Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Mothers, Founders and the One

From 2009 Ski UP Best Of

So its been a long hard Michigan winter...but it has been great for introspection! This last January I experienced some uncanny events that all linked together a kind of life philosophy for me about music and community.

In early January, Andrew and I were sitting at the bar at the best brewery in the country, Founders, when a Mothers of Invention song came on. We both started to nod our heads and have a conversation about The Mothers when the guy next to us (a twenty-something guy I never would have assumed knew anything about The Mothers, let alone think we had anything in common with) started to tell us a story about what he was doing the first time he ever heard The Mothers song "More Trouble Everyday" that was playing. I asked him if he knew "Live at the Filmore East" and he said that was his first Mothers album.

The next song "Concentration Moon" came on; we all sang along.

When Andrew and I were walking home, we talked about how crazy it was that we met some random guy at Founders that knew a lot about The Mothers and about Zappa. It makes sense to meet someone like that at Founders, but it is so rare that people our age are educated about The Mothers and Zappa. Then, we realized that there are so few places in the country period where you can drink fantastic beer, listen to The Mothers (in public) and actually run into someone who sings along.

A similar experience about how we are all connected happened a week later at the Week for Prayer and Christian Unity service that I played and sang for at St. Andrews. Rev Robert Schiesler from St. Mark's told a story in his sermon about helping a young homeless guy who came to his office one day while he was working on him sermon to ask for help. Schiesler explained that his initial response was one of annoyance (this was an interruption to his regular sermon writing routine), but realized that he was hungry and decided to take the young guy across the street to McDonald's for lunch.

The two ended up having a lively and unexpected conversation about life and faith. When they parted their ways Schiesler offered to buy the guy a dinner for the road. (The young guy was hitchhiking to make it to some friends in Chicago who could help him.) The young man explained that he had already stowed half of his hamburger for dinner that night and that was all he needed to get by. Bewildered, Schiesler dropped the young man off by the side of the road and then went back to the church to try to finish his sermon. Schiesler said all he could do was just sit there and cry.

Schiesler ended his story by explaining how we are all one, despite who we think we might connect with, or who is like us or not, we generally have more in common with one another than we think. He also explained that while the institution of the church can be good for setting structure and boundaries, the church is not alive. It is really only the people that matter, they are the ones that are alive and help us to remember that we are all one.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Compost, CSA, Raw Milk, and a Vineyard

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

We had four huge successes this year for our health and for the well being of everyone in the world.

First, I built a compost pile in the backyard! I got angry one day at how much vegetable waste I was putting yet again in the garbage.

So, I walked over to the local ACE Hardware and bought chicken wire. I came home, not really knowing what I was doing as a first time compost pile designer, and made a circular enclosure with the wire. Voila, we have the beginnings of good dirt and a light garbage can.

The other two best things we did for us and the earth this year was to purchase a Community Supported Agriculture share from Goundswell Farm (pictured above, that is us playing for the farm potluck) and a 1/20th of a cow share for raw milk from Lubber's farm. To anyone who has never done a food share these two things don't mean much. But, for us it is just the beginning of understanding more about where our food comes from, who our neighbors are, and how much better food tastes and sustains us that is grown locally.

This year we also planted a vineyard in our backyard! Seval Blanc, a hybrid white wine grape variety that was developed to grow in northern climates. It was a good test of our marriage putting the vines and the trellis in this year!
From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Madison Milonga with the Band

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

The first weekend in October we traveled with an entourage of friends to Madison, WI to play and sing for the Madison Tango Society's monthly milonga. Me, Andy, and Avik played with Gabriela Contreras and Daniel Castro who traded off singing with us. Sung Yi was our official roadie.

The milonga had a great energy and was well attended! Madison has been one of the strongest supporters of our tango group, and we always enjoy playing for their enthusiastic milongas.

Afterwards, we hung out with the tango bums. I got to try my first "car bomb" at the Irish Pub at the coercion of Avik and Gabriela who also (not for the first time) had car bombs.
From 2008-2009 Blog Photos
From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

On the drive home, Andy and I were super excited to pick up some local beer (New Glarus Rocks!) and seven different local raw milk cheeses, including Pleasant Ridge Reserve!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Isle Royale CD Release Concert

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

We took a quick journey back to Isle Royale in late August. We stayed with our friends Pat and Liz who hosted us on Mott Island. We were a bit spoiled, eating fabulous food and tasty beverages brought over on the boat, but we figured we needed the rest after the long journey to Kansas City and back just the weekend before.

We spent our week on Isle Royale practicing and composing a little bit, and then gave a concert on Friday August 22. As usual, the concert was well attended and it was a beautiful warm night.

The only difficulty of the whole trip was the bumpy, sea-sick ride home on the Ranger III. We rode 6-9 foot waves all the way to Houghton (about a 7 hour boat ride...) THEN, we drove 9 hours home to make it back for our Sunday morning church gig. Just another 16 hour travel day...and I used to think that I wanted to be a full time touring musician...

