Category Archives: Creative Inspiration

Creative Inspiration: The “UPsurge” in the Arts

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Have you noticed how creativity is bubbling over through myriad arts endeavors throughout the U.P.? As Marquette Arts & Culture Center Director Tiina Harris explains, “If you don’t have anything to do, it means you’re not looking. There are a lot of really dynamic choices out there-everything from knitting, painting, and ceramic classes to more pop-up, learn-to-paint options-lots and lots of art opportunities, even metalsmithing.” Harris adds, “More community members are taking art classes, whether at the university or local art center. We have a strong tradition of painting, ceramics, and fiber arts but now the sector has expanded to include more film, graphic design, and the literary arts… Everything seems to be booming.”

This boom is woven into the fabric of U.P. communities.

47 North Belly Dance, a fusion belly dance troupe based in Houghton/Hancock, has swelled to include fifteen dancers from a start of three just four years ago. The troupe performs at all kinds of local venues, including half-time at local roller derby home shows. Co-leader Allison Mills says, “We’ve seen classes grow, but not nearly as much as our audience—they’re an explosion of positivity and enthusiasm!”

And how many communities with populations under 21,000 do you know of that not only have a city band, symphony, art museum, and chorale societies, but also a professional modern dance company? TaMaMa was founded in 2016 by Tara Middleton, Maggie Barch, and Marissa Marquardson to “create innovative movement-based art and integrate it into the community… pushing the boundaries of traditional dance.” TaMaMa has performed in art galleries, art festivals, even on rock walls and in busy downtown crosswalks, as well as more traditional venues such as the Forest Roberts Theatre, where they’ll perform “Collections” in early June.

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Photo from TaMaMa Dance Company

Those up for developing their own moves can check out new options with free classes by local instructors during the Blueberry Dance Festival. Held in late July, the Marquette festival also includes master dance classes, a professional dance performance, and a dance showcase and competition.

MACC Director Harris says, “People are desiring to get together and collaborate more, and do more—there’s a new Drink & Draw group meeting at local bars. The local knitting guilds have younger members now, so people in their 20s to 80s are knitting together. The Marquette Poet’s Circle is making its mark across the entire U.P. They have readings, exhibits, and are strong advocates for writers living in the U.P. They’re doing some really interesting projects connecting artists and poets together. Our senior arts classes have a waiting list – they never used to. We’ve added a senior theater class. Eight-twelve seniors attend local theater performances and rehearsals together. Many of those taking these classes have no previous experience in the arts or theatre. Retirees are looking for something to do…. The100DayProject has increased people’s desire to pick up a new creative habit or get back into an old one.” elaborates Harris.

Local theatre groups throughout the U.P. are performing at beautiful historic venues such as the Calumet Theatre, Negaunee ‘s Vista Theatre, and the Historic Ironwood Theatre, as well as more unusual ones, such as Marquette’s boathouse-turned-performance-venue Lake Superior Theatre, and Shakespeare and Wolf’s Head Theater productions at the Ore Dock Brewing Company. Escanaba’s Players de Noc recently advanced to the prestigious AACTFest Regional competition, and youth theatre is thriving in many parts of the U.P.

Originality, a tell-tale sign of a healthy arts scene, is also blossoming.

The Vista Theatre recently went beyond tried-and true favorites with a production of “The Brain Trust,” by local playwright Bill Hager. Cindy Engle, founder of online source MarquetteMusicScene.com, notes local bands are playing more of their own original tunes. She says the number of bands overall has increased too, as well as new venues for them with more coffee shops and restaurants having live music nights.

Original poetry is shared publicly in places such as The Preserve in Marquette. Original writing is encouraged at the Marquette Poet’s Circle’s monthly workshop and open mike nights, and at U.P. Poet Laureate Marty Achatz’s monthly poetry workshops at Ishpeming’s Joy Center.

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The center’s monthly Out Loud nights foster sharing of all kinds of creative forms. Owner Helen Haskell Remien also points out, “People appreciate when a visual art exercise is a component of a retreat — yoga retreat, energy-related retreat, writing retreat, coach-led retreat. It brings a deeper spiritual depth and meaning and context to the art.  And this seems to be desired by many.”

Remien adds, “Another desire among attendees has been art offerings for kids,” which Ishpeming resident Mark Hall has begun meeting through monthly art workshops for all age groups.

