Jan 13, 2011

A Little Rime

Rime ice on cobblestones. Spray
from Superior carried
by a light, iced wind,
coming on obliquely
to the lay of the shore,
during a cold, breezy night.
The early snow has melted
under the low, dimmer sun
of December afternoons,
and more has yet to come.

Dec 8, 2010


I've done little with this blog for quite a while. But I've decided to post a few art photos I like a lot -- and maybe a few family shots, too -- taken now and then during recent years.

Cold night in Chicago.
Flecks of snow
streaming north.
Wet streets, strange lights
in a sky of leaden clouds
drifting over buildings.
People, just a few, walking,
heads down against
the wind among the walls.
Thoughts -- but few deep thoughts.
Where to get warm, where I'm headed.
I will soon be there -- or I won't.

May 29, 2009

Asters on the Keweenaw

I've been totally worthless with this blog for a while. In the months gone by, my daughter Miranda and son-in-law Art, both of whom have made a number of appearances here, had their first child, who is Marsha's and my first grandchild, Aster Davis, born March 15, 2009. She's a sweetheart. We haven't seen her for a couple months now, but we're soon heading north for a summer in Copper Harbor, where we'll see her every day. For Miranda and all, I offer this shot of a bunch of asters on Keweenaw Point late last summer as a way to get myself started again. I told Mir a couple molnths back that I had a number of nice shots of asters, and now I'll be taking lots more, no doubt. I'll work on putting up a photo of the single new Aster soon.

Nov 4, 2008

You Have to Learn to Appreciate the Smell of an Empty Can of Tennis Balls

Miranda's in-laws, the Davises, have a piece of property down on the waterfront just a couple lots away from our Copper Harbor house. Miranda and Art sometimes bring their dogs Capone and Gus down there for a swim and a run in the summertime. It's easy for us to take a short walk down Brockway Avenue to join them while they give the dogs some exercise on those days when they can't find time for a long walk in the woods. This is a shot of Mir some time in August with her dog Capone already in the SUV after the visit to the shore at the Davis' harbor property. Capone loves tennis balls, to chase when thrown by a human and to chew and to push around and chase on his own. I regularly bring him my old tennis balls from downstate, since I am a longtime and avid tennis player of some skill. Capone even likes the smell of a tennis-ball can. Mir is beginning to show a lot from her pregnancy, by the way, as she told me in a recent phone call. When this shot was taken, I don't believe Marsh and I yet knew that we were soon to be grandparents.

Oct 13, 2008

A Front Rolls South

I was golfing at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge one night in July when a storm started brewing -- or so it seemed. I hustled home in the car and then ran inside the house to get my camera to take a quick look at the storm up on the nose of Brockway Mouintain, just above town. I was hoping for some interesting weather to be coming in. The boys decided to come along, and then Marsha decided to come too. We hustled up the Mountain Drive and then watched the fronts and wind-shift lines rolled past and over Copper Harbor for 15 minutes or so before it started to get too dark and too cold. Here's one shot I took of the family that evening. Funny, but no storm broke loose. We had a little spitting rain and a little wind, but nothing serious or heavy. It was a storm with some scary teeth, but no bark and no bite. I can't say why. This shows you once again how cool the early to middle summer was up north. We shall soon be getting to some photos that actually look like they were taken in the summertime.

Oct 2, 2008

A Looming Ship

A captain always has to be on his toes, even these days. The traffic on Lake Superior is nothing like it was in the days of my youth, back some 35 years ago. The number of big ships on the Great Lakes is down about 90% since the 1970s, and even fewer of the 10% remaining afloat and working are sailing the Big Lake. So we see hundreds fewer ships out on the lake when we are crossing over to Isle Royale on the Isle Royale Queen IV, our family's passenger ferry, than when I was a teenager working on the Queen II out of Copper Harbor. But there are still foggy days on the Big Lake, and there were many more such days this summer than there have been in the previous 10 to 15 summers because of the cooler spring and early summer in 2008. Here's a shot of a freighter appearing in the fog just a half mile from the Queen IV one day when I was captain and ferrying a large load of people across to the national park. My position was about 10 miles northwest of Copper Harbor. I had to "turn down" on the ship as we say. That means I had to alter my course to port to keep out of the ship's way. I stayed a healthy distance away, and finally when I was fully behind the ship and got within a half mile, the ship began to appear in the fog. Within another 5 minutes the Queen IV had emerged completely fom the fog bank that hugged the Kerweenaw coast on that day, but the frieghter kept on going east into the denser fog off Keweenaw Point.