Below is my attempt to catch one of the ferocious Lake Superior waves from the side of the boat.

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ann Arbor Community Milongas

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

In July and August we played for community milongas in Ann Arbor. Both were outdoors in a beautiful setting on campus. We had a lot of fun jamming with a larger group, with Marco on guitar and Gabriela who sang with us. Making music outside is where its at!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Performance at the National Flute Convention

In August we performed with Tess and Scott for the National Flute Convention in Kansas City, MO!

Our program was taken from our Latin Dance Project and included all original pieces and arrangements including a new piece by Scott called Tango Fantasy and stuff from our Maufo Vega CD.

It was a hell of a drive! We rented a van and drove down 12 hours on Wednesday and back 12 hours on Sunday!! Thankfully we stayed with our friends Stephanie and Eric who live out in Lawrence, KS. They cooked us fabulous food and took care of us with lots of tasty beverages while we rehearsed during the day and made trips back and forth to downtown KC.

Our performance was well received. I would say about 150 people attended and many of the friends from the West Michigan Flute Orchestra (who also performed on Saturday of the convention) where there to support us.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Northern Michigan Concerts

The last weekend in July we played two concerts in northern Michigan on three different great lakes!

Our first concert was at a coffee shop and book store called Falling Rock Cafe in Munising, MI on the Lake Superior shoreline. We were pleasantly surprised with the well attended audience and the enthusiastic and informed response! We featured our new works from Waterway, and many of the folks were engaged with the music and had a lot to say to us afterwards about how the music affected them (every musician's dream right?)

Check out the video of us playing Gauntlet of Death:

We played a concert the next night with our friends Scott Harding and Tess Miller at St. Anne's Church on Mackinac Island. We featured Waterway in the first half of the concert and then works from our Latin Dance Project in preparation for our August performance at the National Flute Convention.

Check out the photo below. Now there is something you don't see everyday. Our Mackinac Island Roadie...on a bike.

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

She's Finally Here-Waterway

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

After writing the first drafts in 2003, then touring in 2004-2006, and finally recording in 2007, we were able to self produce our own music on a new CD called Waterway.

It has been an incredible process of developing this music, most of which is about Lake Superior and all of which is about important waterways. We have worn many hats along the way: composers, editors, practicers (hey I think that is a new word), performers, and listeners. Andy and I have learned so much from putting ourselves in the position of having to believe in our own musical ideas, a scary process, but worth it.

You can read all about our new CD on a lovely little website I put together:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Composing on the Appalachain Trail

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

Andrew and I took our much needed nature time in June to clear our minds and get to work writing some music!

We spent a week hiking the 70 miles of the Appalachian trail that snake up and down through Smokey Mountain National Park. Our time in the smokies provided some much needed strenuous exercise and open space for brain flow. It was also a very social time as we spent every night eating and sleeping with different people in the community hiker shelters.

After the smokies we drove north and spent two days tasting wine in the Monticello wine region of Virgina before hiking into a rustic cabin in Shenandoah National Park where we stayed for a week.

We cooked a ton of good food, drank delicious wine (Barboursville Vineyards! got to check them out), hiked another 70 miles of day hikes, and slept in about 85 degree moist heat :(

We wrote music and practiced in the mornings. Andy ended up drafting a whole piece for his bell choir at Bethlehem Lutheran Church called Liberation, a three movement work inspired by the book of Job. I drafted a piece for two flutes, guitar, and percussion based on Ravel's piano work Gaspard de la nuit. Even with the heat, we didn't want to come home.

Friday, May 23, 2008

CD Recording at CMU

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

Our friend Scott Harding wrote a successful grant to pay for a CD of our Latin Dance music to be recorded and released on the White Pine label at Central Michigan University!

We recorded in mid-May in a fabulous hall at Central Michigan University. We all learned how the recording process really brings out the polish in the music and makes subsequent performances seem a lot easier. We will play this music again on Mackinac Island and at the National Flute Convention in August!

Our sound engineer, Scott Burgess, was a hoot to work with and really made the whole process go by smoothly.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Albuquerque Anniversary Tango Fest

From 2008-2009 Blog Photos

We had a fabulous spring break in New Mexico playing and teaching for the 10th Anniversary Tango Festival for the Tango Club of Albuquerque. Avik Basu joined me and Andy for the two festival milongas, making for a little trio band reunion. Yelena and Avik taught most of the classes on Friday and Saturday, while Andy and I gave two musicality based workshops for dancers, one on dancing to the off beat in tango and one on dancing to different beat structures in vals.

Luckily the weather was awesome, even for the backpacking trip that we took down in the Gila Wilderness after the festival was over. The only jam we had was during our hiking on one of the north facing slopes at the end of our hike. It was literally covered in ice...and after walking ten miles and meeting this steep slope, we really had to keep from crashing. I think our total fall count on the ice was at least ten times between all of us.