Amber Edmondson and Raja Howell’s book arts workshops at Joy Center have been so popular they are now bringing their vision to reality with a place of their own—Wild Pages in Ishpeming’s Historic Gossard Building, with art and writing supplies, workshops, and locally-created books and art.

In fact, Ishpeming is experiencing a bit of an arts renaissance, with artwork and art classes available at multiple locations—Nook ’n Cranny Art Studio and UPTown Gifts, which are also in the Gossard, Rare Earth Goods, which holds informal weekly music jams too, and Inspired Art & Gifts within Globe Printing.

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Feeding that artistic flame is imperative to keeping it burning brightly, and artists are doing just that at the Marquette Artist Collective, a new group which, as their website explains, welcomes all visual artists and “strives to support each others’ creativity and the arts in our community,” with twice-a-month gatherings, plus art shows in their downtown gallery, and other local spaces. And new art studios have also popped up along Marquette’s Third Street area, offering visitors glimpses of the art-making process, artwork for sale, and art classes.

In Munising, UP~Scale Art, owned and operated by the Munising Bay Arts Association, provides a cooperative option for local and regional artisans to exhibit and sell their art, a yearly internship program teaching the business side of art, and eventually, a range of workshops and art classes. More art can also be found at businesses throughout the area.

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The Calumet Theatre, a National Historic Landmark offering symphony, folk music, jazz, opera, theatre, dance, and community events, is bringing more big names to this intimate 700-seat venue, with five Grammy award winners and nominees performing there this year. New Executive Director Marlin Lee is passionate about making the theatre a go-to for outstanding performances, and utilizing his media marketing and independent concert promotion experience to bring in even more big name acts.

At Michigan Tech, the Rosza Center is focusing diligently to provide memorable, consistent programming for all ages so that “not just kids but the entire family can come together,” explains Programming and Development Director Mary Jennings. More events are being scheduled on the weekend too, so those from other parts of the U.P. can attend more easily.

In Ironwood, non-profit Downtown Art Place (DAP) worked hard to renovate its beautiful structure alongside the Historic Ironwood Theatre with help from dedicated volunteers, private donations, grant funding, and city government. Now in its seventh year, volunteer-run DAP exhibits juried displays of work from fifty to sixty regional artists, has a complete ceramics studio plus classroom space for an array of art classes, and provides the city’s lowest rental cost to 12 – 18 artists leasing art studios there. Board President Howard Sandin also notes an increase in the number of both artists and visitors DAP serves, with tourists from each state as well as other countries in the past year.

New art galleries have sprung up in town since DAP began. Ironwood is also home to Theatre North, the oldest still-functioning theatre group in MI, the Range Art Association, established in 1954, and emphasizes music in the schools, with HIT Idol run annually for youth by the Historic Ironwood Theatre with a guest judge from TV.

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Sandin notes, “There’s a tremendous economic benefit for any area with ongoing support for the arts. For every dollar spent, $8 – $10 comes back…. The city is smart enough to know there is a real benefit to having an active art culture downtown, and has helped make buildings available.

He elaborates, “After 5 p.m., downtown Ironwood used to be dead. It’s thriving now, with nine new businesses opening in the last year, including a brewery. There’s greater enthusiasm. It’s lively now.”

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U.P. communities are also coming to life with the addition of murals. “CUPPAD (Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development) received an Art Place grant to help create murals in the U.P.,” says Harris. “There are three or four in Iron Mountain, one in Manistique, and more in the works in Gladstone and Munising. There has been interest in Marquette as well.”

In addition to the numerous long-running arts festivals already established throughout the U.P., new ones are further livening things up—Forestville, a craft beer and music festival at the Forestville Trailhead in Marquette is now in its fourth year with almost double its initial attendance; the Upper Peninsula Shakespeare Festival and Calumet’s Dam Jam Music Festival, both also founded in 2015; Fresh Coast and 41 North annual film festivals; and five-year-old Arts Week in Marquette.

“The initial idea for Arts Week was to showcase local artists and provide opportunities for the community to participate in free and low cost art experiences outdoors,” says MACC Director Harris. “The City of Marquette contributes $1,500 plus staff time as well as revenue from the sale of ads in our program. Yet, Art Week leverages over $15,000 investment through events coordinated by groups such as Pine Mountain Music Festival, Hiawatha Music Co-op, Marquette City Band, and countless others.

People want an opportunity to experiment with something new.

