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E-M:/ Hope

Enviro-Mich message from Murphwild1@aol.com

Where Bears Should Be

Spring arrives at Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes, spreading green and creeping
with vine into brilliant colors. We embark on seasons of soul and foliage.
Clouds roll in deep, full, proud and heavy from prevailing westerly winds, or
so they make me feel. From below, where we mortals tender, their vast gray
underbellies loom as they glide across the sky, the sun searing their outer
edges cotton white and satin. Shoreside, some four hundred and fifty feet
above Lake Michigan and the dune system's highest elevation, I emerge with
elation and a seeping sense of joy with the surging spring winds, sparkling
water, and  accompanying fragrant lulls between waves of sand, peeks of
sunshine, and scraggly pine. Over the lake, where balmy southern and Arctic
fronts meet, there is always room for change. 

 At the southern edge of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the mood of
thunder in late May makes it's way across the horizon. Standing at Point
Betsie, waiting and watching, while those prevailing winds from western skies
paint tufts of white on open water, all drifting towards the future and a
desire for ecosystem integrity, for a gift of ecological justice. A little
hope can go a long way. A southern jag of land, a shifting dune, a little cut
in the coastal landscape-that's Point Betsie. It is also an old U.S. Coast
Guard lighthouse with attached white brick masonry living quarters. Personnel
still reside there, though like all lighthouse and fire lookout stations now,
Betsie is electronically operated. No need for men like Kerouac or Abbey to
man stations any longer. Here, poised, nestled, so beautifully arranged on
these sensual dunes, I imagine being able to live here with the gales, the
winter white-outs, the theatrical display of seasons that keep hope in the
back of my load. I envy those men and women, though, but for the grace of God,
I linger in ritual defiance along these shores anyway. The steel and cement
structure that fans out from the base of the lighthouse and serves as a
breaker for dastardly gales in November, actually enhances the wave action of
spring dramatically upward, creating spectacular displays...the splashing
crystal dreams of summer coming. There is no love lost. It is a mere fraction
of altered dune, one "dock" for miles. It will recede with the shifting sands
some day. It is a point of light that took us into the new world. More iron,
copper and ore than anywhere in the world sailed by here, this last glimmering
spectacle of civilization to more than a few sunken sailors.

June moves in. The senses expand, rolling and succumbing to the fragrances of
the dune place. The soft smell of fern, pine, sand and lake. With the
landscape as narrator, it is a place to get lost in the mood and the
unfinished story of nature, of evolution. This place, these dunes, sit atop a
platform of glacial till, buried from the ancient days and mystic tides of
Lake Nipissing time some four thousand years ago--you could call em fledgling
dunes. Go with me for a moment if you will, through some of the geology, the
age old poetry of this place; Silurian Dolomite, Sandstone, Paleozoic Bedrock,
Morainic hills, Glacial outwash, Reef-building in the Devonian, Petoskey and
Pleistocene. This is where the Glaciers scoured, scraped and saturated time
with remnant stones and striae, the late great Wisconsinan retreat. Deep time,
nestled high on sandy bluffs or low in woodland valley, quiet near the edge of
some secret lake, deep summer is found here: fleeting, seeming eternal, an
accumulation of geological periods has given it to us...sand, wind, pine and
change. Real time and the ancientness I feel, where the mood unfolds like the
Algomen Oregeny and batholiths in my mind. Whistling cool breezes or deep
heavy winds. The feeling of hope is present in the same way when entangled in
the puffy whites and deep blue-blacks of July's stormy islands in the sky. The
dog days of summer were born here. 

A digression, from the slow dreamy day wandering moraines: If only the likes
of Shakespeare would have discovered the Americas instead of Columbus, Cortez,
or Erickson--artists or conquistadors? Great theatrical gatherings with the
Aztec, Incas, Iroquois and Huron. Communities built on a sense of place, not
as later seen with manifest destiny, honored as such through theater and the
stage. Redefine sustainable agriculture! Dance outdoors! 