Thanks to William Gruner for the sweet shot of us playing for the Friday milonga, and for the ABQ tango club's support of live music!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Down With the OPP

Over Christmas break Andrew and I went skiing in northern Ontario with our violinist friend Debbie. The trip was supposed to be a time for us to relax, get some exercise and have a chance to write some music!

We went to a great little provincial park called Silent Lake for a few days. They snowmobiled us into a yurt that by the end of our stay we called home. We spent our days skiing (where it snowed about 6 inches a day!!) and spent the evenings in our hot, 95 degree yurt making food and generating ideas for two new pieces.

Andrew began a draft of music for Holy Week, a ten minute Maundy Thursday piece for flute, guitar, and piano. I studied the score to "Ondine" the first movement of Maurice Ravel's solo piano masterpiece Gaspard de la nuit. I wanted to write a piece for flute and guitar based on structure and harmonic elements in "Ondine". Andrew and I had spent that fall listening to some awesome interpretations of Gaspard de la nuit : Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Angela Hewitt, and Raph Votapek.

After our Yurt stay we drove further north in Ontario to a town named Temagami and went to a place called Smoothwater, a eco-resort and recreation area owned byCaryn Colman and Francis Boyes.

We skied to two different rustic cabins out in the wilderness and covered around 20 kilometers in deep snow (again snowing no less than 6 inches a day), slushy lakes, with old growth red and white pine, spruce, cedar, and maple guiding shaping our path.

On the first night we were awakened by the sound of two snowmobiles at 3:15am! We were all worried instantly, especially since there were no snowmobiles allowed in the wilderness area. We heard loud male voices and swearing as the two machines tried to make it across the slushy lake snow packed lake where our cabin sat.

About thirty minutes later, we hear the snowmobiles approach the cabin again and then a knock at the door. Debbie and I stayed in our sleeping bags and Andrew nervously unzipped his sleeping bag.

After the knock we heard a man say, "this is the OPP, please open the door"

I have never been so thankful to hear someone say "please". Although, it took me a minute to figure out that OPP meant Ontario Provincial Police.

It turned out that the police were looking for a woman who was "lost out in the bush" and they wanted to know if they could bring her back to our cabin if they found her in the area. Soon after we heard the sound of a helicopter and it flew around our area for about 45 minutes.

We heard when we returned to the lodge that she was found about two lakes over on another person's property. While sking an expert run she lost track of time and when she tried to find her way back had got turned around. Luckily that night she found a fisherman's hut that she propped herself up against to wait out the cold.

The next night we thought of her in our cozy little cabin as we worked on our music and ate curry flavored popcorn that we made on the wood stove.

Wood Stove Popped Curry Popcorn

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup popcorn
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1. put the oil in a camp pot with one kernel of popcorn in it and place on the stove
2. when the kernel pops the oil is ready
3. put the rest of the kernels in the oil and cover pot with a lid
4. using a pan grabber, move the pan on the surface of the stove in a counter-clockwise circle (this keeps the heat distributed evenly and ensures the kernels from burning)
5. Once there is more than three seconds between pops take the pan off the heat and let sit for 1 minutes until the kernels have stopped popping.
6. sprinkle with the salt and curry powder and toss to coat


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Water Water Everywhere

And many drops to drink...

The daily comparison for maximum water usage in the Dassler Cabin on Isle Royale versus our home in Grand Rapids:

Drinking and Cooking
Home: 2 gallons
Dassler Cabin: 2 gallons

Washing Dishes
Home: 5 gallons (filled wash tub to wash, faucet running to rinse)
Dassler Cabin: 1 gallon (wash tub, rinse tub)

Home: 30 gallons (two 10 min showers)
Dassler Cabin: 3 gallons (2.5 gallon solar bag, .5 gallon sponge bath for Andy)

Toilet Use
Home: 20 gallons (2 gallon tank flushed 5 times a day for 2 people)
Dassler Cabin: 0

Home: 40 gallons (Maytag top loader)
Dassler Cabin: 10 gallons (2, 5 gallon buckets, one for rinsing, one for washing)

General Cleaning
Home: 1 gallon (washing hands, rinsing the sponge after doing dishes, brushing teeth etc.)
Dassler Cabin: 0

MiscelaneousHome: 1 gallon (watering the plants outside with the hose, car washing etc.)
Dassler Cabin: 0

Daily Total:
Home: 99 gallons per day
Dassler Cabin: 16 gallons per day

Life is different without a faucet and a running tap.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Concert 3 On Isle Royale

A Program of Original Music Inspired by Lake Superior

High Tide, Andrew Bergeron
Walkabout Sparrow, Andrew Bergeron and Carmen Maret
Alpha's Last Dance, Carmen Maret (premier)
Waves and Waterfalls from Lake Superior Suite, Andrew Bergeron
Gauntlet of Death, Carmen Maret (premier)
Fog Break, Andrew Bergeron (premier)
Nineteen Knots, Carmen Maret (premier)
Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer from Lake Superior Suite, Carmen Maret and Andrew Bergeron

