Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Red Sky in Morning

This isn't something special to just our place, but after seeing the special sunrise this morning, I did feel compelled to write about it. We've had impressive winds as a low pushed through the area with overcast skies and driving rain. But this morning it was clear in the east which let the sun's rays in under the overcast on the remainder of the sky. That made for a gorgeous sunrise with the ceiling lit brightly red and some scuddy clouds in the east adding additional interest. More wind but not so much rain forecast for today. The late fall storms are a special part of our place (gales of November and all that...)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Being transported - with a nod to steven wright

A work of art, a piece of music, a dance, a story can take you from the hub-bub of where you are to, at least in your mind, a more serene place. From the ordinary to the extraordinary. Performances can be moving. We may say of a less satisfying performance, ‘it did not transport me.’

I was driving through town the other day with a van of students heading toward a field site. The scene was not at all hub-bub-ish, just an ordinary drive through town, but the radio caught my attention with a piano rendition of one of the Brahms symphonies. I kept my mind on the serious business of driving, but listened more closely to the music and found that it put me in a different frame of mind, in a different place.

Since we were on the way to the Monacle Lake woodland, one of my favorite field sites, I thought about the feeling one gets when viewing a favorite landscape. Can we say it takes you away like art takes you away? Where does it take you? Aren’t you already there?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lake Owners' Associations: Neighbors joining forces to protect their place

One way some people interact with a favorite place they visit is to own a piece of it. Welcome to cottage country. For us year around residents, knowing that others want to own seasonal homes in our locale helps us remember how special our place is. The economic planners love seasonal residents and the economic vitality they add to a place.

One particular entity within cottage country is the Lake Owners’ Association. I was not familiar with this concept until we moved here several years ago. Until then, I had not lived in places that were so desirable to visit that people owned seasonal homes there.

Property owners around lakes form Lake Owners’ Associations to protect the value of their special place, the lake. For some lakes, anyone owning property on that lake must belong to the Association. Part of the dues paid to the Association go for environmental stewardship of the lake. Invasive species management, fisheries management, use regulations (such as horsepower limitations on motorboats) are handled by the Association. Some Associations monitor water quality (e.g., sampling aquatic macroinvertebrates) and species of concern (e.g., loons) in partnership with local conservancies or other environmental organizations. That type of lake owners’ associations are not to be confused with a homeowners’ association that promulgates restrictive covenants to regulate the minute details of life in the suburbs. I’m referring to associations that protect the environmental values of the property owners’ shared resource.

Such associations are not limited to lakes, there are terrestrial versions as well, but the lake versions are common up here on the inland lakes of Northern Michigan (and I imagine elsewhere in lake cottage country).

Last week I had the pleasure of assisting a local lake owners’ association by completing an invasive plant species survey of their lake. I didn’t find any big trouble, just a few pesky plants in a few spots that can be managed. Some lake owners’ associations don’t get too concerned about invasive plants until they start fouling propellers, so it’s nice to know that some are proactive about potential problems.

Imagine puttering around with the association manager on his low horsepower pontoon boat on a beautiful fall day on a beautiful lake after most of the property owners have left for the season. A few property owners were still there, and were out enjoying the day. As we passed, they caught up on news and arranged appointments for the manager to do various chores. I don’t know if Lake Woebegon has a Lake Owners’ Association, but if it does, I rather imagine it would be like what I saw.

Public access to lakes is great, but not all lakes can be publically owned. The ones that are privately owned do well if they have a Lake Owners’ Association looking after them. So here’s a shoutout to the associations that are out there keeping their places special in positive ways.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Real, Local Adventure

The area in which I live is sometimes referred to as ‘geographically isolated.’ Although we have a town of 70,000 right across the river/international border, it is some distance to even a medium-sized US town. A few villages are 20 to 30 minutes away. There’s a lot of open space, much of it public land. It’s easy to get yourself some distance away from others.

This ability to get away from others factors into our sense of place. There’s something about knowing that you’re some distance from potential rescue that lends a true sense of adventure to even an afternoon’s outing. The wise adventurer is prepared for most eventualities, but things happen. Many of us have stories about how we’ve found ourselves in some predicament or another, but I do not wish to regale you with such tales at this time. Suffice it to say that a recent event involving an colleague’s experience led me to realize that one of the ways in which we interact with our place, one of the ways in which our sense of place informs our lives up here, is the fact that a trip into the woods and fields can become a real adventure.