Tag Archives: Creative Inspiration

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: Spinning Your Web, by Roslyn Elena McGrath

Glimpse the shimmer within shimmer within you

that snags your dreams

and digests them into poems,

stories, anecdotes, detailing  your pursuits.

Glimpse the shimmer within shimmer within you

that composes melodies,

visualizes songs, and arranges cantatas

into vessels that carry your essence.

Glimpse the shimmer within shimmer within you

that turns sounds into words, words into stories,

stories into epics and epics into history

that echoes your perspective.

Glimpse the shimmer within shimmer within you

that causes thoughts to grow into patterns,

patterns into beliefs, and beliefs into panoramas

of living art that creates itself.

You are now enchanted here,

the believer of the tales you’ve spun.

Turn this weaving at an angle now

and watch the kaleidoscope rearrange.

The colors shift and change

to elaborate new stories.

Cause and effect continue unbroken

‘til the strand holding them together changes.

Allow one piece of the puzzle to emerge

and the whole puzzle is recreated.

You are a shape-shifter,

turning with the tides set in motion

by your self-created patterns

that shine upon reflection

and remain invisible in the dark,

netting the nuggets that fuel their weave.

Beauty lies in the lace of creation,

its tensile strength and endless adaptability

mesmerizing us deeper into its geometric repetition,

echoing the sound wave its Originator made.

Strum a strand for your own expansion, expression,

create a new form that propagates itself for you.

Witness the shift

of one heart humming

with Original creation,

hanging in the mystery of the Void.

You are endless patterning

recreating itself

with thoughtwave

after thoughtwave.

Channel the changes you desire

into your warp and weft

as part of the Eternal Tapestry

that lives and breathes and moves.

Continue your hum louder.

The chorus grows to support you.

You emerge with poetry

laced throughout your skin

and echoing through your pores

into your cells and out to the world,

a    spinner     spinning       itself       into      glory.

 

Roslyn McGrath facilitates healing experiences through her art, poetry, intuitive counseling, energy healing, workshops and guided meditations. This poem was inspired by her painting Spider Woman, and will be part of her meditation CD series. Listen to other meditations, view art and learn more at  www.intuitivelearningcreations.com.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Fall 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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From Family Treasures to Art

A Creative Inspiration article by Christine Saari

It all began with letters. Letters my father had written to me, his five-year-old daughter on an Austrian mountain farm, before he fell on the Russian front in April 1944. Heartrending letters about being a soldier far away. Letters of love and longing. Letters I could never read without dissolving in tears.

These letters were long my private treasure. But every time another war started somewhere, in Bosnia, in the Gulf, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, I thought of all the soldier fathers who missed their children, of all the children who feared for their fathers’ safety, of warriors who did not return.

One day it struck me – I knew I needed to share these letters, with my grandchildren, with young students, with as many people as possible.

That was the beginning of the inspiration to create “Family Album,” a collection of artful boxes, suitcases, bags and books that would incorporate family letters, documents and artifacts.

These mixed-media pieces would not only tell the story of three generations of my European family, but also the story of others.

They would tell the story of life and death, of celebration and grief, of childhood memory and the journey of immigration, of tradition and change.

I have been working on this project for nearly 20 years now and I keep being inspired in unexpected ways. When my father-in-law died and we found his WWII letters he had sent from Europe, I was struck with the recognition that our fathers were enemies. The result was “Make Love, not War”: three boxes containing letters – my father’s, my husband Jon’s father’s and our own love letters. When my grandson was baptized in the gown my grandmother had sewn, I created a triptych showing three generations of children wearing the same dress, three mothers in different parts of the globe linked by this dress. When we received Finnish Bibles after an aunt of Jon’s had died, I knew they needed a place to be kept. This became “Lutheran Songbooks and Bibles.” That led to “Catholic Childhood,” another container for treasures to honor my father’s and my own upbringing.

Frequently, the inspiration has come from an occurrence that jogged my memory of photographs and artifacts that needed to be in their own shrine. Maybe you have old letters, photographs, your grandfather’s shaving mug, your great aunt’s hair comb or hat? Don’t throw them out! Don’t leave them in a cardboard box in the closet! Honor them. Preserve them for your grandchildren and their children. Find a way to bring them out into the open, to make new from old. If you let yourself be inspired by the spirit of these items, ideas will come to you on how to create a visible record of your family story. You will see the links between the past and the present and you will feel connected to the rest of humanity.

And, do write letters, real letters, written by hand, sent in an envelope with a stamp. They will be priceless keepsakes for your descendants. They will tell them who you were, and remind them of their own place in the long chain of generations.

Christine Saari is a Marquette, MI artist, an Austrian and American citizen, and a packrat.

Reprinted from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2010 – 2011.

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