Sep 26, 2008

Sharing Motions

They quickly stand, almost bursting from their seats. They begin cheering. Their cheers become loud -- and then louder. They smile. Their big grins form wrinkles at the corners of their mouths and eyes. Many applaud. Some wave their hands. Some pump a fist in the air. Some wave small flags. I see one woman looks at a certain man standing beside her. They exchange even broader smiles. Their eyes are bright, intent, charged. Another man near me raises his hand high with the palm facing a friend standing beside him. The friend, with hardly a glance, notices that the friend standing beside him (it appears that he is a friend) is holding his hand up and his palm out to him. This man stops applauding and cheering for a moment and raises his own hand in the same manner, palm out. This man then pushes his open palm up and into his friend’s palm. The high-five. They smile more widely yet, so filled with delight that they are almost laughing. Thousands are standing and cheering and applauding now. Some whistle. Some whoop. Dozens of people exchange high-fives. Altogether, the thousands of mixed, loud noises makes up a stirring, thrilling, pulsating roar of elation.

The thousands who make the sounds take them all together. They relish the excitement of the sounds they are making together, so deep, so loud, so widely encompassing. These actions and many others like them -- why bother describing each, if I could describe them all? Almost any ordinary American would recognize and comprehend just about every gesture and every sound made. They are repeated and repeated again at certain times in ceremonies, or performances, or presentations, like this one, whatever we might call this “event.” Thousands of people repeating these motions and making similar sounds, cheering and hooting and hollering and listening to the cumulative, collective roar. They share the motion and the sound. The sharing of it has some meaning. That’s the issue I have been pondering. What is the meaning, not of the presentation, but of the sharing of it?

The cheering at that basketball game is akin, it seems to me, to something called “shared rhythmic motion,” a term I learned as I searched last spring online for writings about a documentary that flabbergasted me, State of Mind. This documentary film centers on two children in North Korea, 10- and 12-year-old girls who are merely two of the tens of thousands (!) of adults and children who danced in one of North Korea’s so-called Mass Games that the defiantly, brutally communist government has been putting on, on an irregular schedule, for the past couple decades. The Mass Games are huge, rigidly and expertly coordinated spectacles of exuberantly hectic dance and gymnastics. The dancers put on their performances, after months of outdoor practice in city squares, in huge outdoor stadiums or large indoor arenas. Each performance involves thousands of dancers, who form great rectangular blocks of equally spaced people who move in astonishingly tight synchronization. Performances in each edition of the Mass Games go on for several days.

The scenes of the specific edition of the Mass Games shown in State of Mind were astounding -– riveting, haunting, thought-provoking. A quick study of a couple articles on ritualized dance led me to scholars who have been studying such matters for a long time. The most famous book on the subject, I learned, is entitled Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History, by a scholar named William McNeill. McNeill's personal experiences led him to study and define the concept of “shared rhythmic motion.” As a draftee in 1941 while undergoing basic training in Texas, McNeill came to enjoy the hours spent in close-order drill. In thinking about the pleasure he took in drilling, he wrote a speculative history about human society’s practice of keeping together in time in a ritualized manner, which to him means “moving our muscles rhythmically and giving voice to consolidate group solidarity altering human feelings." Though language is another (and the most important) socially shared system of signs, McNeill believes that the use of fully grammatical language added to but did not displace the social import of shared rhythmic motion.

Ever since I made these various discoveries I have been pondering shared rhythmic motion in my life and my immediate social settings. Sports is one venue where I have witnessed and taken part in shared motion. Cheering for teams appears rather similar in some ways to the North Korean Mass Games. Why do so many Americans cheer in sports (and in certain defined, generally approved ways) not to mention spend our money, a lot of money for many people, to watch skillful athletes take part in sports and cheer their achievements? Why do I and so many others care at all about teams and athletes in the sports I find most attractive? Besides my wife Marsha, who can make no sense of the craze for sports, my boys, Logan and Drew, are noticeably puzzled. For somehow they have never gained much interest in sports at all. (I am as puzzled with them as they are with me on such matters.) Scholars of shared motion seem to think that we create some kind of community, in a broad sense, through corporate dance and many other kinds of shared motions. In my view, cheering for sports teams seems to be some sort of dance like the other shared motions McNeill discusses.

Someone has written that “Even in a culture where recorded performance has become central, people crave the live event, largely for that group joy.” It is puzzling that there should be group joy in watching at a stadium or on a television -- or even in reading about others who shared the group joy in my absence (as I do when I read with delight about the games that "my” teams win). Still, how deeply can the shared motions of sports instill community (whatever that abstraction might be taken to mean). At the most, for example, only half of the people in the U.S. watch the Super Bowl. Thus, only half of the citizenry derive some kind of needed community from watching people cheer the Super Bowl. (Only 10% of the citizenry, it is stunning to realize, as massive as that is [30 million people!], watch the most popular television program, American Idol, which has some of its own shared motions and vocalizations). That is a bewilderingly large number. Yet it is only 50%, which means that some 160 million people in the American citizenry do not share in the motions of cheering or watching the cheering for sports teams and players. What does that mean? The whole subject seems too vast to figure out, as much as its existence insist upon us that it has meaning. We are probably forced to make no more than guesses.