Wildlife Sightings on Isle Royale

western painted turtle (at hidden lake)
garter snake (all around)
bats (lots every night, especially around the bench, one flew in the house with me and we had to shew him out)
snowshoe hare
red squirrel
red fox (Scoville point resident)
river otters (Tobin Harbor visitors)
moose (6, all along Tobin Harbor)
loons galore (they nest in the harbor)
horned grebe
double crested cormorant
great blue heron (on Dick and Mary's Island)
wood duck
lesser scaup
bald eagles (2, one adult perched in Tobin, one yearling on passage island)
merlin (passage island)
spotted sandpiper (seen from the canoe, on Tobin Harbor shore)
herring gulls
black capped chickadee (by Dassler)
red-breasted nuthatch (by Dassler)
winter wren
cedar waxwings (everywhere by Dassler, look up)
shrike (Rock Harbor spotting)
black and white warbler (by Dassler)
yellow-rumped warbler (by Dassler)
white-throated sparrow (can be heard everywhere along lake superior it seems)
song sparrow (all over)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Anniversary on Passage Island

Today is me and Andrew's 4th year anniversary. We practiced till 3:00pm, then Pat Valencia, a musician and former park service employee friend took us out to passage island, a spooky but really wild place about 3 1/2 miles off the northeast shore of Isle Royale. Pat calls it "the real wilderness of Isle Royale."

Korena, another ranger friend on Isle Royale and botany expert told me she was jealous we got to go out there. She said the diversity it has for such a small island is amazing, something like 700 different species of plants.

We saw wild sundews for the first time, a carnivorous plant with sticky pads about the size of my index fingernail. We also saw lots of Canada yew and ash, "moose candy" that has almost vanished from the Isle Royale mainland.

We also saw a young bald eagle perched on a tree in the harbor on the south side of the Island.

Our last full day is tomorrow. We have internalized such a peaceful, relaxed and receptive way of being that it is hard to imagine our mental and physical states before arriving and of course our response when we return home.

Canada Yew

Sundew, carnivorous plant

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Discovering Birds

When I first arrived at the cabin, walking to the outhouse (about the length of a small city block) was a drudge that seemed to take too long. But, over the last weeks it has turned out to be one of my favorite activities.

I have learned to watch birds. I never go to the outhouse now without binoculars and my camera. Today I got a great photo of a cedar waxwing in the top dead branches of an ash growing along the shore.

I also watch for changes: water, boats, skyline, wind speed and direction, animals (including people).

I think the birds have warmed up to me over time. I notice they kind of loom around now, where it seems in the beginning they always quickly flew away. Maybe I walk and look slower now too.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Last Few Projects

We finished our composition projects today. Andrew wrote a final hand copy of his piece "Fog Break". He swore a lot today, surely a sign of the intense process of copying music with a permanent pen. He said he used the leftover brownie that Dick gave us to keep him going. Andy would take a small bite of it after successfully writing each line of music.

I finished a poem and piece of music about the wolves based on a story in Rolf Peterson's book "The Wolves of Isle Royale" that tells a story of the Alpha Female in the East Pack that saved the wolf population on Isle Royale from extinction.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Concert 2 on Isle Royale

Title: "Bach on the Water Part II"

Even more people came this time! 80 or more. So rewarding to have an attentive and packed audience to play for.

Prelude in A minor, J.S. Bach
Fall: Grape Stomp, from Lake Superior Suite, by Andrew Bergeron

Prelude in E minor, J.S. Bach
Walkabout Sparrow, Andrew Bergeron and Carmen Maret

Prelude in G major, J.S. Bach
High Tide, Andrew Bergeron

El Decameron Negro (The Black Ship), Leo Brouwer

Prelude in D minor, J.S. Bach
Footprints in the Snow from Preludes, Claude Debussy

Prelude in B minor, J.S. Bach
Silueta Portena, tango

Prelude in F# major, J.S. Bach
Waves and Waterfalls from Lake Superior Suite, by Andrew Bergeron

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wilderness Composing

We worked hard again today. I am getting a neck ache from writing so much music by hand. It is a good thing we take a lot of breaks out in our wilderness backyard.

Andrew was like a mad scientist today scheming up a flute and guitar piece about our previous fog experience. He is writing it in 11/8 and wants to do a 3+3+3+2 division of the beats. He was out at the inspirational bench for about an hour thumping the side of it with his hand and then came in with a gleam in his eye.

I finished a draft of my solo piccolo piece called "Nineteen Knots" and started a piece about wolves called "Alpha's Last Dance."

The birds distracted and excited us today. I kept grabbing for the binoculars. Cedar waxwings, yellow-rumped warblers and black-throated warblers were all outside the dining table window where Andrew and I strew all of our papers, pencils and erasures.