The level of participation in Art Stroll has skyrocketed with 38 participating businesses this year, up from 20 when we started. There are more signature events during Arts Week now too, such as the Fresh Coast Plein Air Painting Festival,” explains Harris. “The idea is to get people outside to enjoy the natural environment Marquette has to offer. It’s an opportunity not only for artists but also for art appreciators to watch a painting happen in real time.  Now in its third year, the Painting Festival has grown and received over $5,000 in sponsorships.

There are more artist-in-residencies throughout the U.P. now also, including in Munising, Marquette, and Mackinac Island, along with long-established ones in the Porcupine Mountains and Rabbit Island. This will be the second year for Evolve MQT’s Creative Residency made possible through the Marquette Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Film and Digital Media Office. “This year we welcomed a woodcarver, writer, and photographer. All three are well-respected in their fields,” says MACC Director Harris. “Our hope is that they share their experiences of living and working as creatives here in Marquette with the rest of the world, and connect and work with local artists too.”

Harris continues, “This area always has been a cool place to live, but now more than ever… and with that there are more creative people… I think you’re seeing more young people moving here. A recent study shows young people are moving for quality of life first rather than jobs leading their decision. I think we’ve all met people who’ve moved here because it’s an interesting place and then they try to find out how to make a living here. It’s made easier through technology and working from home.

The arts are “a bigger leader than outdoor recreation and growing faster than many industries in the U.S.,” explains Harris.

“This can be seen throughout statewide and local marketing efforts.  Travel Marquette released a video last year featuring artisans and makers, and how the U.P. inspires their work. There’s also been more support from local government. The City of Marquette gives annually to public art. Ironwood is working on an arts and culture master plan. Munising integrates public art projects throughout the downtown, and Iron Mountain recently welcomed several murals into theirs. I think that will soon be the norm in the U.P. – municipalities participating in public art, and supporting arts and culture.”

Arts in the U.P. are also benefiting by connecting across the miles. U.P. Arts & Culture Alliance (UPACA) “hosts meet-n-greets across the U.P. to hear what what’s important to people,” explains Harris, who is also chair of the non-profit. “With representatives from almost all fifteen counties, this very new group is sharing resources, connecting creatives, and advocating for the arts in the U.P.”

State and regional connections led to Escanaba’s Bonifas Arts Center’s application to host an exhibit of early American paintings from the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Manoogian Collection, which occurred last year. And experts through novices from throughout the U.P. and beyond come together to share and learn valuable information at the U.P. Publishers & Authors Association’s Spring Conference, and through their newsletter and Google forum. Out of this has come the U.P. Reader series, showcasing U.P. authors’ work.

“The U.P. has a strong tradition of arts and culture—it’s growing and it’s changing, but it’s always been there,” adds Harris.

There have been periods when the arts have been invested in more than others.  I think we’re at a high point right now, because we understand the impact arts make on both our quality of life and economy. Whether it’s an illustration on a locally crafted can of beer, or reading a book by a local author, the arts are an integral part of our daily lives.”

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Positive Parenting: Nurturing Our Children’s Creativity, Joy Bender Hadley

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One of my favorite memories from my childhood was listening to my mother play the piano. I loved how smoothly her fingers went from key to key, playing each note. She furthered my interest with an interactive musical game for my siblings and me. She would play various tunes, each offering different tempos. When she played the faster music, we would dance with quick moves around the whole house. As it slowed, we would too. It was a marvelous way for my mother to introduce us to the world of music. The bonus may have been that it also tired us out eventually. This was the beginning of my love for music and dance. My mother was always finding ways to nurture our creativity. Our house always had a supply of simple visual arts materials, and no end to creative ways to keep our imaginations blossoming.

The impact of the arts on the developing brain is essential.

The brain is stimulated in positive ways while creating art, dancing, or playing an instrument. The research for this is even included in the Search Institute’s forty developmental assets for youth. These are building blocks to help children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. The more assets our children experience, the healthier they will be—not just as young people, but as they transition into adults as well.

By introducing creative activities into our children’s lives, we can help them develop skills that will create healthy habits. The arts can support creative problem-solving as well as celebrate our individuality, uniqueness, and diversity. Creativity encourages self-expression, a way to create something from personal feelings and experiences. This can increase self-worth and self-esteem.

