading for the lighthouse to watch its sweeping beam probe through the snow laden sky. Always a treat for we winter buffs. Don't be surprised if you find a snow angel up there in the morning. (I promise to stay off the rocks.)

May all of us have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for!

Noisy Neighbor (11/10/02)

The dark, foreboding, photo of black waves surfing across the harbor entry reefs I posted this morning was taken in the fall of 1997, but accurately portrays a lake mood of our omnipresent neighbor that is always dominant in late fall and early winter. The mood today, like that in the photo – raw, awesome in its power, and seemingly hell bent to devour its confining boundary - is a mood that that few of our summer vacationers ever experience. It’s noisy and commanding, at times seemingly threatening to the very existence of we mere mortals who grasp for refuge to its rocky shore. Yes, we who are inland, blessed with the asylum of protected harbor, are spared the full brunt of the lake’s wild exurbance, but we all sense and respect its power – power sufficient to consume the billion year-old basalt that serves as our bulwark against oblivion.

OK, so perhaps I’m once again engaging in the overly dramatic, just another bit of my hyper journalizing. In truth, my day was mostly spent alongside a soothing fire, in quiet pursuit of the more mundane aspects of my Eagle Harbor life. A few more chapters of Margaret George’s 996 page Memories of Cleopatra; drafting a double score of letters thanking folks for their financial support of our award winning Historical Society; preparing a mailing seeking more such support; soothing muscles ravaged by yesterday’s trek up to the bluff overlooking Copper Falls (I never learn!); drafting a report to our Township Board on the plans for our wonderful nearly 1,000 acre Marsh-Dunes recreation and wildlife refuge area; and, most relishing of all, enjoying the prospect of a planned pre-Thanksgiving train trip to California to experience the joy of my new grandson. The lake, despite the awesome visuals offered by giant waves smashing against the harbor’s inner shore, and its very noisy presence, only occasionally distracted me from these pleasantries of life. But it never forgets to let me know it’s there.

As I write, the Harbor’s Packer faithful are gathered about Duke Disciple’s indoor large screen digital box to enjoy and cheer on their apparently Super Bowl bound millionaire heroes. As was the case of the recent election, I’ve tuned out. It’s not that I don’t appreciate work well done. Gosh knows, the NFL’s example of maximizing financial gain from the spectacle of adults playing a boy’s game, and the players exuberant embrace of this annual dance around the pigskin, should serve as an example and inspiration for all of us distracted by what we mistakenly regard as more serious, but acknowledge to be less appealing, pursuits. My hang-up is the trappings of these televised events - the barrage of hucksterism (what in other venues is called spam), the constant and shameless self indulging hype, and, of course, the analysis ad nauseam. (I know, don’t remind me, I’ve just forgotten how to have fun!)

My recent (actually Olaf Lombardie’s) expose and homily on the virtues, or lack thereof, of an outdoor snow stadium for TV viewing of late season, possibly post season Packer games, generated mixed reactions from the Harbor community. The alleged pillagers of the public trust and treasury were, as might be expected, much amused and only slightly aggrieved. (Or so I hope.) Others, perhaps the closeted local anarchists among us (count me in) were, of course, appalled (asking that their names not be disclosed in fear of retribution.) One wrote, “George, if only half of what Olaf reported is true, the Governor should call in a special prosecutor, possibly Ken Starr, to fabricate a case against these perpetrators.” Olaf’s response, “ Hey, my only objective was to cause trouble. I never claimed half, or for that matter, any, of what I alleged was true.” So much for the standards of responsible journalism practiced at this stop on the web.

During yesterday’s long trek up to the bare rock bluff above Copper Falls, I paid more than the usual attention to the surface of this well worn trail. A few days earlier, as a group of Harbor neighbors and I were sketching out some plans for the township’s truly remarkable over square mile proposed recreation and wildlife refuge between the village and Sand Bay, I was reminded how the many millennium rise and fall of the big lake has left its mark on the land. Once so high that only the tops of our tallest hills were above water, standing as islands in an immense lake, the lake has since receded down the rocky spine we now call Keweenaw, pausing briefly (hundreds of years) to carve out new shorelines. The loose rock along the old Copper Falls trail, nearly a hundred feet above and a mile inland from the present lake, is beach rock – deposited there when the lake stormed ashore at that elevation. Further up the trail one encounters old sand dunes, dunes that bordered the “great sand bays” of the lake at an even earlier time.

