Notes from the North Country, by Lon & Lynn Emerick

It was time to plant the final flag. Reverently, with joy and hopefulness, we place the small green banner with large white letters proclaiming “Save the U.P.” near the very tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The pennants were already waving at the other three corners of the Upper Peninsula—near Ironwood, Detour and Brimley. We had tramped in nature preserves, along Lake Superior beaches, by small lakes and under rugged cliffs. The Four Corners Mission was accomplished.
Symbolically, we are “claiming” the territory above the Big Mac Bridge for all the residents who love this rugged land and the lifestyle that is our privilege to enjoy. It also is an effort—quixotic, perhaps—to call out danger, to signal a warning about the epidemic of “development” that is sweeping inexorably across this Superior Peninsula.
Images of “Up North” lure people—especially those jaded with urban living—to the U.P. Those who come with an appreciation of the land and its people have contributed much to their new communities.
Some newcomers, though, come with an idealistic view of this region, bringing expectations of transplanting an urban lifestyle into a remote and rugged place. There is a tendency to set out making this new place more like the places they have fled. In his book Great Lakes Journey, William Ashworth delineated the Fallacy of Composition: “Things you want add up to things you don’t want.”
We are wary, too, when others come here who see only dollars in our natural heritage. One local land developer is marketing the U.P. to out-of-area buyers with the slogan, “Escape while you can!” We remember that the human history of our peninsula has been one of boom and bust: resources are harvested as quickly as possible, with most profits siphoned off and sent away to other states and countries. And we are left with empty promises and unsightly—or dangerous—residue.
Living long in a place, one is bound to see changes in the land and destruction of favorite natural areas. Many of us who dwell in the Upper Peninsula cannot live happily without opportunities to savor beauty, the rapture of silence and vast wild spaces. We echo Thoreau’s lament penned a century and a half ago: “I am attempting to read the ‘Book of Nature’ all the while others are rapidly tearing out the pages.”
What we have here in this peninsula is vulnerable to each new proposal to convert the land and its resources into corporate profit. We must be careful not to allow destruction of the very reasons we wish to live here.
Every day, long-time lovers of this Superior Peninsula offer thanks—each in his or her own way—that we are fortunate to live in this wild and beautiful land. With the flags planted on the four corners of the U.P., we make a small statement of affection and concern for our native valley.
If, by chance, you discover one of the small banners, please leave it in place and let us know, if you will, the date and place of your discovery.
—Lynn and Lon Emerick

Editor’s Note: Comments are welcome by writing MM or to marquettemonthly@ chartermi.net

Lon and Lynn Emerick’s Upper Peninsula books: The Superior Peninsula, Going Back to Central, 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 the North Country Publishing site at www.northcountrypublishing.com

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