Though here in the Upper Peninsula we may have fewer offerings such as art museums, programs, and concerts than a larger metropolitan area,

we do have abundant opportunities to share the arts with our children in many ways. We have art galleries and art centers in many of our communities. It is my belief that children are never too young to start interacting with or in art. Bring them to an art gallery, outdoor art fair, symphony concert, or take the time to pick up books about the arts at the library and start conversations with your child. If discussing art makes you feel nervous, that’s all right. Learn with your child.

This type of conversation does not have to happen only in a gallery or concert setting, though. You know the game of lying down outside on a blanket and looking up for images in clouds. That is a creative activity that can help stimulate your child’s imagination. Point out what you see and ask your child if they see it. Then ask them to find something. Observational skills are important to your future scientist, mathematician, artist, or engineer. The arts help greatly in fine-tuning those skills.

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Studies have concluded that it’s very important to introduce art education at a young age because children are developing their critical thinking skills.

Our children fine-tune their motor skills while creating art. The cognitive processes involved in learning to draw, choosing shapes and colors, and creating detail in visual work help develop the skills associated with these tasks. The musical arts can translate into better math skills. Musical rhythms can provide a way for students to learn fractions, counting, and patterns.

We do have opportunities to meet artists, musicians, dancers, and performers in the Upper Peninsula. You know the Michigan State motto, “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”? Well, I truly believe if you seek creative activities in this pleasant Upper Peninsula, look about you. Here we are more likely to meet talented artists face-to-face. We are a personable group of neighbors. Ask local friends and family about local opportunities. We have galleries, art class opportunities, creative businesses, and children’s museums.

As you introduce your children to these types of skill-building creative activities, you’ll be having fun right along with your child.

Try collaborating on a painting or drawing. One of my favorite drawing opportunities as a child was having an adult draw a simple scribble on paper. Then I would take it and see if I could make an image from it. A simple figure 8 might turn into a twirling dancer or an animal. That kept me occupied for hours. The adults seemed to have fun coming up with odd scribbles just to see if I could find anything to make out of it. I did this with my own children, and you can try this too. You might ask your child to make a scribble for you and you try to make something out of it. This type of dialogue between adult and child can help to develop not only the budding artist in the youth, but also help further communication between you and your child.

Through the arts and nurturing creativity, both you and your child will have fun while developing lifelong skills and the blossoming of imagination.

(https://www.search-institute.org)

Joy Bender Hadley is an award- winning art educator working in schools and as an artist-in-residence throughout the region. She believes in the importance of art education in the development of all youth. Aurora Artworks, her art service business, offers creativity coaching for adults.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Creative Inspiration: Cultivating a Creative Practice, Ann Russ

If creativity is a habit, then the best creativity is the result of good work habits. They are the nuts and bolts of dreaming. – Twyla Tharp, choreographer and author of The Creative Habit

Do you yearn for more creativity or art in your life? Have you had an itch to make something or explore a creative idea? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might consider doing a 100 day project.  
 
creative inspiration, creative practice, U.P. holistic wellness publication, U.P. holistic well-being publication, U.P. holistic health publicationThe100DayProject is a creativity excavation that grows a creative habit through a daily, hands-on practice of 100 days. It gives us permission to play, explore, and experiment for an extended period of time.

The100DayProject is not about making perfect or beautiful artwork; it’s about the process of creativity and developing new ways of seeing and thinking. It grows our capacity to imagine, innovate, and problem-solve. The end product – the work that gets made – is secondary to all of that.

Many people think we’re either born creative or we’re not. The100DayProject challenges that assumption with the idea that creativity is a skill that can be developed. What we practice, we get better at, right? Through practice, we develop a creative habit. Through habit, we reconnect with and know ourselves again as creative beings.

Nurturing Ourselves & Others
Artists are among the most generous of people. Perhaps inherent in the appreciation of creativity comes a deep, underlying love of humanity and our Earth. – Kelly Borsheim

Each year, The100DayProject chooses a theme for its community-wide arts initiative, now in its sixth year. The theme, which is optional, is meant to offer a nudge, a glimmer of inspiration, an overlooked opportunity for those who might be looking for that. 

We chose “Art’s Capacity to Nurture” as the theme for 2019. It was inspired by Donna Miller from Temperance, Michigan. Donna completed a 100DayProject in 2018 and sent a box of beautiful hand-crocheted project work for us to distribute as we saw fit.

