Sunday, June 27, 2010

Catching the Ferry

Ma’ikwe and I are on Drummond Island, which is as far east as you can go in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and not get out of your car. We’re tucked just under Sault Saint Marie and, as Sarah Palin would have already told you if she weren’t busy going rogue, you can see Ontario from our front porch.

We’re here for two glorious weeks, and so far the mosquitoes are not. While the daytime temperatures can dance into the 80s, it reliably drops into the 50s at night. That means sleeping with a blanket, which is only a wistful memory for those trying to negotiate the sultry summer nights back on the farm in northeast Missouri, where sheets are sometimes a bit much.
Ma'ikwe's Vacation
This is a recuperative and nostalgic vacation for Ma’ikwe. When she developed the symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue last November & December [see my blog of Dec 14, 2009, Adventures in Hydrotherapy, for more on this], she decided, wisely, to scale down the 2010 construction season on her new house. Instead of working right through the summer, she scheduled a break in late June, with the option of a second session in late summer if the building’s needs and her available energy were adequately aligned.

Removed from all the temptations of life at Dancing Rabbit, Ma’ikwe’s priority this fortnight is rest. One of the most insidious aspects of her illness is that she can do too much and not find out until 12-36 hours later, when body aches and lethargy descend to inform her that she had inadvertently drifted into deficit spending of her energy budget. It can take days to recover from an ill-advised burst of enthusiasm that, maddeningly, felt totally fine in the moment.
The journey up here has also been a stroll down memory lane. Ma’ikwe spent 7-8 years of her youth living in different places in the UP, and many summers in the area helping her Dad band birds on Great Lake islands as a wildlife biologist. As we drove up Wisconsin and made the trek across the UP from Menominee to St Ignace, Ma’ikwe would tell stories of what happened in her life at this point and that.
• We got out of the car in Manistique and sat on the dock where the family boat was often moored—she pointed out the exact berth where her father, brother, and she sometimes waited days for the weather to clear. The routine then was reading book after book, with the boredom of weather-bound ship life punctuated by forays to the nearby Pizza Hut.
• We pulled over at a little roadside store near Little Hog Island (just east of Naubinway), drawn by signage offering an improbable menu of pasties, Mackinac fudge, smoked fish, wild rice, maple syrup, and UP wines—a combination of local specialties you wouldn’t dare consume in the same sitting. Ma’ikwe had had it in mind all day that we’d stop in just such an establishment to get pasties and that alone would have made the stop successful. But it was better than that. In addition to scoring the meat-and-root-vegetable-filled dough pockets characteristically found of North Country mining culture (my wife claims pasties are the one and only way to appreciate rutabagas), Ma’ikwe secured a bottle of her favorite cherry wine from Traverse Bay Winery, and I happily bought a filet of smoked trout. While alcohol products are a staple of such hole-in-the-wall (or in this case, hole-in-the-woods) convenience stores, you typically cannot expect to find quality beer—there just isn’t enough space in the cooler. We knew however, that the Force was with us when we glanced at the beer selection as a last impulse. Along side a variety of de rigueur malted products from Miller, Coors, and Budweiser was one lonely 6-pack of Wild Blue, a potent blueberry-flavored micro-offering from Blue Dawg Brewing in Baldwinsville NY, that just happens to be Ma’ikwe’s absolute favorite beer. Yeehah!
• Outside Epoufette (where do they get these names?), we paused to appreciate the Cut River Gorge. Though the 231 steps to the bottom were more than Ma’ikwe wanted to negotiate (actually, it was the 231 steps up that she wanted no part of), I decided that a bit of aerobic activity was a nice contrast with two days of car travel and I traipsed to the bottom, where I admired how much earth moving (gorge forming) could be accomplished by the steady hydraulic audacity of a stream no more robust than a babbling brook. As an example of what can be accomplished with time and determination, it reminded me of the pyramids.
Laird's VacationThis is a working vacation for me. We’ve rented a small cabin for two weeks: it’s a modest 20x20 structure that’s not much more than a bed, bathroom, and a kitchenette (the smallest of 18 offerings available at Papin’s Resort). While rustic, it comes with electricity and internet access and I’ll be able to keep my oar in the water when it comes to handling email traffic, which claims about 2-3 hours daily. The cabin also comes with a view of Lake Huron from our front porch, and I’m anticipating many relaxing hours there with Ma’ikwe, a book, a drink, and a journal (in any combination).
In addition to gobs of unscheduled time with my wife (which is priceless), I’ll be working on a book about cooperative group dynamics [see my blog of Sept 25, 2009, Booking My Future, for more about this.] While I’d planned last winter to start carving out a couple half days per week to move this project along, I’ve enjoyed little success with that plan, always allowing the press of more immediate needs to claim my time. It was Ma’ikwe’s idea to set up this writing retreat as an alternate strategy, and she was wise to do so. (I just hope she wasn’t motivated to get sick to up the ante on my prioritizing the time away.)
In the next fortnight I intend to:
—Review what I’ve already written (which is a bunch)
—Determine my audience
—Organize the presentation into digestible chunks (read chapters)
—Select a style (probably a combination of principles illuminated by anecdotes & examples)
—Line out what writing does not yet exist, and what needs to be overhauled
With luck, I’ll even get to the point of doing some writing (other than blog entries).
• • •
We had started Saturday outside Green Bay (where, incidentally, I finally completed my NFL blackout bingo card by personally visiting every US city sporting a franchise). With only 300 miles and change to get to Drummond Island we took our time driving into and across the UP, and made a number of little stops along the way (some highlights of which I’ve reported above). Yesterday morning, before leaving our motel, Ma’ikwe had researched the ferry schedule from De Tour Village (which has to be my all-time favorite name for a ferry terminus) to Drummond Island and learned that a boat departs eastward every hour, at 40 minutes past the hour.
As we were “on vacation” and the wait couldn’t be more than 59 minutes, we weren’t paying attention to time. Imagine our surprise when we entered De Tour Village and noticed that the digital clock on the bank read 5:39. Turning the last corner, the ferry was immediately in front of us and the attendant waved us right on board. We had no sooner crossed the threshold, than they drew up the gangway. One minute later we were under way.
If timing is everything, this vacation is off to an auspicious start.

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