As to the photo: it’s a shot taken at the end of a 2007 MSU basketball game in which MSU defeated the #1 ranked team in the nation at the time, Wisconsin, after which the citizenry of mid-Michigan flooded the basketball floor and celebrated. There was plenty of shared rhythmic motion at the game and in its aftermath. I shared in a lot of it.

Sep 24, 2008

Silent Evening

There was a bit more fog this summer than in summers past. The weather was a bit cooler and cloudier, as I have written, in the first half of the summer, which left Lake Superior much cooler. That, in turn, led to more fog as the days began to warm up in mid-July. There was one day in mid-July that had one of the foggiest summer nights of the past 10 years or so. The visibility was down to about 50 feet. You could see cars until they were within a few feet of you. Here is a shot of my youngest son Drew, still 12, standing on the Isle Royale Queen IV dock and next to the Queen herself on that night. We toured the town, and I took a number of photos of various scenes of Copper Harbor in fog. We wound up my daughter Miranda's place, in the muffled silence that descends over areas covered in fog. I loved the whole scene. Drew seemed a little blase about the occurence, but he put up with my excitement well enough and kept following me around. The fog lifted about 10 PM, which surprised me. I find it quite mysterious how fog comes and goes and how hard it is to predict those comings and goings, as hard as I try to make predictions. Jesus might have been advised to speak of the Spirit as being like fog, for the wind is much easier to predict than fog, though Jesus probably knew little fog, except on the Sea of Galilee, perhaps. I am not conversant with weather in Israel either now or then. My Dad asked for a shot of the finale of the 2008 Fireworks show, and I will get to that soon.

Sep 23, 2008

The Night Sky on Just One Night a Year in Copper Harbor

I realize it has been a long time since I posted on this blog, but I guess I needed a break. So I took one, and now I'm going to try to catch up. Hence, the following dozen posts or so will concern the summertime. I am now back at Michigan State, where I work in the non-summer seasons. It's actually still summer down here in the deep south. Up in Copper Harbor, there have been indications of fall's coming, including much cooler weather. But, for now, I return to summer to catch you and me up on what went on.

I've always wanted to set up my camera and tripod for some shots of the Fourth of July fireworks show in Copper Harbor. It's a great show, and one of the best and best known in the Upper Peninsula. The Copper Harbor Fire Department has been going BIG TIME with the fireworks show of late, with ever more of the bigger cannisters being shot into the sky over the central harbor, directly across from the Queen IV dock. Here's a shot from the Queen dock on that night. The show took everyone's breath away. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I must admit, though, that I am not an especially big fan of fireworks shows. I don't know why. That might be something to write an excogitation about. In fact, I have been tinkering with a post for some time about "shared rhythmic motion" that might have some bearing on this topic. I'll try to get it finished soon. Fireworks just don't do all that much for me. I do like this photo, nonetheless. That's Porters Island across the harbor from our business (and my parents' home). The boys of the CHFD fan out along the beach facing town on the west end of the state-owned island.

Jul 31, 2008

I Am Not Lost Yet

I'm always dragging my poor children off into some nook in the wild, and poor, trusting Logan is often the child who will follow me farthest into the woods on my adventurous treks. A few days ago, I took Drew and Logan and their cousin Anthony out to the Estivant Pines Sanctuary south of Copper Harbor for the afternoon. After touring the pines, we set off for the Leaning Giant, the massive pine that fell about 20 years ago along the Montreal River. The unmaintained trail to the Giant is considerably rougher this year because of logging south of the sanctuary and the rain, which has made the swamp between the main sanctuary and the Giant much muckier and much more difficult to cross. The trail was especially difficult to find at times out in the middle of the swamp. I dragged Log across it, and then went back back for Drew and Anthony, who sensinbly refused to follow. So I had to go back across the swamp yet another time and guide Logan back. Here's a shot from the return trip across the big swamp just north of the Montreal River and just south of the Estivant Pines. Oh, by the way, I took this shot of Logan on the trail. A little hard to see it, don't you think?