Donna wanted to get out of her comfort zone and try new stitches.  She was inspired by our 2018 theme, “Mirrored Light,” and made a variety of infant hats and mitts, adult hats, fingerless gloves, and ear warmers. She wrote to us saying, “I hope you will find a place to donate them. The warmth they offer is the Mirrored Light I hope to have reflected from my heart to those who wear them.”
 
We were awestruck and humbled by her unexpected and generous gesture. We added Donna’s project work to the Chocolay Girls Scouts’ Giving Tree on display last December at the Peter White Public Library. Individuals in need of something were invited to take it from the Tree. Any items left over after the holidays were donated to foster families in the area. 

We often see firsthand how art/music/film/dance nurtures the soul, provides comfort and healing, and rejuvenates the spirit in ourselves and others. For example, one Arter* told us that the “creatures” he drew as a child were comforting presences for him as he moved through difficulties in his early life.  Adulthood pulled him away from all of that, so his 100DayProject focus is to reconnect with and draw his creatures again. 

We’ll be collecting stories from 2019 project participants later this year and look forward to discovering how their projects nurtured them and others.

Creativity is dynamic, it asserts life, frees the human spirit, conquers mental lassitude and illness, and makes real the outrageous potential of the universal imagination. – Robert Genn

Cultivating a Creative Habit
And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.  – Meister Eckhart

If you feel inspired by what you’ve read so far and are curious about how to begin, it all starts with an idea that you’re excited about exploring for 100 days. If an idea doesn’t immediately come to mind, you really don’t have to look that far.  Exploring new materials or mediums in new ways may be all it takes.

One artist loved colored paint samples and incorporated them into a daily habit of paper cutout designs. Another artist wanted to explore some materials she had an abundance of and built her project around reclaimed building materials. 

Projects don’t have to be limited to the visual arts. Poetry, writing, practicing a musical instrument or dance steps are all wonderful ideas to explore for 100 days.

Look around you. What motivates you?  What skill do you want to grow? What “off the wall” idea do you want to test-drive? What project idea has been sitting on the back shelf of your mind? What’s calling you to come out and play? There may be an idea or two there.

You don’t have to complete a piece every day. You need only to do something hands-on with your project every day. Track what you’re working on daily so you can see your progress. Journaling works great for that. So does photographing your progress.  Or simply hang your work on a wall or put it on a shelf where you can see your progress. It’ll keep you motivated – and you’ll see the thread of your project idea grow, which can germinate further ideas.

Maybe you’ll decide to do your 100DayProject first thing in the morning, or maybe later on in the day. Creating a routine or rhythm might feel clunky at first – like any new habit it may take some getting used to. Our best advice is to try and do it at the same time each day. Choose something that’s got juice for you and allows you some freedom to play and explore.
 
Simply do one small creative exercise daily, even if it’s just for five minutes, and then move on with your day. This is not about judging what you create – it’s about doing one thing each day for 100 days that nurtures your creative spirit.

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something. — Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

*We use the term Arters to indicate 100DayProject participants who have registered their projects on our website.

Ann Russ is co-organizer of The100DayProject with Catherine Benda. You can visit http://www.The100DayProject.com and subscribe to its newsletter for weekly inspiration and project developments. Visit http://www.facebook.com/The100DayProject for inspiration and to share images and comments about your project. Find more project images at Instagram site @thecreativepractice.

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Creative Inspiration: Winter Moon Madness, Roslyn Elena McGrath

winter moon madness illustration

Winter moon madness sparkles sharply
over crusty layers of icy skyfall.
It ripples through frigid rivers
and captures cold shadows,
increasing their inky contrast
to the shining white mystery
that blurs shapes
and freezes forms.

Can color continue in this world?
Must it all be shades of dark
and light, ad nauseam, forever?

When the moon conquers our souls,
will we remain frozen,
caught up in our thoughts and counter-currents,
statues under indigo skies?
Or will we reach out,
grab another’s hand,
and dance wildly to the sound
of our own howling laughter,
kissing shadows and sparkles
’til we keel over drunk
with intoxicating, frosted breath?

I happen to have a star shine in my hand
that wears me as its amulet,
and I am proud to share its wealth
with all the wide, white world.

Roslyn Elena McGrath is a visionary artist, author, holistic practitioner, teacher, and publisher. You can find out more about her private sessions, upcoming workshops, and inspirational books and products at http://www.EmpoweringLightworks.com.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Creative Inspiration: Time Travel Off the Beaten Path, a 4-County Adventure

Now that summer is finally upon us and nature calls us to explore its many splendid venues, I am reminded of a poem by T.S. Eliot… “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time.”

