No power meant that I could have once again wrapped myself in the "pretend world" of living on the frontier. My cottage, like most around here, is amply supplied with the conveniences of the modern world, most of them power dependent. When the power goes, I revert to the conveniences of an earlier and simpler era...kerosene lamps for light, wood fires for heat, and books for entertainment. If out for an extended period, there is always the lake for water and dry and canned goods for food. I love it! A real adventure in romanticism...made safe by the knowledge that good ole UPPCO will come to my rescue before things get really inconvenient.
More importantly, such an abrupt interruption to the routine of daily life creats some time space....a moment to contemplate life, my own and that of the world in which I live. A moment, for instance, to muse about a matter of increasing local debate....the changing Harbor community and how best to accomodate the varied and sometimes conflicting life styles, expectations and needs of those who live here, regularly vacation here, or are infrequent and short term visitors..
Before I retired, my visits to the Harbor were like those of most Harborites, short. Measured in days, sometimes weeks, but not months. Each visit an all too rare opportunity to get away from the hustle, blandness, and predictable convenience of urban life and enjoy a brief interlude in the solitude, splendor, and tolerable self-sufficiency tests of life on the remote and rugged Superior shore. I always hoped for extended power outages to add to the sense of escape. I was rarely disappointed. Poor roads, dark streets, uncertain water supply, meager store stocks, garbled radio signals, improbable TV, few laws and even less enforcement, inadequate or at least poorly accessible medical care, pets on the loose, a laissez-faire attitude about behavior....all added to the allure of the place. All attempts to remedy any of this by those for whom Eagle Harbor was home, not just an escape, I viewed with a jaundiced eye. At best I thought it unnecessary; at worst, "ruining a good thing".
Now that I've joined the ranks of those who call Eagle Harbor home, I find that I am, let's say, more open minded about these matters. A power outage, while still welcomed, gets worrisome after three or four hours of no refrigeration. The street light near my home, still a visual nuisance on warm summer evenings, is nonetheless a comfort in winter's blizzards. The deteriorating shortcut road to 41 certainly adds to the adventure of a trip to the Harbor, but is becoming an irritation to someone who must drive it several times a month. I rebel at the thought that my dog Abby can no longer run the beach, but I've witnessed the mess and nuisance of unsupervised pets. I've learned to appreciate the value of improved access to medical care, and better trained and more adequately equipped public safety services. I find myself joining the ranks of those pressing for controls to keep people from building in watercourses or otherwise abusing our fragil natural rsources. Boisterous late night beach gatherings and noisy PWCs churning about in the harbor for hours on end leave me muttering, "There ought to be a law!", but fond thoughts of similiar good times in my own life tempers my rage.
Almost every gathering of local folks and certainly most Township meetings are witness to the debate about where and how to achieve balance between "getting away from it all", and "having it all". Some seek the safety of street lights, others want to preserve the splendor of our dark night sky. Some plead for better streets, others argue that wider, smoother streets are uneeded given the seasonal character of our town and that they would simply attract more development and traffic. Some advance the cause of strict development control, others contend such controls will needlesly interfere with the use and enjoyment of one's property and only add expensive and inflexible bureaucracy. When UPPCO clear cut a swath beneath and alongside its power lines, some were appalled by the loss of roadside treestands, others rejoiced in the less frequent power outages. Some feel the gain in clutter control and reduced risk of ground water pollution afforded by our Township's tightly regulated solid waste compactor is a poor tradeoff for the lower cost, greater convenience and great bear watching of the old dump. The appropriate use and enjoyment of our harbor and its beaches by bathers, beachers and boaters is always a source of contention.
All of this, of course, is probably just the expected and perfectly acceptable working out of the differences in our personal needs and agendas. Unfortunately, we sometimes allow our passions to overwhelm our better selves in these discussions and revert to uncomplimentary, "put down", group stereotyping and personal affronts to those with whom we disagree. To our credit, these instances are rare.
Certainly, as more and more of us with differing life experiences and expectations make the Harbor our home, and the number of summer visitors and summer camp owner/occupants swell, we will be increasingly searching for ways to assure that the Harbor is both a great place to live as well as a wonderful place to "get away from it all".
My guess is that most of us, year around or near year around residents, summer camp owner/occupants, short term vacationers, and daily visitors are here for many of the same reasons...to enjoy the splendor of this unique natural environment, to participate in the abundance of recreational and intellectual opportunities the surrounding lands and lakes and their rich history of settlement afford; to seek the soul satisfying quiet moments of fireside or a favorite "listening point"; and, to relish good times with gathered family and/or the friendly neighbors and the close, relaxed attitude of a small community. My hunch is that these common agendas have and will continue to be the foundation of our ability to coalesce as a community, a community that has learned to respect and accomodate the differing life styles and needs of its members.
Something to think about the next time a Ms Seagull or some other unpredictable act of nature shuts down my world of pervasive and invasive convenience, including this computer, and gives me pause to contemplate the changing Harbor community.
Purpose and Potential Of George's Eagle Harbor Web, November, 1996
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