Notes from the North Country

by Lon and Lynn Emerick

“For I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days.”
—Henry David Thoreau

An Upper Peninsula summer is a superb time to make some investments. Not to worry, we don’t mean ephemeral stocks or bonds. No Ponzi scheme here. Rather, we suggest investments in the incomparable beauty of summer—the greatest, longest-lasting “show”—Alma Nature.
0907iodmm1The cost of these investments is minimal: some time, a bit of shoe leather, maybe an insect bite or two (or three). But the payoff, the return on your investment, is enormous. As with most things about nature, Thoreau said it best:
“No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not in possessions but enjoyment.”
During the bitter cold and dark days of January, while enduring the burden of a boring meeting (sorry for the redundancy there), or when the quiet desperation of daily chores gets you down, there is an escape. Call on the memories of summer and transport yourself to a warm, sunny oasis. Surprisingly, the brain does not recognize the difference between a real and an imagined image.
Opportunities for summer investments are all about us in this pleasant peninsula: the slopes of Mt. Marquette, the school forest off Forestville Road; the Elliott Donnelley tract on the Little Garlic River, Twin Waterfalls Nature Preserve in Munising, Harlow Lake and Little Presque Isle, Craig Lake Wilderness State Park, Portage Point, the myriad of lakes and rivers in the Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests—only a few of our favorites.
What is on your list of favorite places and times? Each sensitive observer has favorite images of summer. Here are some we return to again and again; use them as stepping stones for your own path of discovery:
• The sight and sound of water always is soothing to those who take the time to sit quietly near our beautiful lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Try this: rest beside a waterfall and open your senses. Soak up the sounds of cascading water; taste the mist that swirls around you. Feel the power of water gruffing on the rocks. Some research indicates that such moving water produces negative ions, which reduce feelings of discomfort and anxiety. Or, perhaps “we’re drawn to them (waterfalls) simply because they make us feel good” (Jerry Dennis, The Bird in the Waterfall).
• Have you looked at clouds from all sides lately? Find a grassy spot to lie on your back and let your mind drift along with the fluffy white pillows. Send yourself back to your childhood when you found all manner of fanciful shapes in those clouds scudding overhead.
• Spend some quiet time one late afternoon in a nearby hardwood forest. Watch the shifting patterns of light and shadow as the slanting rays of sunlight filter through the leaves of maple, oak, birch and basswood trees.
Although not necessary, some observers keep a journal and describe what they have seen and enjoyed. It may help to evoke memories you can turn to in colder, grayer times. Keep in mind that if an outdoor adventure is approached with an open mind and heart, then surely as night follows day, beauty, wonder and quiescence are sure to follow. When we cultivate awareness of the natural world, it awakens ancient memories, which help us calibrate our present lives. After a walk in forest or field, even if only as a stroll down memory lane, we always feel better. These investments guarantee dividends.

—Lon and Lynn Emerick

Editor’s Note: Lon and Lynn Emerick’s Upper Peninsula books: The Superior Peninsula, Going Back to Central Mine, Lumberjack—Inside an Era, Sharing the Journey, You Wouldn’t Like it Here and You STILL Wouldn’t Like it Here are available at area book and gift stores or by visiting

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