Yes, my exuberant and noisy neighbor, the big lake, today embroiled in frenzy of seasonal change, never fails to intrude on my day – whether it be through the sheer force of its beauty and energy, the play of its many moods, or the physical evidence of its forever presence that lies scattered about our feet. Noisy or not, it’s a much welcomed and respected neighbor.

A Walk In The Woods (11/08/02)

I hiked up to Central late Wednesday afternoon. "Up" is the operative word. It’s a good thing that I’m blessed with the forgetfulness of a mature mind. If I could remember how strenuous this six-mile up-hill trek is, I would never embark. My excuse for this abuse was to attend a meeting of a Historical Society Board committee that is attempting to move the last of the squatters off this historic property. I’m not unsympathetic to our squatters’ desire to remain on the land. It’s gorgeous up there. But we need to do something. If we don’t, the law apparently says that after so many years, not sure how many, squatters could wind up having rights to this land that the members of our Society have paid dearly for.

Each time I trek up the old dirt road between Central and the Eagle Harbor “cut-off” road, I think of my mom’s recollections of travelling this road in a horse drawn carriage as she and her Calumet family, very early in the last century, made the day long trip to Eagle Harbor. Thanks to the loggers, the road is likely in better condition now, but it’s still rugged. For the carriage riders that nearly mile long very steep drop from atop the bluff above Copper Falls, down to the Eagle Harbor cut-off road, must have been a white knuckle ride. (Probably no picnic for the horses either.)

The deer were on the move, as they usually are late in the day. But there seemed to be a sense of urgency in their movement - as if they could sense the impending arrival of the hunters. Our local Daniel Boons are out baiting their stands - with Halloween pumpkins, apples, corn, carrots, and whatever they believe Bambi’s mom and dad can’t resist. I wonder what ole Daniel would think of this baited stand hunting technique. Seems like a “shoot”, not a hunt. (He’d probably approve, given the greater likelihood of success at a time when venison was a necessity of life, not just meat for stuffing cocktail hour sausage hors d’oeuvres.)

The smart deer, those that have survived a few bouts with the boomers, head for the safety of the thick cedar swamps – places where even the hardiest hunters are hesitant to trod. Lots of our four footed neighbors will be felled, of course, but I’m always impressed, that for the majority of deer/hunter encounters, the deer usually win. That’s what makes deer hunting so appealing to many of my Harbor neighbors. It’s still a quest – hardly a slam-dunk for even the most skilled hunter.

It was good to enjoy the diversion of thoughts about hunting and the carriage rides of old as I trudged along through the snow blanked bush on this day after the election that so energized and polarized much of the nation. I voted, mostly out of a sense of citizenship, but the rancor, yea meanness, of today’s politicking dampened my life long passion for political engagement. I tuned out; not even bothering to waste a night waiting for chastened voter pulse broadcast pros to call out the winners. As usual, it turns out I voted mostly for losers, giving me some satisfaction that I’m still able to resist the heavily financed siren songs of pill pushers, greenhouse gas producers, lecherous lawyers, natural resource exploiters, media monopolists, liability evaders, and warmongers. So, I’ve tipped my political persuasion (probably no surprise to long time readers of the journal.) It’s a good thing I’m happy in the bush – where I can cause little harm!

I often think of my grandparents and grandchildren as I travel the paths first used by our prehistoric miners, and revel in the many attributes of this remote outpost along the ancient and rugged shore of the big lake. This is a place that seems to enable a perspective of life that lifts one beyond contemporary times – a perspective that relegates the political and social turmoil of our time to its rightful lesser place in the long walk of mankind. There is real sense of a life nourishing past here, and an equally persuasive awareness that our brief occupancy of this blessed turf is simply a building block, hopefully constructive, upon which our children, grandchildren and their successors will weave their lives.