Jul 18, 2008

A 1000-Foot Ship Passes the Harbor

The unusual weather continues. Well, it might not be so unusual. It might be that the spectacularly beautiful summer weather we have had over the past decade has been much more unusual than all the wind, rain, fog, and cool temps that we have had this spring and early summer in the north country. We even had a delay for gale warnings on last Sunday, the first such delay that I recall in the month of July ever in the period that the Kilpela family has owned and operated the run out of Copper Harbor to Isle Royale (since 1971). I was scheduled as the captain for the trip Sunday, and the captain-brothers decided to delay departure 6 hours. The winds settled down quite a bit over that time, but we still had a rough crossing -- much less than it could have been, but rough nonetheless. I went out to look at conditions by eye on the morning of that day, after the winds started to ease slightly. This shot was taken on the shore outside Copper Harbor 3 hours before we departed in the afternoon. That's the 1000-foot ship, the Stewart J. Cort, out on the lake passing by CH about 2 miles off the coast. I could see that the waves were decreasing a bit because the Cort was not taking as much water over his decks as I expected. I knew we would have better conditions for the crossing later in the day, and it all worked out well in the end. What weather, though. It's been hurting business, especially in CH, in addition to the fuel-price problems. We've had to cancel many Sunset Cruises so far. Businesses are all just hanging on, waiting for things to turn around.

Jul 2, 2008

Sundown on Sawmill Cove

I know, I know, I've been saying that the weather has been rather iffy in the north country this early summer in 2008. But there have been many nice days as well -- and even a few warm ones. Conditions have been getting better and better. Here's a shot of me, Captain Ben, and my wife Marsha on the Isle Royale Queen IV dock one lovely night less than a week ago. We were watching a beautiful sunset long after the Queen IV had returned from Isle Royale (the boat is in the background). The sun sets close to 10:00 this time of year up in these parts. Hey, what's that gut showing on me? Looks like I've got to cut back on the pork chops, as my Dad likes to say. You get so many gorgeous sunsets up here that you can start to take them for granted. And they can be very localized as well. A couple nights later, there was a truly spectacular sunset visible only up on the golf course at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, a mile south of town. I didn't have my camera for the event, since I was golfing with my son Drew, but it was a stunner that was only taking place up there because just a few low clouds were drifting through the Brockway Valley near the course and were lighted up shocking shades of pink and orange by the setting sun. Such sunsets have happened to me many times before when I've been golfing late.

Jul 1, 2008

A Nice Set of Falls

I was up at Manganese Falls about a half mile south of Copper Harbor on a recent morning. I road my bike up the side of the ridge. The blackflies were not too bad, though I did have a bug jacket with hood on when I was in the woods, just to be sure. The falls are running with more water, which comes from Lake Manganese a half mile farther south, than they have in recent early summers, which have been rather dry rather quickly in June each year. As you can see in the photo, the trees growng in the canyon walls are getting bigger and bigger and now starting to block the view of these falls from the overlook alongside the road to Lake Manganese, the road that passes Copper Harbor's old bear dump, which has been closed for about 25 years now. Funny that people keep talking about the old dump all summer long so many years later. I'll have to get a shot of it from the old days and the present for this blog some time soon.

Jun 21, 2008

On Bounty's Rock

The boys and I took a bike ride out to the end of US-41, 2 miles east of Copper Harbor, and stopped on the way back at Fort Wilkins State Park, where one of their favorite places in or around town is located. They call it Bounty's Rock, upon which Logan sits in the photo. The reason for the name I haven't learned yet or forgotten (I'll ask them tonight). The Rock is a ridge of bedrock across from the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, which you can see in the photo. The boys are plotting and planning a new movie to be fiolmed on Bounty's Rock. It will include scenes of the entrance of a copper mine on this rock. How Logan will accomplish that I cannot guess. But he's resourceful, indeed. Logan recently posted a new film on YouTube, the address of which I'll chase down at some point. He's quite the filmmaker. It is fascinating that my children have adopted special places in and around the harbor that are different from mine. This ridge of rock meant little to me as a youth, but my boys see as a place of great importance and meaning.

Jun 16, 2008

Waves from Far Away Keep Rolling Ashore

The weather has been very sketchy up in the north country since I got up north for the summer. It's been one of the coolest Junes I remember. We have one fairly decent summer day, but most of the days have been decidedly fall like. There have been a number of rough crossings to Isle Royale on the Queen IV as well, which is quite unusual for June. Here's a shot from a couple nights ago, taken down the coast from Copper Harbor about three miles. The wind was hard out of the southeast, which the north shore of the Keweenaw is well protected from. But the wind was so strong and steady all day long that the waves were curling around Keweenaw Point and traveling some 10 miles to this spot along the coast and pounding in with vigor. The Queen IV, headed for home from the crossing, would pass by about 5 miles off the coast about 15 minutes after I took this shot. And the rain began falling heavily just another 15 minutes after that. I was on my bike and had to ride three miles home in a hard rain. I had no rain gear, but I didn't mind the ride too much. The family is due any day now, my wife and boys. They have had very hot weather downstate. How will they take the sudden change. Conditions are often so different in the north country.