Notes from the North Country, by Lon and Lynn Emerick

“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that is best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes…”

Lord Byron


The Upper Peninsula is home to many treasures—abundant clear waters, vast forests, cliffs of colored stone and so much more. Those who love this land are enriched by close contact with these natural treasures.
Human treasures also abound in these environs and enrich the lives of all who dwell on this pleasant peninsula. Often, when we celebrate our human treasures, we think of the peninsula’s elders. Those who worked in the CCC camps, copper and iron mines, logging camps, who fought in foreign wars, taught the children, healed the sick, held down the home front. And they indeed are worthy of recognition and celebration, as we have tried to do in our books: Lumberjack—Inside An Era and Going Back to Central—On the Road in Search of the Past.
Yet the Superior Peninsula also is rich in our youth, who work and study here and do us proud, whether they stay or leave for more distant adventures.
One score and one half years ago, a treasure was born in Iron County to the musically talented Premo family. Bette and Dean named her Laurel. While still a wee lass, Laurel joined the family band, White Water.
What a joy and rare privilege it has been for us and fellow White Water groupies to watch Laurel (and her brother, Evan) grow and flourish into accomplished musicians.
Laurel currently is a junior in Performing Arts Technology at the University of Michigan, with courses in the Schools of Music and Art and Design. Now a tall, slim young woman with graceful posture, a classically pretty oval face and a halo of curly light brown hair, she attracts admiring glances wherever she goes. 0808iod
One afternoon when White Water was on the way to an evening concert in Manistique, Laurel alighted from the family van at a convenience store to purchase a can of soda. A young man walking in the opposite direction, watching her instead of where he was going, walked headlong into a gas pump—but he still was smiling (and looking) when he picked himself up.
Laurel’s appeal is not just cosmetic. She plays almost every musical instrument known to western civilization: guitar, dobro, cittern, violin, banjo, Irish drum—the list goes on. To say she plays marvelously is too feeble a description; when Laurel performs she is the music.
Laurel also composes music, both instrumental and vocal. One of our favorite pieces is “The Veery,” a delightful tune that reminds us of this small woodland thrush, singing its lovely spiraling song on a warm evening. The Veery is included in Laurel’s first CD, “Innertwine,” on which she sings and plays many of her own pieces. Did we say that Laurel sings too? Some singing. One winter day a group of Celts were lured down a snowy path to the Chocolay River by her haunting rendition of “Down to the River.”
It is easy to exhaust our supply of superlatives when describing this young woman. She also is a skilled graphic artist. Using colors, textures and forms, she creates a myriad of fantastic patterns, including the design for her new CD.
And that’s not all: Laurel also writes—two of her stories were published in Marquette Monthly before she graduated from Forest Park High School in Crystal Falls.
In the fall of 2008, Laurel will go to Helsinki (Finland) to study at the Sibelius Academy of Music, with special emphasis on folk music. It will be a temporary loss to her family, to the White Water band and her many fans, but she’ll be a fine ambassador from our region to that part of the world.
There is a goodly supply of other human treasures in the Upper Peninsula—musicians, painters, potters, writers, story tellers and a myriad of others who do the daily work that keeps this Superior Peninsula running. We celebrate them.
—Lon and Lynn Emerick

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