Sunday, September 18, 2022

"Wish you were here."

     "What will you do if it rains?" my wife asked, sensibility itself.
     I thought. It had rained before. But in the 10 years I've been going to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with a group of convivial men, the forecast had never been quite as damp as this weekend was supposed to be.
     "I suppose we'll do pretty much what we always do ," I replied. "Eat, drink, talk, take saunas, jump in the lake."
     Which was true, except that last part. Thursday night, I got ankle deep in a very frigid Lake Superior after luxuriating in the revivifying heat of our host's wood-fueled sweat lodge and some primal element stopped me right there. Others braved it to their knees, but I made an executive decision. "I'm stopping here," I announced to no one.
     And it didn't rain continually. Friday morning there were a few hours open for my brother and me to stride purposefully three miles up the road and three miles back, admiring wild turkeys and snakes, spiders and red apples. Saturday we went up and down the beach.
     True, there were no sunsets to speak of. A gradual darkening Friday, and a slight pinkening of the horizon Saturday night. The bonfire on the beach took a more liberal and persistent application of accelerant than is typically necessary. But it did get going, with the aid of logs that were appropriated from the dry sauna supply, and we all sat in chairs and shouted conversation above the roar of the surf crashing a dozen feet away.
     No conclusions, no epiphanies. I sat drained of thought staring in unthinking bovine contentment at the rime of lichen on a fir tree, or the glorious white bark of the birch trees everywhere.  There were some dramatic clouds that blew through Saturday night that were a wonder to behold.
    Though I can't say that world didn't intrude at some points. I did tend to occasionally consult my phone, out of habit more than anything else, like a tic of the work world that hadn't entirely quieted. Now and then I would check the chatter. Once there was a photo of camels along a shoreline and a selfie from a friend in Carthage, where he is detained because of political unrest. "Wish you were here," he wrote. I turned to display the blue line of the lake and the overhanging trees, held the camera before my face and exhaled a fine Cuban cloud into the lens, a sort of smokey kiss. "Ditto," I typed, sent the picture bouncing into the electronic aether, then returned to contemplation. 


  1. I used to go to the UP with my dad as a teenager and my 20's as a guest of a family friend who had a vacation home on a lake 20 miles south of Houghton-Hancock. Beautiful country, always enjoyed hiking and biking, campfires followed by the nightly saunas. I too did not step into the lake afterwards. Now my wife's family has a vacation home in upper Minnesota right on a lake with a long beautiful deck where I sit and read the local paper and books. There are plenty of trails for hiking, biking, and riding ATVs. There is also a lot of historical places to check out. If you ever get to Hibbing, MN Neil you should check out the Greyhound Bus Museum. (I didn't know Greyhound started as a two mile bus route in Hibbing, MN.) I always enjoy the peace and quiet, but also enjoy returning home. Thanks for bringing back pleasant memories Neil.

  2. Just finishing up Jim Harrison’s “The Search for the Genuine”, a collection of many of his essays and reports from far afield. You may find his writings on the Upper Peninsula interesting.
    Was wondering were you were today in the ST-now I know. Looking forward to your return.


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