And so this great place, this sand dune resting in time, evokes such
extrapolations as this and others; We must continue learning how to protect
other species and we will learn more about protecting ourselves, struggling to
change the way people think, how they react. We spend so much time trying to
save places, we are often deprived of the kind of patient learning that should
be ours. Humility is often short-changed by the anger of what old Aldo Leopold
said about living in a world of wounds. Yet the revolutionary growth of
knowledge coming from conservation biology and citizen action should challenge
us to define economics and growth for lay people in a new way, mainly by
wrenching the public out of denial and translating effectively the benefits of
embracing a paradigm shift. That is somehow, someway the job of all us nature
lovin, ecosystem huggin, high rollin activists.  Let us translate this once
subversive science of earth, ecosystems and bio-diversity. It is a huge
breakthrough in human evolution of understanding. (If not we'll piss em off
with corporate welfare diatribes.) We can accept that we are, paradoxically,
within the physical limits of our existence and just beginning to set out for
great accomplishments. Redefining values with long term ecological vision in
mind. That time is here or the end is near. 

So I sit here in a depression of sand nearly four hundred feet above the
coastline of Lake Michigan. It is deep summer and I am high on the Empire
Bluffs. Federal lands, parks, endangered species, sailors ghosts and Indian
days come to mind. I am nestled gently on a dune pinnacle, just the other
side, where the forest starts and begins decent. Out of the wind, but still a
windy place where dreams meet the sea, if you will. It is hard not to call the
Great Lakes seas. I see Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and Osprey
(Pandion haliaetus) above and below.  It is summer, but as I look around the
dune system, I see small prints and scattered evidence of it's timelessness. I
imagine sitting up here in December, how exposed it is here, and realize the
well-worn beauty of the place. Frozen waves of wind-driven sand, smooth stones
and strange plants that survive it with splendor,  dwarf lake iris (Iris
lacustris), ram's head lady's slipper (Cypripedium arietinum) and newly
discovered dune thistle (Cirsium pitcheri)...there are things here
undiscovered. It is a fragile place of harsh and moving beauty. A place whose
beauty is shaped by the harshness of northern latitudes and often violent

I have reached the top of the steepest peak so far. As it descends inland it
is greeted by lurching maple, birch, white spruce, pine and balsam fir that
swing, sway and yes sing majestically as signatures of these lonesome nights
and dog day afternoons. I want wolves here and I know that is not likely. Yet
these nights evoke, articulate in essense, and beg for our wilder side to
rise. The bobcat is around, as is the osprey, hawk and eagle. Coyote are
lingering and there are upward of twelve packs of wolves, over the lake's
expanse, traveling the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and beckoning that hopeful
horizon. The feeling of predators is reaching me here. There are black bear
further inland. There's a group of small but fierce white birch trees, maybe
only twelve years old, growing here where I sit. They are fully exposed to the
lake and stand in defiance of the odds, signaling future seasons, arrivals and
good-byes. This is a place of pure evolution, geology, joy, hope and dreams.

The Earth is as exotic as anything anywhere except, perhaps, for the seeming
infinity of space, galaxies and stars. Stars are far away. The dunes are here
and now. Why stare into black holes when the monarch works a nearby thistle? 

With the moon as a mystical presence, the tide is shifting towards greater
understanding, yet forests fall and ecosystems struggle for survival. Tomorrow
is a lunar pull and tonight is a fitful sea. Today is a dune breeze. There is
an eerie coming home on the horizon, to a place that has reached its own
ending, or a place with one last hope of our insuring it's survival. If
biology is part of our saving grace, then let it flow, like all the rivers of
tomorrow. With literature, trees, wolves, ferns, activism, wilderness and
hope, fight and dream like never before, like a grizzly--the future is a
mystery waiting. 

>From Honor,

@  Murray Dailey

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