After dinner Andrew came running in for the binoculars, "a cormorant is fishing just off the bench" he said quickly. Sure enough we saw him catch a fish too. (Cormorants, we later found out from talking to folks in Tobin Harbor, were actually a problem for a while because they were draining the fisheries in the small harbor areas around the island).

We walked the small loop around Scoville Point and I saw a shrike on a big spruce near the split. I heard it and then quickly spotted him in the binoculars, big body and hooked beak.

Dick and Mary Scheibe, our new caretakers for the end of our stay came over to the cabin, Mary calling a loud "whoo-hooo" before she was close to the cabin. Mary has been coming to the island since he was three. Mary and Dick are the official folks who drive the artists around, make sure they have everything they need, and show them a good time.

Other than Dick and Mary, we had no other human contact all day.

Rumbles of thunder over the lake tonight. Maybe we will receive a little cooling blessing tonight. It has been in the upper 80s. Bad for moose, who don't feel feel even the slightest bit cold until 25 degrees BELOW zero, and start to over heat about 56 degrees ABOVE zero!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Concert 1 on Isle Royale

Chuck Volunteers to be Stage Manager

Our concerts took place in a little auditorium in Rock Harbor. It seats about 80. We were a little worried about who would show up for our first concert, but we ended up packing the place standing room only.

We decided to theme the first concert by calling it "Bach on the Water" which combined our own music about water with Bach works from the Well Tempered Clavier that Andrew transcribed for flute and guitar. It was an idea that we have had for a year, and we finally had a good environment to try it out. It worked well, the Bach pieces were like a short warm up for us and for the audience's ears before each of our own pieces.

Here was our program:

Prelude in D minor, J.S. Bach
Calm to Storm, from Lake Superior Suite, Andrew Bergeron

Prelude in E minor, J.S. Bach
Walkabout Sparrow, Carmen Maret and Andrew Bergeron (premier, written first five days of residency)

Prelude in A minor, J.S. Bach
The Night from Toward the Sea, Toru Takemitsu

Prelude in A minor (book II), J.S. Bach
Bachiana Brasileiras , Heitor Villa-Lobos

El Decameron Negro (The Black Ship), Leo Brouwer

Prelude in B minor, J.S. Bach
Silueta Portena, tango

Prelude in G major, J.S. Bach
Summer: Wedding Dance from Lake Superior Suite, Carmen Maret

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Inspirational Bench

Bench by Morning

Bench by Day

Bench by Night

There is a wonderful bench just outside the cabin that offers views of the sunset, the water, Passage Island, and Tobin Harbor. Here is a poem that one of the rangers Paul handed me as we walked off the boat at the end of our trip. This is about the "old" bench before it was renovated.

The Bench

At the tip of Tobin Harbor
Perched high upon the rock
there's a weathered wooden bench
where artists like to flock
it's part of the Dassler cabin
a palace in this place
this land of Isle Royale
by Superior's ever changing face
the view from there is princely
majestic to say the least
from a little bench so humble
inspirations never cease
you have to be kind of careful
not to sit on some rusty old nail heads
if you sit right in the middle
you'll be comfortable instead
if you open up your senses
nature is everywhere
from a seagull flying by
to mare's tails up in the air
sounds of lapping waves
rushing against the shore
little biting black flies
nip at your feet and more
a part of me would like to fix it
spruce up that old beaten bench
yet, it's perfect just as it is
just like a white bearded old gent
I only worry that someday
someone not thin could fall through
in the mean time I know it'll continue
giving inspiration so true

Foxy Omen

I slept in today--9am
Finally a clear, bright sunny day
Lake talk = "fair"
We worked on composing till 3:00pm
Revised drafts
Andrew finished a flute and guitar version of high tide

We practiced a few hours for our concert

Canoed to Duncan bay portage
the wind in our favor on the way back

Delectable dinner: cabin rice and beans with raw milk cheddar cheese and avocado tomato salad, all slathered in lime juice

We got into an argument on our nightly walk out on Scoville
as the moon rose

Always about music
what it means to us
what it means to other people
how to communicate in public about music

A fox popped out
walking the trail as we were
came right at us
the other direction, toward Rock Harbor

I made a "shooing" motion
Fox sat down, middle of the trail
biting his back legs--so skinny

Andy whispered, "I think he wants to pass"

We stepped off the trail a few feet
He got up
skipped past
down the rocky trail

What were we arguing about?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Moose Bones

Today Chuck and Connie took us to meet Rolf and Candy Peterson, "the wolf people". Rolf started studying wolves on Isle Royale in 1958 while still a graduate student and next year is the 50th anniversary of the same study, the longest predator prey study in the world!

How to describe the Peterson's cabin?