This so accurately describes my feelings when I get out into the wilderness where the flow of nature’s seasons carves the landscape so very differently every year. It becomes so new and fresh all over again that when I get back to where I started it feels like the first time.

I have read that if you surround your senses in nature, the creative juices will begin to flow. Add to that an historical aspect nudging your imagination to journey through time to when early Native Americans may have traveled or later settlers laid down their roots or traversed a trail in this vast wilderness.

Often, especially during summer, I like to indulge myself with day trips on less-travelled routes, those hidden gems that may be a little off the beaten track, and less likely to be frequented by tourists, in hopes of ushering in such a time-traveling reverie.

Each U.P. county has such spots. In Marquette County, for me, that spot is the Forestville Falls trail, located off Forestville Road, just eight minutes from the city of Marquette. The first thing you see from the parking lot is a fenced property owned by the Marquette Board of Light and Power, with a sign warning you of surveillance cameras and not to trespass into the generating facility. It’s letting you know to stay on the trail. There is an opening in the fence to follow a gravel path up an incline. Taken slowly and steadily, it brings you to the plateau from which you’ll see signage down the other side toward the flowage below.

While the trail has had some improvements made to it over the years, it is not handicapped-accessible. Once you get down to the river, you are rewarded with rock formations likened to those found in Colorado and the West. Here you can enjoy the beauty of the area and have a picnic with friends or decide to explore further. The latter, however, will require crossing a creek over several logs. You can either stay at the base of the rock outcropping and proceed alongside the river, climbing over boulders at times to stay on the path, or you can take the other route, weaving uphill through the forest, until you get to a narrow path at the top on the edge of the cliff, overlooking the falls below. Once you get over and around this highland, both trails join back together, meandering along the river and through a series of waterfalls ranging from a few feet to approximately sixty feet high.

This area is popular with the college crowd, which often can be found camping in the woods throughout this gorge, or swimming on sunny days in the various pools created between the cascades. After a rainfall, this area can be more dangerous to swim in, and even in the summer months, it’s quite chilly.

This hike takes roughly two hours roundtrip at a steady pace. Most weekdays, you may be the only person there, but on weekends, plan on seeing other hikers, depending upon the weather. It’s a nice place to go on those extremely hot summer days since the trees combined with the ravine and water go a long way to cooling the temperatures, not to mention the mist and water particles floating in the air closer to the falls themselves.

Forestville’s enchantments always prompt me to imagine Native Americans using these same trails in earlier times, as waterways and the paths beside them were the roads of yesteryear.

When visiting Alger County, a hidden-in-plain-sight gem that is great for both nature lovers and history buffs is the Tyoga Trail. This historical pathway is less than two miles north of M-28 in Deerton, marked with a sign that easily can be overlooked.

Imagine yourself back in the early 1900s, most likely working alongside an Englishman, Finn, or French Canadian Lumberjack. Work was hard, long, and dangerous. You’d be part of a crew that felled massive virgin pine trees, shaking the ground with thuds that could be felt throughout the town.
Forty men were needed to run the mill. A huge steam engine operated the band saw. After an exhausting day in the woods, this rugged bunch would often begin drinking to soften sore muscles, escape the boredom and isolation of being away from family and friends, or bond with peers in this far-flung sawmill and town site. Alcohol-fueled fights frequently broke out.

The new town of Tyoga sat alongside the Laughing Whitefish River where a virgin forest contained trees one-hundred-and-fifty feet tall and 3 1/2 pound brook trout were often pulled from the river. The town’s residents numbered 150 in its heyday, housed mostly in plank houses and log cabins. The town boasted a company store, blacksmith’s shop, boarding house, horse barns, and cook’s shanty in addition to the sawmill, and eventually a school and a post office. But then the mill was sold to Cleveland Cliffs, which dismantled and moved it, leading Tyoga to become another of the Upper Peninsula’s ghost towns after only about a decade in existence.

The modern-day Tyoga Trail is easily walkable, with interpretive signs along the way making it a family-friendly adventure. Its 1.4-mile loop takes you through mostly hardwoods, but old growth pines can also be found, along with some foundations hidden among the overgrowth. You might even spot the graves of loggers accidently killed on the job, as well as remnants of the town’s railroad.

