After six years of living in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a graduate student’s wife, an Austrian immigrant finding her way in a new society and, finally, a mother of two young boys, I needed something for my soul. Maybe taking art classes would do the trick?
I learned silversmithing, weaving, enameling. I liked it all, but nothing stuck. Until I hit upon photography. After I learned how to expose and develop film, I went to Austria and took photographs of all I loved there.
Upon returning to the U.S., we moved to Marquette. I immediately set up a darkroom in our tiny bathroom, and taught myself to print. By serendipity, the person who taught photography at NMU was our neighbor. When he saw my work, he suggested I take classes. I did, and I was hooked.
That was in the early seventies. It was an intense time.
I met other women photographers, and we founded Interplay: A Women’s Photographic Collective. I took workshops in Minneapolis and New York with master photographers. I entered shows and got in. I helped organize exhibits, juried, taught workshops, gave presentations.
Initially, I took black and white photographs. I loved the darkroom work and shooting specific topics. During our travels, I enjoyed photographing people. Windows and doors became favorite subjects. I documented the Austrian mountain farming culture in which I’d grown up.
Finally, I expanded into mixed media with an emphasis on alternative photo processes, and embarked on a 20-year project, “Family Album” (Using family photographs, documents, and artifacts, I created 3-D objects that told the story of my family, and the “Family of Man.”
Now I am eighty, and production is not my thing anymore, although I still exhibit and sell occasionally. But I still love to shoot photos, and share my vision. When a friend pushed me to get on Facebook, I resisted. But by now I have found FB to be my preferred medium as a photographer. I can shoot every day, and share my work without expense, without printing, framing, and accumulating photos. I can post work and get feedback. I can work in a series, such as “Circles” or “Window Ice.” I don’t post just any pictures. I work on my posts, and have developed a following.
So, what inspires me when I photograph?
Sometimes it is the light. Sometimes it is color. Sometimes it is pattern (shadows, or tree branches, or architecture). Sometimes it is subject matter (Lake Superior, the ice, flowers, faces). The possibilities are endless! It is always a journey of discovery.
On the same walk from my house to my studio, I can see a myriad of different subjects to photograph. Things look different, depending on the weather, the time of day, the time of year, my mood. The sky, the light, the trees are never the same! Sometimes I get excited because the familiar looks different, sometimes because I see something I have not seen before. Sometimes I can’t help photographing the same thing again, year after year. Leaf prints on the sidewalk, the first green growth, ice formations, sun rays in my kitchen.
What I get out of shooting is that it makes me look and see. “You have such an eye,” people will say. But I think it is just practice, the practice of looking. And when I look, I find beauty. Beauty in the most ordinary thing right in front of me, beauty to share. I don’t want to keep all this beauty for myself. I want to share it. And shooting photos with my phone, and posting the results allows me to do that!
Christine Saari grew up on an Austrian mountain farm. She studied English and German in Austria and the U.S. As a journalist, she reported for Austrian media. In the U.P., she wrote for MM and Midwestern media, and published documentary photographs with her writing.
Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.
Whether you’re listening to the wind dance through the leaves or the song of a robin while sitting under a tree,
or perhaps the rhythmic caw of a resident crow, music is and has always been around for those willing and able to allow themselves to appreciate it. Even the thunderous beat of the big lake during an autumn storm creates a percussive melody for those paying attention.
Taking a walk along the shoreline near Picnic Rocks in Marquette, especially during the morning hours, brings a symphony of chatter among the gulls, creating wonderful music for all to hear within a sonic breeze.
Nature and humanity’s music is available to us in all volumes, tempos, and genres. For me, it’s my fuel. It energizes me, motivates me, relaxes me, gets me in the zone, takes me to another place and time.
Most every trip I take, I look into all nearby concert venues to see if a band or musician is performing. More times than not, I’m able to include a concert in my plans. I’ve attended hundreds over the years, and they always make my trips worthwhile.
I also partake of the U.P.’s ever-growing musical offerings at local venues and festivals throughout the year, and have enjoyed many amazingly talented well-known and lesser known soloists and groups within a five-minute to two-hour reach.
I have learned to enjoy the music while dancing, but simply sitting back and absorbing it never disappoints me. They are two totally different experiences for me, and both of the charts in their own ways.
Music brings flavor and richness to my creative pulses, and keeps me moving forward with a project.
Though I prefer live over recorded, I still enjoy the secondhand option immensely. It can take me through a whole series of emotions. And with YouTube, I can put together a repertoire to my liking, knowing which pieces play on certain emotions.
I wonder about those who don’t care for music. Are they truly happy missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures? I read recently that music uses your entire brain and is extremely healthy for you. There’s plenty of research available showing the healthy benefits music may offer each of us, such as possibly promoting heart health, elevating your mood, helping to reduce stress and relieve symptoms of depression, stimulating recall, increasing workout endurance, and more. But to me, regardless of what any leading health authorities have to say, the most important thing is to feel the benefits for yourself by opening up and giving yourself permission to go wherever the music is going to take you by listening to it at a strong, yet safe volume.
Music isn’t given enough credit in the creative process,
even though most creative people I know listen to it without hesitation when working on a project. I end this tribute to music by referring you to the chorus of an ABBA song entitled “Thank You for the Music.” May its lyrics ring through your heart and head, and inspire you to bring more music and appreciation for it into your life!
Kevin McGrath is a music lover and can be found at music festival, concerts, or other live music venues.
Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.
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. The100DayProject 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 wasinspired 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.