I’m unsure what it is that engenders this perspective. Some say it’s simply the fruit of comfortable retirement, which I acknowledge in part. But not having to worry about putting bread on the family table, nor being totally entangled by the fascination of career, the duties of family building, and the stimulation of active community engagement, are not, in themselves, sufficient cause for my growing preoccupation and reverence for things that have been, and for things that will be.

Indeed, one would need to be thoughtless not to be captivated by the abundance of evidence encountered each day that celebrates the history of this place and its peoples. My trek to Central, for instance, was resplendent with memorials to our history – old indian trails that became carriage roads, abundant workings left by prehistoric and 19th century miners, long abandoned houses and old foundations scattered about once heavily populated and world renowned mine locations, and forests laden with the rotted stumps of the giant white pines felled more than a century ago to provide housing for the tidal wave of Midwestern settlers. The past is so present in our daily lives.

Add the influence of the beauty of our natural environment and you have the chemistry for the sense of stewardship that I and many of my Harbor neighbors embrace. It motivates us to preserve, protect and advance to new generations the trust of land and history we have inherited and so enjoy. We seek to have our grandchildren, and their grandchildren, share, and nurture, the blessings and lessons of this special place.

I returned from my “walk in the woods” physically exhausted, but psychologically rejuvenated. Therein lies the truth of this place – a challenging yet stimulating environment. We’re so lucky!

Pipe Break (11/04/02)

I wiggled my haunches into the soft and cool sand of Eagle Harbor's swimming beach yesterday afternoon, leaned my back against the pine post with the sign atop warning local pooches they were not welcomed in the summer bathing area, and enjoyed a few moments of sheer contentment in the warming grasp of a rare burst of early November sunlight. A waning breeze, drifting down from the still colorful ridge shouldering the harbor, lightly teased the cooling waters lapping quietly along the shore. It seemed to be a moment for the pipe, so like the voyageurs of old, who measured their travels along Superior's shores in "pipes" or resting times, and probably enjoyed a pipe break on this very beach, I lit up, drawing in the cancerous, but oh so soothing smoke of the Virginia weed. (The more heavily travelled voyageur routes along Superior's Ontario shore are littered with "pipe" and "puff" islands.) My eyes surveyed the scene before me - a scene I thought like that those early visitors to this shore experienced.

This season, between color and big snow, has always seemed to me as a time when it's easiest to connect to the people and time of the mid to late 18th and early 19th centuries in Keweenaw, in what was then the American frontier. The trackless beaches of our early winter are cluttered with only the residue of a recent storm, the billowing cloud laden sky broken only by the graceful flight of gull and eagle, and the slumbering land shows little activity evidencing the presence of man. Yes, the camps of our time line the shore, and our pathways cut swaths through the adjacent forest, but in their "between seasons" hibernation their presence seems almost statuary, just lifeless memorials of times that have been, and icons for times that will be.

Could, I wondered, the voyageurs who rested and puffed where I now languish, gazing out across waters unchanged since their time, and up into the hills equally unchanged, have felt any different than I - thankful for the good fortune of life and awed by the majesty of the scene before them? I'm sure my concept of their time and circumstance are romanticized, it was surely a harsh existence, but they as surely found comfort in the raw beauty and serenity of their surroundings - as I do now.

There are, of course, many such "pipe break" moments and places in all our lives, at least in the lives of those of us graced with circumstance of being in rich natural settings, and blessed with innate sensitivity to their influence on our being. For me, and perhaps for others who have shared the Eagle Harbor experience, such moments are enhanced by the presence of the big lake - not just its extraordinary beauty, but more importantly, its subtle but sure tempering of the rhythm and substance of our lives.

There is no more persuasive evidence of Superior's reach into our souls than the insightful and moving testimony I received earlier today from a young lady, Tami, in far away Mississippi - sharing with all of us in her, Ode on Gitche Gumee, how just a brief childhood encounter with the grandeur and many moods of this, the grandest, and arguable the most mystical of our planet's great lakes, has so profoundly touched the very fiber of her life.

