Mural at Little Traverse History Museum.

Mural at Little Traverse History Museum.

 

It had been my intent to record this year’s travels through my posts on this blog. I was doing pretty well up until mid-July.  But as the year progressed, my trips increased to a rate I never experienced before. There were times where I was literally home for one day between peregrinations. To maximize efficiency, I  took the suitcase  to the washer and emptied the clothes directly into the machine to save the time of choosing outfits from the larger available universe: the ensembles worked on one trip so they would work on the next. Needless to say there was not much time to work on blogs, which now included the act of going through the much greater number of photos that I took with my new camera.

July 2014 Michigan Station 001

To pick up where I kind of left off, I headed to the University of Michigan’s Biological Station in Pellston, on the shores of Douglas Lake, towards the northern end of the southern peninsula. I had been  there before some years ago to attend a regional meeting on piping plover. That was in early April when the place is nearly empty but in the summer  students and scholars from all over the country converge to  teach, study, and learn. I was invited to speak as part of an endowed lecture series: my principal sponsor was Stephen Pruett-Jones of U, of Chicago, whom I first met this spring at a talk on his home turf although I have long known his wife Melinda, many years director of Chicago Wilderness.

Douglas Lake.

Douglas Lake.

The field station is one of, if not the oldest, of its type in the country. The United Nations has recognized its significance by naming the site a Biosphere Reserve. It is a point of pride among some as to how far back their connection to this wonderful place goes. I met one person who claimed to have first visited while still snugly ensconced in her mom’s womb. Mary Whitmore, a scientist and educator, invited a number of us over to her house for dinner. I was touched by the sight of A Natural History of the Chicago Region on a table and even more so when Mary told everyone how much she valued the book.

Besides my two lectures, I was invited to join Keith Taylor and his creative non-fiction writing class. They had all read the book and Keith was the perfect facilitator of a stimulating and fun conversation. Keith also took me on a nearly day long sightseeing tour. Keith, who has authored several books of lovely prose and poetry,  coordinates the undergraduate program in creative writing at the University of Michigan and directs the Bear River Writer’s Conference. He is also an authority on all things Michigan, with fascinating historical and cultural tidbits about a state that I thought I knew fairly well.

Keith and his writing class.

Keith and his writing class.

One of the highlights of our tour was the Little Traverse  History Museum, maintained by the Little Traverse Historical Society. It is located within the 200 square miles that formed the last great passenger pigeon nesting in 1878. The society published an account of the nesting called Blue Meteor in 1997 and had a large collection of 19th century photos taken locally. At the time I was engaged in research for the book, I contacted the prior director and a visit proved impossible. It featured a fine passenger pigeon exhibit but what blew me away was the remarkable mural, created in the 1970s, depicting in great detail the taking of pigeons from a big nesting. There are lots of passenger pigeon paintings but, as far as I know, none like this.

Passenger pigeon at Little Traverse History Museum.

Passenger pigeon at Little Traverse History Museum.

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