Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A couple of nice fall weekends

This time of year, with the shorter days and evening meetings at school, outside work on the place is limited to weekends. Sometimes the weather doesn’t respect that schedule. But the past two weekends provided nice weather to work outside at least on one of the weekend days. We were able to clear off what should be cleared off and cover up what should be covered up. The gardens and hops yard are now tucked in for the winter. The shorter days are all the sudden much shorter with the time change. Time change is always hard to get used to. The early dark just seems to sap our energy. We come home in the dark, make dinner, but then rather than working outside after dinner, denning behavior takes over (and by denning behavior I mean falling asleep early in the family room). This past Sunday, we got some outside work done early then headed out on a supply run (and very nice lunch) to our next larger town (Petoskey). Regardless of how many times I cross the Mackinac Bridge, the straights -- that expanse of water with the collection of islands viewed from 200' up -- still amazes me. As does the view of the Little Traverse Bay from Petoskey and as does any view of the St. Marys River up here. The view at Petoskey especially struck me this time. As you drive to the north from the south part of town, you see out over Little Traverse Bay, with the state park to the east and Harbor Springs to the north and open Lake Michigan to the west. I felt like stopping people and saying, “stop right now and look at this view!” Don't think I wouldn't do that. I was at a small group meeting of teachers in Petoskey a few years back. During lunchtime announcements, my announcement was "before you come back to the session, be sure to step outside and look out over the bay and remember why we live on the Great Lakes." A wide landscape perspective like that makes a place more special to me. Being trapped in a narrow viewpoint makes me claustrophobic. But it’s only natural that people who live in areas of spectacular scenery would get accustomed to it and take it for granted. But this time I didn't stop and make anyone look. Maybe they all were as they were going about their errands and business. But I’d be curious to know how many do and how many don’t even notice anymore. I often posed that same question to myself when we lived out west where the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains formed the western backdrop. I pose that same question here in the Sault, sometimes to myself and sometimes out loud. This past summer, one of our local enviro-groups decided to try to help people remember that we live in some great scenery. “Lunch on the River” offered people an excuse for bringing their lunch to one of our riverfront parks. In our series of four events, we were at four different parks. We did not provide lunch. We did not have a formal meeting agenda. We had informal informative presentations and friendly discussions about upcoming parks and habitat projects people could get involved in. But the real purpose of each event was simply to get people to take time out from their hectic days and come look out over the river even just briefly over lunch. We’d get a dozen or so people and they seemed to appreciate the excuse to come to take the break and let the landscape perspective recharge them. I hope some stay in the habit and every now and then remember to stop and look and see what we have.


  1. We are so fortunate to live in a place where sweeping vistas of natural beauty surround us in northern Michigan. Recently, a colleague and I researched and wrote about the condition of the viewshed, soundscape, and night sky resources that are located in one particular national park. Considering these resources has changed my perspective on how I experience a place, even though on some fundamental level I have always responded to the natural beauty that unobstructed views of the landscape, sounds of nature, and a starry sky offer.

    I think that is the power of nature…it’s infectious. You really don’t have to be consciously aware of its intricacies to be affected and moved by its beauty. However, I think advocacy does require awareness, intention, and correct persistence. Without those individuals who respond to nature in a way that recognizes the interconnectedness of life, many of our natural places would be transformed into something that no longer preserves the essence of what makes a place truly unique. And in the end, regardless of those who may not be connected to a place as deeply as others working to protect it, we all win when we preserve something that gives back, even if we are receiving nature’s gifts at an unconscious level.