I doubt that the voyageurs who shared my harbor beach for a "pipe break" so long ago, and certainly not I of this contemporary time, were or are as gifted as Tami in so eloquently capsulizing the meaning and magic of such moments in the presence of the raw beauty and serenity of this place, and the lake that so shapes it. But I feel it, as I'm certain did those hardy men of that earlier time. And like our young friend from "down river", my life has forever been changed.

Harvest Time. (10/28/02)

I posted "breaking news" on the Harbor Web last Wednesday morning that despite reports of good snow "above the dump"; our beloved Eagle Harbor was still snow free. (Yes, while most of the civilized world is focused on impending war, corporate shenanigans, hostage taking, and snipers, the big news here - at least for those of us blissfully ignoring reality - is still the state of the weather and its implications for this fall's deer season and next summer's berry crop.) As I posted this important news, it began to snow, heavily, not just the fine grained offering of another lake effect snow cloud drifting in from the lake, but the big flake, wet stuff we normally don't experience until late winter. Not even the almost always on the mark weather soothsayers down at Marquette weather headquarters foresaw this, so while I felt a tinge of irresponsible journalizing, no harm was intended. (Or hopefully done - although I did notice a flurry of October snowfall forecast downgrades soon after my posting.)

It was a beautiful snow, and my hiking partner, Bruce, was as eager as I was to doff the summer boat mocs, lace on the winter bush boots, and hit the trail. We walked most of the Harbor ski trail, perhaps eight to ten miles of crunching through pristine snow, and like a couple of kids, took delight in shaking low hanging snow laden broughs and surprising each other with cooling snow showers. I was puzzled by the absence of critter tracks, not a single deer print observed in the almost four hours of our journey. Bruce, much wiser than I in the ways of our four footed neighbors, assured me that as evening shadows crept across the fresh snow, the deer would be roaming, seeking their evening meal. Sure enough, when I returned to the trail on the following morning, there were tracks galore.

Now, almost a week following that gorgeous snow, and its inevitable melt, the land and flora have returned to the color of late fall. The red, yellow and brown are muted, but still present as leaves, nurtured by the warmth of summer and extra moisture of our rainy early fall, tenaciously hang on to their summer hosts. The summer sun, entering into its retirement season, rises later and retires earlier, but is still capable of bathing the north facing forested slopes of our beautiful Keweenaw ridge in its golden glow. Yet as solstice yields to equinox, and ole sol finds it increasingly difficult to creep above the Keweenaw spine, the dark green of spruce and lighter greens of pine, along with the sweet smell of decay, will once again dominate our sensory systems.

The waning sun and hunter moons of late autumn tell us it's harvest time. Yes, for some, that means bird, bear and deer, but for most of us, it's simply a time of harvesting our boats from the rapidly cooling water, and our yard junk before the snow buries it. I've got the boat fleet put away and tied down anything that could be a missile in a big winter winds. I've thought about once again acquiring gun and dog to join the hunt, but my eyesight and conduct rule out the gun, and, while I'm weakening, a new field pooch doesn't make much sense for someone who spends four or five months a year afloat. So, for now, I'm just harvesting pumpkins for pies and for jack-o-lanterns in our Harbor Halloween Pumpkin Art Festival.

For the Pumpkin Fest, I've given a good deal of thought to what might b a candidate for the "scariest" pumpkin prize. I've decided on a 401K pumpkin, which all who have such a pumpkin in their investment portfolio, will agree is obvious winner.

As for the pies, I've committed to baking enough of my secret recipe scrumptious Harvest Pumpkin pies to satisfy the taste buds of all who will gather at the Eagle Harbor Store on Tuesday evening. It's opening night of our Pumpkin Fest, and the assembly of Eagle Harbor folk to welcome our new neighbors and storekeepers, Dick and Colleen. My guess is we'll consume about ten pies. I'm advised that I can't bake more than two at a time, and I'm a bit short of oven space, so it looks like a daylong adventure in pie making.

