Tag Archives: Marquette

Gifts from Nature: Mid City Gem, by Kevin McGrath

I am torn about writing the following, as the low number of people that use the area I’m about to describe is one reason it’s such a gem.  We are often confronted with this catch-22 in the U.P., which has many treasured local spots we might hope to keep to ourselves.  This selfishness is unhealthy and far too prevalent in current society.  The Native American concept of un-ownable land makes good sense, allowing everyone to share in its abundance.

So I’m going ahead and sharing information on one of my favorite hiking and cross-country ski trails which is hidden in plain sight – the Fit Strip, a half-mile by half-mile plot of land bordering Park Cemetery.  On a first-of-spring jaunt through this easy, meandering trail winding past stunning white pines and other conifers, maples and birch, a jogger approached. He pointed and asked whether I saw the red fox grazing just fifty feet off the path.  We both stopped and enjoyed the view for a moment before this sleek critter with a white patch on the tip of its full tail slipped back into denser thicket.

The park is home to an array of four-legged foragers, including deer, skunk, raccoon, squirrel, chipmunk, and mouse.  I’m always pleasantly surprised when I venture into this woodsy park.  Nearly every year brings a new and exciting sighting. Once while traversing the soft wood chip trail, I turned a sharp corner and spotted a great horned owl a mere twenty feet away, busily devouring a chippy or mouse.  He seemed perturbed by my sudden appearance, yet determined to finish his delectable meal.  I stopped quickly and slowly backed away around the same corner so I could watch him without triggering his early departure. He turned his head toward me with an intensely fierce stare that penetrated my being, and then continued shredding the helpless rodent.

Several years ago, a six-hundred pound moose yearling wandered into this forest haven and claimed it as home.  Park Cemetery offers three beautiful ponds filled with water lilies, so this massive adolescent would sleep in the fit strip, forage, and then go to the pond to drink and feast.  At first a handful of us watched his every move. Then the crowds grew each week until finally, after several months, hundreds would await his timely arrival. This gentle giant had to navigate through the crowds three times a day, causing concern from local authorities about possible danger.

These crowds are not what I am seeking, but if you are looking for a close-to-home, nature-filled, peaceful adventure, this mid-city gem is worth the trip.  It offers entrance from every side and trails that wind gracefully through a gently sloped city forest of endless nature-watching possibilities.

To contact Kevin McGrath, see-male him hiking about enjoying the great outdoors.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Gifts from Nature, Kevin McGrath, Marquette, Nature

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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Filed under Art, Christine Saari, Creative Inspiration, Family Legacies, Family Treasures