Hello from the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I'm staying with my sister, Barbara, for a few days of vacation. For those of you who think of Michigan as a mitten, the state is actually composed of two peninsulas. The second, less well known peninsula, sits atop Wisconsin and is bordered by Lake Superior to the north. I completed my undergraduate education at Michigan Technological University, which is located on the Keewenaw peninsula, the most northerly part of the U.P. which receives, on average, over 250 inches of snow each year. The south easterly part of the peninsula ends at Lake Michigan, and my sister lives about five blocks from the lakeshore in Escanaba, a.k.a. "Esky". The high school mascot here is... the Eskymos. So far, no native American groups have complained about the faintly asiatic-looking fellow.
There are other interesting small school mascots in the U.P., like the Brimley Bays, Calumet Copper Kings, Houghton Gremlins (not the Ford Deathtraps), Kingsford Flivvers, Ishpeming Hematites (in the Iron Range, of course), Bessemer Speedboys and, my favorite, Gwinn Modeltowners.
From here I'll drive with my sister to the La Crosse diocese's catechetical in-service, where Sherry and I will give a Called & Gifted workshop. My brother, Dave, will be driving up from Champaign, IL, to join us. It'll be the first time my siblings have been to a workshop, and since my sister just retired, and my brother (who's the eldest) is close to retiring.
Many folks are strapped for cash these days, and vacations may seem out of the question. If you're in the midwest, you might consider the U.P. Pasties (a very filling meat pie with potatoes, rutabagas, onions and spices) will set you back less than $5, generally. The copper and iron ore miners used to take them into the mines for lunch up here, and I can assure you, they didn't go hungry!
On Monday my sister and I drove to Munising, MI, on the shore of Lake Superior and took a boat trip along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on a calm, hot (for the U.P.) day. Lake Superior was like glass because the wind was from the south, and given that there are 350 shipwrecks - many of them uncharted still - on the bottom of Lake Superior, you know that's not always the case. You see, Lake Superior's well-known for it's deadly northeastern squalls, as Gordon Lightfoot's haunting ballad taught us.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.
There's more here on the tragic and as yet mysterious sinking of the 729 foot-long Edmund Fitzgerald. It's a frightening scenario that gives you an idea of the immense power of nature in the far north.
I've also picked fresh, wild blueberries on the Garden peninsula, not far from where my sister lived when she first moved to the U.P. The sandy soil there is ideal for the low bushes that are filled with succulent berries. They made a great home made pie, by the way!
One evening Barbara and I rode bicycles down to the park along Lake Michigan where we listened to Grassfire, a local bluegrass band. For free. For two hours. Under a blue sky with the setting sun to our backs. Not a bad way to spend an evening in a small town.
Oh, and last night's Scrabble contest was interrupted by a power outage during a ferocious thunderstorm. No problem, though, Barb and I finished it the old-fashioned way - by candlelight. She whupped me, too, scoring over 320 points.
Gotta run - we're off to Mass at the local parish - another bikeride away.