Good bakers stoke up the fires before dawn. The ship's clock on my wall just called the midnight watch on deck. I better crawl into my berth.

Bumps on the Head. (10/21/02)

The new winter season's first lingering snow drifted in from the lake last Saturday night. At dawn, big billowing snow clouds raced across the brightening blue sky, their edges tinged pink by the rising sun. A classic Copper Country lake effect storm. Cool rooftops and bush groundcover retained their snow frosting through most of the following day, but the still warm earth in exposed areas made short work of Heikka Lunta's first offering. Just an hors d'oeuvre for what many believe will be a banquet of snow this winter, but enough to cause my first, and perhaps last, winter mishap.

Eager, as always, to share the joy of new snow with Harbor Web snow junkies, I tossed a coat over my pajamas at dawn and raced up to the lighthouse for what I hoped would be a great shot of the newly painted red lighthouse surrounded by fresh snow, set against a backdrop of morning sun kissed breakers rolling across the harbor's treacherous offshore reefs. Not satisfied with the composition of the shot from atop the bluff, I crawled down closer to the angry surf. I braced myself against a wall of rock as the wind buffeted me about. "Great shot", I thought as I released my hold on the rock face to steady the camera. Suddenly, my footing slipped on the wet rocks, and down I went, my head banging against the rock face as I fell back.

I'm not sure how long I was out, perhaps an hour based on how far the sun had traversed, but as consciousness returned I found myself further down the slope, just a few feet from the reach of the crashing surf - trembling, as if in shock, and sporting a big, bloody and throbbing gash in the back of my head. I gathered the still intact camera from the rocks and groggily staggered back to camp and a hot shower. So, my friends, no great photos of winter's first LES storm. I tried!

As Sunday evening arrived I decided a couple glasses of good wine should be part of the healing process. Perhaps a chance to give some serious thought about why I continue to engage in such foolishness. Alas, a wonderful visit by some good harbor friends the evening before had depleted my meager wine supply. So I ventured up to our harbor emergency room, the Eagle Harbor Inn, for treatment. Very quiet at the Inn, as it usually is on a early winter Sunday evening, but, as always, a friendly and interesting bunch of counselors gathered about in the greenish hue and the din of far away football. The chief pharmacist, just returned from a reported breathtaking performance as the beautiful stepmother at young Rich's marriage to Kelly, quickly filled my prescription. As the potion soothed my soul, I found myself in the happy conversation clutch of a fellow writer and romantic - Peter Oikarinen.

Peter, is the author and photographer of a Copper Country classic, Armour, A Lake Superior Fisherman, a touching personal testimonial to a lifetime friend, mentor and confident, Armour Sarkela. Armour, a Finnish-American, lived alone near Sedar Bay and fished the dangerous waters surrounding Keweenaw for sixty years. His boat, Hope, now owned by our Keweenaw Historical Society, will soon join the display at the Society's Eagle Harbor Light Station Commercial Fishing Museum. I have long admired Peter's work, including Island Folk, The People of Isle Royale, an insightful and reverent collection of interviews with the island's early settlers and fishing families. I was delighted to listen to him as he responded to my probing about the joys and challenges of writing, especially writing about the people, places and happenings of our blessed Copper Country. As potion followed potion, our shared passion for writing transported us into an animated exchange about the "why" of writing - causing the eyes of our fellow Inn customers to glaze over in disbelief. Great fun!

This is indeed a blessed place. Even today, as raw eastern wind borne sleet and rain smother the harbor area, and snow swirls along the tops of the mist shrouded Keweenaw ridge (a couple inches reported in Calumet - not sure about Delaware), I'm soothed by the coziness of camp, the ever present mummer of the big lake, the warm memories of good friends and good conversation, and the muted but still beautiful mosaic of fall color blanketing the surrounding forest. I can't imagine living anywhere else. But imagine I must. I weep at the prospect.

The" bumps on the head", and the all too numerous other self-inflicted wounds, are adding up.


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