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.