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Winter Storm Approaches

The Week's Weather Journal.

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

The Week Of June 1st


June. A gentle month. Winter's harshness and uncertainity are gone. The robustness of summer is yet to come. The earth and its flora and fauna all seem to be in a sleepy, just awakened state. There is a sense of pause. I sit by the window, coffee in hand, and survey a scene of tranquility...hills slowly yielding to the softening of budding deciduous, shoreline lying quietly alongside placid water, sky without pattern or movement, camps and streets silently awaiting the populace that will soon give them life. Despite the turmoil of recent chimney fires and heart attacks, I too sense a pause in life, a moment somewhere between reflection and expectation. Nature and human nature...forever entwined.


A stroll along the beach at sunrise is part of my morning ritual in all seasons but winter. It's a time when only the sights, sounds and smells of the natural environment are present...the human world not yet stirring. In June the swollen red sun lifts up from black water far out over the lake, first waking the sleeping dark hills and then, as it clears the the earth's thick air envelope, sending golden strands of light that reflect brightly off the white and yellow cottages facing the beach. Today, the harbor and big lake were at rest...just a gentle lapping of wavelets on the harbor beach sand and only enough roll in the big lake to produce a slow, muffled toll of the entry buoy gong. A goose and gander move quietly from the weeds and rocks along the north beach shore as I approach, straddling three newly hatched goslings. Loons yodel in mid harbor as gulls noisily squabble over favorite roosts on the entry rocks. The caw of crows and croak of ravens drifts in from the pinery. No-see-ums swarm from warm sand to feast upon the day's first warm blooded offering. I study the water's edge, marveling at the great variety of pebble and debris washed ashore within the past day and night without the aid of wind or waves. Eliza Creek moves lazily in its ever narrowing channel, no longer a barrier to beach walkers. A car moves out of the village and up the hill, carrying a sleepy commuter to another day of work. I turn and retrace the fresh footprints in moist sand back to camp...thinking of years of similar commutes past early morn wanderers and being puzzled by their air of joyful contemplation. Now I understand.


It's light at 5 AM, and warm...almost 60 degrees. Those of us near the big lake enjoy the cool radiation from its cold water, but those more than a few hundred feet inland feel temperatures in the mid to high 70s as the day progresses. They also host the exploding swarms of no-see-ums. Sun seekers are tempted to the warm beaches, but when faced with retreat or a dash into the numbing water to escape the bugs, they retreat. Forget-me-nots abound in tight blue clusters and forsythia begins to add its yellow presence to our now very green camp grounds. Friends from the heartland ask how the lilacs are doing. I advise that they should be on schedule for their usual July 4th blooming.


At dawn, the surfaces of lake and harbor are flat, motionless, lifeless. Reflections of hills, trees and camps are etched sharply on their surface. Nothing stirs, except the bugs who thrive on days such as this. Those of us who venture outside to walk or tend to gardens are attired in the latest fashion craze to arrive at Eagle Harbor...the Bug Baffler. An import from New Hampshire, where bugs must also abound, the Baffler is loose fitting, logo adorned, dark green mesh fabric jacket with zipper attached headnet...your own portable screenhouse. Everyone seems to be wearing them --- the oversize, dark, boxy appearance suggesting a world of alien creatures moving about. I encountered a bear while on a *short*, *slow* walk to Eliza yesterday (emphasis added in case my docs or family read this), and after a glance at the alien, the bear quickly scampered off in apparent fright! Maybe it's a "Bear Baffler" as well. They are expensive, $38 at what the local source calls "fair trade" (an oxymoron to a career discount retailer like me), but they do the job.


It's difficult to make entries in the "Weather Journal" when there is no weather, or at least no weather worth noting. The usual northern mid-continent slow moving early June weather systems prevail once again, none of them with enough spunk to stir a flag. So let's do the bear report. We have lots of them around...and they are big! The early spring seemed to speed up the bird migration, prompting many folks to fill up their bird feeders earlier than usual --- big mistake. The bears are nortorious bird feeder robbers, and with so few folks around town the bears are unusually brazen. The Clarkson's reported a couple of bears relaxing on their high above ground sundeck, leisurely consuming bird feeder contents, enjoying the view out over Lake Bailey, and apparently waiting for John and Nancy to get the deck hot tub cranked up!


Fog dominates in the near lake environs and keeps things cool. The bugs retreat up the hill about a quarter of a mile where warm sun prevails. The still air is filled with the horn blasts of upbound lakers working their way through the heavy fog banks along the Keweenaw shore. I hear the distinctive blast of the Stewart J. Cort, which inauguarted the era of the 1,000 footer twenty five summers ago. Seems as if many of the upbound boats are heavy laden, presumably carrying coal to western lake ports. I've never been able to understand the economics of upbound coal shipments. I thought most of the nation's coal resources are located west of Duluth. Do you suppose it's less expensive to move poorer grade Appalachian coal on otherwise empty bottoms to western lake ports than it is to rail deliver higher grade western product to these same ports? The economics become even more twisted when you hear that some downbound boats are loaded with Montana coal. Perhaps it has something to do with sulfur content...sell the high priced good stuff and buy the cheap poor stuff and make money on the spread. Oh well, economics were never my thing.


What wonderful June weather. Sure, the no-see-ums are a bit pesky away from the cold lake shoreline, but the days are sunny, the light breeze off the lake is fresh and cooling, and the bright colors of blooming spring are especially pleasing to eyes and psyche too long attuned to the white and grey of winter. Dark green spruce trees stand in sharp contrast to the backdrop of woods now dominated by the brighter green of pine and the wispy green of newly budded birch and popular. Harbor and lake reflect the pale blue of spring sky as the light breeze teases the surface, causing deep blue ripple patterns to scurry about. Yellow cowslip clusters spring from the cool lushness of creekside and flowing ditches. Mats of blue five-petaled blue flowers (probably myrtle) creep across shady cemetery grounds. Light tan beaches shine in the bright sun, seeming almost playful alongside the more somber reddish brown rocky shoreline. Camps and cottages of every color in the rainbow peek out from embracing foliage. Quite a sight!

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