Collecting moose bones is one of the main ways the Peterson's assess the health and interactions of the moose and consequently the wolves on Isle Royale. During our nice little picnic along the shore by their cabin, we were surrounded by 50 years worth of bones. Candy Peterson showed me the kinds of things they look for in the bones such as osteoporosis, and arthritis. Moose teeth also grow like trees, with visible rings, so Rolf Peterson takes out the front teeth from the jaw bones of the moose, grinds them down, and can then tell how old they were when they died. When the Peterson's started collecting bones back in the 1970s, the Peterson's did the dirty work themselves, walking off the trails throughout the island just waiting for the bones to appear. (Imagine in winter too, where Rolf went seven weeks at a time, carrying frozen moose bones across the island in below zero temperatures!) Now they have a wonderful system set up where volunteers from the Earthwatch Worldwide program pay to come to the island and walk through marshes and over downed trees to help pick up bones.

After visiting with the Peterson's we went back to Tobin Harbor and added a new experience to our life: canoed to a dinner party. Chuck had a little get together his cabin about a 1/2 mile row from ours. Menu: potato salad, ham, pesto pasta, cheddar dill cornbread and rhubarb pie.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fog Poem


I awake with fog
play guitar with fog
Darjeeling tea with fog
compose and fog
fried rice and fog
hike in fog
Minestrone, fresh bread, Gruyere cheese, with fog
Sitting on rocks in fog
Inspirational bench, no view today, in fog
I talk with the fog
I listen to the water in the fog
fog with fog, in fog, and some more fog
now I will sleep

Fog and Soup

Our bedside alarm woke us at five minutes till 8:00am, just a few seconds before we were instructed to catch the morning report over our National Park Service Radio. We could already predict the main attraction: FOG.

Chuck our faithful caretaker for the week walkie-talkied us soon after and asked us if we felt like a couple of kernels in a bowl of fresh popcorn.

We got up soon after (early for a couple of musicians), made tea and worked on composing our piece about birds until Andy made his nearly famous fried rice for lunch. Then, we worked more in the cabin until the first hints of cabin fever set in. It was 2:30pm, visibility--50 feet :) (See our foggy photos here)

I made some homemade three bean and legume minestrone when we got back from our foggy walk then we went to bed.

3 Bean and Legume Minestrone Soup

2 carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 potatoes, chopped
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup each, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, and canelli beans, soaked overnight.
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup lacinato kale leaves, thinly sliced
1 can diced tomatoes, "Muir Glen" is the best
2 TBS olive oil

1. Saute veggies in olive oil till soft, then add dried dill and oregano. Add soaked black-eye peas and canelli beans and 2 cups water. Boil 15 minutes. Then, add garbanzo beans, bay leaf and half the parsley, greens and tomatoes. Partially cover and cook 40-60 minutes.

2. Salt to taste, then serve with the rest of the fresh parsley over the top. If available drizzle with additional olive oil and a hand full of pine nuts scattered on top.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Dassler Cabin - Our Home for 19 Days

Andrew standing on Tobin Point at sunset, the Dassler cabin is hidden in the trees on the point

Located in the Tobin Harbor, the "Dassler Cabin" was named and owned by the Dassler family who built it in 1905. It finally became property of the park in 1991 and the next year became the Artists In Residence Cabin. There are only a half a dozen or so homes left in the Tobin Harbor that the park doesn't own. The families basically get to keep their cabins until the life leasee in the family passes away.

There is a lot of ambivalence between the life leasees and the park, and why not? Although it was the families on the island that ultimately decided to make Isle Royale a National Park, it is still not an easy decision to hand over a historic rustic cabin to "the government" where there are always a variety of interests involved. That and the added dilemma of "human" culture versus wilderness, which after all really aren't two different thing (Is there anything left on the planet that hasn't been messed with by humans?) makes it a tough situation for everyone.

The nice thing about the Artists in Residence Program is that we operated as a mediator between the friends and families that own property and the park employees. Technically , we were volunteers for the NPS (National Park Service) but we were taken care of and brought in as visitors to the Tobin Harbor family community. We supported the agenda of the National Park by celebrating its natural beauty, and at the same time supported the preservation and use of one of the cabins in the Tobin Harbor community.

Living in the cabins is literally like going back in time. Most don't have electricity, although some are working on getting approval from the NPS to use solar power. Almost all have a propane stove and propane powered lights, but only a few have propane refrigeration, a luxury in its own right. Many have ice boxes (for real!) The Peterson's ice box looked like a small top loading freezer with a compartment in the top for ice and the refrigerator goods below. It was inside a little open air outhouse looking structure built under a group of trees outside. There is also something called a "California Cooler" which is a cupboard that is built with screens that open to the outside so that the cool air from the lake can come in an settle in the cupboard. Connie Boyle keeps her eggs there.

Most people gather their water for cooking and washing in buckets or white ceramic basins straight from the lake. Everybody filters their water now, although Chuck Boyale said he drank the water straight out of the lake for 45 years without getting stick and only until his wife Besty was sick with cancer did they start filtering as a precaution. Everybody washes their dishes and bathes with straight lake water. We have a small 2.5 gallon solar shower bag that I used to "take a shower". I hung it on a nail that was hammered into a post supporting the back awning of the Dassler and luckily a spot that had a rocky area underneath and plenty of trees to obscure the view from the plethora of boaters that zoomed past our point every day.