How long you’ll be on the trail depends on whether you take time to read its many signs, and what the weather has been, as some parts can become quite muddy after rainfall.

In Baraga County, our next “off-the-beaten-path” adventure takes place at the Hanka Family Homestead, settled in 1896 in an area later known as Askel Hill. This eighty-acre property was a subsistence farm, used primarily to provide food, heat, and water for survival.

Around 1890, a number of recent Finnish immigrant woodcutters at Bootjack near Torch Lake heard there was a freshwater lake with abundant fish somewhere near Chassell. Two of them successfully set out and explored this densely forested wilderness, finding Otter Lake sitting between deep ravines and high hills. The lake reminded them of Finland, so they returned to Houghton in hopes of gaining possession of this beautiful area.

Fortunately for them, Abraham Lincoln had signed into law the Homestead Act of 1862, so they were able to file their claims on September 13, 1890. Five families set out together via boat up the Sturgeon River, with the men following along the shore with cattle and a horse.

In 1889, after becoming unable to work due to a mining accident, Herman Hanka decided to homestead in the Misery Bay-Toivola area on 160 acres, roughly twenty miles from Askel. After several years of isolation and hardship, the family decided to move once again, this time to the settlement on Otter Lake.

In 1896, Herman’s older daughter, Mary, applied for a homestead and received it on the eighty acres where the farm is still preserved today. Records indicate the sauna and farmhouse were built first, followed by a log barn and a log root house. Five acres were fenced and farmed. The property also has a pond which was used in tanning leather.

Can you envision yourself living as the Hanka family did, spending nearly all of your day working to meet your basic survival needs? Wondering whether you would have enough food to last through your next winter? Whether your clothes would be warm enough? Despite the challenges of modern life, it’s far easier in so many ways for most of us to access these basics.

For more information and directions to experience the Hanka Homestead yourself, call the Keweenaw National Historic Park at (906) 337-3168 or visit http://www.hankahomesteadmuseum.org.

In Keweenaw County, a beautiful out-of-the-way hike where a person’s imagination might come alive is at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Within its 241-acres lies a 2.5 mile trail through a wide variety of landscapes, including sandy dunes with berries, meadows with wildflowers, and forest canopy of birch, balsam fir, maple and cedar. The path continues past beaver ponds and through conifers and hardwoods of various sizes.

Arriving at Lake Superior, where Black Creek and Hills Creek come together to create a spectacular, continuously-changing lagoon, you can find remnants of the copper mining era along the shoreline from old stamp sand deposits, as well as non-magnetic black basalt sand, and an assortment of multi-sized rocks.

This beach and creek area is also a hotspot for wildlife of all kinds – moose, wolves, beavers, black bears – and an aquatic home to various species of fish. Patient visitors will also enjoy watching a range of bird species in the canopy and on the shoreline.

To reach the sanctuary from Calumet, take M-203 west and head north on Tamarack Waterworks Road. Veer right onto Cedar Bay Road. You’ll find a parking lot on the east, and the trailhead less than a quarter-mile south.

Kevin McGrath can be found time-travelling through history on his journey through life. He can be reached with enough creativity or intention.

http://www.mikelclassen.com/Tyoga_Historical_Pathway.php
http://www.hankahomesteadmuseum.org/stories-tales/
https://www.michigannature.org/filelibrary/Black%20Creek%20Nature%20Sanctuary%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

Excerpt from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018.

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Creative Inspiration: Inspiration in the Sand, by Marty Achatz

Lin-Manuel Miranda was on vacation from performing in his first Broadway musical, In the Heights. He was exhausted and looking for a big, fat book to distract him, so he picked up a copy of Rob Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton in the airport bookstore.

Later, sitting on the beach, reading Chernow’s book, Miranda began hearing Hamilton’s life in song. By the time his vacation was over, he was on the road to creating his Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning hip-hop musical Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda discovered his masterpiece like a seashell in the sand.

Inspiration can be found in unlikely places. I’ve discovered poems while jogging, watching the film Citizen Kane, and baking a pecan pie for my mother. In fact, when I feel creatively stuck, I purposely take a break from my normal activities. I do something as far away from poetry as I can, and that is when poetry usually finds me.

If you are looking to jumpstart yourself creatively, here are prompts for how to find your seashell:

Pick up a book by one of your favorite writers. I love the poet Sharon Olds. When I read her poems, I find myself opening up like a tulip bulb.

Go for a walk in the woods or along a beach. If you are a writer, don’t bring your notebook with you. Instead, take your phone or a sketchbook. If you are a photographer, leave behind your camera. Bring a journal instead. Try your hand at a different art form to record your stroll in nature.

Todd Kaneko, author of the acclaimed poetry collection The Dead Wrestler Elegies, once told me his trick for finding his seashell. He said that he comes up with the absolute worst idea in the world (in his case, it was a series of poems about dead professional wrestlers), and then he pursues that worst idea.

When she feels creatively stuck, writer Natalie Goldberg makes a date to meet with one of her writing friends to share new work. Simply having a deadline can be enough of a kick in the pants to get started.

Listen to music that moves or inspires you. For me, recently, it has been the cast recording of Hamilton. However, I am equally moved by Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma or Billy Joel crooning “Captain Jack.”

Take a class in something you’ve always wanted to try—cooking or quilting or gardening or speaking Italian. Again, it’s about shaking the cobwebs out of your head. Forcing yourself to think “outside the box.”

Like Lin-Manuel Miranda, pick up a book you would never ordinarily read. I recently read a study of journalism at the turn of the 20th century. It ended up providing the background for an essay I wrote for Christmas.

Go someplace you have never been before, even if it’s a simple day trip to a local waterfall. A change of scenery often sparks new ideas. I once struggled with a poem for three months. I didn’t know how to finish it. Then I gave a reading in Sault Ste. Marie. As soon as I checked into my hotel in the Sault, I sat down at the desk in my room and wrote the ending to that poem.

Eat some dark chocolate. Just because chocolate helps everything.

Finding seashells is easy. They come in all shapes. All sizes. Tonight, I’m going to sit down and start reading a 1200-page biography of Charles Dickens that’s on my bookshelf. Who knows? I might find a poem or painting. Or maybe, just maybe, a Broadway musical.

U.P. Poet Laureate Martin Achatz teaches at NMU. He has published a collection of poems, and his work has appeared in anthologies and journals.  Also a musician, Martin has released a CD of Christmas music and essays.  Martin also enjoys hunting for Bigfoot with his son.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Creative Inspiration: Sticks & Stones, by Kevin McGrath

kevin-smiling-in-garden-2010.jpg

While many people are busy leveling their yards and trying to get the edges straight, spending countless hours making sure all the bushes and plants line up in a nice orderly fashion, clearing unwanted stones and dead wood, I am adding stones and wood, and creating surfaces both below and above ground level.

 
In retrospect, I was inspired by several factors. All of my life I have been in love with both dead and decaying wood and stones. A friend recently told me she believes my stone crush stems from my Irish ancestry. After all, Ireland is a country built with stone – stone fences, cobblestone streets, buildings and castles of granite, and the fields are scattered with outcroppings of this natural rock.
Each hardened sphere is unique in size, shape, color and weight. Especially when wet, their radiance shimmers and dances, exploding with a wide spectrum of color that tingles the senses. Dead and decaying wood are more subtly hued with grays and browns; however, they can often be seen joining forces with lichen and mosses to create a beautifully colored landscape.

 

I have always enjoyed seeing downed branches or trees in their artistic poses, curving and twisting as if in a snapshot of a wooded kind of ballet. Unearthed roots especially excite me, as this secret dark society, which usually lives underground, is finally revealed for all to see. If my stone love stems from my Gaelic descent, then perhaps my wood infatuation is derived from my Native American roots.

 
One can never be sure about these things of course, but I do know that decaying wood and stones have been favorites of mine since childhood. I know my most recent creative inspiration for incorporating these two natural wonders was inspired by a recent trip to New York’s Central Park. My son and I spent an afternoon there, frolicking along streams and through woods, up hills and down slopes, as we meandered along the winding paths.

 

This trip inspired me to take the things I love and, in a micro sort of way, create this hobbit type world in my own backyard. Inspiration can come from all sorts of things, whether from within, where the genes of a distant relative seek expression, or a place that draws you in and makes an impression to the point that you want to recreate it in your own way in a nearby location, where you can see the things you love spread out before you. I believe the most important point, however, is to listen to these urges and see what they bring you.

 
Given his fondness for sticks and stones, Kevin McGrath has been called by many names and is fine with that.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2010 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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