The best showering device we saw on the whole trip was built by Dick Scheibe. He lined his small closet space off his cabin bedroom with a shower curtain and then cut a hole in the ceiling that would fit a five gallon bucket. He rigged a device to raise and lower the bucket, and then attached a shower head to the bucket. All he has to do is heat five gallons of water (which isn't exactly a quick job) and voila, he can have a nice 5 minute shower inside.

Privies are an important aspect of the cabins too. Ours was about a 1/8 mile walk from the cabin, a walk that at first seemed to take forever, but then became an enjoyable break time activity. Some of the cabins are on islands so small they don't have room to put a privy, such as the cabin Dick and Mary Scheibe stayed in. The people who have their own privies absolutely don't let any toilet paper go in the hole. They pack it out and have big signs instructing people to dispose of the paper in another container, usually nearby. This is so the holes don't fill up as fast, and probably to keep down the smell.

Fireplaces and wood are a necessity in all the cabins, even in July and August it can get down into the 50s. Wood is difficult to come by on the island too because all the trees on the north end are small, mostly because of weather and the moose population who have eaten almost everything in sight.

First Day on Isle Royale

Today we woke up in the Super 8 in Houghton, MI and packed up the car for the Ranger III, a 165 foot boat that takes passengers to Isle Royale twice a week. We still had one straggling box that had to be loaded on the boat that was filled with lemons, limes, oranges, and avocados--very important items for the health and well being of two food hound vegetarians. It turned out that 45 minutes before was still a little late for loading, thought not at the "Greg Blust chew-out" level which a friend Doug received for trying to have the personnel load his kayak 10 minutes before departure.

Foggy, crystal calm waters took us all the way to Mott Island (just off the Isle Royale mainland where the park headquarters is) and then to Rock Harbor. After unloading the boat we had to cart our 7 boxes and three backpacks a half mile to another boat in Tobin Harbor that would then take us another 20 minute boat ride to the northeast end of the island where our little cabin affectionately know as "The Dassler" waited for us. After reaching the nearest dock by The Dassler, it was another 1/4 mile uphill to carry all of our stuff into the cabin.

Luckily we had a lot of help from the friends and family of the life leasese who still stay in the cabins around Tobin Harbor in the summer. John Snell helped up load our stuff, and the Connelly family helped us cart our stuff in four different trips up to the cabin.

Chuck and Connie Boyle would look after us for the week. Chuck has been to the island for about 50 years and knows most of the people and places in Tobin Harbor.

After unpacking for a few hours we walked around Scoville Point, the tip of the island where our cabin was. It was so foggy we could barely see the lake. But, we did notice how low the water was from the year before. Down 18 inches someone told warming?

I transcribed some loon calls for the flute and guitar piece we planned to write about the birds. I took my junker flute outside and played in the harbor and listened to a great echo against the rocks.

Foggy, foggy night! We were talking about how it was a good thing we had been there before because otherwise we would be totally disoriented, not to mention kind of bummed not to know what things looked like.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Isle Royale Preparations

We camped last night in Copper Harbor, MI at Fort Wilkins State Park which is at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. We did our usual morning practice routines at the picnic table in our camp, but to no enjoyment thanks to the biting stable flies who burned my ankles right through my socks in between each Taffanel and Gaubert arpeggio.

We drove down to the Keweenaw Food Co-op in Houghton, MI to buy groceries for our 19 day stay on Isle Royale. Even though we wrote a menu for each day it still took us a LONG time to buy, an hour alone just in the bulk isle! We packed all our goods in boxes and went over the loading dock to load up for our ride to Isle Royale on the "Ranger III", all boats have names you know.

Greg Blust, our liaison and director of the Artist-In-Residence program showed us how to load our stuff, especially the stuff for the walk in refrigerator and freezer on the boat. He gave us our tickets and a key for the cabin, then he was back to work.

We hung out for a while along the channel between Houghton and Hancock, the old mining building on the side of the hill looming over us.

"Why are people so attached to place?" I asked Andy out of the blue.
"Why not?" he quickly replied, "place is so much about a person's environment and their memories."

This got me thinking about nature and how people attach meaning to their experiences with nature, which for so many of us is not part of our daily existence. "Nature" is usually reserved for vacations or special outings. I read an essay by Joyce Carol Oates called that week called "Against Nature" where she talks about human pitfalls in writing and talking about nature. She says nature by itself doesn't have meaning, it is we who attach sentiments such as "piety, serenity, awe" etc to it.

We are sitting on the banks of the Houghton-Hancock channel, sun setting, Andy says our last goodbyes to his mom, cell phone securely propped between cheek and neck. We will have no electricity or running water in our cabin on the island. Which of course also means, no conventional showers, no flush toilet, no wireless, no cell phone service. Some people's worst nightmare I am sure.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wet Dry Wet Dry

What a moody lake!
4 foot waves, started misty and fogy, now blue and shining

Today we saw iron juts from the soggy wood of a shipwreck

enjoyed the essence of oregano, garlic, rhubarb, cherry, and pine in the air

4 days without: cars, money, alcohol, music, inside, clocks

body feels good from each step of 13.3 miles

Lentil Potato Carrot Stew with Couscous and Coconut Cream
(the best thing you have ever tasted after a LONG hike)

1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 small potatoes
1 carrot
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt
4 dried birds eye chilies
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp Bragg's liquid amino (funky health food item)
2TBS olive oil
1 small can of coconut milk, cream reserved

1 cup couscous
1/4 tsp minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 shallot, minced

1. Saute spices and minced garlic in olive oil for 30 seconds, add potatoes and carrot, stir fry 2 minutes. Add salt and chilies then paprika and turmeric. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, then add red lentils. Cook 15 minutes, then cover and wrap in a towel or other heat resistant clothing and let stand while you prepare the couscous.

2. Saute minced ginger, chopped garlic, and shallot in olive oil. Then add the water from the coconut milk, plus 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then add couscous. Stir, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.

3. Serve lentil mixture over couscous with dollops of the reserved coconut milk cream on top.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Waterbed for the Backcountry

Our tent became a waterbed this morning. Lake Superior carried rain and the boom of thunder for many hours until Andrew finally sat up at about 6:00am and realized our tent was suspended in a 3 inch pool of water! We unzipped the flap and saw our boots and backpacks floating past!! The night before we had found a nice big hemlock to pitch the tent under, but had managed to put it in the only spot beneath the tree without good drainage. So, what left to do? "WE'VE GOT TO GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE" (The nice version of what Andy said when he realized our predicament.)

We carefully stepped out of the tent, rain still pouring, picked our home by the poles (with everything still in it) and walked it to the other side of the tree. Whew, it was going to be a long day, we had 8 miles to walk too. Luckily we were able to get back in the tent and find a couple inches of dry space where we hung out for a couple of hours, cramped, but moderately dry until it stopped raining.

Andy was a real sport to walk in the lead, which is usually my job, so that he could take the bulk of the water hits from the ferns onto his boots, instead of mine:) The most amazing thing that happened on the trail were two owls about the size of Andy's hands flew into a aspen branch directly over us about 5 feet away. They cocked their heads 180 degrees and stared at us as if they were looking into our souls.

The sun finally came out in the late afternoon and a lucky breeze kicked up before dusk! So thankful for a dry night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blue Flame Waters

Lake Superior at dusk on Mosquito Beach
Fire pink sun ball
and blue flame water extending to the horizon

We watch this pink ball
light lazy enough through the clouds
for us to look at it with our eyes

I yoga pose on these old sedimentary rocks
My forward bends the deepest they have ever been
The rocks keep my extended legs propped up and relaxed

Despite our floors, the earth is not meant to feel flat!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Off to Pictured Rocks

Andrew and I said goodbye to the band on Mackinac Island and headed up to four nights of backpacking along Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore. We arrived in Grand Marais to catch a shuttle van that would take up over to Munising so that we could walk the entire 45 mile stretch back to our car. The woman who drove our shuttle van talked a lot of politics and complained a lot about making a living up in the U.P. She said that she had driven the same van for 27 years and her pay was still only $11.00 an hour! It got me thinking a lot about the disparity between nature and class. In other words, why can't places rich in natural beauty also be rich in social justice?

We decided not to take our instruments for the four night, five day journey. It would be a time to clean out our musical selves, and a time to use our brains to come up with a concept for a piece that we would write together for our upcoming Artist-In-Residence stay on Isle Royale.

Sleep on the Shore

We are going to bed soon
before the sun
Under a canopy of, aspen, hemlock, and sugar maple
where birch grow in packs
invading the rocks that look over Lake Superior

I can still see the bald eagle that flew underneath us
Zoom bird
brown and white
big shadow passing over turquoise water

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mackinac Island Performance

Today we woke up at 7:00am after a short night of sleep and drove to catch the 10:00am boat to Mackinac Island. After a getting our luggage and music equipment we took a nice mosey on the horse drawn taxi up to Sue and Bruce Miller's cottage (parent' s of our musician friends Tess Miller and Scott Harding). We had just enough time to get ready and practice a bit before the concert at 2:00pm at St. Anne's Church, the oldest and most visible church on the island.

It was a break through performance for our group, probably because it was our first time really playing in a concert setting. We usually play for dancers where a lot of other things are going on, and where the main goal is to keep bodies moving on the floor. It was so nice to have an attentive audience, there were about 50 people, and the acoustics in St. Anne's were great! We could really play with the dynamics of our pieces, especially with Desde el alma and Andrew's arrangement of Buenos Aires Hora Cero.